Coronavirus & The Plague of Self-Interest

Up until just yesterday, Canadians were repeatedly told that closing our borders to travellers from infected regions will do nothing, because said travellers can always bypass flight restrictions by first flying to a country with no restrictions, or by simply lying about their travel history. At the same time, we were told that asking suspected or confirmed coronavirus patients to “self-quarantine” themselves, with virtually no oversight provided aside from (we should hope) their own conscious, is a perfectly reasonable and smart thing to do.

Because people who want to travel, for whatever reason, will do just that, and there’s apparently nothing we can do to stop them. But people who want to break their self-quarantine, for whatever reason, will… not do just that? Our officials may invoke The Science alleged to be informing their actions however many times they like, but one does not need any sort of educational or professional qualifications to understand that this reasoning simply doesn’t hold up.

Meanwhile, in the real world, if we can expect that people might lie about their travel history, we should certainly expect that people might lie about remaining in self-quarantine. Moreover, it now appears that a large percentage of our recent coronavirus cases have been “imported” from the only nation with which we share a land border: the United States. Closing this border would appear to be the most obvious and sensible thing to do — but leave it to the Canadian government to be egregiously involved in the day-to-day lives of its citizens during the best of times, and almost entirely absent and ineffectual at precisely the moment when we really do need them to do something, anything at all.

For the lion’s share of the outbreak, the World Health Organization had embarked upon a most virtuous crusade to combat the real threat facing our so-called “global village”: hurt feelings. Aside from their persistent and rather patronizing calls for people the world over to engage in proper hand-washing protocol, the only other activity of note from the WHO over much of the last two months had much less to do with the virus itself than with how people feel about the virus.

In other words: perhaps the real virus is the stigma generated along the way.

Now, it is quite easy, and admittedly quite tempting, to chalk all of this up to mere incompetency. However, I do not personally believe this to be the case — at the very least, it’s not the whole story. Rather, I do believe there to be at least some sort of method behind this madness.

Imagine: you’re one of the big-shots at the WHO. You have an extremely virulent and potentially deadly sickness making its way around the globe, and you are, of course, expected to do something about it. Unfortunately, as a branch of the UN System, you are forced to juggle your commitment to the globalist project with that of your core mandate — public health. This means that several potential options for combating the spread of the virus are off the table before negotiations even begin.

In brief:

  • You can’t (openly) encourage countries to implement travel restrictions, because this will have too much of a negative impact on the global economy (not to mention the implications of giving the impression that wide-open borders not always being a good thing);
  • You can’t encourage countries to implement more heavy-handed screening processes for potential coronavirus patients, because this will freak people out;
  • You can’t (openly) call for the same kind of large-scale, city-wide quarantines as those seen in China, because the residents of most other countries are unlikely to tolerate such a thing (and it will freak people out, and be bad for the economy);
  • You can’t be entirely honest about the overall difficulty of the situation we’re facing, because this would further undermine the already-limited confidence that much of the public has in your organization. At any rate, you absolutely cannot admit that you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, trying to strike a balance between the interests of the global economy and that of global health, because some people may (rightfully) begin to wonder why on Earth the World Health Organization is concerning itself with economic matters in the first place.

Briefer still:

So — what’s an un-elected bureaucrat to do? At this point, it will help to remember that these are bureaucrats we’re dealing with, here — they’re not saints; they’re people, just like you and me, every bit as liable to fall for the allure of self-interest as any of those currently dodging symptom-checks at airports, hoarding toilet paper, or breaking their self-quarantines to attend public gatherings.

The answer to this problem, then, is simple, if only because it’s the last one left. Basically, you’re going to have to figure out a way of doing something — or at least, looking like you’re doing something — without actually doing much of anything at all. A necessary component of this strategy will entail that your organization consistently down-plays the nature of the risk that this virus poses to the world: so long as the public genuinely believes that there’s nothing to be worried about, they will not be demanding that you take any of the aforementioned, unsightly options.

That way, your overall lack-of-action will appear not irresponsible, but rather reasonable. As far as the WHO’s continued existence is concerned, it doesn’t really matter whether or not their actions (or lack thereof) really are irresponsible, only that they don’t look that way.

Herein lies the danger with putting a single organization in charge of public health on a global scale: like most UN agencies, the WHO is accountable only to itself, despite being charged with the health interests of (for all intents and purposes) the entire planet. If any of us have a problem with the way the WHO is governed, there is effectively nothing that we can do about it — not unless the WHO itself happens to agree with our concerns. Until that day comes, if it ever does, we remain entirely at their mercy.

Again, we must ask ourselves: what incentive do they have to agree with us? In fact, they have much more incentive to outright lie to us, lest their cushy office jobs be put on the chopping block. To an extent, I can understand the difficulty of their present situation: surely, it is no easy task to balance the needs, wants, and demands of some 8 billion people with the needs, wants, and demands of the politicians, bankers and bureaucrats signing your paychecks. I only say “to an extent” because — call me crazy — I don’t really care whether or not anyone gets to keep their cushy office job after the dust settles, and frankly, with so many lives at stake, I can’t understand why we haven’t yet seen at least one or two whistle-blowers emerge whom would presumably agree with me on this point.

To quote @DaveEncompas0 on Twitter, who summarizes the debacle quite nicely:

One of the most striking, morbid symptoms of this era is public institutions’ fixation on the interior, subjective strata of a public they seem to increasingly mistrust. The Managerial State’s surveillance of mind rises in proportion to its failure to attend to material reality. [source]

Indeed, in our present era of global oligarchy, public opinion is not the means of understanding and alleviating concern that it may have once been. Rather, it is a dangerous and institutionally life-threatening obstacle that must be overcome by any means necessary. And if you cannot — or, in this case, are perhaps not allowed to — combat the issue that has caused such negative public opinion, you are then forced to combat — or, in this case, distract from — the negative opinion itself.


The bulk of the preceding paragraphs were drafted prior to the WHO’s extremely belated, “official” designation of the novel coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic. Since then, the crisis has accelerated considerably: just one of many examples comes from the hard-hit nation of Italy, where hospitals are reportedly being forced to choose which incoming patients will be eligible to receive intensive, life-saving care, and which will be left to their fates. Parts of Spain and France are now on lock-down, and multiple nations have suspended both land and air-based travel into their territories, whether for travellers from specific regions or — as is the case in Denmark, Poland, and, quite ironically, a number of Central American nations — from anywhere else in the world. Even Canada, too, is now closing its borders to most, albeit not all, foreigners.

These are dark days indeed, and darker still remain. It may seem difficult to fathom at this stage, but we must remember that this, too, will pass. The day will come when our lives return to normal — though what appears to be “normal” to us on that day may be drastically different from what we would have considered “normal” before all of this began.

Although Canada has not yet initiated any large-scale lock-downs such as those seen in China, Italy, Spain, France, and parts of the United States, many of us will be spending much more time indoors, away from our jobs and other commitments, whether with our families or alone with our thoughts. As tempting as it may be, I think it would be a terrible shame to spend this sudden surplus of free time on fearing for the future. You will likely end up doing this to some extent, anyway — we’re only human, after all. My point is that you should try not to spend all of your time doing so.

At any rate, fear is far from the only emotion that you ought to be feeling at this moment. In particular, if you are not angry with the powers that be for having inflicted this mess upon you in the first place, I would urge you to reconsider.

