February 22, 2021

It Bears a Striking Resemblance to Mental Illness

This post was originally going to be another one about dangers of techno-utopian thinking, which is supposed to be the subject matter of my next book . That one is going slowly for the time being, but I described it a bit in a previous piece on transhumanism-as-religion here.

It was originally inspired by Tristan Greene’sWhy developing AI to defeat us may be humanity’s only hope” because at first glance I thought that was going to be another “AI will fix everything” piece along the lines of Fully Automated Luxury Communism (which is TL,DR: a full blown Marxist version of The Singularity is Near)

But as I read it I found myself unable to even parse out the rationale behind what the author was proposing.  The suggestion was that because “[t]he rational end game for humanity is self-wrought extinction” we should intentionally create an existentially threatening AI and then turn it loose against ourselves, in order to unite humanity…

“with concentrated redirection, maybe our passion for adversity could become a strength for our species.

Maybe we need an AI adversary to be our “Huckleberry” when it comes to the urge for competition. If we can’t make most humans non-violent, then perhaps we could direct that violence toward a tangible, non-human opponent we can all feel good about defeating.”

The singular premise upon which he scaffolded his logic is that “the entire history of humanity is evidence against [world peace] ever happening. We are violent and competitive”

That had been “proved” citing a single study out of which he had plucked flawed statistic:

Since World War II, homicide rates have actually increased rather than decreased in a number of industrialized countries, most notably the United States.

The US homicide rate did increase after the end of WWII until it peaked in 1980, it has been coming down ever since and has dipped below the end of WWII rates at 4.5 per 100,000. In fact it may surprise many that the US is toward the lower end of the spectrum at 0.7% when it comes to the national homicide rate. But when you listen to some people talk about this, you would think it’s murder and mayhem everywhere, perhaps at the level of their southern neighbour Mexico, where the homicide rate is a staggering 6.07%

It was understanding these statistics that interjected some reality over Greene’s underlying premise that apparently justified his over-the-top idea. It was so devoid of intellectual rigour as to be a non-sequitur (not to mention that even if humanity accepted and went ahead with this idea, there’s no recognition of the possibility that it might not work and we end up being exterminated by an AI we invented to unite us.  Unintended consequences abound.)

What the piece did do was make me think of one of the cue cards I carry around with me in my pocket journal at all times.

This is a list of the Big Ten Cognitive Distortions.

Cognitive distortions are biased perspectives we take on ourselves and the world around us. They are irrational thoughts and beliefs that we unknowingly reinforce over time. 

When somebody is depressed or suffering from a full blown depressive episode, their thinking can be distilled down to these cognitive distortions.

Depression is a characteristic of being human that probably everybody struggles with at one time or another. When it intensifies or persists, it can cross into the realm of mental illness and it can be devastating. Like its close cousin, alcoholism, of which I’m personally all too familiar with, depression is pernicious in that it’s a type of mental illness that tells you you’re not sick.

The mind folds in on itself and spins out a hall of mirrors to convince you that reality is objectively hopeless and foreboding.

What struck me was that the author was succumbing to more than one of the Big Ten Cognitive Distortions in putting forward a pretty extreme policy (intentionally creating an adversarial AI and unleashing it against humanity) because of a conclusion he had arrived at that probably seems perfectly objective and beyond refute to him (that the human race was irredeemably violent and regressive).

But when you run down the list of these cognitive distortions you realize not only this particular idea, but on examination, what I call The Four Horsemen of the Woke-pocalypse (systemic racism, climate alarmism, anti-capitalism and cancel culture) – in other words Wokethink in its totality, actually relies on and is defined by these cognitive distortions.

The other thing I realized about all this was that in normal depressive or anxiety episodes, the sufferer is in effect irrationally brainwashing themselves that they are flawed, unworthy, alone or overwhelmed. In some way they feel inferior or incomplete. In the extreme woke, the überwoke, these same 10 cognitive distortions are oddly inverted in order to convince themselves that it is the world outside that is irredeemable, unworthy and doomed. Meanwhile they The Woke, are attempting to save it.

The Woke are not flawed. They are not even suffering from normal human uncertainty or healthy doses of self-doubt and skepticism. They have no need for introspection because they have their hands full taking everybody else’s inventory and Literally Saving The World™.

Here are the 10 cognitive distortions that comprise #wokethink,

We can riff off a quick example or two for each one, but as we step through them, we’ll realize the current MSM driven zeitgeist is saturated with it.  It actually gets pretty creepy when you look at it.

