The Voice of the White House
Washington, D.C. February 16, 2017: “The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency has caused shock and outrage to the economic oligarchs who basically control the United States.
They might not have liked Hillary Clinton but at least she was a known, and usable, factor.
Trump is crashing around in the political and economic bean field, knocking over bean poles and frightening the oligarchs.
Left-wing supporters of the oligarchs, like George Soros, hate him and these people, using their wholly-owned and influenced media, are constantly attacking Trump’s every move.
Established bureaucracies like the Pentagon and the CIA are maliciously releasing negative material about Trump and even a child can see focused hatred in the daily drum-fire of anti-Trump articles in all the press.
There are, however, many millions who support Trump and who voted for him and all this negativity will do will be to polarize the same voters and soon the country will consist of two armed camps.
Pro-Trump and anti-Trump.
And ‘armed’ is quite true. The American public is the most heavily armed one on the planet and if the nay-sayers continue their campaign of sabotage and hatred, they will discover some very ugly realities indeed.”
Table of Contents
- ‘Deadliest yet’: San Francisco-area quake faults found to be connected, massive destruction looms
- ‘Deadliest yet’: San Francisco-area quake faults found to be connected, massive destruction looms Part II
- Anti-Muslim hate groups nearly triple in US since last year, report finds
- Millions of UK families on brink of poverty, report from leading think tank finds
- The Root Causes of the Mid-East Conflicts
- Apocalypse soon
- Mr. President, take the money you give Israel and run
- Pentagon Video Warns of “Unavoidable” Dystopian Future for World’s Biggest Cities
- The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind by Gustav LeBon
‘Deadliest yet’: San Francisco-area quake faults found to be connected, massive destruction looms
October 20, 2016
Warnings from beneath California are getting grimmer with each passing geological study. A previously unseen fault line has been spotted, doubling the length of existing faults and threatening an even more colossal quake.
The next ‘Big One,’ an earthquake of magnitude 7.0+, is generally expected in the US along the San Andreas line. Many geologists agree that the fault has reached such a level of stress that the new massive quake is a matter of when, not if. In June, large-scale motion was detected along the fault line, creating further panic in cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco.
But the new phantom danger lies in the Bay Area, along two merged faults running parallel to San Andreas.
Upping the ante this week was the troubling discovery of a hidden ‘bridge’ between two volatile fault zones – Rodgers Creek and the Hayward fault – outlined on Thursday in the journal Science Advances.
Together they stretch 115 miles (185km), from wine country in the northwest, down to Oakland, terminating just north of San Jose. They pose a big enough danger when unconnected. But this newly discovered connection effectively means they’re a single fault now. This threatens to produce a ‘rubber-band effect’ twice the magnitude when the fault eventually ruptures.
“Because the longer a fault stretches, the bigger the earthquake it can produce. And here we’ve just doubled the length of this fault,” explains David Ponce, a geologist with the research group, speaking to Popular Mechanics.
According to Ponce, the combined fault zones “constitute one of the most dangerous earthquake risks in the nation.”
When the fault slips, it threatens a 7.4 magnitude quake, California’s fifth largest in history, and also likely the deadliest. The chance of one occurring in the next 30 years is as high as 32 percent.
The tragedy threatens to cause untold human catastrophe and tens of billions in damage. All at a time when our Earthquake warning systems could really do with an improvement. The impending earthquake threatens 7.5 million people living in the area, 2.5 million of them in the immediate vicinity of the merge faults.
“So when it goes, it’s going to be absolutely disastrous,” Ponce warns.
The problem with detecting the bridge between the two faults comes down to the ineffectiveness of existing mapping technology against layers of underground mud hiding pockets of gas. There is a lot of noise showing up on the screens, making it difficult to pinpoint the exact start and end of a fault zone. For the Bay the researchers use underwater sonic waves, bouncing them off obstacles like sonar.
It was when Ponce and study leader Janet Watt decided to use simple deduction techniques that the bridge came into view. They created a map of the various mud layers below, and witnessed places where it was offset. This suggested that somewhere beneath was a fissure in the rock. The variation in the underground materials produces differing magnetic signatures. Thanks to that anomaly the now-single fault zone was discovered.
There’s little the population can do at this point but to continue the usual earthquake-preparedness drills, scientists explain. And to stock up on emergency apocalypse supplies.
‘Deadliest yet’: San Francisco-area quake faults found to be connected, massive destruction looms Part II
February 15, 2017
New research has revealed that a fault in Southern California which was only identified as active in the 1980s has the potential to trigger devastating earthquakes and tsunamis along America’s south west coast.
The Ventura-Pitas Point Fault runs under California from Ventura city through the Santa Barbara Channel and beneath Santa Barbara and Goleta. It also runs offshore, meaning it may be capable of generating tsunamis.
Since it was identified as a potentially dangerous fault in the late 1980s, there have been decades of debate about its exact location and its underground geometry. Initial theories assumed the fault was slightly dipping, or that it had two severe tilting sections with a flat section in between, similar to a staircase.
“Our models confirm that the Ventura-Pitas Point fault is a major fault, that lies flat under much of the coast between Ventura and Santa Barbara,” said one of the study’s authors, Gareth Funning, associate professor of geophysics at the University of California, Riverside.
“This means that a potential source of large earthquakes is just a few miles beneath the ground in those cities. We would expect very strong shaking if one occurred.”
The researchers used computer models to discover which of the theories was most likely to be correct.
The researchers explained in a statement that in the computer models, the outermost layer of rock was represented as a 3D volume, with the surfaces of the faults identified as weaknesses within. The volume was then virtually ‘squeezed’ at the rate and direction that the region itself is being squeezed by plate tectonics.
The study’s findings back up previous research which found that the fault extends much deeper than some originally thought and could potentially connect with other faults, joining together to trigger a mega-earthquake.
This catastrophic scenario could see a 7.7 to 8.1 earthquake ripping along coastal Southern California from Santa Barbara to LA, according to the earlier study.
The famous San Andreas fault is also capable of producing a magnitude 8.0 quake but, unlike the Ventura Fault, it does not pose a tsunami risk because it sits more inland.
To get such a powerful quake several faults, along with the Ventura, would need to be triggered at the same time. The last mega-earthquake to hit Southern California was in 1857 when a magnitude 7.9 quake struck in Monterey County and traveled about 200 miles along the San Andreas fault.
Anti-Muslim hate groups nearly triple in US since last year, report finds
Southern Poverty Law Center credited rise in racist and far-right groups to Donald Trump’s ‘incendiary rhetoric’ and his senior staff of ‘anti-Muslim ideologues’
February 15, 2017
by Lois Beckett
The number of organized anti-Muslim hate groups in America nearly tripled last year, from 34 to more than 100, according to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, a left-leaning non-profit that tracks extremist groups.
The center credited the “incendiary rhetoric” of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign with fueling the rise in anti-Muslim hate, along with anger over terror attacks like the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando last June.
Several senior White House officials, including Steve Bannon, Steven Miller, and Kellyanne Conway, are “serious anti-Muslim ideologues”, Mark Potok, the lead author of the annual hate group report, said Wednesday.
“It’s hardly like the departure of Michael Flynn is going to mitigate the really serious onslaught directed at American Muslims,” Potok said. The former national security adviser, who resigned Monday, had made several anti-Muslim statements, including a Twitter post suggesting that “fear of Muslims is rational”.
The new report found there are now more than 900 active hate groups across the US – from Ku Klux Klan chapters to neo-Nazi hubs to racist black separatist organizations – an uptick of less than 3% since 2015, according to the group’s annual count. This is slightly lower than the group’s all-time high count of 1,018 hate groups in 2011.
Trump’s meteoric rise in the past year electrified many of these racists and far-right extremists, the report concluded. At the same time, Trump’s campaign may have also drained energy from independent extremist rallies and gatherings, as far-right supporters chose instead to attend mainstream Trump rallies. The number of “in-person” extremist events declined in 2016, according to the report.
“They were so turned on by what was happening in the pro-Trump world that they entered that world, rather than holding their own rallies,” Potok said.
“We think Trump has co-opted many of the issues of the radical right,” he said. “We think that has prevented or at least slowed the growth of these groups.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Trump has denounced some racist groups and said at at meeting with the New York Times in November: “If they are energized, I want to look into it and find out why.”
Asked at a news conference Wednesday about a spike in antisemitic threats, Trump told reporters: “We are going to do everything within our power to stop long-simmering racism and every other thing that’s going on.
“I think one of the reasons that I won the election is because we have a very, very divided nation,” the president added. “Very divided, and hopefully, I’ll be able to do something about that.”
The modest increase in the number of organized hate groups across the US also comes along with rapid growth of largely anonymous, internet-based hate websites, the analysts found. The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi hate site whose founder organizes harassing “troll storms” of abuse towards political opponents, surpassed the traffic ratings of Stormfront, a more traditional racist site, last July, according to the center’s analysis, becoming the most popular English-language far-right site.
The Daily Stormer, which takes a millennial, meme-driven approach to racism, misogyny and virulent antisemitism, also spun-off 31 active “real-life, on-the-ground clubs” across the country, the law center analysts found. These groups were advertised as “the IRL [In Real Life] Troll Army AKA The Stormer Book Club”, or “groups to prepare for the coming race war”.
Despite some migration from internet forums to real-life meetings, the broader shift from “brick and mortar” hate organization to internet forums is challenging for analysts trying to measure the growth of hate in America, Potok said. “It’s clear that more and more of these people are operating only on the internet, except when the moment comes to start shooting,” he said. Dylann Roof, convicted of murdering nine black church members at a historic black church in Charleston, had been “radicalized online”, the law center’s president said in January.
At least one category of extremist groups may have shrunk dramatically because of Trump’s victory. The number of groups affiliated with the anti-government Patriot movement, which saw dramatic growth under Democratic presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, fell in 2016, the report found, from 998 groups to 623.
“Donald Trump is so revered by so many people in these groups that they have essentially stood back,” Potok said.
The report cited a survivalist writer online who noted that Trump’s victory had brought with it a decrease in anxiety among some survivalists: “It is almost as if the apocalypse has been cancelled and the future history of the US has been rewritten with a much happier ending.”
The 2016 report also noted a small uptick in racist black separatist groups, after a dramatic – 59% – jump in 2015, from 113 groups to 180. The murder of five police officers in Dallas by a shooter who had “liked” some of these groups on Facebook brought new attention to these groups, the analysts concluded.
These racist black separatist groups “explicitly denounce white people, Jews and LGBT people”, the report noted, and should not be confused with civil rights groups such as Black Lives Matter, which protest police brutality but have “never endorsed anti-white or anti-police violence”, and are not categorized as hate groups.
Two of the most prominent organizations named by the Southern Poverty Law Center as anti-Muslim hate groups, Frank Gaffney’s DC-based Center for Security Policy, and Brigitte Gabriel’s ACT for America, which calls itself the “NRA of national security”, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the report and their categorization as hate groups.
Asked for comment on the report, Andrew Anglin, the founder of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer site, wrote: “It’s just more of the same goofy gibberish from the Jews.”
After decades on the fringes of American life, racist hate groups found themselves unexpectedly in the mainstream news spotlight last year, as Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis rejoiced at Donald Trump’s rise and his presidential victory.
The president has condemned some far-right groups and their ideology, though he did so slowly at first, particularly when initially asked to respond to his endorsement by former Klan leader David Duke. Trump and his closest staffers have also occasionally shared racist and antisemitic memes on social media. On Valentine’s Day, the Twitter account of Kellyanne Conway, one of the president’s most prominent surrogates, shared a tweet from a self-described “white identity” “nationalist” account attacking liberals, noting: “Love you back!” Conway later said that she had not been the one to share the tweet.
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual count of hate groups, which it has carried out for three decades, focuses on counting standalone groups and local chapters of organizations with extreme racists views. The center only counts groups that are “actually active”, in that year, whether through holding rallies, committing crimes, spreading leaflets, or simply accepting membership dues and selling literature, Potok said.
Last fall, the group faced broad criticism for including both Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz in a list of anti-Muslim extremists. Potok defended their categorization, but conceded that both of those advocates were the most moderate voices on the list. He said that neither of these advocates ran groups in America that had been included in the 2016 count of hate groups.
