The Toxicity of Fad Psychology

Patrick Keeney
October 23, 2021
Emotions and motivations are everything in current culture, facts and actions secondary at best. The most flamboyant unveilings of inner anguish are seen as understandable if not downright heroic. But how did we get to a state where restraint and privacy are considered not merely cold but signs of actual disorder? Drawing on his extensive experience in academia and long observation of cultural trends, Patrick Keeney finds a kindred spirit in Jesse Singal, who mercilessly but cheerfully lays bare the conceptual confusion, scientific pretensions and damaging effects of what he terms “fad” psychology.
Emotions and motivations are everything in current culture, facts and actions secondary at best. The most flamboyant unveilings of inner anguish are seen as understandable if not downright heroic. But how did we get to a state where restraint and privacy are considered not merely cold but signs of actual disorder? Drawing on his extensive experience in academia and long observation of cultural trends, Patrick Keeney finds a kindred spirit in Jesse Singal, who mercilessly but cheerfully lays bare the conceptual confusion, scientific pretensions and damaging effects of what he terms “fad” psychology.
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Current News

Electric Vehicles
What are the attractions of an electric vehicle? Beyond the cool aura of modernity and virtue-signaling, there’s also the financial angle. Buyers of gasoline-powered cars and trucks pay sticker price in the showroom and then shell out for hefty fuel taxes once they’re on the road. EV owners get massive subsidies and then pay nothing to zip around town. But what happens when EVs become as commonplace as smartphones? Peter Shawn Taylor looks at the experience in jurisdictions already wrestling with the disappearance of gas tax revenue and warns Canadian drivers to brace themselves for some big changes in how they use the roads.
Public Communications
That society is comprised of thoughtful, competent adults is the underlying premise of all democratic societies. But if grown-ups can be trusted to pick their own governments and paths in life, why are they treated like children when it comes to Covid-19? Why is it so hard to get the straight goods on everything from comparative risks to surface cleaning? Martin Grünn tackles the lack of clarity in government messaging and explains how proper data and analysis can reveal – rather than obscure – our path out of the pandemic.
Energy and Environment
Among the many mysteries of our age is why, when faced with clear and sustained evidence that their seemingly laudable goal is unachievable, proponents neither reflect nor modify their plan. They simply double-down. Failed methods are intensified, public spending and subsidies are raised, commitments are restated in ever-more grandiose terms, marketing campaigns become deafening – and doubters are vilified rather than debated in good faith. Following his recent comments on how to deal, in a practical way, with global carbon dioxide emissions, Gwyn Morgan experienced the full force of this latter phenomenon. Here, he responds to his critics.

On Point

Private Sector Innovation

Could the Pandemic Finally Bring Health Care Reform?

Andy Crooks
Frontier policy

Canada, Covid and Borders

Mathew Preston
Canada & LNG

Canada’s Moral Obligation to the World

Steve Larke and Adam Le Dain

Global Newsstand

Bari Weiss Substack
This month Beijing ordered with the University of Hong Kong to remove the 26-foot high statue “Pillar of Shame,” the city’s last memorial to the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Writing for Common Sense with Bari Weiss, Eli Lake draws a straight line from the Taliban’s much-decried destruction of 6th century stone Buddhas in 2001 to China’s own lamentable erasure of history. 
City Journal
Move over Australia, there’s a new prison colony in town. Once proud of its ability to “Keep Calm and Carry On,” Britain is well on its way to earning the title of “most frightened nation in the world,” says Lionel Shriver in City Journal. As Covid-19 rules and restrictions proliferate, she observes that part of the problem is Britain’s lack of a written constitution or bill of rights.  
Amid mass confusion over how to make sense of the deluge of statistics unleashed by Covid-19, Leslie Bienen, Eric Happel and Tracy Beth Hᴓeg offer some relief for the puzzled and math averse. Writing in the online publication Persuasion, these math experts lay down four simple rules that can bring clarity to overheated concerns about pandemic risk.