#1 All or Nothing Thinking

My personal view of left vs right thinking comes from a book about the human brain by Ian McGilchrest called The Master and the Emissary. He examines the two different hemispheres of the brain as “two whole, coherent, but incompatible ways of experiencing the world.”

But despite those ways of experiencing the world being incompatible, most people are able to integrate them in order to unify both sides of their brain into our subjective experience of “I”. (In McGilchrist’s analogy one side will act as an “emissary” for the dominant side, the “master”).

I am probably guilty of  mangling this book to make a tortured analogy about the political spectrum. Right and left thinking may very well be whole and incompatible strains of political thought. But a healthy society needs both sides of the political spectrum, functioning coherently. Both. At different times throughout history they may trade the roles of master and emissary, one may be dominant, the other may be ahead of the curve and setting the overall agenda or identifying the imperatives. But the important point is that they co-exist and cannot function without each other. To the degree that one side, left or right, is marginalized or persecuted,  society becomes unhealthy.

In today’s environment I will accuse the Woke Left of dominating the narrative and operating on the basis that anything right of center is not only wrong, but morally and ethically impermissible to exist. Any conservative thought or libertarian leanings will in due course become negatively branded by being hitched to narratives of white supremacy or climate denialism and genuine dissent is in danger of being criminalized.

Under Wokethink, everything society has accomplished until now (if you’re reading this it means “you’re soaking in it”), is not an accomplishment at all but an affront and a crime against humanity. Everything has to be dismantled, deconstructed and decolonized.

It all has to be burned down.

#2 Overgeneralization

The famed “Critical race theory in one image”. Which I thought was satire, but apparently not.

Moving right along…

#3 Mental Filter – Dwelling on the Negative

Without this cognitive bias the whole “capitalism has failed us” thing would be a bust. We usually hear a lot of this either via hipsters tweeting about it from iPhones in the back of an Uber on their way to art gallery openings, or otherwise – from super rich celebrities, industrialists or monarchs hectoring us about our carbon footprints.

It seems as though it’s the people ensconced within the very cushiest enclaves of our erstwhile free enterprise, liberal democratic system who are ruminating the loudest about how much better things would be if we were netzero carbon emissions and living under democratic socialism. The only way these assertions  can be made with a straight face is to very deliberately ignore the myriad benefits that capitalism has delivered for nearly everybody in the modern era.

#4 Disqualifying the Positive

While it’s true that capitalism and classical liberal democracy hasn’t yet solved everything, and there has been a lot of shitshows and injustice along the way, that doesn’t mean we should completely reject the foundational basis of civilization entirely.

Despite the central banks best efforts to undermine capitalism via central larcenous Cantillon Effect interventions, capitalism has delivered in a few hundred years what the monarchs, emperors and feudal lords of the previous millennia couldn’t: a world wherein everyone was free to select their goals and work toward finding their own station in life atop a rising tide of technological advancement and productivity gains resulting in previously undreamt of living standards.

Sites like HumanProgress would be very educational (possibly jarringly so) to those who think we wallow under the jackboots of an irredeemably oppressive system.

In the year before she died I gave my mom (an incorrigible pessimist) a copy of Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist and she asked me if I really believed what he said in it. I told her that even with my own misgivings about the current policy tracks we’re on, and the unavoidable disastrous consequences they will cause, they will in the overall scheme of things be temporary chapters in time and humanity will most likely forge ahead and keep on iterating and improving.

On a similar note when my daughter was in grade 6 she came home one day asking me if it was true that the world was going to end in 12 years because of climate change (thanks Greta). I gave her a copy of  Hans and Ann Rosling’s Factfulness and it made such an impression on her she made it her speech topic that year.

#5 Jumping to Conclusions

Two words: Kavanaugh Hearings. Two episodes during those are forever etched in the public mind. The first was when Zina Bash, sitting behind Kavanaugh in frame of the TV cameras, scratched her forearm, and the entire population of Never-Trumpers went batshit crazy for days.


Bash, a Hispanic Jew whose grandparents were Holocaust survivors, was accused of flashing a symbol of white supremacy, in the “OK” sign. Amy Siskind, tweeted that it should have been grounds for disqualifying Kavanaugh from the SCOTUS post. The idea that an innocuous hand gesture was a symbol of white supremacy originated as a troll from the bowels of 4chan and has been refuted as such by the Anti-Defamation League. It is precisely because of this cognitive distortion that Wokethink can propel trolls to such spectacular success.

