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Slouching Towards Totalitaria: The Groupthink Psychodemic, Part III
Never, before Covid, could a set of such radical and potentially subjugating ideas, and the programme for their implementation and enforcement, have become the occasion of such universal consensus.
It is becoming more and more obvious that it is not starvation, it is not microbes, it is not cancer, but man himself who is his greatest danger: because he has no adequate protection against psychic epidemics, which are infinitely more devastating in their effect than the greatest natural catastrophes.
— C.G. Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul
In his 2008 book, Us and Them — Understanding Your Tribal Mind, David Berreby explores the idea that tribalism is innate to humankind — that we are hardwired to band together with those who think like us, and oppose those who do not. Berreby conducts a careful study of how societies place imprints on the minds of their members, making connections in the individual brain between neurological programmes governing functions like language, sight and music, and the social requirements of conduct, law and morality. In one fascinating sequence, he looks at the role in history of what he calls stigma, exploring the possibility that many everyday tropes of modern fashion derive from past forms of marginalisation and scapegoating. To preserve necessary concepts of hierarchy and conformity, societies through history have created marks of exclusion to isolate individuals or groups deemed to be outside society’s walls. In medieval Europe, groups like soldiers, criminals and wandering minstrels wore multicoloured clothes to distinguish them from ‘normal’ citizens. Fashion and youth culture have long flirted with these signs of infamy and since the 1960s have majored in adapting and reinventing indicators of societal stigma, seeking to assert identity on the basis of the iconography of marginalisation. In the 1960s, long hair became fashionable for men because of its androgynous connotations, previously a big taboo. Similarly, shaved heads, because of the association with convicts, remained a symbol of exclusion until relatively recently. Berreby’s fascinating thesis is that authority seeks to prevent the mainstreaming of such imagery not to protect young people from harmful associations but to prevent the iconography of societal rejection from devaluation. In other words, it is a fundamental impulse of societies — and by reduction of groups — that they reserve the capacity to expel malefactors and non-conformists. The countervailing idea of ‘inclusiveness’ is a relatively recent invention.
In times of doubt and controversy, a majority of people stick their dampened fingers in the air to see which way the wind is blowing, then replicate what the loudest and most ‘authoritative’ voices are saying. Such ‘other directed’ categories tend to make up the ‘hard centre’ of the herd — those most difficult to sway with mere facts. Changes of mind generally start around the periphery, where the ‘inner directed’ independent thinkers tend to gather, and it is there we find the dissenters and the banished, often in the same persons.
For a minority to convince the majority is not an arithmetic matter. The tipping point may actually be as low as 10 per cent. A decade ago at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York — America's oldest technological research university — a study using computational and analytical methods found that when just 10 per cent of the population holds an unshakable belief, that belief is destined rapidly to be adopted by the majority.
Nevertheless, human beings behave as though built to herd rather than become heroes. Most people understand or sense that human beings are impressionable creatures — on account, perhaps, of their desiring to fit in, even at great cost, but also, in an associated way, in not wishing to appear obtuse or unintelligent, discounting their own perceptions and instincts as a result.
The Asch Conformity Test was a series of trials carried out at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, in the 1950s, aimed at discerning how susceptible people might be to peer pressure, and how far this was likely to influence them in the things they believed or claimed to believe. It has often been noted that human beings fear nothing — not even hunger or thirst — more than being cast outside their own tribe, and these tests, also called the Asch Paradigm, comprised a series of studies directed by Solomon Asch to examine whether individuals would yield to or defy a majority group, and study the impact their responses had on their opinions, beliefs and actions. The results show a strong propensity in a minority of humans to follow the herd regardless of facts or even personal understandings. Asch found a strong pattern of yielding towards an erring majority opinion in more than a third of his test subjects, with three-quarters being prepared to concur with the majority’s ‘blunders’ to some degree — in other words, consensus was more persuasive that truth. Doubt creeps in when we are outnumbered, pressing us to trust the majority.
Asch’s verdict: ‘That intelligent, well-meaning, young people are willing to call white black is a matter of concern.’
Some subjects, though suspecting something was wrong, lacked the confidence to go against the crowd. Some knew the others were wrong but went along so as not to seem ‘out of step’. Further trials over subsequent years discovered that, if one or more of the actors concurred with the subject’s opinion, the number of instances where the subjects answered with the majority was reduced dramatically. The bigger the group, the more likelihood of conformity. The level of conformity was dramatically reduced in experiments in which the answers were written rather than spoken publicly.
This is why it has been so vital to the Covid deception that contrary views are excluded from public debates. Just one dissenting voice can liberate even a hesitant person to ignore the majority and speak the truth as he sees it. In a mass society, even a few dissenters can turn a general convocation around. That is why the authorities seek to blacken the reputations of dissenters, why journaliars demonise truth-tellers as ‘far right conspiracy theorists’, and so forth. It is also why PC ideas have proved so powerful in bullying the majority to remain silent on issues when certain perspective are defined as taboo. All goes to demonstrate Irving Janis’s third rule of groupthink: Its captives immediately move to marginalise ‘wrongthinkers’.