Yes, we certainly have the right to be upset with the Chinese government for their bungled and haphazard response to the outbreak while it was still contained within their borders. We have just as much of a right to be upset with the WHO and their lackeys for having sacrificed our health and safety on the alter of money, power and “progress.” But do not forget that governments around the world — in all likelihood, yours included — consistently delayed putting the proper measures in place in time to protect you and your family from harm. That citizens all over the world are now being faced with widespread unemployment, uncertainty, and quarantine — mandatory or otherwise — on top of a very real and dangerous threat to their health, was not inevitable. If anonymous Twitter accounts and citizen journalists knew that this was a big deal as far back as early January, it’s a sure bet that our leaders knew as well, if not sooner. All the same, they did nothing.

None of this had to happen. Nearly all of this chaos, both coming and ongoing, could have been prevented. To re-iterate: calling this mere incompetence gives them far more credit than they deserve. It is not incompetence, but cold, calculated malice. Somewhere along the chain of command, a decision was made that your health did not matter nearly as much as your behavior — after all, dead men tell no tales.

God forbid that any of you reading this (or any of your loved ones) become ill with this terrible sickness. No matter who you are, whether you agree with my views or not, I sincerely hope that this virus passes by you and your family without incident. Though the coronavirus has done a better job at exposing the rotten foundations of our globalized economy and its complex, off-shored supply chains than all the thousands of hours of YouTube exposes on the topic combined, the last thing I’d want is for anyone to lose their lives in the process.

Sadly, lives have already been lost. All we can do now is to try to do our best to ensure that we do not lose any more. Do not trust your government to do this for you: remember that the only reason they are acting so swiftly at this stage is because the problem has become too big, too scary, to deflect with simple accusations of bigotry and intolerance.

Do not forget that, when you were afraid and desperate for answers, the government called you a ‘racist’ for having dared to ask questions.

I am not at all certain that our global elite will learn anything of value from this experience. In all likelihood, they will be itching to get back to “business as usual” as soon as possible — as ‘usual’ as it can be, at any rate. We must not allow them to do so. We have a responsibility to those whom have already suffered and perished from the consequences of these decisions to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again. And if we do not learn anything from this, mark my words, it will happen again.

To return to Dave’s quote: our institutions, both national and international, do not trust us. They do not trust us to make the appropriate decisions with the information they have on hand, and by withholding it, they have forced us to do whatever it is they think we should be doing, whether it is the right thing to do or not. The tragic results are now piling up in hospitals, morgues, and graveyards across the world.

Use this time wisely. Use the fear and anger you are feeling now just as wisely. They do not trust us, and we should make damn sure that the feeling remains mutual.

Do not forget who did this to us, and, most importantly, do not forget why.


The ‘Social Contract’ Goes Up In Flames

If you’ve not yet seen the recent coverage of anti-pipeline road barriers being dismantled by angry locals off Highway 19 on Vancouver Island, B.C., you may want to give it a watch before reading this.

First off, let me express my pride, for want of a better term, that this happened in my old stomping grounds. Many, many hardworking families on Vancouver Island have been hammered by the damage done to our nation’s natural resource sector — first, by the massive layoffs in forestry around the time of the Great Recession, and now, again, by the federal government’s open warfare against the oil and gas industry, which many Islanders had looked to as an alternative. We used to joke that the population of Campbell River (my hometown, just north of this incident) doubled and halved every two weeks with all the folks flying in and out of Fort McMurray.

I was around 14 years old when the local paper mill, the town’s biggest employer, shut down. Over the months that followed I remember seeing groups of friends at school, embracing one another in tears, saying their last goodbyes before some of their families would depart for Alberta’s then-greener pastures. Others still would remain, their households having elected to send dad to the aforementioned oil sands to be away from his family for weeks at a time just to provide for them.

My father, for his part, lost his business in the recession. Not wanting to leave his home of over a decade behind, he spent the next few years working two, sometimes three jobs to keep our heads above water. By the time I graduated high school, there was still little work in Campbell River — so I, too, made my way to the “promised land” of Alberta.

We were all idiots, I suppose.

I’m telling you all this to give an idea of the context in which the events of this video occurred. For every dirty, screeching hippy planting their asses behind an illegal highway barricade, there are surely dozens of ordinary people who are sick to death of this kind of interference in their daily lives. Sick to death of watching their friends and families become so thinly spread across the breadth of this country, desperately tracking down the few remaining parts of it in which there is still work to be found. Just as the recession was not the fault of those who were most drastically affected by it, neither is it their fault that multiple pipeline projects remain trapped in regulatory hell.

And, clearly, it is not their fault that anti-pipeline protesters have upped the ante by blockading the same highways and bridges that every other Canadian needs to get from one place to another — whether or not they themselves are employed in the industry currently slated for death. Hell, even if they were, it is hardly the “fault” of any given O&G worker that any given pipeline might be built — yet, they will be made to suffer the consequences of these blockades all the same.

It’s not their fault that this is happening. It’s not their fault that the RCMP has chosen to do next-to-nothing about it. Nonetheless, when a handful of those sick-to-death people come together to do the work that the police refuse to do, they are the ones who are treated as criminals.

At one point in the video, a protester becomes aggravated by the sight of their carefully-placed barricade materials being tossed rightfully into the roadside ditch by a local who’s clearly had enough of this shit. “He’s removing garbage,” says another local to the weepy protester.

“My sacred items are not garbage,” she counters, with the kind of passion to suggest that the man was throwing a live infant into the ditch as opposed to old tires and rotting plywood. “My sacred items are special!”

Hear that? Those old tires are ‘special’ — sacred, even! Much, much more special or sacred than silly things like — I don’t know — having a job. Feeding your family. Just trying to live one’s life, even as the world around them comes tumbling down in a grandiose hissy-fit.

Unfortunately, I suspect that these protesters — and by extension, their police detail — might be on to something. It doesn’t look like we’ll be able to just “live our lives” anymore, not while they have anything to say about it. As noted by a local in this video, paying your taxes and minding your business doesn’t seem to be good enough these days — not to the police, and certainly not to the protesters. Taking matters into your own hands, however, is also not allowed: that’ll get you arrested.

But hey — the police will be receiving their paychecks as usual, despite their active refusal to protect the public from a minority of extremists. What do they care if hundreds, if not thousands of others will be physically prevented from earning theirs? In fact, missed days of work will be, for some, the least of their concerns — God forbid anyone has an important medical appointment waiting for them on the other side of a blocked-up bridge.

The protesting and road-blocking is still ongoing. CN Rail has just announced that it will be forced to close “significant” parts of its rail network if the protests continue. As the world’s second-largest country, Canada is extremely dependent upon its transportation infrastructure to provide goods across the country. The shortages that could result from this are far from trivial: food, medicine, propane, the list goes on. Already our supplies of these and various other necessities are threatened by the mass quarantine of China, and our ever-creative pipeline protesters have somehow managed to find a way to make the situation even worse. Quite ironically, we can expect the isolated and predominantly Indigenous communities of our rural north to be among the hardest hit by these antics conducted in their name.

With the current state of play, it is only a matter of time before someone gets hurt — physically, as opposed to financially, or indeed “spiritually”, hurt. Hence the ominous quotation now making its rounds across Canadian social media:

“If the government will not uphold the rule of law, it becomes incumbent on citizens to do so.”

