A World Anti-Hysteria Organisation?

The essential governance problem in March 2020 in Western countries was the overwhelming demand of the vast majority of the population to do something dramatic in response to their fear. There was a clamour to be ‘led to safety’ by populations scared to death by images in the social media and the regular media of the effects of a new virus. In that wave of panic, the many safeguards that normally prevent terrible and illegal policies from being taken were overwhelmed. To prevent a repeat we should consider a new World Anti-Hysteria Organisation (WAHO) tasked specifically with observing mass hysteria and countering large outbreaks.

Toby Young, Author at Lockdown Sceptics – Page 6 of 176The background is that almost every institutional barrier imaginable was set against giving in to the mass hysteria of March 2020, particularly in the more ‘medically advanced scientific countries’ like the UK and the Netherlands. Those barriers included the scientific consensus of decades, blue prints for policy, constitutional laws against limiting personal freedoms, laws requiring costs to be balanced against benefits in the case of mass medical experiments, and the long habit of wide consultation in times of crisis. All those barriers failed across the Western world: neither science, nor law, nor habit held the tide of mass hysteria. So pretty much everything Western nation states have in their institutional arsenal to prevent something as self-destructive as lockdowns was overwhelmed.

Since the problem was an international wave of emotions that gelled into mass hysteria, we should consider that to avoid a repeat we need an international organisation specifically designed to counter that phenomenon. After all, we have other national and international organisations to deal with “natural or man-made disasters”. Natural disasters like tsunamis and earthquakes have dedicated national and international agencies monitoring them and setting up preventative measures. Man-made disasters for which we have dedicated institutions include terrorism, crime, chemical spills, and food poisoning. Given the enormous devastation wrought by the policies pursued in the mass hysteria of the last 12 months, we could add mass hysteria to the list of man-made disasters for which we have a recognised international agency to monitor and combat.

How would a WAHO work and what should it have done in January-March 2020?

The organisation’s core expertise would come from social psychology, sociology, and anthropology. The study of mass hysteria is a recognised sub-discipline in those fields, and that knowledge can now be marshaled into policy action via the WAHO.

Importantly, mass-hysteria is not actually difficult to spot if you know what to look for:

  1. The use of fear images as proof. Mass-hysteria is essentially emotional and thus is fueled by images and stories that evoke strong emotions. Those images, whether fabricated or real, are then shared around very quickly and obsessed about. The use of images as proof for a fear is easy to monitor.
  2. Many new adherents. Mass hysteria is like a wave, so it has a lot of very recent new adherents to a fear story. Whether a fear story has a lot of new adherents who are spreading it in their networks and whose own focus has narrowed to the new fear is fairly easy to measure.
  3. The unthinking call for a sacrifice. Mass-hysteria very quickly invokes the idea that a large sacrifice will help against the supposed threat. What typifies an hysteria is the lack of reflective thought on whether the sacrifice is reasonably going to help. That lack of reflective thought is easy to monitor and measure because the need for a sacrifice is invariably argued on the basis of the perceived size of the threat, not the mechanics of the supposed solution.
  4. Amplification via media. Mass-hysteria is a mass-phenomenon that spreads via modern media. The networks in which it spreads are international and much of the attention space in which the spread happens is for sale, allowing manipulation. Amplification, deliberate or spontaneous, can be monitored (think of numbers of new twitter accounts with particular messages).
  5. Political posturing and manipulation. Mass-events always involve the opportunity for politicians to obtain some power at the expense of others, so very quickly in a mass-hysteria you will get politicians promising solutions, whether totally fanciful or not. Political posturing can further fan the hysteria and cement its policy trajectory. This too can be easily monitored as the promises and manipulation take place in the media.

Each of these five elements were totally visible during the corona-hysteria of early 2020. An international organisation dedicated to watch for these signs would have picked it up early January at the latest. I say this because January 2020 was the time the American commentator Jeffrey Tucker picked it up. It took me a bit longer: that there was an hysteria became clear to me in February 2020, but its scale and power only in March 2020.

The first task of the WAHO is thus to monitor for mass hysteria, which requires a system of identifying new fear stories, monitoring the bigger stories, and tracking the spread across media networks. This requires the monitoring of most of the world’s media, including social media. It needs to combine that monitoring with the ability to analyse the information in that ‘media weather system’. That requires several areas of technical expertise, including being able to identify key phrases and images that are the core of a new mass hysteria. It also involves being able to map networks and track the spread of the core stories and images within them in real time.

