[FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW] “When you are afraid, you'll take any train that's leaving the station, even if it's not going where you want to go.”
In this episode, I sit down with Gavin de Becker, author of the 1997 bestseller “The Gift of Fear” and one of America’s leading security experts. He’s a three-time presidential appointee, and among his security firm’s clientele are people like Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
“When it is true fear, we get adrenaline, for example—that's the famous hormone. The less famous hormone is the brain chemical cortisol. And cortisol prepares the body for combat. It sends blood to the arms and the legs, it hardens the muscles, and it causes the blood to clot more quickly in case I'm stabbed or opened up in some way. And that's a great, wonderful resource to have. The problem is it's toxic,” Mr. de Becker says.
How have governments exploited and weaponized fear in the last few years? What is it that makes a society irrational? And how can people ultimately take back power from governments?
Correction: This video has been updated to remove an anecdote about actor Billy Gray.
Below is a clarification statement from Mr. de Becker:
My mother was a heroin addict who eventually committed suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills. A friend of my mother's named Cliff was a heroin addict who appeared in a movie about the drug culture. The actor Billy Gray also appeared in that film. He was famous for playing the son in a family sitcom called "Father Knows Best." One day I came home from school and that actor, Billy Gray, was sitting on the couch in our apartment. I told that story during an American Thought Leaders interview with Jan Jekielek. (Epoch Times has since edited the story out of the interview with my agreement.)
As a boy, 55 years ago, I assumed that Billy Gray was an addict, like others in my chaotic childhood, and like others in that movie. Others also wrongly thought that, as related in this online report: "In 1971, he had a brief comeback in the mind-blowing junkie film Dusty and Sweets McGee. Taking advantage of Gray's undeservedly-decadent image, he was cast as 'City Life,' a greasy-haired heroin dealer who cruised Van Nuys Boulevard looking for underaged girls to have sex with and hook them on drugs. The film's publicity bragged that some cast members were actual street urchins, and Gray was so believable in his role, some viewers refused to believe he was acting: rumors of heroin addiction have dogged him ever since."
In a review of Dusty and Sweets McGee, well-known movie critic Leonard Maltin wrote: "Among real life addicts and pushers shown is Billy Gray of TVs Father Knows Best."
Maltin later publicly corrected his error, as I am doing right now.
The movie that Billy Gray had acted in when I met him in our apartment ends with updates about the people featured in the movie, including my mother's friend: "Clifton Tip Fredell returned to Calif State Penitentiary Oct. 17, 1970."
While I understand why I thought Billy Gray had been an addict, I just learned today that he was not. I am glad to learn that my boyhood conclusion was wrong, glad that Billy Gray has lived a long and apparently good life, and I'm sorry I repeated a rumor that dogged him for years.
Gavin de Becker, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.
Gavin de Becker:
At the very beginning of the pandemic, in March of 2020, you said to your clients, "This isn't going to be a big deal." How did we know all these things in March of 2020, and then the unthinkable happened?
Mr. de Becker:
I never said it's not going to be a big deal in terms of the government reaction and overreaction, but I did have an opportunity to look at the virus itself in terms of mortality. At that time all we had was one metric that said, “You're over 60, and you're going to die.” We didn't really have any accurate information about mortality. What was this a new virus? Then it came out of Italy. The Italian government produced a report, and we got that. I then answered many clients' questions about their actual risk, which is highly age-stratified, and age was a key element in the thing.
What we learned in that Italian report is that the average age of death attributed to COVID was 81, which means that those people who died had already lived beyond the natural lifespan by four or five years. Additionally, they had 2.7 fatal comorbidities on average. When you looked at people whose deaths were attributed to Covid and did not have any other fatal diseases or fatal medical issues, it was less than 1 percent of the people.
You had to jump through eight hoops in order to die. First you had to be old. Secondly, you had to already be sick. Thirdly, you had to have symptoms, then you had to ignore the symptoms. Then after a few days of ignoring the symptoms, you had to go to the doctor, then you had to get sent to the hospital. Then the hospital had to admit you, which is only 15 percent of people. Then you had to end up in the critical care unit, which was only 15 percent of those people, and then you had to die. When all was said and done, you had about a 95 percent chance of not dying if you were 81 years old. And I was talking to clients who were in their 50s and 60s.
The reality is that the fear did not match the reality of the risks associated with the virus. If you were young, you literally had very low risk other than the risk of ending up in a hospital in a critical care unit and being intubated. Of course, we know that the high pressure intubation and the ventilators were a profound medical mistake that led to a lot of deaths.
You're the perfect person to have on the show to talk about the social contagion, the nudging, and the fear. The Gift of Fear is your very famous book. It's amazing that you came into this from a very different perspective.
Mr. de Becker:
Yes. It has always been throughout history that nations and people in power have used fear to control the conduct of their citizens, because what do all governments ultimately fear? It isn't the enemy on the outside, it is their own citizens, because that is what destabilizes governments. Every king and queen looks over the castle wall, it's always a high wall, and they see the citizens fighting with each other. The king congratulates the queen, or vice versa, because as long as they're fighting with each other down there, as long as they're disagreeing with each other, they're not coming over the wall. Fear was always the strategy for unifying people around a particular thought or belief system.
My work had to do with how fear is used by the news media and by the government. I saw the greatest experiment of my life during the last three years, because it was all there in front of me—people using fear and then energizing citizens to be afraid of each other. All of these things came together rather wonderfully for governments all over the world, not just the U.S. government, but governments all over the world exploited this.
