A Fact-Proof Screen: Black Lives Matter and Hoffer’s True Believer

“Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents…. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.”—Eric Hoffer, The True Believer (1951)

Remember the Satanic panic of the 1980s and 1990s? It remains one of the most notorious manifestations of mass hysteria in American history. Pushers of the panic asserted without evidence the existence of a terrifying phenomenon: “Satanic ritual abuse.” Scores of people suffered on the account of the hysteria, not from actual ritual abuse. At least not from Satanists. Like the Salem witch hysteria before it, claims of transcendent evil triggered a moral panic. Millions of people believed Satanic ritual abuse was real. Some still do.

CBC’s teaser for their series covering the Satanic panic

We are now in the midst of another mass hysteria: the panic over systemic racism. There is much more to Black Lives Matter than its hysterical aspects (see my recent Corporations Own the Left. Black Lives Matter Proves it and What’s Really Going On with #BlackLivesMatter). The present article focuses on the social psychological aspects of hysteria and panic.

The systemic racism panic, really a continuation of the panic that began in 2013 interrupted by #MeToo, and then COVID-19, occurs not SARS-CoV-2’s wake but its context, giving rise to a bizarre doublethink, where exorcising the scourge of racism works as a magical prophylaxis against the virus. These panics eclipse the Satanic panic in extent and intensity. They signal a deep disturbance in the Durkheimian moral order.

I teach students about the Satanic panic and other hysterias in my college course Freedom and Social Control. I use it and other examples to illustrate the power of ideology and worldview and social processes in shaping perception and behavior. The same lecture series also covers the phenomena of faith healing, mass hypnosis, scapegoating, and mental illness.

The work of Thomas Szasz (The Myth of Mental Illness and The Manufacture of Madness: A Comparative Study of the Inquisition and the Mental Health Movement), Erving Goffman (Asylums and Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity), Kai Erickson (Wayward Puritan: A Study in the Sociology of Deviance), and Michel Foucault (Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason) figure prominently here. These are not just sociologically interesting materials; they presage what we are going through right now.

In these lectures, I focus on the phenomenon of “moral panic. A moral panic is widespread fear in a segment or segments of a population that a great evil is threatening their persons and their community. The societal reaction is often organized by moral entrepreneurs and amplified through dominant institutions (churches, media, etc.), this evil is sometimes perceived not just social problem but as an existential threat. Irrational fear creates potentially dangerous situations.

Criminologist Stanley Cohen, a scholar of emotional management and the author of the 1972 Folk Devils and Moral Panic, defined a moral panic as occurring when “a condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests.” Through a dynamic called “deviance amplification,” moral panics, while containing little truth content, can, in form and dynamics, threaten the stability and even the continuation of society. (See my essays Viruses, Agendas, and Moral Panics and Death by Suicide in the Era of Black Lives Matter: The Beginning of a Moral Panic?)

Guiding my analysis is the Thomas theorem, advanced in 1928 by W.I. Thomas and D.S. Thomas. The Thomas theorem, also known as the “definition of a situation,” goes like this: “If men define situations as real, then they are real in their consequences.” The theorem is a reminder of the importance of reckoning belief in understanding what motivates behavior. There’s more to it than that, of course. We have also to reckon character, mood, and personality. I will come to these factors in a moment.

But on this belief business, in a world where tens of millions of people believe that the devil is real, that there are such things as demons, that sin is an infectious agent, a good number of people will become convinced that Satanism represents a genuine threat. They will see in a prank, for example a pentagram drawn in rabbit’s blood on the wall of an abandoned building, contagion; they’ll see in it incontrovertible evidence of the “reality” scripture and demagogues and experts weave, as proof that there is such a thing as transcendent evil. The formula for spiraling into evil from here is this: evil warrants evil.  