Canadians have a reputation for being ‘polite’, often to our detriment. As I’ve argued before, this ‘polite’ demeanor is more likely the result of not wanting to rock the proverbial boat than it is a genuine consideration of other people’s feelings. At any rate, my theory is about to be put to the test once more.

If you don’t want to get involved, that’s too damn bad: these protesters, the police, and indeed the upper echelons of government, have all decided that you don’t get to have that choice anymore. As big as our country is, there is simply nowhere left to run: the roadways are littered with trash. We are now sitting in an un-seaworthy vessel without life jackets, watching some of our fellow passengers crowd themselves onto one side, threatening to flip the thing over. Forget not wanting to rock the boat, because it’s already about to capsize.

Will we rock it back the other way, or will we let them drown us all?

COMMENTARY: “Uh-oh: Silicon Valley is building a Chinese-style social credit system” by Mike Elgan

At long last, someone in the (relatively) mainstream media is talking about what I’ve been warning of on this blog for the last couple of months — China’s social credit system, coming to a smartphone application near you. Elgan’s article does not cover the totalitarian coup de gras, however — this being the addition of “carbon conscious” behavioral nudges, in between all the ‘regular’ ones — but in all fairness, it may be a little too early in the “normie sphere” of understanding the world to introduce the concept just yet. Wouldn’t want to freak people out, right?

Just for review, Elgan describes the current Chinese model off helicopter-governing as follows:

In place since 2014, the social credit system is a work in progress that could evolve by next year into a single, nationwide point system for all Chinese citizens, akin to a financial credit score. It aims to punish for transgressions that can include membership in or support for the Falun Gong or Tibetan Buddhism, failure to pay debts, excessive video gaming, criticizing the government, late payments, failing to sweep the sidewalk in front of your store or house, smoking or playing loud music on trains, jaywalking, and other actions deemed illegal or unacceptable by the Chinese government [emphasis added].

So, you see, the system already goes far beyond the level of suppressing political dissent and/or enforcing the law, however draconian: “unacceptable” behaviors are now deemed to include excessive video gaming (how this is defined is, of course, for the government to know and the citizens to find out) and being rude in public. Again — it is really not that far of a leap between these current standards and the incoming, “green behavior” standards as are to be set by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). “Failing to properly sort recyclables” would not look out of place on the above list in the slightest.

And what are the punishments to be bestowed upon those who transgress the credit system?

Punishments can be harsh, including bans on leaving the country, using public transportation, checking into hotels, hiring for high-visibility jobs, or acceptance of children to private schools. It can also result in slower internet connections and social stigmatization in the form of registration on a public blacklist [emphasis added].

I find the potential restrictions on movement to be of the most concern, here: the Chinese public may very well be used to it, at this point; but imagine if such a system were to come into place over here, in the West? You could be slowly wasting away in an economic dumpster-fire of a state — California, perhaps — and yet be unable to move residence owing to your failure to pick up enough litter to satisfy some arbitrarily-set quota. You would be, in essence, held captive in your present location until you were able to ‘absolve’ yourself of your ‘crimes’ — even if you no longer had any form of employment there, or a roof under your head.

Before brushing off this thought as unnecessarily alarmist, consider for a moment just how quickly things could spiral under control: you could be barred from public transit because you spent too much of your free time gaming. If you happen to rely on public transit to get to and from work, you’re in trouble: you’ll need to either find some longer or more expensive way to get to work, which could then leave you with too little time left over to complete your other, Good Citizen duties or, failing that, too little money left over at the end of the month to sustain yourself as before. Even if you can find work closer to home, you may have to accept lower pay or poorer benefits — one way or another, the point is that the system is set up to make it harder to attempt to clear one’s credit score the more infractions that are committed. As such, you have quite a bit of incentive to avoid gaming “too much” in the first place, lest you end up in a life-ruining spiral of trying to redeem yourself with even less ability to do so than you started off with — and this is just regarding freedom of movement; never mind all of the other punishments that are sure to exist.

The above scenario may be speculative for now, but we might not have to speculate for much longer — the article goes on to list a number of social credit-esque programs currently in use in the United States and elsewhere. I suppose not even the “free market economy” can save us from mass surveillance. The examples provided here deal with life insurance (companies monitoring your social media content to determine your premiums); scanning IDs at bars to check the individual against a blacklist of those who have been barred by other, participating businesses in the past — but, as the article says, “Judgment about what kind of behavior qualifies for inclusion on a PatronScan list is up to the bar owners and managers,” meaning that the system could be used abusively, in theory; in addition to those of Uber, AirBnB, and Whatsapp, all of which reserve the right to ban users for any reason they see fit to (or, in the case of Whatsapp, if “too many” users block you). When it comes to Uber and AirBnB, I’m not as concerned with the capacity for arbitrary bans only because neither company holds a monopoly over their respective markets — it may be more expensive to take a regular tax or to rent a regular hotel room, but it is not the same as being barred outright from doing either. That said, we should be worried by the potential for targeted mass-blocking campaigns (which would be similar to targeted mass-reporting campaigns currently in use on Twitter) to get someone kicked off of Whatsapp: as noted in the article the app is “small potatoes” in the United States, but the main form of electronic communication in many, many other countries worldwide.

Wrapping things up, the author does a great job of explaining what, if anything, people need to be concerned about when it comes to this form of social engineering:

The most disturbing attribute of a social credit system is not that it’s invasive, but that it’s extralegal. Crimes are punished outside the legal system, which means no presumption of innocence, no legal representation, no judge, no jury, and often no appeal. In other words, it’s an alternative legal system where the accused have fewer rights.

Precisely: carrying on with the example of excess video gaming, perhaps it won’t ever become illegal, technically speaking, for one to do so; but if people are being actively and effectively punished for their actions, it won’t have to be. And if it’s not illegal, the public has very few options available for getting things to change — we don’t get to elect board CEOs or hold referendums on changes to terms of services, after all.

Elgan continues:

If current trends hold, it’s possible that in the future a majority of misdemeanors and even some felonies will be punished not by Washington, D.C., but by Silicon Valley. It’s a slippery slope away from democracy and toward corporatocracy.

In other words, in the future, law enforcement may be determined less by the Constitution and legal code, and more by end-user license agreements.

Considering the now well-known biases and tendencies of American tech companies, the frightening possibilities are endless. If Google’s search engine can hide certain search results or prioritize some links over others, according to the company’s internal, politically-set mandate, could they hide businesses owned by people with poor social credit scores from Google Maps? Could Facebook find a way to penalize users in real-time for having the ‘wrong’ people on their friends list? To repeat: none of the above discussion even touches upon what the UNEP wants to do to encourage “green behavior,” and given the aforementioned biases in the tech industry, it’s hard to imagine that they wouldn’t willingly comply with requests to monitor users’ “carbon footprints.”

So, if you’re worried about the prospects now, I’m sorry to say that there’s only going to be even more to worry about in the near future. Sadly, there’s not much that can be done about it at this stage, aside from delaying the inevitable: basically, my advice would be to boycott businesses that use the aforementioned monitoring tactics to the greatest extent that you can. In this game of behavioral control, the only way to win is to not play.

Full article at:

Meanwhile, in Oregon: Republican State Senators Abscond in Protest of Controversial Climate Bill

…and U.S. Army veteran and running contender for Bad-ass of the Year, Senator Brian Boquist (R-Dallas), tells State Troopers who may be coming for him, “Send bachelors and come heavily armed.”