All regimes, even tyrannies, depend on the acquiescence of the crowd. Those who dissent find they frequently incur the disapproval of other citizens, who prefer a quiet life in the early stages of despotism, when the threat is easier to ignore. By the time things escalate to a level intolerable to the majority, the price of confronting the regime is exponentially greater. If a significant number revolts at that stage, the gloves come off and the society descends into outright and open tyranny.
‘Groupthink’ is not only nothing new — it is a reflex that has served the advance of humanity through the various stages of evolution. Only in recent times have we started to think of concepts like ‘diversity’ as good and concepts like ‘marginalisation’ as bad. Through much of the span of human history, instincts that divided were not merely considered virtues, but necessary ones. The problem enters in the context of several pronounced syndromes: the strange and potentially destructive behaviours of mobs in pursuit of unity; the damaging effects of like-mindedness in certain kinds of decision-making processes; and the effects of the behavioural ‘sciences’ in distorting human thinking in ways that in turn place instruments of disproportionate and dangerous power in the hands of manipulators. In his 1957 book, The Hidden Persuaders, Vance Packard wrote about the then emerging ‘depth’ industry’s discovery and leveraging of what were called ‘subsurface desires, needs and drives’ in human beings. Among the chief interconnected ‘subsurface’ levers found in most people’s emotional profiles were ‘the drive to conformity’, the ‘need for oral stimulation’, and the ‘yearning for security’.
Hence, although the declension of the groupthink concept may at first sight appear artificial, it is a necessary instrument for comprehending the history of what is a fairly clear-cut syndrome of human nature, as well as a pitfall of collective deliberation, and ultimately a lethal weapon of human enslavement. Acquiring a basic familiarity with the various techniques of persuasion and mind-control does not necessarily provide us with a more coherent schema for understanding human quirks and foibles under these headings, but it does serve to draw together a map of related aspects of human personality that may increasingly endanger the human species in general as techniques and technologies of manipulation become more sophisticated and exploitable.
These dangers have reached an unprecedented degree of rampancy in the ‘Covid project’. Never before have near-total populations become so exposed and amenable to centralised forms of mind control; never before has a set of potentially controversial ideas and a programme for their implementation and enforcement become the occasion of such universal consensus. Never before have so many believed the same things on so little evidence, or given up so much on such minor pretext.For example, the ‘spontaneous’ and universal belief in lockdown as a means of dealing with a respiratory ailment — never before proposed, never attempted — an idea imported whole from China that brought the West to its knees within weeks and became immediately an unquestionable dogma, turning inside out nearly 3,000 years of liberal democracy without as much as a shot being fired.
In this short series of articles, we have explored how the principles by which a group can succumb to dangerous like-mindedness were extracted and tabulated by Irving Lester Janis. We have looked also, in this series and in a range of articles over the past year, at a range of mechanisms whereby these same tendencies may be exploited in a broader population — techniques relating to propaganda, behavioural psychology, depth manipulation, surveillance, data accumulation and mass entrancement. We have examined the weapons-of-choice of multiple formerly democratic governments to impose their wills and subdue any potential for dissent or disquiet among their populations. We have examined the changing underfoot conditions that make it increasingly easier for governments and other powerful bodies to utilise such instruments to achieve an almost total compliance. Among the most important of these is control exercised over the failing legacy media — mainly by corruption through the use of advertising budgets, subvention and conditional subsidy — usually by governments, but also by public or private organisations with the means and motives to control public opinion. In effect, the media have ceased to be promulgators of understanding and have opted to become instead, under instruction from governmental and other clients, manufacturers of consensus, daily restoring the walls of lies they have built around their audience members.
We have also examined the manipulation of authority and deference in imposing and controlling a consensus of (mis)understanding, and closing down or marginalising dissent. In these processes we can observe the operation of the principles so brilliantly distilled by Irving Janis, fifty years ago, and outlined in Part I of this series. In effect, we have been trying to draw attention to the capacity that now exists for imposing one-dimensional thinking imposed on whole populations, with the tendency of affected groups to automatically exclude and even demonise ‘out-group’ interests, as identified by Janis, serving to close down public discussion at moments when debate is most urgently required.
There was a reason why the philosopher John Stuart Mill, in treating of the essentials of freedom in his 1859 treatise On Liberty, placed such emphasis on the importance of independence of thought, opinion and speech. Mill’s main point was that, since all freedom depends on rights of expression, a society desiring freedom needs to facilitate the maximum possible degree of free speech. ‘If all mankind minus one were of one opinion,’ he wrote, ‘mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.’ Mill’s proposal might be called ‘an antidote to groupthink’.
In the past year-and-a-half, we have observed the patterns of Irving Janis’s diagnosis at work in multiple ways. It may not be that, in the overall imposition of the Covid tyranny, we are looking at a classic example of groupthink, for that would imply that the orders coming from on high were simply wrongheaded as opposed to malevolent, malicious and wicked. This may not be assumed. Where the issue of groupthink may enter in the first instance is with regard to the implementation of these diktats by secondary, tertiary or subsequent levels of officialdom or bureaucracy, and in the media who mirror these signals. Unsuspecting of utterly malign motives on the part of the uppermost manipulators, the inferior layers of executive actors may have been implementing a series of falsehoods in good faith based on ignorance, though sometimes with a degree of negligence amounting to criminality of itself.
