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Brave voice calling out the madness in our midst

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ANYONE reading the title of Jerome Booth’s new book, Have We All Gone Mad? Why groupthink is rising and how to stop it, must, you’d think, immediately and instinctively answer in the affirmative. Day by day, the insanity around us reaches new heights. The global commitments to come out of last week’s COP27 are but some of the latest to assail us. Jeremy Hunt’s tax, spend and waste road-to-ruin Budget and its newspeak reception by a former right-of-centre think tank is another example. The Autumn Statement was a sensible and measured response to the fiscal challenges facing the country, opined the once right wing Centre for Policy Studies, apparently unaware of the gaping divide between this reassurance and the stark economic realities

It is not just the reality gap which besets the political classes that the British economist Jerome Booth confronts in his book but the large scale group think that allows and reinforces it: 

‘In large-scale groupthink, as fear of transgression builds, particularly amongst elites, so too does acquiescence. Self-censorship takes hold and public discourse suffers. The very sense of the improbability that so many people could be wrong in itself sustains the lie. Indeed, there is a term for this: the Big Lie.’

When will people wake up to it? Not until they understand that they have indeed gone mad. Unlike most other successful men, Booth has been prepared to put his head above the parapet to say so and examine why. 

An Oxford graduate, businessman and former chairman of the board of Anglia Ruskin University, Booth’s decision to join the board of the sceptical think tank the Global Warming Policy Foundation put him, with his academic colleagues on the board – engineers, chemists, and sociologists – on its collision course with the climate change ideologues who have co-opted our national institutions, from the Universities to the Bank of England and all but a few politicians, into their cause. It’s not a comfortable place being demonised and traduced. Instead of being cowed, Booth stepped up to become the Foundation’s chairman. 

Booth’s proposition is that this madness is a symptom of our innate irrationality which, though standing at odds with our perception of being rational creatures, was always an element of the human condition. It has, he believes, been sent into hyperdrive by rapid technological innovation. Our Stone Age brain is struggling to deal with the invention of the smartphone. 

Such inventions have contributed to the undermining of our shared moral framework, cutting us ever more adrift. That in turn has encouraged what today is sometimes termed ‘safetyism’, the precautionary motive which has come to dominate decisions made in the public sphere. A populace mired in a swamp of existential fear and desperate to be coddled give it their full backing, unaware perhaps of all the unintended consequences and implications of such interventions. Lacking depth and breadth, such thinking leads to a spiral of vastly suboptimal outcomes, perpetuated by an uncritical and click-driven media. Instead of freeing people, new means of communication encourage them to fester in stifling conformity, shielded from varieties of opinions that once would have knocked the edges off their caution. These forces threaten to undermine the very values integral to the success of the West.  

Our (revisionist) history, our (new) politics and our (money printing) economic model for example are all predicated upon this new reality, propelled by the perpetually aggrieved and those pushing malign ideological pills. This grand coalescing of anti-democratic and anti-liberal (in the true sense of the word) currents combines all too easily with modern technology, offering us a Huxleyite vision of the future. Science itself, or rather stylised ‘The Science’, has become a quasi-religious enterprise, with the scientific method taking a back seat.

Booth’s book takes us on a grand tour through the psychology of group think, the impact of new technology on behaviour and relationships – the ‘Great Enfranchisement is also an incubator for progressions from tribalism and fear’ – the irrationality of quantitative easing and lockdowns and the corruption of science.  He concludes with the threat to democracy we face from today’s politics of fear.  He relies on a range of sources and thinkers from throughout history, adopting arguments posed by Socrates and, more latterly, theories put forward by the likes of Jonathan Haidt. 

Its well-reasoned argument and clear elucidation of current trends make it a persuasive account. Where some of social media’s dissenting disciples will be dismissed as going down rabbit holes, Booth cannot be. How to stop the rot, in an academic and media environment of increasing orthodoxy, censorship and curriculum control, continues to be the challenge. Men like Booth, publicly setting out their resistance to this erosion of liberalism and reason and ‘decline into non-democratic politics’, are key. 

This book and his example should stimulate others to acknowledging out loud the daily idiocy we see and embolden them to publicly challenge it before it is too late. 

Have We All Gone Mad? Why groupthink is rising and how to stop it by Jerome Booth will be published byBiteback Publishing on November 29.

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Kathy Gyngell
Kathy Gyngellhttps://www.conservativewoman.co.uk
Kathy is Editor of The Conservative Woman. She is @kathygyngelltcw on GETTR and is back on Twitter.

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