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TBR News December 15, 2017

Dec 15 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., December 15, 2017: “Every year, the American public pays enforced income taxes to their government. Is that money used to benefit the public? No, it is spread out amongst the agencies and stuffed into official pockets and the pockets of their business friends. Unemployment in the United States is reaching astronomical highs and the wealth, mostly from the technical field, ends up in fewer and fewer hands. Poor neighborhoods are bulldozed to let a few electronic oligarchs build 70 room mansions, the streets are filling up with the dispossed, a business-friendly government cuts off as much public aid as they dare so that there is more money for their own use. And in the bitcoin bubble, we see the deluded dreaming of billions of dollars but when the bubble bursts, as it surely will, the newly-poor will join the ranks of street people and for a  certainty, the Russians will be blamed.”

 

 

Table of Contents

  • Bitcoin hits new record high as warnings grow louder
  • A journey through a land of extreme poverty: welcome to America
  • The Coming Storm: Revolt from Below
  • Big Brother asleep on the job 
  • Unlike Nixon, Trump Will Not Go Quietly
  • Donald Trump thanks Russia’s Vladimir Putin for praising American economy
  • The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind

 

 

Bitcoin hits new record high as warnings grow louder

December 15, 2017

by Jemima Kelly

Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) – Bitcoin blasted to another all-time high of almost $18,000 on the Bitstamp exchange on Friday, up 9 percent on the day, as warnings grew over the risks of investing in the highly volatile and speculative instrument.

The cryptocurrency’s staggering recent price rises — more than 1,700 percent since the start of the year — have driven worries that the market is a bubble that could burst in spectacular fashion.

Bitcoin has climbed almost 80 percent so far in December alone, putting it on track for its best month in percentage terms since December 2013.

On Friday it reached as high as $17,900 on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange.

While bitcoin has added another fifth to its value since Monday, trading has been slightly calmer than the wild price swings the market has seen in recent weeks, with volatility lower since the launch of bitcoin futures from Cboe Global Markets on Sunday.

Market-watchers said bitcoin’s price was being lifted by the launch of rival CME Group’s bitcoin futures contracts on Sunday.

“The hope (is) that futures signal the unlocking of institutional money into the digital arena and (that there will be) a rapid demand increase and ratification of the technology and its principles,” said Charles Hayter, founder of industry website Cryptocompare.

But outside of the crypto market, worries continue to grow about the amount of money piling into the space.

A study by Anglia Ruskin University, Trinity College Dublin and Dublin City University released on Friday said bitcoin could pose a threat to the financial stability of traditional currencies and markets.

“Our evidence finds that the price of Bitcoin has been artificially inflated by speculative investment, putting it in a bubble,” said Larisa Yarovaya, one of the report’s authors and a lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University.

“Although bitcoin is not regulated by governments, it could still have a knock-on effect on traditional markets due to the interconnectedness of cryptocurrency markets with other financial assets.”

Others, however, say bitcoin’s total market size — around $300 billion — mean the impact of any future price collapse would not be large enough to have a knock-on effect on financial stability. The BBC reported late on Thursday that the head of Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority, Andrew Bailey, had warned that bitcoin buyers should be prepared for the possibility that they could “lose all their money”.

Outages on some of the world’s biggest exchanges this week, which left millions of investors unable to access their funds during periods when trading volumes are high, have also fuelled concerns about the fragility of the market’s infrastructure.

Reporting by Jemima Kelly; Editing by Tommy Wilkes and Catherine Evans

 

A journey through a land of extreme poverty: welcome to America

The UN’s Philip Alston is an expert on deprivation – and he wants to know why 41m Americans are living in poverty. The Guardian joined him on a special two-week mission into the dark heart of the world’s richest nation

December 15, 2017

by Ed Pilkington

The Guardian

Los Angeles, California, 5 December

“You got a choice to make, man. You could go straight on to heaven. Or you could turn right, into that.”

We are in Los Angeles, in the heart of one of America’s wealthiest cities, and General Dogon, dressed in black, is our tour guide. Alongside him strolls another tall man, grey-haired and sprucely decked out in jeans and suit jacket. Professor Philip Alston is an Australian academic with a formal title: UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

General Dogon, himself a veteran of these Skid Row streets, strides along, stepping over a dead rat without comment and skirting round a body wrapped in a worn orange blanket lying on the sidewalk.

The two men carry on for block after block after block of tatty tents and improvised tarpaulin shelters. Men and women are gathered outside the structures, squatting or sleeping, some in groups, most alone like extras in a low-budget dystopian movie.

We come to an intersection, which is when General Dogon stops and presents his guest with the choice. He points straight ahead to the end of the street, where the glistening skyscrapers of downtown LA rise up in a promise of divine riches.

Heaven.

Then he turns to the right, revealing the “black power” tattoo on his neck, and leads our gaze back into Skid Row bang in the center of LA’s downtown. That way lies 50 blocks of concentrated human humiliation. A nightmare in plain view, in the city of dreams.

Alston turns right.So begins a two-week journey into the dark side of the American Dream. The spotlight of the UN monitor, an independent arbiter of human rights standards across the globe, has fallen on this occasion on the US, culminating on Friday with the release of his initial report in Washington.

His fact-finding mission into the richest nation the world has ever known has led him to investigate the tragedy at its core: the 41 million people who officially live in poverty.