Of course, religion is nonsense. There’s really nothing to it. Religion is where decent people find profound meaning in the scribblings of primitive minds—for example, Robin DiAngelo’s best selling book White Fragility (see Not All White People Are Racist, The Psychological Wages of Antiracism, and Zombie Politics: the Corporatist Ideology of Antiracism; see also Matt Tabbi’s takedown On “White Fragility” and Dominic Frisby’s Wokeness: the return of Medieval madness). Hysteria lends credibility to derangement.

The righteous get mad at you when you say this, calling you a bigot—or, worse, a racist. Even the level-headed secularist, still too often moved by the ecumenical spirit, is likely to call you out for calling out chicanery these days. But the righteous are the worse. They’re special. They can see a truth beyond the reality. The unseeable architect of the seen. Isn’t the greatest trick the devil ever played convincing you that the devil isn’t real? At the very least, the tolerant secularist admonishes, you should allow such hubris to go unchallenged, for it is polite to do so.

But the devil isn’t real. One has to construct an elaborate abstract system of imaginary structures and entities in order to present the devil as such. Evil is defined into existence. And personified. That is systemic racism.

Such myths persist not just on account of failure to correct errors. We can thank the discipline of sociology for constructing an ideology, a theology really, that works the magic behind the perception of institutional racism. It took a fews generations to raise up a priesthood, to mainstream the notions, organize the cells that preach them, and recruit congregants to receive the gospel. But the investment is paying off. Zealots have taken to the streets. The true believer is on the move.

* * *

“Discontent by itself does not invariably create a desire for change. Other factors have to be present before discontent turns into disaffection. One of these is a sense of power.” —Eric Hoffer, The True Believer (1951)

This brings me to Eric Hoffer’s brilliant The True Believer, first published in 1951. Mass movements claiming revolutionary goals parallel religious movements, Hoffer begins. Both are “conspicuous vehicles of charge.” They can do some good, for example, when Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s benevolent dictatorship modernized Turkey, transforming a Muslim-majority backwater of the world capitalist system into a secular industrial nation (I’m not vouching for the permanence of reason), or, earlier, as Christianity did as “a civilizing and modernizing influence among the savage tribes of Europe.” (On this last example, see A Humanist Take on Marx’s Irreligious Criticism.) But mass movements can also have destructive consequences, such as the Cultural Revolution in China in the 1960s.

The first edition of Eric Hoffer’s landmark work, The True Believer

The True Believer is a short, tightly argued book, so I urge you to read it in your spare time. You can pick up a copy fairly cheaply on the Internet. If you look around long enough you may even find a free PDF of it online. But I want to summarize the book here, identify some of its key points and share a few standout passages, because this book affords the public a key to understanding the insanity now gripping the Western world. I don’t want time-pressed folks to miss out on keen insight.

Hoffer is interested to understand the types of persons who fall prey to mass movements. He does not suggest a monolithic personality type, such as that supposed by Theodor Adorno and associates in The Authoritarian Personality, a comprehensive empirical work from the year previous. Hoffer instead identifies several characterological types that share defects that draw them to the same hysteria. There’s no shortage of people with these traits. They’re waiting for conditions and cues to stir them to action. Their motives are not rational, which explains why the mask scolds and the self-quarantiners of the COVID-19 hysteria believe that checking racial privilege confers upon them risk-free social interaction with crowds engaged in heavy chanting, sweating, hugging, and handholding.

One hallmark of mass movements is the subsumption of the individual into a collective identity that demands commitment to movement goals. Mass movements do this by seducing individuals with the promise of empowerment, love, and transcendence. These movements promise to change the world. But Hoffer insists that the emotionally and psychologically vulnerable (or challenged) are prone to join mass movements not because of movement goals, but because of their need for belonging and, often, to rectify a pathological self-loathing. That is, a desire to shed current identities for new ones, to effect a metamorphosis, drives them towards transcendent claims.

