In Chapter 8 of Desmet’s latest book, The Psychology of Totalitarianism, he discusses ‘Conspiracy and Ideology’. My suspicion, after reading and listening to 86-year-old Breggin’s critique of Desmet’s work, is that the issues raised in this chapter are of profound importance to unravelling our complex situation. So I’d like to reflect more upon on these issues, namely the interpretation of ‘Conspiracy’ and our relationship to those interpretations. And not least – lessons we can take from history.
For those readers who have not yet read Desmet’s book (and I would certainly highly recommend that you do, in order to make your own mind up about the relevance of his argument), Chapter 8 begins with the philosophical discussion of, if you like, an interpretation of interpretation. What I mean by that, is the issue of ‘randomness’ – for instance how is ‘random’ interpreted and can we genuinely be random as human beings, when patterns are found everywhere, regardless of the source and number of variables? My own published educational research, partly framed by Norman Denzin’s symbolic interactionism, and Craib’s psychoanalysis, plays a part in my reflections of Desmet’s Chapter. For instance, research has shown that sometimes, just by observing a phenomena, changes can occur that would otherwise not be present. Why is that? What part do we all unknowingly play in changing events, and more importantly – how?!
The concept of mass formation is unique in the way that the individuals caught up inside it, do not necessarily feel they ‘belong’ to other individuals around them. Rather, it is their perception of those individuals’ belief in the ideology, that tightens their resolve to ‘stick to the rules’. That is why, as the insightful behavioural science experts at reachingpeople.net explain, attempts to provide facts and data that contra this ideological narrative, counter-intuitively, only serve to re-enforce the self-destructive nature of the mass formation.
Throughout history, explains Desmet, the danger for those ‘outside’ the mass formation, has been to fall victim to a sense of anxiety through the confusion and helplessness that is inevitable within the strategies of a totalitarianism gaining control. The absurdity of the situation adds to this frustration and anger. Understandably, these emotions lead to a vulnerability to another type of mass formation – one that appears (on the surface at least) to provide relief, through the inclusive membership of a new ingroup; one that seems to fit more closely with an anti-totalitarian ideology and to offer some psychological benefits like laying blame. Sometimes the pieces of the jigsaw ‘fit’, but the picture those connected pieces reveal, is not the one the creator envisaged. This topic in itself could form a whole new book. However, here I want to focus on just two important points:
- One of those ideologies might be the idea that a ‘solution’ to the chaos around can be somehow ‘made sense of’ through seeing the chaos as the planned ‘outcome’ of a carefully orchestrated plan, by those in positions of power. And that those ‘powerful people’ are, in fact, primarily motivated by evil – either explicitly through a religious or spiritually-based manifestation of the ‘Devil’, or a more materialistic definition, based on ego and wealth.
Note that, importantly, and contrary to what Breggin claims in his critique, Desmet does NOT explicitly dismiss these potential ingroup philosophies as complete nonsense. Rather, he encourages the reader to carefully consider the evidence and how the manipulation of data can be re/interpreted. But, for now, my second point is:
- Another ingroup’s ideology may involve questioning the validity of literally everything one has, in the past, come to assume as factual over our (and previous) lifetimes. Whilst critical thinking on this enormous scale should never be criticised per se, there are obvious dangers with this radical approach that pose serious risks to our future freedom, as I explain below.
To take the first point, there’s good reason why Desmet’s Chapter begins with a quote from Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, which I will repeat here for emphasis:
“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, it w[ould be] necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being, and who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
The point here, is that the mass formation can be used not only to obscure and censor evil patterns, but it is also at risk of creating those same patterns, if the interpretation of ‘conspiracy theories’ are taken too far. This is because the innate complexities of probabilities are subject to the ambiguous ‘rules’ of quantum physics and the waves of energy can draw people in “like a mental magnet”, imposing patterns on almost anything, even the absurd. For more in-depth discussion of this complex issue, see the excellent analysis in Part 4 of Harrison Koehli’s review of Desmet’s book in his substack here. But for me, one analogy that works is the ecosystem of a bee-hive.