When you do lockdowns and you say people can't go on the beach, and people can't go to concerts, and can't go to church for God's sake, or not for God's sake, when you do that, you've really divided people in a very profound way that other governments in world history would've loved to have been able to do where you could keep the people apart.
If we go to a Bruce Springsteen concert, you don't look at a person over there and say, "Oh, he voted for Trump. Oh, he voted for Biden. Oh, he doesn't agree with me. Oh, he's a bad person." You just enjoy the music. With a day at the beach, you see a father with his two kids, and you're a father with your two kids. There's no judging, and we're just here to go to the beach.
But when you take that away, when there are no more of those social encounters or social environments, all you were left with is social media at home. Very quickly you thought, "I hate that guy. Look at that guy, and look at what he said." It's the content that we know YouTube's algorithm will feed you more, and get you more emotionally invested, and it's not the emotion of love. Very often, it's the emotion of hostility and anger and suspicion. That's what we were left with and totally divided.
Working at home remotely is another example of where the citizens do not get together. I’ll just give you a historic perspective with King Charles II in England who outlawed coffee houses. The reason was that coffee houses were places where people were stimulated and they were talking about the king or the government in ways that the king didn't like. Then you weren’t allowed to sell chocolate either. Eventually he had to give it up because people wanted coffee and chocolate.
My lesson from that is even though he was the king and had greater powers than those here in the United States would have, the people still actually got those coffee houses back.
Mr. de Becker:
Yes, it's true. Whenever the people don't listen, it will change quickly. It's a little bit like when you say, "I'm going to show you how my dog does tricks." You say, "Sit," and the dog sits down. In other words, you must just demonstrate that you have the power to gain compliance. I'll give you a really good example from Los Angeles.
During the lockdowns, it was 4th of July, and Mayor Garcetti came out the day before and did a press conference saying, "Absolutely no fireworks this year, it's dangerous. You don't want to be outside, you don't want to be with people, and you don't want to be gathering together. No fireworks this year."
The next night came, and you can probably still find on YouTube what Los Angeles looked like that night from the hills. It was surely the largest fireworks display in the history of Los Angeles. People just said, “We aren't staying in, and we're not going to listen to you.” The day before he had threatened, "You'll be arrested, and utilities will be turned off. We mean business." But there was not a word said about it.
The mayor did not come out and say, "Hey, remember I told you no fireworks? You all broke the rules." There were no arrests and nothing happened, because when the public doesn't go along with it, the government has to quickly backtrack. It is ever thus and always thus, and that is just the way it is. Then how do you get them to go along with it? Fear.
I remember the Emergencies Act in Canada being invoked to stop the trucker's movement. A lot of people were expecting that it would last a while, but then suddenly, as quickly as it was invoked, it was gone.
Mr. de Becker:
The people saw how afraid, desperate and afraid the government can be, and that's when the people will take back their power. That usually represents a failure of government, meaning a failure of government strength. Look what they did. They froze people's bank accounts so that their families couldn't buy food. Then they did that terrible thing to all those donations with $10 million frozen. In the beginning GoFundMe wasn't even going to return the money in the first round. Then there was a protest about that, and they decided to return the money, but none of the money got to the people.
You saw that governments would go that far, these governments that are presumably the most liberal governments in the world; the United States, Canada, Germany, and Austria. Austria was insane. Austria said, “If you're not vaccinated, later on you will have to stay in your home and pay a monthly fine.”
The most interesting thing about Austria was that they ended it in one day, they just stopped it all. Australia was nuts in another way, and New Zealand didn't end it quickly and doubled down on things. But for some reason, and I don't pretend to understand why, Austria went, "Okay, sorry," and all of it just disappeared.
Back in March, 2020, when you were writing this report and sending it out to your clients, were you already seeing some activity with this fear injection? Laura Dodsworth wrote this amazing book about the UK, documenting that there were government nudge units actively seeding fear into the population. Were you actually documenting this fear being spread and advising on it already?
Mr. de Becker:
Not in the beginning. I knew that it would be exploited, because anything that's got the public's attention in any way, such as a public figure being arrested and everybody's focusing on that, or an act by some overseas government and everybody's focusing on that, it will be exploited. Because attention is now highly measurable through social media, and you can see where it's aiming and what it is.
Therefore, I knew that it would be exploited. However, I did not realize the extent of the organized campaign to produce maximum fear in the citizenry. In the case of the UK, we're now seeing their emails being released that said, "We need to scare them again. We need to scare them more."
It has been 25 years since you wrote The Gift of Fear, and you wrote that book based on some very serious lived experience. Please tell me about your background, which is very interesting.
Mr. de Becker:
I grew up in Los Angeles. By the time I was 10 we had lived in 10 places. My mother was a heroin addict, we were on food stamps, and we had absolutely no money. She was a single mother with three kids, and in a sense, we were all addicted to heroin. It was only in her bloodstream, but it affected all of us. When she didn't have it in her bloodstream, we were all affected, and then she had to get it.
It's a brilliant consumer product because it has removed all choice from the equation. When I'm in the store looking at a chocolate bar or a pair of shoes, I say, “Is it worth trading $2 or $9 for that product?” With addictive drugs, heroin, or opioids, that mental thought process is not part of the transaction, there's no choice involved.
We were in that ugly commerce as kids, and I saw a lot of violence. I saw my mother shoot my stepfather when I was 10, and many other tremendously disruptive things. I came through that with more compassion for people who are in fear, and more understanding of it. I also gained a highly unconventional view of society.
Then my mother committed suicide when I was 16, and she was 39. For many years, Jan, when I would tell that story, I would get confused and say she was 16 and I was 39. That is how interwoven the damage of that experience became, where you really don't know who's who in a circumstance like the suicide of a parent.
