Guest Post: Now Playing: Cognitive Dissonance and Wishful Thinking

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds

Now Playing: Cognitive Dissonance and Wishful Thinking  

This month's Double Feature: Cognitive Dissonance and Wishful Thinking, two thrillers about floundering Central Banks and frantic Ministries of Propaganda.

The global economy is now dominated by Cognitive Dissonance and Wishful Thinking on a grand scale. The push to convince us of "normalcy" and a "return to growth" are strongly reminiscent of the Phony Year of 2007, when the subprime mortgage meltdown was toppling the entire global credit market, yet we were constantly reassured by financial authorities that it was all safely "contained."

We were promised a happy ending to the second feature, Wishful Thinking.

As the second half of 2011 begins, the level of cognitive dissonance between what we're presented as reality by the central banks, media and government--that the "soft patch" is over and the "recovery" is once again full steam ahead--and what the data says is extreme.

All available evidence suggests that credit is tightening as fear awakens in the credit markets. To mention just one such point: as the excellent Acting Man financial blog noted recently, the yield on short-term Treasury bills is now negative, meaning that investors buying these bonds are paying for the privilege of having the U.S. Treasury as the counterparty.

This strongly suggests they care only for security, that is, getting their principal returned to them, and not at all for yield (interest on their cash). If the global credit markets were healthy, why would anyone choose a negative yield?

In Survival+, I used the word derealization to describe the disconnect between what we experience and what the propaganda/marketing complex we live in tells us we should be experiencing.

The Status Quo--in the U.S., in China, and in Europe--has staved off reality for a full 2.5 years since the 2008 global financial meltdown via by adding unprecedented sums of public debt to "solve" the crises of private overleverage, overindebtedness and malinvestment.

This "fix" has already failed, but the EU has bought a few months at best with the latest bailout of Greece's Kleptocracy.

Note that the time bought by each new "fix" is diminishing with every intervention. I have likened this process to the onset of diabetes, where the body's sensitivity to insulin declines even as the body attempts to overcome the desensitizing by producing more and more insulin. Eventually the system breaks down.

Massive, unprecedented interventions bought 2.5 years of bogus "recovery" 2008-11, but that level of intervention--roughly $100 billion a month in Federal Reserve "stimulus" and $130 billion in Federal borrow-and-spend stimulus a month--cannot continue at that pace, as it is destabilizing the entire system.

In the same pattern of reduced effect from greater applications of borrowed money, the EU bought a year of "recovery" with last May's bailout of Greece. Now the latest ECB bailout, which exceeds the previous bailout in size and complexity, is buying perhaps two months before the crisis reappears, like a 1950s movie monster, even stronger and more destructive.

This systemic decline in sensitivity to central-bank/State interevention suggests the end-state of "extend and pretend" and "mark to fantasy" is drawing nearer, as the next round of stimulus, quantitative easing, bailouts, etc. will buy considerably less time for the Status Quo than the last fix.

At some point, the announcement of a new bailout or Fed "fix" will boost spirits and markets for a few days rather than a few months. At the very end of this process, the announcement of the next "fix" will crash the credit and stock markets because participants will finally understand that the fixes are only floundering, last-ditch acts of desperation which have zero chance of actually working.

In other words, neither Cognitive Dissonance nor Wishful Thinking have happy endings.

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Cassandra Syndrome's picture

Cognitive Dissonance Bitchez

ratso's picture

When Leon Festinger developed Cognitive Dissonance Theory in 1957 and coined the phrase, he had in mind a theory that would provide useful hypotheses for predicting irrational human behavior in unexpected situations.  Since then the phrase has taken on "excess meaning" as philologists might put it.

In line with Festinger's original intentions for his theory it is not clear what a useful hypothesis could be developed for the present situation.  He was fond of making predictions that once a person or group of people had committed themselves mentally and emotionally to a situation, they would discount contradictory information and only gather supporting information without a concern about it's validity - much like listeners to Fox News 



Overflow-admin's picture

Or more vulgarly said:

Dis-Cognitive Resonance Bitchez!

