“The explanation of the relationship between the phenomenon of ‘mass formation’ and the production and circulation of ideologies must take into account both the social dimension as well as the intrapsychic structure of the ideological.”—Max Hernandez, The International Journal of Psychoanalysis (1988).
“Examples of illusions which have proved true are not easy to find, but the illusion of the alchemists that all metals can be turned into gold might be one of them.” —Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion (1927).
“If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.” —W. I. Thomas, The Child in America (1928).
“If it seems to you that the rest of the world has gone mad, the truth is, yes they have.” —Robert Malone, inventor of the mRNA platform, on The Joe Rogan Experience (2021).
In this essay, I elaborate on the phenomenon of mass formation psychosis (MFP) and its relationship to totalitarian monopoly capitalism (TMC). Recently, the topic of MFP was trending across social media thanks to the intrepid Dr. Robert Malone raising the matter in an interview with Joe Rogan on the latter’s popular podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, and the ignorance of the establishment media of basic social psychological literature—and of course their function in running interference for the power elite. Surprising was how many psychologists seemed as ignorant as journalists about the phenomenon. Although I cannot know this for sure, the sense I got from reviewing remarks by those interviewed by various news outlets was feigned denial that assisted the media in marginalizing the concept of mass formation psychosis. Whether intentional or not, thanks to appeal to authority, the concept has been successfully marginalized and the media has moved on to other matters.
I wrote this entry in the midst of the controversy. In my desire to be thorough, it turned into a long essay. By the time I was readying it for publication, the controversy had passed and there were other things to blog about. But I didn’t want to let this issue go, especially since it continues to be used to dismiss Malone. Moreover, the phenomenon of MFP is related to arguments covered in numerous essays published on my blog over the last two years, arguments that have appeared in my lectures to students for decades. Recent essays of mine examining the moral panic surrounding one of the grand illusions of our times: By Learning to Let Go of Mass Hysteria, We Can Bring an End to the Destructive COVID-19 Panic; Priming for Control: How Mass Psychology is Used to Transform Lifeworlds; Panic and Paranoia Deaden Humanity and Sabotage Its Future.
The concept of MFP finds its present formulation in the mind of Mattias Desmet, a Belgian clinical psychologist and statistician on the faculty of Ghent University. As indicated, he is not the first scholar to have identified the phenomenon. However, in attempting to prevent mass consciousness about the idea from developing, the establishment sicced its flying monkeys (the media) on a straw man. I will take up that matter first. Then, to deepen understanding of MFP and its antecedents, I synthesize work by, among others, Franz Neumann (Behemoth: The Practice and Structure of National Socialism), C. Wright Mills (The Power Elite), Sheldon Wolin (Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism), as well as Erich Fromm (Escape from Freedom), Sigmund Freud (Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego and The Future of an Illusion), and the arguments of Peruvian psychoanalyst and historian Max Hernandez concerning mass formation and phenomenon of transference.
Before moving to an analysis of MFP, where I dispel the claims that, as defined and operationalized, MFP is not a valid theory, I must address the nature of the frenzy of press accounts claiming no such thing as mass formation psychosis exists—not just to defend those the establishment is attacking, but to expose the purpose of the attack, namely to keep the corporate state project going. A charitable and unbiased commentator, even if he disagreed with the concept of MFP, would have to acknowledge that Desmet’s terminology is essentially a specification of such well-understood social psychological concepts as mass psychogenic illness (MPI), mass hysteria, mass psychosis, and social contagion. Psychiatrist Mark McDonald, in his 2021 book United States of Fear, calls it “mass delusional psychosis” (the phrase is in the book’s subtitle).
As elites and their propagandists would have it, because the psychologists they’ve selected for interviewing are unfamiliar or feign the same with Desmet’s exact phrasing, there’s no such thing as MFP. It’s hard to believe that this is an error. Indeed, many of those interviewed did not even bother to find out or at least tell readers from where Malone got the phrase, implying that he just made it up. The only reason I can think of why they would do such a thing is to mystify the very real phenomenon he is describing—and to scare others away from agreeing with him. I’m not scared. I have to speak up because I know too much about the phenomenon.