Mass movements, like cults and religious sects, take advantage of those who suffer from weak internal locus of control. For whatever reason, people feel frustrated and impotent. Their perceived misery is somebody else’s fault. The individuality mass movements strip away is specified self-loathing. With a bit of persuasion, their felt inadequacies are easily ascertained as a loss of faith in the institutions of their society. Coercion comes later, when rigid dedication to doctrine really matters and after the movement gathers some power to itself. Hoffer writes, “Fanatical orthodoxy is in all movements a late development. It comes when the movement is in full possession of power and can impose its faith by force as well as by persuasion.”

There is, therefore, in the targets of mass movements at least a latent impulse for change—explicitly to be the change they want to see in the world. Faith-shaken, such persons await the opportunity to throw off the present conditions altogether. The old personality they associate with the degraded present should, if all goes well, disappear along with the old order of things. The passion is mutually reinforcing. Hoffer writes of “appeals not to those intent on bolstering and advancing a cherished self, but to those who crave to be rid of an unwanted self because it can satisfy the passion for self-renunciation.”

One sees this desire in the rhetoric of antiracism, the negation of racism that is a species of racism itself, and the original sin of “white privilege,” the racist practice of attributing some capacity or impulse to those of a particular skin color. Woke whites, believing they possess a privilege they do not, and hating themselves for it, seek to renounce it in a ritual absolution (see The Church of Woke: A Moment of Reckoning for White Christians? See also The Associated Press symbolically inverts the presumed racial hierarchy, while Merriam-Webster engages in newspeak).

Believing they have sloughed off their old identity, the self-loathing lose themselves in the new identity where they find a purpose they could not find for themselves. In focusing the self-loathing of those they seek to control, the organizers of the movement (activists, preachers, teachers) identify a need to repent or awaken, in order to find love, while redirecting self-hatred on those who do not share the self-loathing, especially those who reject the new identity the movement has fashioned for them.

Resisters are cast as the pathological element. They are sick. In denial. Fragile. The more stubborn and abnormal their resistance can be portrayed, the more powerful the enemy can be made to appear, the less human the enemy will appear, and the more unity-power will be generated. Those who stand outside the charmed circle are a threat to the group. They are dehumanized. They are not merely disagreeable but evil. Perhaps nothing illustrates the potential consequences of this style of thinking more than the Maoist horrors of Jonestown. Solidarity around violent possibility is generated in in-group/out-group dynamics.

There is a need to exaggerate the resistance—fragility that functions as confession—and the enemy’s capacities to thwart the movement in order to see the enemy in all those who deny that power. Thus the magic power movement leaders wield is the charisma and talent to impose upon the self-loathing meaning with apparent novel doctrine about the obstacles to paradise. It’s the Satan of the Old Testament, the obstacle thrown in the path of the righteous to test their faith and strengthen them through overcoming. It’s a nostrum for confused and lost souls.

These are, in some sense, echoes of an old argument. “Religion is,” as Karl Marx notes in the introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, “the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again.” Marx continues, Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” But while Marx argues from his materialist standpoint that religious suffering is “the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering,” Hoffer suggests that the perception of suffering may not reflect real suffering. Or, rather, the suffering is real, but not the result of actual oppressive conditions; it is instead born in the failure of the true believer to take responsibility for his failures. It is the suffering of a failed or failing life.

Creative people, Hoffer notes, rarely succumb to mass movements (albeit the opportunistic shape and lead them). Creative people have a strong internal locus of control. They know they are not subject to fate. They are not easily frustrated. They’re content with individual freedom and confident in their ability to succeed—at least take responsibility for their failures. Rather, the stooge of the mass movement is the resentful, the misfit, the criminal, those who blame others for their problems and their shortcomings.

Hoffer writes, “It sometimes seems that mass movements are custom made to 􏰟the needs of the criminal—not only for the catharsis of his soul but also for the exercise of his inclinations and talents. The technique of a proselytizing mass movement aims to evoke in the faithful the mood and frame of mind of a repentant criminal.” “Self-surrender,” he writes, “the source of a mass movement’s unity and vigor, is a sacrifice, an act of atonement, and clearly no atonement is called for unless there is a poignant sense of sin. Here, as elsewhere, the technique of a mass movement aims to infect people with a malady and then offer the movement as a cure.”

