Discover more from bad cattitude
adverse results from adverse selection
navigating our way out of the outrage economy
as is the habit of anthropomorphic animals, long time gatopal™ kbirb and i were having a bit of a chat the other day.
he asked an interesting question:
indeed, it does seem as though the collective consciousness is moving away from outrage on the manyfold ills of covid response and save for the last few zealots still howling for masks and covalent vaccines and pretending we still need “an emergency” it’s pretty much over in terms of current oppressions.
at least for now.
a massive number have changed jerseys and now pretend they were the good guys all along and not the ones vilifying their neighbors, seeking to make them second class citizens and subject to arbitrary discrimination and detention in the name of pseudosafety pseudoscience.
and by and large, they ae getting away with it.
some are still angry and deeply wary (and with good reason) but most of the middle just seems ready to move on.
because that’s what people do.
they don’t really react to the abstractions of what’s coming.
and they cannot hold onto outrages too far past.
“it’s true, it’s true, it’s true, it never happened” is just another variant of the classic “deny, deny, deny, it’s old news” and so too is “this is outrageous, this is outrageous, this is outrageous, this is normal.”
they wear you down. you get accustomed. you get distracted. and then you get fleeced when, once you stop paying attention, they just go and do on the down low that which you were so angry about a couple months ago but have since lost track of.
this is the truly effective feature of the outrage economy.
you can only be mad about so many things at once and so given the endless stream of new antagonizing activity, you get washed on before you can ever get to the bottom of the last ones.
there is a brief window when people are angry enough to do something, but it’s rarely long enough to actually get anything done and so the outrages go on.
the root causes are never solved.
the perpetrators are never punished and just fade into the background as they wait to do it again.
the sequels are not even getting new plotlines or even new characters. jack smith, named to prosecute trump (yet again) was deeply tied to lois lerner and the IRS scandal of targeting conservatives and blocking right leaning groups from getting non-profit status.
and yet, here he is again.
it’s an emergent property of this system.
the deep awful irony here lies in the adverse selection: because the best way to get out of trouble for whatever the last outrage was is to commit a new one and so, perversely, those who keep rising to the top of this system are those most proficient at committing scandal and affront.
if you want the public to forget the awful thing you did last year, do something awful, and then do something else that’s worse. no one can even remember 3 back. draw the attention to the new and get everyone pouncing on the novel instead of solving the past. keep them too myopically angry to see the big picture.
it’s how you get humans to chase a laser pointer instead of cleaning up previous messes.
it’s the driving feature of the outrage economy: there is only so much outrage that can be sustained and piling more on today erases the past.
in the case of covid, this one is going to be easy to forget because most people want to. the whole matter is aided and abetted by the need for collective amnesia. even those who did not push tyranny but merely went along to get along are abashed. most of the middle feels like a heel for having complied, for having been a tacit collaborator, and for not picking fights.
they feel like cowards.
they just want it to go away and never think of it again like a bad dream and over time will come to pretend that they were braver and stronger and more independent and indominable than they were. no one likes to remember subjugation so the past twists over time until every docile waterboy was the homecoming hero quarterback.
this is how 90% of the french wind up claiming their grandparents were in “la resistance” when even even 10% of them were telling the truth, france would have been un-occupiable.
it fades because the collective seeks to assuage its guilt and 2 years from now, everyone claims to have resisted just as all the politicians now claim they did not lock you down or close the schools.
this gets derived from need.
humans inhabit collective lies. it's half the basis for society.
this will be no different.
what i wonder is whether having everyone pretend they stood up last time makes them any more likely to stand up next time. i fear it does not and may even make them less likely to by reducing the reputational and psychological price of knuckling under and making it more bearable. instead of being deeply deterred from such future “going along to get along” they are, in essence, subsidized to do it by lower than rational pricing for siding with the occupiers.
and this is how you get the next one.
and here is where it all gets pretty emotionally tricky for while many of us may feel like this:
the vast majority are not going to feel this way and have deep psychological needs to forget the whole matter.
and this is why ideas of “and then everyone rises up in anger over what was done to us” tend to fall so alarmingly short.
and this places many of us in a difficult position.
i was at the grocery store in san juan yesterday. probably ~40% masked.
and i suspect most are just scared and stupid and have been lied to and conditioned. and that should warrant pity.
but i struggle not to just feel rage and disgust. i don’t even like being near them because so many turned on everyone else. old ladies would literally scream at you on the street to wear a mask. police would swarm and arrest you for not complying. restaurants and hair salons and schools required masks and vaccine proof. we were under curfew for over 2 years. much of the time, even the beaches were closed. puerto rico was a covidian hellscape. none of it worked, but none of that mattered. people cheered for it. demanded it. allowed it. reviled those who would not submit. ratted them out.
