Essays on Psychological Manipulation Pt.2: Mass Psychosis

Ryan DeLarme,
December 27th, 2021

Authors Note: This work stands on the shoulders of giants like some kind of freaky, informative, patchwork parrot; whose lexicon was pieced together by the works of Jung, Arieti, and a handful of modern psychology commentators YouTubers. Information gleaned during the research phase of this endeavor comes from several books as well as the US National Library of Medicine. 

As of February 2021, it is now a hard medical fact that fear-inducing information repetitively spread through mass media can and does adversely affect the general public’s mental health in the form of nocebo effects and mass hysteria. In this article, we will explore the realities of mass psychosis and consider whether or not our society is currently experiencing a collective mental disorder.

Three scientists, Philipp Bagus, José Antonio Peña-Ramos, and Antonio Sánchez-Bayón, authored a study earlier this year where they argued that mass and digital media, in connection with the state, may have had adverse consequences during the COVID-19 crisis. They claimed that the resulting collective hysteria may have contributed to policy errors by governments not in line with health recommendations, despite the insistence of the corporate press and private institutions such as the WHO and CDC (who many still believe to be actual governing entities, and not privately funded institutions). 

While mass hysteria can occur in societies with a minimal state, the study shows that there exist certain self-corrective mechanisms and limits to the harm inflicted, such as sacrosanct private property rights. However, mass hysteria can be exacerbated and self-reinforcing when the negative information comes from a presumably authoritative source, when the media are politicized, and when social networks make the negative information omnipresent. 

Psychogenic-Triggering of the Individual

Gustav le Bon once wrote:

“The masses have never thirsted after truth. They turn aside from evidence that is not to their taste, preferring to deify error, if error seduces them. Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim. An individual in a crowd is a grain of sand amid other grains of sand, which the wind stirs up at will.”

 According to psychologist Carl Jung, “the greatest threat to mankind lies not with the forces of nature nor with any physical disease, but our inability to deal with forces of our own psyche.”

Though the situation played itself out in a much more overtly barbarous way, one cannot help drawing parallels between our current societal schism and the mass psychoses of the American and European witch hunts that took place during the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as the rise of totalitarianism in the 20th century. We often look back on these dark times and wonder how so many people could have gone along with such unjustified and obvious cruelty. During the witch hunts, thousands of individuals (mostly women) were killed; not because of any actual crimes that they’d committed, but because they were the scapegoats of societies gone mad. 

When a mass psychosis occurs the results are typically devastating. Jung, who studied this phenomenon, wrote that the individuals who make up the infected society become “morally and spiritually inferior” and that they “sink unconsciously to a lower intellectual level”. Jung claimed that these individuals become “more unreasonable, irresponsible, emotional, erratic, and unreliable… Crimes the individual alone could never stand are freely committed by a group smitten by madness”.

What makes matters worse is that those suffering from a mass psychosis are unaware of what’s occurring, just as one who’s gone mad cannot step out of their mind to observe the error of their ways. There is no Archimedean point from which those suffering from a mass psychosis can observe their collective madness.

But what causes mass psychosis? To answer this question we must look at what makes an individual descend into madness. 

While there are many potential triggers to madness, such as excessive use of drugs and alcohol, brain injuries, and other illnesses; these causes will not concern us here. What we must look at is the psychological, or what is called “psychogenic” triggers, as these are the mechanisms that typically insight mass psychosis.

The most prevalent psychogenic cause is a flood of negative emotions that affect the mind’s ability to logically process its reality, feelings such as fear and anxiety that drive a person into a state of panic. While it is possible and recommended that one escape this hyper-emotional state through adaptive means such as facing up to and defeating the fear-generating threat, another way to escape is to go through a psychotic break.

A psychotic break is not always a descent into a state of greater mental disorder like many tend to believe; it is a reordering of one’s experiential world that blends fact and fiction in a way that helps to end the feelings of panic. 

Silvano Arieti, one of the 20th century’s foremost authorities on schizophrenia, explains the psychogenic steps that lead one into madness.

The first step, Arieti claims, is the stage of panic. This is the point when the individual begins to perceive things differently, is frightened on account of this change in perception, and lacks the knowledge necessary to understand or explain what is going on. This creates an opening for psychological manipulation, the panicked mind is searching for an easy explanation that will create a way out of the situation which is causing the panic. There is no shortage of manipulative forces who are all too willing to provide this perceived “way out”, and the panicked mind is willing to deny objective reality and even commit atrocities, fully believing they are in the right.

Think of how easily the masses were shepherded into a heightened state of fear at the outset of the pandemic, disproportional to the actual danger of the situation. Despite many younger folks posturing as if they loved science, the reality was that in most cases they didn’t even possess a modicum of scientific knowledge regarding viruses and their transmission outside of what was strategically sensationalized. Many fail to understand the simple reality that a virus is significantly smaller than bacteria and that masks are effectively useless at preventing the spread.