Of those, 9 million have zero cash income – they do not receive a cent in sustenance.

Alston’s epic journey has taken him from coast to coast, deprivation to deprivation. Starting in LA and San Francisco, sweeping through the Deep South, traveling on to the colonial stain of Puerto Rico then back to the stricken coal country of West Virginia, he has explored the collateral damage of America’s reliance on private enterprise to the exclusion of public help.

The Guardian had unprecedented access to the UN envoy, following him as he crossed the country, attending all his main stops and witnessing the extreme poverty he is investigating firsthand.

Think of it as payback time. As the UN special rapporteur himself put it: “Washington is very keen for me to point out the poverty and human rights failings in other countries. This time I’m in the US.”

The tour comes at a critical moment for America and the world. It began on the day that Republicans in the US Senate voted for sweeping tax cuts that will deliver a bonanza for the super wealthy while in time raising taxes on many lower-income families. The changes will exacerbate wealth inequality that is already the most extreme in any industrialized nation, with three men – Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffet – owning as much as half of the entire American people.

A few days into the UN visit, Republican leaders took a giant leap further. They announced plans to slash key social programs in what amounts to an assault on the already threadbare welfare state.

“Look up! Look at those banks, the cranes, the luxury condos going up,” exclaimed General Dogon, who used to be homeless on Skid Row and now works as a local activist with Lacan. “Down here, there’s nothing. You see the tents back to back, there’s no place for folks to go.”

California made a suitable starting point for the UN visit. It epitomizes both the vast wealth generated in the tech boom for the 0.001%, and the resulting surge in housing costs that has sent homelessness soaring. Los Angeles, the city with by far the largest population of street dwellers in the country, is grappling with crisis numbers that increased 25% this past year to 55,000.

Ressy Finley, 41, was busy sterilizing the white bucket she uses to slop out in her tent in which she has lived on and off for more than a decade. She keeps her living area, a mass of worn mattresses and blankets and a few motley possessions, as clean as she can in a losing battle against rats and cockroaches. She also endures waves of bed bugs, and has large welts on her shoulder to prove it.

She receives no formal income, and what she makes on recycling bottles and cans is no way enough to afford the average rents of $1,400 a month for a tiny one-bedroom. A friend brings her food every couple of days, the rest of the time she relies on nearby missions.

She cried twice in the course of our short conversation, once when she recalled how her infant son was taken from her arms by social workers because of her drug habit (he is now 14; she has never seen him again). The second time was when she alluded to the sexual abuse that set her as a child on the path towards drugs and homelessness.

Given all that, it’s remarkable how positive Finley remains. What does she think of the American Dream, the idea that everyone can make it if they try hard enough? She replies instantly: “I know I’m going to make it.”

A 41-year-old woman living on the sidewalk in Skid Row going to make it?

“Sure I will, so long as I keep the faith.”

What does “making it” mean to her?

“I want to be a writer, a poet, an entrepreneur, a therapist.”

Robert Chambers occupies the next patch of sidewalk along from Finley’s. He’s created an area around his tent out of wooden pallets, what passes in Skid Row for a cottage garden.

He has a sign up saying “Homeless Writers Coalition”, the name of a group he runs to give homeless people dignity against what he calls the “animalistic” aspects of their lives. He’s referring not least to the lack of public bathrooms that forces people to relieve themselves on the streets.

LA authorities have promised to provide more access to toilets, a critical issue given the deadly outbreak of Hepatitis A that began in San Diego and is spreading on the west coast claiming 21 lives mainly through lack of sanitation in homeless encampments. At night local parks and amenities are closed specifically to keep homeless people out.

Skid Row has had the use of nine toilets at night for 1,800 street-faring people. That’s a ratio well below that mandated by the UN in its camps for Syrian refugees.

“It’s inhuman actually, and eventually in the end you will acquire animalistic psychology,” Chambers said.

He has been living on the streets for almost a year, having violated his parole terms for drug possession and in turn being turfed out of his low-cost apartment. There’s no help for him now, he said, no question of “making it”.

“The safety net? It has too many holes in it for me.”

Of all the people who crossed paths with the UN monitor, Chambers was the most dismissive of the American Dream. “People don’t realize – it’s never getting better, there’s no recovery for people like us. I’m 67, I have a heart condition, I shouldn’t be out here. I might not be too much longer.”

That was a lot of bad karma to absorb on day one, and it rattled even as seasoned a student of hardship as Alston. As UN special rapporteur, he’s reported on dire poverty and its impact on human rights in Saudi Arabia and China among other places. But Skid Row?

“I was feeling pretty depressed,” he told the Guardian later. “The endless drumbeat of horror stories. At a certain point you do wonder what can anyone do about this, let alone me.”

And then he took a flight up to San Francisco, to the Tenderloin district where homeless people congregate, and walked into St Boniface church.

What he saw there was an analgesic for his soul.

San Francisco, California, 6 December

About 30 homeless people were quietly sleeping in pews at the back of the church, as they are allowed to do every weekday morning, with worshippers praying harmoniously in front of them. The church welcomes them in as part of the Catholic concept of extending the helping hand.

“I found the church surprisingly uplifting,” Alston said. “It was such a simple scene and such an obvious idea. It struck me – Christianity, what the hell is it about if it’s not this?”