The first task is thus a media-watch type of task involving Big Data analysis skills so as to be able to identify and track mass-hysteria around the world. This task treats the media around the world as an integrated social weather system, watching for gathering storms. Given the enormity of the media system, it would require a large organisation to monitor and analyse it, which in turn means it should probably share the load of that task with other existing organisations also watching the media system (like anti-terror or anti-crime organisations).

The second task of the WAHO is to predict the likely trajectory of a mass hysteria, much as weather bureaus predict the trajectory and growth of hurricanes. Since mass hysteria happens within days and weeks, this means the predictive machinery of the WAHO has to have prediction models up and running in real time, able to predict ahead within hours of new outbreaks. This kind of task requires similar skills and data-systems involved in weather modelling: just like weather modelling there would have to be constant observation of the most important nodes in the international media system (like major news agencies), combined with background data predictive of the trajectory, such as levels of inequality in areas, levels of political tensions, trust in various institutions, etc. This task thus combines high-level modelling skills with high-level Big Data analysis skills, for instance needing the ability to spot and track phrases in many different languages in real time.

In this second task there a lot of scope for new research techniques not yet used in this field. The tracking systems talked about above are new and require a lot of R&D. One can also imagine the use of focus groups and expert panels though that can be asked in real time to rate how emotionally powerful a new scare story or set of images is. The degree to which a story ‘resonates’ is intensely dependent on culture and recent international developments, so exactly the kind of thing humans are good at judging but where automated Artificial Intelligence systems would struggle. Hence a combination of existing and new techniques might be needed in the second task.

The third task of the WAHO is scientifically the hardest, which is to judge whether the policy direction of a mass-hysteria is destructive or constructive. This task needs several areas of expertise that are yet to fully develop, so we are talking about new scientific and institutional methods.

To be able to say whether a developing mass hysteria is destructive or constructive requires taking a real stance on the content of the policies demanded by a mass hysteria. Preferably one wants to make that judgment even before it has become obvious to many what the policy direction is, so one need to predict a direction and then judge it. Predicting a direction is obviously hard and requires lot of area-specific expertise.

It is also hard to spot whether an identified policy direction is bad because not all mass hysteria is dysfunctional. The mass hysteria that breaks out when a country is invaded by a neighbour is for instance functional and needed in order to mobilise the resources of a country towards a foreign invader. Mass hysteria when a tsunami is spotted is similarly both inevitable and has the useful role of getting people to get out of the way. One needs knowledge of policy, human behaviour, how political systems “normally react”, and a measure of ultimate output that can be used to assign “good” or “bad” to any outcome to judge particular policy orientation.

Whether an hysteria is moving towards destructive policy thus requires broad scientific expertise and political expertise. Because there are so many potential sources of mass hysteria, the WAHO would probably not be able to have all the expertise in-house but would have to be able to “call upon” independent thinking scientists from many areas. Such a system of “scientists on call” is not hard to envisage because it is already in place in many countries and can work reasonably well. Indeed, it worked well at the start of the pandemic in the UK and Netherlands where the governments were given totally sound advice at the start of the pandemic, namely not to lock down. Unfortunately, it was advice the politicians had to ignore because of political pressure, which then forced them into attacking independent scientists because they were a political threat.

So this third task can be done with a combination of specialist “scientists on call” together with more broad scientific and policy expertise in-house who do the regular predictions on how political systems are likely to react to particular policy pressures.

The fourth task is to counter the biggest mass-hysteria threats when they are deemed to develop into destructive policy pressures. This minimally involves an alert-system for governments, populations and independent institutions. That by design will have the nature of regular updates on new threats, retractions, and such. Some of the advice can be confidential depending on the political sensitivity of the topic involved in the mass hysteria.

A more ambitious task would be for the WAHO to counter world-wide mass hysteria events. Since mass hysteria grows inside the media system, that would require the ability to influence the media, such as via buying up advertising space, mandating media providers to run certain counter-stories, informing media-providers of the judgment that particular things are mass hysteria, and coordinating with governments that have been persuaded of the severity of the threat. This requires public relations and coordination expertise that already exists inside many governments and organisations, so this is not technically hard to envisage.