Not only were those who lacked the proper knowledge to make educated personal decisions about the pandemic being inundated with misleading information, but all of the detractors who were actually operating from a place of knowledge were also swiftly silenced, humiliated’ and in many cases lost their practice (in the case of MD’s) or their scientific grants (in the case of scientists).

The next step is what Arieti calls a phase of “psychotic insight”, whereby an individual succeeds in putting things together via a pathological way of interpreting reality, allowing them to explain away what they are experiencing regardless of their explanations validity. The “insight” is psychotic because it is based on delusions and not on adaptive and life-promoting ways relating to whatever threats originally precipitated the panic. 

Essentially, these delusions allow the experiencer to escape from the flood of negative emotions, but they do so at the cost of losing touch with reality. Is this starting to sound familiar to anyone?

Mass Psychosis and How We Got There

If a panic-triggering flood of negative emotions in a weak and vulnerable person can trigger a psychotic break, then a mass psychosis can result when a population of weak and vulnerable individuals is driven into a state of panic from all angles by threats real, imagined, or partly fabricated (consider the dramatic inflation of COVID deaths by Pharma-funded news organizations as just one of many examples).

As delusions can take many forms, and madness can manifest in countless ways,  the specific manner in which a mass psychosis unfolds will differ based on the historical and cultural context of the affected society. In our modern era, it is the mass psychosis of totalitarianism that appears to be the greatest threat.

Professor Arthur Versluis lays out exactly what the totalitarian mass psychosis looks like:

Totalitarianism is the modern phenomenon of total centralized state power coupled with the complete obliteration of basic, individual human rights. In a totalized state. There are those in power, and there are the objectified masses… the masses are transformed into dependent subjects of these pathological rulers, and take on a psychologically regressed and child-like status.

Hannah Arendyt, one of the 20th century’s preeminent scholars, called totalitarianism “an attempted transformation of human nature itself.” The general population hands control of their own lives over to politicians and bureaucrats who themselves suffer from a form of psychosis. Only a deluded ruling class will believe that they alone possess the knowledge, wisdom, and acumen to completely control society in a top-down manner; and only when under the spell of these delusions would anyone actually believe that a society composed of power-hungry rulers and a psychologically regressed population lead to anything besides mass suffering and social ruin.

But what exactly triggers the psychosis of totalitarianism? Almost always it begins within the society’s ruling class.

Oftentimes the Bankers, CEOs, Politicians, and old-money patriarchs who make up this class are very prone to delusions, and no delusion is more attractive to the power-hungry than the idea that they can, and should, control and dominate an entire society. When a ruling elite becomes possessed of a political ideology of this sort, whether it be communism, fascism, or technocracy, the next step is to induce a population into willingly accepting their rule by infecting it with the mass psychosis of totalitarianism.

This type of mass psychosis has been induced many times throughout history, which is why certain leaders are obsessed with muddying and even erasing our understanding of history. As Meerloo explains: 

“It is simply a question of reorganizing and manipulating collective feelings in a particular way.”

 This general method by which this can be accomplished is called “menticide”, the etymology of this word being “a killing of the mind”. Meerloo further explains:

“Menticide is an old crime against the human mind and spirit but systematized anew. It is an organized system of psychological intervention and judicial perversion, through which a ruling class can imprint their opportunistic thoughts upon the minds they plan to use…”

Priming a population for the high crime of menticide begins with the sowing of misplaced fear and rage. A particularly effective technique to accomplish this is by employing “waves of terror”. Through the application of this technique, the sowing of fear is staggered with periods of calm, but each of these calm periods is followed by the manufacturing of an even more intense spell of fear, and on and on the process goes, or as Meerloo writes:

Each wave of terrorizing creates the effects more easily – after a breathing period – more easily than the one that preceded it because people are still disturbed by their previous experience. Morality becomes lower and lower, and the psychological effects of each new propaganda campaign become stronger; it reaches a public already softened up.

Meerlo also had a few things to say about the technological aspect:

Modern Technology teaches man to take for granted the world he is looking at. He takes no time to retreat or reflect. No rest, no meditation, no reflection or conversation. The senses are overloaded with stimuli. Man doesn’t learn to question his world any longer, the screen provides all the answers.

There is a further step that these would-be totalitarian rulers take to ensure the success of their programming, and that is to isolate the victims and disrupt normal social interactions. When alone and separated from friends, family, and coworkers, an individual becomes far more susceptible to delusions for several reasons.