But it cannot be assumed that what is happening arises in the first instance from error, incompetence or wrongheadedness: The signs and evidence indicate that it is a dastardly plot to destroy the human race in its present form, or at the very least institute forms of control that will render its future existence unliveable by comparison with the past. The ‘groupthink’ problem may enter in by virtue of the mindlessness of implementation approaches, the failure to investigate from first principles, the neglect of due diligence exercises such as independent studies and cost-benefit analyses, and also the peculiarities of the hierarchy of command, what appears to be a system of compartmentalised authority, in which a few at the top may know what is actually happening, but the knowledge diminishes as instructions come down the chain, everyone being provided only with the information he or she ‘needs’ to know to implement the protocol.
The groupthink factor, then, arises chiefly from the failure of ‘democratic’ leaders to take seriously their roles as representatives of their electorates, their sudden resolve to see themselves not as custodians of their people’s interests, protectors of the freedoms of their societies, and upholders of the integrity of the enabling institutions and instruments that exist to underpin those freedoms, but as rulers in their own right. Disregarding the fundamental nature of the power relationship at the heart of democracy, the political class — most lamentably of the countries formerly collectively recognised as ‘Western civilisation’ — have taken the opportunity afforded by what has long since emerged as a minor health scare, to usurp the authority and sovereignty of their peoples and, acting as proxies for undeclared, invisible outside interests, declared themselves the occasional gaolers of their own populations. In effect, those to whom We, the Peoples of innumerable countries have entrusted our most sacred liberties, and delegated the accompanying powers — the implementation of legislative processes, the administration of justice, the application of state coercion — have almost without exception betrayed the sacred trust which this necessary assignment of power implies.
In this process, as we have seen, they have used the full panoply of manipulative instruments developed over the past century in marketing industrial products to willing consumers. In this process, additionally, they have employed mendacity, fear-mongering and the instruments provided under licence by parliament, laws, judicial process and policing to gain access to the most primal responses of their peoples and thereby subject them to a regime of incarceration, abuse, humiliation and dispossession. It has been clear for some time that these authorities have no intention of abandoning this course, at least until they have imposed some of the most radical alterations in human culture and behaviour ever seen outside the most grotesque and vicious despotisms or the most fanciful dystopian tales. All this has been all but exhaustively documented on this platform over the past 10 months.
In the implementation of the plandemic, therefore, we can observe the playing out of Janis’s three defining ‘rules of groupthink’: the mass promulgation of understandings based not on objective reality but on a distorted view of the world; the generation of ‘in-groups’ comprising intense believers in the unverified rightness of what they are imposing; and the labelling, marginalisation, discrediting and silencing of those outside the in-group — those conducting what the authorities of many countries have been referring to as the ‘infodemic’. All this to, in premeditated effect, renders stillborn the process of discussion and dissension John Stuart Mill adjudged to be essential to democracy and freedom.
The programmes of mass-manipulation and entrancement employed by the governments of the former Western democracies have been, more or less universally, in keeping with the descriptions provided by the English journalist Laura Dodsworth in her timely and comprehensive account of the use of these techniques and tactics in the UK, the 2021-published A State of Fear. It is, as Dodsworth says in her Introduction, ‘a book about fear: Fear of a virus. Fear of death. Fear of change, fear of the unknown. Fear of ulterior motives agenda and conspiracy. Fear for the rule of law, democracy, the western liberal way of life. Fear of loss: losing our jobs, our culture, our connections, our health, our minds.’ But it's also, more precisely, about how the British government weaponised fear against its own people — ‘supposedly’, as Dodsworth says, in their best interests, ‘until we were one of the most frightened countries in the world.’
At the heart of Dodsworth’s book is an exploration of the strategy that appears to have begun with a resolution, determined at the outset by a key advisory group of behavioural scientists engaged in the formulation of government policy — the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviour (SPI-B), which stated in its March 22nd, 2020, report, Options for increasing adherence to social distancing measures, that ‘a substantial number of people still do not feel sufficiently personally threatened.’ SPI-B recommended that 'the perceived level of personal threat needed to be increased among those who are complacent, using hard-hitting emotional messaging'. As Dodsworth extrapolates, the British government was being advised, in ‘one of the most extraordinary documents ever revealed to the British public’ to ‘encourage’ adherence to the emergency lockdown regulations by means of cynically imposed fear.
This process, as we have previously explored, operates as a form of mass entrancement, employing standard techniques of the therapeutic and stage hypnotist, combined with understandings of the domestic narcissist/psychopath adapted to the public realm, which have enabled the Covid operation to harness the dynamics of archetypal relationships between narcissists/psychopaths (politicians) and co-dependent submissives/empaths (citizens), in effect weaponising on a grand scale the dynamics of abusive domestic relationships. It is important to understand that this is not a literal expression of psychopathy, but a scripted protocol designed to induce in the targeted audience similar responses to those of the subjugated individual in an abusive intimate relationship, in this instance to inculcate the necessary elements of the desired groupthink in one and in all. These techniques summon their victims to respond to the approved narrative, refraining from questioning its tenets or logic, and, in defence of it, joining in the demonisation of its out-group opponents, and their scapegoating if so instructed.