A real threat to the usefulness of the WAHO is that it could itself become a source of nuisance and hysteria in order to attract funding and attention to itself. One does not want the WAHO to give dire warnings every week itself in order to make its director look powerful. To avoid that threat, it would probably be handy to separate the WAHO warning and coordination systems politically and organisationally from its other tasks. Indeed, perhaps one needs an additional independent layer in between the WAHO and that warning system that is set up to judge whether the warnings the WAHO wants to send out really make sense (like a small council of wise women that would need to be persuaded a threat is big enough to pass on). That intermediary layer would have to be able to convene and judge very quickly though so it really would have to consist of fairly quick judgments.

Suppose now we had a WAHO up and running in December 2019. What could it have done?

The WAHO should have been able to spot the hysteria when it was small but developing inside China by the end of 2019. It would have set up an hysteria threat level monitor for that particular issue, meaning it would automatically scan for its spread. As the hysteria got really big mid-January, the WAHO would have had to move fast on many fronts:

  1. It would have had to independently identify the policy direction, thus spotting the likely calls for shutting down international travel, lockdowns of populations, and quarantine rules. This would have required a bit of medical expertise, but of a kind that was widely available then.
  2. It would have had to make a judgment on that policy direction based on expertise available to it. This too would gotten it the ‘right answer’ in late January give the consensus in the medical literature at that point and the content of the blue prints for policy actions in the hands of Western governments.
  3. It would have needed to make a judgment on the likely scale of the destruction if bad policies were enacted. It would have taken a mega-genius to guess the degree to which the whole world political system would be blown off-course by lockdowns, so that is not realistic to expect a WAHO to see late January 2020 (or even in April 2020). Yet, it took only reasonably independent people to spot the large scale devastation of lockdowns to various groups and to relate that to possible benefits.
  4. It would have alerted governments, media, and institutions that the direction of travel of the mass hysteria was towards destructive policies, including the potential need to organise media against that direction.

Mid-February 2020 all the alarms would have had to buzz inside WAHO and a general mobilisation of its resources and expertise would have had to occur as the scale and force of the mass-hysteria became clear. It would have needed to organise massive media-pushback. It would have had to organise counter-groups of experts to identify the likely losers of lockdowns and get those groups involved in opposing them. It would have set up coordinating bodies between the governments that still thought the same, and get them to realise the dangers and how individually they could not easily stand against the hysteria developing inside their own countries.

Late-February, early March, the WAHO would have had to set a huge media-machinery into motion to detect manipulation of both media and the population (such as by the Italian and Chinese authorities), and then counter it as best as possible. That kind of media machine would have had to exist already and thus be the media machine available to the governments then still in the anti-lockdown camps. There would have had to be full-on counter-moves to the scaremongering by scientific journals like the Lancet, requiring ammunition from WAHO “on call” expert groups to quickly spot the mistakes and debatable judgments calls by those journals. There would have had to be immediate pushback against other organisations like the WHO when they were caving into political pressures. There would have had to be warnings towards media owners about their responsibility not to fan the flames of the mass hysteria. Etc. Basically, the WAHO would have had to be on full war footing against the mass hysteria.

Would this have helped? I think it probably would not have prevented North Italy from copying the Chinese because that happened too quickly for a counter-movement to be organised. Yet I do think it reasonable to believe a WAHO would have spotted all the deliberate misinformation and manipulation by governments, using that to shore up the anti-alliance. Also, its machinery of media-watching should have been useful to spot where the biggest damage was being done. Most promising though, I think a coordinating role with the anti-lockdown countries would have set those governments institutionally against lockdowns, committing them against lockdowns via their open coalition against them. I think that would have had a good chance of keeping the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands out of the lockdown zones.

The hope is thus that a WAHO would have been enough to prevent much of Europe and then places like India from copying lockdowns, restricting the mistake of lockdowns to a few early months in some countries.

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27 Responses to A World Anti-Hysteria Organisation?

  1. It seems to me that just saying “let’s not do this next time” is never going to work. Some kind of institutionalised constraint on political behaviour is needed. So I like the idea in principle.

    Is there a plausible path from here to there, politically? I don’t think so. For two reasons.

