CSotD: Popular delusions and the madness of crowds

Mike Smith (KFS) echoes my current thoughts. Social media in general, and Facebook for sure, was bad enough during the elections, when lies and complaints about politics dominated things.

Now that that’s over, what comes to the surface is people bitching and moaning and complaining and kvetching about trivia.

Conversational phrases they don’t like.

Foods they don’t like.

Militant atheists complain about religious zealots, and religious zealots complain about nonbelievers.

And people who I sure hope never, ever pump their own gas or bank at ATMs are on the warpath against grocery store self-checkout lanes because automation costs jobs.


I’ll also generously assume they don’t use drive-thru automatic car washes, either, or take rides with scabdrivers instead of licensed cabbies.

Anyway, they’re bailing water with a pitchfork.


Stephen Collins isn’t the only cartoonist talking about taking an off-line break (the rest of this cartoon is here) so I guess there’s some sort of screen-free thingie going on, though, if you’re doing it, you’re not seeing this.

Personally, between telecommuting from 3,000 miles away over the past decade, and writing this blog for 11 years, I’ve built a Rene Descartes thing: Je poste donc je suis.

Meanwhile, our virtual reality offers plenty of virtual unreality.

I got a kick out of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal’s pushback on digital currency, which is a bubble waiting to burst.


No, no, Spud, it’s a metaphorical over-inflated bubble, not a real one where Wallace the Brave (AMS) is based.

It’s another South Sea Bubble, replaying the classic 18th century joint-stock venture that promised a lucrative venture in the South Seas that was never gonna happen but sucked in a lot of people.

And as it happens, I was just reading a biography that included people pouring their money into the stock market in the late 1920s, specifically into a fund that promised they would get that 8% annual growth indefinitely.

No need for a spoiler alert on that, is there?

But the FDIC, set up to shelter people against bank failures, doesn’t cover you for stock market crashes and it sure as hell won’t cover you when people stop collecting Beanie Babies or believing in imaginary currencies.


Or when they wake up and realize investing in URLs for digital images is about as silly as Brewster Rockit (Tribune) makes it, with only a frighteningly small jump in logic.

Thing is, these are not stupid people doing this.

“Gullible” is a different thing than “stupid,” and, in fact, there’s such as thing as being really, really smart and not at all well-anchored in how the world works.


So many cunning plans, repeated over and over throughout history, always with the same outcome.


David Fitzsimmons mocks the asinine, absurd recount of the 2020 election going on in his home state of Arizona.

The latest thing is that the people doing the count — the “Cyber Ninjas” who are there to prove what they already believe — have a theory that 40,000 fake Biden ballots were flown in from China or possibly somewhere else in Asia.

Having failed to find the watermarks Dear Leader secretly embedded in local ballots, they are now trying to detect bamboo fibers in fake Asian ballots.

It’s every bit as ridiculous as Fitz makes it out to be in his cartoon, but here’s the catch:

They already had a for-real recount that confirmed the original totals.

It doesn’t matter.

And it doesn’t matter how this one turns out, though it’s more likely it won’t turn out at all.


The GOP faithful will believe that the election was stolen, regardless of any proof of anything, or any lack of any proof of anything. Or anything.

Which brings us to this frightening

Juxtaposition of the Day

(Matt Wuerker – Politico)


(Kal Kallaugher)

Wuerker mocks the proffered defense of a Capitol Insurrectionist, that he can’t be held responsible for his actions because he suffers from “Foxitus” or “Foxmania,” a mental derangement caused by watching too much Fox News.

Which sounds really funny until you pair it with Kal’s point and realize the truth of Jonathan Swift’s advice to a young clergyman:

Reasoning will never make a man correct an ill opinion which by reasoning he never acquired, for, in the course of things, men always become vicious before they become unbelievers.

Oddly enough, while Dean Swift, himself an Anglican cleric, was discussing religious belief, he penned the letter at the same time as the aforementioned South Sea Bubble, and might as well have been warning about the futility of trying to dissuade gullible investors as well.

In any case, he’s certainly right about how they respond to such efforts.


RJ Matson salutes the announced efforts to expand high speed Internet into rural areas.

“It’s about time” doesn’t begin to summarize this development, and I’m glad to hear politicians compare it to the Rural Electrification Act of 1935, because Senator Olympia Snowe made that same point in a conversation we had back when I was an editor in Maine in 2007: It’s an issue both of safety and of industrial development.

Snowe remains the most intelligent person I’ve ever met, which may be why she chose not to run for re-election to the Senate. I’m sure she could see what was coming.

And agreed with Dean Swift on the topic of futility.

Jefferson famously said he’d prefer newspapers without government to government without newspapers, assuming that those papers would reach everyone, and that everyone would be able to read them.

But that was theoretical. Once he became president, he found out how newspapers could spread rumors and lies as well as facts and truth.


Though, as it turns out, some of those rumors weren’t lies after all.

Though, as with most true things, they were more complex than his opponents, then and now, would have it.

One of the hallmarks of conspiracy theories being that they possess a logic and simplicity rarely found in the real world.

I still tend to agree with Mr. Jefferson’s theory, though I also agree with Ukifah Heep, who said “Knowledge for the people! Give them a light and they’ll follow it anywhere.”

We’re extending the Internet and soon people everywhere will be able to be completely misinformed, if that’s what they want.