The First Modern Panhysteria

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It is the first epidemic in history which is accompanied by another epidemic — the virus of the social networks. These new media have brainwashed entire populations. What you get is fear and anxiety, and an inability to look at real data. And therefore you have all the ingredients for monstrous hysteria.

It is what is known in science as positive feedback or a snowball effect. The government is afraid of its constituents. Therefore, it implements draconian measures. The constituents look at the draconian measures and become even more hysterical. They feed each other and the snowball becomes larger and larger until you reach irrational territory. This is nothing more than a flu epidemic if you care to look at the numbers and the data, but people who are in a state of anxiety are blind. (Yoram Lass, former director of the Israeli health ministry)

“This is not an ordinary virus!” cried one email to me in March. On TV people saw a monstrous action in the city Wuhan. They did not ask if this could not be a state spactacle in thr cityscape which has nothing to do with an actual virus.

1 The Cognitive Lockdown

In the imagination the apparent monstrosity of the actions must match a real danger. The constituents took Wuhan for real and demanded similar action by the governments who took them for real too.

Other events increased the hysteria, the initial panic number of 4% IFR, the death of the “whistleblowing” doctor, the pictures from Italy. Then came the high peaks of death in some regions — which may have been in part already caused by the panic, for example by fantasy medication like high-dose HCQ, or the flight of care home personal because of the announced lockdowns. And there was yet another model, the one by Imperial College which predicted a huge death toll which never materialized.

The governments reacted to the panic by acting according to what they saw on the Wuhan pictures which matched the measures they had trained in decades of simulations. And social media served as a massive literal mind blow-up technology. Thus was triggered the snowball effect that carried much of the world onto irrational territory, where some regions remain at the time of writing.

“Lockdown and covid deaths. The authors (of a Lancet study from July) found no correlation whatsoever between severity of lockdown and number of covid deaths. And they didn’t find any correlation between border closures and covid deaths either. And there was no correlation between mass testing and covid deaths either, for that matter. Basically, nothing that various world governments have done to combat covid seems to have had any effect whatsoever on the number of deaths.” (Sebastian Rushworth, emergency doctor in Stockholm, Does lockdown prevent covid deaths?)

Lockdown as a system of simulated measures against the spread of respiratory viruses had never been tested before. “It was as if the world went crazy and everything we had discussed seemed completely forgotten. Country after country closed its borders and shut down their communities altogether.” (Anders Tegnell, state epidemiologist of Sweden, As if the world went crazy) Many government continue to impose lockdown as in a neurotic compulsive act whose damage outweighs the benefit, which does not exist, by orders of magnitude. (Rushworth, What are the harms of lockdown?)

There are two cognitive effects that contribute to keeping the constituents down in the irrational territory of the panic cave.

First. “A number of experimental studies have shown that people rate statements as more valid or true merely because these statements have been repeatedly made as opposed to just once. (Subjectively more valid statements were also shown to be more persuasive.) This effect can even be obtained if the experimenter explicitly emphasizes that the repeated statement is actually false. Processes like this are automatic and unconscious — we cannot resist them by sheer willpower. The effect remains unchanged even if the subjects participating in the experiment knows about it in advance: The more often the subject hears a statement, the more its subjective validity increases. Innumerable examples for this technique can be readily found in daily newspapers — writing about the ‘Greek aversion to economic reforms,’ or calling the recent crisis on the crimea an ‘annexation by the Russian federation.’ Merely re-iterating these statements over and over makes us believe them more.” (Rainer Mausfeld, cognitive scientist, Why do the lambs remain silent?)

Watching television has the same effect. Since there is no new information every day old pictures are repeated again and again. (Richard Stallman, founder of the free software movement, Don’t watch covid TV) The same holds for the repetition of the same stories in social media, especially if there is a strong social enforcement to stick to the official narrative by declaring even any question as “fake news” and censor them out of view. — TV and social media are brainwashing machines.

Second. Once a narrative is established it does not easily change. The believers choose only information that confirms the narrative and makes them blind for anything else. Disconcerting information is either adapted to the accepted narrative, or enirely ignored as “fake news.” (Mausfeld) Virus manias take a life on it own into a “pandemic of delusional psychosis.” (Kathy Gyngell, editor of The Conservative Woman, Fear of Covid has turned into ‘a pandemic of mental illness’) Persons who have deeply fallen into the irrational territory would have to admist that they paniced because of a not particularly dangerous virus. Many will not easily be ready to admit this.

2 The First Modern Panhysteria

An investor in vaccination programs called this the “first modern pandemic.” (Bill Gates) This is true if the term “pandemic” does not imply danger. The term “epidemic” used to mean the spread of a dangerous pathogene. We certainly experience the first truly global mass hysteria created by modern media, the “Corona Panhysteria.”

Mass hysteria is a common phenomenon in human history. Examples are war enthusiasm and religious awakenings. There is the theory that humans lived in a mental state of permanent psychosis until the beginning of civilization. (Helmut Jäger, medical doctor, coach und motion trainer, Neolithische Revolution) Humanity fell into collective psychosis so many times because it is a natural state of mind. To maintain a state of non-psychosis needs constant effort. That civilization is a thin cover over the irrational human psyche is a truism. Although mass hysteria because of a virus is perhaps a bit “unworthy.”

Anxiety is a cognitive capability of mammals to focus attention to an object that may be dangerous. (Jäger, Die Sprache der Gefühle) It was a useful emotion when the environment was dangerous. Anxiety is not necessary in the safe enivronment of civilization. The capacity for anxiety is idle. Mass media and commercials that work with fear-mongering, like catastrophy scenarios, health warnings, horror shows, fill the idleness. Without reflection the cognitive lockdown effects of repetition and narrative fixation turn the media fantasies into possible truths for many.