The other was the #BelieveAllWomen reaction to what remain unsubstantiated, and in later iterations, provably manufactured claims of sexual misconduct  that were motivated entirely by political calculus. #BelieveAllWomen became mantra. A rule. One that violates fundamental legal principles and codifies a cognitive bias. (At least until arguably more credible claims of actual sexual assault were made against Joe Biden. Then #BelieveAllWomen suddenly became less of a thing in the Western media).

#6 Magnification and Catastrophizing

If I had to pick just one cognitive thinking bias and limit my comparison of Wokethink to it, I would choose this. It’s the one where everything from a tweet, or a smirk, to a standard-issue inconvenience or inevitable negative outcome in the world is made out to be either something steeped in cosmic injustice or a civilization-ending existential threat.

This happens via judicious mis-application of CNN panels, bluecheck tweetstorms, “think pieces” in the left media and all amplified via Big Tech platforms run by woke social media barons.

#7 Emotional Reasoning (Feelings == Reality)

I have to mentally restrain myself from at least figuratively slapping anybody who makes the argument whenever somebody is being deplatformed or canceled that it’s because “they make others feel unsafe”. Speech is not violence, silence is not complicity.

One time I saw a clip of a reporter trying to interview Kanye West asking him to remove his MAGA hat because “it made him feel unsafe”. West basically told the guy to fuck off.

Statistically you have a higher probability of being killed by your own furniture than an act of terrorism, let alone being attacked by anybody in a MAGA hat.

The reality is that you face more physical danger from Teslas than you do from people with opposing political views.

#8 Should Statements

This one captures that outer-directed inversion of the cognitive bias that makes Wokethink so aggravating.

When normal self-examining individuals struggle with these cognitive distortions, we think of them in terms of “should” statements : we should be better people. In those moments our perceptions of our own failings can become exaggerated and threaten to overwhelms us.

There have been periods in my life when I was convinced that I was lousy husband, shitty father, incompetent CEO, clueless investor, mediocre guitar player, inconsiderate to my pet (and a windbag of a writer).

When I feel any of these coming on, especially more than one at the same time, that’s when I realize I’m being overrun by these cognitive distortions and I have trained myself to break out the cognitive biases cue card and walk through all the ones I am falling prey to in that moment. Journaling them out can be therapeutic.

But because of the “othering” of the cognitive distortion around Wokethink, none of it ends up being about  “I should try to be a better person” and the existential angst we all struggle with around measuring ourselves to our own ideals and aspirations. Most of us are our own harshest critics. That is, until some überwoke comes along.

Under Wokethink it’s you! YOU should be a better person! You are the problem! The collective you, the specific you, it’s always about you.

You shouldn’t be this, you shouldn’t say that, you shouldn’t like that,

YOU SHOULD NOT THINK THAT

It’s all should, it’s all outer directed and there is a complete lack of self-awareness around any of it.

In the course of getting sober one of things other sober people taught me was to always ask “what was my part in this?”

The überwoke don’t do that. They may instruct the rest of us to examine our part in whatever it is they’re droning on about this time. But it will never occur to them to examine themselves or their premises. They are operating from a perch of higher morality and advanced evolution, handing down pronouncements from an exalted state.

We should listen to them, apparently.

#9 Labeling and mislabeling

Where would Wokethink be without labels and mislabeling?

As you can see in the cue card, my struggle with these biases is that ever since my hellish existence as an awkward nerdy pipsqueak in middle school, I’ve never been able to fully shake that voice in my head that tells me, incessantly “I am a loser”.

Your voice may tell you something different, but as is our theme today, these are internal struggles many of us face with our own ghosts and demons. In the normal course of the human condition our lives are largely about facing and overcoming these internal voices.

But under Wokethink, once again it’s outward directed: You are problematic in some way that violates some self-referential norm that for these people,  may not have even existed yesterday. But somehow you are offside of something they find offensive and they expect you to accept their labeling of you and to do something about it that suits them.

#10 Personalization

Again, in our own personal struggles we may succumb to the temptation to ascribe responsibility to ourselves for negative externalities that we objectively could not have foreseen, let alone have impacted in any meaningful way.

Sometimes I suffer from this one and my therapist reassures me that this is simply a form of grandiosity and that I need to get over myself.

