Discover more from Lies are Unbekoming
Weapons grade Neuroticism
Gents, you are not off the hook, I’ll deal with you in a separate stack.
One of the most important books I read during the GMC was Dr. Mark McDonald’s short gem, The United States of Fear. The first two short chapters are some of the most important writings of the GMC, in my opinion, and are worth sharing far and wide. To that end, I hope that Mark will forgive me this blatant breach of copyright, but for my sin I have bought and handed out multiple copies of his book.
If you haven’t bought the book, and you get some value out of this stack, please support his work:
If you have, maybe consider buying a copy for someone else.
Mark, in the introduction wrote what is arguably my favourite paragraph of the GMC:
When a number of associated delusions organize themselves into an irrational belief system, a state of psychosis can develop. When the man who believes the world is out to get him also insists that his restaurant food is poisoned, that his wife is having a lesbian affair with the neighbor’s daughter, and that his boss is somehow involved in both—he is psychotic.
He may still be able to function quite well despite this, insisting that he be allowed to bring his own food with him when eating out, for example. Those around him may consider his behavior to be odd, but what if every diner in the restaurant brought his own food with him? Would that behavior still be considered odd? What if every restaurant insisted that customers brought their own food with them “to ensure everyone’s safety?” The one patron choosing to instead order from the menu would be seen as irresponsible and even dangerous.
The following is chapter one of the book, with some thoughts and commentary. With thanks and gratitude to Mark McDonald.
The Terrorization of Women: A Brief Cultural History
There is a reason why the name “Karen” was chosen to describe people who accost strangers and shame them for “unsafe” behaviors such as standing too close or not wearing a mask outdoors: Those people are overwhelmingly women.
In the summer of 2020, I was invited to attend an informal gathering in a neighbor’s driveway. A professional musician, the neighbor wanted to lift the spirits of everyone on the block by offering a recital with her classical music performance group. It sounded lovely. When I arrived, though, I saw that the entire audience was wearing masks—outdoors. The way they had arranged their chairs, it was also clear they wanted to be far apart from one another. The musicians themselves (all women) were also sitting far apart from one another and also wearing masks. The group leader informed me that I would need to stand somewhere away from the driveway unless I wore a mask.
I could sense that my mere presence was making many of the women there uncomfortable—all because I chose to breathe freely and not cover my face with a ceremonial piece of cloth. The entire affair resembled a cult meeting, where all reason had been banished. In its place was a worship of fear. I chose to leave after a few songs, as the experience became unpleasant and not at all uplifting. For this frightened group of women, an outdoor neighborhood concert had become a potential super-spreader event.
What was clear to me was that fear and anxiety had driven these women to attempt to control everyone around them.
Wearing a mask outdoors has always been irrefutably irrational. There is no evidence that any significant number of people have caught a respiratory infection by being outdoors. To defy all reason and common sense and demand that those around you follow suit is simply tyrannical. This behavior stems from emotional instability and hysteria, not from a reasonable concern for health and safety. Social norms used to contain intrusive overreach into the decision-making of others when it did not infringe onto your basic rights. No more. In the name of safety, any order is justified and not subject to questioning.
In actual fact, in Australia there was not a SINGLE proven case of outdoor transmission. It was 100% indoors.
This new drive to control others appears to be driven by fear—and it is also propelled largely by women. As the 2020 Pew Survey revealed, there is a substantial difference in anxiety levels between men and women today, especially young, unmarried women. This raises the question: Why are they so afraid?
That women are more anxious and fearful than men is a provocative statement. It may be condemned as insensitive or even misogynistic. The majority of my patients are women, however, and I am committed to their welfare. My work involves helping them improve their emotional and psychological functioning. Yet just as male and female bodies differ in their relative risks of physical disease, from my clinical training and experience, I know that male and female psychologies differ, too. The Pew study may at first appear bewildering, but the results begin to make sense when those real male and female differences are honestly assessed and taken into account.
It falls under what is called trait Neuroticism. Here is Peterson talking about it within the context of the Big Five personality aspects.
He, among other things, is a world authority of personality profiling. Here is his paper on the subject.
I did the Understanding Myself profile, and so did my wife and son, and we compared notes.
