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TBR News June 30, 2020

Jun 30 2020

The Voice of the White House
Comments:
“In 2002, a brilliant but unstable computer code writer at a prominent university, became enraged when he failed to get a high-paying position.

Seeking revenge, he constructed a computer virus that would obliterate the hard drive in computers and also wipe out any files it connected with.

The virus was disguised in such a way as to make detection impossible.

He sent this, on a disc, to someone of his acquaintance and asked him to send it out to various entities.

The receiver was not inclined to do this but later decided it might prove interesting so he put it into his own computer and sent it to government agencies, banks, insurance companies, school systems, large businesses, religious organizations, medical facilities, NASDAQ, the NYSE, political parties, transportation systems, telephone computer systems, and other entities.

All it would take to activate this virus would be a trigger, in this case a man’s first, middle and last names plus an invented Social Security card number.

This is mathematically an impossibility to accidentally create.

If this trigger were introduced, let us say, into the computer system of the Federal Reserve, Chase bank, the Department of State, NSA, and on and on, the trigger would activate after so many days, hours and minutes.

The result?

The destruction of the computer system targeted.

This has been germinating for eighteen years and at this point has spread across the globe.

As I am sure you can see, if this happened, the results would be explosive and would be a worse global disaster since the 1917 ‘Spanish’ influenza.

The entire global business and social structures are built around the computer systems and their collapse would be monumental and without guessing, one could say that a new Dark Age would descend.

Many large systems have backups but if these post-dated 2003, they might work for a short time but then they, too, would collapse.

I would imagine if the right wing idiots clamped down on the citizenry, this would be a, fatal, response.

Eric Hoffer said, and I agree, that if you promise something to the masses, there would be a positive response but if you take something away (from the pubic) violence will erupt and the trees of the land will bear strange fruit indeed! Galatians 6:7 indeed.”

 

Trump’s Approval Rating

June 29

Newsweek

Approve     Disapprove

   39%          57%


The Table of Contents
1.Coronavirus is a breeding ground for conspiracy theories – and that has serious consequences
2.The quick guide to spotting fake news
3.The Covid-BLM Diversion; “Shock Therapy” Behind a Smokescreen of 4.Hysteria and Racial Incitement

5.The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind

6.Encyclopedia of American Loons

 

Coronavirus is a breeding ground for conspiracy theories – and that has serious consequences

This article is republished from The Conversation by Daniel Jolley, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Northumbria University, Newcastle and Pia Lamberty, PhD Researcher in Social and Legal Psychology, Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz

The novel coronavirus continues to spread around the world, with new cases being reported all the time. Spreading just as fast, it seems, are conspiracy theories that claim powerful actors are plotting something sinister to do with the virus. Our research into medical conspiracy theories shows that this has the potential to be just as dangerous for societies as the outbreak itself.

One conspiracy theory proposes that the coronavirus is actually a bio-weapon engineered by the CIA as a way to wage war on China. Others are convinced that the UK and US governments introduced the coronavirus as a way to make money from a potential vaccine.

Although many of these conspiracy theories seem far-fetched, the belief that evil powers are pursuing a secret plan is widespread in every society. Often these relate to health. A large 2019 YouGov poll found 16% of respondents in Spain believe that HIV was created and spread around the world on purpose by a secret group or organisation. And 27% of French and 12% of British respondents were convinced that “the truth about the harmful effects of vaccines is being deliberately hidden from the public”.

The spread of fake news and conspiracy theories around the coronavirus is such a significant problem that the World Health Organization (WHO) has created a “myth busters” webpage to try and tackle them.

Spread of conspiracy theories

Research shows that conspiracy theories have a tendency to arise in relation to moments of crisis in society – like terrorist attacks, rapid political changes or economic crisis. Conspiracy theories bloom in periods of uncertainty and threat, where we seek to make sense of a chaotic world. These are the same conditions produced by virus outbreaks, which explains the spread of conspiracy theories in relation to coronavirus.

Similar conditions occurred with the 2015-16 outbreak of Zika virus. Zika conspiracy theories proposed that the virus was a biological weapon rather than a natural occurrence. Research examining comments on Reddit during the Zika virus outbreak found conspiracy talk emerged as a way for people to cope with the extreme uncertainty they felt over Zika.