Woah — wait a minute. What the hell happened in Oregon? Most of us have been following, or at least aware of the general chaos being unleashed upon the city of Portland (with the complicity of City Hall and municipal police, no less), but it would appear that it’s the state’s capitol, Salem, where the real action is.

The missing senators have been absent from the state legislature since Wednesday, June 19th. Judging from the limited media accounts on the matter, the Republican caucus has quite literally left the building, some members of which have gone as far as leaving the state entirely, in order to block the passage of a controversial bill that would introduce a cap and trade system for GHG emissions in the state. With that in mind, one can hardly blame them: cap and trade amounts to, ultimately, little more than what greatly resembles the Catholic Church’s practice of selling “indulgences”, those being perhaps the most well-known of catalysts that sparked the Protestant Reformation. Crucially, their supposed benefit to the environment remains dubious at best — in short, they are just as prone to corruption and favoritism on the part of the regulators as are any other “development” or “sustainability” project more commonly found in the Third World, and their real impact as a incentive against high GHG emissions is highly susceptible to market fluctuations.

But the state Democratic caucus, like their cohorts in practically every other Western nation, wish to push it through nevertheless: passing off the costs of being “environmentally friendly” to the consumer is just easier to do, you see. They can keep their private jets and overseas vacationing and still feel like they’re doing something about the so-called “climate crisis”. Of course, in order to pass the legislation, they need at least twenty senators present in the Senate — without the Republicans, they’re left with just eighteen. And so, the hunt is on. As of today, the Republican senators have continued to turn-down their Democratic colleague’s polite requests to return; in response, Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) has threatened to send Oregon State Troopers on a quest to haul at least two of them back, kicking and screaming if need be. “[Today], unlike last Thursday and Friday,” reports The Oregonian, “Courtney did not ask the sergeant at arms to search the building for absent Republicans.”

Only time will tell how this saga comes to an end. In the meantime, we might take some iota of inspiration from these senators. As Senator Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario) has told reporters, “We’re not just going to get steamrolled.” Bentz has also stated that ongoing negotiations with the Democratic caucus are being had; hopefully, while not holding my breath, the two parties can come to some form of reasonable agreement. All I can say is thank God there are still some politicians left in the world who are willing to pull out all the stops when it comes to a piece of bad legislation.

Not only the constituents of these senators, but all Oregonians are lucky to have at least some representatives who are willing to stand up for them. Furthermore, anyone serious about the environment, no matter from where they hail, should be standing with them in solidarity — as explained, all this legislation would produce is yet another market of imaginary goods; the proceeds of which will likely end up… well, I’ll let you take a guess.

And then, there’s Senator Boquist.

In an email to The Oregonian/OregonLive Wednesday afternoon, Boquist stuck with his earlier statement and rejected a reporter’s characterization of his threat to troopers as “thinly veiled.”

“Nothing thinly veiled,” Boquist wrote. “I have been in political coup attempts. I have been held hostage overseas. I have been jailed politically overseas … Not going to be arrested as a political prisoner in Oregon period.”

[ … ] Boquist is a U.S. Army veteran whose businesses include military training and an international operation that journalists described in the 1990s as a paramilitary force of armed American and Russian ex-military officers.


Adventures in State-sponsored Eugenics

If you have not yet heard of the recent court-decision made in the United Kingdom, wherein the judge has determined that a mentally disabled woman should be forced to terminate her pregnancy against her will, I would highly recommend that you do so — I prefer this version for the commentary provided, but the one doing the most rounds at present is here. Alarmingly, though not unexpectedly, some sections of the online peanut gallery appear to have latched on to the fact that the woman’s mother is Catholic as a means of justifying why this decision was the right one to make; ignoring entirely that it’s not the mother who’s getting an abortion — it’s her daughter, whom, despite her lacking the ability to make legal decisions of her own accord, does have an opinion on the fate of her pregnancy; an opinion that is no less worthy of consideration on account of her disability. As it happens, the judge presiding over this case has decided, in a similar vein, that the opinion of the woman’s doctors are more “legitimate” than that of the women herself, in addition to that of her mother and her social worker.

Now, you might argue, as the prosecution has, that the doctors are more knowledgeable in this regard than are either of the aforementioned parties; by which you would be suggesting that mind-reading and the foreseeing of multiple, hypothetical future outcomes are things one might learn in medical school. Given that this is not the case, we are left with an assumption that a forced abortion is in any way a better thing to do to a person than allowing her to birth the child would be. Ultimately, this is a matter of opinion, rather than fact — the only reason that the opinion of the doctors, presumably none of whom will be getting an abortion as a result of this, is being given precedence over that of the person who actually is getting an abortion, is because the latter is severely disabled and presently residing in the care of the state. Thus, there are a number of very important, actually quite relevant to you things to be learned from this that need to be discussed in light of this decision; this is remains the case irrespective of whether or not you are personally disabled, or even if you genuinely believe that this woman should be forced to have an abortion. It is not even necessary to delve into a discussion regarding the ethics of abortion in and of itself: All of the points that need to be made have much more to do with the mother-to-be, someone who is definitely alive and who’s basic legal status as a “person” should no longer be up for debate.

Now, it is my impression that the version of this case as it is being presented by the media is using intentionally-vague terms, such as “learning disabled” and “mood disorder”, in order to preserve the woman’s identity by avoiding specifics — I can understand that. This, of course, makes it harder for me to attempt to understand the possible implications behind her being forced to abort her pregnancy; nevertheless, I can make some generalizations. Even for those of us who are not severely disabled, it is important that we try to get an understanding of the threshold: Call me a pessimist, but I have good reason to suspect that this threshold will be progressively lowered as time goes on. Now that the U.K. has set this precedent — that the “her body, her choice” rhetoric doesn’t apply to all women — we can expect other, even non-U.K. jurisdictions to test the same waters somewhere down the line. After all, this is the same process that led us to legalizing medical euthanasia: Today, the Netherlands; tomorrow, the world.

According to Wikipedia, the term “learning disabled” is used in Britain as a stand-in for “intellectually disabled”. Assuming that this is true, and considering that the disabled woman in question is in institutional care, I would imagine her to be at least moderately, if not severely cognitively impaired; somewhere in the IQ range of 40 and under, let’s say. As well, she is claimed to have the mental age of a six-to-nine year-old child, in addition to a “moderately severe” mood disorder. Again, because we are not given any hints as to exactly what behavioral issues the woman has, I cannot possibly hazard a guess as to what her doctors’ specific concerns are regarding her ability to continue the pregnancy. What I can do is attempt to argue why their concerns — so long as they are based in her mental faculties, rather than her literal, physical ability to carry the pregnancy — ought not to matter in the first place.

We know that the woman is at least capable of voicing her own opposition to the abortion, even though the courts have apparently decided that her opinion regarding what happens to her own body doesn’t matter. Now, let’s address this concept of mental age: To have a certain mental age is not synonymous with actually behaving as if one literally were that age; in this instance, her having a mental age of six-to-nine does not mean that she can effectively be regarded as a literal child. All that it means is that she has a level of cognitive functioning similar to that of a non-disabled child of around that age range. Furthermore, it says nothing specific about her emotional intelligence — that is, her ability to process her feelings and regulate her reactions in relation to various situations. Assuming that she doesn’t suffer from a blunted emotional response (given that the prosecution’s argument would make even less sense if that were the case), let’s say that she has an emotional intelligence comparable to that of a six-to-nine year-old child. Following from this, try to think of a sad or otherwise emotional event that might have happened to you when you were around that age. As much as you may have been affected more strongly owing to a lack of life experience, that did not make your feelings at the time any less “real.” The immense grief and sense of loss that you may have felt over the death of your beloved goldfish was still real grief and loss; it’s just that it doesn’t hurt as much when it happens to you twenty years down the road. “The first cut is the deepest,” as they say.

