Streetwise Professor

October 7, 2020

The Real Pandemic: Mass Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy

Filed under: CoronaCrisis,Economics,Politics — cpirrong @ 6:21 pm

It’s more than fair to say that we are experiencing a pandemic, but not the one you hear about ad nauseum. No, the pandemic is not a virus, it is a pandemic outbreak of Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy which focuses its obsessions on the virus.

Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy is a mental illness in which the sufferer fantasizes that others–usually people in their charge, such as children–are suffering from serious illness and require drastic medical intervention.

Observe what has happened over the last 7 months, and what if anything is increasing in intensity today. The obsession with Covid-19. The monomaniacal focus on “cases” (usually the result of hypersensitive tests prone to false positives), with the belief that people who test positive are sick, and huge numbers of those who become sick will die.

Given the actual experience over the last several months, these beliefs are wildly exaggerated–imaginary, fantasized illnesses, with fantasized severity, just the kind of thing that a sufferer of MSbP does.

And there’s more to the diagnosis. MSbP sufferers subject the people whom they imagine are ill with suffocating attention and unnecessary, and often harmful, health-related interventions. You know, like lockdowns; draconian restrictions on movement, social contact, and other features of everyday life; the shutting down of schools and colleges; and strident demands to wear masks–even between bites of your meal if you are in California.

Look at so many governors and mayors, e.g., Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Gavin Gruesome–excuse me, Newsom–in California, J. B. Pritzker in Illinois, or Tim Walz in Minnesota. (I could go on. And on. And on. Believe me.) They constantly invoke their power over you. But it’s for your own good! Trust them! Mommy is protecting you! And if you object, you will be punished! How dare you defy Mommy’s tender mercies, you ungrateful brats? If you do, you will be punished! To get your minds right and realize just what danger you are in, and why you need to listen to Mommy and do exactly as she says!

And if it were only limited to “authorities” who make Cartman look pleasant. You probably have neighbors or co-workers who have the Syndrome. Or you run into them in the grocery store. Or maybe it’s the fatso in the pharmacy checkout line. (Yeah, that’s an allusion to a personal experience, but no worries: I doubt said fatso can read.)

It was already bad enough before Trump was diagnosed with Covid. Then a super-virulent strain of the Syndrome appeared, through some Darwinian mechanism apparently. As soon as I saw his first remarks from the hospital–that he had learned a lot about Covid, and he was going to share that information and experience with us–I knew he would say exactly what he did say: it can be a serious illness, but the vast majority of people can beat it, and we shouldn’t let it dominate our lives.

And I knew that this would kick the MSbP crowd into apoplexy. They want a narrative of doom and gloom. They want people to be afraid. They want people to defer to them, and to depend on them, and most importantly to obey their commands. You could get really sick–ALL OF YOU! You could die–ANY OF YOU! Don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise! They don’t have your best interests at heart, like Mommy does. And put in your earplugs (so you don’t hear the Bad Orange Man), put on your eye shades (so you don’t read the Great Barrington Declaration), you know where to put the cork (aka the mask that makes it impossible for you to speak intelligibly).

So anything that contradicts the narrative triggers a mass attack of the Munchausens.

Is Covid like the seasonal flu, as Trump said? Well, the more data that comes in, the more it appears that yes it is a danger on the order of magnitude of a bad seasonal influenza strain–the kind we have endured multiple times in the past without draconian measures that cratered economies. And ironically, the data strongly suggest that it is less of a danger to children than the garden variety seasonal flu.

But it is beyond cavil that it is nothing remotely like the last great pandemic disease, Spanish Influenza of 1918-1919. But that doesn’t stop severe cases of MSbP like Gov. Gretchen Ratched from justifying their actions by reference to that episode, and invoking laws passed during that real pandemic to control your life today.

In normal times, most of the objects of MSbP sufferers are children, who have limited power to resist. Often medical professionals are the ones who identify a MSbP situation, and intervene to protect the object.

But today, adults are overwhelmingly the objects. And too many medical professionals enable MSbP (and may indeed be sufferers themselves–just look at the lunatic Twitter timelines of many medicos FREAKING OUT over Trump’s remarks and behavior, i.e., acting like someone suffering the flu, or a cold).

Given the coercive powers of the most important MSbP sufferers, the said governors, mayors, bureaucrats, etc., this pandemic–the MSbP pandemic–is wreaking untold havoc. We need more people to say we aren’t going to take it. We need more people to push back. We should not be in the thrall of the mentally ill.

But alas, we are. Because there are so goddam many of them, and they infest the executive branches of government at every level.

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  1. Bravo!

    Through the lockdown here in England, I worked as a customer delivery driver for a supermarket, as a way of helping the elderly and infirm – those who needed to avoid the bug. Without exception, those people were courteous and reasonable; but the aggressive self-righteousness of some younger people I met – each of whom claimed to be “at special risk,” for no obvious reason – was astonishing. They seem to see the virus scare as a free pass to bully and harass complete strangers – and would like to dare to behave that way all the time.

    Comment by Fen Tiger — October 8, 2020 @ 8:21 am

  2. That’s about the size of it.

    Comment by dearieme — October 8, 2020 @ 8:59 am

  3. And it’s the younger people who are the worst. My daughters are still pissed at me because when I had the Chinese plague, I didn’t act like I had Ebola. So many sheep wearing their masks everywhere, so few Americans.