Trust in the recommendations from health professionals and organizations is an important resource for dealing with a health crisis. But people who believe in conspiracy theories generally do not trust groups they perceive as powerful, including managers, politicians and drug companies. If people do not trust, they are less likely to follow medical advice.

Researchers have shown that medical conspiracy theories have the power to increase distrust in medical authorities, which can impact people’s willingness to protect themselves. People who endorse medical conspiracy theories are less likely to get vaccinated or use antibiotics and are more likely to take herbal supplements or vitamins. Plus, they are more likely to say they would trust medical advice from nonprofessionals such as friends and family.

Severe consequences

In light of these results, people who endorse conspiracy theories about the coronavirus may be less likely to follow health advice like frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap, or self-isolating after visiting at-risk areas.

Instead, these people may be more likely to have negative attitudes towards prevention behavior or use dangerous alternatives as treatments. This would increase the likelihood of the virus spreading and put more people in danger.

Already, we can see “alternative healing approaches” to coronavirus cropping up – some of them very dangerous. Promoters of the popular QAnon conspiracy theory, for example, have said the coronavirus was planned by the so-called “deep state” and claimed the virus can be warded off by drinking bleach.

The spread of medical conspiracy theories can also have severe consequences for other sections of society. For example, during the Black Death in Europe, Jews were scapegoated as responsible for the pandemic. These conspiracy theories led to violent attacks and massacres of Jewish communities all over Europe. The outbreak of the coronavirus has led to a worldwide increase in racist attacks targeted towards people perceived as East Asian.

It is possible to intervene and halt the spread of conspiracy theories, however. Research shows that campaigns promoting counterarguments to medical conspiracy theories are likely to have some success in rectifying conspiracy beliefs. Games such as Bad News, in which people can take the role of a fake news producer, have been shown to improve people’s ability to spot and resist misinformation.

Conspiracy theories can be very harmful for society. Not only can they influence people’s health choices, they can interfere with how different groups relate to each other and increase hostility and violence towards those who are perceived to be “conspiring”. So as well as acting to combat the spread of the coronavirus, governments should also act to stop misinformation and conspiracy theories relating to the virus from getting out of hand.

The quick guide to spotting fake news
by Samantha Smith,
First Amendment Center

Fake news is nothing new. Despite its rise to fame thanks to the 2016 presidential election, the phenomenon has been around since humans have been able to relay information – from spoken word to the first newspapers and now, to social media.

It’s also nothing to be afraid of. When armed with the right tools and information, anyone can spot fake news from a mile away.

CHECK THE SOURCE

If you’re reading an article on a website you’ve never heard of before, take a look at the website’s “Contact” and “About Us” pages.  If the site is meant to be satirical, these pages will typically have a disclaimer.

If the site lacks these pages altogether, that’s also a red flag, as most news outlets want their readers to be able to contact them and learn more about them.

Still not sure? Do a quick Google search of the website–does it have a reputation for publishing fake news or misleading information?

DON’T JUDGE A BOOK (OR A NEWS ARTICLE IN THIS CASE), BY IT’S COVER

Unreliable sites will often use misleading headlines to lure in readers and clicks. Before sharing a story with an outrageous claim, keep reading – what’s the whole story? Did the author bury the lead in efforts to make the story more attractive? Were credible and trustworthy sources used to back up the claim made in the headline?

Typically if a story is shared on social media with a misleading headline, readers will voice their frustration in the comments, either on the site itself or on the social media post. If you read a headline that sounds too outrageous to be true, oftentimes that’s because it is.

TAKE A LOOK AT THE URL

Does the URL look off in some way?  This is often a tell-tale sign of a website that shares fake news, as some fake news websites try to mimic the URL, logo, and design of legitimate news websites, in order to trick readers.

Story from abcnews.com.co–not abcnews.com.

The website abcnews.com.co published fake news stories and misled readers into thinking that they were reading stories from abcnews.com.

ARE OTHER NEWS SITES REPORTING ON THE STORY?

Chances are, if the majority of other news sites are reporting on the same story, it’s at least partially true. Read multiple stories on the same subject to see what sources are being used and where the differences lie.