Missiondweller's picture

" much like listeners to Fox News"


I was thinking the same thing but would substitute, "Obama kool-aid drinkers still seeking 'hope and change'"

kridkrid's picture

Divide and conquer.  Both positions are probably correct, making most of us simple pawns.

carbonmutant's picture

Reality Distortion Field (RDF)...

narnia's picture

you have it right, carbonmutant.  

the officers of this centrally planned empire have an interest in keeping it together, and are arrogant enough to think they can "centrally plan" the desired outcome while protecting their interests.  in their minds, they still believe they have the force of inflation under their control.  

the board of directors probably prefers the officers to succeed, but ultimately they are arrogant enough to believe they will not be materially affected or could benefit in any outcome.  that's a fatal conceit.  i'm sure most of the directors have realized the officers will not be able to control the force of inflation by now, but they aren't the ones selling it nor do they feel they have an interest in selling it.

Robslob's picture

Seems like it was just yesterday the EU bailed itself out with a historic $1 Trillion free for all...

Wow, how time flies...along with money.

Fukushima Sam's picture

The cycle of history will not be denied; it can only be staved off until, like a seized cog in a complex machine, the pressure builds and then forces a break, causing devastating damage to the rest of the machine.

Gene Parmesan's picture

At the very end of this process, the announcement of the next "fix" will crash the credit and stock markets because participants will finally understand that the fixes are only floundering, last-ditch acts of desperation which have zero chance of actually working.

I'd argue that the participants are already at the point of understanding this, and that they're all just willfully ignoring it, for no better reason than the fact that everyone else is also ignoring it.

Things won't really come crashing down until there's an inevitable misstep by the central economic planners which puts them down a dead end alley, with no further can-kicking room.

kridkrid's picture

What do you think that "misstep" looks like?  What are a couple of examples of what you think would represent the dead end alley that doesn't allow for more can-kicking?  And for what it is worth, I'm not disagreeing at all (I know sometimes people ask questions when they are attempting to back someone into a corner... not the case here).  I'm trying to picture how this unravels.

Gene Parmesan's picture

Who knows. Something that results in truly runaway inflation, supply chain disruptions for things like food or fuel, suspension of welfare benefits, rationing, something that really pisses off China, an overt grab by government at personal property or savings, etc. Whatever it is it's going to have to be enough to get people off their asses. While we all joke around about the Dancing With the Stars crowd, I think it's only a matter of time before people can't ignore what's happening because it's directly and noticably affecting their quality of life.

It can either be a controlled collapse of some kind, where TPTB are stuck making a move which they know will likely have a disastrous outcome, but which will play out on a known timeline with expected results (and which can be prepped for and spun accordingly), or something more unexpected and violent.

malek's picture

Nicely put. I also believe runaway inflation is the most likely next stop.

Missiondweller's picture

I'm certain we'll see it in the bond market or rate derivatives. At some point people will begin demanding higher rates (bond vigilantes) with enough strength to counteract Fed rate manipulation. When that happens, things will quickly unravel. How fast? I fear fast enough that I don't hold any stock or bonds out of fear I could get crushed before I know what's happening.


Everyone wants to keep dancing at the party as long as its going on but it seems many are dancing very close to the door fearing they could be the last out.

CH1's picture

Don't know that I have a better crystal ball than anyone else, but there is the possibility of China falling apart. That might break the denail in enough people.

Thomas's picture

Like the diabetes metaphor, the markets are heading for the Tainter Endgame. Limbs will start falling off.

carbonmutant's picture

I believe blindness sets in first...

Reptil's picture

convulsive spasms sounds about right.

Thomas's picture

Delete of another FFF (fat-fingered fuckup).

Internet Tough Guy's picture

Nice move in oil today.

SheepDog-One's picture

And most were saying the SPR would cause oil and gas prices to plunge. Nope.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Nice to see the term "Cognitive Dissonance" getting a wider audience. If nothing else, just seeing the term compels some people to pause and reflect.

Changing the world one mind at a time. It's the way real change really happens.