    1. Politicians like hysteria. Nothing is as good to them as panic and fear. I think the recent Western Australia election results show a huge swing towards the incumbent party following their super-strict lockdown approach. I suspect this year will see more election results like this. So all the political incentives are stacked against preventing the next mass hysteria.

    2. Most people like hysteria. It makes them feel like they are part of something important. The amazing willingness of people to believe all the fear-mongering headlines was a big lesson for me. Even now, most people seem to think that lockdowns were worth it. I have trouble seeing how billions of human brains will overcome the dissonance hurdle necessary to change their minds on this.

    • paul frijters says:

      indeed, the political path there is nonexistent at the moment.
      Clearly, for this kind of institution to be set up there either has to be a change of mind on a wide front in many countries, or a billionaire who likes the idea and sets one up anyway.
      Many people like an hysteria while they last buy rue them over time. WWI was like that, ending with a “how on earth were we this stupid” moment and “let us never forget”. The League of Nations was set up to prevent a recurrence. That didn’t work out so well, did it?

      I see a bigger political roadblock, even if it is widely accepted at some future date that a mass panic happened that was devastating for humanity.
      The basic problem is that the inherent premise of such an institution would be resented, namely that whole societies can succumb to hysteria. Its obviously true, but its the kind of truth that is inherently unpopular. Even if it shines through for a moment, it is bound to be forgotten and denied pretty quickly.

      Yet, I find it important to answer the question what could be done if the political will is there, ie to try and envisage the institutions that would have some chance at stopping a repeat. One needs visions of what would be needed to then decide whether it makes sense to argue for it politically or whether to deem it realistic. That’s how our societies make progress: we imagine possible solutions to problems we have encountered and then we see which ones might both work and get support. After that comes the experience of whether the implemented ‘solution’ was any good when put into practice.

      So, do you have solutions to offer?

      • I also agree with this point

        “The basic problem is that the inherent premise of such an institution would be resented, namely that whole societies can succumb to hysteria. Its obviously true, but its the kind of truth that is inherently unpopular. ”

        No, I don’t have any ideas beyond talking about institutional improvements that could be taken up if (for some chance reason) the political opportunity for change comes up.

    • ianl says:

      Cameron Murray

      The WA Govt did not really indulge in “super-strict lockdown”, but rather “super hard-headed border closure”. This played into the underlying secessionist mindset of WA, which has been present in WA since Federation in 1901, allowed the population of the State to get on with life more or less normally and allowed “exemptions” so that the FIFO miners (particularly from the Pilbara iron ore mines) could continue to pull in export earnings to buttress the Job Keeper largess from the national taxpayer. That it busted S92 of the Constitution parobably added to the fun – certainly the High Court predictably found that the plain language of S92 did not mean what it says.

      Such a combination of factors will defy any “monitoring” without a thought. Rational opposition as envisaged by PF here is truly magical pie-in-the-sky.

  2. KT2 says:

    Nic Gruen, please have a chat with Paul about democracy, governance and sortition & hysteria.

    Hysteria lives at clubtroppo! WAHOooo!

    “Hysteria as metaphor
    ” Bryant’s research also unearths nosologist Armin Steyerthal, who, in 1908, predicted that: 
         “”Within a few years the concept of hysteria will belong to history … there is no such disease and there never has been. What Charcot called hysteria is a tissue woven of a thousand threads, a cohort of the most varied diseases, with nothing in common but the so-called stigmata, which in fact may accompany any disease.””

    “Steyerthal was right, eventually. “Hysteria” was omitted from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1980, though other diagnoses remain that are largely assigned to troublesome females, such as borderline personality disorder.”…


    Paul, you’ve gone from using Gigi’s study, every trip in the book thru to now, science fiction.

    Paul you said: “World Anti-Hysteria Organisation (WAHO) tasked specifically with observing mass hysteria and countering large outbreaks of hysteria.”

    Paul, can we still giggle on the street and not be taken away by the WAHOo secret police? “Tanganyika, now known as Tanzania witnessed a really strange incident of mass hysteria. Three girls who were studying in a boarding school started laughing uncontrollably, and the contagious nature of this laughter swept over 95 out of 159 students. While some of the students laughed for a few hours, others laughed for 16 days. This resulted in the school being closed and the laughing epidemic spread to the other villages as well.”
    Oh yeh, “(pf) mass-hysteria is not actually difficult to spot if you know what to look for” – the giggle AI!