BE WARY OF SLOPPY WRITING

If you are reading an article and the author uses five exclamation points at the end of a sentence, it is often fake news of some sort. Also be skeptical of an abundance of spelling or grammatical errors, or if the writer uses caps lock.

Most credible news sources have copy editors that will check for these mistakes before publication, and will also have rules restricting writers from using features like caps lock for the sake of professionalism.

Real news media outlets go lighter on the caps lock.

QUOTES – OR LACK THEREOF

A sure sign of credible journalism is the presence of quotes. This adds an additional layer of integrity, allowing readers to do some research on the individual quoted and decide if they are a reliable source of information.

Absence of quotes is usually a sign of an opinion piece, either published as a blog post or a column, or of fake news.

UTILIZE MEDIA LITERACY SITES

Before you share an article claiming Lil Wayne has one month to live, take a look at what Snopes.com and Factcheck.org have to say. When fake news stories start to go viral, these sites typically pick up what’s real and what’s not.

Know that using just one of the above methods alone is not a valid way of identifying fake news – the methods are meant to be used together.

While a credible news source has a duty to report facts without bias  and rely on trustworthy sources, this doesn’t mean media consumers are off the hook. As a reader, it’s also your job to verify the information you are reading.

If you’re looking to sharpen your media literacy skills, try out the Tinder-style game Factitious. Developed by American University, the game presents you with actual stories and asks you to identify whether or not they can legitimately called news.

The Covid-BLM Diversion; “Shock Therapy” Behind a Smokescreen of Hysteria and Racial Incitement

“When a government is dependent upon bankers for money, they and not the leaders of the government control the situation, since the hand that gives is above the hand that takes… Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain.”
Napoleon Bonaparte, 1815
June 29, 2020
by Mike Whitney
The Unz Review

The imposition of the nationwide lockdowns required elite consensus. There’s no way that a project of that magnitude could have been carried out absent the nearly universal support of establishment elites and their lackeys in the political class. There must have also been a fairly-detailed media strategy that excluded the voices of lockdown opponents while– at the same time– promoting an extremely dubious theory of universal quarantine that had no basis in science, no historical precedent, and no chance of preventing the long-term spread of the infection. All of this suggests that the lockdowns were not a spontaneous overreaction to a fairly-mild virus that kills roughly 1 in 500 mainly-older and infirm victims, but a comprehensive and thoroughly-vetted plan to impose “shock therapy” on the US economy in order to achieve the long-term strategic ambitions of ruling class elites. As one sardonic official opined, “Never let a crisis go to waste.”

It was clear from the beginning, that the lockdowns were going to have a catastrophic effect on the economy, and so they have. As of today, 30 million people have lost their jobs, tens of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses have been shuttered, second quarter GDP has plunged to an eye watering -45.5 percent (Atlanta Fed), and the economy has experienced its greatest shock in history. Even so, pundits in the mainstream media, remain steadfast in their opposition to lifting the lockdowns or modifying the medical martial law edicts that have been arbitrarily imposed by mainly-liberal governors across the country. Why? Why would the so-called “experts throw their weight behind such a sketchy policy when they knew how much suffering it was going to cause for ordinary working people? And why has the media continued to attack countries like Sweden who merely settled on a more conventional approach instead of imposing a full-blown lockdown? Swedish leaders and epidemiologists were unaware that adopting their own policy would be seen as a sign of defiance by their global overlords, but it was. Elites have decided that there can be no challenge to their idiotic lockdown model which is why Sweden had to be punished, ridiculed, and dragged through the mud. The treatment of Sweden further underscores the fact that the lockdown policy (and the destruction of the US economy) was not a random and impulsive act, but one part of a broader plan to restructure the economy to better serve the interests of elites. That’s what’s really going on. The lockdowns are being used to “reset” the economy and impose a new social order.

But why would corporate mandarins agree to a plan that would shrink their earnings and eviscerate short-term profitability?