(Comment: The Southern Poverty Law Center is quite far to the left and is supported financially by George Soros. Also, the Guardian, while a reputable newpaper, is very eft leaning and dislikes Trump and supports racial equality, gay marriage, global warming theories, Israel, and hates anything smacking of the right wing, to include all the American police forces. Ed)
Millions of UK families on brink of poverty, report from leading think tank finds
February 15, 2017
Rising prices and stagnating incomes have left millions of British families on the very brink of poverty, a report from a leading think-tank has warned.
According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), between 2014 and 2015 up to 19 million people were living below the Minimum Living Standard (MLS) – up by four million since the financial crisis back in 2008.
The MLS figure corresponds to what the public thinks is a fair amount of money for a decent living.
Chief executive of the JRF, Campbell Robb, said: “This could be a very difficult time for just-managing families as rising inflation begins to bite into finely-balanced budgets.
“The high cost of living has already helped push four million more people below an adequate income, and if the cost of essentials such as food, energy and housing rise further, we need to take action to ease the strain,” he said.
Included in the 19 million families on the brink are six million children – 45 percent of the total in the UK.
The report warned that up to 11 million of those families will actually fall into poverty by 2020, when the cost of living is expected to be 10 percent higher, far outstripping estimated wage increases.
While Theresa May has pledged to help so-called “just about managing families,” Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams has hit out at the Government, claiming the findings can be blamed on “seven years of austerity.”
The government says it is taking “targeted action” to raise incomes, while pointing out that the National Living Wage will go up to £7.50 an hour in April.
“We’re determined to build an economy that works for everyone and we are taking decisive action to help with the cost of living,” a government spokesperson said, adding “a million workers have had a pay rise thanks to our National Living Wage, and we have delivered the fastest wage growth for the lowest paid in 20 years, taken millions of people out of tax altogether and frozen fuel duty for seven years in a row.”
But Robb said the government should ensure that “benefits and tax credits keep up with the rising cost of living” in the next budget.
“These stark figures show just how precarious life can be for many families,” he said.
A UN report recently expressed “serious concern” about the British government’s austerity policies, which it said violated international human rights.
The report claimed swift reforms implemented in the welfare system were reportedly increasing inequality and having a particular negative impact on women, young people, ethnic minorities, and disabled people.
The government rejected the findings of the UN’s Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, however, and failed address the issues raised in its report.
Abrahams said: “It should concern us all that the UN is having to publish a report saying that Government policies are contravening the public’s human rights. The Government must now listen and carry out the basic requirements of comprehensive impact assessments on such important policies.”
The Root Causes of the Mid-East Conflicts
February 15, 2017
by Brian Harring
Dublin, Eire- With the savage Israeli bombing and artillery attack on the civilian population of Gaza under the specious excuse of “anti-terrorist” actions, there are very few people, outside of Israel, who actually understand the underlying reasons for this decades-long and very bloody struggle between Israel and all of her Arab neighbors. Many historians are, in fact, well aware of the underlying factors but few, if any, would dare to discuss them in light of the savage retaliation that would immediately be visited upon them by pro-Israeli entities.
Forced out of Roman-controlled Judea by the Romans following a long and bloody series of revolts, internal massacres and destructive activities, the Jews were eventually expelled from Judea and went to reside in various places such as Alexandria, Egypt.
These deportees are today known as Sephardic Jews and are the descendants of the original Semitic inhabitants of Judea.
Another, larger, group of Jews are called Ashkenazi and are the direct descendents of the Khazar tribes of Central Asia. Originally nomadic peoples, the Khazars were located on the west bank of the Caspian Sea, noted for their savage behavior and in about 700 AD, were converted by their king to Judaism.
Defeated by the Russians, the Khazars spread to Russia, what is now Poland and other eastern European areas. They are not Semitic by background and today, 95% of the citizens of Israel are descended from these nomads, which were composed of Turks, Mongols, the occasional Swedish rus or Viking and other diverse ethnic groups.
The oft-repeated claim by Israel that they were the original inhabitants of Judea or Palestine is, from a historical point of view, entirely false.
Modern Zionism was the creation of Theodor Herzl (1860-1904) a Hungarian Jewish writer who advocated a Jewish state in Palestine. That the area was occupied, as it had been for thousands of years, by Arabs, themselves of Semitic origins, did not seem to bother the modern Zionists at all.
Following the end of the Second World War when huge masses of Eastern European Jews had been displaced from their countries in Poland, the Baltic states, Hungry, Romania, Greece, Germany, Austria and other European countries, they decided to move to Palestine and form their own state.From 1944 through 1948, the entire area was subject to a literal reign of terror as large groups of DPs (Displaced Persons) descended on Palestine, wreaking havoc on the area. Murders, kidnappings, bombings, counterfeiting, bank robberies, blowing up hotels full of people and drive-by shootings were commonplace.
Eventually, the disruptions proved to be too much for the British, who occupied Palestine after the First World War and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire which once controlled it, withdrew and in 1948, the state of Israel was proclaimed.
A detailed chronicle of these events was prepared by the United Nations in 1948 and covers the period from November 6, 1944 through September 17, 1948 and is a concise and very detailed coverage of the events in Palestine. ground, who wonders why the Palestinians, and later the entire Arab Middle East world hates Israel, a study of the UN report immediately puts the motivating factors behind the long-ongoing bloodshed in accurate perspective.
What is past is certainly prologue
Evangelicals in the US believe there is a biblical basis for opposing the Middle East road map
by Giles Fraser
June 9, 2003
Just as new life is being breathed into the peace process, religious groups throughout the US are whipping up hostility to the road map. The aim of the Christian-Jewish “interfaith Zionist leadership summit” held in Washington last month was “to oppose rewarding murderous Palestinian terrorism with statehood”. Attending the conference were some of the most influential figures of the Christian right; behind them a whole infrastructure of churches, radio stations and bible college courses teaching “middle-east history”.
Since the late 19th century, an increasing number of fundamentalists have come to believe that the second coming of Christ is bound up with the political geography of Israel. Forget about the pre-1967 boundaries; for them the boundaries that count are the ones shown on maps at the back of the Bible.
The acceptance of the state of Israel by the UN in 1949 brought much excitement to those who believed the second coming was being prepared for. A similar reaction greeted the Six Day war in 1967. The displacement of Palestinians mattered little compared with the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.
Writing in Christianity Today immediately after the Six Day war, Billy Graham’s father-in-law, Nelson Bell, claimed the fact that “for the first time in more than 2,000 years Jerusalem is now completely in the hands of the Jews gives the student of the Bible a thrill and a renewed faith in its accuracy and validity.”
So as the international community withdrew its embassies after the war, and the UN passed resolution 242 condemning Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, the International Christian Embassy was set up to show support for Israel. Since then the Christian right has staunchly opposed trading land for peace or any attempt to broker a settlement by power-sharing arrangements. The destruction of the al-Aqsa mosque continues to be sought after by both Christian and Jewish fundamentalists. US churches are encouraged to form links with Jewish settlers via email and to support them through fundraising.
Happy to have any friend it can get, the Israeli government has long since exploited its connections with far-right US Christian groups. While moderate Christians, such as the Palestinian Bishop of Jerusalem, could not get to see Ariel Sharon despite repeated requests, the door was always open to southern Baptists and TV evangelists.
What is astonishing about this marriage of convenience is that their version of evangelical Christianity believes that biblical prophecy leads to Armageddon and finally to the conversion of the Jews to Christ.
According to the most influential of the Christian Zionists, Hal Lindsey, the valley from Galilee to Eilat will flow with blood and “144,000 Jews would bow down before Jesus and be saved, but the rest of Jewry would perish in the mother of all holocausts”. These lunatic ravings would matter little were they not so influential. Lindsey’s book, “The Late Great Planet Earth,” has sold nearly 20m copies in English and another 30m-plus worldwide.
Against this crazy theological background, an ideological battle is now being waged. Despite the fact that apocalyptic prophecy as read by the Christian right ends with another holocaust, some Israeli politicians and journalists are encouraging fundamentalists to stick by the implications of their narrative. In a column in the Jerusalem Post, Michael Freund called upon evangelical Christians to lobby against the pressure being put on Wester political leaders.. “If Jesus were alive today,” he wrote, “the US state department would likely criticise him for being a Jewish settler and an obstacle for peace.”
There are 45 million evangelicals in the US and they represent a crucial block vote for any politician who alleges to be a born-again.
Yet Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal of Jerusalem thinks the combination of European impotence and the US’s refusal to pressure Israelis into stopping building settlements means the plan is already dead in the water. “It took them six days to occupy the Palestinian territories; they could get out in three,” he says. Bishop Riah persuaded the World Council of Churches to call for sanctions on all products from the occupied territories.
The diocese of Jerusalem runs hospitals in Gaza and Nablus. It’s in places like these that the real work of Christian ministry is conducted. By contrast, US evangelicals oppose the peace process and swarm into Iraq to convert its people to Jesus.
- The Rev Dr Giles Fraser is the vicar of Putney and lecturer in philosophy at Wadham College, Oxford
Mr. President, take the money you give Israel and run
Follow your own slogan. Stop funding us, maintaining us, arming us, pampering us. Give the money to America.
February 14, 2017
by B. Michael
Dear Mr. President,
Prime Minister Netanyahu is on his way to you this very moment. On Wednesday the two of you will meet, and you will fall onto each other’s necks like twins separated at birth. It will undoubtedly be a fascinating confab between two seasoned narcissists.
Ostensibly, such a flower bouquet suggests a lovely little pastoral spot. But when you’re talking about narcissi, it’s usually a frog-infested swamp.
Still, the meeting will be very amicable, delightful even. You’ll exchange alternative facts, alternative opinions, alternative promises, alternative policies and alternative ideologies. You’ll lie to each other happily, skillfully, enthusiastically and persistently. You will tell him that all Muslims are dangerous, and he’ll tell you that he wants peace. You’ll tell him you will move the embassy to Jerusalem, and he’ll tell you that there’s no partner for peace. You’ll tell him that you will build a wall, and he will mumble quietly into his napkin that he still supports the two-state solution … and both of you will conclude with a rousing chorus about the wickedness and fraudulence of the Bolshevik media.Together, you will climb the highest peaks of bluffism, to the point where even the opposite of what you say will not be true. Unalloyed pleasure.
Actually, it’s no wonder that the two of you get on so well together. In addition to your mischievous shared narcissism, both of you also have someone who has you by the nose and who drags you anywhere he pleases. Steve Bennett grabs your nose, while Naftali Bannon has Netanyahu’s (or vice versa). So you are both members of the fraternity of the dragged.
But all of the above, Mr. President, is nothing but a preamble to a bit of advice I wish to proffer to you, advice that will help you to demonstrate just how true you are to your main campaign promise: America first! No more funding, maintaining, arming and pampering of foreign powers. From now one, only America first!
This is my advice: Follow your own slogan and simply set yourself free of us. Free America of our burden. Stop funding us, maintaining us, arming us, pampering us. Give the money to America.
Does that sound dramatic? It isn’t, not really. After all, just between us, you don’t really need us. “An American base”? Nonsense. You’ll get on better without us. “A true friend”? Really … it’s a pretty one-sided friendship, that. “Only democracy”? Don’t make me laugh. Israel became a military theocracy long ago.
In short, we are in essence nothing but a superfluous and very expensive hobby. So extricate yourself from our swamp. Take the money and run.
Look how much good will come of it. First, you’ll prove to your voters that you are a man of your word: America truly is first. Second, you’ll cause great joy among your anti-Semitic supporters. (They won’t understand that you’re actually saving us …) Third, you can pamper your arms industry with an additional $3 billion to $4 billion. Fourth – and most amazing – as soon as you stop standing behind us like an obedient goon, we will also have to get ourselves out of the mud. Believe me, we won’t stay there on our own.
And so, we might finally come back to our senses, America will again be first and you will go down in history as the leader who pulled the Middle East out of the mire. You see, Mr. President? Such a simple act, and everyone will benefit.
How will I know whether you took my advice? It’s very simple. If I hear you promise Bibi eternal friendship, endless support, generous arms supplies and an embassy in Jerusalem – I’ll know that you took my advice. After all, it’s obvious that just the opposite will happen.
Thanking you in advance.