It was a rare drop of altruism on the west coast, competing against a sea of hostility. More than 500 anti-homeless laws have been passed in Californian cities in recent years. At a federal level, Ben Carson, the neurosurgeon who Trump appointed US housing secretary, is decimating government spending on affordable housing.

Perhaps the most telling detail: apart from St Boniface and its sister church, no other place of worship in San Francisco welcomes homeless people. In fact, many have begun, even at this season of goodwill, to lock their doors to all comers simply so as to exclude homeless people.

As Tiny Gray-Garcia, herself on the streets, described it to Alston, there is a prevailing attitude that she and her peers have to contend with every day. She called it the “violence of looking away”.

That cruel streak – the violence of looking away – has been a feature of American life since the nation’s founding. The casting off the yoke of overweening government (the British monarchy) came to be equated in the minds of many Americans with states’ rights and the individualistic idea of making it on your own – a view that is fine for those fortunate enough to do so, less happy if you’re born on the wrong side of the tracks.

Countering that has been the conviction that society must protect its own against the vagaries of hunger or unemployment that informed Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson. But in recent times the prevailing winds have blown strongly in the “you’re on your own, buddy” direction. Ronald Reagan set the trend with his 1980s tax cuts, followed by Bill Clinton, whose 1996 decision to scrap welfare payments for low-income families is still punishing millions of Americans.

The cumulative attack has left struggling families, including the 15 million children who are officially in poverty, with dramatically less support than in any other industrialized economy. Now they face perhaps the greatest threat of all.

As Alston himself has written in an essay on Trump’s populism and the aggressive challenge it poses to human rights: “These are extraordinarily dangerous times. Almost anything seems possible.”

Lowndes County, Alabama, 9 December

Trump’s attack on welfare will hurt African Americans disproportionately.

Black people are 13% of the US population, but 23% of those officially in poverty and 39% of the homeless.

The racial element of America’s poverty crisis is seen nowhere more clearly than in the Deep South, where the open wounds of slavery continue to bleed. The UN special rapporteur chose as his next stop the “Black Belt,” the term that originally referred to the rich dark soil that exists in a band across Alabama but over time came to describe its majority African American population.

The link between soil type and demographics was not coincidental. Cotton was found to thrive in this fertile land, and that in turn spawned a trade in slaves to pick the crop. Their descendants still live in the Black Belt, still mired in poverty among the worst in the union.

You can trace the history of America’s shame, from slave times to the present day, in a set of simple graphs. The first shows the cotton-friendly soil of the Black Belt, then the slave population, followed by modern black residence and today’s extreme poverty – they all occupy the exact same half-moon across Alabama.

There are numerous ways you could parse the present parlous state of Alabama’s black community. Perhaps the starkest is the fact that in the Black Belt so many families still have no access to sanitation. Thousands of people continue to live among open sewers of the sort normally associated with the developing world.

The crisis was revealed by the Guardian earlier this year to have led to an ongoing endemic of hookworm, an intestinal parasite that is transmitted through human waste. It is found in Africa and South Asia, but had been assumed eradicated in the US years ago.

Yet here the worm still is, sucking the blood of poor people, in the home state of Trump’s US attorney general Jeff Sessions.

A disease of the developing world thriving in the world’s richest country.

The open sewerage problem is especially acute in Lowndes County, a majority black community that was an epicenter of the civil rights movement having been the setting of Martin Luther King’s Selma to Montgomery voting rights march in 1965.

Despite its proud history, Catherine Flowers estimates that 70% of households in the area either “straight pipe” their waste directly onto open ground, or have defective septic tanks incapable of dealing with heavy rains.

When her group, Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (Acre), pressed local authorities to do something about it, officials invested $6m in extending waste treatment systems to primarily white-owned businesses while bypassing overwhelmingly black households.

“That’s a glaring example of injustice,” Flowers said. “People who cannot afford their own systems are left to their own devices while businesses who do have the money are given public services.”

Walter, a Lowndes County resident who asked not to give his last name for fear that his water supply would be cut off as a reprisal for speaking out, lives with the daily consequences of such public neglect. “You get a good hard rain and it backs up into the house.”

That’s a polite way of saying that sewerage gurgles up into his kitchen sink, hand basin and bath, filling the house with a sickly-sweet stench.Given these circumstances, what does he think of the ideology that anyone can make it if they try?

“I suppose they could if they had the chance,” Walter said. He paused, then added: “Folks aren’t given the chance.”

Had he been born white, would his sewerage problems have been fixed by now?

After another pause, he said: “Not being racist, but yeah, they would.”

Round the back of Walter’s house the true iniquity of the situation reveals itself. The yard is laced with small channels running from neighboring houses along which dark liquid flows. It congregates in viscous pools directly underneath the mobile home in which Walter’s son, daughter-in-law and 16-year-old granddaughter live.

It is the ultimate image of the lot of Alabama’s impoverished rural black community. As American citizens they are as fully entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It’s just that they are surrounded by pools of excrement.

This week, the Black Belt bit back. On Tuesday a new line was added to that simple graphic, showing exactly the same half-moon across Alabama except this time it was not black but blue.

It depicted the army of African American voters who turned out against the odds to send Doug Jones to the US Senate, the first Democrat from Alabama to do so in a generation. It delivered a bloody nose to his opponent, the alleged child molester Roy Moore, and his puppetmasters Steve Bannon and Donald Trump.