Why? Because of the the stock market, that’s why. The recycling of earnings into financial assets has replaced product sales as the primary driver of profits. As you may have noticed, both the Fed and the US Treasury have taken unprecedented steps to ensure that stock prices will only go higher. To date, the Fed and Treasury have committed $8 trillion dollars to backstopping the weaker areas of the market in an effort to flood the market with liquidity. “Backstopping” is an innocuous-sounding term that analysts use to conceal what is really going on, which is, the Fed is “price fixing”, buying up trillions of dollars of corporate debt, ETF’s, MBS, and US Treasuries to keep prices artificially high in order to reward the investor class it secretly serves. This is why the corporations and Tech giants are not concerned about the vast devastation that has been inflicted on the economy. They’ll still be raking hefty profits via the stock market while the real economy slips deeper into a long-term coma. Besides, when the lockdowns are finally lifted, these same corporations will see a surge of consolidation brought on by the destruction of so many Mom and Pop industries that couldn’t survive the downturn. No doubt, the expansion of America’s tenacious monopolies factored heavily into the calculation to blow up the economy. Meanwhile, the deepening slump will undoubtedly create a permanent underclass that will eagerly work for a pittance of what they earned before the crash. So, there you have it: Profitability, consolidation and cheap labor. Why wouldn’t corporate bosses love the idea of crashing the economy? It’s a win-win situation for them.

We should have seen this coming. It’s been clear since the Russiagate fiasco that elites had settled on a more aggressive form of social control via nonstop disinformation presented as headline news based on spurious accusations from anonymous sources, none of who were were ever identified, and none of whose claims could ever be verified. The media continued this “breathless” saturation campaign without pause and without the slightest hesitation even after its central claims were exposed as lies. If you are a liberal who watches the liberal cable channels or reads the New York Times, you might still be unaware that the central claim that the emails were stolen from the DNC by Russia (or anyone else for that matter) has not only been disproved, but also, that Mueller, Comey, Clapper etc knew the story was false way back in 2017. Let that sink in for a minute. They all knew it was a lie after the cyber security team (Crowdstrike) that inspected the DNC computers testified that there was no evidence that the emails had been “exfiltrated”. In other words, there was no proof the emails were stolen. There was no justification for the Mueller investigation because there was no evidence that the DNC emails had been hacked, downloaded or pilfered. The whole thing was a hoax from the get go.

There’s no way to overstate the importance these recent findings, in fact, our understanding of Russiagate must be applied to the lockdowns, the Black Lives Matter protests and other psychological operations still in the making. What’s critical to grasp is not simply that the allegations were based on false claims, (which they were) but that a large number of senior-level officials in law enforcement (FBI), intel agencies, media and the White House knew with absolute certainty that the claims were false (from 2017 and on) but continued to propagate fake stories, spy on members of the new administration and use whatever tools they had at their disposal to overthrow an elected president. The guilty parties in this ruse have never admitted their guilt nor have they changed their fictitious storyline which still routinely appears in the media to this day. What we can glean from this incident, is that there is a vast secret state operating within the government, media and the DNC, that does not accept our system of government, does not accept the results of elections and will lie, cheat and steal to achieve their nefarious objectives. . That’s the lesson of Russiagate that has to be applied to both the lockdowns and the Black Lives Matter protests. They are just the next phase of the ongoing war on the American people.

The lockdowns are an Americanized version of the “Shock Doctrine”, that is, the country has been thrust into a severe crisis that will result in the implementing of neoliberal economic policies such as privatization, deregulation and cuts to social services. Already many of the liberal governors have driven their states into bankruptcy ensuring that budgets will have to be slashed, more jobs will be lost, funding for education and vital infrastructure will shrink, and assistance to the poor and needy will be sharply reduced. Shutting down the US economy, will create a catastrophe unlike anything we have ever seen in the United States. US Treasuries will likely lose their risk-free status while the dollar’s as days as the “world’s reserve currency” are probably numbered. That “exorbitant privilege” is based on confidence, and confidence in US leadership is at its lowest point in history.

It’s not surprising that the Black Lives Matter protests took place at the same time as the lockdowns. The looting, rioting and desecration of statues provided the perfect one-two punch for those who see some tactical advantage in intensifying public anxiety by exacerbating racial tensions and splitting the country into two warring camps. Divide and conquer remains the modus operandi of imperialists everywhere. That same rule applies here. Here’s more background from an article at the Off-Guardian:

“It is no coincidence that another Soros funded activism group Black Lives Matter has diverted the spotlight away from the lockdown’s broader impact on the fundamental human rights of billions of people, using the reliable methods of divide and rule, to highlight the plight of specific strata’s of society, and not all.

