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.)

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The more that you sacrifice in the COVID-19 fight, the more you believe the fight was worthwhile?

Part of a holiday letter from a friend in the UK:

The British are, on the whole, law abiding. The stringent measures [against COVID-19] have worked quite well, and it reminds me of what the British historian A.J. P. Taylor said about British discipline. It is a little-known fact that during the war Britain evolved, voluntarily, a far more comprehensive state-directed society than was the case in Hitler’s Germany, or anywhere else for that matter.

The old Romans chose a dictator for a limited time when the country faced a crisis. The British chose Churchill. The dictator was given unlimited powers but could at any time be deposed by Parliament. Every aspect of life was state-directed: manpower, the economy, use of housing, agriculture, industry, compulsory female conscription, public health services, welfare – everything, everything within the life of the community. Even my mother, a concert pianist, had to join the WAAF – Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. And all the nation’s town-dwelling children sent off to the country.

No country in the industrialised world had ever seen the likes of this total war mobilisation. Hitler quite simply could not risk imposing such restrictions on the German people, the restrictions, duties and self-denials which the British willingly accepted. When peace came this entire state-run apparatus was dismantled and the so-called full mobilisation left no lasting impression on society.

I am not sure we have all been dutiful and self-denying, but the results are there.

She has given up much of what formerly gave her life value and meaning. We’d met on a Northwest Passage cruise in 2019, for example. and she is a champion skier within her age group. She never married, has no children, and lives alone; quarantine/lockdown means solitary confinement. What is it that convinces her that the sacrifice was effective? It can’t be the numbers. The UK is near the top of countries ranked by COVID-19-tagged deaths (though masked-and-shut-for-10-months Massachusetts has a yet higher death rate).

Could it be the sacrifice itself that makes her think that the sacrifice was worthwhile?

From 2007:

and Oliver Cromwell, who never met an epidemiologist: “A few honest men are better than numbers”. But maybe he predicted American politics: “No one rises so high as he who knows not whither he is going.”

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Academic study of virtuous victimhood from the immorality lab

“Signaling virtuous victimhood as indicators of Dark Triad personalities.” (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, full text available):

The cry that one is a victim of injustice, oppression, intolerance, or any of the myriad reasons why people believe they are prevented from getting what they want in life has echoed loudly through the ages. It remains so today. … we propose that claiming victim status, an act we refer to as victim signaling, also allows victims to pursue an environmental resource extraction strategy that helps them survive, flourish, and achieve their goals in situations that are responsive to their claims. By resource extraction we mean that resources are transferred from either individuals or larger institutions (e.g., the state, organization) to the person who signals victimhood.

The obligation to alleviate others’ pain can be found in most of the world’s moral systems. It also appears to be built into the structure of the mind by evolution, as evidenced by the human tendency to feel distress at signs of suffering. It is therefore not surprising that many people are motivated to help perceived victims of misfortune or disadvantage

The four authors come from the University of British Columbia’s “Immorality Lab”:

The Immorality Lab was created in 2009 at the campus of the University of British Columbia in affiliation with Sauder School of Business and the Faculty of Psychology. The purpose of the lab is to unite a virtual community of international scholars who study the many ways people mistreat one another and contribute to the sum total of misery and unhappiness in the world.

The head of the lab describes himself as “A Leader who sets no example and “High School Graduate (w/o honors)”.

How is it possible that the Canadians are studying immorality? These are the people who have promised to take every low-skill migrant whom the U.S. rejects? (see “Why accept any refugees to the U.S. if they are welcome in Canada?” and “Can the refugee caravan at the U.S. border simply fly up to Canada?” (in which offered to spend $50,000 of my own funds to deliver migrants to Vancouver, but the Canadians did not accept the offer)) In fact, they don’t even use the word “migrant” or “immigrant,” but rather “New Canadian” or “new citizen”.

Shouldn’t an immorality lab be centered in a U.S. state that voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump?

Maximum virtue on display, captured in some photos during a now-illegal trip to Toronto in March 2019:


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Power of the Media to Shape Coronaplague Beliefs

On a recent WhatsApp video call, a friend in Ireland expressed concern over the disastrous wave of deaths washing over the United States. He’d scanned newspaper headlines and had processed that coronaplague infections were at an all-time high in the U.S. He inferred from this that Americans must be dying in larger numbers than back in April, for example.

I checked the front page of the New York Times while we were chatting. Sure enough, plague is worse than ever here:

Unlike my righteous neighbors in Maskachusetts, he does not pretend to care about all humanity. So he hadn’t clicked down and scrolled through five screens to get to the following chart:

I.e., if this chart were on the front page, we might think that the plague was on its way out! (and we would, I hope, attribute this to our faith in the Church of Shutdown and the Sacrament of Masks!)

[For reference, a similar curve for never-shut never-masked Sweden (from the prophets at IHME):


It was interesting to learn what kind of impression our media leaves in a reader’s mind when the reader is not carefully focused on drilling down into the details.

Separately, in today’s coronasteria, the front page of the New York Times screams “Global Coronavirus Death Toll Surpasses Half a Million”. Drilling down into the story, the reader will find no comparisons to what other causes of death might afflict the world’s 7.8 billion humans (none of whom are “illegal”!). He/she/ze/they will not learn that, for example, “Up to 650 000 people die of respiratory diseases linked to seasonal flu each year” (WHO).


  • Politifact rates Donald Trump’s tweet “As of June 23, the COVID-19 death rate is ‘way down.'” “mostly true” (i.e., it is “partly false” to say that a downward trend is “down”)
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