It was arguably the most important expression of black political muscle in the region since King’s 1965 march. If the previous entries in the graphic could be labeled “soil”, “slavery” and “poverty”, this one should be captioned “empowerment”.

Guayama, Puerto Rico, 10 December

So how does Alston view the role of UN rapporteur and his visit? His full report on the US will be released next May before being presented to the UN human rights council in Geneva.

Nobody expects much to come of that: the world body has no teeth with which to enforce good behavior on recalcitrant governments. But Alston hopes that his visit will have an impact by shaming the US into reflecting on its values.

“My role is to hold governments to account,” he said. “If the US administration doesn’t want to talk about the right to housing, healthcare or food, then there are still basic human rights standards that have to be met. It’s my job to point that out.”

Alston’s previous investigations into extreme poverty in places like Mauritania pulled no punches. We can expect the same tough love when it comes to his analysis of Puerto Rico, the next stop on his journey into America’s dark side.

Three months after Maria, the devastation wrought by the hurricane has been well documented. It tore 70,000 homes to shreds, brought industry to a standstill and caused a total blackout of the island that continues to cause havoc.

But Puerto Rico’s plight long predates Maria, rooted in the indifference with which it has been regarded since being acquired as a spoil of war in 1898. Almost half of Americans have no idea that the 3.5 million Puerto Ricans on the island are US citizens, which adds insult to the injury of the territory having no representation in Congress while its fiscal policies are dictated by an oversight board imposed by Washington. What was that about casting off the yoke of overweening government?

Nor do most people appreciate that the island has twice the proportion of people in poverty (44%) than the lowliest US state, including Alabama (19%). And that was before the hurricane, which some estimates suggest has pushed the poverty rate up to 60%.

“Puerto Rico is a sacrifice zone,” said Ruth Santiago, a community rights lawyer. “We are ruled by the United States but we are never consulted – we have no influence, we’re just their plaything.”

The UN monitor was given a sense of what being a plaything of the US means in practice when he travelled south to Guayama, a town of 42,000 close to where Maria made landfall. Devastation was everywhere – houses mangled, roofs missing, power lines drooping alarmingly overhead.

Looming over the community is a coal-fired power plant built by the Puerto Rican branch of AES Corporation, a Virginia-headquartered multinational. The plant’s smoke stack dominates the horizon, as does a huge mound of residue from the combusted coal that rises to at least 70ft like a giant sandcastle.

The mound is exposed to the elements and local people complain that toxins from it leach into the sea, destroying the livelihoods of fishermen through mercury poisoning. They also fear that dust coming off the pile causes health problems, a concern shared by local doctors who told the UN monitor that they see a high incidence of respiratory disease and cancer.

“It kills the leaves of my mango tree,” said Flora Picar Cruz, 82. She was lying in bed at midday, breathing with difficulty through an oxygen mask.

Studies of the pile have found perilous levels of toxic substances including arsenic, boron, chloride and chromium. Even so, the Trump administration is in the process of easing the relatively lax regulations on monitoring dangerous effluents from it.

AES Puerto Rico told the Guardian that there was nothing to worry about, as the plant was one of the cleanest in the US having been purpose built to avoid any run-off into air or sea. That’s not what the people of Guayama think. They fear that the age-old pattern of being taken for granted by the US colonizer is about to rise to the next level.

When such attitudes are replicated across the island it helps explain why so many Puerto Ricans are voting with their feet: almost 200,000 have packed their bags and quit for Florida, New York and Pennsylvania since the hurricane, adding to the more than 5m who were already on the US mainland. Which gives a whole new meaning to the American Dream – anyone can make it, so long as they abandon their families, their homes, and their culture and head off into a strange and forbidding land.

Charleston, West Virginia, 13 December

“You’re an amazing people! We’re going to take care of a lot of years of horrible abuse, OK? You can count on it 100%.”

Donald Trump’s promise to the white voters of West Virginia was made just as he was securing the Republican presidential nomination in May 2016. Six months later, his audience handsomely repaid him with a landslide victory.

It is not surprising that white families in West Virginia should have responded positively to Trump’s charm offensive, given that he offered them the world – “We’re going to put the miners back to work!” After all, numerically a majority of all those living in poverty nationwide – 27 million people – are white.

In West Virginia in particular, white families have a lot to feel sore about. Mechanization and the decline of coal mining have decimated the state, leading to high unemployment and stagnant wages. The transfer of jobs from the mines and steel mills to Walmart has led to male workers earning on average $3.50 an hour less today than they did in 1979.

What is surprising is that so many proud working folk should have entrusted their dreams to a (supposed) billionaire who built his real estate empire on the back of handouts from his father.

Before he ran for the presidency, Trump showed scant interest in the struggles of low-income families, white or otherwise. After almost a year in the Oval Office, there is similarly little sign of those campaign promises being kept.

Quite the contrary. When the UN rapporteur decamped in Charleston, West Virginia on Wednesday as the final stop in his tour, he was inundated with evidence that the president is turning the screws on the very people who elected him.

That same day, Republicans in the Senate and House were fusing their plans for tax cuts ahead of a final vote next week. Many West Virginians will be lulled into believing that the changes are designed to help them, as initially everybody in the state will pay less tax.