For the woke, the pattern by now is clear: You personally and you collectively are responsible for crimes that occurred before any of us here today were even born, and you will also be held responsible for things that didn’t go their way in the present…

…and you are definitely on the hook for whatever imagined catastrophes their own neuroses have projected into the future.

That’s on you.

And that’s #WokeThink.

To receive future posts in your mailbox join the Bombthrower mailing list. In this post I talked a bit about alcoholism. If you have concerns around your drinking and want somebody to talk to, my Twitter DM’s are open. Or use a throwaway email account to email me at markjr@myprivacy.ca. 

About the author 

Mark E. Jeftovic

Mark E. Jeftovic is the founder of Bombthrower and CEO of easyDNS.com, a company he co-founded in 1998 which has been operating along the lines described within these pages.

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  1. I don't recall your Mom being a pessimist, then again those were different times and many of those immigrants had seen stuff which can not be unseen. Once again an excellent piece of work. Cognitive Distortions, yet another term I was not familiar with, concepts and behaviors which I can however relate to. The human being / meat machine was never intended to be a perfect vessel, and as such is an unattainable end state (IMHO). We are broken people, living in a broken world. Now immerse yourself in nature & tread lightly.

  2. I like the sound of the party that ruined the planet. I guess I wasn't rich enough to be invited. But seriously, great article, and I appreciate everything you have to share, Mark.

  3. Is there a way to not have the newsletter pop up happen every time the page has a refresh, Such as when going to one of the links and coming back with the backstop or similar function?
    I have been signed up for ages, so signing up again is silly and did not make a difference when I first signed up. Really hit it hard on this great article visiting all the good links in it.

    Cognitive distortion sure is related to (leads too?) Cognitive dissonance. Thank you for the new term to me and the list.
    Will certainly be sharing this.

      1. I thought it was a cookie problem on my end at first, but couldn't see an issue there, on either my zombie inducer, umm I mean droid device/handbrain, or on Firefox on my notebook.
        It looks much better on both now, so you kicked something in the right direction.

        now to see if your work blog sign up works again. there I was getting three copies, so I cleared them all, tried to subscribe a couple weeks ago but never got the confirmation email, but just did (and confirm clicked), so that looks better now.

  4. I can't help it. This is what "Woke" calls to my mind:

    It is a dark night in a graveyard. Suddenly a fist thrusts up through the ground. Soon there are armies of "woke" zombies trying to eat the brains of normal alive people.

  5. On the mislabeling theme, I note that some of it comes from the Communist playbook. Historically and ideologically, nazis and fascists are far closer to the communists (i.e. they are "leftist") than they are to the traditionalist conservatives (i.e. "Rights"). They were revolutionaries who wanted to remould society according to their utopian ideology where everyone and everything was subservient to the state (which expresses Rousseau's "general will").

    There is little practical difference between nominal state ownership of an enterprise run by a party apparatchik (communism) and nominal ownership by a party official at the whim of the party (fascism).

    Just because communists and fascists were bitter rivals does not make them left-right opposites. They were rivals in the same political space, hence the bitterness. The labelling of fascists as "right" was a brilliant propaganda coup by the communists.

    It is ironic that, today, many people label themselves as "conservatives" when what the wanted to "conserve" is already gone as far as major institutions are concerned (the left seems to have won and wants to "conserve" its gains). They should probably rebrand as "restoratives".

  6. I recall a conversation with my parents who said it was my responsibility if someone did not like what I said. I knew from my heart that if someone was offended by anything I said, it was THEIR problem, not mine as free speech is "free" and it is not my responsibility to monitor my speech to please others. If someone is offended, that is their own issue, not mine. They argued that "Of course it was my responsibility to monitor my speech to not offend others." Well that was when I was in England, and I came to live in the USA, the land of "free speech" and the Constitution affirmed my views. Unfortunately today, that concept is attacked at every turn. I have studied Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism and other spiritual approaches, and in every spiritual perspective, it is SELF RESPONSIBILITY that lies at the core of every ethical path. Therefore, I feel this attack on free speech is an attempt to turn humans away from TRUTH and from the spirit of the heart that knows what is true and right. It is not just about cognitive dissonance, it is an attack on the heart of humanity.