Pentagon Video Warns of “Unavoidable” Dystopian Future for World’s Biggest Cities
October 13 2016
by Nick Turse
The year is 2030. Forget about the flying cars, robot maids, and moving sidewalks we were promised. They’re not happening. But that doesn’t mean the future is a total unknown.
According to a startling Pentagon video obtained by The Intercept, the future of global cities will be an amalgam of the settings of “Escape from New York” and “Robocop” — with dashes of the “Warriors” and “Divergent” thrown in. It will be a world of Robert Kaplan-esque urban hellscapes — brutal and anarchic supercities filled with gangs of youth-gone-wild, a restive underclass, criminal syndicates, and bands of malicious hackers.
At least that’s the scenario outlined in “Megacities: Urban Future, the Emerging Complexity,” a five-minute video that has been used at the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations University. All that stands between the coming chaos and the good people of Lagos and Dhaka (or maybe even New York City) is the U.S. Army, according to the video, which The Intercept obtained via the Freedom of Information Act.
The video is nothing if not an instant dystopian classic: melancholy music, an ominous voiceover, and cascading images of sprawling slums and urban conflict. “Megacities are complex systems where people and structures are compressed together in ways that defy both our understanding of city planning and military doctrine,” says a disembodied voice. “These are the future breeding grounds, incubators, and launching pads for adversaries and hybrid threats.”
The video was used as part of an “Advanced Special Operations Combating Terrorism” course offered at JSOU earlier this year, for a lesson on “The Emerging Terrorism Threat.” JSOU is operated by U.S. Special Operations Command, the umbrella organization for America’s most elite troops. JSOU describes itself as geared toward preparing special operations forces “to shape the future strategic environment by providing specialized joint professional military education, developing SOF specific undergraduate and graduate level academic programs and by fostering special operations research.”
Megacities are, by definition, urban areas with a population of 10 million or more, and they have been a recent source of worry and research for the U.S. military. A 2014 Army report, titled “Megacities and the United States Army,” warned that “the Army is currently unprepared. Although the Army has a long history of urban fighting, it has never dealt with an environment so complex and beyond the scope of its resources.” A separate Army study published this year bemoans the fact that the “U.S. Army is incapable of operating within the megacity.”
These fears are reflected in the hyperbolic “Megacities” video.
As the film unfolds, we’re bombarded with an apocalyptic list of ills endemic to this new urban environment: “criminal networks,” “substandard infrastructure,” “religious and ethnic tensions,” “impoverishment, slums,” “open landfills, over-burdened sewers,” and a “growing mass of unemployed.” The list, as long as it is grim, accompanies photos of garbage-choked streets, masked rock throwers, and riot cops battling protesters in the developing world. “Growth will magnify the increasing separation between rich and poor,” the narrator warns as the scene shifts to New York City. Looking down from a high vantage point on Third Avenue, we’re left to ponder if the Army will one day find itself defending the lunchtime crowd dining on $57 “NY Cut Sirloin” steaks at (the plainly visible) Smith and Wollensky.
Lacking opening and closing credits, the provenance of “Megacities” was initially unclear, with SOCOM claiming the video was produced by JSOU, before indicating it was actually created by the Army. “It was made for an internal military audience to illuminate the challenges of operating in megacity environments,” Army spokesperson William Layer told The Intercept in an email. “The video was privately produced pro-bono in spring of 2014 based on ‘Megacities and the United States Army.’… The producer of the film wishes to remain anonymous.”
According to the video, tomorrow’s vast urban jungles will be replete with “subterranean labyrinths” governed by their “own social code and rule of law.” They’ll also enable a proliferation of “digital domains” that facilitate “sophisticated illicit economies and decentralized syndicates of crime to give adversaries global reach at an unprecedented level.” If the photo montage in the video is to be believed, hackers will use outdoor electrical outlets to do grave digital damage, such as donning Guy Fawkes masks and filming segments of “Anonymous News.” This, we’re told, will somehow “add to the complexities of human targeting as a proportionally smaller number of adversaries intermingle with the larger and increasing number of citizens.”
“Megacities” posits that despite the lessons learned from the ur-urban battle at Aachen, Germany, in 1944, and the city-busting in Hue, South Vietnam, in 1968, the U.S. military is fundamentally ill-equipped for future battles in Lagos or Dhaka.
“Even our counterinsurgency doctrine, honed in the cities of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, is inadequate to address the sheer scale of population in the future urban reality,” the film notes, as if the results of two futile forever wars might possibly hold the keys to future success. “We are facing environments that the masters of war never foresaw,” warns the narrator. “We are facing a threat that requires us to redefine doctrine and the force in radically new and different ways.”
Mike Davis, author of “Planet of Slums” and “Buda’s Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb,” was not impressed by the video.
“This is a fantasy, the idea that there is a special military science of megacities,” he said. “It’s simply not the case. … They seem to envision large cities with slum peripheries governed by antagonistic gangs, militias, or guerrilla movements that you can somehow fight using special ops methods. In truth, that’s pretty far-fetched. … You only have to watch ‘Black Hawk Down’ and scale that up to the kind of problems you would have if you were in Karachi, for example. You can do special ops on a small-scale basis, but it’s absurd to imagine it being effective as any kind of strategy for control of a megacity.”
The U.S. military appears unlikely to heed Davis’s advice, however.
“This is the world of our future,” warns the narrator of “Megacities.” “It is one we are not prepared to effectively operate within and it is unavoidable. The threat is clear. Our direction remains to be defined. The future is urban.”
The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind
La psychologie des foules 1895
by Gustave Le Bon
THE MIND OF CROWDS.
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF CROWDS. — PYSCHOLOGICAL
LAW OF THEIR MENTAL UNITY.
What constitutes a crowd from the psychological point of view — A numerically strong agglomeration of individuals does not suffice to form a crowd — Special characteristics of psychological crowds — The turning in a fixed direction of the ideas and sentiments of individuals composing such a crowd, and the disappearance of their personality — The crowd is always dominated by considerations of which it is unconscious — The disappearance of brain activity and the predominance of medullar activity — The lowering of the intelligence and the complete transformation of the sentiments — The transformed sentiments may be better or worse than those of the individuals of which the crowd is composed — A crowd is as easily heroic as criminal.
In its ordinary sense the word “crowd” means a gathering of individuals of whatever nationality, profession, or sex, and whatever be the chances that have brought them together. From the psychological point of view the expression “crowd” assumes quite a different signification. Under certain given circumstances, and only under those circumstances, an agglomeration of men presents new characteristics very different from those of the individuals composing it. The sentiments and ideas of all the persons in the gathering take one and the same direction, and their conscious personality vanishes. A collective mind is formed, doubtless transitory, but presenting very clearly defined characteristics. The gathering has thus become what, in the absence of a better expression, I will call an organized crowd, or, if the term is considered preferable, a psychological crowd. It forms a single being, and is subjected to the law of the mental unity of crowds.
It is evident that it is not by the mere fact of a number of individuals finding themselves accidentally side by side that they acquire the character of an organized crowd. A thousand individuals accidentally gathered in a public place without any determined object in no way constitute a crowd from the psychological point of view. To acquire the special characteristics of such a crowd, the influence is necessary of certain predisposing causes of which we shall have to determine the nature.
The disappearance of conscious personality and the turning of feelings and thoughts in a definite direction, which are the primary characteristics of a crowd about to become organized, do not always involve the simultaneous presence of a number of individuals on one spot. Thousands of isolated individuals may acquire at certain moments, and under the influence of certain violent emotions — such, for example, as a great national event — the characteristics of a psychological crowd. It will be sufficient in that case that a mere chance should bring them together for their acts to at once assume the characteristics peculiar to the acts of a crowd. At certain moments half a dozen men might constitute a psychological crowd, which may not happen in the case of hundreds of men gathered together by accident. On the other hand, an entire nation, though there may be no visible agglomeration, may become a crowd under the action of certain influences.
A psychological crowd once constituted, it acquires certain provisional but determinable general characteristics. To these general characteristics there are adjoined particular characteristics which vary according to the elements of which the crowd is composed, and may modify its mental constitution. Psychological crowds, then, are susceptible of classification; and when we come to occupy ourselves with this matter, we shall see that a heterogeneous crowd — that is, a crowd composed of dissimilar elements — presents certain characteristics in common with homogeneous crowds — that is, with crowds composed of elements more or less akin (sects, castes, and classes) — and side by side with these common characteristics particularities which permit of the two kinds of crowds being differentiated.
But before occupying ourselves with the different categories of crowds, we must first of all examine the characteristics common to them all. We shall set to work like the naturalist, who begins by describing the general characteristics common to all the members of a family before concerning himself with the particular characteristics which allow the differentiation of the genera and species that the family includes.
It is not easy to describe the mind of crowds with exactness, because its organization varies not only according to race and composition, but also according to the nature and intensity of the exciting causes to which crowds are subjected. The same difficulty, however, presents itself in the psychological study of an individual. It is only in novels that individuals are found to traverse their whole life with an unvarying character. It is only the uniformity of the environment that creates the apparent uniformity of characters. I have shown elsewhere that all mental constitutions contain possibilities of character which may be manifested in consequence of a sudden change of environment. This explains how it was that among the most savage members of the French Convention were to be found inoffensive citizens who, under ordinary circumstances, would have been peaceable notaries or virtuous magistrates. The storm past, they resumed their normal character of quiet, law-abiding citizens. Napoleon found amongst them his most docile servants.
It being impossible to study here all the successive degrees of organization of crowds, we shall concern ourselves more especially with such crowds as have attained to the phase of complete organization. In this way we shall see what crowds may become, but not what they invariably are. It is only in this advanced phase of organization that certain new and special characteristics are superposed on the unvarying and dominant character of the race; then takes place that turning already alluded to of all the feelings and thoughts of the collectivity in an identical direction. It is only under such circumstances, too, that what I have called above the psychological law of the mental unity of crowds comes into play.
Among the psychological characteristics of crowds there are some that they may present in common with isolated individuals, and others, on the contrary, which are absolutely peculiar to them and are only to be met with in collectivities. It is these special characteristics that we shall study, first of all, in order to show their importance.
The most striking peculiarity presented by a psychological crowd is the following: Whoever be the individuals that compose it, however like or unlike be their mode of life, their occupations, their character, or their intelligence, the fact that they have been transformed into a crowd puts them in possession of a sort of collective mind which makes them feel, think, and act in a manner quite different from that in which each individual of them would feel, think, and act were he in a state of isolation. There are certain ideas and feelings which do not come into being, or do not transform themselves into acts except in the case of individuals forming a crowd. The psychological crowd is a provisional being formed of heterogeneous elements, which for a moment are combined, exactly as the cells which constitute a living body form by their reunion a new being which displays characteristics very different from those possessed by each of the cells singly.
Contrary to an opinion which one is astonished to find coming from the pen of so acute a philosopher as Herbert Spencer, in the aggregate which constitutes a crowd there is in no sort a summing-up of or an average struck between its elements. What really takes place is a combination followed by the creation of new characteristics, just as in chemistry certain elements, when brought into contact — bases and acids, for example — combine to form a new body possessing properties quite different from those of the bodies that have served to form it.
It is easy to prove how much the individual forming part of a crowd differs from the isolated individual, but it is less easy to discover the causes of this difference.
To obtain at any rate a glimpse of them it is necessary in the first place to call to mind the truth established by modern psychology, that unconscious phenomena play an altogether preponderating part not only in organic life, but also in the operations of the intelligence. The conscious life of the mind is of small importance in comparison with its unconscious life. The most subtle analyst, the most acute observer, is scarcely successful in discovering more than a very small number of the unconscious motives that determine his conduct. Our conscious acts are the outcome of an unconscious substratum created in the mind in the main by hereditary influences. This substratum consists of the innumerable common characteristics handed down from generation to generation, which constitute the genius of a race. Behind the avowed causes of our acts there undoubtedly lie secret causes that we do not avow, but behind these secret causes there are many others more secret still which we ourselves ignore. The greater part of our daily actions are the result of hidden motives which escape our observation.