Of course, only the cultivation aspects of these conditions might be said to relate to forms of thought per se, since in general these tactics tend to bypass the rational mechanism of the human mind, and, by manipulating feeling and emotion, impose a degree of terrified certainty that exceeds in persuasion-power whole libraries of information and data in ‘convincing’ people as to the realness of the threat said to exist. This is what we have dubbed the ‘enspelled’ form of groupthink, though in its full-blown form it bears also the hallmarks of a very literal form of ‘possession’, the word we have used to describe the spontaneous capturing of a group of decision-makers by wrongthink arising from treacherous internal dynamics and undertows, and resulting in what Janis called ‘fiascos’. In this, despite the protestations of the culprits, it bears more than a passing resemblance to the tactics operated by the Nazis in the expansion years of the Third Reich. How ironic, then, that almost universally, the culpable authorities of 2020/21 have resorted to seeking to demonise their critics by characterising them as ‘far right’.
These tactics were replicated in virtually every country in the world, under the guidance — nay, insistence — of highly centralised authorities, most visibly the World Health Organisation, the European Union, United Nations and World Economic Forum. A centrally orchestrated groupthink was transmitted through the wires of bureaucracy and corrupted media to the minds of billions.
In the Covid context, the operation of groupthink can be observed under three main headings: (1.) in the operations of groups and bodies, including expert ones, which fell in with the narrative on the basis of a reduced view of science and medical understanding, eschewing the time-honoured means by which pathogens were absorbed and overcome within populations; (2.) in the manner in which media have represented these understandings; and (3.) in the responses of citizenries who decided that their governments knew best, regardless of what common sense and experience told them.
According to some of the world’s leading scientists — Professor Sucharit Bhakdi, Dr Geert Vanden Boosche, Dr Michael Yeadon, and others — those who have orchestrated this disaster have generated a far worse problem than anticipated in even their most ludicrous initial computer-generated predictions. This apprehension arises both from the established lethality of the ‘vaccines’ and the weakening effect on the human immune system of the prior conditions imposed by lockdown, social distancing, hand-washing and mask-wearing; in other words, the danger has been exacerbated by their manipulation of structural elements of the human in ways that sought to distort and manipulate reality.
Covid is not — never was — a pandemic. It is, rather, what Carl Jung called a ‘psychic’ epidemic, a mass psychosis or, to be more precise as to how we arrived here, a generated dementia that grips the world and is now beyond the control even of its controllers. This occurs when a significant section of humanity loses touch with reality and descends into delusion. The Salem witch-hunt, and similar events in America and Europe of half a millennium ago, as well as the triptych of totalitarianisms that erupted in Germany, Russia and China in the twentieth century, are all examples of such madnesses. Jung wrote that, in such an episode, the affected individuals sink unconsciously to a lower level of intellectual engagement, becoming ‘morally and spiritually inferior’ to the civilisation they belong to, but without having any awareness of or insight into this. The causes of these madnesses are different to the triggers setting off madness in an individual. Generally, they arise from ‘psychogenic stressors’, for example the flooding of a culture with negative emotions — anger, fear, anxiety, et cetera — which drive the collective into a state of mutualised panic. Whereas an individual may experience, for example, a ‘psychotic break’ — a combination of psychotic and non-psychotic responses which may have a paradoxically stabilising effect, enabling a processing of the various disturbances so as to allow the affected individual to emerge unscathed from the episode, the crowd, once stirred up, has no way back. It loses its grip on sanity, becoming, according to Jung, ‘more unreasonable, irresponsible, emotional, erratic and unreliable’. Crimes which would be unthinkable for an individual are ‘freely committed by the group smitten by madness’. There is no mechanism within the mob whereby it, or its constituent members, can become alerted to the psychosis, and no collective mechanism that might enable it to moderate its responses. In such a situation, the crowd becomes the instrument of either its own latent pathologies or external controllers seeking totalitarian power. There is, then, a degeneration leading to regression, the culmination-state of mass delusion: infantilisation. The crowd places itself in the hands of its rulers, accepting everything they intimate or mandate. Since these delusions have almost invariably been initiated by the rulers, the result can be outright collective insanity, with the mob unthinkingly carrying our every wish and command of the rulers. This, really, is the nadir of the ‘enspelled’ form of groupthink. Other words for this are brainwashing and menticide, the latter coined by Dr Joost Meerloo, author of Rape of the Mind: the Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide and Brainwashing, who defined it as ‘an organized system of judicial perversion and psychological intervention, in which a powerful tyrant transfers his own thoughts and words into the minds and mouths of the victims he plans to destroy or to use for his own propaganda.’
Dr Meerloo, who experienced Nazi indoctrination methods first-hand in the Netherlands, systematically described the minute details of the indoctrination process in what he called ‘Totalitaria’: ‘The masses must give up their freedom and cede control of all aspects of life to the ruling elite. They must relinquish their capacity to be self-reliant individuals who are responsible for their own lives, and become submissive and obedient subjects. The masses, in other words, must descend into the delusions of the totalitarian psychosis.’ The population turns in on itself seeking to root out the malefactors and crimethinkers, whipped up and along by the ruling authorities. Common decency and reason are eradicated from the culture, replaced by terror and scapegoating of the imagined enemy within.