Here is how we compared on Neuroticism:
I’m on the left, and my wife is in the middle.
With my 39 score, that means I have less trait Neuroticism than the average person, but compared to my wife and son, I would be the worrywart.
It breaks down into two sub aspects, Withdrawal and Volatility. As you can see, I am happy to be alone while my wife loves spending time with others. In fact, she is an outlier!
Our son has picked up his mother’s outgoing nature and his father’s low volatility. A damn good combo.
In this chapter, I will explore the roots of this anxiety among American women, which has, by every measure, been growing for decades.
McDonald refers to American women, but I’m looking at you Australian women, don’t think he isn’t talking about you. We are America-Lite here, and in some respects have absorbed the negative aspects of American Safetyism even more than the Americans themselves. It’s canned Nanny State for a reason.
Let’s start with basic biological realities. Women, as a sex, are physically smaller and weaker than men; therefore, to some degree, women have good reason to be fearful. Unless she is armed, a woman is at a distinct disadvantage if attacked by a man.
Contrary to what most people believe, though, women are not disproportionately victims of violent crime. As of 2019, in urban centers, men and women were victimized in equal percentages. Living in a suburban or rural area is protective for women, whose rates of victimization are up to one-third lower than they are for men. Crime victims do report, however, being victimized far more frequently by men than by women. Men make up 75 percent of all offenders.
This would account for women feeling disproportionately fearful of men, particularly single women who live in urban areas. As women marry and begin having children, they often relocate to suburban neighborhoods, where crime rates are lower. One would expect, then, that anxiety would be worse for young women living in cities, which is supported by the Pew study.
Men and women differ in other ways, too. Evolutionary psychology has shown there to be significant differences between the personalities of men and women. Numerous studies reveal that women report higher levels of neuroticism, extroversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness compared to men. Moreover, these differences become apparent early in life and persist into old age. This large body of research shows that male/female differences are not necessarily culturally dependent, nor are they developmentally mediated. These differences reveal themselves in my private practice, where anxiety disorders are far more common in my female patients than in my male patients. Phobic disorders, in particular, present almost exclusively in women.
Women are also more vulnerable due to their higher degree of empathy and attachment to others, especially the most vulnerable. Women have always served as the primary caretakers of infants and children, as well as of elderly parents. The unique attachment a mother develops for her child includes an ever-present fear, to a varying degree, of injury and loss. British psychoanalyst David Winnicott described this most clearly over fifty years ago in his theory of “primary maternal preoccupation.” New mothers are biologically conditioned to develop a powerful identification with their babies that supplants every other relationship in her life for some time. This is the main reason fathers often feel left out at home once their baby arrives. Many take this personally and feel rejected by their wives, leading to stress in the marital relationship. In my practice, I explain to new mothers and fathers that the intense focus the mother brings towards her baby is a necessary and healthy one. In fact, it serves a psychological need for the baby’s normal development. Even after the period of primary maternal preoccupation ends, generally within the first year of the baby’s life, mothers continue to serve a role quite different from that of fathers: They are the immediate protectors of a child’s physical and emotional safety. For a new mother, this hyper-focus on her baby is not a weakness but rather a biological necessity, even as it may render her emotionally overprotective and otherwise relationally limited for a time.
As children grow up, their mothers continue to face emotional challenges due to fear and anxiety. School admissions, down to the level of kindergarten or earlier, have become a nearly universal source of anxiety for my female patients. Others invest themselves emotionally in their children’s success, and the most accepted measure of success today—for those under age eighteen—is education. The assumption that admission to a competitive school drives future professional achievement and social standing goes unchallenged in most circles. Few parents are aware of the work of Dale and Krueger, who showed in their 2002 and 2011 publications that the selectivity of a school has little to no bearing on professional success. Rather it is the qualities that earned them admission—discipline, intelligence, maturity—that led to their success. Unfortunately, this is lost on most parents.
Overwhelmingly, I find that it is mothers rather than fathers who suffer from impairing anxiety over a child’s grades and school admissions, to the point of requiring medication to cope with the worry. This has led some parents I know who put their children’s health at risk by agreeing to comply with experimental vaccine mandates to maintain enrollment at LA’s prestigious private schools.