    Is Paul guilty of hyper hyporacy or just not very self aware? 

    PF: “Importantly, mass-hysteria is not actually difficult to spot if you know what to look for:
    “1. The use of fear images as proof. Mass-hysteria is essentially emotional and thus is fueled by images and stories that evoke strong emotions. 
    ● Paul: Guilty himself

    “2. Many new adherents.”
    ● Paul: Not guilty

    “3. The *unthinking* call for a sacrifice.”
    3a. Ooh. Tricky! Whose sacrifice Paul. The ones you say can fend for themselves against death?

    By invoking sacrifice, WAHOO also the invokes the opposite antonyms;
    ● Hmmm… the *(un)thinking* are callng for sacrifice. You are tue thinker here Paul, so…
    ● Guilty

    3b.”Mass-hysteria very quickly invokes the idea that a large sacrifice will help against the supposed threat. What typifies an hysteria is the lack of reflective thought on whether the sacrifice is reasonably going to help.”.
    ● 3a Reflective thought police. Paul: Guilty. Both himself and WAHOO

    3c. “That lack of reflective thought is easy to monitor and measure because the need for a sacrifice is invariably argued on the basis of the perceived size of the threat, not the mechanics of the supposed solution.”
    ● 3c. Thought police. Paul: Guilty. 

    4. Contagion via media. Mass-hysteria is a mass-phenomenon that spreads via modern media. The networks in which it spreads are international and much of the attention space in which the spread happens is for sale, allowing manipulation. Contagion, deliberate or spontaneous, can be monitored (think of numbers of new twitter accounts with particular messages).
    ● 4. Paul: Guilty of a startup called Media Monitors. Precursor to Thought police.

    5. “Political posturing and manipulation.”
    ● Paul: Guilty yourself. 

    Paul, how are your maniplilating consultancies going? Emotional manipulations? Do your own research on the words and thoughts you’ve expressed this year. You fit ALL the above WAHOo’s. Except 2. Lucky or I have to say you are being hysterical. Which is hysterical! 

    And isn’t this ralienism? Any Sci-fi similarities anyone? 

    “The religion also teaches that the Elohim continue to monitor every human individual on Earth, remotely, from their planet.[12] This is done so that the Elohim can decide which individuals merit being offered the opportunity of eternal life.[81] ”

    Paul, you are just hysterically funny now.
    Thanks tho. It is good to know your (un)thinking.

  3. Jerry Roberts says:

    In his book, The Great Hysteria and the Broken State, former Victorian treasury economist Sanjeev Sabhlok reluctantly proposes an Ethics Commissioner to oversee government advertising. He also proposes a “Black Hat” Commissioner to stamp down on group think in the civil service.

    Like the Victorian, I am much more concerned about the police state than the latest virus but I am outnumbered ten to one. In Western Australia’s election on Saturday 13 March the Labor Government was returned with 52 of the 59 seats in the Legislative Assembly. The once comfortable, establishment Liberals were reduced to two seats. The State now has a one party government thanks to Labor’s popular policy of extreme isolationism in the Covid-19 panic.

    From the outset of the Covid story I have been asking the question framed by American journalist Mike Whitney. “Is there even one part of the official Covid narrative that ‘rings true’ or that can withstand the scrutiny of critical analysis?”

    Sanjeev Sabhlok, like Paul, is looking for regulatory mechanisms to calm our troubled souls. Political will is the problem but the idea is courageous and needs to be pursued.

    • paul frijters says:

      yes, the conversation on what should happen to avoid a repeat is crucial. Sanjeev puts his hope in a kind of institutionalised Devil’s Advocate. I fear those roles quickly get filled by insiders and not taken seriously anyway.

      The popularity of totalitarianism is indeed striking. Many Australians seem to think they are winning the world cup with their policies. The reality that they are impoverishing fast, are causing huge (mental) health problems, and are seriously impacting on the future of their own children is lost on them. Its a total bonanza for corrupt politicians who can get away with anything in this time. Yet such things do not end well. When draconian actions become normal and yet huge inequality and poverty is brewing underneath, there is cause to worry.

  4. Chris Lloyd says:

    You list the five diagnostic markers of hysteria. So WAHO presumably have called hysteria for BLM.