Let me be very clear about what happened here. This was a smear campaign to delegitimize the inventor of the mRNA platform currently being mass deployed in the form of COVID-19 vaccines because his criticisms of mass vaccination programs interferes with the elite project to impose upon western populations a comprehensive social credit system rooted in a biosecurity scheme. The project is real, and in this essay—in many essays on my blog—I will show readers how this is happening. Elite also have in their sights podcaster superstar Joe Rogan. Rogan uses his powerful platform to give voice to those who, usually excluded from mainstream forums, expose the machinations of the corporate state. In the weeks following the Malone interview, the attempt to push Spotify into dropping The Joe Rogan Experience for “misinformation” has even involved the White House.
The concept of MFP is an obvious threat to the elite agenda. The frenzy itself is compelling evidence of the agenda. If Rogan and Malone’s conversation didn’t potentially compromise the project, or there was no such project, the public would know nothing about Desmet’s argument. Elites are trying to thread the needle here. In having to confront the problem of mass formation psychosis, they have to deny the literature and ignore other voices. They have to marginalize the concept without arousing too much public curiosity. It appears they have been effective in this case.
The following is illustrative of the pattern of elite media disinformation. Jay Van Bavel, an associate professor of psychology at New York University, tells the Associated Press (AP) that “he had never encountered the phrase ‘mass formation psychosis’ in his years of research, nor could he find it in any peer-reviewed literature.” Bavel can’t be telling the truth. Either he knows what I am about to tell you and is lying about it—or he is lying about trying to find references in the peer-reviewed literature. It took me only a few seconds to find the article, “Group formation and Ideology,” by Max Hernandez, published in 1988 in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis (adapted from a paper presented at the 35th International Psychoanalytical Congress in Montreal, Canada, in 1987), where Hernandez, operating from a Freudian standpoint, emphasizes the importance of analyzing “[t]he relationship between the phenomenon of ‘mass formation’ (Massenbildung) and the production and circulation of ideologies.” Even a passing familiarity with Freud’s mature work would produce a more charitable comment than Bavel’s.
Bavel isn’t a nobody. He has an extensive publication record. His area of expertise is how group identities and political beliefs shape brain and behavior, so this should be his wheelhouse. Yet he makes no effort to help AP understand what Desmet is talking about. How is his ignorance not feigned and dishonest?
Representative of the posture of the corporate media in this affair, the AP accurately explains MFP while deploying the journalism’s favorite discrediting adjective, namely “unfounded.” You know, as in “unfounded claims of voter fraud.” It is a rather crude propaganda technique that makes the sentence assume what requires proving. The AP tells its audience that MFP, “an unfounded theory spreading online, suggests millions of people have been ‘hypnotized’ into believing mainstream ideas to combat COVID-19.” Indeed, that is the claim: that a mass of the population has become hysterical and, in their hysteria, is obeying rules that are not in their interests but in the interests of the elites who are oppressing them. Just leave out the adjective “unfounded” and you have it. Because that is what’s going on.
The AP, not wanting to look like they themselves are discrediting a scientific concept, asserts, “Psychology experts say the concept is not supported by evidence.” Really? As if Desmet, a trained psychologist with an extensive publication record, is not an expert, or that Malone, a physician and scientist, is incapable of understanding and explaining a well-established social psychological phenomenon—or that you, my brother, need to stop trusting your lying eyes.
Following the Snopes script, the AP (follow the linked url in the above tweet to read the entire mess) scoffs at a popular tweet from a non-expert: “I’m not a scientist but I’m pretty sure healthy people spending hours in line to get a virus test is mass formation psychosis in action.” Indeed, those longs lines are concrete instantiations of the phenomenon Desmet and Malone are talking about. How many of you have watched videos of lines stretching for blocks of people shivering in the cold and rain, possibly sick with a virus of some sort, and thought to yourself, “How can so many people be this delusional?” Mass formation psychosis, maybe? Nah. According to the AP, there’s no such thing. What’s the proof the AP is right? The entire establishment news apparatus joined them in lockstep calling the theory “debunked.” Debunked that quickly. The world only heard the term for the first time in January and scientists had already debunked it. Except they hadn’t.
The AP wants you to ask yourself why such a thought would even cross your mind. What’s wrong with you? Perhaps you’re the one suffering from a psychosis. You really should be better at crimestop, the habit of mind explained by Emmanuel Goldstein, despised author of the subversive pamphlet The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eight-Four as “the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought.” Crimestop “includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments.” It’s the power to be “bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction.” The establishment propagandists holding the line are among the most prolific practitioners of crimestop.
