Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Tyranny of the Warm and Fuzzies

 

While reading Bari Weiss’s excellent essay “Stop Being Shocked” at Tablet, I encountered the phrase “therapeutic totalitarianism” from the Eastern Orthodox author (and occasional crank) Rod Dreher. I’m familiar enough with Dreher but do not follow him closely, but when I read his term I understood it immediately. It puts a name to the strange, bipolar philosophy on the left in which every person must feel positively affirmed about their manufactured identity, their apparently fragile minds soothed and cheered at all times by their government, their entertainment, their education, and their places of employment—that is, everyone who is a non-white and secularized progressive consumer. Everyone else must suffer for their sins at the hands of an avenging state.

Much has already been written about the consignment of us supposed “oppressors” to social gulags, and I won’t go into it further today. Rather, I’d like to reflect on the gradual rise of the therapeutic aspect from my vantage point as a millennial.

It was television commercials that alerted me; during the Obama years, I began to notice the way advertisements were crafted to make me think the product—a Honda automobile or an Apple laptop or what have you—would not simply enable me to accomplish the desired task, or raise my social status, or get me sex, but would let me finally, at long last, allow me to just, like, really be me, you know? I gradually came to call it humanist consumerism: the idea that a luxury product would allow me to realize and validate my authentic self. It’s a peculiar mix of Romantic ideals and crass materialism, both mawkish and cynical at once.

Then I noticed this on television shows themselves. America Ninja Warrior, the ultra-physical competitive event which rose to prime-time prominence over the last several years, was only partially, or even incidentally, about athleticism. Rather, at its bleeding heart were the feel-good narratives of overcoming adversity as told through the long interviews which made up a large part of the show’s total run time. I don’t watch much television, but every competition show of which I’ve caught a glimpse over the last several years has had the same format. They exist to soothe.

This transition is particularly prominent in videogames. The world of videogames is not what it was in the 80s and 90s. Over the last fifteen years, the videogame industry and its “journalist” apparatus (a glorified advertising platform, largely) has become stridently progressive and a bastion of activism by young, college-educated leftists. One of the most prominent sites is Polygon, a social justice-obsessed subsidiary of Vox which publishes material as vacuous as you’d expect. Notable examples over the years are an attack on a Polish company for creating a videogame set in a medieval fantasy Europe and not populating it with black characters and a long, incoherent tirade by a queer transgender Native American averring she had been “invalidated” by a game about Norse legend. The creators of the recent Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, a campy action game set in ancient Greece, included a female warrior-hero who at no point is recognized by the game world as a female—a fact which would certainly have come up back during the Peloponnesian War. The developers explained that they did not want anyone to feel uncomfortable with the misogyny (a Greek word!) the heroine would certainly have faced. God forbid anyone feel uncomfortable in a game in which the player slits hundreds of throats. And there are endless such examples wherein the videogame industry, its customers, and its boosters bend all their efforts towards a comfortable numbness.

Many Americans have come to expect regular doses of opiate from their screens, and they demand it from their government, too. Doubtless, the Biden Administration will spare no effort in blessing its constituents with government-sanctioned warm and fuzzies. The government exists, after all, not to protect borders (racist) or ensure order (a construct of white patriarchy), but to make everyone us the best and happiest me that we can be—and may God have mercy on those who dissent from the government’s vision of what that is.

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  1. kedavis Member

    All I need to feel good, is to see that kitten.

    • #1
    • October 19, 2020, at 1:34 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  2. colleenb Member
    colleenbJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Ah look at that cute kitten. Was there a post attached to that picture? Seriously one of the reasons I basically stopped watching the Olympics was because you saw little of the actual sports and much more of the sappy stories of struggle, etc, etc. You articulated that turn in the culture very well. Thanks.

    • #2
    • October 19, 2020, at 2:23 PM PDT
    • 13 likes
  3. Charlotte Member
    CharlotteJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    colleenb (View Comment):
    Seriously one of the reasons I basically stopped watching the Olympics was because you saw little of the actual sports and much more of the sappy stories of struggle, etc, etc.

    YES. Barf. Show the damn sports already.

    • #3
    • October 19, 2020, at 2:35 PM PDT
    • 13 likes
  4. Charlotte Member
    CharlotteJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Really interesting post, @electrodemas. I think I agree with it, mostly, but need to noodle a bit. Appreciate the food for thought.