But come 2027 when deficit-saving changes kick in, the bottom 80% of the population will pay more, while the top 1% will continue to enjoy a $21,000 bonanza.

“Trump’s policies will exacerbate inequality, suppress wages and make it harder for low-income families to seek assistance,” said Ted Boettner, executive director of the non-partisan West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.

If sewerage is the abiding image of the burden of the Black Belt, then a mouthful of rotting teeth is West Virginia’s.

Doctors at Health Right, a volunteer-based medical center in Charleston that treats 21,000 low-income working people free of charge, presented the UN monitor with a photograph of one of its dentistry clients.

The man is only 32, but when he opened his mouth he turned into one of Macbeth’s witches. His few remaining rotting teeth and greenish-blue gums looked like the festering broth in their burning cauldrons.

Adult dentistry is uncovered by Medicaid unless it is an emergency, and so people do the logical thing – they do nothing until their abscesses erupt and they have to go to ER. One woman seen by the center’s mobile dentistry clinic was found to have nothing but 30 roots in her mouth, all of which needed surgery.

In other briefings, Alston was given a picture of life under siege for West Virginia’s low-income families. If Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty, then Trump is waging a war on the poor.

People are jailed for years because they cannot afford bail awaiting trial; private detectives are used to snoop on disability benefit claimants; mandatory minimum drug sentences are back in fashion; Jeff Sessions is scrapping federal rehabilitation schemes for those released from prison; tenants in subsidized housing are living in fear that they will be evicted for the slightest infraction – the list goes on and on.

And the result of this relentless drubbing? “People end up fighting each other,” said Eli Baumwell, policy director of the ACLU in West Virginia. “You become so obsessed with what you’ve got and what your neighbor has got that you become resentful. That’s what Trump is doing – turning one against the other.”

And so it was that Philip Alston boarded one last plane and headed for Washington, carrying with him the distilled torment of the American people.

At one point in the trip Alston revealed that he had had a sleepless night, reflecting on the lost souls we had met in Skid Row.

He wondered about how a person in his position – “I’m old, male, white, rich and I live very well” – would react to one of those homeless people. “He would look at him and see someone who is dirty, who doesn’t wash, who he doesn’t want to be around.”

Then Alston had an epiphany.

“I realized that’s how government sees them. But what I see is the failure of society. I see a society that let that happen, that is not doing what it should. And it’s very sad.”

The UN special rapporteur’s tour was done.

 

The Coming Storm: Revolt from Below

December 15, 2017

by Christian Jürs

Because of the growing, and serious, public discontent that had been manifested during the course of the Vietnamese War from 1950 through 1973, the American governmental establishment resolved to take steps to recognize, infiltrate and neutralize any significant future national anti-government actions.

Once the most powerful nation, the United States is rapidly losing its premier position in the international sphere while at the same time facing a potential serious anti-government political movement developing in that country. The number of unemployed in the United States today is approximately 97,000,000. Official American sources claim that employment is always improving but in fact it is not. Most official governmental releases reflect wishful thinking or are designed to placate the public

This situation is caused by the movement, by management, of manufacturing businesses to foreign labor markets. While these removals can indeed save the companies a great deal of expenditure on domestic labor, by sharply reducing their former worker bodies to a small number, the companies have reduced the number of prospective purchasers of expensive items like automobiles.

The U.S. government’s total revenue is estimated to be $3.654 trillion for fiscal year 2018.

  • Personal income taxes contribute $1.836 trillion, half of the total.
  • Another third ($1.224 trillion) comes from payroll taxes.

This includes $892 billion for Social Security, $270 billion for Medicare and $50 billion for unemployment insurance.

  • Corporate taxes add $355 billion, only 10 percent.
  • Customs excise taxes and tariffs on imports contribute $146 billion, just 4 percent
  • The Federal Reserve’s net income adds $70 billion.
  • The remaining $23 billion of federal income comes from estate taxes and miscellaneous receipts.
  • The use of secret offshore accounts by US citizens to evade U.S. federal taxes costs the U.S. Department of the Treasury well over $100 billion annually.

By moving from a producing to an importing entity, the United States has developed, and is developing, serious sociological and economic problems in a significant number of its citizens, and many suffer from serious health problems that are not treated.

It is estimated that over 500,000 American citizens are without any form of housing. Many of these people either are living on the streets, in public parks, living in cars or in charity shelters. There are at present over 200,000 family groups in America with over 300,000 individuals involved and 25% of the total are minor children.

Over 80,000 individuals are permanently without any residence. Many of these have physical disabilities such as chronic alcoholism or drug addiction. Many are classified as having severe mental disorders.

About 50,000 of these homeless individuals are military veterans, many of whom have serious physical or mental problems. One of the most common mental disorders is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Governmental treatment for these individuals is virtually non-existent.  Approximately half of this number are either black or Latin American (“Hispanics” in official designation.)

Of the total number of the homeless individuals, approximately 10% are female.

Official but private, estimates are that there over 500,000 youths below the age of 24 in current American society that find themselves homeless for periods lasting from one week to a permanent status.

Over 100,000 of this class are young people who are defined as being homosexual. Those in this class find themselves persecuted to a considerable degree by society in general and their peer groups in specific.