The truly marginalized, Hoffman argues, are too busy trying to survive to get involved in mass movements. It is those who feel alienated from mainstream culture—the adolescent, the unemployed college student, the new immigrant, the lazy, the outcast—who are swept up in mass movements. There are, of course, those out for kicks, the bored, the troublemaker, the vandal. But the lumpenproletariat make terrible recruits in the long run. Also present are the ambitious and the selfish. Meaninglessness and worthlessness come under the command of conmen and hucksters.

Make no mistake, Hoffer does not see the free man standing alone. He does not dismiss the role of collective organization. “There is a fundamental difference between the appeal of a mass movement and the appeal of a practical organization,” he writes. “The practical organization offers opportunities for self-advancement, and its appeal is mainly to self-interest.” This is the domain of the creative person, the person in control of himself and his destiny. In contrasty, “a mass movement, particularly in its active, revivalist phase, appeals not to those intent on bolstering and advancing a cherished self, but to those who crave to be rid of an unwanted self.” He continues, “A mass movement attracts and holds a following not because it can satisfy the desire for self-advancement, but because it can satisfy the passion for self-renunciation.”

In Hoffer’s view, it is crucial not to be deceived by the mere presence of a doctrine. The doctrine is not irrelevant, but the emotional and psychological pull the movement has on the vulnerable is more at issue. Hoffer writes, “A rising mass movement attracts and holds a following not by its doctrine and promises but by the refuge it offers from the anxieties, barrenness and meaninglessness of an individual existence.” The pains of existence may be created by the conditions, and is moreover frequently found in the rationalization of one’s own failures, but it is also manufactured by those seeking to manipulate the vulnerable towards some end. The point is, however frustrations come about, the mass movement “cures the poignantly frustrated not by conferring on them an absolute truth or by remedying the difficulties and abuses which made their lives miserable, but by freeing them from their ineffectual selves—and it does this by enfolding and absorbing them into a closely knit and exultant corporate whole.”

I will say something about the conditions in a moment, but on the manufacture of grievances, we can clearly see this work in the way the myth of systemic racism has been constructed by academics, clergy, and pundits. Read “What We Believe” at the Black Lives Matter website. It is the postmodernist discourse established by the leftwing intelligentsia over the last several decades. It provides the disaffected with ready-made philosophy honed to prey upon their insecurities.

* * *

Mass movements may find followers in the exploited and oppressed or in those who have been groomed to believe they are exploited and oppressed. In the former, conditions that are advantageous to the latter, Erich Fromm, in his 1941 Escape from Freedom, identifies the source of vulnerability, or the external locus of control, in conditions that emphasize individual striving but do not adequately provide the means to achieve the goals individuals are expected to set for themselves. These came about as the old order of things fell away as capitalism rose to prominence.

Fromm differentiates between “freedom from” and “freedom to.” These are often posited as negative versus positive freedom (this was Isiah Berlin’s later formulation). Freedom from is distinguished by human action liberated from traditional constraints, such a tribal and religious systems. Freedom to concerns conditions facilitating self-actualization, where creative action is not only possible but promoted. The former type of freedom can be destructive without the latter type effectively present as individuals freed from authority can find themselves without purpose, which sets them up to be absorbed in authoritarian structures that provide purpose for them. They no longer have to think for themselves. They only have to be obedient. They only have to follow the leader. Fearful of freedom, they escape into unfreedom. Hoffer writes, “The total surrender of a distinct self is a prerequisite for the attainment of both unity and self-sacrifice; and there is probably no more direct way of realizing this surrender than by inculcating and extolling the habit of blind obedience.”