It's no coincidence that female dominated occupations have been major sources and drivers of the GMC. Let’s look at just three:
Teachers: Unions called on governments to shut down schools, because their main constituents, terrified teachers didn’t want to catch the bug and then take it home and kill their, the teachers’, parents. As we know, no amount of data proving that the kids were safe made a difference.
Nurses: Most staff in hospitals are women. Hospitals, like schools, have behaved appallingly towards society. They have been engines of anxiety, fear, discrimination, and outright inhumanity.
Human Resource Departments: Heavily female dominated. These people have written the rules at a corporate level. All these “working from home” polices were conceived and enacted by these departments. They are the tail that wags the weak dog. Also, don’t forget about the workplace jab mandates that exist when where the government doesn’t mandate it. I’m looking at you Woolworths.
Of course, the fact that more women than men call on me for help with their anxiety disorder could simply be due to a filtering bias. Perhaps women are more likely than men to seek professional help with emotional illness. That does not appear to be the reason why anxiety disorders in my practice predominate in women, however. The research in this field has been remarkably consistent. Women have been shown to be significantly more phobic than men, for example. In one study of nearly 27,000 women across cultures, women displayed nearly double the prevalence of generalized anxiety and panic disorder compared with men. Greater susceptibility to fear, then—both rational and otherwise—appears to be a natural consequence of being a woman.
Biology and psychology alone, though, cannot fully explain why women today suffer from such a disparity of fear and anxiety compared with men. Women have always been mothers. They have always had to protect their children from danger. Their relative physical weakness and vulnerability to physical harm from men have remained constant throughout time. By any objective measure, women are physically safer now than they have ever been, with violent crime rates at all-time lows in most cities through the end of 2019.
This protective instinct point makes me think of a recent, and for some uncomfortable, exchange with a reader. She wrote:
Dr Palevsky is an American paediatrician. His website has links to lots of interviews and a great section of advice on what to do if your child is sick, when not to call the doctor. I've known about him for years and listened to one interview about a year ago and in it he gives his opinion on a big, difficult, question: why do mothers, and it is mostly mothers who take babies to get their jabs and who care for them when they are sick after they get their jabs, allow their babies to get so many jabs?
His view is that these mums don't take personal responsibility for protecting the health of their babies, they outsource it to doctors. I think that is right. These mums find it easier to let someone else take responsibility and sadly they choose the wrong person.
You may be annoyed that I discuss mums, but in my experience, mums make most medical decisions.
The reason I think this, is that I know plenty of non-vaccinating mums and they think differently. They don't trust anyone. They take advice, do their own research and make their own decisions on all medical problems their children face, hoping they have thought it through well enough. For them, and for me, protecting our baby’s health is our personal responsibility. They don't say it, I never said it when my sons were young, it is just our instinct. So, whereas I let my eldest son get his Hep B jab because I hadn't expected to be confronted with the decision 24 hours after he was born, I then did my research, I searched for the reason that justified the jab and didn't find it, knowing I had to find it was me following my maternal instinct. I know a mum who took her eldest child to get his 2, 4 and 6 month jabs. At the third visit she said to her mother (who is anti-vax but respected that her daughter was on her own journey) “why am I in tears?” and her mother replied, “because you are ignoring your maternal instinct”. So, for us being awake is not about being clever, it is about following, not suppressing, our instinct. I struggle here to explain it to you because we don't really understand why other mums don't think and behave the way we do.
Anyway, listen to Dr Palevsky he is diplomatic and expert and explains his view on the willingness of parents to outsource their thinking on protecting their babies. You may interpret what he says differently, I may not express myself well on this, maternal instinct is a hard topic to be objective about when you are a mum.
And so it is, that fathers outsourced the decision (as I did) to mothers who outsourced the decision to doctors who are captured ideologically (from university) or willfully ignorant. Remember that mortgages create beliefs.
The rubber hits the road in childhood vaccination when a mother enters a doctor’s office.
I think it may be that the cultural terrorisation of woman has contributed to damaging the normally functioning, suspicious, protective, maternal instinct.