So much is still unknown about the behaviour of bees, and why some actions of bees lead to the survival, and others to the destruction, of the colony. For instance, pheromones are known to impact some worker bees, who, sensing their queen maybe getting old or sick, go ‘off piste’ and secret-away a fertilised egg cell that with some special care, could become a new queen. It’s like the pieces of a new jigsaw puzzle have been silently placed in the hive, and secret instructions on the desired image are only known by some of the worker-bees, and not all. Whilst some hives won’t survive without a queen, and gradually destroy each other and starve to death, others will silently work together, to proactively form a new colony. It really is survival of the fittest. Other hives’ queens at the end of their lives will altruistically work with their ‘daughter’ bee, until it’s time for them to ‘step down’. I’m not sure whether we could claim that humans are like bees, or that pheromones are (partly the) the cause of mass formation… A discussion which raises yet more questions about the reasons why freedom fighters like us (previously total strangers) have been brought together in a common understanding. But whatever the source of our ‘calling’, something very complex, under-researched and even misunderstood is at play.
Following on from this, in my second point, this drift away from logic, along with the fundamental distrust and even rejection, of anything previously considered ‘mainstream’, leads to a mass formation ideology in the opposite of truth.
Q: What if black was white and vice versa?
Desmet uses the Flat Earth Society as one example, but there are many such illogical developments from our current crisis. Of course, this isn’t to say that we should NOT now be questioning the mainstream media coverage of 9/11 or other historical events. However, one notable issue that has come to my attention recently is the re-emergence of antisemitism, along with a questioning of whether Hitler really was as ‘evil’ as textbooks makes out. Ludicrous though this statement might seem, along with claims that various leaders have been replaced by clones etc. these throwaway comments within our new freedom-fighting groups are NOT to be laughed at, or ignored. This Holocaust denialism is a dangerous place, not only because of the disrespect this represents to the millions of victims and the ongoing trauma of the survivors and their families, but also to the physical evidence of this horror, maintained for the specific reason: ‘lest we forget’.
One of the most profound tragedies of our current situation, for me personally, is that so many are completely blind to the parallels with the run-up to World Wars and other crucial lessons from our not-too-distant history. However, to discover that there are those who we viewed as valuable new friends, whom we trusted because we assumed (hoped?) they shared our values and ethics, who now seem lost down every imaginable rabbit-hole, is heart-breaking beyond words. We need friends, now more than ever!
As Desmet points out in his book, the attractive psychological benefits of radical conspiracy theories allow a group of people to appoint blame, apply judgement and make assumptions about the evil plans of an elite, who apparently can never make a mistake. Importantly, this is just another tentacle of the self-destructive nature of the mass formation. And it is understandable that some people can be drawn-up into such an ingroup. When the whole paradigm that we grew up in, is suddenly shaken to the core and turned upside down, of course we feel unstable and start to question everything. In reality, a quick self-check on some facts is usually enough to authenticate suspicions and ground us in reality – and we can always check-in on trusted (sceptical) friends to help with that grounding sensation! In my own experience in New Zealand, the authorities often demonstrate utter incompetence, rather than deliberate depravity or criminality. So, if many are caught-up in the mass formation, some are just downright lazy and/or stupid and others stay silent through fear or coercion, that explains the now long-running mess we are in.
This perspective on the mass formation highlights the importance of critical thinking skills, something we need to educate ourselves and others about urgently. Valid research, based on original source documents are essential. Often, for instance, as Professor Fenton keeps pointing out, the data can be disentangled to distinguish possible flaws in any argument. Investigate – curiosity is the only way to break the spell – whatever mass formation you maybe a victim of…
Finally, the circular nature of the dangers of the dominant narrative of mass formation are evident in the way Desmet points out (in page 131) how he was himself subjected to critique from others when he began to speak out, claiming he was a false-flag and that his theory was a manipulation to detract support from restrictions. Anyone who reads and engages with his book, takes time to understand the psychological concepts and historical phenomena, knows that the author is authentic in his endeavours – why else would he, along with so many others, be risking a career with this publication?
What is the solution to this dilemma? What can we do now to help those stuck in either one mass formation or another, paralysed with the fear of either Covid or Russia or something else? There is only one solution.
Do not stay silent, speak out!
Stay peaceful, stay calm. BUT…
Keep speaking out!
We will be heard, and our inalienable Rights and Freedoms will be reclaimed!
One thought on “Lessons from History: pieces of the jigsaw”
Top ,.. top top … post! Keep the good work on !