The AP ought to consider debunking another pop psychological concept, namely gaslighting, a form of manipulation occurring in abusive relationships where abusers manufacture false narratives in order to induce psychoses in their targets. That is precisely what the establishment media is doing here. You’re supported to forget that you ever knew about the power of hypnosis and suggestibility, of the astonishing effects of faith healing, of the millions giddy over Hitler (and the Beatles), that you never tapped your foot along with others in unison with the beat, a phenomenon scientists know as entrainment. This is the same establishment media that told you, among their many other lies, about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that Donald Trump was a Russian asset, and that you were the crazy one for doubting these lies.
Is it the establishment media’s contention that children at McMartin and dozens of other preschool across the United States and Canada during the 1980s really were the victims of Satanic ritual abuse? So there really were witches in the Middle Ages and that’s what prompted the Inquisition where mobs killed Homosexuals, Jews, women, and even animals (demons can possess animals, too) by burning them at the stake and crushing the beneath heavy stones? Why did all those hundreds of people drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid at Jonestown? Have you read accounts of the lynch mobs in the Jim Crow South?
In psychology and sociology, we have a better explanation for what happened at McMartin Preschool, Massachusetts Bay Colony, the People’s Temple, and to Sam Hose. The phenomenon is known by many terms, among them mass hysteria, mass delusion, and mass psychosis. There is a vast literature on the subject. Dr. Malone is right, you’re not crazy. The establishment media is lying to you. And that’s the point. They want you to disbelieve the science because they’re using these techniques to manipulate you into suspending disbelief in their lies.
With the matter of media machinations somewhat squared away, let’s talk about the corporate state project to generates the conditions rendering a significant proportion of the population susceptible to mass psychosis. We will begin with the problem of managed democracy. As the reader will see, understanding managed democracy is crucial to grasp in order to understand MFP and why the establishment is so desperate to discredit the idea.
With the concept of managed democracy, Shelton Wolin, the late and sorely missed professor of politics at Princeton University, is describing a government that, while appearing democratic in form, for example, by holding regular elections, declared free and fair by establishment propagandists, functions in an essentially authoritarian manner. (He presents this argument in Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism.)
A key element in producing the illusion of democracy under these conditions, Wolin contends, is the reconstruction of the citizen as consumer, replacing civil rights and civic responsibilities with consumer choice in apparently free markets. Wolin’s analysis resonates with Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno’s arguments presented in several independent and collaborative works, especially concerning the administrative state and the culture industry.
Common to Wolin’s work and that of Horkheimer and Adorno are Max Weber’s observations about the rationalization of society under industrial capitalist arrangements, with its emphasis on efficiency, uniformity, and hierarchy, and the effect that has on humanity. The social logic of bureaucratic control is the diametric opposite of that of democracy; as rationalization proceeds, freedom, which Weber defines as individually differentiated conduct, recede.
Managed democracy is an expression corporate statism, also known as corporatocracy, a juridical and political superstructure organized around primarily corporate interests, in contrast to a democratic republic emphasizing liberal values. The evolution of the corporate state is detailed by Richard Grossman, co-director of the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy, in various speeches and essays, so I will send you there for details (see “Defining the Corporation, Defining Ourselves”; “Challenging Corporate Law and Lore”).
It will suffice here to explain that, under corporate state arrangements, regulatory agencies manage organized opposition to capitalist exploitation and its discontents, while propaganda and psychological operations, which appear as marketing and public relations campaigns, mislead and redirect an atomized public away from politics organized by their class and status interests, steering them instead towards a politics and sentiments subservient to elite interests (see Edward Bernays, Propaganda; Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion; Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent).
A chief empirical indicator of this state of affairs is the failure of government to make and enforce law and policy that function to serve the interests of the majority while protecting the rights of all (liberal democracy). In their 2014 article “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens,” published in Perspectives on Politics, wherein they evaluate four theoretical traditions in the study of American politics, namely majoritarian electoral democracy, economic-elite domination, majoritarian pluralism, and biased pluralism (two types of interest-group politics), Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page find substantial support for theories of economic-elite domination and biased pluralism but not for those theories that convey the narrative of the United States as a democratic society. (For this reason, the term “illiberal democracy” is often used to describe present-day United States.)