  5. KT2 says:

    Jerry said: “Like the Victorian, I am much more concerned about the police state than the latest virus but I am outnumbered ten to one”

    Paul said: “The popularity of totalitarianism is indeed striking”

    I will also protest to curb excess powers, after we get vaccinated. This is, is it not, a 1 in 100, or even 1 in 20 yr event. The politician who decided to let er rip in 2020 would have been called a callus murderer. Like you would have been Paul, by Jerry’s 10-1 pie in the sky statistic.

    The whole sections of community you deride, say totalitarianism is popular (!) and rhetorically intimate is forever, is not. As per usual Paul, no imagination that it can change, and mixed relatives, absolutes, consequences then vs actions now.

    Oaul, call The Chaser team, get out on the streets, explain totalitarianism and get back to us. Otherwise highly biased opinion.

    I assume you have a study to proffer to back up your assertion as to the popularity of totalitarianism – in Victoria!

    In other news, WAHOo bans Black Lives Matter, and those women! protesting rape in Parliament – waaaay to hysterical.

  6. KT2 says:

    ~ WAHOo
    ~ We Lockdown Your Emotions
    ~ Enhancing Liberty!

    Paul, you ask, “So, do you have solutions to offer?”.

    Yes. Education. Time. Fairness.
    Twee, yes? Less twee than wahoo.

    Paul, you have outlined a process to which “the political path there is nonexistent at the moment.”, then wahoo is a nice thought experiment. I appreciate your sincerity and efforts. 

    Yet WAHOo seems a bit like a bully. With which you seem to sympathise Paul.

    As Jonathan Sumption said:
    “You can enforce it if you’re sufficiently intrusive – you can put spies on every street, you can have marshals watching through windows but unless you do that people are not going to respect it unless they think it’s a good idea.

    “Many people do but there’s a very large number who don’t.”

    Front page set in Rockwell Ultra Bold 200pt – ‘Lord’ 400pt
    Head WAHOo 
    “An opera lover, Lord Sumption serves as a director of the English National Opera and as a governor of the Royal Academy of Music.[46]”, enhancing liberty.


    Is WAHOo to ameliorate / fix (a very scary word) ‘hysteria’?

    Not a centally planned emotional expungement WAHOo Truth Department.  And you talk of totalitarianism!

    By a billionaire. Please.
    – “Elon says! Hate Hysteria – WAHOo!”. 
    [in the experimental version winston follows with “Love Liberty!”]

    Hunger games via emotions? Oops! Via Hysteria. Hysteria is a town waaaaay past Overton. 

    • I see you are having fun with the WAHO spelling and theme. Well, why not, the acronym was partially a play on the WHO, of course.
      You do seem to misunderstand how I envisage the WAHO to work. I dont imagine a very powerful organisation: its power would have to come from the governments that support its particular warnings on particular topics.
      And yes, I agree that to call for an international organisation to monitor and coordinate on this is not the national solution I normally prefer and advocate. But its the most workable option with some chance at avoiding a repeat I can see at present. The only thing on the national side I can see having any chance of setting the right incentives for the future is having full justice done to the decision makers, ie the law truly imposed on medical experiments and such. History tells me that just aint gonna happen, just like Tony Blair is never going to do jail time over Iraq.

  7. ianl says:

    Paul said: “The popularity of totalitarianism is indeed striking” [comment from PF}

    Sometime ago I put in a comment on how I thought 2021 would most likely develop. PF (who actually listens sometimes, I agree) replied that I had a pessismistic view. Yet here we are over 25% into 2021 nattering about how to oppose hysteria effectively.

    We have the spectacle of UK police literally putting the boot into naive but normal people and being protected while they do it. The Aus populace largely believes that lockdowns, border closures, travel bans against the Constitution, nit-picking “exemptions” given to those with money (literally admitted to by the Q’ld Govt) and a debt beyond count are actually all a good thing because they are “saved”. The EU from Brussels is acting with unbridled malice and spite in dishonouring its’ signed contracts on vaccine supply, doing almost constant 180’s while blaming Brexit like an out-of-control jealous ex. The US is a hopeless mess of political and street violence, with any number of really nasty agendas all piled together. The CCP is seizing the moment of blind Western hysteria to sort out how to grab Taiwan.

    My mis-attributed “pessimism” (or cynicism as some will have it) caused none of that. Just predictable enough human behaviour.