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September 2020 Issue

Page 1 | Thirteen Things That Can’t Be Said About Aboriginal Law And Policy In Canada
Page 7 | The WE Charity Scandal: One of Many
Page 14 | Escaping The Echo Chamber
Page 1 | Thirteen Things That Can’t Be Said About Aboriginal Law And Policy In Canada
Page 7 | The WE Charity Scandal: One of Many
Page 14 | Escaping The Echo Chamber


Vaccines and Truth
In Part One of this special series, Lynne Cohen chronicled the story of how early vaccines were created and the amazing individuals who brought them into being. Vaccines are one of humanity’s signal achievements, saving hundreds of millions of lives. Yet is that reason enough to abandon all skepticism regarding Covid-19 inoculations? Are they just like the smallpox vaccine of 225 years ago or the polio vaccine from the 1950s – or do they work differently? And if so, in what ways? Grant A. Brown takes a careful, evidence-based look at these important questions, beginning with an overview of viruses and how standard vaccines behave, and then comparing that with the key characteristics, behaviour and performance of the latest Covid-19 vaccines.
Campaign 2021
As the federal election campaign degenerates from vicious name-calling to literal sticks and stones, the idea of governing the country by balancing competing visions, policies, regions and demands seems quaint, if not antique. But perhaps this absence of equilibrium only serves to highlight its value. Preston Manning makes the case for bringing greater balance to a wide range of topics, including economic policies, Covid-19 restrictions, the environment, federal-provincial relations and even identity politics. What’s required to get there are political leaders committed to hearing both sides of the issues – and an electorate that demands it.
Equality and Justice
His commitment to universal rights began in high school, his admiration for Martin Luther King Jr. runs deep, he spent years representing underprivileged defendants in the legal system, and he wrote a book on behalf of Indigenous people and their environment. Robert Girvan believes passionately in the equality of every person and has a visceral horror of prejudging anyone based on their race, colour or other immutable characteristics. He respects Canada’s system of laws and considers even-handed justice among humanity’s noblest ideals. The former defence lawyer and Crown prosecutor believes all of that is under attack – by what he used to consider his own side. Girvan bares his heart and soul in dissecting the grave threats to liberal ideas and Canada’s very institutions posed by the increasingly extreme diversity and identity politics movements.
Vaccines and Truth
As the shouting over mandatory Covid-19 vaccination grows louder, as people cement their positions and refuse to budge, as dissenters are vilified, bullied, threatened and forced to get the shot or lose their jobs, and as some in their ranks discredit their cause, we are losing all perspective. Informed decisions – how to vote, what to say in conversation, whether to get vaccinated – require real knowledge. And while the sheer flow of information nowadays is infinite, the truth becomes more opaque and elusive. Welcome to C2C Journal’s special series on vaccines. It is aimed at offering a broad perspective in a calm delivery, in order to inform you and help you preserve your ability to think independently – the basis of individual freedom itself. In Part One, Lynne Cohen offers an appreciative overview of the struggles to develop some of history’s most important vaccines, and the remarkable individuals who stopped at nothing to get them done.
Finances of Parenting
Political theory suggests that freedom and equity are opposing concepts. Allowing greater individual autonomy is assumed to curtail fairness for the less advantaged, and vice versa. Not so when it comes to the 2021 electoral debate over childcare – one of the few areas of sharp contrast between the two main parties. Peter Shawn Taylor takes a close look at the Liberals’ proposed national childcare system and the Conservatives’ refundable childcare tax credit and finds one option delivers not only greater choice for all parents, but superior support for low-income families as well as the promise of new spaces.
Reconciliation and Truth
The past few months have shown there’s no shortage of people willing to hurl accusations, issue demands and unleash uncontrolled emotions. Such tactics have flooded political life in our age. By contrast, lowering the emotional temperature, proposing a reasonable way out of the mess and driving toward a real resolution are in short supply. In the third and final instalment of C2C’s three-part series on unmarked graves at former Indian Residential Schools (Part 1 can be read here and Part 2 can be read here), Gourav Jaswal examines how other countries have faced the challenge of national reconciliation, then charts a path for Canada to take.
Future of Education
Kids are heading back to school – much to the relief of millions of parents – but in Alberta they are marching back to a curriculum and teaching mindset bearing the imprint of the previous NDP government’s “progressive” ideology, including the virtual erasure of history. It is an open question whether the current UCP government’s controversial education reforms will proceed. Student Lucas Robertson, for his part, hopes that they do. Robertson has loved classical history since before he began elementary school, and he sees rightness, truth, valid purpose and even beauty in Alberta’s plan to teach today’s kids about ancient people and events. Parents across Canada take note, for the outcome in Alberta could have national implications.
Indigenous Reconciliation