Gilens and Page’s study is powerful confirmation of C. Wright Mills’ thesis advanced in his 1956 The Power Elite. Gilens and Page write, “Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.” Were those previous studies out of date, i.e., have things changed, or were they wrongly specified? Either way, the current situation is one in which corporations and the wealthy dominate politics and policy-making.
Things have changed since Gilens and Page published their article. The situation is worse now. The central features central to democratic government the authors identify are now more ideal than real—an ideal in a vanishing subset of minds. In a short amount of time, democratic freedom, election integrity, and assembly, privacy, and speech rights have been compromised or sharply curtailed. Especially terrifying is that it appears as much of the public doesn’t care. Indeed, many are asking for more restrictions, more surveillance, and more censorship.
Under corporate state rule, those who challenge policy and criticize government power are depicted as “threats to democracy,” and are marginalized or neutralized in some fashion. The corporate state wages perpetual psychological warfare against the citizens of the republic, casting opposition and resistance to status quo power arrangements as “deplorables” and “insurgents.”
As we have seen with the US Department of Justice labeling parents at school board meetings speaking out against critical race theory and mask as “domestic terrorists,” difference of opinion is elevated to the level of threats to national security. One sees such tagging in the January 6 Commission organized by Democrats in Congress and in commemorations of the alleged coup, the putsch, to overthrow the United States government and save Donald Trump’s presidency, spectacles where the representatives of the people are delegitimized while the legitimacy of the establishment is ritually elevated.
We see this in the constant characterization of populist nationalism, with Steve Bannon as the boogieman of progressive nightmares, as “authoritarianism,” while the true authoritarian menace—the inverted totalitarianism of the corporate state—is portrayed as the democratic ideal made concrete. Democracy in the inversion is code for the established order of things—an Orwellian attempt to keep alive the illusions of democratic republicanism and liberal society. The inversion desires verticality.
With these circumstances sketched, I now take up the matter of mass formation psychosis, which I have suggested is a reworking of large literature of established ideas. Inspired by the crowd psychology of Gustave Le Bon, Desmet sees MFP as a form of crowd hypnosis or mass trance, achieved by inducing psychosis in a significant proportion of the population.
If you don’t like Desmet’s term, then pick another. As I noted, there are many in the literature. I reiterate, whatever you call it, MFP is a well-known mass psychological phenomenon. What is less well known, however, is that it facilitates the entrenchment and perpetuation of the managed democracy I have just described. This is why the establishment media is so frenzied. It’s not that the facts of MFP are not obvious. It’s that the people are to have an explanation for those facts. The people experiencing MFP are being organized as the popular forces of corporate statism.
Desmet estimates the proportion of the population under the spell of MFP to be between 20-30 percent, a proportion large enough to carry significant societal effects. The obvious historical analogy is Germany under the Nazis. (This is the comparison that likely led to YouTube removing the Rogan-Malone interview for violating its “community standards,” as only certain persons and groups, principally those advancing the corporate state interests, are allowed to make Nazi comparisons. Only useful analogies, however false, are permitted.) The idea here is that, while not every German believed Nazi state propaganda, enough of them did. Combined with regime control over German institutions, this allowed the Nazis to take the population into catastrophic war and to carry out democide and genocide against various populations.
As noted earlier, the concept of mass formation appears in the work of Peruvian psychiatrist Max Hernandez. Although not a household name in the United States, Hernandez is celebrated around the world. Hernandez uses another of Freud’s concepts, namely transference. Transference provide us with a term to describe the mass psychic element useful for controlling populations.
Transference is a phenomenon in which a person unconsciously redirects his feelings from one person or source to another. There occurs a displacement of emotions in which the individual becomes highly vulnerable to suggestion. In Freud’s formulation, a mass forms when the individual puts the leader in place of his ego ideal (Ichideal), that is the inner image of oneself as he wishes to be or to become. Hernandez specifies this process.
Hernandez’s work is thus extremely important to understanding mass social phenomenon, so we might understand why the psychology experts consulted by AP and other media pretended as if this work doesn’t exist. If they are not familiar with Hernandez’s work, are we really supposed to trust their claims of expertise in the field?