It is more especially with respect to those unconscious elements which constitute the genius of a race that all the individuals belonging to it resemble each other, while it is principally in respect to the conscious elements of their character — the fruit of education, and yet more of exceptional hereditary conditions — that they differ from each other. Men the most unlike in the matter of their intelligence possess instincts, passions, and feelings that are very similar. In the case of every thing that belongs to the realm of sentiment — religion, politics, morality, the affections and antipathies, &c. — the most eminent men seldom surpass the standard of the most ordinary individuals. From the intellectual point of view an abyss may exist between a great mathematician and his boot maker, but from the point of view of character the difference is most often slight or non-existent.
It is precisely these general qualities of character, governed by forces of which we are unconscious, and possessed by the majority of the normal individuals of a race in much the same degree — it is precisely these qualities, I say, that in crowds become common property. In the collective mind the intellectual aptitudes of the individuals, and in consequence their individuality, are weakened. The heterogeneous is swamped by the homogeneous, and the unconscious qualities obtain the upper hand.
This very fact that crowds possess in common ordinary qualities explains why they can never accomplish acts demanding a high degree of intelligence. The decisions affecting matters of general interest come to by an assembly of men of distinction, but specialists in different walks of life, are not sensibly superior to the decisions that would be adopted by a gathering of imbeciles. The truth is, they can only bring to bear in common on the work in hand those mediocre qualities which are the birthright of every average individual. In crowds it is stupidity and not mother-wit that is accumulated. It is not all the world, as is so often repeated, that has more wit than Voltaire, but assuredly Voltaire that has more wit than all the world, if by “all the world” crowds are to be understood.
If the individuals of a crowd confined themselves to putting in common the ordinary qualities of which each of them has his share, there would merely result the striking of an average, and not, as we have said is actually the case, the creation of new characteristics. How is it that these new characteristics are created? This is what we are now to investigate.
Different causes determine the appearance of these characteristics peculiar to crowds, and not possessed by isolated individuals. The first is that the individual forming part of a crowd acquires, solely from numerical considerations, a sentiment of invincible power which allows him to yield to instincts which, had he been alone, he would perforce have kept under restraint. He will be the less disposed to check himself from the consideration that, a crowd being anonymous, and in consequence irresponsible, the sentiment of responsibility which always controls individuals disappears entirely.
The second cause, which is contagion, also intervenes to determine the manifestation in crowds of their special characteristics, and at the same time the trend they are to take. Contagion is a phenomenon of which it is easy to establish the presence, but that it is not easy to explain. It must be classed among those phenomena of a hypnotic order, which we shall shortly study. In a crowd every sentiment and act is contagious, and contagious to such a degree that an individual readily sacrifices his personal interest to the collective interest. This is an aptitude very contrary to his nature, and of which a man is scarcely capable, except when he makes part of a crowd.
A third cause, and by far the most important, determines in the individuals of a crowd special characteristics which are quite contrary at times to those presented by the isolated individual. I allude to that suggestibility of which, moreover, the contagion mentioned above is neither more nor less than an effect.
To understand this phenomenon it is necessary to bear in mind certain recent physiological discoveries. We know to-day that by various processes an individual may be brought into such a condition that, having entirely lost his conscious personality, he obeys all the suggestions of the operator who has deprived him of it, and commits acts in utter contradiction with his character and habits. The most careful observations seem to prove that an individual immerged for some length of time in a crowd in action soon finds himself — either in consequence of the magnetic influence given out by the crowd, or from some other cause of which we are ignorant — in a special state, which much resembles the state of fascination in which the hypnotized individual finds himself in the hands of the hypnotize. The activity of the brain being paralyzed in the case of the hypnotized subject, the latter becomes the slave of all the unconscious activities of his spinal cord, which the hypnotize directs at will. The conscious personality has entirely vanished; will and discernment are lost. All feelings and thoughts are bent in the direction determined by the hypnotize.
Such also is approximately the state of the individual forming part of a psychological crowd. He is no longer conscious of his acts. In his case, as in the case of the hypnotized subject, at the same time that certain faculties are destroyed, others may be brought to a high degree of exaltation. Under the influence of a suggestion, he will undertake the accomplishment of certain acts with irresistible impetuosity. This impetuosity is the more irresistible in the case of crowds than in that of the hypnotized subject, from the fact that, the suggestion being the same for all the individuals of the crowd, it gains in strength by reciprocity. The individualities in the crowd who might possess a personality sufficiently strong to resist the suggestion are too few in number to struggle against the current. At the utmost, they may be able to attempt a diversion by means of different suggestions. It is in this way, for instance, that a happy expression, an image opportunely evoked, have occasionally deterred crowds from the most bloodthirsty acts.
We see, then, that the disappearance of the conscious personality, the predominance of the unconscious personality, the turning by means of suggestion and contagion of feelings and ideas in an identical direction, the tendency to immediately transform the suggested ideas into acts; these, we see, are the principal characteristics of the individual forming part of a crowd. He is no longer himself, but has become an automaton who has ceased to be guided by his will.
Moreover, by the mere fact that he forms part of an organized crowd, a man descends several rungs in the ladder of civilization. Isolated, he may be a cultivated individual; in a crowd, he is a barbarian — that is, a creature acting by instinct. He possesses the spontaneity, the violence, the ferocity, and also the enthusiasm and heroism of primitive beings, whom he further tends to resemble by the facility with which he allows himself to be impressed by words and images — which would be entirely without action on each of the isolated individuals composing the crowd — and to be induced to commit acts contrary to his most obvious interests and his best-known habits. An individual in a crowd is a grain of sand amid other grains of sand, which the wind stirs up at will.
It is for these reasons that juries are seen to deliver verdicts of which each individual juror would disapprove, that parliamentary assemblies adopt laws and measures of which each of their members would disapprove in his own person. Taken separately, the men of the Convention were enlightened citizens of peaceful habits. United in a crowd, they did not hesitate to give their adhesion to the most savage proposals, to guillotine individuals most clearly innocent, and, contrary to their interests, to renounce their inviolability and to decimate themselves.
It is not only by his acts that the individual in a crowd differs essentially from himself. Even before he has entirely lost his independence, his ideas and feelings have undergone a transformation, and the transformation is so profound as to change the miser into a spendthrift, the skeptic into a believer, the honest man into a criminal, and the coward into a hero. The renunciation of all its privileges which the nobility voted in a moment of enthusiasm during the celebrated night of August 4, 1789, would certainly never have been consented to by any of its members taken singly.
The conclusion to be drawn from what precedes is, that the crowd is always intellectually inferior to the isolated individual, but that, from the point of view of feelings and of the acts these feelings provoke, the crowd may, according to circumstances, he better or worse than the individual. All depends on the nature of the suggestion to which the crowd is exposed. This is the point that has been completely misunderstood by writers who have only studied crowds from the criminal point of view. Doubtless a crowd is often criminal, but also it is often heroic. It is crowds rather than isolated individuals that may be induced to run the risk of death to secure the triumph of a creed or an idea, that may be fired with enthusiasm for glory and honor, that are led on — almost without bread and without arms, as in the age of the Crusades — to deliver the tomb of Christ from the infidel, or, as in ’93, to defend the fatherland. Such heroism is without doubt somewhat unconscious, but it is of such heroism that history is made. Were peoples only to be credited with the great actions performed in cold blood, the annals of the world would register but few of them.
THE SENTIMENTS AND MORALITY OF CROWDS.
- 1. Impulsiveness, mobility, and irritability of crowds. The crowd is at the mercy of all exterior exciting causes, and reflects their incessant variations — The impulses which the crowd obeys are so imperious as to annihilate the feeling of personal interest — Premeditation is absent from crowds — Racial influence.
- 2. Crowds are credulous and readily influenced by suggestion. The obedience of crowds to suggestions — The images evoked in the mind of crowds are accepted by them as realities — Why these images are identical for all the individuals composing a crowd — The equality of the educated and the ignorant man in a crowd — Various examples of the illusions to which the individuals in a crowd are subject — The impossibility of according belief to the testimony of crowds — The unanimity of numerous witnesses is one of the worst proofs that can be invoked to establish a fact — The slight value of works of history.
- 3. The exaggeration and ingenuousness of the sentiments of crowds. Crowds do not admit doubt or uncertainty, and always go to extremes — Their sentiments always excessive.
- 4. The intolerance, dictatorialness, and conservatism of crowds. The reasons of these sentiments — The servility of crowds in the face of a strong authority — The momentary revolutionary instincts of crowds do not prevent them from being extremely conservative — Crowds instinctively hostile to changes and progress.
- 5. The morality of crowds. The morality of crowds, according to the suggestions under which they act, may be much lower or much higher than that of the individuals composing them — Explanation and examples — Crowds rarely guided by those considerations of interest which are most often the exclusive motives of the isolated individual — The moralizing rôle of crowds.
Having indicated in a general way the principal characteristics of crowds, it remains to study these characteristics in detail.
It will be remarked that among the special characteristics of crowds there are several — such as impulsiveness, irritability, incapacity to reason, the absence of judgment and of the critical spirit, the exaggeration of the sentiments, and others besides — which are almost always observed in beings belonging to inferior forms of evolution — in women, savages, and children, for instance. However, I merely indicate this analogy in passing; its demonstration is outside the scope of this work. It would, moreover, be useless for persons acquainted with the psychology of primitive beings, and would scarcely carry conviction to those in ignorance of this matter.
I now proceed to the successive consideration of the different characteristics that may be observed in the majority of crowds.
- 1. IMPULSIVENESS, MOBILITY, AND IRRITABILITY OF CROWDS.
When studying the fundamental characteristics of a crowd we stated that it is guided almost exclusively by unconscious motives. Its acts are far more under the influence of the spinal cord than of the brain. In this respect a crowd is closely akin to quite primitive beings. The acts performed may be perfect so far as their execution is concerned, but as they are not directed by the brain, the individual conducts himself according as the exciting causes to which he is submitted may happen to decide. A crowd is at the mercy of all external exciting causes, and reflects their incessant variations. It is the slave of the impulses which it receives. The isolated individual may be submitted to the same exciting causes as the man in a crowd, but as his brain shows him the inadvisability of yielding to them, he refrains from yielding. This truth may be physiologically expressed by saying that the isolated individual possesses the capacity of dominating his reflex actions, while a crowd is devoid of this capacity.
The varying impulses to which crowds obey may be, according to their exciting causes, generous or cruel, heroic or cowardly, but they will always be so imperious that the interest of the individual, even the interest of self-preservation, will not dominate them. The exciting causes that may act on crowds being so varied, and crowds always obeying them, crowds are in consequence extremely mobile. This explains how it is that we see them pass in a moment from the most bloodthirsty ferocity to the most extreme generosity and heroism. A crowd may easily enact the part of an executioner, but not less easily that of a martyr. It is crowds that have furnished the torrents of blood requisite for the triumph of every belief. It is not necessary to go back to the heroic ages to see what crowds are capable of in this latter direction. They are never sparing of their life in an insurrection, and not long since a general,
Note:  becoming suddenly popular, might easily have found a hundred thousand men ready to sacrifice their lives for his cause had he demanded it.
Any display of premeditation by crowds is in consequence out of the question. They may be animated in succession by the most contrary sentiments, but they will always be under the influence of the exciting causes of the moment. They are like the leaves which a tempest whirls up and scatters in every direction and then allows to fall. When studying later on certain revolutionary crowds we shall give some examples of the variability of their sentiments.
Note: General Boulanger.
This mobility of crowds renders them very difficult to govern, especially when a measure of public authority has fallen into their hands. Did not the necessities of everyday life constitute a sort of invisible regulator of existence, it would scarcely be possible for democracies to last. Still, though the wishes of crowds are frenzied they are not durable. Crowds are as incapable of willing as of thinking for any length of time.
A crowd is not merely impulsive and mobile. Like a savage, it is not prepared to admit that anything can come between its desire and the realization of its desire. It is the less capable of understanding such an intervention, in consequence of the feeling of irresistible power given it by its numerical strength. The notion of impossibility disappears for the individual in a crowd. An isolated individual knows well enough that alone he cannot set fire to a palace or loot a shop, and should he be tempted to do so, he will easily resist the temptation. Making part of a crowd, he is conscious of the power given him by number, and it is sufficient to suggest to him ideas of murder or pillage for him to yield immediately to temptation. An unexpected obstacle will be destroyed with frenzied rage. Did the human organism allow of the perpetuity of furious passion, it might be said that the normal condition of a crowd baulked in its wishes is just such a state of furious passion.
