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The Bay of Pigs fiasco is often rightly held up as the epitome of groupthink, a fatal organizational defect in which bad news (i.e., anything contrary to the operant narrative) is not permitted to flow up the chain of command. Learning stops. Adaptability diminishes. Sycophants move up the ladder. Failure is sudden, surprising (at least within the organization), and often complete.
Bay of Pigs syndrome (“BPS”) It is not unknown outside of government. Almost any organization that has become too comfortable and set in its ways is vulnerable. The leadership of the American auto industry in the 1970s refused to believe there was a significant market for smaller, more fuel-efficient cars or that Congress would actually impose emissions control requirements. How many companies and industries failed to foresee the impact of the internet even as it unfolded? And organizations that promote only people skilled in appropriations battles or PR campaigns often lose their praxis (as any of you Marxists out there would say) and their readiness to perform the tasks they were created to perform.
With respect to COVID-19, we know with empirical certainty that lockdowns, mask mandates, and silly six-foot stickers on the floor in checkout lines had no effect precisely because the transmission model is grossly incomplete and the Hope-Simpson model (as opposed to Wallensksy’s “impending doom” model) was right all along. Nothing worked and that distressing news does not permeate any CDC policy guidance. Wallensky, et al., are still in a BPS bubble that has cost us all dearly.
As a wired nation, are we playing out BPS as the mode of our entire national mode of information flow? Nothing contrary to whatever is the elite’s preferred paradigm can appear in print, online, or perhaps soon, even in informal direct communication. We have a federal government run by the least mentally competent president in American history whose policies are animated by stale echoes of the administrative state envisioned by Woodrow Wilson and Benito Mussolini, by silly Marxist memes, by unbelievably stupid fiscal policies, and by radically divisive racial politics. And yet, the primary concern and mission of the entire information oligopoly are to characterize the act of noticing these obvious truths as insurrection.
Our governance, economy, military, and education system are all on an ideational suicidal glide path and the authors of our incipient disaster are only interested in shutting off the flow of bad news about that state of affairs. There is a big difference between “spin” and “How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?” but BPS moves inexorably towards the latter, usually until it’s too late.Published in