Hernandez’s methodology works from Erich Fromm’s demand, inspired by Freud’s mature writings (see Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents), that interpretation involve the “continuous and constant comparison of the psychoanalytic viewpoint, which asserts the radical individuality of man, with that of sociology, which takes into account the totality of social relationships” (see Fromm’s 1966 Marxism, Psychoanalysis and Reality).
From this dialectical standpoint, Hernandez synthesizes Freud’s ideas on group psychology, incorporating definitions of ideology proposed by, among others, Paul Ricœur and Jürgen Habermas in order to explain mass formation. (If you are unfamiliar with these names, do an Internet search. Fromm, Ricœur, and Habermas are intellectual giants. The establishment media is attempting to wall off a vast store of philosophical and scientific knowledge.)
Hernandez explains that “the processes of idealization is vital to the understanding of the ideological in the same way that the understanding of vicissitudes of identification is crucial to gain insight into mass formation.” It was Freud and Fromm’s contention that mental disorders are usually related to disordered interpersonal and social arrangements. Hernandez tells his audience, “The understanding of mass psychology and ideology calls for an examination of social realities.” In understanding “[t]he relationship between the phenomenon of ‘mass formation’ (Massenbildung) and the production and circulation of ideologies,” Hernandez stresses, the explanation “must take into account both the social dimension as well as the intrapsychic structure of the ideological.”
This approach is not dissimilar from that advocated by the political sociologist C. Wright Mills, the empirical substantiation of his work noted earlier, where the analysis of the intersection of biography and history is crucial for the explanation of character and personality in light of social structure from which one derives an explanation of motive and action (in addition to The Power Elite, see C. Wright Mills 1940 essay “Situated Action and Vocabularies of Motives,” published in the American Sociological Review). Both approaches resist treating as causally independent inter-psychic conflict (or George Herbert Mead’s sociological psychology in Mills’ work) and social antagonisms and struggles.
I hope this review impressed upon the reader that the propaganda from the fact-checking exercises that are popping up in our newsfeeds that the phenomenon of mass formation is unfounded is designed to hide the fact that the phenomenon is well-founded and, moreover, that it explains our current circumstances. The foregoing—I hope—helps with understanding the mass formation piece of MFP and to dispel the disinformation being pumped out of the organs of the establishment attempting to discredit.
So what about the psychosis piece? A psychosis is a mental state in which normal cognitive and emotional functioning are so impaired that the subject loses touch with reality; a psychotic person has difficulty differentiating the real and the unreal. Symptoms of psychosis include delusions or false beliefs. Are we to deny this phenomenon as well? Are we to ignore the fact of mass hysteria, moral panic, and social contagion? We can’t. We know there are such things. McMartin and Salem happened. Those who ask you to deny that which you know exists is an attempt to gaslight you.
Enter the Associated Press again. According to that same “fact-check,” after correctly defining psychosis as “conditions that involve some disconnect from reality,” the article cites a National Institutes of Health estimate of “about 3% of people experience some form of psychosis at some time in their lives.” Really? A 2017 national survey of Americans by Gallup finds that, while 87 percent of respondents answer “Yes” to the question “Do you believe in God?”, 64 percent of respondents are convinced God exist. The actual percent of Americans who are conditioned to suffer some disconnect from reality is much greater than three percent.
The very reason the AP and others can’t wrap their mind around mass formation psychosis (and many of the rank-and-file propaganda workers genuinely believe there is no such thing) is because the level of abstraction of the phenomenon typically has it manifesting at an individual level. But the concept of psychosis has never ruled out its appearance as a mass phenomenon. Indeed, the existence of mass hysteria, moral panic, and social contagion (I could develop long and incontrovertible lists of all of these phenomena) testify to the reality that psychosis can manifest collectively, as well as individually. Perhaps the self-evident truth of this is so self-evident that it escapes the observer the way water escapes the fish that takes it for granted.
I realize that my using religion as an example of mass psychosis will rub many readers the wrong way. But my using this example is not novel. Freud pursued this matter in his 1927 critique of religious faith, The Future of an Illusion. While Freud suggests we reserve the term delusion for the content of the individual psychotic’s mind and describe a system of belief in the improbable or probably impossible held by a mass of people as illusion, he hints here and there that this is a distinction without much of a difference, certainly concerning mass formation.