It’s worth pointing out that BLM’s activity spikes every four years. Always prior to the elections in the US, as African Americans make up an important social segment of Democrat votes. The same Democrats who play both sides like any smart gambler would. The Clintons, for example, are investors into BLM”s partner, the anti-fascist ANTIFA. While Hilary Clinton’s mentor (and best friend) was former KKK leader Robert Byrd.

BLM is a massively hyped, TV-made, politicized event, that panders to the populist and escapist appetite of the people. Blinding them from their true call to arms in defense of the universal rights of everyone. Cashing in on the youths pent-up aggression …. And weaponising the tiger locked in a rattled cage for 3-months, and unleashed by puppet masters as the mob…

As a general rule of thumb, it is safe to assume that if a social movement has the backing of big industry, big philanthropy or big politics, then its ideals run contrary to citizen empowerment.” (“The Co-opting of Activism by the State“, Off-Guardian)

Black Lives Matter protests provide another significant diversion from the massive destruction of the US economy. This basic plan has been used effectively many times in the past, most notably in the year following the invasion of Iraq. Some readers will remember how Iraqis militants fought US occupation forces following the invasion in 2003. The escalating violence and rising death-toll created a public relations nightmare for the Bush team that finally settled on a plan for crushing the resistance by arming and training Shia death squads. But the Bushies wanted to confuse the public about what they were really up to, so they concocted a narrative about a “sectarian war” that was intended to divert attention from the attacks on American soldiers.

In order to make the narrative more believable, US intel agents devised a plan to blow up the Shia’s most sacred religious site, the Golden Dome Mosque of Samarra, and blame it on Sunni extremists. The incident was then used to convince the American people that what was taking place in Iraq was not a war over foreign occupation, but a bitter sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shia in which the US was just an impartial referee. The killing of George Floyd has been used in much the same way as the implosion of the mosque. It creates a credible narrative for a massive and coordinated protests that have less to do with racial injustice than they do with diverting attention from the destruction of the economy and sowing division among the American people. This is a classic example of how elites use myth and media to conceal their trouble-making and escape any accountability for their actions.

Check out this excerpt from a paper by Carlo Caduff, an academic at King’s College London, in a journal called Medical Anthropology Quarterly. It’s entitled “What Went Wrong: Corona and the World After the Full Stop”:

“Across the world, the pandemic unleashed authoritarian longings in democratic societies allowing governments to seize the opportunity, create states of exception and push political agendas. Commentators have presented the pandemic as a chance for the West to learn authoritarianism from the East. This pandemic risks teaching people to love power and call for its meticulous application. As a result of the unforeseeable social, political and economic consequences of today’s sweeping measures, governments across the world have launched record “stimulus” bills costing trillions of dollars, pounds, pesos, rand and rupees…. The trillions that governments are spending now as “stimulus” packages surpass even those of the 2008 financial crisis and will need to be paid for somehow. … If austerity policies of the past are at the root of the current crisis with overwhelmed healthcare systems in some countries, the rapidly rising public debt is creating the perfect conditions for more austerity in the future. The pandemic response will have major implications for the public funding of education, welfare, social security, environment and health in the future.” (Lockdownskeptics.org)

This is precisely right. The country has been deliberately plunged into another Great Depression with the clear intention of imposing harsh austerity measures that will eviscerate Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and any other social safteynet programs that benefit ordinary working people, retirees, or anyone else for that matter. None of it is random, spontaneous or spur-of-the-moment policymaking. It’s all drawn from a centuries-old Imperial Playbook that’s being used by scheming elites to implement their final plan for America: Tear down the statues, destroy the icons and symbols, rewrite the history, crush the populist resistance, create a permanent underclass that will work for pennies on the dollar, pit one group against the other by inciting racial hatred, political polarization and fratricidal warfare, promote the vandals who burn and loot our cities, attack anyone who speaks the truth, and offer unlimited support to the party that has aligned itself with the corrupt Intel agencies, the traitorous media, the sinister deep state, and the tyrannical elites who are determined to control the all the levers of state power and crush anyone who gets in their way.

The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind

(La psychologie des foules 1895)

by Gustave Le Bon

THE MIND OF CROWDS.