It’s important to understand this, as much of the prosecution’s argument (and that in the judge’s ruling) seems to be based upon the premise that the woman would be more traumatized by her child being taken away than she would be if the pregnancy were terminated. Right now, they argue, the child is “not a real baby” — so it is alleged that we can abort it and she’ll just have to get over it. The judge, for whatever reason, doesn’t appear to have considered the idea that the woman’s pregnancy is real to her — she’s been carrying her child for 22 weeks now; she clearly knows that she is pregnant and what that means; and she seems to understand the abortion procedure at least well enough to know that its result will be the loss of her baby. Even six year-old children can wrap their heads around the idea of a baby “being inside a woman’s belly” — just ask any parent with more than one kid. Their non-understanding of the technical details of pregnancy does not inhibit them from getting “the gist of it,” so to speak.

Despite all this, the judge seems to think that she knows better than both the woman and her mother what the former is capable of comprehending. It is always appalling to me to see someone rights being stripped from them, especially when that someone is severely disabled or in an otherwise vulnerable position, by reasoning of what someone else thinks is “in their best interests.” This is the kind of insidious paternalism that oftentimes turns deadly, just as it has here. The prosecution has had the gall to suggest that this woman would be more affected by her baby being taken from her by social services (though remaining alive) than she would be by being forced to undergo an invasive, deeply emotional medical procedure, against her will, that results in her baby’s death — this assumption is no better backed-up by her being severely cognitively disabled than it would be were she any less so. As a matter of fact, I for one would imagine that the trauma of undergoing a forced abortion would be greatly compounded by her disabilities, rather than somehow “alleviated.” This is particularly the case in consideration of her “moderately severe” mood disorder; this being the next item on the agenda.

As it is used here, a “mood disorder” could refer to virtually any of them: She might be prone to depression, or mania, or both; this is not elaborated on either. However, it may be a safe bet that the exact disorder being referred to contains at least some depressive component, given the wording and reasoning deployed by both the prosecution and the judge. Speaking from experience (and readily backed by clinical research), the last thing that anyone suffering from a depressive disorder wants to hear is bad news — since this woman has already voiced that she doesn’t want to have an abortion, there’s no other way to describe the court’s ruling than as “bad news”, and extremely bad news, at that. Regardless of her realistic ability to care for it, she wanted this baby; now, she’s going to lose it. She doesn’t need to have a normal IQ level to be profoundly, emotionally affected by this decision; alongside surely many others, I can personally attest to my not being cognitively impaired ever getting in the way of becoming extremely upset on receipt of bad news, even when such news might not warrant quite the same response in someone without a mood disorder — that’s kind of what these things will do to a person. If she was already going to have a difficult time dealing with the stress of child-rearing, she’s really going to have a hard time dealing with the revelation that her child is going to be killed at the behest of the state — again, her having a mood disorder is a better argument against forcing her to endure an abortion than it is for it. How could you possibly hope to convince her, even if superficially, that going against her wishes really was “in her best interests”, considering that her ability to process this type of information is greatly impaired in both cognitive and emotional terms?

At risk of appearing to deploy the “Everyone I don’t like is Hitler” form of “argument” that we’ve all grown so tired of in recent years, what has happened in this case really is comparable to what was done to the intellectually, emotionally, and physically disabled under the Third Reich’s euthanasia program: In essence, this woman’s status as severely disabled has been decided as rendering her own thoughts on what happens to her and her baby to be irrelevant. Of course, the Nazis took this line of thinking a step further by actually killing the severely disabled; in this case, it is “only” the baby that will be killed, on account if its mother being severely disabled — not to suggest that this is any better an outcome, of course. Sadly, this is far from the first time that a woman, disabled or otherwise, has been forced to undergo an unwanted abortion; some women have even been forcibly, permanently sterilized, whether the force applied be literal or practical in nature. Not only in Nazi Germany but as well, historically, in the United States, Canada, and many other Western nations, have women deemed “unfit” to reproduce been sterilized against their will by order of the government; that said, it obviously remains the case that non-liberal governments top the charts in this regard. Arguably, the only reason that this particular form of eugenics ever became unpopular in the West was because the Nazi’s soured the public’s opinion of it. Over seventy years later, it appears to be re-entering the discussion — if there’s any “re-emerging Nazi ideals” that we should be seriously concerned about countering, this one would make a good candidate.

This woman is not being sterilized, but she is having her rights blatantly violated by being forced to terminate her pregnancy. Remember: Disabled people of any form, regardless of how disabled they may be, are still people — they, too, are entitled to protection of these alleged “human rights” that we keep hearing about. No matter what the reason, whether or not her body and her baby’s right to life should be violated in this manner should never, under any circumstances, depend upon the strength of her mental faculties or lack thereof: The government should not be able to force you to undergo an invasive, ultimately non-essential procedure simply because they believe you to be too stupid to decide whether or not that’s an option you’d like to take. If it would be unethical to force her to donate a kidney, it is quite unethical to force her to abort her baby — the fact that she is cognitively disabled does not alter her status as a human being. Surely, we can identify a massive difference between whether or not one can advocate for themselves in legal matters and whether or not they may do so in their own, personal affairs. Lastly, it is not as if she’s brain dead — as outlined above, she is capable of possessing her own thoughts and feelings; whether those thoughts and feelings are “legitimate” is not up to the courts to decide, for precisely the same reason as why courts should not be deciding what does or doesn’t constitute “hate speech.”

We really, really do not want to continue down this path of determining of who gets to have more rights and who gets to have less. Joke about how there should be a “license to have children” all you want, but the bulk of those who seriously advocate such things almost always fail to consider just what kind of questions would be on the test, let alone the possibility that they themselves might fail it. It’s a lot less funny when you’re the one who’s had their rights taken away entirely on the basis of factors quite beyond your control.

Now that the U.K. has joined the ranks of China and North Korea as places on Earth where it is currently possible to legally force a woman to have an abortion, one of the more important questions we need to be asking ourselves is this: Where does one draw the line? At what point, and in what condition, does one person become “less human” than another, if such a thing could be determined? But of course, where you might personally do so is fundamentally irrelevant; you are likely not who would be making that decision. As such, we should all consider ourselves to be potentially subjected to this type of third-party decision-making on our behalf — time and time again, history has shown that it is better for one to be critical of any instance of their government blatantly violating the rights of its citizens, no matter what the reason given for doing so, than it is to blindly hope and pray that such a thing will never happen to them.

COMMENTARY: “The World Bank is rewarding ethnic cleansing in Myanmar” by Azeem Ibrahim

Published on the 30th of May by the Washington Post. The full article is behind a paywall, so a link to the archived version is here (as an aside, this is a very handy way of getting around paywalls).

For those of us who have been following the development industry long enough, it’s not really any surprise that the World Bank would go ahead with a $100 million project — small potatoes, in their world — despite the ongoing crisis in the area; nevertheless, the general public remains woefully uninformed as to the true depths of Bank’s heartlessness. This is ongoing misconception that the World Bank actually cares about the humanitarian situation anywhere, let alone Myanmar, is reflected in the article itself:

[T]he signal this sends is catastrophic. This project demonstrates that the international community and the institutional order of the West simply do not care about crimes against humanity.