Approximately 50% of this homeless population are over the age of 50, many of whom suffer from chronic, debilitating physical illnesses that are not treated.

Drug deaths in the U.S. in 2017 exceeded 60,000.  Nearly half of all opioid overdose deaths involved prescriptions. Opioids are a class of strong painkillers drugs and include Percocet, Vicodin and OxyContin which are synthetic drugs designed to resemble opiates such as opium derived morphine and heroin. The most dangerous opioid is Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid painkiller 50-100 times more powerful than morphine. The increasing demand for these drugs is causing them to be manufactured outside the United States.

Suicide is the primary cause of “injury death” in the United States and more U.S. military personnel on active duty have killed themselves than were killed in combat last year.

The growing instability of American families is manifested by the fact that:

  • One out of every three children in America lives in a home without a father.
  • More than half of all babies are being born out of wedlock for women under the age of 30 living in the United States
  • The United States has the highest child abuse death rate in the developed world.
  • The United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the world although the numbers have declined in recent years due to the use of contraceptives.

The United States has the highest incarceration rate and the largest total prison population in the entire world. The criminal justice system in the United States holds more than 4,166,000 people in 1,719 state prisons, 102,000 in federal prisons, 901,000 in juvenile correctional facilities, and 3,163,000 in local jails. Additionally, 5,203,400 adults are on probation or on parole.

The number of people on probation or parole has increased the population of the American corrections system to more than 9,369,400 in 2017. Corrections costs the American taxpayer $69 billion a year.

There are a huge number of American domestic and business mortgages, (67 million by conservative estimate) which have been sliced up, put into so-called “investment packages” and sold to customers both domestic and foreign. This problem has been covered up by American authorities by cloaking the facts in something called MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration System)

This results in the fact that the holders of mortgages, so chopped and packed, are not possible to identify by MERS or anyone else, at any time and by any agency. This means that any property holder, be they a domestic home owner or a business owner, is paying their monthly fees for property they can never own.

Another festering problem consists of the official loans made to students in colleges and universities in the U.S. the predatory nature of the $90 billion student loan industry. These so-called student loans are the most serious economic problem faced today by American university students.

This problem arose due to federal legislation originating in the mid-1990s which effectively removed basic consumer protections from student loans, thus permitting extensive penalties and the methodology for enforced collection.

Because of the highly inflated cost of higher American education, very few students from high school can afford university education. The new college graduate has, on average, a student loan in excess of $20,000 and students attending graduate programs have average debts of over $40,000.

America today has seriously failing public school systems. Upper economic class Americans are able to send their children to expensive private schools and avoid the exceedingly incompetent public systems. The average American lower school graduates are only a step above illiteracy and their lack of knowledge of world affairs is quite unbelievable.

A small number of extremely wealthy men control and operate all of the major American print and television media.

Each of the few very powerful, rich men have their own reasons for deciding what qualifies as news.

But the public in America now gets its news, without cost, from various internet sites and the circulation number of major print news has dropped dramatically. This has forced the internet editions of the print news media to erect what they call “paywalls.” This permits a very limited number of articles to be read or downloaded before the system demands money for the use of additional material.

The major print media in America is faced with imminent bankruptcy and are making frantic efforts at attempts to prevent free news sites from being aired on the internet.

Government surveillance of the American public is very widespread and at the present time, almost every aspect of an American citizen, or resident, is available for official surveillance. This includes mail, television viewing, telephone conversations, computer communications, travel, ownership of property, medical and school records, banking and credit card transactions, inheritances and other aspects of a citizen’s daily life.

This is done to circumvent any possible organization that could contravene official government policy and has its roots in massive civil resistance to governmental policy during the war in Vietnam. The government does not want a reprise of that problem and its growing surveillance is designed to carefully watch any citizen, or groups of citizens, who might, present or future, pose a threat to government policy.

Another factor to be considered is the current American attitudes towards racial issues. There has always been prejudice in the United States against blacks. In 1943 there were bloody riots in Detroit and Los Angeles, the former aimed at blacks and the latter against Mexicans. Since then, there has been chronic racial prejudice but it has been relatively small and very local. Also, there is growing anti-Semitic prejudice in American but this is officially ignored and never is mentioned in the American media. Much of this growing problem is directed at the brutal actions of Israel against Palestinians. Israelis have an undue influence in the American political scene. The very far right so-called neo-cons are almost all Jewish and most are Israeli citizens. Also, the middle-level ranks of American CIA personnel are heavily infiltrated by Israelis and it is said that any secret the CIA has is at once passed to Israel and that countries needs are assuming importance in CIA actions.

The attitudes of the working class Americans were inflamed during the last presidential elections by Mr. Trump who catered to them and encouraged rebellious attitudes. By speaking against Central American illegal immigrants, Mr. Trump has caused a polarization of attitudes and the militant right wing in America, currently small in number but well-organized and potentially very dangerous, has begun to make its views very well known in public demonstrations.

This movement has played into the hands of far-right American political manipulators.

It is their intention to clandestinely arm these groups and use them to cause violent public confrontations with the far left groups.

By causing this potential violence, the manipulators intend to use the American military to move into unstable area to, as they say, ‘establish law and order’ while in reality, they will use martial law to firm up their basic control of a potentially fractious public.