In mass movements, facts don’t matter. The main thrust of Black Lives Matter is to get justice for black men killed by the police. The claim is that black men are more likely to be killed by the police. A broader claim is that the criminal justice system represents a “new Jim Crow.” But the evidence doesn’t support the claims at all (see The Myth of Systemic Racism in Lethal Police-Civilian Encounters). The rejection of the facts in this area is hardly new. In challenging William Wilbanks’ findings in his 1987 The Myth of a Racist Criminal Justice System, Coramae Richey Mann, in Unequal Justice: A Question of Color argues that that those who reject the claim of systemic racism place too much weight on empirical evidence.

One sees this in the complaint of the losing side in a debate that they did not know facts would be presented. In the following exchange (see video clip below) one side does not know how to deal in an objective way with the evidence presented by Heather Mac Donald that completely contradicts their intuition. They resort to anecdotes and asking the audience to go with their biased understandings about race. The response is very revealing of what is involved in movement understanding. These are the voices they cite to defend their passion—voices that presume that an audience is a wicked as a hand of them think they are. It’s why somebody as shallow and obnoxious as Robin DiAngelo can appear as an oracle.

“All active mass movements strive,” Hoffer writes, “to interpose a fact-proof screen between the faithful and the realities of the world. They do this by claiming that the ultimate and absolute truth is already embodied in their doctrine and that there is no truth nor certitude outside it. The facts on which the true believer bases his conclusions must not be derived from his experience or observation but from holy writ.” Hence Mann’s insistence that we look at the “qualitative data,” i.e. “the lived experience.” Hence Marq Claxto asking a predominantly white audience to rely upon what he assumes is their racially biased implicit threat perception about black men. While Gloria Browne-Marshall is reduced to ad hominem and exposing her own lack of preparation—revealing that she doesn’t actually know how to prepare, spoiled perhaps by the good will of her surroundings. “The fanatic cannot be weaned away from his cause by an appeal to his reason or moral sense. He fears compromise and cannot be persuaded to qualify the certitude and righteousness of his holy cause,” Hoffer writes. “His passionate attachment is more vital than the quality of the cause to which he is attached.”

“The effectiveness of a doctrine does not come from its meaning but from its certitude,” Hoffer argues. “No doctrine however profound and sublime will be effective unless it is presented as the embodiment of the one and only truth. It must be the one word from which all things are and all things speak. Crude absurdities, trivial nonsense and sublime truths are equally potent in readying people for self-sacrifice if they are accepted as the sole, eternal truth.” He continues: “If a doctrine is not unintelligible, it has to be vague; and if neither unintelligible nor vague, it has to be unverifiable.” When there is some intelligence there, this quality of mind will fill in the gaps. “When some part of a doctrine is relatively simple, there is a tendency among the faithful to complicate and obscure it. Simple words are made pregnant with meaning and made to look like symbols in a secret message. There is thus an illiterate air about the most literate true believer. He seems to use words as if he were ignorant of their true meaning.” So we see hyperbolic claims of “fascism” and “racism” from people who never bother to know what those words mean.

Hoffer sees as significant the elation, even ecstasy, that marks participation in mass movements. “That the deprecating attitude of a mass movement toward the present seconds the inclinations of the frustrated is obvious. What surprises one, when listening to the frustrated as they decry the present and all its works, is the enormous joy they derive from doing so. Such delight cannot come from the mere venting of a grievance. There must be something more—and there is. By expatiating upon the incurable baseness and vileness of the times, the frustrated soften their feeling of failure and isolation.” He writes that the true believer “longs for certitude, camaraderie, freedom from individual responsibility, and a vision of something altogether different from the competitive free society around him—and he finds all this in the brotherhood and the revivalist atmosphere of a rising movement.”

“The fanatic is perpetually incomplete and insecure. He cannot generate self-assurance out of his individual resources—out of his rejected self—but finds it only by clinging passionately to whatever support he happens to embrace. This passionate attachment is the essence of his blind devotion and religiosity, and he sees in it the source of all virtue and strength. Though his single-minded dedication is a holding on for dear life, he easily sees himself as the supporter and defender of the holy cause to which he clings. And he is ready to sacri􏰆ce his life to demonstrate to himself and others that such indeed is his role. He sacrifices his life to prove his worth.”