Merloo’s writings, along with those of Hannah Arendt, offer among the richest understandings we have of the mechanics of the totalitarian impulse and the methods demagogues and totalitarians seek to capture the minds of their victims.
‘The demagogue, like the totalitarian dictator,’ he writes, ‘knows well how to lay a mental spell on the people, how to create a kind of mass suggestion and mass hypnosis. There is no intrinsic difference between individual and mass hypnosis. In hypnosis — the most intensified form of suggestion — the individual becomes temporarily automatized, both physically and mentally. Such a clinical state of utter mental submission can be brought about quite easily in children and in primitive people, but it can be created in civilized adults, too.’
He peers into phenomena like the use of cliché in the generation of public opinion, the role of the human need for companionship, the application of psychological shock and regression (infantilisation), the manipulation of guilt feelings and the use of tendencies towards masochism in engendering strange pacts with tyranny. Totalitarianism is the sum of the personalities of its subjects, broken down and subjugated. It is also the tapping into the childlike fears and dependencies of the individual, which make him crave protection and security over freedom. Totalitaria is a mythical place in the imagination, ‘a monolithic and absolute state in which doubt, confusion, and conflict are not permitted to be shown, for the dictator purports to solve all his subjects' problems for them,’ enabling the uncivilised child in everyone to embrace a kind of liberation from responsibility and ethical frustration. ‘Totalitaria — the Leviathan state — is the home of the political system we call, euphemistically, totalitarianism, of which systematized tyranny is a part.’
Our societies, he believed are far more primitive than we like to imagine, and the more technologised the society, the truer this becomes. In The Rape of the Mind he argues that humanity’s love affair with machines and technology is gestating societies of robots, who seek the irrational as a form of escape from reality. ‘Public opinion moulds our critical thoughts every day. Unknowingly, we may become opinionated robots. . . We crave excitement, hair-raising stories, sensation. We search for situations that create superficial fear to cover up inner anxieties.’
No nation, he wrote, is immune from becoming a Totalitaria. ‘Totalitaria is any country in which political ideas degenerate into senseless formulations made only for propaganda purposes. It is any country in which a single group left or right acquires absolute power and becomes omniscient and omnipotent, any country in which disagreement and differences of opinion are crimes, in which utter conformity is the price of life.’
He describes by happenstance life in PC Ireland of the past decade: ‘The citizens of Totalitaria do not really converse with one another. When they speak they whisper, first looking furtively over their shoulders for the inevitable spy. The inner silence is in sharp contrast to the official verbal bombardment. The citizens of Totalitaria may make noise, and utter polite banalities, or they may repeat slogans one after another, but they say nothing.’
‘In Totalitaria, there is no faith in fellow men, no “caritas”, no love, because real relationships between men do not exist, just as they do not exist between schizophrenics. There is only faith in and subjection to the feeding system, and there is in every citizen a tremendous fear of being expelled from that system, a fear of being totally lost, comparable with the schizophrenic's feeling of rejection and fear of reality. In the midst of spiritual loneliness and isolation, there is the fear of still greater loneliness, of more painful isolation. Without protective regulations from the outside, internal hell may break lose. Strong mechanical external order must be used to cover the internal chaos and approaching breakdown.’
Menticide, or brainwashing, or cultivated groupthink, is the process by which a demented ruling class imposes on the collective mind of the population the programme for the achievement of its own aspirations to total power and control. Modern psychiatry offers several of the key tools required for this perversion. This starts out with a programme of fear-mongering, which is escalated to ramp up the state of delusion and derangement of the mob. For maximum effect, this is carried out in a series of waves, punctuated with quasi-normalising breaks, enabling fear-levels to be increased by building them layer-upon-layer like a lasagne, until the dish reaches boiling point. The breaks are just as important as the periods of fear-mongering. The processes of spreading disinformation, confusion-generation and scapegoating are orchestrated to enflame the mob and provide it with a clear sense of an enemy. Confusion is a critical instrument, creating a sense of chaos among the crowd that prevents it putting things back together in a rational manner. Technology makes easy such a process of emotional ‘jamming’. Separating, isolating people, interrupting the normal interactions of the population, are key instruments also, and it will not escape notice that these have been visible features of the Covid cult, causing the individual to become isolated from others, and increasingly mistrustful of his fellows. The media are central to this process — in a Totalitaria it is their sole function. ‘He who dictates and formulates the words and phrases we use, he who is master of the press and radio, is master of the mind. Repeat mechanically your assumptions and suggestions, diminish the opportunity for communicating dissent and opposition. This is the formula for political conditioning of the masses.’
Hannah Arendt, in The Origins of Totalitarianism, also identified constructed loneliness as a key tool of totalitarianism: ‘What prepares men for totalitarian domination in the non-totalitarian world is the fact that loneliness, once a borderline experience usually suffered in certain marginal social conditions like old age, has become an everyday experience of the ever-growing masses of our century.’