To anybody who's experienced suicide, and to the people who haven't as well, when you say, "That must have been tremendously traumatic," you can be sure that whenever there's a suicide, all the times before it were also traumatic. They don't just come out of nowhere, and there's a whole lead up to suicide and to suicide attempts.
I came out of that, if nothing else, as a highly creative thinker, because everything that I thought was true when growing up, I found out wasn't true, meaning the order of society. We were basically hiding everything I just told you about. In school I was hiding my injuries from being physically beaten. In school we were hiding the fact that my mother was a heroin addict, because that would have led to us being taken away.
I didn't even understand it. The first time I ever said the word was in the emergency room at UCLA. Someone said my mother had taken an overdose of sleeping pills. The nurse was filling out a form and she said, "Is your mother on any other medications?" I said, "Yes, heroin." It was the first time I'd ever said the word, and only the second time I'd ever heard the word. I knew so little about what was actually going on.
But I did know about the pharma system. My mother was also addicted to a sleeping pill called Doriden. I used to have to break it in half every night by biting it, because the scoring line of the pill that allows you to break it in two easily is very shallow. They don't want you to break it in half, they want it to become pulverized so you have to order more. Why does it even have a scoring line? Is that so somebody could take a half?
No. That's so somebody can take one-and-a-half, and then two-and-a-half, and then three-and-a-half, because that's the way these addictions work. I knew that we were in an ugly commerce with the pharma industry. That pill, Doriden, is not legal anymore, because it causes psychosis. That's why it's off the market, and yes, it did cause psychosis in my mother.
I came out of that highly skeptical of consumer products, of which pharma was one of them. I went through a university of adversity, like the kids of an alcoholic. They know when dad comes home and opens the beer directly from the car, it's going to be one of those nights. As children, you're predicting human behavior all the time in those high stakes situations.
Millions of others, not just me, millions of other kids were predicting human behavior, and that became my career. I developed systems, and one is used by the U.S. Capitol Police, one by the CIA, and one by the U. S. Marshals Service. These systems predict whether threateners would act on their threats based on many tiny elements. That's exactly what I was doing at 10-years-old, the very same thing.
That's a short nutshell journey. Later, to carry it to where it makes sense to your audience, I began to advise public figures on the early signs of danger. This may seem like a fractured story, but I got appointed by President Reagan to his Department of Justice advisory board. I was the youngest appointee ever, and he was the oldest president.
I developed systems for many government agencies. Even in my telling now, it all seems improbable and impossible, but that's the way the story went. I then formed my company, which became a big company with nearly a thousand employees. I sold it, then bought it back, and on and on. That's the short narrative, and I hope it makes some sense to somebody.
It makes a lot of sense. To go back to where we started, very early on in the pandemic, you advised people that there was basically no threat from this virus?
Mr. de Becker:
Yes, no risk from the virus, yes, very limited.
How did they react to that, given everything that we've just been talking about that was going on?
Mr. de Becker:
My clients are almost all major cultural figures, iconic public figures, and at risk. Our business is anti-assassination.
How did they react to this message?
Mr. de Becker:
In the first round, I was not competing with the largest marketing campaign in the history of human beings, which is what this became. It led to the most financially successful consumer product in world history. There was never a consumer product that was given to billions of people in such a short period of time. This was far more successful financially than Coca-Cola. The CEO of Coca-Cola is now on the board of Pfizer. That would be because of the international distribution expertise that he brought to the company. But they actually reacted with some relief.
But within a month or so with the narrative in this big campaign of marketing fear—I don't mean marketing the vaccines, because there weren't vaccines yet, but certainly the marketing that the only solution was vaccines—I just couldn't compete with it. I did reports every month during that period. Eventually I did one that said, "I'm not comparing flu to Covid," because that was forbidden speech.
You couldn't compare the flu to Covid. I said, "But I do want you to know that everything I'm listing here happened in 2017 at the time of the flu epidemic in the United States. People were told not to come to the hospital, tents were set up outside of hospitals, and there were refrigerator trucks outside of hospitals to deal with deaths. It wasn't unheard of that all of this was happening."
That report was downright unpopular with some people, because even though I said, "I'm being very careful not to compare the flu to Covid," you couldn't even have them in the same sentence because of the new issue that we were all dealing with, which was adjacency. I say something and they say, "Trump said that three months ago, so you must be a Trump supporter." I reply, “Hang on a minute, I didn't say anything about Trump.” Then they say, "You say this, and that's adjacent to QAnon." Then I reply, “I beg your pardon?”
I'll give you an example. I was with a dear friend of mine, and we were talking about these issues. He said to me midway, "Are you anti-vaxxer?" I said, "What is that?" He replied, "You know, against gun control, and never listens to anything." I said, “What? Back up, against gun control? What does anti-vaxxer have to do with gun control? But it all got conflated together and it's adjacent. Some people who were anti-vaxxers maybe were also against guns. I don't know where it comes from, but the anti-vaxxer was the villain of the moment.
It sounds like all the things that are against the correct trademark view all got conflated into one thing. There's something called Trump derangement syndrome. Some people said it became Covid derangement syndrome. Now, there's something called Elon derangement syndrome. There are all these extreme reactions to whatever you may think about the situation, whether it's Trump or Covid or Elon. There is this incredibly disproportionate reaction that has somehow manifested.
Is that through these tools of consensus formation, manipulation, and propaganda? Is it something else? How could people get it in their minds that doing just the opposite was correct. A few people told me, "A policy is being set that's just the opposite of what the Trump administration had." I said, "That's impossible, no one would make a policy like that, it would be potentially disastrous." Eventually I was convinced that at times that is the case.
