Corona Shaming, we’ve got to stop


If you were a Puritan living in the Massachusetts Bay colony of the 17th century and were found committing adultery, your punishment would be to wear a large, red letter “A” on your chest. This allowed everyone in town to know what kind of sinner you were and how to shame you accordingly. It meant public humiliation to a degree that would likely leave you financially crippled and permanently stripped of whatever social dignity you once had. (This early American system of shaming was highlighted in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic, “The Scarlet Letter”.)

Oh, how times have changed. Now, in what many would call a post-Christian culture, steeped in the aftermath of Freudian sexual drive theory and an ongoing, so-called, sexual revolution, adultery won’t land you in much trouble. In fact, very few sexual vices will cause you any public shaming whatsoever.

But, oh how times have not changed. Today one is branded with new Scarlet Letters at nearly every turn. Just get caught drinking from a plastic straw and you will likely be blamed for single-handedly causing global warming. It would not surprise me if someday soon plastic straw drinkers were forced to wear a giant, red “PSD” on their chest for all to see and shame accordingly.

Shame culture is an extremely unfortunate phenomenon, and it is anything but a strictly USA-European thing. Shame culture is every culture on the planet. The reason for this is that we are shaming-creatures by nature. Our own nature is riddled with guilt, and so we project this guilt onto others in an unconscious effort to settle accounts with anxiety.

It feels good to shame others. So long as I can focus on your guilt and punish you for it, I’m free from having to deal with my own junk; and, bonus, I can feel like a saint without actually accomplishing anything virtuous. My own guilt is hidden because I’m in the right group; all fingers point away from me and out at those evil people in the other group.

In the days of coronavirus many of our usual shaming vices have been laid aside to make room for the newest game in town – shaming those on the wrong side of the quarantine issue. The stakes are high, no doubt. This is a matter of life and death, and if you’re not on the right side – as with all our usual subjects of shame – then you’re either stupid or evil.

Before listening to my sister-in-law – an ICU nurse at a large hospital in town handling the majority of covid-19 patients – I was on the side of “this virus is overrated, mortality stats inflated, and everyone is losing their minds over media hype.” Then I listened to the horror stories coming from her experience and quickly switched over to the “shelter-in-place or we’re all going to die,” camp. My mind was armed with all the same statistics and success stories from places like Singapore, Sweden, but all that took a back seat when fear took the wheel.

Through this I noticed that I am more than willing to shame the other camp whenever I switch camps, because, after all, the camp that is assuaging my anxiety at the moment is the right camp. Right? It’s amazing to me how intense is the need to be right. Somehow in the inner workings of the unconscious mind, being right means that I have assuaged death; and if death is assuaged then anxiety is appeased, and I get to sleep at night.

The truth is that we are all participants – willing or unwilling – in the greatest, most all-encompassing social and economic experiment in the history of pandemics. We are in uncharted territory. As one writer put it, for the first time in history we are quarantining the healthy. None of us have any idea if shutting down schools, businesses, and life as usual for months on end, while untold numbers of people suffer psychological hardship and financial destitution, will actually work to eradicate covid-19. None of us have any idea if doing the opposite and allowing natural herd immunity to grow will work either. We don’t know. But perhaps the worst thing we can do is to pretend that our camp has all the answers and the other camp is either stupid or evil.

We can’t control the public narrative through shaming the other camp and expect to arrive at the best outcome. By doing so we will undoubtedly make terrible mistakes of judgment, and we simply don’t have time to waste on unproductive shaming.

14 thoughts on “Corona Shaming, we’ve got to stop

  1. I love this and would like to share it, but I have a feeling some of the people who need to read it would be so triggered by the plastic straw riff that they’d never get to the good part. I hope you’ll understand if I plagiarize and edit accordingly. (It’s still timely, three months later, only the shaming du jour has shifted to face masks.)

  2. Socially applied guilt and shame is a mean and awful thing, and is so prevalent. For someone living well, keeping up with their own conscience, strong and sure in their self, then socially applied guilt and shame flies past them, it does not stick to them. But such people are not common. And for those who are depressed, who suffer a sense of failure in life, who carry within them their own sense of guilt and shame for the errors of life or for the difficulties within themselves that they struggle to overcome… such ordinary people are particularly susceptible to the effect of socially applied guilt and shame. They are magnetic to it. It sticks to them, it weighs them down, it adds to and magnifies by many times their own depressed condition, often to an unbearable degree.

    Socially applied guilt and shame comes through mainstream and social media, it is in crowds, workplaces, in education, training and courses. It is pervasive, and ranges from gross to subtle. For several decades now, socially applied guilt and shame has been practiced incessantly by leftists, the feminists, the politically correct, the social justice warriors, the callout crowd… as suicide rates increase. The left have a lot to answer for.