As much as we may prefer not to admit it, this is not a new phenomenon. Not caring about the lives of innocent people was standard practice for the international community, and the development industry more specifically, long before they started pretending that they do care. We know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but we nevertheless continue to turn a blind eye to the crimes that are committed by the World Bank, the United Nations, the IMF and so on, in the name of such ‘good intentions.’ They might occasionally admit that mistakes have been made and “lessons learned”, but they have no genuine remorse nor drive toward improvement: time and time again, the same mistakes are made; the same crimes committed; the same shrug of the shoulders given.

Part of the problem, of course, comes from the remoteness of these crimes in comparison to the West, the elites of which have appointed themselves as the world’s official hall monitors. Myanmar, like Rwanda, is a relatively far-flung and seldom heard-of nation. There are no internationally-known locations or events that take place there; no infamous historical events that have caught the attention of the West — I myself did not even know that Myanmar has been involved in the world’s longest civil war prior to seeing it mentioned on the nation’s Wikipedia page; there are not even any famous people from Myanmar, be they actors, intellectuals, or of some other fame, that the average Western citizen would be likely to have heard of. And, crucially, just like Rwanda, Myanmar is not known for exporting any particular good or resource — though rich in oil, natural gas and minerals, it is only very recently that foreign economies have tried to overlook the nation’s flagrant corruption and dismal infrastructure in attempt to see its potential value as a trading partner. All things considered, Myanmar is simply not a country that makes many lists.

Of course, neither Rwanda nor Myanmar should not have to be known for anything in particular for us to care about the lives of their inhabitants, even just a little bit. I am not an interventionist by any stretch — growing up under the shadow of Western intervention in Iraq will do that to a person — but I would argue that the absolute least that we could do for them would be to avoid making things worse. Genuine humanitarian efforts, preferably with as little government or corporate financing as is humanly possible, are always welcome as well. What does make things worse is to have the World Bank shower the Burmese government with $100 million dollars in ‘development aid’, the bulk of which can be expected to pad the pockets of government officials and local elites rather than ‘developing’ anything of importance. Again, this has been going on for decades — this is what happens when human beings are transformed into accounting figures.

As usual, it’s all about the money. There is a lot of money to be made in government-funded aid projects operated by government-funded agencies, even with a violent ethnic conflict broiling in the background. In Rwanda, the violence was prevalent in cities, towns, and villages alike; in Myanmar, the places where people are being killed are remote enough to allow for the inherent dangers of civil warfare to be generally ignored. Mainstream Western media has devoted some amount of screen time to covering the issue, yes; but with Myanmar being a country of such non-importance to their audiences, this too is largely ignored. Beyond the fact that the Rohingya, the primary targets of the government’s cleansing campaign for the last two years, are overwhelmingly Muslim in faith, there is little reason for Western politicians to really care about what happens to them — the Muslims in Myanmar simply do not buy them enough favor with the citizens of their countries.

One thing should be made clear: irrespective of one’s own political viewing of the situation in Rakhine State and the subsequent humanitarian crisis in neighboring Bangladesh, the reports of violence that have come out of the area are truly horrific. The people who are being systematically murdered in this fashion or not those who have done anything wrong; neither the elderly women who are gang-raped to death nor the infants who are killed in front of their mothers have done anything at all to ‘deserve’ such a fate. If there is anything that can be done in any way so as to at least mitigate the conflict, then it should certainly be done.

Though I cannot claim to have any solid answers as to how the crisis might be ended, I can certainly argue against the ultimate proposal made by the author of this article:

[T]here are ways for the World Bank to fix its initiative. It could, for example, make this funding conditional on Myanmar allowing a United Nations fact-finding mission on the ground in Rakhine — something that, though long overdue, is still being blocked by the government. Or the bank’s planners could take steps to ensure that the funding is divided equally between the few Rohingya Muslims who still remain in the region and the ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, while prohibiting its use for the development of Buddhist infrastructure in vacated Rohingya lands.

Now, the author does not appear to be as well-versed in the inner workings of the United Nations as I am, so I cannot fault him for wanting to involve them in the situation even more than they presently are. What I can take issue with is the suggestion that the project is salvageable — it should not be salvaged, as it should never have been made in the first place. The fact that it has been, and that anyone at any point of the planning phase would think that this would be a good idea, perfectly reinforces my belief that humane nature possesses too little empathy and too much greed to carry out these types of development schemes without degenerating into blatant corruption. If it were happening in their own countries, the project never would have crossed their minds as a possibility — but it is not happening in a gated New England suburb; it is happening far, far away, in the villages that dot the hills and valleys of northwestern Myanmar. For all intents and purposes, the inhabitants of the area amount to little more than statistical data sets; the land that they live on is seen not to be their home, but an ‘opportunity’ to develop the region economically — to make money, in other words. It always comes down to the money.

This being the case, the best solution — in addition to simply not funding these kinds of projects in the first place — might be to simply isolate the nation economically and politically. If there were some way to ensure that Myanmar could not find any valuable trading partners; to block imports of Burmese goods or perhaps deal some damage to its tourism industry; perhaps then the government would have a reason to give the conflict a rest. Clearly, chastising them for committing crimes against humanity doesn’t seem to work: if all they care about is money, then that’s what needs to be taken from them. So long as governments around the developing world are given no incentive to actually stop killing their own people beyond that of an emotional appeal, what is currently happening to the Rohingya will continue to happen in other places as well. To be blunt, there is no reason to expect that any government that is already willing to murder the innocent will somehow change their minds about it after our pointing out enough times that they are murdering the innocent.

Sadly, I neither know nor reasonably believe that such a thing could be done; it is very rare that enough nations can be convinced into trading sanctions that could potentially make a difference. One thing that is certain, however, is that this status quo of trying to overlook a country’s political situation so as to make easy money in the name of ‘helping’ people has, in the long-term, precisely the opposite effect. What is the point in marginally improving the lives of some when it comes at the expense of the lives of others?

Climate Confusion For Kids: From the Classroom, to the Streets, to Your Home

(NOTE: Use the search function on your browser to look up “(2019)” (no quotes) if you wish to skip the preamble.)

Ever since I was a child, I wanted to do a job that would let me help people. My first idea was to become a doctor or a nurse, until I realized that doing so would mean I’d have to deal with the dead and dying. Later, I settled on becoming a veterinarian, only to have the same realization regarding dead and dying animals. After many years of agnosticism, I finally decided on becoming a teacher; primarily because I had had, throughout my schooling career, a small handful of awe-inspiring teachers amidst a sea of absolutely terrible ones. But the ones who were so kind to myself and my fellow students were so kind – one of whom I, in terms of my personal circumstances, would even describe as life-saving – that I wanted to pay that kindness and compassion forward by joining the ranks of the Good Teachers.