Once isolated in their individuated states of loneliness, the members of a community or nation lose their place in the world, and in doing so become as fodder for the tyrants. Totalitarianism offers them coherence that is otherwise lacking: the coherence of terror. It removes complexity, replacing it with the simplest of concepts, and therefore eliminates also the confusion and chaos initially engendered by the totalitarians laying the groundwork for their schemes. Loneliness is a step beyond mere isolation, a sense of no longer belonging to the human community at all. This, above all, is what renders totalitarianism different to ‘ordinary’ tyranny. Rendering the world simple and negotiable, albeit at the price of a lost humanity, totalitarianism becomes seductive to those who are too fearful of reality to identify with other humans. The points of comparison between these descriptions and what has unfolded in the Covid cult need hardly be laboured.
Hannah Arendt believed that totalitarianism was not just another form of tyranny, but a unique and novel development — the total domination of a people through a combination of simplistic ideology and constant terror. It appealed to no traditional laws or forms of government but rather to its own concocted Law of Nature (survival of the fittest, master race) or Law of History (a classless society with one class, the ‘proletariat’). Its goal was the extension of that total domination to the entire world. In totalitarianism, she described, all traditions, values, legalities and defences, all political institutions . . . everything is destroyed, and all behaviour, public and private, comes to be controlled by terror, which becomes the measure of all things.
It has seemed improbable to us, even to those of us who have been paying some measure of attention to history, that anything like this could happen in the here and now, that the world could descend into the cesspit of evil even within the living memory of previous episodes. But this is to see things the wrong way around, to regard profound evil as some kind of aberration in history, which is actually not at all what history tells us. Lulled into such a delusion, we believed that our time would be different — it being the most educated, enlightened, progressive democracy-loving era in the whole of history. But therein lay the trap: In truth we lived through a period which had been imprinted with a consciousness of evil more radical and dramatic than perhaps anything that had happened before. We lived, therefore, through a ‘cautionary period’, which might be presumed to arise due to an enhanced mindfulness of man’s potential for wickedness, a period when the consciousness of evil remained pronounced by proximity to it. But this rapidly gave way to complacency arising from the delusion of evil as aberration.
The lives of perhaps half of the people now alive jutted into the period 1945-1989, when one or more of the triptych of totalitarianisms was extant. But, for some time now — three decades, you might calculate — it has seemed that history had indeed ended, and humanity had advanced, progressed, evolved beyond such dark possibilities. It was as though our very awareness of the past acted as a kind of inoculation against a recurrence of the same patterns. It seemed unthinkable, right up to, say, 20 months ago, that Western humanity might ever again regress to such conditions. But now a different thought must surely occur: that the darkness is never safely to be regarded as aberrational; that increasing danger rises up in the soft soil of prosperity and complacency; that the greatest danger of all resides in imagining that we are out of danger.
And there are connected syndromes, applying both to those we might loosely call our ‘leader class’ and to ourselves, the ‘led’. For a long time, we had looked to those to whom we delegated our sovereign power as citizens and human persons, and given them no thought in this regard other than contently to sigh ourselves back to sleep with the thought that, although they might be fools and minor knaves, they were at least incapable of evil; incapable, to say the least, of behaving like characters in some dystopian novel; incapable of seeking absolute power over us. Now, however, it must surely occur that the sole reason they may have given us this impression was that they lacked the opportunity to seize power, to behave like despots over us, and sell us, our children and our nations down the river. To be more precise, they lacked the power to do these things other than with extreme messiness: cries renting the air and blood on the streets. Now, however, technology, the behavioural ‘sciences’ and ‘nudge theory’ having put the means of controlling their populations — possibly absolutely and permanently — at their disposal, they emerge in their true colours. Now we see: They meant not a word of their prating about democracy and freedom. They meant, really, that they would pretend to govern democratically for as long as this was strictly unavoidable without getting the pavement all bloody, and not a day longer. And now, their hour come round at last, they slouch towards Gehenna to be reborn as killers of children and the old.
As for We, the People, well, the report card is not so auspicious either. We, especially in Western republics and democracies, thought ourselves proud liberals, libertarians, sovereign peoples, the freest the world had ever known — and democrats, of course, it went without saying. But now? What we can say of ourselves now is simply that we seemed to be like that. But, in truth, in the years of the ‘cautionary period’, we became as human beings had perhaps not allowed themselves to become for such a long period hitherto: We became complacent and stress-free. We stopped paying attention — to our leaders and to ourselves. We took both at face value: them in their shiny suits, ourselves in our mirrors. And, just as we looked to our leaders and fancied them self-evidently benign, little suspecting the imaginings that lay behind their fixed smiles, we looked in the mirror and read our own contentment as evidence of our own deep natures. We thought of ourselves as possessed of personalities forged in the ineradicable spirit of freedom. In reality, though, we were simply surveying our own stress-free dispositions and taking them for the naturalistic condition of the human being in history. It now emerges: Our freedom from historical stress was the sole aberrational syndrome, and, struck by this thought, we look around and see the actual truth of our natures and our times: We are cowards, collaborators, touts, snitches, scapegoaters and witchfinders; our leaders are monsters such as we have not met in our nightmares, and reality is exactly what might be expected from a collision of two such wayfarers — not a pretty vista by an stretch.
