Psychology of Shutdown Karenism

A Facebook friend (she’s around 30 years old) psychoanalyzes those who love COVID shutdowns:

Maybe the reason people born in the 60s-90s are the biggest pro-lockdown people is that it was the “grounded generation,” where parents trying to limit or stop corporally punishing their children instead would keep them indoors, only doing necessary activities, until they’d learned their lesson — longer time periods when the misdeed was larger.

All the “fun spreads the virus” crazytown rules that people have accepted with absolutely no scientific basis for their efficacy, from curfews to live music bans to hair salon closures, align very well to what your parents would stop you from doing when you were grounded.

There’s a lot of free-floating guilt in our society and very little way to dislodge it effectively. Perhaps many of the most devoted lockdowners felt, in their heart of hearts — whether they realized it or not — like humanity needed a good grounding and to not come out until we’d changed our attitude, mister.

Her friend (actually named “Karen”!):

Yes. I think this is absolutely spot on.

From Elizabeth:

And so much of it is about making people change their attitude. People who wear masks that say “I’m only wearing this because I have to” still get treated like shit, as though they weren’t wearing masks at all. Because they dare to disagree with the status quo. It’s not enough to wear the mask… you have to love it too.


Hmm younger generations get banned from specific gadgets ie phone or PlayStation, so they’re being primed to associate entertainment media access with compliance.

The psychology industry has so far provided more literary interest than practical assistance and the above is certainly consistent with that history going back to Freud. (I.e., the above might not be right, but I thought that it was interesting to contemplate.)

10 thoughts on “Psychology of Shutdown Karenism

  1. Of course, there’s a big difference between getting “grounded” as a child (in which you know your freedom will eventually be reinstated after you’ve paid the penalty and apologized and compensated for your misdeeds, promised ‘never to sin again’, etc.) and having your basic freedoms rescinded or restricted as an adult citizen who has presumably “learned their lessons” (if grounding was effective). Of course the latter was done largely by fiat, through executive orders and the mandates of unelected officials, which apparently doesn’t bode well for most people’s understanding of the Constitution or their civil liberties thereunder.

    It may be a factor, but I think this assessment by “left of left” UC San Francisco Medical Professor Monica Ghandi:

    “For many progressives, extreme vigilance was in part about opposing Donald Trump. Some of this reaction was born of deeply felt frustration with how he handled the pandemic. It could also be knee-jerk. “If he said, ‘Keep schools open,’ then, well, we’re going to do everything in our power to keep schools closed,” Monica Gandhi, a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco, told me. Gandhi describes herself as “left of left,” but has alienated some of her ideological peers because she has advocated for policies such as reopening schools and establishing a clear timeline for the end of mask mandates. “We went the other way, in an extreme way, against Trump’s politicization,” Gandhi said. Geography and personality may have also contributed to progressives’ caution: Some of the most liberal parts of the country are places where the pandemic hit especially hard, and Hetherington found that the very liberal participants in his survey tended to be the most neurotic.”

    Two things: if Monica Gandhi is well-educated enough to be a Medical Professor and know herself well enough to identify as “Left of Left” I would say that operationally at least, there is an identifiable “Left” and “Right” in American politics, even if they are not both internally consistent.

    Secondly, her explanation rings true to me in light of an enraged scolding I got from a very liberal “left of left” family member when I dared to point out to her that in October of last year, listening to NPR, I was hearing all the liberal talk about *rejecting* the Operation Warp Speed vaccines – BECAUSE they happened under an accelerated time frame through the Trump Administration. They talked about it quite extensively in the time period from September – late October, before the election, and did quite a bit to cast doubt on the vaccines Because Trump Might Get Reelected.

    She flipped out on me, started yelling, and said that EVERYTHING was Trump’s fault, him and his murderous insurrectionists and army of science-denying maniacs.

    After the election, of course, the entire narrative changed, almost overnight, particularly when Pfizer announced its efficacy results one week after the election. At that point it was beyond question that the vaccines were going to save us, now that the Biden Administration was coming. All the doubt about the accelerated timeline vanished.

    So I’d say the psychologist’s interpretation might be kind of interesting, but the political arguments were much more dominant.

  2. Also, from the Atlantic piece, it’s interesting to think about the fact that a medical professor at any school in this country can describe herself as “left of left” for an interview in a national publication and not only be quoted as an authoritative source but retain her job. But apparently that’s perfectly fine.

    If any professor in this country described themselves as “right of right” for the Atlantic, what would happen to them? Apparently, being “left of left” is OK, but what does it mean? Is she an anarcho-socialist? A Communist? She’s currently working with funds from NIH grant R01AI158013 – Aug 1, 2020 – Jul 31, 2024.

    If you take “left of left” to mean “Communist”, why are we giving taxpayer funded NIH grants to Communists?

    UC San Fran. is a public university supported by the taxpayers in California, not to mention the federal funding it receives. Why is a “left of left” professor

    • Sorry….Why is a “left of left” professor able to do these things? Because those are the only professors around? Because their political views are seen as not just anodyne but righteous and authoritative?

    • People born in 60th-90th, those of ages from 22 to 61, are “old”?
      The oldest of the branch have six years to their regular retirement age while many of the youngest are not yet in the workforce yet.
      I think another reason for “Shutdown Karenism” are poor educational outcomes, confusing and problems think logically about everyday events and general innumeracy.

    • Anonymous – I read the original post as having animus towards the parents of that generation, not the generation themselves.

    • 60th to 90th constitute at least 2 generations, those born in 60th – 70th are being parents of those born in 80th – 90th

    • Steve: I think you’re right! But coronalockdowns have been the result of a political fight between the powerful and desperate-for-any-reprieve old and young mostly-invulnerable-to-the-virus folks who lacked power. I’m surprised that there aren’t more angry young people.

  3. As one clever man put it, “Freud was a fountain of nonsense.” Freud plagiarized his tripartite “theory” of mind from Plato and when asked had audacity to deny ever having read “The Republic”.

    His insane speculations did as much good to psychology as Marx’s Das Capital to political economy. Take for example “the repressed memory syndrome” and check on the Amirault family fate.

  4. Latest CDC announcement is they believe virus is mainly airborne transmission. That still probably means masks are of some help reduce amount of virus spewed out, but it doesn’t really matter how close or far you stand to people indoors.

    Interesting other stat claims based on analysis of excess deaths that deaths from COVID in US are more like ~900K than ~600k.

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