Sadly, this dream quickly fell apart for me at some point during undergrad. Prior to my becoming fully aware of the ideological takeover of the educational system that was, at that point, extensive throughout the country, though not yet to the point of deplatforming those who disagreed, I was given a small taste of the consequences of holding unacceptable opinions when discussing my career ambitions with one of my professors. Despite being well within the suffocating, progressive walls of the modern Arts faculty, having one of my majors in Russian meant that I was being taught almost exclusively by individuals whom had fled the Soviet Union for Canada – as such, Cultural Marxism did not quite fly as swiftly in the Russian department as it did with their counterparts in the German department. Nevertheless, during this discussion my professor revealed that one of my peers, who was now attending our university’s school of education as I had been planning to do, had reached out to my professor to express how extremely dissatisfied she was with the content of what she was being taught. As a fellow Russian major, she too had had far less exposure to progressive dogma than her classmates from other disciplines, and she therefore found its nearly relentless injection into every conceivable subject to be quite jarring. Of course, the conversation was not framed in the same terminology as I’ve used here: At the time, I was told that the problem lay in my former classmate’s “lack of interest” in “social issues,” which my professor stated were increasingly becoming a major focus of educational institutions, at times to the detriment of the remainder of the curriculum. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say.

As I became more aware of exactly how bad the problem was, I set aside my aspirations of teaching in the K-12 system and decided instead to become a career academic; which almost always involves some degree of teaching courses in addition to one’s other duties as a professor. My thinking was that there would be more flexibility available to me in institutions of higher learning, which I erroneously perceived to be more rational than that of general education. Of course, somewhere between the initial propulsion of Dr. Jordan Peterson into international infamy over Bill C-16 and the firing of a tenured professor from Acadia University, Dr. Rick Mehta, for the crime of expressing the wrong opinions, I realized that there would be no place for me in academia, either. And that, dear reader, is the short-version of why I am presently writing this blog post instead of earning my B.Ed or MA.

But my personal history is not the primary reason for the post; it is only necessary for you to properly understand why I am so invested in rooting out the corruption that has infected the educational systems of colleges, universities, public and sometimes even private schools worldwide. By the time I graduated high school, the progressive sickness was certainly prevalent as a cultural phenomenon among my peers, but had not yet seeped into the curriculum proper; even climate change hysteria was not as bad then as it is now, seven years later. As such, I sit here positively horrified by the changes that have since occurred in such a relatively short period of time. I had spent so much time preparing myself to become a teacher, reading as much material as I could reasonably digest on various methods and theories of teaching and learning, only to find myself automatically disqualified from ever putting this knowledge to good use, that all I can think of now is to try to understand how that same knowledge has been manipulated for sinister purposes.

While I do not wish to cast every single teacher in the world as complicit in this change, it has become clear to me that the profession is increasingly turning into a shell of its former self. It no longer appears to be their primary job to prepare and support students in their entry to the rest of the world; rather, they seem to have been re-focused on preparing students for a different world, one that does not quite exist yet – but it’s coming. Researchers in the field, too, have been homing-in not on the question of how to help people learn, so much as how to get them to learn the “right” things and parrot-back the “right” talking points. School-aged children almost always spend more of their time at school than they do anywhere else – that this spatial and, indeed, mental vulnerability is being exploited is unsurprising, but reprehensible nonetheless.

All of this has a purpose, of course: Studies such as that which I am about to show you perfectly demonstrate how education, as a profession and an institution, is being used to manipulate the younger generations into jumping on the progressive and/or globalist bandwagon.

Children can foster concern for climate change among their parents (2019) by Lawson et al.

To start, I generally tend to shy away from using terms such as “indoctrination” or “brainwashing” when describing so-called “educational reforms” such as the one proposed in this article, simply because I know that the bulk of us have been trained to register the use such terms as indicative of their author being either bat shit crazy or otherwise too paranoid to offer any valuable critique of the subject at hand. That said, there really isn’t any other way to describe this phenomenon; the mildest, most unassuming euphemism that I can think of would be “emotional manipulation,” though that’s hardly any better. Nevertheless, I find it difficult to imagine that anyone, even those who very much do believe in the threat of man-made climate change, could not at the very least have some moral and ethical qualms with regards to weaponizing the “plasticity” of a child’s brain against their own parents; this being precisely what is proposed in the article.

The abstract, citations omitted, otherwise in full:

The collective action that is required to mitigate and adapt to climate change is extremely difficult to achieve, largely due to socio-ideological biases that perpetuate polarization over climate change. Because climate change perceptions in children seem less susceptible to the influence of worldview or political context, it may be possible for them to inspire adults towards higher levels of climate concern, and in turn, collective action. Child-to-parent intergenerational learning—that is, the transfer of knowledge, attitudes or behaviours from children to parents—may be a promising pathway to overcoming socio-ideological barriers to climate concern. Here we present an experimental evaluation of an educational intervention designed to build climate change concern among parents indirectly through their middle school-aged children in North Carolina, USA. Parents of children in the treatment group expressed higher levels of climate change concern than parents in the control group. The effects were strongest among male parents and conservative parents, who, consistent with previous research, displayed the lowest levels of climate concern before the intervention. Daughters appeared to be especially effective in influencing parents. Our results suggest that intergenerational learning may overcome barriers to building climate concern.

In short, the theory here is that, because it has been demonstrated that children can influence the opinions of their parents when it comes to “socio-ideologically fraught topics” such as sexual orientation, that this influence can therefore be used to change the opinions of parents who are skeptical towards climate change – “Given the special relationship children have with parents,” they write, “they may even be able to transcend socio-ideological barriers to climate change concern.” More disturbingly, for the purposes of this study a “climate change curriculum” was designed with the specific purpose of promoting this concept of “intergenerational learning,” with some projects designed to include the parents (i.e. homework assignments, science projects) and others simply incorporated into the normal curriculum. Both children and parents were divided into treatment and control groups, and the results appear to have been shockingly good. Aside from pre- and post-testing of the parents regarding their views on climate change, no other conversations or interactions took place between the researchers, parents, and children — as such, we can safely assume that most of any change in mentality exhibited by the parents can likely be attributed to influence from their child, or at least participation in the curriculum.

While concern for climate change increased over the testing period for both groups, the effect was certainly more pronounced in the treatment group. Ultimately, it appears that fathers and/or politically conservative parents were affected the most, and that daughters were more effective than sons in communicating the messaging to their parents. The researchers note that children and adolescents tend to be less “firm” in their worldviews than they are as adults – i.e., they are more susceptible to accepting targeted messaging on face value, particularly those leading to behavioral changes – thus, “climate change education for adolescents may prove essential for the adoption of mitigation behaviors.” What is particularly concerning to me is that, as noted by the authors, conservatives and men (to say nothing of conservative men) have always been “the most resistant to interventions designed to promote concern [about climate change]” — as such, to see such a remarkable result from this particular “intervention” on those particular demographics leads us to a reasonable assumption that this experiment will very likely be replicated at some point, if not shoved into mainstream curriculum somewhere further down the line.

Consider the following observation:

The successful communication of climate concern from children to their parents documented in this study may reflect the robustness of the parent–child relationship to socio-ideological threats typically associated with climate change perceptions among adults. [ … ] However, high levels of parental trust in their children often leads to parents being willing to listen to or accept their child’s views on complex topics.

Now, let us scrap the jargon and get straight to the heart of it: The point being made here is that, parents who are skeptical toward climate concerns, meaning in large part that they do not trust the scientists, supposed experts, UN mouthpieces, political campaigning and outright propaganda that is being levied at them on a near constant basis, do still trust their own children. Therefore, the proposal is to use children as a vehicle to change their parents’ minds; essentially, by exploiting the bond between parent and child for what are ultimately highly politicized purposes. Once upon a time, you would only hear of such a thing out a totalitarian regime or in a dystopian young-adult novel; now, it has been tested at least once in a school in North Carolina. If the reader happens to be a parent who is not already proactive in monitoring what it is their child or children are being taught in school, my humble suggestion is that now would be a good time to start.