    • The left has nothing to answer for. What you refer to as socially applied guilt and shame is also called political correctness. In fact, on Social Media, I have been attacked exclusively by extremists on the right because I disagreed with something they believe and those attacks were apparently written to make me feel guilt and shame.
      Political correctness is not exclusive to what you refer to as the left. .The published “Political correctness: how the right invented a phantom enemy”
      Throughout an erratic campaign, Trump consistently blasted political correctness, blaming it for an extraordinary range of ills and using the phrase to deflect any and every criticism. During the first debate of the Republican primaries, Fox News host Megyn Kelly asked Trump how he would answer the charge that he was “part of the war on women”. …
      Trump and his followers never defined “political correctness”, or specified who was enforcing it. They did not have to. The phrase conjured powerful forces determined to suppress inconvenient truths by policing language.
      The Chronicle of Higher Education reported “Political Correctness Has run Amok — on the Right”
      PLOS One says, “Political correctness and the alt-right: The development of extreme political attitudes.
      Recent studies have documented a shift from moderate political attitudes to more extreme attitudes at the ends of the political spectrum. This can be seen in Political Correctness (PC) on the left, and white identitarian (WI) attitudes on the ‘Alt-Right’ (AR). While highly covered in mainstream media, limited academic research has investigated their possible antecedents and psychological correlates. The current study investigated the prevalence and psychological predictors of these attitudes. Utilising a quota-based sample of 512 U.S. participants, we found that extreme political attitudes were associated with various personality traits, social media use, and upbringing. PC attitudes were associated with agreeableness, black-white thinking, social-media use, and perceived overprotective parenting. WI attitudes were associated with low agreeableness and openness, and high black-white thinking. Our results show that extreme left and right attitudes are separated by individual differences, and that authoritarianism can be seen on both the left and the right.
      The Washington Monthly examined “How the Right Wing Convinces Itself That Liberals are Evil”
      Since the 1950s, the conservative movement has justified bad behavior—including supporting Donald Trump—by persuading itself that the left is worse.
      If you spend any time consuming right-wing media in America, you quickly learn the following: Liberals are responsible for racism, slavery, and the Ku Klux Klan. They admire Mussolini and Hitler, and modern liberalism is little different from fascism or, even worse, communism. The mainstream media and academia cannot be trusted because of the pervasive, totalitarian nature of liberal culture.
      This belief in a broad liberal conspiracy is standard in the highest echelons of the conservative establishment and right-wing media. …

  3. Rightism is mostly an emotional and illogical reaction against the emotionalism and illogicalness of the left. As such, rightism is an offshoot of leftism, it is on the same plane, at the other end of the same stick. And both are to the left of conservatism. So of course they share and mirror certain qualities.

    US conservatism naturally includes those on the right, and libertarians too, but they are different if overlapping mindsets. Those commonly cited personality traits are minor distinctions compared to the prime differences in left, right, and conservative thinking.

    The replication crisis has proved most social psychology studies unreliable. Those few conservatives working in the field have known that all along. We know who we work with.

    Nearly all social psychologists are committed leftists. Ask any conservative who works in social psychology how much freedom of speech he has. He will tell you, None. But you probably won’t find one to ask, because in the social sciences being seen as a leftist is a survival requirement.

    I have regularly observe the stats being fudged, definitions manipulated, certain categories excluded, and revelations suppressed,… all so that my leftist colleagues can present the picture they want to present and justify the social reconstruction programs that they want to implement. In their own minds they are not cheats because they are utterly convinced of their righteousness.

  4. Katie Hopkins. Her last few minutes are particularly pertinent to this thread. The sense of social dislocation and loneliness is a real problem.

    Many conservative men who work on the land or in trades or manufacturing live with a sense of social dislocation / disconnection from others because they are not left and pc in their thinking and speech, whereas their wives and her friends, many who work in welfare and teaching are the only other people he occasionally talks to, but they soon shut him up if he speaks his conservative opinions and make him the bad person, and add to that the problem of injury/chronic pain, sexual disfunction, and/or loss of employment or insufficient income to maintain a contented wife and family, subsequent marriage/relationship breakdown, few male friends, and all in social soup of socially applied guilt and shame for being a white male and the cause of every historical, social and domestic ill, coming at him through the mainstream media, and hey presto we have high white male suicide rates. Even if he goes to seek professional help and speaks about his problems, he will find himself having his politically incorrect speech and thinking corrected by his feminist counsellor, who sees him as the enemy and and is specially trained and practiced in appearing “empathic” and “caring” while making him feel shame and inadequacy. Unless he’s a sucker for shame and punishment, then commonly he does not return for more “counselling”. But regardless, he is often found dead some months later. Meanwhile, his wife has a new man with more money.

    As a psych nurse and later as a counsellor in various fields, I have worked a lot with the suicidal of all demographics. My feminist colleagues who infest the welfare system and the counselling industry push a totally false narrative about the causes of white male suicide. And by foul means they undermine and push out of employment any male welfare worker or counsellor who speaks or documents the true issues relating to white male suicide. Maintaining a false narrative enables feminists/leftists to maintain their psychosocial programs that not only do not solve the problem but contribute to it.

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