Groupthink Case Study:
The Emperor’s New Clothes
Perhaps it might be argued that the precise circumstances outlined in this Hans Christian Andersen fable strain credulity, but it cannot be said that the syndromes the story highlights are beyond the realms of the possible. Though a fable, therefore, it presents a real possibility, a ‘case study’.
In Covid, the fear that makes people conform, and see what is not there, is of sickness, death, and — possibly even ahead of these — the disfavour of the crowd. In the story of the Emperor’s new clothes, the fears that make the crowd ‘see’ what isn’t there are of the Emperor’s displeasure, peer pressure and losing the favour of the crowd.
In calling out the Emperor’s nakedness, there is nothing at stake for the boy but simply stating the truth. He speaks out of his guilelessness. He is not defending freedom, or his way of life. He is not trying to become a hero. And yet the anti-tyranny principle expressed in Vaclav Havel’s essay The Power of the Powerless — one human being standing up and speaking the truth — is as honoured by his intervention as though he were defending all these things.
Democracy requires courage, sometimes disguised as recklessness, to defend it against the gibberish of would-be tyrants. To utter the truth at any time, even gratuitously, is an act of liberation. Who knows, if the Emperor’s state of undress had not been called out, that he would not have seen in the episode ways to further his power over his subjects?
What is called for, then, is simply this: to speak out in public. The motive is less important. What matters is blurting out what is obvious or true, being seen, heard, refusing to accept the lie. It is important that the person is recognisable, identifiable. There is no point in blurting truth from behind a mask. Here I am — I, John Doe, of Liberty Street, Liesbury — the citizen, sovereign for once!
Freedom is only as strong as the availability of citizens willing to stand up and defend it. This is why, when the powerful seek to impose a groupthink, they attack those who continue to dissent. No matter what the motivation for the control of free speech, it should never be permitted to silence a society, even in what is presented as a ‘good cause’. A people governed by censorship, even of an apparently well-intentioned kind, is not free but already drifting towards tyranny.
The story of the Emperor’s new clothes is overtly concerned with mass suggestibility and intellectual vanity — the idea that false ideas can put down roots by a process of contagion. It is, in short, a story of enchantment, and therefore an archetypal fable of the concept of collective enspelling, which we have identified both as a particular category of groupthink and a central tool of the Covid deception.
The story of the Emperor, his officials, the scoundrel tailors and the little boy — published 184 years ago, just four years before Charles Mackay’s book and 58 years before Gustave le Bon’s — is fanciful only if you have a constricted view of human nature. It tells of something central to the human structure that has only in recent times acquired the status of ‘scientific’ understanding.
In Andersen’s story, the swindlers warn at the outset that their cloth has ‘a wonderful way of becoming invisible to anyone who is unfit for his office, or unusually stupid.’ Something like this was also a central element of the Covid confidence trick: the insinuation from the beginning that those who questioned the pandemic were ipso facto demonstrating ignorance of The Seicnce. This conforms also, to Irving Janis’s third ‘rule’ of groupthink: The ‘in-group’ will try to smear and demonise the ‘out-group’.
It is also interesting that, from the beginning, Covid acquired a quasi-ideological hue, with believers tending to be from the better-off, more ‘educated’ sectors, while sceptics almost exclusively emanated from the ‘deplorable’ classes. The inference being pedalled was that ‘seeing Covid’ was a matter of ‘intelligence’, but this divide has other keys to do with common sense, personal experience and real knowledge.
It is remarkable, too, how in Andersen’s story, the characters offer an immediately recognisable correspondence with the characters of our domestic Covid narrative: the tailors, clearly, equating to NPHET, the medical community, the HSE and purveyors of The Science; the Emperor and his officials corresponding to the politicians and media. The people, surveying the consensus of more intelligent beings, surrender to and continue to be captured by the narrative, until the spell is broken by the boy. The boy represents the single, independent individual, celebrated in John Stuart Mill’s treatise on freedom, On Liberty, who continues to adhere to his own unmediated, uncontaminated experience and perspective, even though the whole world is saying different.
The official actors in the Covid narrative behave, if anything, much more unthinkingly than those in Andersen’s story, where there is actually a description of at least some attempt at verification. The Emperor, first alerted to the possibility of fraud, sends his Minister to inspect the looms. The old Minister finds them empty but, conscious that a failure to see the fabric would reveal him as a fool, decides to ‘see’ it. The swindlers proceed to name all the colours and to explain the intricate patterns of the weave. The Minister pays the closest attention to these descriptions, so that he can report it all to the Emperor. The same happens with a second official. When the Emperor finally comes to see the ‘weavers’ at work, the two officials who have already ‘seen’ the fabric accompany him, and both exclaim: ‘Just look, Your Majesty, what colours! What a design!’ They point to the empty looms, each official supposing that the other can see something that he — each in his turn — is unable to. The Emperor, fearful of seeming unfit to rule his people, declares: ‘Oh! It's very pretty! It has my highest approval!’ Soon, to a man and woman, the citizens of the city, following the example of their leaders, conspire to ignore reality and cheer as the Emperor parades robeless through the streets.