It is then intended, according to information, to incorporate organized, para-military groups into a sort of domestic Federal police force. These people will not be punished for their actions but rewarded and utilized to ensure further right-wing control of the country.

 

Big Brother asleep on the job 

December 14, 2017

by Mike Walsh

europeansworldwide

Fear of surveillance is likely the most irrational concern that many people suffer. In fact, the state’s ability to eavesdrop is the biggest deception of all.  It doesn’t work and its only purpose is to intimidate and to instill fear.  It is the cardboard cut-out policeman propped up in the store’s entrance; believe it or not that ruse also works well.

In London alone, there are situated 500,000 CCTV cameras. In the nation 4,200,000, CCTV cameras watch the public. Yet, crime in London, the UK, the European Union and the United States, is at record levels and detection rates the lowest in the history of crime.

But, when a terrorist attack occurs, a woman is raped or a child lost or abused, the police are as useless as a walking stick with a wheel on it.

London’s Metropolitan Police employs 43,272 useless cops and staff. Their clear-up rates are far lower than when Dixon of Dock Green was pounding his beat. In fairness, PC George Dixon didn’t waste his time searching Facebook for politically incorrect comment.

Every month there are 9.36 billion credit card transactions. You can at least quadruple that by other forms of cash transactions. So every month there are 38 billion on-line financial dealings. That is five transfers for every person on the planet – including the aborigine’s doe-eyed piccaninny.

Each day 205 billion emails are sent. This breaks down to 30 per day for every person earth. These include Mustafa’s birthday greetings to his mum and Auntie’s Adele’s email scolding to you. You want to monitor them? Feel free to do so because the state isn’t.

There are 2.46 billion daily users of social media; almost half are located in India and China. You speak Mandarin or Hindu, again, be my guest.

Facebook’s subscribers tally is so fictitious that figures provided can be discounted. There should be a reward posted on Mark Zuckerberg. Unfortunately, the police copiers are busy printing gay pride propaganda.

A terrorist outrage is not a spur of the moment inspiration of a deranged individual. Each attack is the result of weeks if not months of preparation. This will include physical observation, hire of vehicles, purchase of equipment, cross-border clandestine movement, false papers, furtive dealings and the exchange of hundreds of electronic communications carried out by a number of sick individuals. Can Big Brother surveillance stop terrorist attacks? Dream on. The police are too preoccupied looking at social media for posts critical of government open frontiers policy.

One would think that PC Plod, with all tools of surveillance to hand, would be able to make crime obsolete. Not quite. Taking London as an example there were 2,544 gun-related crimes in just 12 months; an increase of 42%.  Detection rates are at an all-time low. The 24% rate given is so totally fraudulent that the police should arrest their colleagues – when they are not taking bribes.

The few stupid villains that are caught confess to crimes they have not committed in exchange for police incentives. Such ‘confessions’ don’t add to the culprit’s sentence but they do massage detection rates upwards. Add to these failings the hundreds of thousands of offences that victims no longer bother to report. To this tally add crimes like shoplifting, street walking, pick pocketing etc. no longer considered offences.

Where does that leave us? At a guess, it is likely that less than 1 / 100 crimes are satisfactorily closed. Conclusion; police, and surveillance agencies are as useless as a chocolate fireguard. Their much vaunted and feared surveillance has not provably prevented a single crime or terrorist outrage. Financial crime, much of it committed by the political elite; offshore accounts and all the rest of it, are off the record.

The state’s real fear is that we are watching them; ask Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and other dissidents. The state is terrified that their citizens have them under surveillance.

The fear of being watched or our activities being monitored is as irrational as is the fear of a bogeyman being under the bed. But, if this makes us pull the sheets up over our heads the fraudulent bull shitting system is happy.

 

Unlike Nixon, Trump Will Not Go Quietly

December 15, 2017

by Patrick J. Buchanan

AntiWar

On Aug. 9, 1974, Richard Nixon bowed to the inevitability of impeachment and conviction by a Democratic Senate and resigned. The prospect of such an end for Donald Trump has this city drooling. Yet, comparing Russiagate and Watergate, history is not likely to repeat itself.

First, the underlying crime in Watergate, a break-in to wiretap offices of the DNC, had been traced, within 48 hours, to the Committee to Re-Elect the President.

In Russiagate, the underlying crime – the “collusion” of Trump’s campaign with the Kremlin to hack into the emails of the DNC – has, after 18 months of investigating, still not been established.

Campaign manager Paul Manafort has been indicted, but for financial crimes committed long before he enlisted with Trump.

Gen. Michael Flynn has pled guilty to lying about phone calls he made to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, but only after Trump had been elected and Flynn had been named national security adviser.

Flynn asked Kislyak for help in blocking or postponing a Security Council resolution denouncing Israel, and to tell Vladimir Putin not to go ballistic over President Obama’s expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats.

This is what security advisers do.

Why Flynn let himself be ensnared in a perjury trap, when he had to know his calls were recorded, is puzzling.

Second, it is said Trump obstructed justice when he fired FBI Director James Comey for refusing to cut slack for Flynn.

But even Comey admits Trump acted within his authority.

And Comey had usurped the authority of Justice Department prosecutors when he announced in July 2016 that Hillary Clinton ought not to be prosecuted for having been “extremely careless” in transmitting security secrets over her private email server. We now know that the first draft of Comey’s statement described Clinton as “grossly negligent,” the precise statute language for an indictment.