Ray1968's picture

For a nanosecond, I thought you penned the article.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

I have.............several times. But Charles Hugh Smith is older and wiser than me and he understands that short articles get wide exposure and long articles get dumped.

I'm still in first grade finger painting when it comes to writing, so Charles picked up my slack and moved on through. Short and to the point is what my first grade finger painting teacher always whispers in my ear as I ask for a 10th sheet of white construction paper and more paint. :>)  

kridkrid's picture

Your handle led to me to reexamine the phrase about a year ago.  It has become a very frequent topic of conversation for me.

Dr. Engali's picture

So did I until I saw how short it was and easy to read :) No disrespect do you or the author.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

I specialize in long and convoluted. It's a natural talent I've been improving upon for years. :>)

Next year I start using affirmations here and here and here and here and here and here and here................. 

(Click each one folks, they are all different.)

GeneMarchbanks's picture

Entirely too many links at once, for shame, you made my brain hurt. Apparently, you Sir, actually read. Contrary to popular belief this isn't good:

JW n FL's picture




FUCK GOVERNMENT!!! LOVE WE THE PEOPLE!!! because they are to stupid to Hate the Government and too stupid to Love themselves enough to help themselves!

JW n FL's picture


I hate you fuckers! and here is why! you have allowed my Country to be fucking, fucked over! over and over and over again!

gmrpeabody's picture

Somebody woke up on the wrong side of the bed!

Sudden Debt's picture

Love = Fucking = Love = Fucking


It's just to inform you that your post confuses people.


Caviar Emptor's picture

+100, bro. Lead us to the mountain top!

Cassandra Syndrome's picture

It is a remarkable condition. I think everyone has it. Holding a different view from within the safety net of your own worldview causes anxiety. Maybe its a defect that developed from the trauma of birth, of leaving the safety and sanctuary of the womb for the big bad world.

Bay of Pigs's picture

Circumstances and perceptions change. One must adapt or suffer the consequences denying they exist.

Yes, I see your point.


Manthong's picture

Does this have anything to do with people born as US citizens believing that they live in a place administered according to the Constitution of the United States of America?

GeneMarchbanks's picture

More like years of repeating the same lies until they are your only "truth". Generally speaking these folks have much trouble listening to contrasting viewpoints- to the point of neurosis. My own world crumbles if it is opposed or just simply broadened a little bit.

Bastiat's picture

I always thought you had some great insights but I never expected you to "dominate the world economy."  Impressive!  Were you behind the DSK chambermaid scandal?

slewie the pi-rat's picture

cognitive dissonance + wishful thinking = viagra

Hedgetard55's picture

But, but, but Leo the K says deficit spending and monetization CAN work.

Dr. Richard Head's picture

Nu-uh!  This next "fix" will be different this time. It will work I tell you. 

I know when I put myself into a debtor status in real estate, a car, and credit cards that all I needed to do was get into more debt for another car, added some more credit cards, and bought another home on the coast.  I knew adding to my debt load would indeed lessen my debt load.  This is a simple math equation of 2 + 2 = 1. 

We will be teaching a course on this through all of the Ivy League schools during the start of school next year called "You Can Win With Debt."

aerojet's picture

It's funny you mention that.  I once heard Donald Trump say that it's not how much money you have but how much you control.  The idea is that he levered himself to the hilt and thereby became a player.  That he has gone bankrupt several times seems inconsequential to him.  It's an interesting tidbit, nonetheless.  I doubt most Americans can see the difference between taking on debt for the purpose of investment versus taking on debt in order to sustain consumption.

Panafrican Funktron Robot's picture

" That he has gone bankrupt several times seems inconsequential to him. "

He probably finds it hard to consider it consequential, when no real consequences have been imposed on him for those bankruptcies.  

Privatize the gains, socialize the losses.  He understood this decades before it became well-known to the public.

malek's picture

Well at least in the moments he was bankrupt he didn't have control over much, me believes.

Milestones's picture

Ah, Yale grad.--what year?       Milestones