Anxiety like hysteria is an emotion. Emotions reside in the mid brain. Intelligence and reason are located in the frontal lobe of the brain. If one can say that reason can achieve some mastery over emotions then one can say that the frontal lobe governs the mid brain to some extent because that mastery which is forever fragile.

Hysteria and other emotions are typical for social media communication. Electric social networks of the internet link together biological neural networks of mid brains. Social networks are the collective mid brain of humanity. Unlike in individual brains there is no effective institution that can execise mastery over social media communication, at least not in the Western world. There is no equivalent to a collective frontal lobe.

In China the Party tries to censor social media communication. This is an attempt of external mastery. The goal of communication censorship is to remain master not only of the communication but of the state as a whole. The Party has some success but not full control as the story of the “Grass-Mud Horse” shows. (Thekla Chabbi, Die Zeichen der Sieger) The Party tries to act as a collective frontal lobe with respect to the collective mid brain of China. The danger of a censorship authority is that it may act against necessary critical debate thus performing selflobotomy which can lead to intellectual encrustation, decling and fall. As it happened to the Eastern bloc or the old Chinese Empire.

Western politicians submit to the communication storm of social media. A Berlin politician earned a “shitstorm” initiated by an “influencer” with 130,000 “followers” because she recommended natural medicine against covid (which is what they do in China too). She took her page off the net. (Catherina Pieroth, Natürliche Heilmittel reichen nicht aus) Irresponsible Western politicians feed the hysteria instead of standing as rock against the strom. Irresponsibility is institutionalized if the authoritize try do do behavior control by “appeal to anxiety.” (Bundeszentrale für gesundheitlche Aufklärung, Prävention durch Angst: Stand der Furchappellforschung; Bundesministerium des Inneren, Wie wir Covid-19 unter Kontrolle bekommen) The collective fronal lobe increases the midbrain panic instead of getting it under control.

If internet corporations censor social media communication this is not an act of outside mastery but like a part of the collective mid brain trying to curb the activity of other parts. And attempts to censor reasonable debate is an attempt of collective lobotomia, it removes small attempts to mastery and adds censorship hysteria to the ongoing panhysteria.

Then there is the “universe of technical images” (Vilém Flusser) produced by smartphones and other decives like that. Nobody knows who has produced them under what conditions. The ever changing formations of the image galaxies that flow through social networks have the logical structure of a dream.

By 2020 social media are ubiquituous. People in the West born after the year 2000 have never left the universe of technical images and social media. Nobody switches their smartphone off anymore.

Draconian measures by governments, concessions to hysteria, censorship, the massive flow of technical images all contributed to the snowball effect that led societies onto irrational territory and keep them there. So does all the face mask wearing which visualizes a danger floating around as a “psychological effect.” (Anschober) And so the panhysteria keeps going until people eventually get exhausted by their own fear.

Because there are currently no institutions which can master social media communication global mass hysteria was to be expected someday. Further panhysterias will come until institutions that can master social media exist. And future panhysterias may be more deadly than the Corona Panhysteria.

For a start, a simple measure to curb down the irrational effects of social media is perhaps to ignore them as irrelevant noise.

3 Casedemic, the Prison of the Absolute Case Count

The Western world complicates its life by using the PCR test to clarify the epidemic situation. The test has many problems: high rate of false negatives, high rate of false positives when used in populations with low probability of infection (e.g. general population), detects only viral genome not active infections, etc. (Rushworth, How accurate are covid tests?)

Not only that, the West uses the absolute case count to estimate the public danger and order lockdowns. But due to the problems of the test absolute cases are a rather meaningless number as they have only a weak relation to the actual situation in the health care system.

Simulations that try to estimate the spread, e.g. the size of the “second wave,” are based on PCR test results which creates its own problems. In particular the complexity of the immune system which dampens the waves by orders of magnitude is hard to model an is integrated at best as an ad hoc parameter. (Ulf Martin, Corona in Sweden (de))

Testing the general population can end in a “casedemic.” (Ivor Cummins, chief program officer for Irish Heart Disease Awareness, Casedemic hysteria) There is mass testing and because the virus has become endemic there are many positive cases, but there is no critical situation in the health system. If people who come to a hospital are tested with positive result it looks as if the situation becomes more severe if hospitalization rises e.g. in winter. But there need not be difference in hospitalization compared to previous years. The positive test result becomes just a label.

The phenomenon was observed first during the “swine flu” of 2008/09. The medical situation was over in summer but the casedemic continued until spring in the next year when the countries simply stopped testing. In Sweden, “without the PCR test I think the pandemic would firmly have been declared over by now.” (Rushworth, private mail beginning of October)

There are even chances that the entire pandemic was a PCR test casedemic. This would be the case if the excess mortality in a few places were caused not by the corona virus but by the usual problems in some health care systems (notably New York, England, Spain, Lombardy) and due to the virus panic and expecially mistreatment due to that. (Video: Claus Köhnlein, Internist in Kiel, Fatale Corona-Experimente der WHO; Text: Engelbrecht/Köhnlein, Die Medikamenten-Tragödie) In Sweden there was an undermortality in 2019 so the wave of deaths in spring 2020 hit very frail people. (Rushworth, A history of the Swedish covid response) But these might have died around that time from ordinary flu or influenza as well.

The test is not necessary if a state

If only sick are tested the test can be used as a public disease signal: it goes up and down with the disease and no new cases indicate a successful operation. China has reported almost no cases since March.

As long as the anxious attention locks itself onto absolute case numbers, Western societies remain locked down in the casedemic and the panhysteria continues which lets China continue its free run since March, when it effectively stopped reporting numbers.・document 20816 (2020-11-15)・revision 20910 (2020-12-15)・Ulf Martin Mail Telegram