    • 2020 already showed the popularity of totalitarianism, but your ‘pessimism’ has so far proven right for 2021.
      China has definitely seen its geopolitical clout increase relative to the others in this crisis, but its early days on that.
      The US seems to be turning the corner: competition between the States is leading to rapid normalisation. Jealousy and competition have been friends of sanity breaking out eventually. The US merely seems to be disorganised, but it is recovering fast from its covid experience. The big loser is Europe where the madness started earlier and is lasting longer than in the US. Its not how things appear in the media, but just look at the numbers on unemployment and GDP.

      I agree that rational opposition at this moment is pie-in-the-sky. Yet this is exactly the time to think of new institutions for the future. One then has a plan in case rationality breaks through more generally.
      Australia cannot afford its current policies, so one presumes the politicians are trying to construct a story that allows them to open up the country whilst not being blamed for new outbreaks.

    • Jerry Roberts says:

      Sanjeev Sabhlok frames the lock-down issue in human rights terms. He says we all have a right to lock ourselves into our own homes but the government has no right to direct us to do so.

      I wonder if the Covid-19 problem is only just starting. My main source is the Mark Weinstein Dark Horse Podcast. Mark and Heather, husband and wife biologists, say the mutations of a naturally occurring virus tend to be weaker than the original. The strengthening mutations of Covid-19 support the theory of laboratory leakage.

      We are a year and a half into this infection and we still have no idea where it came from. We don’t know much about it at all. Personally this does not give me confidence in the vaccines.

      • I share your concerns Jerry.

        Unlike Sanjeev, I am not absolutist about rights because there are always conflicting rights that need to be weighed against each other, so for me its about proportionality: do the benefits outweigh the harms? When human rights are involved, the likely benefits must be quite a bit higher before its ok to suspend a human right, but no right is absolute. That type of position is basically the one taken in law and in our institutions too: there is always a “force majeure” possibility.

        Who knows about the trajectory of the disease? I hear some immunologists I respect say what you say, and even that immunisation is likely to worsen the next strains.
        In the longer-run the key pressure is competition and efficiency though: what damages ourselves too much will get flushed out as places that do better will get their policies copied. So Scandinavia will get copied by the rest of Europe because it does better in everything (less deaths, less economic disruption, less mental health problems, etc). That pressure will be there even if the next strains are deadlier and vaccines are less effective than hoped for. So my main worries are not that this madness will not come to an end. I worry more about the forces being unleashed by the madness.
        One way to see what is happening now is the addiction to power on the side of those who unexpectedly got more of it, combined with herd behaviour of the gullible, versus the long-run pull towards what strengthens countries as a whole and the will to have a full life. The latter always wins but it can take a while. And crowds can get very violent in unexpected directions, so one problem might be succeeded by another. The ongoing moves in Australia towards inequality and corruption are very worrying in that respect: they increase the underlying pressures.

        • Jerry Roberts says:

          Thanks Paul. I agree. You and Sanjeev have taken prominent and unpopular positions and I appreciate your courage and clear thinking. The situation here in parochial Western Australia is especially concerning. We have a government without an opposition. It is a One Party State. I am a member of that Party but that does not lessen my concern. I would have thought that after a year and a half a clearer picture would be emerging but I don’t see a consensus in the science.

          • I am and will always be Not Trampis says:

            ah yes both people had no clue as to what occurred in Sweden.
            Real clear thinking.
            Well yes there is a consensus you just do not want to hear it.
            alas for Ftijers and the fritjerites the CDC in the USA say there is simply not enough evidence to say people cannot get covid after having it previously.
            We should note some surveys have 1 in 3 people who get covid have long term problems.

            I do say some.

            • Jerry Roberts says:

              The interview with Dr Geert Vanden Bossche is worth watching. I’m not picking up a consensus among the scientists. In their interviews,specialists at the coal face treating critically ill patients are still baffled by the destruction of their immune systems. The doctors say they have never seen anything like it, including previous corona viruses, which to me as a layman strengthens the suspicion that this thing has come out of a laboratory.

        • Re Sweden
          A meticulous analysis of the data: https://softwaredevelopmentperestroika.wordpress.com/2021/01/15/final-report-on-swedish-mortality-2020-anno-covid/

          “Yes, Covid 2020 was real (and continues to be real at least until spring 2021, as all seasonal viruses). The number of deaths 2020 was higher than it should have been, which ever way we define “Excess”. Not exceptionally higher, and far from all the disaster scenarios painted by media, politicians and failed scientists.