The reported discovery of unmarked graves at former Indian Residential Schools confirmed what many Canadians thought they already knew about this now-discredited system. But how much of this foundational knowledge is actually true? Did “all” Indigenous children attend residential schools? Were they forced to go? Was this done over the objections of their parents and chiefs? How did the buried students die? And what, in turn, was the system’s real purpose? In Part Two of this special three-part series, Hymie Rubenstein digs deep into the historical record in the search for answers to these difficult questions.
Airport Privatization
Airports are not just crucial pieces of transportation infrastructure, they’re also economic engines for the cities and regions they serve. But airports require vast amounts of capital to build, run and modernize. With governments at all levels mired in debt, who will supply that capital? Across most of the world, it’s private-sector investors – something expressly forbidden in Canada. Drawing on expert opinion and insight, Peter Shawn Taylor makes the case for allowing this country’s airports to join the modern world by accessing equity markets. But first they’ll have to free themselves from Canada’s antiquated and burdensome airport policy.
Science and Ideology
We inhabit an age when science – and even more so, scientists and other experts – are revered and exercise pervasive influence over government policy and public life. Much of the public, it seems, has come to assume that science is the source of all knowledge and truth. Accordingly, new policies, laws or regulations are routinely claimed to be “driven by the science.” But is all of this justified? Is it really science-based? Does science itself have no limits? Drawing on the wisdom of his lifelong scientific career, Jim Mason reviews essential characteristics of science and warns how hubris and ambition can steer scientists and governments very far from the path of science. For voters to properly assess the merits of claims and “solutions” drawing their authority from science, Mason believes it is essential that they understand some fundamental things about science itself.
Policy Imitating Art
Fascinated by the metaphysics of the city, 20th century Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico produced jarring urban scenes bereft of people and normal human bustle. He meant to trigger contemplation; he didn’t actually hate people. The tiny minds who run our governments, control our public health agencies and staff our hospital system seem to have taken de Chirico’s metaphorical presentations as an operating blueprint, for in David Solway’s view they have delivered a globe-girdling art installation using the world’s cities as their canvas. From soaring commercial vacancy rates and boarded-up businesses in hundreds of the world’s second-tier cities to the moonscape that Manhattan has largely become, Solway denounces the incalculable damage wrought not by SARS-CoV-2 itself – but the government response to it.
Reconciliation vs. Recrimination
When disturbing evidence is unearthed that points to malfeasance by individuals, organizations or entire countries, it is understandable that feelings would run high among the aggrieved parties. But are unrestrained emotionalism, exaggeration and wild accusation the proper responses for politicians, experts, commentators and the population at large? How does this help a nation get at the truth, pursue justice or settle accounts – let alone move the parties along the path of forgiveness and reconciliation? In Part One of this special three-part series, Hymie Rubenstein sorts through the heated claims and allegations and sets forth what is actually known about the unmarked graves at Canada’s former Indian Residential Schools.
Schooling Our Kids
It is clear that “progressives” are intent on rewriting, discrediting or wiping out the past. That context helps to clarify the left’s horror at Alberta’s proposed new K-6 school curriculum. Its fact-based approach to elementary schooling includes the history of Western civilization back to its beginnings, and to progressives, that simply cannot stand. With the curriculum’s comment period open until next spring, the controversy continues to boil. A lifelong educator, Patrick Keeney well knows what progressives have been up to. Keeney sees this as the moment when parents and all those who believe in a genuinely liberal education can take back our schools.
Climate Politics
The zeal with which many politicians push environmental policies seems in almost inverse proportion to their practicality. The more expensive, unrealistic, utopian and unachievable, the more it animates them. Justin Trudeau and his key ministers are the apotheosis of this tendency, appearing determined to wreck western Canada’s economy and ruin the prosperity of millions in an impossible quest to “save the planet.” The economic carnage and impoverishment they’ll wreak seems almost like a feature rather than a bug, worn like a national hairshirt or display of religious penance. Gwyn Morgan, however, believes it’s still possible to craft a Canadian emissions reduction strategy based on facts and economic opportunity rather than ideology and fantasy. Canada, he explains, “can do good by doing well” – reducing global emissions by exporting to eager markets around the world a Canadian natural resource that we have in practically unlimited supply.
Public displays of history
Just a few years ago we passed them on the street without a second thought. Today, they’re political minefields. Statues are one way for a society to remember its heroes and its great moments. But amid a rethinking of our past, perhaps we need a new way to decide which heroes are worthy of remembering, and which moments were truly great. Setting aside the heated rhetoric and rampant vandalism currently determining the fate of Canada’s statues of historical figures, Lloyd W. Robertson surveys the global experience and looks for ways to reconcile public memorials from the past with present-day concerns.   

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