    • #4
    • October 19, 2020, at 2:37 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. cirby Member

    That’s a big part of the reason young men (and yes, women) play games. While your character could look like anyone, when you get to the end of a session, the question is “did you win?”

    While it is, at the end of the day, “just a game,” there’s a lot of time and effort in building a character up from scratch, and maxing out the level of your MMO avatar is something that does give you at least a partial sense of accomplishment.

    With the current social world, where you could lose all of your online life for just stating a plain fact, it’s nice to be able to play as a safely anonymous character, and not worry about someone coming after you because of the color of your privilege.

     

    • #5
    • October 19, 2020, at 2:47 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  6. EB Thatcher

    Well, her article is pretty good by and large. But really, her obligatory swipe at Trump – he “has normalized bigotry and cruelty in ways that have crippled American society” – is pretty sick. By all accounts, she should be smart enough to know that for the tripe it is. She’s just saying that so her “liberal” audience (which actually was never as “liberal” as it pretended) won’t turn her off.

    • #6
    • October 19, 2020, at 2:51 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  7. TBA Coolidge

    kedavis (View Comment):

    All I need to feel good, is to see that kitten.

    That ‘kitten’ is a bear! Your trans-hatred has bee reported to the authorities. 

    • #7
    • October 19, 2020, at 2:52 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. Gossamer Cat Coolidge

    colleenb (View Comment):

    Ah look at that cute kitten. Was there a post attached to that picture? Seriously one of the reasons I basically stopped watching the Olympics was because you saw little of the actual sports and much more of the sappy stories of struggle, etc, etc. You articulated that turn in the culture very well. Thanks.

    Yes me too. I think that started with the 1972 Olympics and their “Up close and personal”. It is now completely ruining sports as I have yet to find an athlete that doesn’t have to overcome something. Some of the stories are quite inspirational but it comes at the expense of actually watching the athletes who worked so hard to get in the competition.

    • #8
    • October 19, 2020, at 3:05 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  9. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul StinchfieldJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    kedavis (View Comment):

    All I need to feel good, is to see that kitten.

    How about a social justice kitten?

    • #9
    • October 19, 2020, at 3:19 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. David Foster Member
    David FosterJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I notice that ads tend to emphasize one of two points:

    –People **Just Like You*** use and love this product!

    –This product reflects your **Uniqueness**

    Did these advertisers (or their agencies) conduct some in-depth psychographic analysis and segment the consumer universe into those who want to blend into the crowd and those who *don’t* want to blend into the crowd?…and then assign particular products as best marketed to these categories of people?…I doubt it, probably nothing involving that much deep thought…wouldn’t be surprised to see the same product advertised one week with the first approach, and the next week with the second.

     

     

    • #10
    • October 19, 2020, at 3:28 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  11. kedavis Member

    Doesn’t training for the Olympics necessarily involve overcoming something or other?

    • #11
    • October 19, 2020, at 3:52 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  12. kedavis Member

    TBA (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    All I need to feel good, is to see that kitten.

    That ‘kitten’ is a bear! Your trans-hatred has bee reported to the authorities.

    Actually the kitten is guilty of cultural appropriation.

    • #12
    • October 19, 2020, at 4:00 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  13. Kephalithos Member

    Hot take: This is what a matriarchy looks like. (It occurred to me, not long ago, that the point of feminism isn’t to turn women into men, but to eliminate men — and the masculine virtues — entirely.)

    Electro Demas: Then I noticed this in television shows themselves. America Ninja Warrior, the ultra-physical competitive event which rose to prime-time prominence over the last several years, was only partially, or even incidentally, about athleticism. Rather, at its bleeding heart were the feel-good narratives of overcoming adversity as told through the long interviews which made up a large part of the show’s total run time. I don’t watch much television, but every competition show of which I’ve caught a glimpse over the last several years has had the same format. They exist to soothe.

    The best example of this is American Idol. Every single audition — every single bleepity-bleep one — involves some kind of sob story. I’m convinced that producers simply screen out all well-adjusted and normal people before auditions start. Really, it’s amazing that some enterprising comedian hasn’t taken advantage of this obvious low-hanging fruit.