Mr. de Becker:
Yes, this is part of those tools of propaganda. Marketing sounds better than propaganda, but it's really selling ideas, and we know it works. We know that it's at the center of advertising and always has been. In elections, it’s the selling of candidates, but it uses the same tools. You asked, “Could a policy be made just because it was the opposite of Trump’s policy?”
We have a good example of that, for sure. The minute Trump said hydroxychloroquine, and the minute he said Ivermectin, those two things were suddenly poisons. Hydroxychloroquine is a prescription drug that's been around forever, and is prescribed every single week. With Ivermectin it is much more so. Billions of doses have been used, it won the Nobel Prize in biology, and it is a very safe and widely used medication. About 30 percent of countries right now are using it for Covid. But Trump said it, and when he said hydroxychloroquine, that was the end of hydroxychloroquine.
I'm not making this about Trump, it's just an element of hostility and utilized division. All totalitarian governments benefit from division. You do not want all the people feeling the same way. What I would tell you is the moment you know it's working perfectly is when the citizens enforce it, not the police. It's the citizens enforcing the mask mandate, running up to you on the street and saying, "What's the matter with you? You're not wearing a mask."
There was anger and hostility inside businesses if you were not masked, not only if you were not wearing it, but if it wasn't high enough. The flight attendant would tell you, "Raise it up, I can see your nostrils." With all that hostility, you then know that the marketing program has worked perfectly.
I didn't understand how much of a herd mentality we have as human beings. I didn't remotely grasp it until somewhat recently. There's an emergent property that comes out of that, and you can see the fear. Then some people believe it and they feed it back to you. You might even start believing it, even though initially you didn't, because you were just trying to appease people. There is almost a vicious cycle that happens.
Mr. de Becker:
It is. There's an element of being a social animal, and there's an element of the herd. There's a beautiful quote at the end of Robert Kennedy's book, The Real Anthony Fauci, which is about much more than Anthony Fauci, It's a quote from a playwright, and he talks about the fact that if you can get the cattle to start stampeding, you just need a tiny influence to cause one of them to turn, and then just one over here to get them to turn again. Because when they're already stampeding, when they're already in fear, it's then very easy to say, “You shouldn't get on trains?” The people say, “Okay, we won't get on trains.” In Canada, you couldn't get on trains or buses or airplanes without proof of vaccination.
It turns out that since these vaccines do not stop transmission, the entire premise was flawed. Deborah Birx has written in her book that they knew it didn't stop transmission. The mRNA vaccines were not even tested to stop transmission. As soon as you knew that one thing, everything about what was imposed upon citizens all over the world was flawed and was broken.
As soon as you knew that contact transmission was not an issue in terms of this virus, then everything about the spraying of the door handles and the hotel rooms with remote controls covered in plastic was false. It's still going on today. I still check into hotels that say, "For your protection, we've sanitized the room." Hand sanitizer itself was worse for you than no hand sanitizer, just as a general thing. Ultimately, it’s alcohol that moves through your skin, and you can overdo it. It’s not good for kids, and they can overdo it.
What didn't happen is the government saying, “We've learned something new,” and then backing up. As soon as that didn't happen they lost credibility. The right thing to do is to say, “We've learned this does not stop transmission. Sorry about those things we told you were good ideas, we're going to stop those now.” But of course, then they double down.
I live in Hawaii, and the governor's order in Hawaii around the lockdowns during Covid was surely the strictest in the country, because they were an island and they felt they could keep this thing out. You could walk on the beach for exercise, but you couldn't sit down, and you couldn't stop. But exercise includes stopping, it's not just constant movement. Then there were the essential businesses, and they listed the essential businesses in the governor's order, which included fabric stores. Can you guess why? Why were fabric stores considered to be essential businesses?
For the masks.
Mr. de Becker:
To make masks. But you couldn't go to the fabric store without making an appointment online, and you could never have more than three people waiting. Because of course if there's a line forming outside the fabric store, they're all going to die right away from Covid, and so it was madness.
Divorced families could not transfer the kids between the father and the mother. All forms of transportation; bicycles, motorcycles, and cars were prohibited unless they were related to an essential function. What was an essential function? Liquor stores, yes, churches, no. It was madness, true madness.
I'm going back to your main point about herd mentality. You could look around and see people in the car alone wearing a mask, or two masks. You said, “Wow, we are really divided here in terms of our critical thinking.” What would all governments like to get rid of? First and foremost, it would be skepticism and critical thinking, and they succeeded.
Let's talk about this fear mechanism, because this is your thing. What is it that makes us seemingly become so irrational?
Mr. de Becker:
When you are afraid you'll take any train that's leaving the station, even if it's not going where you want to go. It definitely disables our ability for critical thinking. I'm going to put a big bold line between the two kinds of fear. There is true fear, which is a signal in the presence of danger. You see it, you smell it, you hear it, you sense it, and you react to it. You often react to it before you even know. A good example would be seeing somebody waving their arm, and you don't even realize there is a bee in their hair. They don't say, "Ah, there's a bee in my hair, I'm going to raise my left arm and make the bee get out of my hair," it's happened already.
I have many examples in my books of people who had reacted very intelligently and wisely before they even knew what they were reacting to consciously. There are plenty of those, because the body has a nuclear defense system when it's true fear in response to something in your environment.
Then there's unwarranted fear, which is something from your memory or your imagination. That is highly programmed by the media and by culture. You're told what to be afraid of by parents, “Be afraid of this kind of thing,” and those you generally react to irrationally. I'll give you a quick example, because what I'm going to tell you is counterintuitive. There’s a woman who's in a 10-story building, and she's leaving work late at night. The elevator door opens and there's a man inside who causes her fear.