The fundamental characteristics of the race, which constitute the unvarying source from which all our sentiments spring, always exert an influence on the irritability of crowds, their impulsiveness and their mobility, as on all the popular sentiments we shall have to study. All crowds are doubtless always irritable and impulsive, but with great variations of degree. For instance, the difference between a Latin and an Anglo-Saxon crowd is striking. The most recent facts in French history throw a vivid light on this point. The mere publication, twenty-five years ago, of a telegram, relating an insult supposed to have been offered an ambassador, was sufficient to determine an explosion of fury, whence followed immediately a terrible war. Some years later the telegraphic announcement of an insignificant reverse at Langson provoked a fresh explosion which brought about the instantaneous overthrow of the government. At the same moment a much more serious reverse undergone by the English expedition to Khartoum produced only a slight emotion in England, and no ministry was overturned. Crowds are everywhere distinguished by feminine characteristics, but Latin crowds are the most feminine of all. Whoever trusts in them may rapidly attain a lofty destiny, but to do so is to be perpetually skirting the brink of a Tarpeian rock, with the certainty of one day being precipitated from it.
- 2. THE SUGGESTIBILITY AND CREDULITY OF CROWDS.
When defining crowds, we said that one of their general characteristics was an excessive suggestibility, and we have shown to what an extent suggestions are contagious in every human agglomeration; a fact which explains the rapid turning of the sentiments of a crowd in a definite direction. However indifferent it may be supposed, a crowd, as a rule, is in a state of expectant attention, which renders suggestion easy. The first suggestion formulated which arises implants itself immediately by a process of contagion in the brains of all assembled, and the identical bent of the sentiments of the crowd is immediately an accomplished fact.
As is the case with all persons under the influence of suggestion, the idea which has entered the brain tends to transform itself into an act. Whether the act is that of setting fire to a palace, or involves self-sacrifice, a crowd lends itself to it with equal facility. All will depend on the nature of the exciting cause, and no longer, as in the case of the isolated individual, on the relations existing between the act suggested and the sum total of the reasons which may be urged against its realization.
In consequence, a crowd perpetually hovering on the borderland of unconsciousness, readily yielding to all suggestions, having all the violence of feeling peculiar to beings who cannot appeal to the influence of reason, deprived of all critical faculty, cannot be otherwise than excessively credulous. The improbable does not exist for a crowd, and it is necessary to bear this circumstance well in mind to understand the facility with which are created and propagated the most improbable legends and stories.
Persons who went through the siege of Paris saw numerous examples of this credulity of crowds. A candle alight in an upper story was immediately looked upon as a signal given the besiegers, although it was evident, after a moment of reflection, that it was utterly impossible to catch sight of the light of the candle at a distance of several miles.
The creation of the legends which so easily obtain circulation in crowds is not solely the consequence of their extreme credulity. It is also the result of the prodigious perversions that events undergo in the imagination of a throng. The simplest event that comes under the observation of a crowd is soon totally transformed. A crowd thinks in images, and the image itself immediately calls up a series of other images, having no logical connection with the first. We can easily conceive this state by thinking of the fantastic succession of ideas to which we are sometimes led by calling up in our minds any fact. Our reason shows us the incoherence there is in these images, but a crowd is almost blind to this truth, and confuses with the real event what the deforming action of its imagination has superimposed thereon. A crowd scarcely distinguishes between the subjective and the objective. It accepts as real the images evoked in its mind, though they most often have only a very distant relation with the observed fact.
The ways in which a crowd perverts any event of which it is a witness ought, it would seem, to be innumerable and unlike each other, since the individuals composing the gathering are of very different temperaments. But this is not the case. As the result of contagion the perversions are of the same kind, and take the same shape in the case of all the assembled individuals.
The first perversion of the truth effected by one of the individuals of the gathering is the starting-point of the contagious suggestion. Before St. George appeared on the walls of Jerusalem to all the Crusaders he was certainly perceived in the first instance by one of those present. By dint of suggestion and contagion the miracle signalized by a single person was immediately accepted by all.
Such is always the mechanism of the collective hallucinations so frequent in history — hallucinations which seem to have all the recognized characteristics of authenticity, since they are phenomena observed by thousands of persons.
To combat what precedes, the mental quality of the individuals composing a crowd must not be brought into consideration. This quality is without importance. From the moment that they form part of a crowd the learned man and the ignoramus are equally incapable of observation.
This thesis may seem paradoxical. To demonstrate it beyond doubt it would be necessary to investigate a great number of historical facts, and several volumes would be insufficient for the purpose.
Still, as I do not wish to leave the reader under the impression of unproved assertions, I shall give him some examples taken at hazard from the immense number of those that might be quoted.
The following fact is one of the most typical, because chosen from among collective hallucinations of which a crowd is the victim, in which are to be found individuals of every kind, from the most ignorant to the most highly educated. It is related incidentally by Julian Felix, a naval lieutenant, in his book on “Sea Currents,” and has been previously cited by the Revue Scientique.
The frigate, the Belle Poule, was cruising in the open sea for the purpose of finding the cruiser Le Berceau, from which she had been separated by a violent storm. It was broad daylight and in full sunshine. Suddenly the watch signaled a disabled vessel; the crew looked in the direction signaled, and every one, officers and sailors, clearly perceived a raft covered with men towed by boats which were displaying signals of distress. Yet this was nothing more than a collective hallucination. Admiral Desfosses lowered a boat to go to the rescue of the wrecked sailors. On nearing the object sighted, the sailors and officers on board the boat saw “masses of men in motion, stretching out their hands, and heard the dull and confused noise of a great number of voices.” When the object was reached those in the boat found themselves simply and solely in the presence of a few branches of trees covered with leaves that had been swept out from the neighboring coast. Before evidence so palpable the hallucination vanished.
The mechanism of a collective hallucination of the kind we have explained is clearly seen at work in this example. On the one hand we have a crowd in a state of expectant attention, on the other a suggestion made by the watch signaling a disabled vessel at sea, a suggestion which, by a process of contagion, was accepted by all those present, both officers and sailors.
It is not necessary that a crowd should be numerous for the faculty of seeing what is taking place before its eyes to be destroyed and for the real facts to be replaced by hallucinations unrelated to them. As soon as a few individuals are gathered together they constitute a crowd, and, though they should be distinguished men of learning, they assume all the characteristics of crowds with regard to matters outside their specialty. The faculty of observation and the critical spirit possessed by each of them individually at once disappears. An ingenious psychologist, Mr. Davey, supplies us with a very curious example in point, recently cited in the Annales des Sciences Psychiques, and deserving of relation here. Mr. Davey, having convoked a gathering of distinguished observers, among them one of the most prominent of English scientific men, Mr. Wallace, executed in their presence, and after having allowed them to examine the objects and to place seals where they wished, all the regulation spiritualistic phenomena, the materialization of spirits, writing on slates, &c. Having subsequently obtained from these distinguished observers written reports admitting that the phenomena observed could only have been obtained by supernatural means, he revealed to them that they were the result of very simple tricks. “The most astonishing feature of Monsieur Davey’s investigation,” writes the author of this account, “is not the marvellousness of the tricks themselves, but the extreme weakness of the reports made with respect to them by the non initiated witnesses. It is clear, then,” he says, “that witnesses even in number may give circumstantial relations which are completely erroneous, but whose result is that, if their descriptions are accepted as exact, the phenomena they describe are inexplicable by trickery. The methods invented by Mr. Davey were so simple that one is astonished that he should have had the boldness to employ them; but he had such a power over the mind of the crowd that he could persuade it that it saw what it did not see.” Here, as always, we have the power of the hypnotize over the hypnotized. Moreover, when this power is seen in action on minds of a superior order and previously invited to be suspicious, it is understandable how easy it is to deceive ordinary crowds.
Analogous examples are innumerable. As I write these lines the papers are full of the story of two little girls found drowned in the Seine. These children, to begin with, were recognized in the most unmistakable manner by half a dozen witnesses. All the affirmations were in such entire concordance that no doubt remained in the mind of the juge d’instruction. He had the certificate of death drawn up, but just as the burial of the children was to have been proceeded with, a mere chance brought about the discovery that the supposed victims were alive, and had, moreover, but a remote resemblance to the drowned girls. As in several of the examples previously cited, the affirmation of the first witness, himself a victim of illusion, had sufficed to influence the other witnesses.
In parallel cases the starting-point of the suggestion is always the illusion produced in an individual by more or less vague reminiscences, contagion following as the result of the affirmation of this initial illusion. If the first observer be very impressionable, it will often be sufficient that the corpse he believes he recognizes should present — apart from all real resemblance — some peculiarity, a scar, or some detail of toilet which may evoke the idea of another person. The idea evoked may then become the nucleus of a sort of crystallization which invades the understanding and paralyses all critical faculty. What the observer then sees is no longer the object itself, but the image-evoked in his mind. In this way are to be explained erroneous recognitions of the dead bodies of children by their own mother, as occurred in the following case, already old, but which has been recently recalled by the newspapers. In it are to be traced precisely the two kinds of suggestion of which I have just pointed out the mechanism.
“The child was recognized by another child, who was mistaken. The series of unwarranted recognitions then began.
“An extraordinary thing occurred. The day after a schoolboy had recognized the corpse a woman exclaimed, `Good Heavens, it is my child!’
“She was taken up to the corpse; she examined the clothing, and noted a scar on the forehead. `It is certainly,’ she said, `my son who disappeared last July. He has been stolen from me and murdered.’
“The woman was concierge in the Rue du Four; her name was Chavandret. Her brother-in-law was summoned, and when questioned he said, `That is the little Filibert.’ Several persons living in the street recognized the child found at La Villette as Filibert Chavandret, among them being the boy’s schoolmaster, who based his opinion on a medal worn by the lad.
“Nevertheless, the neighbors, the brother-in-law, the schoolmaster, and the mother were mistaken. Six weeks later the identity of the child was established. The boy, belonging to Bordeaux, had been murdered there and brought by a carrying company to Paris.”
L’Eclair, April 21, 1895.
It will be remarked that these recognitions are most often made by women and children — that is to say, by precisely the most impressionable persons. They show us at the same time what is the worth in law courts of such witnesses. As far as children, more especially, are concerned, their statements ought never to be invoked. Magistrates are in the habit of repeating that children do not lie. Did they possess a psychological culture a little less rudimentary than is the case they would know that, on the contrary, children invariably lie; the lie is doubtless innocent, but it is none the less a lie. It would be better to decide the fate of an accused person by the toss of a coin than, as has been so often done, by the evidence of a child.
To return to the faculty of observation possessed by crowds, our conclusion is that their collective observations are as erroneous as possible, and that most often they merely represent the illusion of an individual who, by a process of contagion, has suggestioned his fellows. Facts proving that the most utter mistrust of the evidence of crowds is advisable might be multiplied to any extent. Thousands of men were present twenty-five years ago at the celebrated cavalry charge during the battle of Sedan, and yet it is impossible, in the face of the most contradictory ocular testimony, to decide by whom it was commanded.
The English general, Lord Wolseley, has proved in a recent book that up to now the gravest errors of fact have been committed with regard to the most important incidents of the battle of Waterloo — facts that hundreds of witnesses had nevertheless attested.
Do we know in the case of one single battle exactly how it took place? I am very doubtful on the point. We know who were the conquerors and the conquered, but this is probably all. What M. D’Harcourt has said with respect to the battle of Solferino, which he witnessed and in which he was personally engaged, may be applied to all battles — “The generals (informed, of course, by the evidence of hundreds of witnesses) forward their official reports; the orderly officers modify these documents and draw up a definite narrative; the chief of the staff raises objections and rewrites the whole on a fresh basis. It is carried to the Marshal, who exclaims, `You are entirely in error,’ and he substitutes a fresh edition. Scarcely anything remains of the original report.” M. D’Harcourt relates this fact as proof of the impossibility of establishing the truth in connection with the most striking, the best observed events.
Such facts show us what is the value of the testimony of crowds. Treatises on logic include the unanimity of numerous witnesses in the category of the strongest proofs that can be invoked in support of the exactness of a fact. Yet what we know of the psychology of crowds shows that treatises on logic need on this point to be rewritten. The events with regard to which there exists the most doubt are certainly those which have been observed by the greatest number of persons. To say that a fact has been simultaneously verified by thousands of witnesses is to say, as a rule, that the real fact is very different from the accepted account of it.