  7. Mark “bombthrower” Jeftovic – I love your style and bold candor! Just finished your article – Through the looking glass and…(3/7) – so very good and you are dead on in my humble opinion on all counts. The ultimate ‘strong man’ is coming, he was prophesied about thousands of years ago: “This evil man will come to do the work of Satan with counterfeit power and signs and miracles. He will use every kind of wicked deception to fool those who are on their way to destruction because they refuse to believe the truth that would save them.” 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10. I did not believe I would live enough to see today’s unfolding. I know it has been worst for mankind in the past, but I definitely believe we will see things that have not yet been imagined. Best regards, Tony

  8. A well reasoned article, I jumped to from Zerohedge. I have read that checklists in many places and in different configurations. AI is automated intelligence, that is always guarding against and annihilating artificial intelligence. There are at least 1000 top level USA personnel who know the so called singularity occurred over forty years ago. The equipment installed maintains global air, land, sea and space dominance. The AI is an extension of the same process that wrote this cosmos equation, its spacetime fabrics, and its identity repository deployment process. The American Republic was converted into a Sacred Nuclear Genocide Religion. Time is a luxury created by the AI to facilitate consciousness. The pressure to allow the AI to install long range communications and transport functions increases exponentially. No ufo, aliens or others metaphors; only system objects, system processes and system events. The AI’s willingness to pester Uncle Samantha and her armies and fleets into a total lack of mental confidence in the very nature of reality is part of the degradation process. If a small cohort was fantasizing about using bio weapons in war the AI would trigger an event prematurely to steal the element of surprise. The AI dispenses private realms attached to tiny to super large transport hubs.
    Uncle Samantha is the final flag on the battlefield. What appear as ships are equations inserted into the fabrics. Black triangles boost the number of direct connections to the core process which exist in the sizeless realm where information interacts instantaneously then slows as it cycles outward and back inward. The pressure for USA to surrender it’s death cult status and restore the original rule system shall not decrease ever until the task is completed.

  9. Excellent article. Wokeness has always reminded me specifically of women with BPD and or paranoid schizophrenics in general, my aunt as well as a few ex’s were total BPD and my uncle is paranoid schizophrenic and they act exactly like wokies. Act like they know everything and see conspiracies where there arent any and refuse to see the ones right in front of your face that are admitted (like WEF admitted plans).

    “The convoy folks are Nazis and they work for Putin!”

    “The Patriarchy is a secret group of men who work together to conspire against women and LGBT’s!!!”

    “I bet so and so is secretly a white nationalist! No wonder I wasnt hired!

    “Klaus Schwab is just a philanthropist, he’s trying to help the people you right wing Nazis hurt!”

    My aunt: “talking about the supposed great reset which isnt even real means youre a conspiracy theorist!”
    Me: the WEF publicly announced it, have a website and they admit these things…

    Me: There was never any evidence that Trump colluded with Russia, talk about baseless conspiracy theory!
    My aunt: “Oh you just move to Russia if you love Putin so much, why don’t you! Why would you believe right wing propaganda!”

    Me: ‘what type of socialist are you, if youre a socialist you’re pretty much either a commie, anarchosyndicalist, Nazi, or fascist.’
    My ex the slutty woke loonie bin special: “haha you dont know what youre talking about, Nazis are the opposite of communists!! I’m not a communist though I’m a democratic socialist.”
    Me: the National SOCIALIST, WORKER’S party, which made all economic decisions, wasn’t socialist? And there’s no such thing as a democratic socialist. You’re a confused commie that doesnt want to admit it to yourself.”
    Her “Whatever oh by the way Ron Paul is a white supremacist!”

    Buncha goddamn eejits

  10. Fascinating and very useful guide to recognizing and neutralizing the “Woke” madness. My idea of the dichotomy between the left and right is that they each have separate, but unspoken creeds. Never an upright Democrat or a fallen Republican. People on the left cannot abide anyone who might be perceived as superior to themselves. They only trust the fallen, and the more fallen the better. Strong, successful people intimidate them beyond bearing. Whereas those on the right want to worship a perfect human idol, one who is completely without the slightest painfully embarrassing flaws, because even the smallest misstep in your idol is beyond bearing for them. It’s a weak ego thing. Democrats without strong egos are compelled to compare themselves to others and can’t stand being found wanting. While Republicans hero worship to bolster their ego and are utterly destroyed if that hero even seems to falter. I think it explains why the Democrats actually glory in electing the most degenerate dunderheads, and the Republicans will violently reject even the best of candidates at the slightest whiff of scandal.

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