    The camera pans toward a bleary-eyed woman, who wipes a solitary tear from her cheek. “I . . . I,” she stutters. “I was born with a birthmark on my left thigh.” She sniffles. “Growing up was hard. I thought I’d never amount to anything, but . . . like, I overcame! I believed in being the best self I could possibly be! And I’m here, now, on American Idol. It taught me that, like, anything is possible.”

    • #13
    • October 19, 2020, at 4:05 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  14. Charlotte Member
    CharlotteJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Kephalithos (View Comment):
    Hot take: This is what a matriarchy looks like. (It occurred to me, not long ago, that the point of feminism isn’t to turn women into men, but to eliminate men — and the masculine virtues — entirely.)

    I’ll vote for any politician who pledges to repeal the 19th Amendment.

    • #14
    • October 19, 2020, at 4:07 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  15. Flicker Coolidge

    Charlotte (View Comment):
    19th Amendment.

    I feel that way about the 17th Amendment.

    • #15
    • October 19, 2020, at 4:12 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  16. CarolJoy, Thread Hijacker Coolidge

    This is so easy for you to write, Electro Demas! As apparently you have never faced the trauma of having your entire racial background and cultural history invalidated by a video game featuring Norsemen.

    Besides, right now, it is only fair that video games offer consolation and relaxation to the fragile egos of today’s Lefties.

    After all , we should consider that when the folks on the Left are not crying over how the earth itself will once more be a big cold empty planet revolving around a distant sun, devoid of life, and they are not worried about the mamacitas at the border nursing their infants, then they are out there pounding the crap out of 72 year old guys wearing MAGA hats.

    Or as was the case this weekend, they are worked into a lather physically assaulting a young African American man who had joined other Trump supporters. These Trump supporters were protesting the evils of the Bay area’s social media giants censoring any of us who dare to promote anything other than the new philosophy of “liberal totalitarianism.” (An oxymoron if ever there was one.)

    • #16
    • October 19, 2020, at 5:58 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  17. Maguffin Member

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Doesn’t training for the Olympics necessarily involve overcoming something or other?

    “I have faced horrible adversity presented by all these other excellent athletes who have obviously met an even greater adversity in me. But I have finally come to realize that winning this medal allows me to finally become, well, really me.”

    Translation:

    “I have crushed my enemies, seen them driven before me, and I hear the lamentation of their women!”

    Just gotta be me.

    • #17
    • October 19, 2020, at 6:15 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  18. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeekaJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I think a recent trend in marketing, etc. explains the frequent accounts of struggle and overcoming in reality programming. The advice I keep seeing is to “tell your story.” Lately, producers of programming and products believe the inspirational story is what sells. (I’m sure politicians believe this, too.) 

    • #18
    • October 19, 2020, at 6:26 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  19. Bob Armstrong Thatcher

    Electro –

    Welcome aboard Ricochet! Your posts have been so solid right out of the gate that I did not notice you were a new member. Not surprising to get some deep thoughts from a Radio Battalion guy. I was a Navy crypto-linguist, joined a year before you were born – thanks for picking up the slack.

    Keep writing, you are adding a critical perspective to the big conversations.

    • #19
    • October 19, 2020, at 6:39 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  20. CarolJoy, Thread Hijacker Coolidge

    Bob Armstrong (View Comment):

    Electro –

    Welcome aboard Ricochet! Your posts have been so solid right out of the gate that I did not notice you were a new member. Not surprising to get some deep thoughts from a Radio Battalion guy. I was a Navy crypto-linguist, joined a year before you were born – thanks for picking up the slack.

    Keep writing, you are adding a critical perspective to the big conversations.

    Thank you for shedding light on the Electro phenomena – I thought I somehow missedd this person’s insightful writing.

    And a hearty welcome aboard, ElectroDemas.

    • #20
    • October 19, 2020, at 6:41 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  21. Henry Castaigne Member

    Stories are as powerful as drugs. We should fear stories. 

    • #21
    • October 19, 2020, at 8:20 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  22. ShaunaHunt Coolidge

    Kephalithos (View Comment):

    Hot take: This is what a matriarchy looks like. (It occurred to me, not long ago, that the point of feminism isn’t to turn women into men, but to eliminate men — and the masculine virtues — entirely.)