CHAPTER I.
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.

CHAPTER II.
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: [2] 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.

[2]

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.
Note: [3]

Note:

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

“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.”
Note: [4]

Note:

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.
Note: [5]

Note:

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.
Note: [6]

Note:

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.

 

 

CHAPTER III.
THE IDEAS, REASONING POWER, AND IMAGINATION
OF CROWDS.

  • 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.

CHAPTER IV.
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.

  Encyclopedia of American Loons

Jerry Johnson

Jerry Johnson is president of something called the Nicene Council, and a raging fundie. As fundies are wont to do, Johnson believes that the end is near, and is actively looking for signs to support that idea. (You can read his “10 signs of God’s judgment upon a nation  but the web design itself should give you a clue about what you have in store if you decide to do so.) He is also a creationist, and has created some videos using common creationist PRATTs to argue against evolution, which he doesn’t understand at all.

Johnson may, however, be most famous for his anti-Mormon activism. In 2012 Johnson asserted that he would not vote for either Romney or Obama, complained that “the two major parties have given us the choice between voting for the Beast or the False Prophet,” and called the two candidates “twin evils.” He also posted a video explaining “why Mormonism is a cult”.

Diagnosis: Not easy to distinguish from a mass of similar-minded fundamentalists, but that doesn’t make him any less insane. Probably not very influential, though.

 Bill Johnson & the ADA

The American Decency Association (ADA) is, as the name suggests, an aggressive, fundamentalist organization working to prevent “indecent” media and indecency in general, which including Maxim, Cosmopolitan, lingerie, gays, lesbians, dance groups, abortion clinics, Magic Johnson (who should be ashamed of his gay son), swimsuits, and pornography, and seeks “… to educate its members and the general public on matters of decency; to initiate, promote, encourage and coordinate activity designed to safeguard and advance public morality consistent with biblical Christianity.” ADA was founded in 1999 by former elementary school teacher Bill Johnson, previously director of the Michigan branch of the American Family Association (AFA). According to Johnson “Pornography does destroy. How can anyone deny that? Yet, there are certainly those that do deny that.”

And of course, to ADA marriage equality is of the devil, leading to “chaos and dysfunction”, as well as “lawlessness”; ultimately, what Johnson calls gay “special rights” will even lead to “despotism” and the end of freedom. How it can simultaneously lead to both lawlessness and despotism is not explained, but in any case America deserves God’s wrath for daring to give gay people equal rights (gays are “disgusting”, according to Johnson). Prior to the SCOTUS 2015 ruling on marriage equality Johnson (like other fundie wingnuts) warned that if he didn’t like the ruling SCOTUS eventually arrived at, then “truth, righteousness, the free expression of belief, Christian conscience, will be removed from our schools, our government – even many churches that fear man more than God,” and America would consequently be punished by his strongman, God.

Like the AFA, the ADA call on its members to flood companies they target with complaints (they will even write the complaint for you) and boycott the products of those companies. For instance, they’ve been on Abercrombie & Fitch’s back for some 15 years, tried to get its members to boycott malls renting out space to Victoria’s Secret, since they “sell lingerie in an inappropriate and immoral manner”, and in 2006 gained some attention for their campaign against a calendar depicting Detroit Pistons’ dance group “Automotion” members in swimsuits, which they described as “legalized pornography” (accuracy isn’t a strong suit for groups like this). They also monitor various TV stations and their advertisers for decency, and has blacklisted TV shows like Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy – as well as the obvious target, Glee: ADA has tried to get advertisers to pull their support from Glee for years, warning that the show is “poisoning our youth” with its “destructive messages;” Glee is, according to Johnson, “a gruel of illicit sexuality, secular humanist ideology, and the promotion of homosexuality and deviant behavior.”

In 2012 the ADA tried to target Google for their “Legalize Love” campaign, complaining that Google should “just make their product and stay out the culture war;” after all “what gives you, a technology company, the right to tell people what’s right and wrong?” That complaint applies to anyone who disagrees with them. (The answer “whatever gives the ADA the right to do so” doesn’t compute.)

Diagnosis: Rabid fundie hater. He’s got powerful friends, but we’re uncertain how much weight aggressive, delusional hate organizations like his can really push anymore.