Here we can observe the process that many centuries later was exposed and verified by the Ashe experiment: how the fear of being thought foolish causes people to make fools of themselves. It appears that the impulse to simply state a straightforward viewpoint is weak in many people, and this weakness is capable of being manipulated by unscrupulous actors. The little boy — the dissenter, sceptic, ‘denier’ — eventually breaks the spell, but not without incurring the wrath of the enspelled and those who, having compromised their integrity by going along with what they recognise to be a deception, are determined to keep the fiction going. Fulfilling Irving Janis's third rule of groupthink, some of those caught up in the 'consensus' angrily turn on the boy for pointing out the truth.
The Emperor, doubling down on his own hoodwinking, gives each of the swindlers a cross to wear in his buttonhole, and the title of ‘Sir Weaver’. The officials, likewise, perpetuate the fiction for fear of incurring the Emperor’s displeasure. The citizens of the city will not believe the evidence of their eyes because those around them are all saying something different. Each one is, in a sense, ‘supported’ in his continuing mystification by the gullibility or cunning of his fellows. But eventually, awakened by the little boy’s cry of ‘He is naked!’, the crowd begins to shout as one:
‘But he has nothing at all on!’
The Emperor, hearing this, is displeased, not because the people are wrong, but because he knows they are right. Now there is the added dimension in the likelihood of humiliation on account of having being duped by the tailors. The Emperor doubles down and down again, walking ‘ever more proudly’ in his nakedness. And the lords of the bedchamber take greater pains than ever to appear holding up a train, although there is no train to hold.
Hans Christian Andersen’s story is a precise anticipation of the psychology of the Covid cult. The ‘fable’ of 2020 was first promulgated by ‘global health officials’ of the World Health Organisation, spreading rapidly to their equivalents in various countries, in Ireland to the now legendary NPHET, which passed the news of the tailors’ splendiferous workmanship to the politicians, who in turn passed it to journaliars, who passed it on to the people. The people were unable to see anything, but were so cowed by the emphatic tones and injunctions of the politicians that they did not demur. On the contrary, they began to convince themselves, and each other, that there was something to see: a deadly disease that might strike them dead at any moment.
Step by step, the fiction was developed and expanded. The people, under instruction from their leaders, become convinced that they should wear face masks to protect themselves from the contagion, for which they had seen no direct evidence with their own eyes. Under instruction from the tailors of Covid, they moved away from one another, seeing no longer fellow citizens but walking biohazards who endangered human life just by walking around! Bit by bit, they became persuaded to let go of everything they once regarded as indispensible: their freedoms, livelihoods, privacy, the integrity of their homes, their children’s education, the economic well-being of their communities. Surrounded by the evidence of the disproportionality and folly of all this, they failed to do what reason might have seemed to dictate — to initiate a comprehensive examination of all the evidence, insist upon the right to speak in defence of their way of life, call in the tailors and interrogate them — but instead joined all the more enthusiastically in with the schemes of those who seemed determined to disregard every last consideration as to the well-being of humanity, aside from the single fetish of ‘saving lives’, an objective for which no one could produce any evidence of success. In moments of doubt, each citizen upbraided himself into renewed silence: ‘I am not a tailor, after all! What would I know?’
As the world fell apart all around, the people cheered its destroyers to the clouds, applauding those who incarcerated them and prevented them preserving the hard-won circumstanaces by which they have been able to provide for and offer hope to their own children. When, from time to time, a voice of questioning was urgently raised, it was just as rapidly stilled by ridicule or menaces. When occasionally presented with formal challenges, the courts, supposedly independent of other elements of the establishment, issued judgements of circular logic, declaring that, if the government thought the situation was as serious as it did, they the situation must be as serious as the government declared. Even the children remained silent, but — just in case their bewildered hush might prompt one of their number to point to the general nakedness — plans were made to mask and ‘jab’ them before allowing them to return to join their friends in the schoolroom.
In this situation, the constant danger of the truth emerging became the factor that prevented it from doing so. The groupthink increased in proportion to the risk of its uncovering. With each passing day of the fiasco, the motivation of each participant to continue supporting the fiction grew and grew, to the point where, the more the outsider might expect the truth to spill out, the more the fiction became consolidated and embellished.
The politicians, knowing that they were doomed if the truth was finally exposed, doubled, trebled down. Likewise the public, who though wronged suspected also that they had been complicit in their own hoodwinking. A mutualised ‘contract’ was entered into whereby everybody tacitly agreed not to squeal. The ‘tailors’ — the vaccine peddlers — were able to escape with an almost cast-iron immunity from prosecution. The procession marched on, ever more certain of its path.
The terror of being found out in such credulity, myopia, gullibility and/or stupidity is now too much to allow for a simple u-turn and individual fessing-up, especially in circumstances whereby all involved others seem even more determined to keep the fiction going. The people become locked into their own destruction like a flock of sheep pushing against a gate from the wrong side, as the inferno from which they are fleeing encroaches from behind them, consuming everything in its path.