It clearly results from what precedes that works of history must be considered as works of pure imagination. They are fanciful accounts of ill-observed facts, accompanied by explanations the result of reflection. To write such books is the most absolute waste of time. Had not the past left us its literary, artistic, and monumental works, we should know absolutely nothing in reality with regard to bygone times. Are we in possession of a single word of truth concerning the lives of the great men who have played preponderating parts in the history of humanity — men such as Hercules, Buddha, or Mahomet? In all probability we are not. In point of fact, moreover, their real lives are of slight importance to us. Our interest is to know what our great men were as they are presented by popular legend. It is legendary heroes, and not for a moment real heroes, who have impressed the minds of crowds.
Unfortunately, legends — even although they have been definitely put on record by books — have in themselves no stability. The imagination of the crowd continually transforms them as the result of the lapse of time and especially in consequence of racial causes. There is a great gulf fixed between the sanguinary Jehovah of the Old Testament and the God of Love of Sainte Thérèse, and the Buddha worshipped in China has no traits in common with that venerated in India.
It is not even necessary that heroes should be separated from us by centuries for their legend to be transformed by the imagination of the crowd. The transformation occasionally takes place within a few years. In our own day we have seen the legend of one of the greatest heroes of history modified several times in less than fifty years. Under the Bourbons Napoleon became a sort of idyllic and liberal philanthropist, a friend of the humble who, according to the poets, was destined to be long remembered in the cottage. Thirty years afterwards this easy-going hero had become a sanguinary despot, who, after having usurped power and destroyed liberty, caused the slaughter of three million men solely to satisfy his ambition. At present we are witnessing a fresh transformation of the legend. When it has undergone the influence of some dozens of centuries the learned men of the future, face to face with these contradictory accounts, will perhaps doubt the very existence of the hero, as some of them now doubt that of Buddha, and will see in him nothing more than a solar myth or a development of the legend of Hercules. They will doubtless console themselves easily for this uncertainty, for, better initiated than we are to-day in the characteristics and psychology of crowds, they will know that history is scarcely capable of preserving the memory of anything except myths.
- 3. THE EXAGGERATION AND INGENUOUSNESS
OF THE SENTIMENTS OF CROWDS.
Whether the feelings exhibited by a crowd be good or bad, they present the double character of being very simple and very exaggerated. On this point, as on so many others, an individual in a crowd resembles primitive beings. Inaccessible to fine distinctions, he sees things as a whole, and is blind to their intermediate phases. The exaggeration of the sentiments of a crowd is heightened by the fact that any feeling when once it is exhibited communicating itself very quickly by a process of suggestion and contagion, the evident approbation of which it is the object considerably increases its force.
The simplicity and exaggeration of the sentiments of crowds have for result that a throng knows neither doubt nor uncertainty. Like women, it goes at once to extremes. A suspicion transforms itself as soon as announced into incontrovertible evidence. A commencement of antipathy or disapprobation, which in the case of an isolated individual would not gain strength, becomes at once furious hatred in the case of an individual in a crowd.
The violence of the feelings of crowds is also increased, especially in heterogeneous crowds, by the absence of all sense of responsibility. The certainty of impunity, a certainty the stronger as the crowd is more numerous, and the notion of a considerable momentary force due to number, make possible in the case of crowds sentiments and acts impossible for the isolated individual. In crowds the foolish, ignorant, and envious persons are freed from the sense of their insignificance and powerlessness, and are possessed instead by the notion of brutal and temporary but immense strength.
Unfortunately, this tendency of crowds towards exaggeration is often brought to bear upon bad sentiments. These sentiments are atavistic residuum of the instincts of the primitive man, which the fear of punishment obliges the isolated and responsible individual to curb. Thus it is that crowds are so easily led into the worst excesses.
Still this does not mean that crowds, skillfully influenced, are not capable of heroism and devotion and of evincing the loftiest virtues; they are even more capable of showing these qualities than the isolated individual. We shall soon have occasion to revert to this point when we come to study the morality of crowds.
Given to exaggeration in its feelings, a crowd is only impressed by excessive sentiments. An orator wishing to move a crowd must make an abusive use of violent affirmations. To exaggerate, to affirm, to resort to repetitions, and never to attempt to prove anything by reasoning are methods of argument well known to speakers at public meetings.
Moreover, a crowd exacts a like exaggeration in the sentiments of its heroes. Their apparent qualities and virtues must always be amplified. It has been justly remarked that on the stage a crowd demands from the hero of the piece a degree of courage, morality, and virtue that is never to be found in real life.
Quite rightly importance has been laid on the special standpoint from which matters are viewed in the theatre. Such a standpoint exists no doubt, but its rules for the most part have nothing to do with common sense and logic. The art of appealing to crowds is no doubt of an inferior order, but it demands quite special aptitudes. It is often impossible on reading plays to explain their success. Managers of theatres when accepting pieces are themselves, as a rule, very uncertain of their success, because to judge the matter it would be necessary that they should be able to transform themselves into a crowd.
It is understandable for this reason why it sometimes happens that pieces refused by all theatrical managers obtain a prodigious success when by a stroke of chance they are put on the stage. The recent success of Francois Coppée’s play “Pour la Couronne” is well known, and yet, in spite of the name of its author, it was refused during ten years by the managers of the principal Parisian theatres.
“Charley’s Aunt,” refused at every theatre, and finally staged at the expense of a stockbroker, has had two hundred representations in France, and more than a thousand in London. Without the explanation given above of the impossibility for theatrical managers to mentally substitute themselves for a crowd, such mistakes in judgment on the part of competent individuals, who are most interested not to commit such grave blunders, would be inexplicable. This is a subject that I cannot deal with here, but it might worthily tempt the pen of a writer acquainted with theatrical matters, and at the same time a subtle psychologist — of such a writer, for instance, as M. Francisque Sarcey.
Here, once more, were we able to embark on more extensive explanations, we should show the preponderating influence of racial considerations. A play which provokes the enthusiasm of the crowd in one country has sometimes no success in another, or has only a partial and conventional success, because it does not put in operation influences capable of working on an altered public.
I need not add that the tendency to exaggeration in crowds is only present in the case of sentiments and not at all in the matter of intelligence. I have already shown that, by the mere fact that an individual forms part of a crowd, his intellectual standard is immediately and considerably lowered. A learned magistrate, M. Tarde, has also verified this fact in his researches on the crimes of crowds. It is only, then, with respect to sentiment that crowds can rise to a very high or, on the contrary, descend to a very low level.
- 4. THE INTOLERANCE, DICTATORIALNESS
AND CONSERVATISM OF CROWDS.
Crowds are only cognizant of simple and extreme sentiments; the opinions, ideas, and beliefs suggested to them are accepted or rejected as a whole, and considered as absolute truths or as not less absolute errors. This is always the case with beliefs induced by a process of suggestion instead of engendered by reasoning. Every one is aware of the intolerance that accompanies religious beliefs, and of the despotic empire they exercise on men’s minds.
Being in doubt as to what constitutes truth or error, and having, on the other hand, a clear notion of its strength, a crowd is as disposed to give authoritative effect to its inspirations as it is intolerant. An individual may accept contradiction and discussion; a crowd will never do so. At public meetings the slightest contradiction on the part of an orator is immediately received with howls of fury and violent invective, soon followed by blows, and expulsion should the orator stick to his point. Without the restraining presence of the representatives of authority the contradictor, indeed, would often be done to death.
Dictatorialness and intolerance are common to all categories of crowds, but they are met with in a varying degree of intensity. Here, once more, reappears that fundamental notion of race which dominates all the feelings and all the thoughts of men. It is more especially in Latin crowds that authoritativeness and intolerance are found developed in the highest measure. In fact, their development is such in crowds of Latin origin that they have entirely destroyed that sentiment of the independence of the individual so powerful in the Anglo-Saxon. Latin crowds are only concerned with the collective independence of the sect to which they belong, and the characteristic feature of their conception of independence is the need they experience of bringing those who are in disagreement with themselves into immediate and violent subjection to their beliefs. Among the Latin races the Jacobins of every epoch, from those of the Inquisition downwards, have never been able to attain to a different conception of liberty.
Authoritativeness and intolerance are sentiments of which crowds have a very clear notion, which they easily conceive and which they entertain as readily as they put them in practice when once they are imposed upon them. Crowds exhibit a docile respect for force, and are but slightly impressed by kindness, which for them is scarcely other than a form of weakness. Their sympathies have never been bestowed on easy-going masters, but on tyrants who vigorously oppressed them. It is to these latter that they always erect the loftiest statues.
It is true that they willingly trample on the despot whom they have stripped of his power, but it is because, having lost his strength, he has resumed his place among the feeble, who are to be despised because they are not to be feared. The type of hero dear to crowds will always have the semblance of a Caesar. His insignia attracts them, his authority overawes them, and his sword instills them with fear.
A crowd is always ready to revolt against a feeble, and to bow down servilely before a strong authority. Should the strength of an authority be intermittent, the crowd, always obedient to its extreme sentiments, passes alternately from anarchy to servitude, and from servitude to anarchy.
However, to believe in the predominance among crowds of revolutionary instincts would be to entirely misconstrue their psychology. It is merely their tendency to violence that deceives us on this point. Their rebellious and destructive outbursts are always very transitory. Crowds are too much governed by unconscious considerations, and too much subject in consequence to secular hereditary influences not to be extremely conservative. Abandoned to themselves, they soon weary of disorder, and instinctively turn to servitude. It was the proudest and most untractable of the Jacobins who acclaimed Bonaparte with greatest energy when he suppressed all liberty and made his hand of iron severely felt.
It is difficult to understand history, and popular revolutions in particular, if one does not take sufficiently into account the profoundly conservative instincts of crowds. They may be desirous, it is true, of changing the names of their institutions, and to obtain these changes they accomplish at times even violent revolutions, but the essence of these institutions is too much the expression of the hereditary needs of the race for them not invariably to abide by it. Their incessant mobility only exerts its influence on quite superficial matters. In fact they possess conservative instincts as indestructible as those of all primitive beings. Their fetish like respect for all traditions is absolute; their unconscious horror of all novelty capable of changing the essential conditions of their existence is very deeply rooted. Had democracies possessed the power they wield to-day at the time of the invention of mechanical looms or of the introduction of steam-power and of railways, the realization of these inventions would have been impossible, or would have been achieved at the cost of revolutions and repeated massacres. It is fortunate for the progress of civilization that the power of crowds only began to exist when the great discoveries of science and industry had already been effected.
- 5. THE MORALITY OF CROWDS.
Taking the word “morality” to mean constant respect for certain social conventions, and the permanent repression of selfish impulses, it is quite evident that crowds are too impulsive and too mobile to be moral. If, however, we include in the term morality the transitory display of certain qualities such as abnegation, self-sacrifice, disinterestedness, devotion, and the need of equity, we may say, on the contrary, that crowds may exhibit at times a very lofty morality.
The few psychologists who have studied crowds have only considered them from the point of view of their criminal acts, and noticing how frequent these acts are, they have come to the conclusion that the moral standard of crowds is very low.
Doubtless this is often the case; but why? Simply because our savage, destructive instincts are the inheritance left dormant in all of us from the primitive ages. In the life of the isolated individual it would be dangerous for him to gratify these instincts, while his absorption in an irresponsible crowd, in which in consequence he is assured of impunity, gives him entire liberty to follow them. Being unable, in the ordinary course of events, to exercise these destructive instincts on our fellow-men, we confine ourselves to exercising them on animals. The passion, so widespread, for the chase and the acts of ferocity of crowds proceed from one and the same source. A crowd which slowly slaughters a defenseless victim displays a very cowardly ferocity; but for the philosopher this ferocity is very closely related to that of the huntsmen who gather in dozens for the pleasure of taking part in the pursuit and killing of a luckless stag by their hounds.