Firstly, they lose contact with what would be considered the “corrective force” of the positive example. Since not everyone is tricked by the machinations of the ruling class and the few who see through the charade can help to free others from the menticidal assault. If, however, isolation is enforced then the power of positive examples greatly diminishes. 

As Meerloo explains, in regards to physiologist Ivan Pavlov’s work on behavioral conditioning:

Pavlov made another significant discovery: the conditioned reflex could be developed most easily in a quiet laboratory with minimum disturbing stimuli. Every trainer of animals knows this from his own experience; isolation and the patient repetition of stimuli are required to tame wild animals. The totalitarians have followed this rule. They know that they can condition their political victims more easily if they are kept in isolation. Alone, confused, and battered by waves of terror, a population under an attack of menticide devolves into a hopeless and vulnerable state.

The never-ending stream of propaganda turns minds once capable of rational thought into playhouses of irrational forces, and with chaos swirling within them and around them, the masses crave a return to a more ordered world. “

“The would-be totalitarians can then take the decisive step, they can offer a “way out” and a return to normalcy, at a price. The masses must relinquish their capacity to be self-reliant individuals who are responsible for their own lives, and become submissive obedient subjects.”

Reason and common human decency become scarce, there is only a pervasive atmosphere of terror, and a projection of “the enemy” imagined to be “in or midsts”. Thus society turns on itself, urged on by the ruling authorities.

The order of a totalitarian world is pathological. By enforcing strict conformity, and requiring blind obedience from the citizenry, totalitarianism rids the world of the spontaneity that produces many of life’s joys and the creativity that typically drives societies forward. The total control of this type of rule regardless of whether it be fascist, communist, or any title future generations may dream up; breeds stagnation and death on a mass scale.

Perhaps the most important question isn’t “Which party should I support” or “how will we combat COVID”, but rather “How can we prevent the encroaching certainty of totalitarianism”?  Can the effects be reversed? Are we doomed to be lorded over by a ruling class who act beyond party affiliation and directly benefit from the pandemic never-ending?

While one can never be sure of the prognosis of collective madness. There are steps that can be taken to help effectuate a cure. This task, however, necessitates a multitude of approaches, from many different sources. Just as the menticidal attack was multipronged, so too must be the counter-attack.

According to Carl Jung the first step to restoring sanity to an insane world is to bring order to our own minds, and to live in a way that provides inspiration for others to follow:  

“It is not for nothing that our age crie out for the redeemer personality, for the one who can emancipate himself from the grip of the collective psychosis and to save, at least, his own soul. Who lights a beacon of hope for others, proclaiming 

that here is at least one individual who has succeeded in extricating himself from the fatal identity of the group psyche.”

Assuming one is living in a manner free of the grip of psychosis there are further steps that can be taken. Information that can counter the propaganda should be disseminated far and wide, for truth is more powerful than fiction and falsities peddled by the would-be rulers. Their brand of stagnating comfort and waves of fear only stays appealing for so long. Their success is in part contingent on their ability to censor the free flow of information. 

Another tactic we have at our disposal is to use humiliation and ridicule to delegitimize the ruling class, using their own tactics against them. As Meerloo explains:

“We must learn to treat the demagogue and aspirant dictators in our midst with the weapon of ridicule. The demagogue itself is almost completely incapable of any humor itself outside of conscripting others to it for them. If we treat it with humor, it will most assuredly collapse.”

So, the moral of the story? MEMES WILL SAVE US ALL.

A tactic recommended by Vaclav Havel, a political dissident of the Soviet Communist rule who later became president of Czechoslovakia, is the creation of what he calls “parallel structures”.  A parallel structure is any form of organization, business, institution, technology, or creative pursuit that exists physically inside of a totalitarian society, but is fundamentally opposed to it. Typically they will be the inversion of tools the totalitarian state already controls.

Think of uncensored Rumble as the parallel structure to censorcentric YouTube, Telegram the encrypted messaging platform the parallel to the data harvesting Facebook messenger, Protonmail the Parallel to Gmail, and so on. Even cryptocurrency could be seen as a parallel structure to the deteriorating US dollar.

In Communist Czechoslovakia, Havel noted that these parallel structures were more effective at combating totalitarianism than any sort of political action. Furthermore, when enough of these structures are created, a second culture or parallel society spontaneously forms and functions as an enclave of freedom and sanity in a totalitarian world.

Above all else, what is required to prevent the final great descent into the madness of totalitarianism is action by the people and as many people as possible. Just as the ruling elite don’t sit around passively, but instead take constant steps toward increasing their power, so too must an active and concerted effort exist to move the world in a sane, free, and healthy direction.

This can be an immense challenge in a world falling prey to delusions, but as revolutionary American thinker Thomas Pain once noted:

“Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered. Yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

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