by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor | John Locke Foundation
Preface: The political class has drifted far from Lincoln’s vision of a government “of the people, by the people, for the people” — something that those words and the solemn occasion behind it underscored was worth fighting for. Rather than being regarded the font and focus of government, we the people are increasingly viewed as the chief impediment.
The sudden prevalence of hitherto unheard-of rolling blackouts in America, a land blessed with an abundance of fuel for generating electricity, is yet another terrible outcome of bad policy made without full consideration of costs and benefits to people. Unfortunately, the current political class no longer seems to regard a terrible policy outcome as something to be avoided or something to own up to and fix. Instead, they seek to induce people into thinking it’s the way things should be, or if not that, then at least being too scared to speak up.
In mulling these things over, I wrote the seven-step process they use to try to change people’s perception of what’s normal, hoping that people would accept an outcome they found intolerable not long ago.
The following paragraphs are taken from my article in the American Institute for Economic Research, “The New-Normaling of Blackouts”:
Denial is always the first step. Key to this denial is agreeing with people on the abject undesirability of the inevitable outcome. Opponents warning people to this outcome must be demonized to render them untrustworthy. This is the “Actually, you’re saving 16 cents on a hotdog lunch this July 4th” step.
When it becomes too obvious to be denied, the next step is to acknowledge the problem, but only as an isolated one, denying it as an emerging problem. This step still requires agreeing with people that the inevitable outcome is a bad thing. As always, opponents must be demonized. This is the “inflation is transitory” step.
This step attempts to redirect growing awareness of an emerging problem by making it seem as if being aware of the problem is a stubborn, perhaps unpatriotic, act of political intractability. It still treats it as a one-off event. This step is deliberately vague, making people feel confused, wondering what solutions are there and if the bad guys are keeping them away from us.
This step adds confusion upon confusion. Gone is any agreement as to whether the problem is new or emerging, or even if it is to be considered a problem at all. Only the enemy is clear. This is the “Communism doesn’t work because not every country is Communist” step.
Here, the problem is simultaneously bad and good. It’s the last gasp of acknowledging the undesirability of the outcome in order to assuage people, while pulling them into welcoming the outcome as the solution. Anyone doubting the desirability of the outcome is made to feel unpatriotic, in league with the bad guys, or in the way of progress. This is the “while the vaccines may not prevent transmission, you might not be hospitalized as long, and we all need to do our part” step.
This step is the full embrace of the undesirable outcome, along with the full demonization of the opposition. The only thing lacking in this step is that the undesirable outcome is still considered new, which implies abnormal.
Here is the final bit of gaslighting. At this step there is no need to acknowledge that the undesirable outcome is happening, because there is no need to address the obvious. All that remains is to make people doubt their own memory. This is the “wages are growing faster than inflation” step.
Early in George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston Smith watched his fellow citizens react to an announcement that the government was “raising” their chocolate ration to twenty grammes a week. Winston remembered the announcement from the previous day, however: the government was reducing the chocolate ration to twenty grammes a week. He marveled as everyone all celebrated what was actually bad news, which they should have all remembered was bad news.
Winston thought: “Was he, then, alone in the possession of a memory?”