Has something changed in the environment to amplify women’s fears? Has there been a cultural evolution that has magnified an intrinsic biological and psychological predisposition to female anxiety? Just consider some of the profound societal changes in the United States since WWII.
With the end of the war in 1945, the United States began a period of unsurpassed economic growth. But this period of peace and prosperity did not last long. The ’50s brought fears of Communist infiltration and overarching nuclear anxiety, as people built bomb shelters in their backyards, and children were subjected to frightening (and ultimately pointless) duck and cover drills.
Domestic unrest swept the country in the 1960s as the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, the murder of a president, urban riots, and campus unrest shattered the illusion of national unity.
The 1970s brought fears of environmental collapse and even the extinction of the human race. Since the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, this sense of impending doom has only gotten worse, with a series of panics about overpopulation, ozone depletion, peak oil, global warming, extreme weather events, deforestation, nuclear energy disasters, mass species extinction, poisoning by agricultural chemicals, electromagnetic and cell phone radiation, and rising sea levels that are predicted to drown American cities.
Women have been particularly vulnerable to these successive panics. Indeed, some women have internalized this fear to such an extent that they now proclaim they no longer wish to have children. There is even a name for these women: BirthStrikers.
Pepino, who turns 33 today, found that other women – especially those in climate-conscious circles – were struggling with the same question, but were “too afraid to talk about it” for fear of judgment or ridicule. The US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gave voice to their concerns last month, pointing to the increasingly dire scientific consensus and widespread government inaction: “It does lead young people to have a legitimate question: is it OK still to have children?”
One of the most prominent environmental activists today is an eighteen-year-old Swedish woman named Greta Thunberg. This poster child for environmental awareness and activism has since childhood suffered from multiple mental illnesses, including panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anorexia. She also claims to be autistic. Her famously impassioned speech before the United Nations in 2019 excoriating world leaders for their “betrayal” of young people over climate change revealed her to be emotionally unstable and irrational.
A recent, wonderful Tony Heller clip on Greta, here parents and her grandfather.
Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC), at age twenty-nine the youngest woman ever to serve in Congress, apparently agrees, as she promised in 2019 that “The world is gonna end in twelve years if we don’t address climate change.”
Despite substantial criticism of these absolutist positions by respected scientists, Thunberg and AOC continue to be held up as symbols of courage whose views merit serious consideration by world leaders. Anyone who criticizes their positions is derided as “anti-science” and worse. AOC frequently rejects any criticism of her positions as “sexist.” Bjørn Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, has been labeled a misogynist for daring to challenge Thunberg’s catastrophic proclamations of environmental apocalypse. In the environmentalist movement, neurotic and hysterical women must be treated with kid gloves, given a pass, and certainly never held to the same standards as men. In this way, their fear continues to grow and infects the broader society.
Meanwhile, several generations of American women—the freest and most affluent women in history—have been persuaded that ours is a country that “hates” them and seeks to drive them back into patriarchal subjugation. The rise of the pro-life movement after the 1974 Roe v Wade decision was touted by feminists as evidence of a desire to control women’s bodies and force them into dangerous back-alley abortions. Any man who advocates for restricting abortion in any way—particularly for religious reasons—is deemed a misogynist. During the Trump administration, Hollywood touted a theocratic “Handmaid’s Tale” dystopia that captured the hearts of liberal women. Planned Parenthood exploited this manufactured fear in its staged protests outside the US Capital in 2017, its protesters costumed in red robes with white cones over their heads. “Women’s bodies, futures, and lives are literally on the line,” one said.
September 11, 2001 brought Islamic terror to the US and took the lives of 3,000 Americans. Multiple studies and surveys published post-9/11 noted that women, in addition to being more fearful in general compared with men, were especially fearful of future attacks. Terrorism is a particularly insidious source of fear, as it can strike anywhere, at any time. After twenty years, TSA rules still require passengers to remove all liquids from carry-on bags and take off their shoes, serving as a permanent reminder of this ever-present threat.
In addition, women—particularly liberal women—must now contend with the scourge of white supremacy, neo-Nazis, and systemic racism. Reportedly, hate crimes reached an all-time high in 2020, and the current President has declared white supremacists to be “the most lethal terrorist threat” to the US today.