“What is characteristic of illusions is that they are derived from human wishes,” Freud writes, “In this respect they come near to psychiatric delusions. But they differ from them, too, apart from the more complicated structure of delusions. In the case of delusions, we emphasize as essential their being in contradiction with reality. Illusions need not necessarily be false—that is to say, unrealizable or in contradiction to reality. For instance, a middle-class girl may have the illusion that a prince will come and marry her. This is possible; and a few such cases have occurred. That the Messiah will come and found a golden age is much less likely.” In other words, religion is not necessarily in contradiction to reality (albeit, as we will see, he later suggests just that); religion is rather a nonfalsifiable proposition—it’s very design makes it impossible for refute definitively.
At least that’s the faithful’s safety belt. That Freud operates with a bit of sarcasm in his essay is difficult to miss. I suspect he knows he has to proceed in a way aware and cautious of his surroundings, i.e., life in a Christian society. But to be sure the reader gets his point, Freud adds this (which I included in the epigraphs to this essay): “Examples of illusions which have proved true are not easy to find, but the illusion of the alchemists that all metals can be turned into gold might be one of them.” By taking on religion, Freud is deconstructing the greatest mass formation psychosis in history. Of these faiths, he writes, “all of them are illusions and insusceptible of proof. No one can be compelled to think them true, to believe in them. Some of them are so improbable, so incompatible with everything we have laboriously discovered about the reality of the world, that we may compare them—if we pay proper regard to the psychological differences—to delusions.”
Freud is not saying anything new, of course. Ludwig Feuerbach and his admirer Karl Marx had told us in the mid-nineteenth century, explicitly adding a materialist dimension, that religion is an ideology, a belief system simultaneously rooted in and at odds with reality. It is therefore easy enough to expand the concept of delusion to cover any system of belief that refuses to align with objective reality. This makes the problem of delusion rather ordinary. In this way, the problem may be understood in collective terms.
This fact reveals how widely the NIH’s estimate misses the mark. Indeed, as I have demonstrated, history attests to the perennial character of mass psychosis. But, if we take them at their word, the psychologists the AP sought out for its purposes are bereft of any critical consciousness or even knowledge of the history of their own discipline and its context. Their denials are the expressions of the “organic intellectuals” Antonio Gramsci describes in his Prison Notebooks. Those who report their (what amount to) denials to you fall in the same camp.
Since psychological states are, at least in part, and really for the most part, related to the individual’s social environment (infants don’t worship God), even more so with mass psychological states and mass action, which are by definition collective phenomena, the conditions that give rise to mass psychosis must be identified. This is Hernandez’s point. This is the value of Desmet’s formulation, which I prepared with the discussion of managed democracy. So let’s now turn our attention to that matter. It should all make sense now.
Desmet finds that MFP obtains when large numbers of people become isolated from one another (emotionally, physically, socially), disconnected from reality by the culture industry and mass media, their common knowledge (viz. valid belief) disrupted, and their attention commandeered and concentrated on a singular threat, achieved via perpetual disruption of normal life and normal understanding (mass gaslighting), their trust redirected (transference) towards a single authority, although not necessary a personality. Under these circumstance, people are highly suggestible and effectively hypnotized, their cognition and emotions easily manipulated, made resistant to the evidence and reason that contradicts the illusion (or delusion) that enthralls them.
Those who have escaped the trance state, or who never fell for the con, and raise their voice against the illusion, who question the established or official narrative, are attacked, disregarded, or marginalized. It doesn’t matter if they are experts in their relevant subject areas. The truth that the earth orbits the sun is scandalous. Many do not speak up precisely because they fear attack, disregard, and marginalization. Those who do not suffer quietly (and this is no noble suffering in any case) adjust their consciousness to the content of the delusion or the contagion to avoid feelings of anxiety that come with cognitive dissonance and being branded a public enemy or insane. This dynamic is directly analogous to heretical opposition to religion faith. Some openly declare their apostasy and infidelity from faith-belief. Many more disbelieve but do not speak up for fear of ostracization. They are surrounded by zealots who speak the faith loudly enough to scare skepticism to the corners. Some believe but are not convinced. This is not actually analogous. It’s the thing itself. This is the problem of belief in belief. The antidote to mass delusion is mutual knowledge of the reality. The emperor is naked. The establishment media is his invisible clothing.