so many turned on us or quietly complied.
and now they sit drinking coffee next to you.
but how can you ever trust them again. how can you share a society with them and feel safe? how can these people be partners in sustaining liberty or a republic?
how do you not see a masked person on a sunny sidewalk and not think: “willingly or no, even if you have no plans right now, you a danger to freedom?”
i wish i had an answer. because this one can really tear us apart.
look, i’m not suggesting anything be done to them or even about them (apart from perhaps some loved ones having a talk with them about science and performative neuroses).
your face, your choice.
but choices do have consequences and this one will make me look at you like you’re wearing a lapel pin for bolivarian communism and advocating rounding up the bourgeoise for struggle sessions. it will make me distrust your judgment, your sense, and probably your morals. i will experience you as a danger, like a section of crumbling ceiling.
perhaps it’s unfair as many currently masking never tried to do anything to me, but many others did or supported those who did and so you get treated as a dog that bites because you act like one and if you are blameless and never sought to coerce anyone, well, i’m sorry, but you’re still part of the herd that was stampeded at me and i will never stand easy around someone i see wearing a mask while driving in a car alone for fear of what they might do if their gaggle gets frightened again.
i experience them the same way i experience the mentally ill homeless guy having a hysterical argument with a parking meter (and losing). and the doctors claiming that the “non covid compliant” should be psychologically medicated are just the apologists for this. you guys are so sucked up in some lurid cross between the milgram, asch, and stanford prison experiments that you come off like mengele.
but what are we to do about this?
are we to simply live out the rest of our lives in deep distrust of large numbers of other humans and abandon the joy of walking around meeting and liking people because of the deep wariness now engendered? because that seems miserable.
or are we to go back to “business as usual” and forget the terrifying potential we’ve seen lurking below the surface of our fellows and pretend that this herd will not panic and run us off a cliff if the thunder starts again? because that seems naïve.
you either get alienated from your fellows in society or chose to blithely live next to a volcano whose next eruption is unpredictable.
neither seems like “the good life.”
the problem here is that you cannot rage your way out of the rage economy. that’s like trying to fight a hurricane with warm caribbean water. it thrives on your anger, cultivating it, growing it, making it spiral and feed upon itself. you can always be made angrier. there is always a new provocation that can be found. it’s how you exhaust a bull before you put it to the sword.
and you do not wanna be that bull.
and this is why i think a third way must be found. as friend birb so astutely asks:
is this just reactive? will we always wait until it’s too late and have already been dragged across the line beyond which there are no good answers by the time we wake up?
one can certainly make the case that that is how much of it has been.
but does it have to stay that way?
there have been victories as well and crummy new plots headed off and pulled apart before they could manifest. and i think the answer lies here.
once it’s done, it’s too late. the damage and the trampling itself creates the societal need to forget and move on. the herd that just stampeded and crushed people to death in its fear does not want to be reminded. it wants the memory hole. it wants to forget. and that is a road to nothing ever changing.
and this is why we must get proactive.
before it happens, everyone is still onside morally. the goal is to get them to see it coming and a BIG part of this is helping them understand one simple immutable thing:
government lies. it lies about everything. always.
the default position is to lie and the more that people desire unrealistic and impossible things from government, the more they can only be satisfied by the most egregious of liars.
so stop believing.
and teach others to see this.
the last 3 years have been a wonderful classroom.
ah, so they lied about this, and that and these 7 other things, and you saw them do it, but you trust them this time?
this is a powerful framing to tie the future to the past and cement the idea of expecting bad behavior.
did you really think big pharma who has lied so aggressively for generations just turned nice and will stay so?
get out in front of what’s coming and move to a stance of presuming that everything you hear from them is false, a manipulation, a provocation.
because you’re going to be right far more often than not.
and this is the safe stance.
“no” is the safe stance. these vast designs and intrusions and invasions into agency and sovereignty that put societies into upheaval do too much damage to easily unpick after that fact.
that is too slow. it cedes too much.
getting out in front of it wins. stopping it before it starts wins. and a lot of that is calling out the trick for what it is and making damn sure the audience knows what’s about to be done.
and we need to find a way, because the outrage will fade and they will keep breaking us apart and leaving us raw and riled from having been at one another’s throats, angry and alienated, divided and conquered.
and this is no real future.
it’s no world you want to inhabit.
emergency powers have become an emergency unto themselves.
this is what the base beliefs of freedom look like:
this is the default setting for a rights based republic.
let’s do that instead.