Is Social Media Creating Mass Delusions?

I’d like to think I’m pretty grounded, but the pandemic has honestly opened my eyes to a number of realities that have made me deeply uncomfortable. It’s been eye opening. The first is that a lot of people I’ve had considerable respect for struggle with reality as times get more difficult. This probably goes double when the pandemic has limited in-person interactions. I’ve been fairly present at my club during all this, at some risk to myself, but even life there has been seriously hampered by the inability to meet and gather in person. Work life, which is a lot of people’s only interaction, is also suffering. I’ve noticed that extroverts are suffering considerably more than introverts. Someone at my club commented at the beginning of all this, when I asked him how he was doing: “Great! I’ve waiting all my life for social distancing.” I might not be quite that stoic, but I’m faring better than most, from what I can tell. But with many people around me going stark raving mad, I can’t be completely sure. I’m probably not the best judge of myself.

This article struck me, because it touches on mass delusion. Bitter and I were discussing over dinner whether we’ve gotten a brief taste of what the world would be like if all anyone had was social media. Every other national institution we’ve relied on for years are in a holding pattern. Still there, but not moving forward.

… I’ve been saying for years in this space that the Woke Left is awakening demons that it cannot control. If you are on the Left, and you can’t see this, then you are as deluded as the QAnon crackpots who live in their own reality.

This fits what I see. It’s becoming increasingly more difficult for rational voices to be heard, as our nobility enable absolute madness, on both sides of the aisle, exploiting the madness in order to remain in power by stretching the post-WWII order to its breaking point. Division pays, if you want power, and disarmament is hard when no one is talking to each other. It’s easier to whip up hate among the crazies than to try to find a new center.

18 thoughts on “Is Social Media Creating Mass Delusions?”

  1. The trouble with Dreher is he posits an equivalence between Q which is basically a few people in their basements (FWIW a Swiss organization specializing in writing analysis thinks that Q is two people, one of whom is an Italian writer.) and the Woke which is elected officials, the tech oligarchs and God knows how many Fortune 500 CEOs. We need to quit listen to people like him.

    1. I’m half-convinced that QAnon is an anti-Right false-flag operation intended to make the Right look like crazies — both by attracting a fringe group, and by painting anyone to the Left of Democrats as “QAnon believers”, if not outright, then via guilt by association.

      I can’t help but wonder, though, if people would consider me a “conspiracy theorist” for believing, or even considering, such a notion.

        1. Me too. If it is really is the deep state it would contradict my original point but it is one or the other.

      1. “I’m half-convinced that QAnon is an anti-Right false-flag operation…”

        Why not take that one step farther, and consider that the one guy who did more to discredit almost everything “on the right”, and to thereby empower and enable “the left”, was best buds with someone who started his career as a KGB officer in the old Soviet Union?

        Maybe that’s more than just one step, but consider how everything went sour for the NRA, shortly after it played footsy with Russian oligarchs and sex-kittens.

        1. The only thing I can throw in is, be suspicious of anything that implies any tactic originated with the Soviets — or would be eschewed by any “principled” ideology.

          Most Soviet tactics had direct DNA from the Czar’s Secret Police, and even they probably invented none of them, as they go far back into recorded history.

          And in my own time, I came to recognize that “on the right” I had been the subject of “Leninist” tactics, e.g., the care, feeding, encouragement and employment of “Useful Idiots” and “Front Organizations.”

  2. For anyone interested in understanding this madness, the work of James Lindsay and Douglas Murray are good places to start. While social media has helped accelerate the trend, this madness has roots that stretch back to the pre-war European communists. So, despite being batshit crazy, this is a fully evolved political and social ideology.

    We are in deep trouble as country. Many of our cultural institutions are in the thrall of an ideaology whose goal is the dimantling of society through racial and ethnic identitarianism. While most of it’s adherents are simply useful idiots, the people driving this ideology are motivated by a naked hatred of American culture and white people in general. If history has one lesson it’s that when people say they hate you and want to see you erased, it’s best to take them at their word.

  3. Would anyone be reading that “American Conservative” article if it weren’t online? That seems like some irony right there, vis-a-vis cultivating mass delusions.

  4. As evidenced beautifully by Sprocket in this very thread, the frothing at the mouth nutbag conservatism I once took as gospel is proving to be a limp breed right now. And now this type may be actively turning on the country as well as the “blue” that they claimed to back.

    Very simply, I have had to distance myself from many who took Trump at his word for years who are now basically suicidal that he has left office. There are many who are not doing well mentally in this pandemic induced lockdown state, too, which cannot be overstated. This does not make a good brew.