* * *

“The fanatic is not really a stickler to principle. He embraces a cause not primarily because of its justness and holiness but because of his desperate need for something to hold on to. Often, indeed, it is his need for passionate attachment which turns every cause he embraces into a holy cause.” —Eric Hoffer, The True Believer (1951)

I said at the outset that I would share a few standout passages from Hoffer’s book. Rereading his book I am struck by the power of his observations and the way in which he put them that I had trouble not quoting him. The phenomenon of Black Lives Matter leaps off of almost every page. True believers are becoming the norm, not the exception. They’re all around me. And not just on social media (where the conditions of which are becoming nearly intolerable).

I teach at a public university and the administration and faculty are consumed by wokeness. I’m on sabbatical and my wishful part hopes all this goes away before I make my return to campus. The realist in me is dreading my return. I am hardly alone. Across college campuses faculty and students are subjected to a myriad of pledges and causes and seminars they’re are expected to swear allegiance to, take up, and participate in. They don’t like it, but they are scared to say so in public. They read my writings or engage me in conversation and I get messages of appreciation. But until they speak up we won’t produce the mutual knowledge we need to counter the hysteria. It’s like the Red Scare, when academics had to pledge that they were not and had never been a member of the communist party—except that with antiracism you are a member of the communist party because of what it says on your birth certificate. You were joined up at birth. You skin color implicates you in racism.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a popular oracle for those who are fully on board. No doubt my colleagues across the nation have also been subjected to pledges that call upon his scriptures. In, “Antiracism, Our Flawed New Religion,” John McWhorter writes, Opposition to racism used to be a political stance. Now it has every marking of a religion.” He continues, “Coates is ‘revered,’ as New York magazine aptly puts it, as someone gifted at phrasing, repeating, and crafting artful variations upon points that are considered crucial—that is, scripture. Specifically, Coates is celebrated as the writer who most aptly expresses the scripture that America’s past was built on racism and that racism still permeates the national fabric.” McWhorter writes, “The very fact that white America today cherishes this religion is evidence that Coates’s particular pessimism about America and race is excessive. This became especially clear last year with the rapturous reception of Coates’s essay, ‘The Case for Reparations.’ It was beautifully written, of course, but the almost tearfully ardent praise the piece received was about more than composition. The idea was that the piece was important, weighty, big news.” “Its audience sought not counsel, but proclamation. Coates does not write with this formal intention, but for his readers, he is a preacher.” “Antiracism — it seriously merits capitalization at this point — is now what any naïve, unbiased anthropologist would describe as a new and increasingly dominant religion.” (See For the Good of Your Soul: Tribal Stigma and the God of Reparations.)

The new religion of antiracism is ubiquitous. People are convinced that racism is systemic. They see the rare and aberrant occurrence as confirmation of the truth of the doctrine. The one time the spell works is proof the spell works. They elevate the anecdote over the evidence. The put feeling over fact. You probably know this error as confirmation bias. It is also a type of magical thinking. There are witches in the village. That’s why we feel uneasy, the crowd says. White people fall prostrate on the ground before black people and beg forgiveness for a sin they could not possibly have committed. They make a fetish of skin color and organize around it. They self-loathe on account of it. They wash the feet of those with different color skin. As if color is supposed to matter. They’re congregants in The Church of Woke. The people who are supposed to know better join the mobs in the streets who see the demons (i.e. the racists and the fascists) everywhere. The mob exorcises them by arson, pillage, and plunder. Toppling the idols of the enemy tribe. I can find no refuge from the insanity even in the ostensibly rational institutions of modernity.  

This is a moral panic. People have to start resisting and refusing it. Where is our Joseph Nye Welch? I am not in a position to be that man. I will have no high profile moment. But enough is enough. We cannot get to the problems we need to solve as a nation—crumbling infrastructure, joblessness, resource depletion and environmental degradation, war and peace—if we’re going to operate via mythology and waste our time and energy in ritual exercises that do nothing but heighten and entrench alienation and antagonism.