A crowd may be guilty of murder, incendiarism, and every kind of crime, but it is also capable of very lofty acts of devotion, sacrifice, and disinterestedness, of acts much loftier indeed than those of which the isolated individual is capable. Appeals to sentiments of glory, honor, and patriotism are particularly likely to influence the individual forming part of a crowd, and often to the extent of obtaining from him the sacrifice of his life. History is rich in examples analogous to those furnished by the Crusaders and the volunteers of 1793. Collectivities alone are capable of great disinterestedness and great devotion. How numerous are the crowds that have heroically faced death for beliefs, ideas, and phrases that they scarcely understood! The crowds that go on strike do so far more in obedience to an order than to obtain an increase of the slender salary with which they make shift. Personal interest is very rarely a powerful motive force with crowds, while it is almost the exclusive motive of the conduct of the isolated individual. It is assuredly not self-interest that has guided crowds in so many wars, incomprehensible as a rule to their intelligence — wars in which they have allowed themselves to be massacred as easily as the larks hypnotized by the mirror of the hunter.
Even in the case of absolute scoundrels it often happens that the mere fact of their being in a crowd endows them for the moment with very strict principles of morality. Taine calls attention to the fact that the perpetrators of the September massacres deposited on the table of the committees the pocket-books and jewels they had found on their victims, and with which they could easily have been able to make away. The howling, swarming, ragged crowd which invaded the Tuileries during the revolution of 1848 did not lay hands on any of the objects that excited its astonishment, and one of which would have meant bread for many days.
This moralization of the individual by the crowd is not certainly a constant rule, but it is a rule frequently observed. It is even observed in circumstances much less grave than those I have just cited. I have remarked that in the theatre a crowd exacts from the hero of the piece exaggerated virtues, and it is a commonplace observation that an assembly, even though composed of inferior elements, shows itself as a rule very prudish. The debauchee, the souteneur, the rough often break out into murmurs at a slightly risky scene or expression, though they be very harmless in comparison with their customary conversation.
If, then, crowds often abandon themselves to low instincts, they also set the example at times of acts of lofty morality. If disinterestedness, resignation, and absolute devotion to a real or chimerical ideal are moral virtues, it may be said that crowds often possess these virtues to a degree rarely attained by the wisest philosophers. Doubtless they practice them unconsciously, but that is of small import. We should not complain too much that crowds are more especially guided by unconscious considerations and are not given to reasoning. Had they, in certain cases, reasoned and consulted their immediate interests, it is possible that no civilization would have grown up on our planet and humanity would have had no history.
THE IDEAS, REASONING POWER, AND IMAGINATION
- 1. The ideas of crowds. Fundamental and accessory ideas — How contradictory ideas may exist simultaneously — The transformation that must be undergone by lofty ideas before they are accessible to crowds — The social influence of ideas is independent of the degree of truth they may contain.
- 2. The reasoning power of crowds. Crowds are not to be influenced by reasoning — The reasoning of crowds is always of a very inferior order — There is only the appearance of analogy or succession in the ideas they associate
- 3. The imagination of crowds. Strength of the imagination of crowds — Crowds think in images, and these images succeed each other without any connecting link — Crowds are especially impressed by the marvelous — Legends and the marvelous are the real pillars of civilization — The popular imagination has always been the basis of the power of statesmen — The manner in which facts capable of striking the imagination of crowds present themselves for observation.
- 1. THE IDEAS OF CROWDS.
When studying in a preceding work the part played by ideas in the evolution of nations, we showed that every civilization is the outcome of a small number of fundamental ideas that are very rarely renewed. We showed how these ideas are implanted in the minds of crowds, with what difficulty the process is effected, and the power possessed by the ideas in question when once it has been accomplished. Finally we saw that great historical perturbations are the result, as a rule, of changes in these fundamental ideas.
Having treated this subject at sufficient length, I shall not return to it now, but shall confine myself to saying a few words on the subject of such ideas as are accessible to crowds, and of the forms under which they conceive them.
They may be divided into two classes. In one we shall place accidental and passing ideas created by the influences of the moment: infatuation for an individual or a doctrine, for instance. In the other will be classed the fundamental ideas, to which the environment, the laws of heredity and public opinion give a very great stability; such ideas are the religious beliefs of the past and the social and democratic ideas of to-day.
These fundamental ideas resemble the volume of the water of a stream slowly pursuing its course; the transitory ideas are like the small waves, for ever changing, which agitate its surface, and are more visible than the progress of the stream itself although without real importance.
At the present day the great fundamental ideas which were the mainstay of our fathers are tottering more and more. They have lost all solidity, and at the same time the institutions resting upon them are severely shaken. Every day there are formed a great many of those transitory minor ideas of which I have just been speaking; but very few of them to all appearance seem endowed with vitality and destined to acquire a preponderating influence.
Whatever be the ideas suggested to crowds they can only exercise effective influence on condition that they assume a very absolute, uncompromising, and simple shape. They present themselves then in the guise of images, and are only accessible to the masses under this form. These image like ideas are not connected by any logical bond of analogy or succession, and may take each other’s place like the slides of a magic-lantern which the operator withdraws from the groove in which they were placed one above the other. This explains how it is that the most contradictory ideas may be seen to be simultaneously current in crowds. According to the chances of the moment, a crowd will come under the influence of one of the various ideas stored up in its understanding, and is capable, in consequence, of committing the most dissimilar acts. Its complete lack of the critical spirit does not allow of its perceiving these contradictions.
This phenomenon is not peculiar to crowds. It is to be observed in many isolated individuals, not only among primitive beings, but in the case of all those — the fervent sectaries of a religious faith, for instance — who by one side or another of their intelligence are akin to primitive beings. I have observed its presence to a curious extent in the case of educated Hindoos brought up at our European universities and having taken their degree. A number of Western ideas had been superposed on their unchangeable and fundamental hereditary or social ideas. According to the chances of the moment, the one or the other set of ideas showed themselves each with their special accompaniment of acts or utterances, the same individual presenting in this way the most flagrant contradictions. These contradictions are more apparent than real, for it is only hereditary ideas that have sufficient influence over the isolated individual to become motives of conduct. It is only when, as the result of the intermingling of different races, a man is placed between different hereditary tendencies that his acts from one moment to another may be really entirely contradictory. It would be useless to insist here on these phenomena, although their psychological importance is capital. I am of opinion that at least ten years of travel and observation would be necessary to arrive at a comprehension of them.
Ideas being only accessible to crowds after having assumed a very simple shape must often undergo the most thoroughgoing transformations to become popular. It is especially when we are dealing with somewhat lofty philosophic or scientific ideas that we see how far-reaching are the modifications they require in order to lower them to the level of the intelligence of crowds. These modifications are dependent on the nature of the crowds, or of the race to which the crowds belong, but their tendency is always belittling and in the direction of simplification. This explains the fact that, from the social point of view, there is in reality scarcely any such thing as a hierarchy of ideas — that is to say, as ideas of greater or less elevation. However great or true an idea may have been to begin with, it is deprived of almost all that which constituted its elevation and its greatness by the mere fact that it has come within the intellectual range of crowds and exerts an influence upon them.
Moreover, from the social point of view the hierarchical value of an idea, its intrinsic worth, is without importance. The necessary point to consider is the effects it produces. The Christian ideas of the Middle Ages, the democratic ideas of the last century, or the social ideas of to-day are assuredly not very elevated. Philosophically considered, they can only be regarded as somewhat sorry errors, and yet their power has been and will be immense, and they will count for a long time to come among the most essential factors that determine the conduct of States.
Even when an idea has undergone the transformations which render it accessible to crowds, it only exerts influence when, by various processes which we shall examine elsewhere, it has entered the domain of the unconscious, when indeed it has become a sentiment, for which much time is required.
For it must not be supposed that merely because the justness of an idea has been proved it can be productive of effective action even on cultivated minds. This fact may be quickly appreciated by noting how slight is the influence of the clearest demonstration on the majority of men. Evidence, if it be very plain, may be accepted by an educated person, but the convert will be quickly brought back by his unconscious self to his original conceptions. See him again after the lapse of a few days and he will put forward afresh his old arguments in exactly the same terms. He is in reality under the influence of anterior ideas, that have become sentiments, and it is such ideas alone that influence the more recondite motives of our acts and utterances. It cannot be otherwise in the case of crowds.
When by various processes an idea has ended by penetrating into the minds of crowds, it possesses an irresistible power, and brings about a series of effects, opposition to which is bootless. The philosophical ideas which resulted in the French Revolution took nearly a century to implant themselves in the mind of the crowd. Their irresistible force, when once they had taken root, is known. The striving of an entire nation towards the conquest of social equality, and the realization of abstract rights and ideal liberties, caused the tottering of all thrones and profoundly disturbed the Western world. During twenty years the nations were engaged in internecine conflict, and Europe witnessed hecatombs that would have terrified Genghis Khan and Tamerlane. The world had never seen on such a scale what may result from the promulgation of an idea
A long time is necessary for ideas to establish themselves in the minds of crowds, but just as long a time is needed for them to be eradicated. For this reason crowds, as far as ideas are concerned, are always several generations behind learned men and philosophers. All statesmen are well aware to-day of the admixture of error contained in the fundamental ideas I referred to a short while back, but as the influence of these ideas is still very powerful they are obliged to govern in accordance with principles in the truth of which they have ceased to believe.
- 2. THE REASONING POWER OF CROWDS.
It cannot absolutely be said that crowds do not reason and are not to be influenced by reasoning.
However, the arguments they employ and those which are capable of influencing them are, from a logical point of view, of such an inferior kind that it is only by way of analogy that they can be described as reasoning.
The inferior reasoning of crowds is based, just as is reasoning of a high order, on the association of ideas, but between the ideas associated by crowds there are only apparent bonds of analogy or succession. The mode of reasoning of crowds resembles that of the Esquimaux who, knowing from experience that ice, a transparent body, melts in the mouth, concludes that glass, also a transparent body, should also melt in the mouth; or that of the savage who imagines that by eating the heart of a courageous foe he acquires his bravery; or of the workman who, having been exploited by one employer of labor, immediately concludes that all employers exploit their men.
The characteristics of the reasoning of crowds are the association of dissimilar things possessing a merely apparent connection between each other, and the immediate generalization of particular cases. It is arguments of this kind that are always presented to crowds by those who know how to manage them. They are the only arguments by which crowds are to be influenced. A chain of logical argumentation is totally incomprehensible to crowds, and for this reason it is permissible to say that they do not reason or that they reason falsely and are not to be influenced by reasoning. Astonishment is felt at times on reading certain speeches at their weakness, and yet they had an enormous influence on the crowds which listened to them, but it is forgotten that they were intended to persuade collectivities and not to be read by philosophers. An orator in intimate communication with a crowd can evoke images by which it will be seduced. If he is successful his object has been attained, and twenty volumes of harangues — always the outcome of reflection — are not worth the few phrases which appealed to the brains it was required to convince.
It would be superfluous to add that the powerlessness of crowds to reason aright prevents them displaying any trace of the critical spirit, prevents them, that is, from being capable of discerning truth from error, or of forming a precise judgment on any matter. Judgments accepted by crowds are merely judgments forced upon them and never judgments adopted after discussion. In regard to this matter the individuals who do not rise above the level of a crowd are numerous. The ease with which certain opinions obtain general acceptance results more especially from the impossibility
experienced by the majority of men of forming an opinion peculiar to themselves and based on reasoning of their own.
- 3. THE IMAGINATION OF CROWDS.
Just as is the case with respect to persons in whom the reasoning power is absent, the figurative imagination of crowds is very powerful, very active and very susceptible of being keenly impressed. The images evoked in their mind by a personage, an event, an accident, are almost as lifelike as the reality. Crowds are to some extent in the position of the sleeper whose reason, suspended for the time being, allows the arousing in his mind of images of extreme intensity which would quickly be dissipated could they be submitted to the action of reflection. Crowds, being incapable both of reflection and of reasoning, are devoid of the notion of improbability; and it is to be noted that in a general way it is the most improbable things that are the most striking.
This is why it happens that it is always the marvelous and legendary side of events that more specially strike crowds. When a civilization is analyzed it is seen that, in reality, it is the marvelous and the legendary that are its true supports. Appearances have always played a much more important part than reality in history, where the unreal is always of greater moment than the real.
Crowds being only capable of thinking in images are only to be impressed by images. It is only images that terrify or attract them and become motives of action.