          Was Covid 2020 our generation’s “Spanish Flu” ? No. Far from it, as can be seen in the graph showing 1918 above, and by comparing mortality rates, where non-age-adjusted mortality 2020 is on par with that of 2012, and age adjusted mortality 2020 on par with 2013.

          Was the Swedish Government’s response adequate ? To a large extent yes. Until they panicked and lost their mind in November 2020, and introduced “The Swedish Enabling Act“, a form of legislation that is a disgrace to any nation pretending to be democratic.

          Where “The Strategy” failed was in protecting the frail and elderly, particularly in the care homes. The strategy also failed in overall crisis & contingency planning & management, where various governments since the early 90:ies have radically reduced investments and capacity in health care, care of elderly as well as many other vital parts of the societal safety net. So, the frequently repeated “Isolate, or our hospitals will be overwhelmed!” mantra was primarily caused by several decades of catastrophic political decisions and priorities regarding medical care and other critical societal function investments and resources, as much as by the virus itself.

          What the future brings will be seen by those who survive. Myself, I’m afraid that more doom & gloom will follow for a long time in the tracks of the “2020 Covid Experience”, even if we should manage to eliminate the virus, e.g. by vaccine, during 2021. The psychological effect on populations having spent a year or more in Lockdown, thus missing most of what makes life and living worthwhile, will be interesting to observe, as will be whether social interaction patterns and behaviors eventually return to normal, or whether our future social interactions will be so deeply ingrained by Anno Covidis that we will, similar to Pavlov’s dogs, continue regarding fellow human beings as potentially deadly virus vectors.

          Similarly, as this recent article (Swedish) shows – 90000 (!) medical treatments cancelled during 2020 – we will also have to expect further “Excess Deaths” down the road, where these deaths are only indirectly caused by Covid. “

          • I am and will always be Not Trampis says:

            two things.

            Was there a large decrease in deaths caused by the flu? If so then the excess deaths are actually worse than look on paper.

            Of course it should not be as bas as the spanish flu. The world has moved on since then. Or to put it another way Covid would have killed a lot more people than the spanish flu in 1918-29 if it occurred then.

            • Now many errors consist of this alone, that we do not apply names rightly to things. For when one says that lines which are drawn from the centre of a circle to the circumference are unequal, he means, at least at that time, something different by circle than mathematicians. Thus when men make mistakes in calculation they have different numbers in their minds than those on the paper. Wherefore if you could see their minds they do not err; they seem to err, however, because we think they have the same numbers in their minds as on the paper. If this were not so we should not believe that they made mistakes any more than I thought a man in error whom I heard the other day shouting that his yard had flown into his neighbour’s chickens, for his mind seemed sufficiently clear to me on this subject.

          • paul frijters says:

            nice report! And indeed, a future in which we continue to see one another as virus vectors is a dismal one.
            I have said it many times because I believe it: jealousy and competition are our strongest allies towards long-run normality. The images of parties on the beaches of Florida are doing more to return sanity to the US than a hundred learned scientific reports on the ineffectiveness of lockdowns.

            • I am and will always be Not Trampis says:

              parties and covid. i knew the USA had the answer.

              Proving he is Troppo’s answer to Kates

      • Jerry Roberts says:

        For some reason I persist in calling Bret Weinstein Mark. Apologies but recommend the podcast.

  8. KT2 says:

    Paul, ‘all stick no carrot’ Frijters says: “I have said it many times because I believe it: jealousy and competition are our strongest allies towards long-run normality.”. So we get to Paul’s ‘normality’ via bullies, jealousy & competition? I think that road may not lead to normal. Where ever it is.

    I have said many times before, Nic olease have a long chat re sortition. Maybe then we can get to normal without Paul’s sticks – bullies, jealously and competition.

    “More men die of jealousy than of cancer.” – Joseph P. Kennedy

    “A man will do many things to get himself loved. He will do all things to get himself envied.” – Mark Twain

    “A competent and self-confident person is incapable of jealousy in anything. Jealousy is invariably a symptom of neurotic insecurity.” – Robert A. Heinlein https://www.overallmotivation.com/quotes/jealousy-quotes/

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