Thus mass formation psychosis depends on several social and cultural conditions having been established or having developed (if you are uncomfortable with the degree of human agency in the explanation) through a convergence of trends. National and popular consciousness is fractured, the population atomized and some even reorganized into tribes, establishing a cocooned existence with variable “truths,” the postmodern crisis disrupting the culture of the modern nation-state and the Enlightenment. The constant disruption of daily life—lockdowns and obsessive testing—produces generalized anxiety, which is in turn easily focused on selected threats, for example a virus. Widespread anger, frustration, and discontent is focused on particular humans given a status or stigma; the “unvaccinated” become vectors of disease and then disloyal citizens. They aren’t doing their part. Ordinary behavior such as coughing, sniffles, throat clearing, etc., are not incidental but signs of plague. The population is made neurotic and the neurotic are put in a highly suggestible place, susceptible to the temptations of the safetyism that marks progressive mentality, primed to submit to the dictates of the technocracy, to trust “official authorities” associated with the trustworthy tribe—all of which makes the trance state ever easier to induce and to entrench. They are entrained to the rhythm of totalitarianism.
I am covering a lot of ground here, so let’s be very specific. There are four key preconditions typically sufficient for producing a mass formation psychosis identified by Desmet: (1) disruption of associations or connections, what may also be described as the breaking or weakening of social bonds, achieved by physical and social distancing and isolation, for example lockdowns and quarantines, and persistent and sophisticated gaslighting; (2) disruption of ordinary understanding via distortion or loss of meaning or sense-making, what Émile Durkheim terms anomie, which is described as a collective state of normlessness (meaninglessness, purposelessness, senselessness); (3) generalized or free-floating anxiety (already well established considering the popularity of psychiatric drugs, such as benzodiazepines and SSRIs, as well as painkillers); and (4) widespread and free-floating discontent. By free-floating is meant that the sense of uneasiness clinically described as anxiety is not tied to any concrete or particular person, situation, or thing. In this way, anxiety, and well as discontent, may be channeled towards particular persons, situations, and things (as they say, fear sees a threat, anxiety imagines one).
A certain percentage of the population under these conditions will fall into a mass psychosis. They will become pathologically resistant to evidence and reason that contradicts or negate the illusion (or delusion) in which their emotions and cognitions are shaped, felt, and expressed. They will become irrational (Marx describes this psychosocial state as alienation; Weber describes it as depersonalization.) Some of them become dangerous, prepared to perpetrate violence on those who question the narrative. Their disconnectedness from reality is thus substituted with an intense devotion to an ideology. People resort to magical thinking and in-group/out-group thinking to make sense of and reorder the world. What is ritual but sense-making action when things don’t make sense, structured behavior to reduce uncertainty when certainty is nowhere to be found. Typifications fulfill the same need, to reduce the complexity and disorientation of a disordered world, made disordered by moral panic and mass hysteria, which is at the same time its expression. Trepidation is a contagion to which a focus is easily attached and to which the people are entrained. Anxiety becomes fear and fear seeks security. The corporate state, eager to establish its role as parens patria, is waiting with open arms.
In his Sacred Canopy, perhaps the master work on the sociology of religion, Peter Berger describes the state of normlessness Durkheim called anomie as the nightmare par excellence. Some individuals prefer death to anomie, he reports, and so suicides and other acts of self-harm will increase with growing normlessness. Those who do not escape their lives with death, cut themselves in search of the real. They seek to transform their bodies to release their soul in transcendence and transition. Many turn to drugs to feed the hunger of starving neural pathways (often suicide by other means). But most will seek the security of authoritarianism. They will, as Erich Fromm puts it, escape from freedom. A segment of the masses thus transfers its trust to the corporate state. Don’t be deceived. That the New Fascism lacks a cult of personality makes its control over the psychotic even more effective. The liberal businessman from New York City was portrayed as a fascist to distract the public from the real fascism that sought to and succeeded in removing populism from the White House.
In “We are Standing at the Gates of Authoritarian Hell,” I write that “the authoritarian personality is not only the possession of the tyrant. The authoritarian personality is the possession of all those who assent to tyranny. Authoritarian regimes depends on popular support.” “The authoritarian desires to make the state the parent,” I continue. “The state monopolizes the use of force in order to leave powerless the citizens who, in a republic, organize the state to represent and protect individual and familial liberty and rights and interests, [but under totalitarianism willingly become] cradle-to-grave dependent on the state for everything.” I observe that to want this is to want to be a slave. While the rank-and-file authoritarian (today’s rank-and-file progressive Democrat) “may be loud and obnoxious,” and indeed they often are, “their bravado betrays a truth: these are weak people who want to be told what to think, what to say, what to do, how to live.”