For this reason theatrical representations, in which the image is shown in its most clearly visible shape, always have an enormous influence on crowds. Bread and spectacular shows constituted for the plebeians of ancient Rome the ideal of happiness, and they asked for nothing more. Throughout the successive ages this ideal has scarcely varied. Nothing has a greater effect on the imagination of crowds of every category than theatrical representations. The entire audience experiences at the same time the same emotions, and if these emotions are not at once transformed into acts, it is because the most unconscious spectator cannot ignore that he is the victim of illusions, and that he has laughed or wept over imaginary adventures. Sometimes, however, the sentiments suggested by the images are so strong that they tend, like habitual suggestions, to transform themselves into acts. The story has often been told of the manager of a popular theatre who, in consequence of his only playing somber dramas, was obliged to have the actor who took the part of the traitor protected on his leaving the theatre, to defend him against the violence of the spectators, indignant at the crimes, imaginary though they were, which the traitor had committed. We have here, in my opinion, one of the most remarkable indications of the mental state of crowds, and especially of the facility with which they are suggestioned. The unreal has almost as much influence on them as the real. They have an evident tendency not to distinguish between the two.
The power of conquerors and the strength of States is based on the popular imagination. It is more particularly by working upon this imagination that crowds are led. All great historical facts, the rise of Buddhism, of Christianity, of Islamism, the Reformation, the French Revolution, and, in our own time, the threatening invasion of Socialism are the direct or indirect consequences of strong impressions produced on the imagination of the crowd.
Moreover, all the great statesmen of every age and every country, including the most absolute despots, have regarded the popular imagination as the basis of their power, and they have never attempted to govern in opposition to it “It was by becoming a Catholic,” said Napoleon to the Council of State, “that I terminated the Vendéen war. By becoming a Mussulman that I obtained a footing in Egypt. By becoming an Ultramontane that I won over the Italian priests, and had I to govern a nation of Jews I would rebuild Solomon’s temple.” Never perhaps since Alexander and Cæsar has any great man better understood how the imagination of the crowd should be impressed. His constant preoccupation was to strike it. He bore it in mind in his victories, in his harangues, in his speeches, in all his acts. On his deathbed it was still in his thoughts.
How is the imagination of crowds to be impressed? We shall soon see. Let us confine ourselves for the moment to saying that the feat is never to be achieved by attempting to work upon the intelligence or reasoning faculty, that is to say, by way of demonstration. It was not by means of cunning rhetoric that Antony succeeded in making the populace rise against the murderers of Cæsar; it was by reading his will to the multitude and pointing to his corpse.
Whatever strikes the imagination of crowds presents itself under the shape of a startling and very clear image, freed from all accessory explanation, or merely having as accompaniment a few marvelous or mysterious facts: examples in point are a great victory, a great miracle, a great crime, or a great hope. Things must be laid before the crowd as a whole, and their genesis must never be indicated. A hundred petty crimes or petty accidents will not strike the imagination of crowds in the least, whereas a single great crime or a single great accident will profoundly impress them, even though the results be infinitely less disastrous than those of the hundred small accidents put together. The epidemic of influenza, which caused the death but a few years ago of five thousand persons in Paris alone, made very little impression on the popular imagination. The reason was that this veritable hecatomb was not embodied in any visible image, but was only learnt from statistical information furnished weekly. An accident which should have caused the death of only five hundred instead of five thousand persons, but on the same day and in public, as the outcome of an accident appealing strongly to the eye, by the fall, for instance, of the Eiffel Tower, would have produced, on the contrary, an immense impression on the imagination of the crowd. The probable loss of a transatlantic steamer that was supposed, in the absence of news, to have gone down in mid-ocean profoundly impressed the imagination of the crowd for a whole week. Yet official statistics show that 850 sailing vessels and 203 steamers were lost in the year 1894 alone. The crowd, however, was never for a moment concerned by these successive losses, much more important though they were as far as regards the destruction of life and property, than the loss of the Atlantic liner in question could possibly have been.
It is not, then, the facts in themselves that strike the popular imagination, but the way in which they take place and are brought under notice. It is necessary that by their condensation, if I may thus express myself, they should produce a startling image which fills and besets the mind. To know the art of impressing the imagination of crowds is to know at the same time the art of governing them.
A RELIGIOUS SHAPE ASSUMED BY ALL THE
CONVICTIONS OF CROWDS.
What is meant by the religious sentiment — It is independent of the worship of a divinity — Its characteristics — The strength of convictions assuming a religious shape — Various examples — Popular gods have never disappeared — New forms under which they are revived — Religious forms of atheism — Importance of these notions from the historical point of view — The Reformation, Saint Bartholomew, the Terror, and all analogous events are the result of the religious sentiments of crowds and not of the will of isolated individuals.
We have shown that crowds do not reason, that they accept or reject ideas as a whole, that they tolerate neither discussion nor contradiction, and that the suggestions brought to bear on them invade the entire field of their understanding and tend at once to transform themselves into acts. We have shown that crowds suitably influenced are ready to sacrifice themselves for the ideal with which they have been inspired. We have also seen that they only entertain violent and extreme sentiments, that in their case sympathy quickly becomes adoration, and antipathy almost as soon as it is aroused is transformed into hatred. These general indications furnish us already with a presentiment of the nature of the convictions of crowds.
When these convictions are closely examined, whether at epochs marked by fervent religious faith, or by great political upheavals such as those of the last century, it is apparent that they always assume a peculiar form which I cannot better define than by giving it the name of a religious sentiment.
This sentiment has very simple characteristics, such as worship of a being supposed superior, fear of the power with which the being is credited, blind submission to its commands, inability to discuss its dogmas, the desire to spread them, and a tendency to consider as enemies all by whom they are not accepted. Whether such a sentiment apply to an invisible God, to a wooden or stone idol, to a hero or to a political conception, provided that it presents the preceding characteristics, its essence always remains religious. The supernatural and the miraculous are found to be present to the same extent. Crowds unconsciously accord a mysterious power to the political formula or the victorious leader that for the moment arouses their enthusiasm.
A person is not religious solely when he worships a divinity, but when he puts all the resources of his mind, the complete submission of his will, and the whole-souled ardor of fanaticism at the service of a cause or an individual who becomes the goal and guide of his thoughts and actions.
Intolerance and fanaticism are the necessary accompaniments of the religious sentiment. They are inevitably displayed by those who believe themselves in the possession of the secret of earthly or eternal happiness. These two characteristics are to be found in all men grouped together when they are inspired by a conviction of any kind. The Jacobins of the Reign of Terror were at bottom as religious as the Catholics of the Inquisition, and their cruel ardor proceeded from the same source.
The convictions of crowds assume those characteristics of blind submission, fierce intolerance, and the need of violent propaganda which are inherent in the religious sentiment, and it is for this reason that it may be said that all their beliefs have a religious form. The hero acclaimed by a crowd is a veritable god for that crowd. Napoleon was such a god for fifteen years, and a divinity never had more fervent worshippers or sent men to their death with greater ease. The Christian and Pagan Gods never exercised a more absolute empire over the minds that had fallen under their sway.
All founders of religious or political creeds have established them solely because they were successful in inspiring crowds with those fanatical sentiments which have as result that men find their happiness in worship and obedience and are ready to lay down their lives for their idol. This has been the case at all epochs. Fustel de Coulanges, in his excellent work on Roman Gaul, justly remarks that the Roman Empire was in no wise maintained by force, but by the religious admiration it inspired. “It would be without a parallel in the history of the world,” he observes rightly, “that a form of government held in popular detestation should have lasted for five centuries. . . . It would be inexplicable that the thirty legions of the Empire should have constrained a hundred million men to obedience.” The reason of their obedience was that the Emperor, who personified the greatness of Rome, was worshipped like a divinity by unanimous consent. There were altars in honor of the Emperor in the smallest townships of his realm. “From one end of the Empire to the other a new religion was seen to arise in those days which had for its divinities the emperors themselves. Some years before the Christian era the whole of Gaul, represented by sixty cities, built in common a temple near the town of Lyons in honor of Augustus. . . . Its priests, elected by the united Gallic cities, were the principal personages in their country. . . . It is impossible to attribute all this to fear and servility. Whole nations are not servile, and especially for three centuries. It was not the courtiers who worshipped the prince, it was Rome, and it was not Rome merely, but it was Gaul, it was Spain, it was Greece and Asia.”
To-day the majority of the great men who have swayed men’s minds no longer have altars, but they have statues, or their portraits are in the hands of their admirers, and the cult of which they are the object is not notably different from that accorded to their predecessors. An understanding of the philosophy of history is only to be got by a thorough appreciation of this fundamental point of the psychology of crowds. The crowd demands a god before everything else.
It must not be supposed that these are the superstitions of a bygone age which reason has definitely banished. Sentiment has never been vanquished in its eternal conflict with reason. Crowds will hear no more of the words divinity and religion, in whose name they were so long enslaved; but they have never possessed so many fetishes as in the last hundred years, and the old divinities have never had so many statues and altars raised in their honor. Those who in recent years have studied the popular movement known under the name of Boulangism have been able to see with what ease the religious instincts of crowds are ready to revive. There was not a country inn that did not possess the hero’s portrait. He was credited with the power of remedying all injustices and all evils, and thousands of men would have given their lives for him. Great might have been his place in history had his character been at all on a level with his legendary reputation.
It is thus a very useless commonplace to assert that a religion is necessary for the masses, because all political, divine, and social creeds only take root among them on the condition of always assuming the religious shape — a shape which obviates the danger of discussion. Were it possible to induce the masses to adopt atheism, this belief would exhibit all the intolerant ardor of a religious sentiment, and in its exterior forms would soon become a cult. The evolution of the small Positivist sect furnishes us a curious proof in point. What happened to the Nihilist whose story is related by that profound thinker Dostoïewsky has quickly happened to the Positivists. Illumined one day by the light of reason he broke the images of divinities and saints that adorned the altar of a chapel, extinguished the candles, and, without losing a moment, replaced the destroyed objects by the works of atheistic philosophers such as Büchner and Moleschott, after which he piously relighted the candles. The object of his religious beliefs had been transformed, but can it be truthfully said that his religious sentiments had changed?
Certain historical events — and they are precisely the most important — I again repeat, are not to be understood unless one has attained to an appreciation of the religious form which the convictions of crowds always assume in the long run. There are social phenomena that need to be studied far more from the point of view of the psychologist than from that of the naturalist. The great historian Taine has only studied the Revolution as a naturalist, and on this account the real genesis of events has often escaped him. He has perfectly observed the facts, but from want of having studied the psychology of crowds he has not always been able to trace their causes. The facts having appalled him by their bloodthirsty, anarchic, and ferocious side, he has scarcely seen in the heroes of the great drama anything more than a horde of epileptic savages abandoning themselves without restraint to their instincts. The violence of the Revolution, its massacres, its need of propaganda, its declarations of war upon all things, are only to be properly explained by reflecting that the Revolution was merely the establishment of a new religious belief in the mind of the masses. The Reformation, the massacre of Saint Bartholomew, the French religious wars, the Inquisition, the Reign of Terror are phenomena of an identical kind, brought about by crowds animated by those religious sentiments which necessarily lead those imbued with them to pitilessly extirpate by fire and sword whoever is opposed to the establishment of the new faith. The methods of the Inquisition are those of all whose convictions are genuine and sturdy. Their convictions would not deserve these epithets did they resort to other methods.
Upheavals analogous to those I have just cited are only possible when it is the soul of the masses that brings them about. The most absolute despots could not cause them. When historians tell us that the massacre of Saint Bartholomew was the work of a king, they show themselves as ignorant of the psychology of crowds as of that of sovereigns. Manifestations of this order can only proceed from the soul of crowds. The most absolute power of the most despotic monarch can scarcely do more than hasten or retard the moment of their apparition. The massacre of Saint Bartholomew or the religious wars were no more the work of kings than the Reign of Terror was the work of Robespierre, Danton, or Saint Just. At the bottom of such events is always to be found the working of the soul of the masses, and never the power of potentates.
Gustave Le Bon (May 7, 1841 – December 13, 1931) was a French social psychologist, sociologist, and amateur physicist. He was the author of several works in which he expounded theories of national traits, racial superiority, herd behaviour and crowd psychology.