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Ninety-nine delusions: making problems vanish
The power of misdirection, illusion and magical thinking
When I was a teenager, I watched as magician David Copperfield, on live television, vanished the Statue of Liberty. Of course, as we all know now (and pretty much knew) that he didn’t really make the icon in New York go away. The laws of physics and all being pretty much established as truth, even I knew it was an illusion. It was actually a pretty impressive bit of simple engineering and massive showmanship. In the video, you can see the glare on top of the “radar screen” just before the blip disappears, and the big reveal takes place. That’s the tell—the stage was moving, subtly, while the live and television audience was focused on the light show from a fixed perspective.
Copperfield never pretended he had magic powers, only the power of illusion. On the other end of the entertainment spectrum, Uri Geller never pierced the kayfabe—he has always maintained that his spoon-bending is some mental ability that you too can develop if you just think hard enough. Over the years, until very recently, Geller’s insistence “it’s real” has raised the hackles of the magician community, who know better. Besides the fact that both Geller and Copperfield (born David Seth Kotkin) are both good-looking Jewish men with Israeli roots, they both possess that key ingredient that makes magic, well, magical: They are showmen.
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Showmanship is one path to magical thinking. Another is religious fervor—not necessarily backed by an actual religion, but the same in its nature as followers insist on purity of doctrine and surety of eschatology. A third path, as The Racket News readers certainly know, is politics.
For five or six decades, Democrats have controlled most of the major cities in America. The policies they’ve embraced over those years have led to San Francisco becoming a commercial ghost town. We’re being told that COVID-19 is responsible for the city’s last-place ranking in recovery from the pandemic (according to the University of Toronto study that looked at mobility device activity to measure unique visitors). Cleveland and Portland Oregon round out the 61-63rd places in the list. But perhaps instead of COVID-19 being the cause, it is only the catalyst to expose the decades of misdirection and illusion that the policies put in place for many cities actually worked.
Cities like Boston struggle with mass transit, yet one of the almost-religious tenets of the left (especially the green left) is that humans will need to be packed into cities, and give up cars, in order to survive in a climate-change world. The same central planners and government geeks who can’t keep the trains running, or keep tunnels from collapsing under the weight of corrupt and bloated, unaccountable bureaucracy, think Americans must submit to these same planners and their magical plans to make problems vanish like Copperfield vanished the Statue of Liberty.
If you strip away the misdirections and hand-waving around current push for electric vehicle adoption, you find a few actual policies that are politically unpalatable for a great majority of Americans. Andrew Stuttaford at National Review broke down a skewering report by Mark Mills of the Manhattan Institute on EVs, titled “Electric Vehicles for Everyone? The Impossible Dream.” The real goal isn’t to get everyone to drive EVs: it is that nobody drive at all, at least the way we’re used to.
Mandating EVs when the market isn’t ready, the infrastructure isn’t ready, and internal combustion-powered cars still hold the biggest pull in vehicle sales by far, is folly. It’s like Uri Geller saying he can bend spoons with his mind. Yet the central planners continue to insist it’s not only possible, but it’s possible without massive investments in nuclear power, battery technology that doesn’t involve slave labor, carbon-spewing energy production, and a complete overhaul of our distribution grid. Their real plan is to simply eliminate ICE-powered cars with no good alternative other than extremely expensive and supply-challenged EVs.
If you know me, you know I’m a fan of EVs. I own one. I hope the whole world eventually switches to what I see as a more convenient, less-polluting, and maybe one day, nearly-unlimited range option (I will admit, convenience is only a function of having a garage or driveway and home charger). Still, I don’t think EVs are for everyone or for every purpose. We are probably a few decades away from even contemplating the possibility of the nirvana the central planners see with their magic glasses.
One tell of their illusion is the heaping of derision upon Toyota chief Akio Toyoda. The grandson of Kiichiro Toyoda, Akio made the horrible mistake of speaking his mind, exposing the trickery behind the battery-EV-only mindset the magicians in liberal politics have plied in front of audiences. The Wall Street Journal reported in December 2020:
“When politicians are out there saying, ‘Let’s get rid of all cars using gasoline,’ do they understand this?” Mr. Toyoda said Thursday at a year-end news conference in his capacity as chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.
This was lost in the heat of COVID, but now there’s pressure to push Toyoda aside for his heresy. Toyota has long been a pioneer in hybrid and PHEV development. But the company’s strategy is not to plunge headlong into BEV mass production. The religious gods of the left will not be satisfied with such half-measures. Hybrids are still ICE-powered, and nothing short of their elimination will be an acceptable offering before the climate change deities.
Getting to politics and unpopular policies; nobody is going to want to vote for green-tinged magical thinking. Eventually, the trick will be exposed, and the people will not tolerate elimination of ICE-powered cars, policies that seek to punish rural and suburban single-family dwellers who are not also millionaires, and job-vanishing (the real kind) central planning that leads to increased crime, blight, and homelessness.
That is, unless the other options are more repugnant.
This, to me, explains the obsession of the left to simultaneously demonize anyone who ever expressed anything short of complete denouncement of Donald Trump, and try to associate every Republican to him, while giving those same individuals lots of press time. It also explains why the left is so enamored with Trump, to make Trump the actual leader, the de-facto avatar for anyone not completely aligned with members of the very-online political left’s goals. The real politicians who are being cast aside include West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who can’t buy off on those goals, but retains the titular identity of Democrat.
Magical thinking is prevalent on both sides of the political aisle. My fear is that Trumpist thinking is actually less magical than the left’s. If he attains office again, Trump really can expand presidential powers over federal agencies. He really can make some nightmare scenarios of authoritarian rule happen. Which means the magical thinking of the left, which is mostly based on illusion, is preferable to the actual nightmare.
This will only work until the trick is over and the real vanished objects come back into view, of course. Democrats can’t force perspective to make Republicans into monsters forever, right? Well, that is, unless Republicans become actual monsters. And it is our responsibility not to let that happen.
Because the problems won’t magically vanish on their own.