    Electro Demas: Then I noticed this in television shows themselves. America Ninja Warrior, the ultra-physical competitive event which rose to prime-time prominence over the last several years, was only partially, or even incidentally, about athleticism. Rather, at its bleeding heart were the feel-good narratives of overcoming adversity as told through the long interviews which made up a large part of the show’s total run time. I don’t watch much television, but every competition show of which I’ve caught a glimpse over the last several years has had the same format. They exist to soothe.

    The best example of this is American Idol. Every single audition — every single bleepity-bleep one — involves some kind of sob story. I’m convinced that producers simply screen out all well-adjusted and normal people before auditions start. Really, it’s amazing that some enterprising comedian hasn’t taken advantage of this obvious low-hanging fruit.

    The camera pans toward a bleary-eyed woman, who wipes a solitary tear from her cheek. “I . . . I,” she stutters. “I was born with a birthmark on my left thigh.” She sniffles. “Growing up was hard. I thought I’d never amount to anything, but . . . like, I overcame! I believed in being the best self I could possibly be! And I’m here, now, on American Idol. It taught me that, like, anything is possible.”

    See Psych Season 2, Episode 1. It’s called American Duos. Best. Spoof.

    • #22
    • October 19, 2020, at 10:23 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  23. James Lileks Contributor

    This transition is particularly prominent in videogames. The world of videogames is not what it was in the 80s and 90s. Over the last fifteen years, the videogame industry and its “journalist” apparatus (a glorified advertising platform, largely) has become stridently progressive and a bastion of activism by young, college-educated leftists. One of the most prominent sites is Polygon, a social justice-obsessed subsidiary of Vox which publishes material as vacuous as you’d expect

    Right. Gamergate was their Beer Hall Putsch, where they defeated the forces of fascism. Shaped a lot of them, I think. 

    Notable examples over the years are an attack on a Polish company for creating a videogame set in a medieval fantasy Europe and not populating it with black characters and a long, incoherent tirade by a queer transgender Native American averring she had been “invalidated” by a game about Norse legend.

    Step one: everyone retreats to a collection of adjectives that defines their identity in broad, flaming strokes, and establishes their position in the intersectionality lattice.

    Step two: everyone demands that all cultural products be rearranged to include their collection of adjectives. If the cultural milieu does not reflect your adjectives, it is proof that the milieu is either A) “erasing” people who no doubt existed in abundance, or B) intentionally non-inclusive, and reinforcing hurtful oppressive paradigms. 

    Step three: sic twitter mobs on a developer who says “well, it’s a 12th century Finnish setting, so yeah, everyone’s a Finn.” Write articles about how this statement caused Harm and everyone involved should Do Better.

    They’re a miserable lot, and a perfect example of what you get when you immerse unhappy, alienated people in the unreality of social media and video games.

    • #23
    • October 19, 2020, at 10:27 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  24. TBA Coolidge

    I remember when Tomb Raider and Metroid were big. The creators took a risk that the primarily male video gamers would play games with female characters.

    Wasn’t a very big risk as it turns out, because people identify with the protagonist in a story. Unless they are so sexist or racist that they can’t. 

     

    • #24
    • October 20, 2020, at 12:24 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  25. CarolJoy, Thread Hijacker Coolidge

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    This transition is particularly prominent in videogames. The world of videogames is not what it was in the 80s and 90s. Over the last fifteen years, the videogame industry and its “journalist” apparatus (a glorified advertising platform, largely) has become stridently progressive and a bastion of activism by young, college-educated leftists. One of the most prominent sites is Polygon, a social justice-obsessed subsidiary of Vox which publishes material as vacuous as you’d expect

    Right. Gamergate was their Beer Hall Putsch, where they defeated the forces of fascism. Shaped a lot of them, I think.

    Notable examples over the years are an attack on a Polish company for creating a videogame set in a medieval fantasy Europe and not populating it with black characters and a long, incoherent tirade by a queer transgender Native American averring she had been “invalidated” by a game about Norse legend.

    Step one: everyone retreats to a collection of adjectives that defines their identity in broad, flaming strokes, and establishes their position in the intersectionality lattice.

    Step two: everyone demands that all cultural products be rearranged to include their collection of adjectives. If the cultural milieu does not reflect your adjectives, it is proof that the milieu is either A) “erasing” people who no doubt existed in abundance, or B) intentionally non-inclusive, and reinforcing hurtful oppressive paradigms.

    Step three: sic twitter mobs on a developer who says “well, it’s a 12th century Finnish setting, so yeah, everyone’s a Finn.” Write articles about how this statement caused Harm and everyone involved should Do Better.