But are they weak? The intensity of bullying dissenters encounter suggests that I may not be quite right about that. Then again, bullies have often been exposed as cowardly. Perhaps I should have said that they are frightened—frightened by individuality, by freedom and democracy. At the very least they don’t trust other people with such things. But really they don’t trust themselves; they subject themselves to much of the same unfreedom as everybody else (they can afford a bit of comfort instead), purchasing a privilege here and there by subjecting themselves to state surveillance and scientific experimentation. The myopic focus on the virus, the obsession with it, settling for conditions that induce mass hypnosis, which indicate a desire for control. This sets up a vicious circle. Comfort to assuage working people to be unfree.
Have you wondered why they never doubt the narrative even when the narrative changes often, sometimes daily? Have you wondered why people demand a vaccine that does not confer immunity? How they will have two shots and a booster, get sick, and then thank the vaccine and demand others take it? In a hypnotic state, where the individual is in a permanent state of suggestibility, rational judgment is suspended or sharply diminished. In this condition, the anxiety the targets are experiencing is given a fetish (the virus), the discontent they are experiencing is given an enemy (the unvaccinated). The corporate state tells the people it will protect them and control the personified object of their fear (scapegoating) and so they flock to the shepherd. Once in his arms they offer up to the state ever more areas of their lives for control. They embrace the biometric ID. They even have it surgically implanted in their hand. They thank the corporate state for the convenience of a cashless economy. The corporate state becomes the lord and savior.
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Today’s corporate state is a transformational force powered by global finance and the transnational corporation (TNC). (For more on the TNC, see David Korten’s prophetic When Corporations Rule the Earth. For the longue durée of this development, in addition to Grossman, see and Michael Tigar’s Law and the Rise of Capitalism.) The inverted totalitarianism of the corporate state society is in contrast to the open totalitarianism of the People’s Republic of China. Some distinguish these as “soft” verses “hard” totalitarianism. Whatever the terminology, both forms of totalitarianism are on a convergent path, which explains, for example, the rollout of CCP-style pandemic lockdowns across Europe and North America.
Conservatives and the political right err by mistaking TMC and corporate state arrangements for communism. Corporatists are not communists; however, the system that develops from the bureaucratic collectivism established by the corporate state is highly similar to the system established by the CCP. Alongside the lockdowns, COVID-19 is being used to implement a Chinese-style social credit system in the West (see Fascism Becoming Under Cover of COVID-19 Hysteria; Torches of Freedom, Vaccine Cards, and Our Civilian Lives; Biden’s Biofascist Regime; ). The European corporatist thinks much the same way as the Chinese communist because of parallel social logics.
What we are experiencing, then, is the merging of eastern and western style tyrannies into one global system. This fusion does not require communists (i.e., Chinese government operatives) in Western governments and institutions (although they are here); rather it is a product of the similarity in the social logics of bureaucratic collectivist systems. When democratic-republic governments are overthrown by corporate power (which I will argue in a pending essay occurs in the United States in the late 19th century), it is inevitable that the spirit of government will increasingly resemble that of a communist dictatorship as popularly understood.
Those culturally and politically inclined to identify as on the left don’t see it because it has clever labels, for example “progressivism” or “social democracy.” We might consider another soft label that conveys meaning more precisely, namely “friendly fascism” (albeit I am not endorsing Bertram Gross’s book of the same name).
Adding to the confusion on the right, as well as among disillusioned leftists, the character of the People’s Republic of China is not actually communistic at all, if by communism one means stateless, classless society, which we should if we wish words to remain meaningful and not propagandistic. Indeed, unlike the Soviet Union, China isn’t even state socialist in character. “Socialism with Chinese characteristics,” as CCP propagandists advertise their system, is really state capitalist in character.
It is important to get the concepts straight; only then does it become obvious that state capitalism is the common source of the New Fascism I describe in my essays. (For a lengthy treatment of the New Fascism, see my essays Totalitarian Monopoly Capitalism: Fascism Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow and From Inverted to Naked Totalitarianism: The West in Crisis.)