MEDIUM – HELEN CUNNINGHAM, PH.D.
Michael Savage is a syndicated talk show host & author. He is famous for his signature creed “Borders, Language, Culture”, and infamous for being banned in Britain as a fomenter of hate. If you knew only those two things about him you might think he’s cut from the same cloth as other conservative media personalities such as Rush Limbaugh. But you would be wrong.
Savage is his own man. He earned a Ph.D. in Ethnobotany from UC-Berkeley and published numerous books on herbal medicine in the 1970s and 1980s. Like an increasing number of people today, he started life as a liberal but developed conservative views based on education, observation and life experience. In addition to four New York Times bestsellers on political topics, Savage has also published several books of short stories and three major novels.
Savage is inherently a balanced thinker. That’s because he follows intuition & logic to conclusions that have the ring of truth to them. He is as likely to irk conservatives on topics such as abortion, gun control, or foreign regime change, as he is to irk liberals on topics such as illegal immigration or affirmative action. Savage is a living instantiation of the old adage that if you’re ticking off both sides, you must be doing something right. He also possesses a wicked sense of humor and a remarkable gift for story telling. Whether you are liberal, conservative, or moderate, time spent with Savage is time well spent.
So, what is “Stop Mass Hysteria” about?
In Savage’s own words, “It’s a political book; it’s a history book.” Savage sees the current cultural climate as dangerously polarized, and in need of more open & rational discussion between the warring factions. In a recent interview he stated “The Battle lines are drawn. We’re waiting for another Fort Sumter.” To avert this catastrophe, he wants to “Give people pieces of history that they can use as sound bites to get a rational discussion going among family & friends. A little history goes a long way” and sometimes you’ll find that agreement “is instantaneous, without rancor or anger.”
Why a book about “Hysteria?” It’s a word increasingly on everyone’s minds. In a recent informal survey I conducted near Stanford University, I asked respondents if they thought we’re living in hysterical times. To a person, every respondent answered “yes”. And according to internet data collected by projects.fivethirtyeight.com, internet use of the word “hysteria” has increased by 70% since the election of Donald Trump in late 2016.
The format of the book is broadly chronological, running from the arrival of the Pilgrims in the late 1600s, right up to the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president and his first 1.5 years in office. It is wide ranging, covering topics from The Stamp Act of 1765 to the Cabbage Patch Kids of 1983. You will not be bored, reading this book.
About the Pilgrims Savage says: “There is an interesting subtlety here … Contrary to popular belief the Pilgrims did not leave England because they sought religious freedom. They came to the new world to establish an order under their own terms, one in which anyone who didn’t fit in, who defied their Calvinstic mores and morality, could be cast out or worse.” Already Savage is encouraging us to think outside the enclosures we learned in high school history classes.
In this chapter, one of my favorites, we learn that the witch hysteria began with charging undesirable people with far-fetched crimes then ostrasizing, imprisoning, or killing the suspected offender. In one such case a man was accused of fathering a deformed piglet. Another outside-the-enclosure point: It wasn’t just women who were targeted.
Savage points out that accusations like this have two main benefits for the accusers: 1) ridding the community of people who are undesirable in some way; and 2) VIRTUE SIGNALING. In the sexually repressive society of the pilgrims, ganging up on someone for doing a bad sexual thing allowed community members to solidify their own sense of honor and adherence to the rules. If pursued fervently enough, everyone would know you were on the correct side of things.