    They’re a miserable lot, and a perfect example of what you get when you immerse unhappy, alienated people in the unreality of social media and video games.

    Jordan Peterson was discussing how children become well adjusted adults through ample time spent in childhood imagining things: playing cops and robbers, pirates and Peter Pan/Wendy, cowboys and Indians. The kids adopt different roles. In my old neighborhood we played James Bond vs villains of note, plus glamor roles for us girls (If we didn’t wanna play villains.) The most talented youngster among us – she could play the snooty society mean girl, followed by the sinister gangster, and then become a funeral director, rodeo clown and more. (In the space of an hour.)

    Peterson went on to postulate that the most recent generations spent less time doing this. So they have all this bottled up need to play at being different roles, such that some are inclined to need to consider changing their sex. If only they had played at role play when they were five to thirteen!

    • #25
    • October 20, 2020, at 1:37 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  26. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western ChauvinistJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Wow, excellent writing! Welcome to R>. 

    • #26
    • October 20, 2020, at 4:29 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  27. Kozak Member
    KozakJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    TBA (View Comment):

    I remember when Tomb Raider and Metroid were big. The creators took a risk that the primarily male video gamers would play games with female characters.

    Wasn’t a very big risk as it turns out, because people identify with the protagonist in a story. Unless they are so sexist or racist that they can’t.

     

    Well it helped that the female character in Tomb Raider had gigantic ……

    • #27
    • October 20, 2020, at 4:34 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  28. Vectorman Member

    David Foster (View Comment):
    Did these advertisers (or their agencies) conduct some in-depth psychographic analysis and segment the consumer universe into those who want to blend into the crowd and those who *don’t* want to blend into the crowd?…and then assign particular products as best marketed to these categories of people?…I doubt it, probably nothing involving that much deep thought…wouldn’t be surprised to see the same product advertised one week with the first approach, and the next week with the second.

    During my college years starting in 1970, I wrote a satirical piece for Rhetoric 101 based on these concepts. This was just after the campus riots in the late 1960’s. About the same time a small soft drink company changed their 1960 advertising from:

    to the classic 1977:

    Notice the 1960’s ad mostly states the unique taste, but (at 0:42) it states “Join the Proud Crowd.” By 1977, it’s all “get on the bandwagon.” Appealing to many of us Boomers, but not to me.

    • #28
    • October 20, 2020, at 6:46 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  29. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western ChauvinistJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Vectorman (View Comment):

    David Foster (View Comment):
    Did these advertisers (or their agencies) conduct some in-depth psychographic analysis and segment the consumer universe into those who want to blend into the crowd and those who *don’t* want to blend into the crowd?…and then assign particular products as best marketed to these categories of people?…I doubt it, probably nothing involving that much deep thought…wouldn’t be surprised to see the same product advertised one week with the first approach, and the next week with the second.

    During my college years starting in 1970, I wrote a satirical piece for Rhetoric 101 based on these concepts. This was just after the campus riots in the late 1960’s. About the same time a small soft drink company changed their 1960 advertising from:

    to the classic 1977:

    Notice the 1960’s ad mostly states the unique taste, but (at 0:42) it states “Join the Proud Crowd.” By 1977, it’s all “get on the bandwagon.” Appealing to many of us Boomers, but not to me.

    You gotta love the incoherence of the second message: “I’m part of an original crowd” implying uniqueness. Now, be just like me and conform! This might have been the beginning of the end of “counter-culture” on the Left. 

    • #29
    • October 20, 2020, at 6:58 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  30. Michael Brehm Coolidge

    There was some more videogame-related sturm and drang related to the latest Dungeons and Dragons game, Baldur’s Gate 3. This is a dog bites man story at this point because every videogame released generates the same hand-wringing articles about something “problematic” decision made in the game’s development. 

    The game features a robust character creation system and the developers decided to make a composite character based on the player bases most commonly chosen features in character creation. The end result was a caucasian looking human guy in Renaissance get-up.

    This naturally got all the so-called “journalists” up in arms demanding things such as vitiligo skintones and handicapped characters (because the guy in the wheelchair is exactly who you want to traverse a subterranean labyrinth populated with monsters and booby traps).

    • #30
    • October 20, 2020, at 6:59 AM PDT
    • 3 likes