    Comment by Christopher L Hunt — October 8, 2020 @ 8:04 pm

  4. I call it crisis porn. Everything is an “unprecedented” (the most over-used word of the 21st century) crisis.

    It’s not that people are sheep. It’s that many people actually desire to be told what to do and think. Taking orders relieves one of all the hard work of living.

    I believe the tendency to conform to normative morality is innate and a product of evolution.

    Virtue-signalling is one’s public display of loyalty to the greater authority (GA), typically a moral authority, that removes all moral ambiguity and makes life a mindless breeze (except for the 5% who live by personal ethics). Display then becomes the passport to general acceptance.

    Unless the GA needs a scapegoat for its inevitable and fatal programmatic failures. Then arrest, trial, and execution of the wreckers can hit anyone.

    But as the probability that any specific person takes the hit is low, no one will see the danger to themselves when someone else is hoisted to the gibbet.

    Collectivism is the enemy of individual freedom, and reflexive collectivism is the mortal enemy of a future for our species.

    Comment by Pat Frank — October 9, 2020 @ 9:27 am

  5. Pat Frank.
    Yes, “unprecedented” is an annoying lie.
    About 6,000 BC the world population shrank to under 50,000 by many estimates. The culprit was probably a virus. Since then we’ve had dozens of outbreaks of new zoonotic infections, from the Plague of Justinian to the Spanish (actually Kansas) flu, via the Black Death and all points in between, smallpox, TB, measles, etc etc.
    Far from unprecedented it’s utterly normal.

    But my big bugbear is “exponential”. That’s nonsense. I’d like to get these mugs in the CDC and PHE into my chain letter scam.

    Comment by philip — October 9, 2020 @ 11:13 am

  6. Apologies, not 6,000 BC, more like 60 or 70,000 years ago.

    Comment by philip — October 9, 2020 @ 2:20 pm

  7. Reading a long online thread, when I got fed up with chants of “new normal”, I commented:

    It is not “new normal”. It is a temporary inconvenience.

    And immediately got put in my proper place for daring to challenge their received wisdom:

    Don Hu

    Tatyana, I beg to differ. This is a new chapter for humans and we will not go back to the old way. We must find new ways to guard ourselves from future occurrences like this. To say this is temporary and will back to the way it is just asks to repeat this all over again. 190k dead and more to come is a bit more than an ‘inconvenience’

    I was nice and restricted myself to just telling him he is probably a fan of “apocalyptic” comics

    Comment by Tatyana — October 10, 2020 @ 10:59 am

  8. “a new chapter for humans”: you gotta laugh. Even a return of the Black Death wouldn’t be a new chapter.

    Comment by dearieme — October 11, 2020 @ 5:38 am

  9. dearieme, Americans have notoriously short attention spans, for them the history starts and ends with their own generation. everything else is “ancient” and irrelevant

    Comment by Tatyana — October 11, 2020 @ 8:47 am

  10. Meanwhile, a German professor of journalism (whatever that is) has found his problem, and it is U.S. voters:

    Comment by Ivan — October 11, 2020 @ 3:21 pm

  11. When hysteria happens the most hysterical get their way. It is very difficult to use reason when the majority are hysterical, and convinced.
    There is an overworked and totally incorrect saying, “In the land of the blind (in this case, read: ‘hysterical), the one-eyed man (read: reasonably prudent individual) is king.
    That saying is so wrong.
    The people of the land of the blind say to each other, “Do you believe that nutcase? Talking about color, and brightness, and day or night, whatever that means. A mental case!”
    Thus it is with the sane individual among the MSbP crowd.

    Comment by Richard Whitney — October 11, 2020 @ 4:19 pm

  12. @Tatyana-I wouldn’t limit this to Americans. You are directing your comment to a Brit. I often say that the UK is the US’s Ghost of Christmas Future. Whatever bad you say about the US, has already happened in Britain. And the entrepot into the US is California.

    Comment by cpirrong — October 11, 2020 @ 6:14 pm

  13. @Craig, too true. Although, I sincerely hope we’ll avoid things like Rotherham mass rape. Still, a European or Asian has instinctive, in-the-bones recognition of plague system of coordinates – and Wu-Flu does not measure up to it. Americans only read about it in school books as of anecdotes of questionable historical accuracy (Indian blankets, etc). It is not in everyone’s family lore.

    Comment by Tatyana — October 12, 2020 @ 9:59 am

  14. Did you put your name to the Great Barrington Declaration, Craig? Apart from a smattering of luminaries I see there was also a good number of cranks, weirdos, homeopaths, plus a serial killer to boot. And I’m not just talking about Dr Karol Sikora (I see he’s dispensed with the Professor moniker – quite sensible given the company he’s now keeping).

    I predict that in 6 months many who signed it will be asking to have their names withdrawn when the effects of long Covid become even more apparent (Trump?? He’s not a well man – I almost feel sorry for him), and it turns out herd immunity isn’t achievable after all.

    Anyhow, if you all want cheering up in these testing times may I recommend Borat’s new offering which is due for release later this month. The man is a bona fide comedy genius with balls of Kevlar.

    Comment by David Mercer — October 12, 2020 @ 10:20 am

  15. @David Mercer. Typical ad hominem bullshit by you. Do try to expand your oeuvre.

    I’m not a joiner. I like the sub-title of Richard Pipes’ autobiography: Memoirs of a Non-Belonger.

    Now do go fuck off like a good little boy.

    Comment by cpirrong — October 12, 2020 @ 12:20 pm

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