She's afraid. What does she do? She talks herself out of it, “I don't want to be that kind of person. It's just because he's Hispanic, and that's unreasonable. It’s because of the way he's dressed, and that's unreasonable.” Then she gets into a soundproof steel chamber with someone she's afraid of. There's not an animal in nature that would even consider doing that.
That's the other side of this equation—we will override what we should actually be afraid of. I'll posit an example here. Should we be afraid of Covid, a virus that statistically has a zero percent chance of having any consequential effect on our children unless they're already sick, and on healthy children has zero percent mortality. I'm 68 and I'm healthy. I went through Covid as you and everybody in this building did, and it just wasn't that big a deal. I'm not saying it wasn't a big deal for older people.
Fear is a very natural thing, once you understand the animal nature of it. The antelope in Africa hears that twig break does not say, “Oh, it's probably nothing.” It runs right away and then determines later on if it was worthwhile—if it was a lion or it wasn't a lion. But what the antelope doesn't do is say, "Let me tell you a story about a lion." The antelope doesn't go, "Oh, yeah," and then go running away. It doesn't take a narrative and use the narrative in its head to give itself the fear signal.
The very quick thing is that when it is true fear, we get adrenaline, the famous hormone. The less famous hormone is the brain chemical cortisol, and cortisol prepares the body for combat. It sends blood to the arms and the legs, it hardens the muscles, and it causes the blood to clot more quickly in case I'm stabbed or opened up in some way. That's a great, wonderful resource to have. The problem is it’s toxic.
You could stay high in cortisol, because you’re hearing another news story, and you say, “Oh look, there's a picture of refrigerated trucks holding bodies down at the hospital. I ask people, "Did you think those refrigerated trucks were built for Covid or did they already exist? Weren't they used in 2017 for the flu epidemic that year?"
That means these are not new things, but put together into a narrative for us; the trucks at the hospital, and the deaths of the old people. It's terrifying. We'll accept this information and it will trigger the cortisol, and then the cortisol makes you nearly irrational. It has prepared the physical body for combat, but when combat doesn't come, it's very bad for you. It’s toxic for you if you live in fear, as many people do during wartime. They live in fear, and it's bad for them, and it's certainly bad for critical thinking.
The herd reacts in highly predictable ways. Individuals ought to be skeptical all the time, and skeptical of government. Carl Sagan, a great scientist, said that the framers of the Constitution wanted us to be a well-informed population and skeptical. If we're not, then the government controls us instead of us controlling the government. That was his last interview before he died.
We are sensitive to what others around us think, especially when it's a general view in society that already exists. But now we have this fear element where the cortisol levels are spiking, and now we have this irrationality associated with that. With the monomaniacal focus on Covid response, we imagined it to be the ultimate demon that had to be conquered.
Mr. de Becker:
Yes. If we lived in a village a thousand years ago, the witch doctor would shake some beads over us and tell us, "The snake is in your soul," and now that fear can move around through everybody very quickly. You mentioned the monomaniacal focus on one thing. During the first year of COVID, about 3 million Americans died of other things. But during lockdowns, how did they die?
They died alone in the hospital, and that is a far more profound injury to this society than the deaths from Covid. There was a report from the main hospital in Israel in the second year of the pandemic. They said that everybody who had died from Covid in that year would have died in that year anyway. They would've died, ultimately.
Just maybe a bit later, or from some other cause.
Mr. de Becker:
That's right, a bit later or from a different thing. But to cause 3 million Americans to die alone in the hospital is such a dark result, and then also to cause the fracturing of society through lockdowns. But today, the 3 million businesses that closed are still closed. You think about a small restaurant and how much people care about it, or a neighborhood business and how much people care about it, and then to have that taken away ultimately for something that wasn't scientifically accurate.
I want to talk about this in a historical context. If you look at world history as a pie chart, almost all of it is tyranny. There is just a tiny sliver of Western nations; America and Western Europe, that had this idea of the primacy of the individual and democracy. It was different forms of democracy, but not tyranny, that's the point. This was where the people employed their leaders.
That doesn't last forever. Tyranny is almost the natural order for human beings, which is to have a king or an emperor or some other kind of ruler tell us what to do, and for us to have no say in it. In this generation, we in the United States have a different narrative and a different reality. But it always slides back toward tyranny. It always goes toward tyranny.
If any of us believe that Covid is an anomaly, that is not the case. This told governments all over the world that they could say, "We've got a new resource—we can just say, ‘Stay home. Don't stand near each other, no public gatherings, and don't go to church,’ and the people will do it. They'll do it. All the practices that governments have tried to perfect throughout history are now close to perfection because of social media and iPhones, and that's discouraging as hell.
I wish it wasn't. I wish I could come up with something positive to say about it. But this is the direction that Western governments will move in. They won't move in the other direction, because once they get a power, it's rarely turned around and it's rarely handed back. The power of lockdowns, that's a big one.
There's an unusually large number of people in our society that are aware that something has gone wrong, which is the only way that such things get fixed. If you're not aware of it, how can you possibly deal with it? Which I find actually profoundly hopeful in a way. What is helpful in promoting and helping people understand that something is really wrong, is that the experts or the authorities were so obviously wrong on so many things. It almost became very hard to imagine things that weren't wrong. It's odd, actually. Have you thought about that?
They were mostly wrong, correct?