Consider my work here to be a modest contribution in the vein of Carroll Soner and Jo Anne Parke’s 1977 All Gods Children: The Cult Experience—Salvation Or Slavery? An important book in the deprogramming movement. The subtitle is, of course, a false choice. They mean that these are the same. And they are right. Freedom and dignity reside beyond both. Cults don’t provide purpose. Our purpose is already given: be a good citizen, a moral person, and a responsible individual. That’s for everybody. Cults enslave you with identity instead and make you do bad things. They tell you who you are and control you with your new self-definition.

Beware of mass movements. They’re like cults—that is, abusive relationships. The activists tell you they love you while they degrade and humiliate you. They especially thrilled when you degrade and humiliate yourself. You are broken and sick, not because of anything you have done or anything that has been done to others, but because of who you are—and because of who they are. It’s a cosmic story. They are the authors. The arc and all the rest of it. It’s fate. You are only a personification of doctrine. You don’t have the luxury of being an individual. You have a debt to pay that you did not incur. It was imposed upon you by virtue of your being.

That’s the code. Don’t question it. By the authority of the code, you cannot question the code. You fall short of the esteem, the glory, the salvation you’re told you must seek. Your defect has crippled you. If not correctable (and it isn’t), you must at least continually acknowledge it. Assume the position. Stay in your lane. Go to the back of the room. You weren’t asked your opinion. You’re muzzled by virtue of the tribal stigma, your skin color, maybe, or perhaps on account of your genitalia. Or maybe both. If you deny your guilt, then you prove it. Your appearance heralds your own condemnation. You are a demon and an oracle. You’re fragile and dangerous. Seeking unity is divisive. Seeking equality is oppressive. You don’t get it. You look ridiculous. That’s why you’re abused. You must respect that and love your abuser. Give into his demands. Or you are a racist.

There is no future in what the mob seeks. They aren’t really seeking a future. They see in the countermovement a chance to belong to somebody because they don’t belong to themselves. It’s why people become religious fanatics. Or fascists. Or antifascists. Or social justice warriors.

* * *

Note (July 27, 2020):

For many in Antifa, like the neo-Nazis, they’re organisms forming part of an aggregate on account of the same personality disorders: histrionic, narcissism, paranoia, schizotypal, and sociopathy. The “cause” for them is secondary. Gear and uniforms and flags and symbols—those are really awesome eye candy because they make the user feel important and special. So they get woke upon suiting up. Working up a psych profile for these people is easy; the phenomenon isn’t a symptom of anything but their own disorders which they publicly self-diagnose. Watch the videos of their activities in Portland—termites working with saws and blowtorches to dismantle a fence they were too weak to topple by sheer force of numbers in Portland (their saws and blowtorches failed, as well (the cops looking on, despite being obscured by gas-masks, obviously found the scene ridiculous—those who weren’t blinded by lasers, of course). Both sets of miscreants—neo-Nazis and Antifa—are as Travis Hirshi described them: birds of a feather. 

However, unlike neo-Nazis, who are rare birds those days, Antifa is a larger aggregate, peopled and promoted beyond the clinical types by adherents to Mao Zedong and other illiberal lefty thoughts (near-crazies, of course), with a lot of fellow travelers, and so Antifa represents a rather larger rot—that of self-loathing and vacuous white people looking for a religious-like experience to fill the void of meaning and the absence of accomplishment in their alienated lives. These parasites latch on to other movements, some of which may have some degree of worthiness (antiglobalization), but others that don’t (BLM). Since they operate without humanist principle while fetishizing technique, they are easily used by those who operate with rather more grand designs in mind. It’s hit and miss for the termites because they aren’t very good at higher-level cognitive functioning. If there’s street action, though, they’re there. They can figure out how to navigate city streets and tunnels. Those who egg them on are the problem—the academics, the media, the corporations. They’re the termite whisperers.

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Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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