At the end of the day, the fact that the topic of concern here happens to be climate change should not be, for those readers who do believe in man-made climate change, any less reason for parents to be extremely concerned about what is being proposed by this research. Let’s be honest: The odds that these kids are presenting particularly good arguments to their parents on the subject are quite low; being in middle school (here meaning between 10 and 14 years of age) they are likely not old enough to do so even if they had been spoon-fed their lines. Rather, this approach is relying upon the fact that parents tend to trust what their kids are saying to them, even on politically sensitive topics – it is nothing less than the exploitation of the parent-child relationship to “correct” the opinions of those earlier generations, who may have missed out on much of this indoctrination when they were in school, as exemplified by the very phrase “intergenerational learning.” Children have been identified as a weak point in the rationalization processes of their adult parents or, perhaps, of adults in general: We might note the current trend towards parading children around at “climate strikes” under the media spotlight, when they should be in school actually learning something. One way or the other, it should be relatively uncontroversial to state that children are too young and impressionable to be involved in politically-charged topics, especially those which are increasingly accompanied by apocalyptic prophesies of death and destruction, such as climate change.

I’ll conclude with something of a thought experiment for you, which should be worth your time regardless of your own political leanings, or whether or not you have children. Pick a topic, any topic, on which you have an opinion that diverges even slightly from the mainstream opinion. Maybe you don’t trust GMO food, maybe you’re against abortion – it doesn’t really matter. Now imagine that, gradually, over the course of the school year, your child is coming home with more and more factoids about the merits of GMO crops, or suddenly caring quite a bit about abortion laws in your particular area. What’s more, your kid actively seems to want to discuss these things with you; they even come home with school assignments that you’re supposed to do together.

How would you feel, especially knowing that your child is being taught in school to believe precisely the opposite as you? Would you suspect anything? How would you handle that situation? Now would be a good time to start thinking about it, as nothing – not even your conversations with family – appears to be sacred anymore.

The Old Specter of Fake News

“In the era of fake news…”

“At a time when misinformation runs rampant…”

“With disinformation campaigns proliferating online…”

…and so on, and so forth; you get the idea. These phrases are all permutations of the same concept, this idea that the world of today is somehow extraordinary in terms of how much false, biased, or otherwise misleading information that we must sift through in search of the truth. Perhaps in raw terms of quantity, this may be true — surely, there is more content being generated by individuals and organizations alike in the digital age than in any other era of human history; it goes without saying that such content comes in varying degrees of adherence to fact. But the situation in and of itself is not unique, for people have been lying to or otherwise deceiving one another since the mastery of language, or perhaps earlier. People do it for different reasons; there may be as many ways to rationalize a lie as there are ways to tell one. What we must take care not to do is to believe that we have ever, at any point, lived in a version of reality where this hasn’t been the case — such a belief is a fragment of a narrative, a scrap of fake news itself.

Perhaps owing to my upbringing as something of a third-generation, anti-establishment “flower child,” I have always been under the impression that the news tends to lie, at least to some extent. Some news outlets might lie about different things, sometimes they lie about the same thing; one way or the other, these outlets are far from free, unencumbered agents, and they likely always have been. The web of possible ulterior motives that a particular newscaster, producer, or the outlet employing them could have to tell lies rather than truth may not have always been arranged in precisely the same way, but it has always existed. As time goes on, the web has arguably simplified in some respects, owing to the progressive consolidation of multiple mainstream media outlets under the ownership of a much smaller, highly influential group of players. It may now be easier for any one player to coordinate and promote a particular lie within their sphere of influence — we tend to be more likely to believe a falsehood when multiple sources adhere to it — but that doesn’t mean that they haven’t been doing it all this time anyway.

Breakdown of mass media consolidation in the United States [1]

“History is written by the victors” — many of us are familiar with the phrase, though we seldom care to remember it. There is somewhat of a mystical, almost otherworldly aspect of faith and trust afforded to those of us holding the pens; we forget that they are only human, too. That’s not to say that we should be suspicious of historiographers as a matter of course, nor should we assume that they are doing what they do, true or false, out of self-serving intent. In fact, I would imagine that there are a great deal of lies out there that have managed to hold on for so long that they are no longer questioned as thoroughly as perhaps they ought to be — perhaps they never will be. The matter of what we are told is true and whether or not it is is far too complex to be reduced down to a question of malice against virtue, or ignorance versus knowledge — we are dealing with 6,000 years of recorded human history, after all; ultimately, we are entrusting countless, mortal and flawed human beings that have come before us to have told at least enough of the truth to allow us to attempt to piece together the puzzles of history here in the present. For all of our many feats accomplished since the invention of writing, we are still very limited in our abilities to verify whether or not such trust is warranted.

In my final year of undergrad, I did a project out of interpreting the story of a novel by East German writer Stefan Heym, semi-famous in the English-speaking word, titled The King David Report (Der König David Bericht). In brief, the novel is a re-telling of the biblical story of King David; the main character is tasked by King Solomon in writing the “official history” of Solomon’s father, David, and in researching his background, finds that the real story of King David’s rise to power is not quite as virtuous as everyone had been led to believe. The book has been widely interpreted as a critique of the censorship regime in East Germany, Heym having run into trouble with them many times throughout his career. As someone who tries to shy away from beating dead horses, my interpretation was slightly different: I argued that the choice of a biblical story, and David’s in particular, was highly intentional, as the books covering the time period concerned (1 and 2 Kings; 1 Chronicles) are infamous for their haphazard and at times impossible chronology of events. Rather than laser-in on the censorship element in East Germany specifically, my view was (and still is) that Heym’s intent was to show that censorship and/or historical revisionism in general is far from a phenomenon limited to certain, contextual time periods: by using the Bible, which we know in general to be a pulpy mixture of factual and fictitious events, The King David Report attempts to draw our attention to assessing how we know what we think that we know, considering just how long the forces of temptation to conceal the truth have been at play throughout history.

Regardless of whether or not you agree with such an interpretation, the fact is that historical revisionism and the obfuscation of truth has been around most likely since the thought first occurred to write these things down. We are well aware of it occurring under the pressures of political ideology in the twentieth-century — in East Germany as well as the USSR and other satellites, in Francoist Spain, even post-colonial Ireland — but there is absolutely no reason to assume that this is a problem unique to the modern era. Galileo was excommunicated from the Church for speaking the truth; Socrates was sentenced to death in part for “not believing in the gods of the state.” [2] Fake news, too, alongside mis- or disinformation (should one care to make the distinction), is not a new phenomenon. The only thing particularly new about it, in the grand scheme of things, is that now it is being brought to the attention of the masses.

That being said, we ought to take care to question it still. We should very much question why we are presently being inundated with accusations of “spreading fake news,” hearing of “disinformation campaigns” and the like. Take another look at that graphic above, and ask yourself how many of those outlets you trust — if any. Even the most dedicated and genuinely honest of news outlets will get the facts wrong from time to time; one need not necessarily lie in order to say something false. All that the recent hysteria over the proliferation of inaccuracy ought to tell us is that it’s still not the best idea to blindly trust what someone says, even if they are dressed rather nicely and seated behind a desk in a very professional studio. But as I’ve said — we ought to know this already.


[2] Plato. Apology, 26.