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Wednesday, January 12, 2022


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Hi Bill, and thanks for linking to the piece, and adding your thoughts above.

I think you are quite right that the essay was perhaps too even-handed to be published in the growing heat of what really amounts to a simmering civil war. Like it or not, in times like these, it seems that one must choose sides - or have one chosen for you. (I don't think I need to tell you, or anyone who has ever read anything I've ever written, which side I'm on!)

By way of explanation, though: when I began to write the piece my only purpose was to offer a simplifying summary of the idea involved, for those who might not have the historical or psychological perspective to have thought about it already. As such, I wanted to write from a "zoomed-out" perspective, and to think about it as an important, and apparently universal, category of human behavior, one that has manifested itself from every social and political angle during our fallen species' long and dolorous history - and I wanted to make the point that it wouldn't have such a general form, always and everywhere, if there weren't some reason for such a vulnerability to be "wired in" to our way of being. (That reason, I suggested, is that it 'mass formation' becomes a useful 'emergency mode' for sudden and potent cohesion during times of group-level threats.)

Alas, such are these awful times that for an observer to consider the phenomenon from such a remote altitude makes him seem almost blithely unconcerned with the bloody battle shaping up on the plain below - and I think you (and several others who have commented on the piece) are well-justified in yanking me back to ground-level where the action is.

Also, I agree of course that it is very obviously the Left that has gone insane in the current era: from COVID madness, to radical ethnomasochism, to hallucinatory universalism, to the denial of all naturally and objectively existing categories, to the wholesale rejection of the civilization that nurtured and fed them, to the bitter condemnation of the American Founding, and to the general sawing-off-of-the-branch-they're-sitting-on in a thousand different ways.

I should add too that the impression you (and commenters at AG) got about my alleged neutrality was not helped by the title that the AG editors chose, which singled out this aspect of the essay right from the start.

If I had it to do over, I'd have brought the piece back down to the battlefield at the end, and planted a flag. (Perhaps I should write a follow-up to do just that.)


I was so eager to link to and post about your AG article that I had no time to read the AG comments. I shall do so today.

I will also try to locate in my sprawling personal library my copy of Wilhelm Reich, The Psychology of Mass Fascism, to see what light that old book sheds on contemporary developments.

The problem of navigating between the ground-level and high-altitude perspectives is a fascinating and important one. One mark of a useful idiot -- which of course you are not -- is the foolish notion that one can remain 'at altitude' and not take sides. Rod Dreher, for example. I say that any so-called 'conservative' who doesn't support Trump in the present circumstances is a useful idiot and vincibly ignorant.

In reading between the lines of Malcom Pollack's article, the obvious target of attack of the current mass formation would certainly seem to be the "un-vaxxed," which also includes the "un-boosted." They are constantly demonized by politicians and the elite. I have never seen anything like it, and I am entering my 8th decade. It is terrifying, and completely irrational: If you are vaccinated, aren't you protected and need not fear? Not so ! These forces are dangerous beyond belief, and I can only hope that the people I love have the means to protect themselves. Signed, Joe Odegaard, Architect and Barbarian.

Thanks for the comment, Joe.

Some call for the unvaxxed to be killed; others that they should be put on a triage list; still others that they should be denied medical treatment altogether.https://www.dailywire.com/news/msnbc-medical-contributor-wants-a-separate-triage-list-for-the-unvaxxed-joy-reid-wants-them-to-pay-more

These extremists don't want to admit that the vaccines are not all that effective, and what is worse, cause severe complication in some. Adding to the problem is that our government cannot be trusted to tell the truth about the border, about crime, and other things. Fauci has been exposed by RFK Jr. and Rand Paul.

I hope to be able to study the work of Dr. Mattias Desmet and the psychological phenomenon of "mass formation." While watching the video linked below, I could not help but recall the "Scapegoat Mechanism" as described by René Girard (1923-2015).

"People become radically intolerant towards dissonant voices."
-- Dr. Mattias Desmet

Note: Dr. Mattias Desmet is lecturer of psychoanalytic psychotherapy at the Department of Psychoanalysis and Clinical Consulting, Ghent University. He also has a master's degree in statistics. His preferred term is "mass formation" and not "mass formation psychosis" (a term which he deems unhelpful).

Four preconditions for the emergence of "mass formation":

1. A lot of people experience a lack of social bond and feel socially isolated.
2. A lot of people experience life as meaningless or senseless (e.g., the phenomenon of "bullshit jobs").
3. There is a lot of what psychologists call "free-floating anxiety" and "free-floating psychological discontent."
4. There is a lot of free-floating frustration and aggression.

Note (paraphrasing Desmet's thesis discussed in the video below):

Given these preconditions, what can happen is this: A narrative, a story is distributed through the mass media indicating an object of anxiety and at the same time providing a strategy to deal with this object of anxiety. Then the following (might) happen: All of the free-floating anxiety (which is extremely painful because it always threatens to turn into panic), gives rise to a willingness to participate in the proffered strategy for dealing with the object of anxiety because people feel that their participation gives them a way of controlling their anxiety and their psychological discontent. People feel suddenly connected again in a heroic struggle against the object of their anxiety. As a result of their participation, a new kind of solidarity, a new kind of social bond, a new kind of meaning-making arises in society. In fact, these psychological goods (quite apart from the truth of the narrative) is the reason why so many are willing to participate in the struggle against the designated object, regardless of other personal goods that may be lost.


Thanks for the comments, Frank. Would you agree that BLM and Antifa are currently the best examples of mass formations?

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