There is very little evidence that these threats are real. Over the past twenty years, the total number of hate crime reports has not significantly changed. What has changed is who is committing them and against whom. Racially motivated hate crimes against blacks are declining, while religiously motivated hate crimes, primarily against Jews, have dramatically increased. Moreover, the perpetrators of anti-Jewish hate crimes are predominantly black, as are those of the recently sensationalized anti-Asian hate crimes in urban areas scattered throughout the United States.
There is also no evidence to support the belief that white supremacy is a significant problem in the US today. Neither is there evidence to support the presence of systemic racism. Racism exists, but its power is weak, and the social pressure against it is overwhelming.
A related bogeyman pushed by media to frighten Americans is the phenomenon of mass shootings. Guns in general have been vilified by Democrats and liberal activists for many years. Despite all evidence to the contrary, legal gun owners are frequently blamed for crimes committed using guns in the US when, in fact, it is illegally owned guns that are used in the commission of crimes in nearly all cases. Americans with concealed carry permits are perhaps the most law-abiding group of Americans, with a felony conviction rate well below that of police officers.
Yet in a misguided effort to ensure “safety,” a nationwide movement is afoot to make all guns illegal and to create “gun-free zones” in schools, malls, parks, and other public places. In every place where gun ownership has been severely restricted or banned, murder rates have increased. When gang-related violence is excluded, the number of mass shootings in the US has remained largely flat over the past twenty years.
Gun-free zones do not increase safety, either—they attract crime. 95 percent of all shootings in the US occur in places where it is illegal for a civilian to carry a gun. Between 1950 and 2010, not a single mass shooting occurred in an area where general civilians are allowed to carry a gun.
In sum, the argument to limit or eliminate legal gun ownership, and the push to outlaw the right of legal gun owners to carry weapons in public places, is irrational and not supported by statistics. The unfortunate result is that women, who are disproportionately affected by violent crime, have grown more fearful due to years of being told that they and their children are at high risk of being shot in a public place by a man—usually an “angry white man”—carrying a legal firearm.
All these fears—and many more that we could cite—were avidly promoted by American mass media, almost as though there was a concerted campaign to inculcate a baseline of fear and anxiety in American women.
It’s working: Americans, in general, are far more anxious and fearful than at any time since such measurements began. And women disproportionately suffer its effects. Over the course of their lives, nearly one in three Americans will be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Women, however, are 50 percent more likely to be diagnosed than men. In 2010, greater than 10 percent of all American women were prescribed anti-anxiety medication, a rate double that of men.
In 2011, alarmed by these statistics, The Guardian asked, “Are women crazy?” Ten years later, the numbers did not budge. By comparison, thirty years ago—hardly the dark ages in terms of mental health awareness and treatment—less than 4 percent of American women were prescribed anti-anxiety medication.
In the category of eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia), lifetime prevalence more than doubled between the period of 2000–2006 and the period 2013–2018, to 9 percent. Women still make up the majority of patients diagnosed with an eating disorder, despite recent increases in prevalence in young men. Most of these women are white, well-educated, and well-off. This demographic appears to be the most susceptible to developing an eating disorder, a psychiatric illness that is, at its core, an anxiety disorder marked by fear, a delusional view of one’s own physical appearance, and poor coping skills. The pandemic of fear in American women is clinically measurable.
Now comes a highly contagious, lethal virus let loose on the world from a lab in Wuhan, China, that has saturated every inch of America. Bewilderingly, as death rates continue to decline, the public demand for universal masking—including that of children—simply increases. This makes no rational sense, even for those who mistakenly believe that masks prevent the transmission of respiratory viruses.
This never, ever gets old.
One would assume those people would feel quite safe wearing a mask, as they believe that it protects them from getting sick. On the contrary, they are the most ferocious group in their attacks on those who choose not to wear masks. This has been revealed most clearly with the arrival of the India strain—known as the “Delta variant.” Many school districts have re-instituted mask mandates for students, some as young as two years old. Surprisingly, despite a complete absence of evidence that children are at any appreciable risk of serious illness or that masking children provides any health benefit, many parents fully support these mandates.