Mr. de Becker:
Yes, but they have a resource available to them, which is being authority figures. Many people in all countries and throughout history, respond to authority figures. We're built that way. I want to say two things that are hopeful, since I've said all of these things that are less hopeful.
One of them is that there is a population, a subgroup inside all populations, who are skeptical of authority. You could say it seems to be a third of the people who look at pronouncements and ask questions and are resistant and are not compliant. In the last three years we’ve had compliance. It was not science that was being asked of us. It was comply, comply, comply.
Another hopeful thing is that during the second year of the pandemic, the number 17 bestselling book in America was 1984, a 70-year-old book. I thought, “Wow, that's really interesting. People are interested in reading 1984 as they intuitively sense these kinds of strategies around them. That gives me some hope that people are interested in paying attention, and that America is this extraordinary experiment in freedom that very much deserves to be protected and even fought for.
We tend to think of that type of fight happening outside the country with outside enemies, and that's the way it's promoted to us, “We've got to take the fight to Iraq where we're fighting for our freedoms, and they want to destroy our freedoms.” But it’s always the people in power who really want to destroy freedom. In all kinds of organizations that is the reality. I remain hopeful that the tools are here with elections and resistance.
Did you see that documentary on Netflix called, “The Social Dilemma?” At the very end of that documentary one of the early Facebook creators of these mechanisms and algorithms was asked, "What do you see as the eventual outcome of all this?"
He answers in a heartbeat without delay, "Civil war." That's quite a profound thing to say for a guy who was working at Facebook, because they know that these instruments like Facebook, YouTube, and Google tend to stir up the differences between us.
You mentioned compassion a couple of times now, and I've observed that one of the very potent tools of social influence these days is the weaponization of compassion. The people who practice these critical theory doctrines, what we call wokeism, that's one of their most potent tools.
Mr. de Becker:
Yes, I want to be a good person. I want to care about others.
Mr. de Becker:
I want to show you that I'm a good person.
Right. Some of that may be performative, and some of it might be really appealing to the person's genuine compassion. How does that intersect with this creation of fear?
Mr. de Becker:
First of all, when you're afraid, your critical thinking is damaged, and so you're open to receiving certain messages. In comes the message, and it’s like etching it onto the tablets. Once that’s accomplished, it is very hard to get that off the tablets. It is difficult to persuade somebody of something, but it is far more difficult to persuade them that they've been fooled.
That's Mark Twain, correct?
We quote that saying on the show.
Mr. de Becker:
He was a very good thinker. I’m just saying that what happened is not some giant centralized conspiracy. If you used to make perfume sprayers, now you make hand sanitizer. If you used to make bumper stickers, now during the pandemic you make the stickers that say, “Stand six feet away.” If you used to make any product that can be tangentially involved in this new commerce where all the money is coming from, you do it and you switch.
Once you're doing that, if you run a hospital and suddenly people aren't coming in for elective surgeries, you're literally sending doctors and nurses home because there's not enough work to do. Of course, you'll listen to the government when they say, "If they test positive for Covid, get them upstairs on a ventilator, and we'll pay you $34,000." You do it.
In the PREP Act [Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act], you know about the $34,000 if they're ventilated, and you know about the $13,000 if somebody on Medicare dies from Covid in the hospital. You might not know that the PREP Act also paid $9,000 for the funeral if you died from Covid, and that made everybody want to designate the death as due to Covid.
Forget that she was 86 years old, forget that she already had other respiratory diseases, and forget that she had two other fatal diseases. It's got to be Covid, because with Covid everybody wins financially. That came down from the federal government rather brilliantly.
That's maybe weaponization of self-interest, but what about this compassion piece? Do it for grandma, and don't kill Grandma. That seems to be one of the most potent tools that's being used.
Mr. de Becker:
I'm not certain it's compassion, Jan. It may be the fear of being put out of the village, which is compliance. What happens when you don't comply? Let's say you step out of line and run to the front of the line at the airport. Everybody says, "What's going on here? This person is not in line," quite literally where the expression comes from.
There is a tribal resistance to the person who does something that is not compliant. Yes, it's nice virtue signaling to say, "I didn't want the vaccine, but I got it for others." That's fine virtue signaling. A young person wearing a mask can feel like there's no logic in it for them, but they're doing it to save grandma, for example. But if you got all the old people together and asked them if they wanted the world to stop and for young people's lives to be broken in the way that they were, would they have wanted that? I kind of wonder.
They might have said, “I'm older, I'm sick, and I'm going to stay home. But I'm not going to ask everybody else to get out of the way when I go to Whole Foods and get my shopping done.” But in effect, that's what happened. They said, “Everybody else get out of the way, everybody stand far away, the elderly are the vulnerable ones.” But the result was that we were standing far away from each other, and that is an attractive element.
Remember, when I talk about the government, I'm not saying something anti-American. I'm very pro-American, and have worked in government a great deal, and it's been a big part of my career. I'm talking about all governments, because all governments devolve in this way toward greater and greater and greater control. We had the Patriot Act signed after 9/11. It was only for two years. Did it get renewed after two years? Yes, and it's still going strong.
What if they passed a law that said, “We're going to get rid of that Patriot Act now, and we're going to go back to where we were before the Patriot Act.” Politicians and government leaders don't do that, and that just doesn't happen. They don't hand back the authority that they've gained, because they believe that they are good, and that they are going to make decisions in good ways. But every tool that has ever been developed that could assist totalitarian control has been used. There is not one of them sitting on a dusty shelf.
They will not give up authority unless people broadly demand it, correct?
Mr. de Becker:
This is what we talked about at the beginning. It seems so simple.