Laura Knight Jadczyk

Laura Knight Jadczyk is a “scientific mystic and PaleoChristian Shaman.” (Please let that sink in.) Primarily, she’s a blogger most famous for promoting Comet Elenin, Planet X and Nibiru nonsense (though apparently the 2012 apocalypse was a false flag operation to fool thinking people like herself) – but she is also deeply into free energy conspiracies, trutherism (she has even written a book, 9/11 The Ultimate Truth with Joe Quinn), JFK conspiracies, various conspiracies centered around Mossad, the Denver Airport conspiracy theory (check it out if you don’t know it), New World Order conspiracies, Earth changes, aliens and HAARP. If you’ve taken the first step, why not go the whole way?

Her Cassiopaea website is worth a visit. Not everything there is entirely clear to us, but apparently Cassiopaeans are aliens, possibly from the future, who communicate with humans via channeling. Jadczyk has channeled them herself. They told her that the Men in Black are “lizard projections”. So there is that. They may also be trying to kill us. Who knows. Much of the website is devoted to The Grail Quest And The Destiny Of Man, which has something to do with finding the Holy Grail through a mix of alchemy, hallucinations and dreams, Christianity and (we suspect) vibrations. There is also a lot about The Wave, which has something to do with souls and earth changes.

As for the real world, it (every nation) is – according to the “Sign of the Times” website, which she helps moderate, and which is “The world for the people who think” – controlled by psychopaths by means of dominant personalities. She has this information from a book she wrote with a Soviet professor. The professor, however, fled with the book in his memory when he discovered the truth. She is also miffed about how corporate science hide the Truth by the wicked trick of peer review.

As for psychopaths, they are failed organic portals. What? Oh, yes. Organic portals are “people whose abilities of imitation are so developed, so much an integral part of who they are, that they can only be discovered after years of observation. The psychopath is the failed organic portal.” Apparently there are 3 billion organic portals, and they are soulless. The rest of humanity, on the other hand, are distinguished into “pre-adamic” and “adamic” humans, who have different souls and we have no idea but it probably doesn’t matter.

She has also written the book The Secret History of the World and How to Get Out Alive, which … well, lets just quote the blurb: “If you heard the Truth, would you believe it? Ancient civilizations. Hyperdimensional realities. DNA changes. Bible conspiracies. What are the realities? What is disinformation? The Secret History of The World and How To Get Out Alive is the definitive book of the real answers where Truth is more fantastic than fiction. Laura Knight-Jadczyk, wife of internationally known theoretical physicist, Arkadiusz Jadczyk, an expert in hyperdimensional physics, draws on science and mysticism to pierce the veil of reality. Due to the many threats on her life from agents and agencies known and unknown, Laura left the United States to live in France, where she is working closely with Patrick Rivière, student of Eugene Canseliet, the only disciple of the legendary alchemist Fulcanelli. To this day, Laura continues to undergo ad-hominem attacks on her web pages, her blog and even as faux book ‘reviews’ on book seller websites, by those threatened by the information she reveals in this definitive work. Yet, with sparkling humour and wisdom, she picks up where Fulcanelli left off, sharing over thirty years of research to reveal, for the first time, The Great Work and the esoteric Science of the Ancients in terms accessible to scholar and layperson alike.” The book was published with something called the Red Pill Press.

Apparently Jadczyk is vice president of the Quantum Future Group (QFG). In 2008 the QFG was apparently sued by Eric Pepin, guru-i-chief of the Higher Balance Institute, which offers courses in “multi-dimensional meditation.” Apparently Sign of the Times accused his institute of being a cointelpro group promoting meditation as an act of “falling into confluence with a psychopathic reality” that “leads people more deeply into sleep.” We do not know how Pepin went about demonstrating that the claim is false, insofar as falsehood requires minimal meaningfulness.

Jadczyk’s husband Arkadiusz is apparently a legit PhD in theoretical physics, but also pushes New Age speculations and quantum woo.

Diagnosis: Gibberish. Gibberish everywhere. Gibberish and trans-dimensional martian Leprechauns. Fortunately Jadczyk’s influence is limited, and the fact that most of her sentences are meaningless nonsense probably doesn’t help in the long run.

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