As the world gets more and more complex, as well as more fast-paced, one of the challenges I’ve been working on is how to get people to slow down enough to link with their conscious minds to comprehend, or at a minimum, recognize the crazy world we live in. I realize my ability to get people to consider more nuanced positions is hamstrung by what I’ve decided to call disqualifying narratives — concepts, once broached, that if they go against someone’s tribal position, immediately cause people to shut down and not listen. Somehow, there’s some limbic switch in the brain that wakes one of the Old Gods that govern our unconscious behavior, and that’s the end of that conversation.
A great example of a disqualifying narrative might be the Qanon-adopted pizza parlor story, known as Pizzagate. Supposedly, liberal pedophiles were holding children in the basement of a Comet pizza. I really don’t want to recount this — you can go to the Wikipedia page if you’re interested in the gory details. The problem with the Pizzagate story was that it masked the more real, yet more nuanced Jeffrey Epstein story, which contains at least some of the elements (no pizza parlor, but a private island, big-shot Democratic politicians, and under the age-of-consent girls. If you were going to talk about this, you’d be instantly dismissed — a perfect example of a disqualifying narrative.
Both Left and Right sides of the political spectrum have their own disqualifying narratives, though, to be honest, the Left is charging ahead with far more lately than the Right’s. I’m not going to dwell on any one in particular, because if I do so, if you’re reading this blog for the first time, that will strike you as a disqualifying narrative!
The person that woke me up to my own penchant for disqualifying narratives was a former Congressman (as she liked to be referred) from northern Idaho — Helen Chenoweth. Chenoweth was an interesting partisan, to say the least, and was a member of a charismatic church known for laughing for an hour as part of Sunday services. She also had a predilection for young men, and toward the end of her term of government service, it seemed obvious when I met her, she had been sedated, and was obviously on something like Valium. Her tagline (the disqualifying narrative) was “black helicopters” — that turned into the word trigger of all of us forest activists to laughter.
Yet Chenoweth turned out to be remarkably prescient about the potential for overreach of our current security state. She predicted the overreach of the TSA, for example, and her dark view of freedom’s restrictions have largely come true in our current pandemic state. I don’t really want to eulogize her — she was something else. But I did learn that it was good to listen to the other side’s fears. Because, sooner or later, their fears might become your own.
The current challenge in disqualifying narratives that I’ve been thinking about is the present scandal involving Tony Fauci, and the funding of gain-of-function research on Sars-COV-2 at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. I’m going to write a longer piece on this, but the short version is that one of the primary suspects, Peter Daszak, of the company, Ecohealth Alliance, received money from the NIH to do research on gain of function on the very spike proteins on the virus that we are now dealing with. Further, it gets worse — Daszak asked for money to inoculate wild bats with the virus to see their persistent in the wild.
The problem with this narrative is, as you can probably guess, that it turns into a disqualifying narrative on the Left very quickly. It’s far easier to believe that somehow, peasants in wet markets in China, noshing on endangered pangolins, or even bats themselves, cross-contaminated humans with COVID, and that’s the story. But the evidence that is coming in is that is NOT what happened, at all. Last year, even considering the “lab leak” theory was enough to get you laughed out of reasonable Lefty company’s house. This year, because of the information overload on the COVID pandemic, it STILL IS. Even though there have been Senate hearings, where Rand Paul pulled documents that showed Fauci funded the work, and Fauci continues to deny, and of course we have the problem of a disqualifying narrative has the Left rooting for Fauci, and denying Senator Paul’s legitimate line of inquiry.
The problem with limbic switching and disqualifying narratives is that they become powerful tools in the hands of psychopaths who are alternately running the show, or are Flying Monkeys of more powerful psychopaths. At this point in history, it’s easy to sort the lab leak hypothesis into a disqualifying narrative — if you believe it, you must not be a credible actor or know much about COVID politics. But by anyone’s standards, there’s a growing body of evidence that the lab leak hypothesis is more than just that — it’s probably what happened. And Fauci has a long history of being an intensely political animal. In this case, he has his literal hide to lose.
Not surprisingly, empathy is a solution to disqualifying narratives. Certainly, one can’t expect to sit through everyone’s chemtrails lecture. But moving the sidebars out a little from one’s own tribal view is going to be required if we can even hope to navigate an increasingly complex future.
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