American Elephants


Conflict, Delusions, Visions, Madness by The Elephant's Child

In Charlottesville, Virginia, a college town, protesters were attempting to tear down a confederate memorial and counter protesters variously described as neo-Nazis, KKK members, white nationalists, with Antifa, and Black Lives Matter.

Leftist news sources immediately  began referring to “white supremacists” to make the whole thing about race. The left has made a great effort to describe President Trump as “a racist president” (he isn’t) though that is simply their defensive cover, always calling any republicans “racist” to disguise their own long history as southern slave holders, Confederates,  opponents of reconstruction, opponents of full citizenship for blacks, and desegregation.

One of the curious things about political opinions is how often the same people line up on opposite sided of different issues. The issues themselves may have no intrinsic connection with each other.They may range from military spending to drug laws to monetary policy to education. Yet the same familiar faces can be found glaring at each other from opposite sides of the political fence, again and again. It happens too often to be coincidence and it is too uncontrolled to be a plot. A closer look at the arguments on both sides often shows that they are reasoning from fundamentally different premises. These different premises—often implicit—are what provide the consistency behind the repeated opposition of individuals and groups on numerous, unrelated issues. They have different visions of how the world works.  (emphasis added)

That’s Thomas Sowell: A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles, 1987.

He goes on to explain that”the ever-changing kaleidoscope of raw reality would defeat the human mind by its complexity, except for the mind’s ability to abstract, to pick out parts and think of them as a whole. This is nowhere more necessary than in social visions and social theory, dealing with the complex and often subconscious interactions of millions of human beings.

We talk of “Trump Derangement Syndrome” to try to explain what is going on, but the thing is better described in a book by Charles Mackay written in 1841: Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds  still available at Amazon. He writes about economic bubbles, the crusades, witch mania, alchemists, the tulip mania, fortune-telling and haunted houses. The book can be downloaded from the Library of Economics and Liberty for free.

An article from the Center for Inquiry contains more recent examples including the Salem Witch Trials, the Orson Welles broadcast of an alien invasion story, and a Seattle Windshield Pitting Epidemic in 1954.

Thursday, Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert) posted an excellent article on his blog “How to Know You’re In a Mass Hysteria Bubble”.

The most visible Mass Hysteria of the moment involves the idea that the United States intentionally elected a racist President. If that statement just triggered you, it might mean you are in the Mass Hysteria bubble. The cool part is that you can’t fact-check my claim you are hallucinating if you are actually hallucinating. But you can read my description of the signs of mass hysteria and see if you check off the boxes.

If you’re in the mass hysteria, recognizing you have all the symptoms of hysteria won’t help you be aware you are in it. That’s not how hallucinations work. Instead, your hallucination will automatically rewrite itself to expel any new data that conflicts with its illusions. …

The reason you can’t easily identify what-the-hell is going on in the country right now is that a powerful mass hysteria is in play. If you see the signs after I point them out, you’re probably not in the hysteria bubble. If you read this and do NOT see the signs, it probably means you’re trapped inside the mass hysteria bubble.

This latter one is probably the most important link, because he is talking about understanding today and today’s bubbles. But Tom Sowell’s A Conflict of Visions belongs in your library.




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