Mr. de Becker:
Yes, but you have to be paying attention and you have to not be involved in looking at this device all the time and on social media, and you have to not be dealing with your own challenges. Look at food addiction and obesity in the United States. These are profoundly serious problems where almost every packaged food has sugar and salt. Obesity is a huge problem that no society in world history would have accepted.
Because you needed those people to be fit to be soldiers, you needed those people to be fit to dig the graves, to build the buildings, and to take care of the elderly. But guess what changed? We now don't need them to be soldiers, because war is mechanized and war is remote control. It doesn't matter if you weigh 220 pounds and have diabetes if you're sitting in a container outside of Langley, Virginia, operating remote-controlled drones. War will become farther and farther from where there's skin in the game.
I want to tell you a quick thing about history. The hierarchy of weapons started with blunt trauma weapons, where I punch you or I hit you with a rock, but I have to get close to you. As soon as there were distance weapons like a bow and arrow or a spear, I had a little less skin in the game. I had no skin in the game if I had a gun. I could face the bear with much less risk. With the remote control drone, there is even less skin in the game. That is the way we've gone, but what is the problem with that? There is less incentive to avoid war, because now you don't have to send your sons and daughters.
The United States took 60,000 prisoners in the Iraq War. When Schwarzkopf met with his counterpart in Iraq, they were going to exchange the documents on their prisoners of war, because they would be returning them. They had something like 400, and we had 60,000.
It was a massive disproportionate result, in large part because of our technology. I fear that the future of warfare is not tempered by the fact that our kids have to go and be killed. As it gets more and more mechanized, governments will be far more likely to engage in conflict.
You were talking about how governments trend in this direction towards more control.
Mr. de Becker:
Yes, power trends in that direction.
Power trends in that direction. Anders Corr wrote about very interesting theories of power in his, The Concentration of Power. My observation is that when things get over a certain scale they want to self-perpetuate.
Mr. de Becker:
That's one piece. Another one is bureaucracies. Bureaucracies seem to self-organize around avoiding individual responsibility. It is a conflagration of issues, all at once. You mentioned how you became very aware when you were quite young of how wrong pharma can be. We have our media, government, large companies, the military, and pharma, where the blurring of lines is much more significant. Where do we go from here?
Mr. de Becker:
You just named the three power centers in the United States; corporate, government, and media. Never before in our history have they been aligned in the way they are now, and there's a problem with that alignment. The work of the fourth estate was meant to be a check and balance. Yet today we see no press conference with the CEO of a pharma company where reporters are calling out tough questions. There are no interviews with tough questions, and I mean zero. With Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer, you will not find a single interview where there's any sweat on his forehead.
They should be saying, "Let me ask you again, Dr. Bourla," who is a veterinarian, but not a doctor for people, "you want me to inject this into my six-month-old baby, and you want this baby to get 60 of these products injected between now and the end of her life?" It's a yearly vaccine right now that's required, and that's going to be on the school vaccination schedule program.
You could say, "That's okay, doctor, but I would like to ask you a lot of questions about this product. I'd like to ask you about the testing." Instead, what happened is that the FDA said, “We're not going to release the safety data for 55 years.” Then they went back to court with Pfizer and they said, “How about 75 years? We'd rather have 75 years to not release this safety data.” What are they talking about?
Yet, the public is unaware of that. They don't know about it, even though you can do a Google search of Washington Post, 75 years, or Pfizer safety trials. Any of those will find it. You'll find even a few media stories that say “That's outlandish.” But it took going to court in order for a judge to say, "No, you have to release that more quickly." These are the safety trials for a product they are injecting into all our children, not just a few of them. They are mandating it. Government must be a check and balance for corporations, and the media must be a check and balance for both. When they're all aligned in the way they are now, we have a profound problem.
When there aren't these basic checks and questions that you're not even allowed to ask, it's an anathema. That's obviously a massive problem. That being said, I've become a student of American history. I've learned a lot over the last few years, and there have been quite a few quite difficult moments where things looked really bad.
Even the founding of the country was a bit of a long shot. It seems like there's quite a few Americans that are taking this seriously. Is this the opportunity for a check? I actually feel quite optimistic at the moment.
Mr. de Becker:
I want to be too. I am optimistic by nature, and I do agree with you that it is an opportunity, because now anybody who's in a power position has the capability to step back and say, “Let's not do it quite like that again.” That often means legislation to not do it like that again. Might there be a process before you decide to lock down the country? I'm using Fauci’s words. “Lock down the country. People can't go to church.”
The Constitution, as you may know, does not have a pandemic exception. It doesn't say, "Except for pandemics, except for viruses." The Founding Fathers knew about epidemics. They had epidemics, and they knew about the impact of them. They didn't say, "In that case you can close the churches." The churches are in the Constitution, but the liquor stores are not in the Constitution. But the liquor stores were open and the churches were closed. Wow.
I hope more people can wake up to the fact that it has nothing to do with liking Trump or Biden, or believing or not believing in vaccines. What an odd phrase, “I believe in vaccines.” Vaccines are a wide group of consumer products. They're not one thing, and they're not all the same. Some are dangerous, and some have been taken off the market all over the world. Some have been taken off the market in America, and now they're only given in Africa. There's a wide range, and there's some nuance here when you use the word vaccine.
Should we allow lockdowns again? Should we have a legislative solution that if you're going to do a lockdown, there's a process you have to go through? Should it be public health officials making that decision, or should it be government leaders making the decision based on advice from public health? I don't have the answers to these questions, but they are questions that ought to be asked. A year ago it was prohibited speech. Today, maybe things are advancing a little bit in that I will likely be allowed to say this and you'll be allowed to air it.
