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Zombies are issue of Credibility

December 12, 2012

Readers of this blog will recall that “zombies” in Social Security cases are often issues of the applicant’s credibility. Today Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said “Up until now, it seems our credibility has been quite good.” And then CNN Money’s Annalyn Kurtz (featured on this blog for writing “zombie economy”) responds to Bernanke on her twitter: “Up til now?”

Recall also NewsHour’s “Hysterical Economy” as a development from the summer of “Zombie Economy”.

Zombie is like hysteria, both because it is a lay-persons colloquial diagnosis and because the issue is patient credibility about their own symptoms. This is relevant to “zombie economy” and to the current fiscal cliff hysteria. Krugman’s zombie ideas exist because we don’t know what to trust. Economists have long had two hands but what is the value of a handshake when your opponent has an indefinite number of arms – and most of these arms are imaginary.

Consider the hysteric screaming that none of these arms are hers – please doctor cut them off! Or the reverse problem – See Ramachandran‘s success with phantom limb patients – particularly using a mirror box setup. This is for people who experience pain in arms that have been amputated. By using a mirror to simulate the other limb, the patient is able to experience a relaxation of the phantom pain.

Note also that Wired’s Geek Mom Judy Berna (who has been counting down to the Mayan Zombie Apocalypse – now 10 days to go) is also a voluntary amputee. She chose (nay demanded) that doctors cut off her misshapen leg (which “grew crooked as a side effect of a mild case of Spina Bifida”). See her website Just One Foot, subtitled: “how amputation cured my disability”. Her 10 days to Apocalypse post is one of the best so far in this series – she starts by connecting zombies to Frankenstein (1818) and H.G. Wells (1936) and then lists some good post-Romero zombie movies before noting that many Geek Mom’s can’t stand to watch the gory horror movies claiming to be too afraid.

I suspect this kind of Geek Mom fear has a lot to do with the modern zombie hysterical economic politics. These are some of the strongest women in the history of modernity, and yet there is something preventing them from engaging in childish expressions of mindless violence. Reality is already too painful to be put into these exaggerated terms? The metaphors are emotionally overpowering? Or is just not culturally acceptable for adult women to like this stuff. Berna suggests:

For moms, the zombie apocalypse is just another thing we have to be prepared for. If there’s not enough food or water, everyone looks to mom and asks why. If someone gets a cut or scrape, they turn to mom for a bandage. Being reminded of all the things that can go wrong (much like the scare surrounding Y2K) can most definitely give a GeekMom nightmares.

I wonder if moms (by which I mean the general public) are doing the same thing with the fiscal cliff fears (pushing them out of their mind to get through the day) and I wonder if increased engagement with the scary problems might not be better. We don’t want public fear, but we need greater public comprehension and ways to find agreement on solutions. Instead we get a group of excited fan boys working up all sorts of apocalypse scenario arguments and the average mom just can’t deal with the nightmares = leading to political disengagement, media-filter bubbles and the absence of unifying tools for assessing credibility.

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From → economics

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