I recently advised Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in a public roundtable forum to prohibit all K-12 school mask mandates in the state based on lack of evidence of benefit and substantial evidence of harm to children. Since my statement was broadcast locally and repeated on national news, I have been inundated with phone calls, email messages, and social media comments from hysterical and angry parents accusing me of “murdering children” and threatening to report me to the state medical board for malpractice. The majority of these people are women.
Clearly, over the past decade, American women have been struck by a pandemic of anxiety. Given what they have been taught about the world they live in, how could they not be? From a young age, they must cope with a patriarchal culture that seeks to enslave and exploit them. College campuses are nothing more than rape spaces, and the office is swimming in sexual harassment. Meanwhile, racist men with guns are lying in wait, looking for any opportunity to assault them or murder their children at school. The planet is being poisoned by rapacious capitalists, and terrorists may blow us out of the sky at any moment.
Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the 2020 George Floyd riots, white liberal women appeared to think it was their personal responsibility to make amends for 400 years of slavery, segregation, and racial inequality. It has been widely remarked—not least by blacks themselves—that liberal white women have embraced the cause of social justice with a fervor that can only be explained by an agonizing sense of guilt about their “privilege.” No wonder they were primed to explode in a paroxysm of rage and fear after a year of unnecessary lockdowns.
This brief excursion into cultural history shows that in addition to their natural propensity to feel vulnerable and in need of protection, American women have been subjected to a vicious decades-long campaign of terrorization that could not have been more effective had it been planned by a sinister cabal of misogynistic geniuses.
There is, in truth, only one thing that might have helped them avoid this state of clinical pathology—and it is the very thing which, ironically, they have been taught to fear above all: namely, the men in their lives.
Traditionally, as everyone knows, it has been the role of men to calm and ground women’s fears, not the role of doctors but of fathers, uncles, brothers, and, of course, husbands. As science amply shows, men are evolved for the good of the species to adopt a protective attitude toward females, and this innate proclivity is powerfully reinforced by millennia of social and religious conditioning in every known society on earth. No society exists where women are left to fend for themselves. Men are evolved and socialized to love, provide for, and protect their women.
This may be an unpopular view among liberal white women themselves, but it is not so controversial among women of traditional working class, religious, or foreign backgrounds. Among Christian and Jewish couples, according to the Deseret News, “When it comes to marriage, women are most satisfied if they are half of a religious couple embracing traditional gender roles.” In my own experience, the more religious the couple, the truer this is.
Before beginning my private practice in West Los Angeles, where the majority of my adult patients are financially secure and hold a college degree, I worked with low-income and immigrant families at an LA County Department of Mental Health outpatient clinic on the Harbor Hospital campus in the city of Carson. The differences regarding expectations in gender roles between mothers and fathers were striking. Regardless of employment status, I found that women consistently expected their male partners to provide for their physical safety. This was not an insignificant request, given the high crime rates where many of my patients’ families lived.
It was only after leaving the Harbor clinic for an entirely different patient demographic in private practice that I began to see how these expectations changed among native-born, secular, professional Americans. In particular, many women in this demographic take tremendous pride in being “independent” and not “needing” a man, even when married. They rarely express a desire to their husband or partner for protection. The more they do on their own, the more successful they feel. My suggesting that they surrender even a portion of their autonomy to their husband to achieve greater security would be viewed, at best, as an odd recommendation, and, at worst, as an insult to their capacities as women to survive on their own.
Unfortunately, while the cultural terrorization of women described above proceeded unchecked, there was a parallel change in relationships between men and women brought about by feminism. Originally a liberal movement aimed at providing more freedom and opportunity for women, feminism evolved into a more radical movement that peddled a negative view of men as tyrants and toxic abusers.
It is to this issue we now turn to understand why during the pandemic American men failed so dismally in their duty to provide a sense of safety and security for the women in their lives—with consequences that have affected every one of us.
Gents, it will be your turn next to cop a lashing. You are not innocent in all of this.
I encourage you to support Mark’s work and you can also follow him on Substack. Here is a wonderful letter to the parents (mainly mothers) of his child patients.
Lies are Unbekoming is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.