We also now know that helping to edit Comey’s first draft to soften its impact was Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe. His wife, Jill McCabe, a candidate for state senate in Virginia, received $467,000 in campaign contributions from the PAC of Clinton bundler Terry McAuliffe.

Comey has also admitted he leaked to The New York Times details of a one-on-one with Trump to trigger the naming of a special counsel – to go after Trump. And that assignment somehow fell to Comey’s predecessor, friend, and confidant Robert Mueller.

Mueller swiftly hired half a dozen prosecutorial bulldogs who had been Clinton contributors, and Andrew Weinstein, a Trump hater who had congratulated Acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to carry out Trump’s travel ban.

FBI official Peter Strzok had to be been removed from the Mueller probe for hatred of Trump manifest in emails to his FBI lady friend.

Strzok was also involved in the investigation of Clinton’s email server and is said to have been the one who persuaded Comey to tone down his language about her misconduct, and let Hillary walk.

In Mueller’s tenure, still no Trump tie to the hacking of the DNC has been found. But a connection between Hillary’s campaign and Russian spies – to find dirt to smear and destroy Trump and his campaign – has been fairly well established.

By June 2016, the Clinton campaign and DNC had begun shoveling millions of dollars to the Perkins Coie law firm, which had hired the oppo research firm Fusion GPS, to go dirt-diving on Trump.

Fusion contacted ex-British MI6 spy Christopher Steele, who had ties to former KGB and FSB intelligence agents in Russia. They began to feed Steele, who fed Fusion, which fed the U.S. anti-Trump media with the alleged dirty deeds of Trump in Moscow hotels.

While the truth of the dirty dossier has never been established, Comey’s FBI rose like a hungry trout on learning of its contents.

There are credible allegations Comey’s FBI sought to hire Steele and used the dirt in his dossier to broaden the investigation of Trump – and that its contents were also used to justify FISA warrants on Trump and his people.

This week, we learned that the Justice Department’s Bruce Ohr had contacts with Fusion during the campaign, while his wife actually worked at Fusion investigating Trump. This thing is starting to stink.

Is the Trump investigation the rotten fruit of a poisoned tree?

Is Mueller’s Dump Trump team investigating the wrong campaign?

There are other reasons to believe Trump may survive the deep state-media conspiracy to break his presidency, overturn his mandate, and reinstate a discredited establishment.

Trump has Fox News and fighting congressmen behind him and the mainstream media is deeply distrusted and widely detested. And there is no Democratic House to impeach him or Democratic Senate to convict him.

Moreover, Trump is not Nixon, who, like Charles I, accepted his fate and let the executioner’s sword fall with dignity.

If Trump goes, one imagines, he will not go quietly.

In the words of the great Jerry Lee Lewis, there’s gonna be a “whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on.”

 

Donald Trump thanks Russia’s Vladimir Putin for praising American economy

The US president offered his thanks to his Russian counterpart in a phone call. The two also discussed the crisis in North Korea and bilateral relations.

December 15, 2017

DW

In a Thursday telephone call to Vladimir Putin, US President Trump thanked his Russian counterpart for praising America’s economic performance.

The two also discussed the nuclear crisis in North Korea, according to official statements from both governments. Earlier this week, the US said it was prepared to talk directly with Pyongyang “without preconditions.”

The White House released a short statement confirming the telephone conversation and leading with Trump’s thanks.

“President Trump thanked President Putin for acknowledging America’s strong economic performance in his annual press conference,” the statement said. It then added that, “the two presidents also discussed working together to resolve the very dangerous situation in North Korea.”

Earlier on Thursday during his marathon press conference, Putin had told the audience that global market growth “shows confidence in the American economy. With all due respect to [Trump’s] opponents, these are objective facts.” He also welcomed the US’ “awareness of reality” in the North Korea situation.

Like the White House, the Kremlin released a short post-phone call statement, saying that the two leaders had discussed the North Korean nuclear threat, as well as relations between the US and Russia. According to AP, the Kremlin statement noted that Trump initiated the call.

Bilateral relations between the Trump administration and Putin’s government have been an ongoing source of problems for the US president. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is currently investigating possible collusion and unlawful communication between the Trump campaign and transition team and the Russian government.

 

The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind

La psychologie des foules 1895

by Gustave Le Bon

BOOK I.

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]

[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 began.

“An extraordinary thing occurred. The day after a schoolboy had recognized the corpse a woman exclaimed, `Good Heavens, it is my child!’

“She was taken up to the corpse; she examined the clothing, and noted a scar on the forehead. `It is certainly,’ she said, `my son who disappeared last July. He has been stolen from me and murdered.’

“The woman was concierge in the Rue du Four; her name was Chavandret. Her brother-in-law was summoned, and when questioned he said, `That is the little Filibert.’ Several persons living in the street recognized the child found at La Villette as Filibert Chavandret, among them being the boy’s schoolmaster, who based his opinion on a medal worn by the lad.

“Nevertheless, the neighbors, the brother-in-law, the schoolmaster, and the mother were mistaken. Six weeks later the identity of the child was established. The boy, belonging to Bordeaux, had been murdered there and brought by a carrying company to Paris.”

Note: [4]

[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]

[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]

[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

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