    When as late as this past Sunday I have people coming up to me (in person, not online) and saying that they are confident Trump will pull through in the end and that the military will arrest Biden today, I know things are going too far with the vitriol and, yes, the stupidity.

    Also, Q is not “two people in their basements”. When you see bumper stickers from Q adherents in your own community you can disprove that theory fast enough. Q, or its subset of adherents, has basically taken over the Trumpified GOP. They are moving fast to creating their own (irrelevant, destructive) party. Destructive not because of ideology, which is bad enough, but destructive of any thread of organizing left for the fusionist GOP.

    Alas, though, this is America, and it’s the last best solace we have left on earth. If I didn’t have faith in this country then I would not continue voting for people who believe in its ideals at least in some capacity. Or I would just move. So I’m still here, and I’m willing to make/keep it a better place by voting for people who still respect its ideals. Got any better ideas?

    1. If Sprocket’s post in this thread is your example of “frothing at the mouth conservativism”, then I submit that the only conservative discourse you would find acceptable is meekly saying “wait, that’s unconstitutional”.

      I don’t know about Doug Murray, but James Lindsay has done a great job of taking social media and the social justice movement to task. His New Discourses podcast is sometimes bleak, but a great resource if you want to understand the ravingg lunacy that is driving the Left these days.

  5. I would contend that the the term and accusation of “False flag” (in any context) is itself a false flag. Q is a mass movement; you can deny (rightly) that it is the essence of American conservatism, but you cannot deny that it is of the Right. Likewise, Wokeism is not the essence of Liberalism, but it is of the left.

    What the article doesn’t discuss is that, while reality-grounded truth is the best defense against pseudo-reality, it isn’t the only, or easiest one; an opposing pseudo-reality is. In pseudo-reality there is no middle ground. You are A, or you are B.

    Conservatives despise being called “racist”, “fascist”, and “white supremacist”. Those people exist, to our embarrassment. But conservatives are equally guilty, labeling anything left of center (or left of themselves) as “communist”. It’s safe to say that Communism is as dangerous a pseudo-reality as Wokeism or Q, but that guy you work with who favors a union or affordable medical insurance isn’t Stalin or Mao. Equating that with them makes it easier for each of you to dismiss the other.

  6. “What the article doesn’t discuss is that, while reality-grounded truth is the best defense against pseudo-reality, it isn’t the only, or easiest one; an opposing pseudo-reality is.”

    The difficulty with that is that every source (including/especially those providing objective reality) will be dismissed as not-credible by one side or the other of any debate. If you are citing what you accept as objective reality, someone is certain to come back and dismiss your source as not credible. If you challenge your opponent as to what part of the content that they are challenging is false, they will come back with sources that you in turn will dismiss as nonsense. Once that dynamic is in play, debate becomes pointless.

    For example, look at the current debate regarding whether Trump participated in instigating the invasion of the Capitol. In that case even the evidence of our senses is denied and dismissed.

    I was young in the coldest of the Cold War years, and we were conditioned to ridicule the Russians for using the same tactics that are now the mainstays of our domestic non-debates. Debate or even discussion has become impossible.

    1. You know, there’s a passage in the George Kennan letter that seems to be getting more relevant with each passing year.

      “It should not be thought from above that Soviet party line is necessarily disingenuous and insincere on part of all those who put it forward. Many of them are too ignorant of outside world and mentally too dependent to question [apparent omission] self-hypnotism, and who have no difficulty making themselves believe what they find it comforting and convenient to believe. Finally we have the unsolved mystery as to who, if anyone, in this great land actually receives accurate and unbiased information about outside world. In atmosphere of oriental secretiveness and conspiracy which pervades this Government, possibilities for distorting or poisoning sources and currents of information are infinite. The very disrespect of Russians for objective truth–indeed, their disbelief in its existence–leads them to view all stated facts as instruments for furtherance of one ulterior purpose or another.”

      You already see hard rejection of reality in the Left, particularly with so-called trans rights issues, but apparent every time they dismiss something as a social construct or an aspect of white supremacy. I’m afraid to see it manifest in the political right as well, because that would be the death of conservativism.

      1. Have I mentioned my theory that the American Right was infiltrated by the Russians, way back in Soviet days, so the tools were already in place when they swapped “ideologies”?

        (Just to be clear, the “ideology” swap was Fascist authoritarianism for Communist authoritarianism; but anyone can be forgiven for failing to see the difference. But, Russian culture will never swap non- or anti-authoritarianism for authoritarianism, and they have infused quite a bit of it here in the U.S., using tools established and sharpened during their Communist manifestation.)

        Same goes for the Chinese.

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