At least on EpochTV.
Mr. de Becker:
That's true. By the way, it's a shame that it's not on CNN. I did an interview recently with Chris Cuomo on his podcast. Chris Cuomo was not on CNN anymore for all the reasons we saw happen. I asked him, "Isn't it wonderful to be free of pharma so that we can have this discussion?" He had said a lot of strong things in disagreement with the public health machinations of the last two years, and I was very surprised. I said to him, "Isn't it great that you can broadcast this and you're free of pharma," which does 90 percent of the advertising on cable news. He said, "You know, it really wasn't pharma. I'd like to have that excuse, but it wasn't really pharma. It was my concern about what others would think."
I think that it would be nice to have the excuse that, yeah, CNN, or MSNBC, or NBC, or whatever alphabet soup you're at, they wouldn't let me. I think it's more often a pursuit of popularity, that in the business you're so sensitive to criticism, and that it's easier not to say things. And while everybody always says they want to be a fearless journalist, once you feel the bite of people who don't like what you ask, it's one thing to see it in a movie, it's another thing to deal with it in your own life. And I get why people, it can mollify quiet. And George Carlin was so brilliant when he would say, "They don't want a critical thinker, nobody wants people to be critical thinkers," and that's all I want people to be.
Mr. de Becker:
I got off the podcast and I called 15 people and said, "You're just not going to believe this." I went on that podcast expecting to argue. I couldn't get on anything other than conservative platforms like Fox, Tucker Carlson, Joe Rogan, or your show. No, CNN wasn't asking me to come on and talk about government misuse of fear. I did it for that reason, expecting to have a big debate. Instead he held up, Cause Unknown, and said, "This is an important book." I was very, very surprised at many things that he said. But he was out of the maw of CNN. He did say that, and he did say a lot of things that were counter to the orthodoxy, which was great to hear.
You put an emphasis on people trusting their intuition. The powers that be want to have their edict or their view take the place of your intuition. Please explain to me why you are this proponent of intuition. Is it real, or is it a construct? How does that fit into figuring out how to live in this crazy world right now?
Mr. de Becker:
A huge part of independent thinking is giving yourself a voice other than the voice of orthodoxy or the voice of authority. Even today, as we're sitting here, I don't know the numbers or the stats, but millions of Americans are not going to work. They are the laptop class that can work remotely. That is a dream of all governments, “We've got all the citizens working, but they're not together.” Because getting together and the right of assembly is a special thing.
But concerning intuition, which is your inner voice, what is it? Intuition is the journey from A to Z without stopping at all the letters on the way. It's knowing without even bothering to know why. “I am certain that this man is going to hurt me,” says a woman who can get away. She may say, “I am certain that this is not somebody I want to work with, or I am certain that I should go back home right now, or I should call my family and check in.”
There is a knowing without knowing why. When I was writing, The Gift of Fear, I looked at the root of the word intuition, and I learned this beautiful thing. The root of it, intueor, means to guard and to protect. Intuition is actually a mechanism for our self-protection.
Jan, how it ties in to a lot of the things we've been talking about today is that people do intuitively know when something's not right. Not every person, but many people say, “Wait a minute, I was told this and then I was told that. Then I was told two masks, and I was told no masks.” They stopped being an automaton, reacting to things that they're told and just being compliant.
Not all people, but many people know this intuitively. What I would encourage people to do is to rely on your intuition. In your day-to-day life, it is the thing that protects you. It's the thing that says, “No, not this underground parking lot, not that car, not right now, not this person.”
If you listen to that, rather than immediately prosecute your own feelings and say, “I don't want to be like that,” or “That's ridiculous, I don't even have a basis for that.” My books, and particularly, The Gift of Fear, is full of stories where people prevailed only on the basis of listening to their intuition. There was no logical reason for the actions that they took or the resistance that they mounted against somebody who turned out to have some sinister intent.
The optimistic part of this is that we see in Western societies today, Israel was the experimental testing ground for Pfizer. The Israeli government made a deal with Pfizer, saying, “We're going to give this to everybody and we're going to make it really unpleasant if they don't take it.” There was the green pass where you had to show up at the pharmacy at a certain time; 10:00 AM on Tuesday at CVS Pharmacy.
If you're not there, your green pass turns red, and then you're not going to the supermarket, the movie theater, and your kids are not going to school. That was pretty severe. But today in Israel, there are major demonstrations against the government. It doesn't matter what they are for. It's a wake-up for people who are saying, “We don't buy everything you tell us.”
The idea is that listening to yourself, which is often called the voice of God in you, listening to yourself is of course as valid as listening to some bureaucrat 2000 miles away. Why not? Why not give it to yourself first. You could say, “Intuitively, that doesn't sound right to me.” That's how we vote, and that's how we buy consumer products.
Are we programmed like crazy? Yes, it's not totally free will. But you need to honor and elevate the voice in your head. You've got all these radio stations. Elevate the one that is your natural resource designed to keep you safe and to help you make decisions.
That's my optimistic ending. In general, listen to your intuition. I see a lot of people are feeling, “Wait a minute, something doesn't feel right here.” There is a lot that isn't right here, but it starts with an intuitive feeling that leads you to the questions that I encourage people to ask, and to have no forbidden speech.
Gavin de Becker, it's such a pleasure to have you on the show.
Mr. de Becker:
Thank you very much. I've been watching the show, and I wanted to be on. You've been giving a real gift by having guests who are engaged in prohibited speech.
Thank you all for joining Gavin de Becker and me on this episode of American Thought Leaders. I'm your host, Jan Jekielek.
This interview was edited for clarity and brevity.