“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.”
-Gustave Le Bon
This election season has been nothing less of a maelstrom. I do not intend to rehash every detail, only to address a few observations I have made. Observations that have been unnerving and eerie to say the least. It is nothing particularly new, but something old in a radically new and innovative approach, a reverse approach even.
It has been nagged about for months that Trump is ‘fascist’, or have fascistic inclinations. While this is humorous, inaccurate, and an insult to actual fascists throughout history; there is something to be said about the tactics used, whether they were used intentionally or organically. The taking advantage of the disenfranchised, propagating fear of the Other, and appealing to nativist and basic prejudices…we have seen this in the rhetoric and spirit of the crowds. It can be argued that this is justified, for there is a lot to be said about self-preservation. Nonetheless this alone does not make one a ‘fascist’ or anything thereof. This is ‘boogyman talk’ which I will discuss later. Point being, these are not new tactics. This is standard 20th century politics which philosophers such as Hannah Arendt have analyzed extensively. But does that immediately render the opposite side somehow immune or liberated from this form of crowd manipulation? Absolutely not, in fact, it can be argued they have practiced it far more successfully this election season. This occurred to me as I watched every day leftist liberals whom for years have detested big money in politics, demonized the GOP for being wealthy white men in bed with Wall Street, marched with Occupy, virulently hated George W Bush for war mongering….now rush to defend a wealthy elite and vindicate her of absolutely any possible corrupt act, and justify any dealings she has with big business and big banks.
An observation struck me in amazement, the extent the average working citizens goes to defend a wealthy elite figure that is in bed with Wall Street shows just how well they have the masses trained.
A Loud Distraction: The loudest threat is rarely the deadliest threat. Trump has played perfectly into the strategy of his opponents. He has played the perfect boogyman, despite being far more bark than bite. When there is a loud threat, a loud distraction, let that be the focus of the crowds. Exploit this. Beware this frightening threat, this boogyman, this fascist facade, this Other to be feared. If you do not vote for me, this wolf will eat you. While the masses are fixated on the loud mouthed one that uses barbed rhetoric, his opponent does what she does best behind closed doors, the silent threat that goes unnoticed. Political power in the truest sense isn’t boisterous and blundering, it is quiet and subtle.The shepherd says to the sheep, “rush into the fold and let me save you from this feral threat.” The pseudo-shepherd is then exonerated of any crimes and corruptions, any threat to the sheep she may pose, because the blundering loud one is made the true boogyman here. His loudness is her advantage. His loudness is what makes the masses cower and say, ‘oh but she is not as scary as him!’. The truth of the matter is, while both are quite threatening in their own way, it is the silent one that is the most venomous. The loud one here reveals his own impotence by being so loud. This election season it has worked perfectly to the advantage of the quiet threat. The masses cower as they rush from the lesser though louder impotent threat straight into the arms of the silent potent threat. The reverse here is that people are so fixated on Trump’s use of ‘fearing the Other’, that they fail to see his opponent doing it in a far more clever manner. In this particular case, the usual Other that is feared in 20th century propaganda is given a villain character and his supporters like feral wolves seeking to devour.
The Useful Self-Righteous: The term ‘useful idiot’ was once used to describe communists who self-righteously supported a cause naively despite it ultimately not being in their own self-interest, they were only pawns to greater interests. We see this now in full force using the banner of ‘progressivism’. Neoliberalism, big business and big banks, political elites that care only about their personal gain, they have learned that what one has to do is simply coat things with ‘progressive’ sugar. Whether it be Wall Street interests, Neocon foreign policy, general corruption and crimes, as long as the message is under the banner of progressivism then those so zealously attached to these sentiments will gladly swallow.
Morality has been weaponized for political uses. Those who are eager and smugly self-righteous in their support of multiculturalism, diversity, LGBT and women’s rights, tolerance, and so forth immediately submit to a force that veils its truer interests in a seemingly benevolent progressivist banner. Those masses that are zealously self-righteous in their moralism will attach their self-righteous ego to the forces parading similar. What better way than to identify the masses moralism, identify their smug self-righteousness, and then utilize it to benefit and defend ones greater not so benevolent purposes? These masses are so eager to be seen as the ‘do gooder’, so indulgent in their own self-righteousness, they will do near anything to be seen as that and dare not seen as ‘immoral’.
This is not new. For decades we saw Republicans utilize their voter base’s religiosity, appealing to their Bible thumping temperament, quoting verses and appealing to their ‘holier than thou’ ego, only to further their own personal or greater interests, with only enough care for the voters to keep them sated. They identified the crowds morality, exploited their self-righteousness, and exploited it to such a degree the masses would support and defend them, despite it being against their own self-interests. Furthermore, in the current election season, the opposition is made into the essence of immorality, again exploiting the moralism by setting up the ultimate immoral effigy that must be stopped at all cost.
Neoliberalism comes to the liberal left wrapped in a rainbow flag and promising to fight the good fight of ‘social progressivism’. In the name of a peaceful cosmopolitan tomorrow, humans rights for all, and tolerance to the most extreme. The masses, in their self-indulgent righteousness, cannot help but swallow the hook in the name ‘doing good’.
Martyrdom Morality: Alongside fearing the deplorable Other, alongside having their progressivist zealotry exploited, the morality and discourse is inverted in such a way that it becomes turned in upon itself.
The enemy abroad is not really our enemy. The true enemy is ourselves, those among us, our traditions and those who represent that. That which is considered the majority is deemed the enemy, anything which is considered the minority is deemed good. That which represents national strength and identity is deemed the enemy, that which is cosmopolitan and dissolvent is deemed good. That which is considered our Western tradition is deemed the enemy, anything which is not this is deemed admirable or superior. That which is considered native citizenry is belittled, that which is foreign is deemed preferable.
The Freudian death-drive of the nation becomes excessive as the nation itself becomes bulimic. It is a drive to ones own demise, rather than a drive to ones own increasing of power and vitality. It is a form of self-loathing while deeming this self-loathing to be righteous. It is a form of egoist martyrdom in the collective sense, and it declares it in the name of the ‘noble cause of social progressivism’; little more than a facade to cover up its own sickly drive to self-demise.
This is the entropic drive which turns a nation inward onto itself. That which is the Other is good, and that which is us is bad, is sinful. This inward regression renders the masses far easier to manipulate. In a way, they crave to be manipulated and exploited. They desire a certain demise of themselves, for the sake of the Other, and a shepherd has far a easier time guiding them to a slaughter house when they are all too willing to go. While the two tactics mentioned above are only temporary tactics, this is a deathknell of sorts. It is an ongoing process that continues long after election season. It is a drive to self-demise that is veiled in righteous martyrdom. It is the destruction of self for the moralistic sake of the Other.
Last Thoughts: I do not know what else to say nor add. This election season has been one of the most educational and formative experiences in my life. What I have seen has been unnerving, and what goes unseen is absolutely appalling. And it all comes down to that epiphanic moment: the extent the average working citizens goes to defend a wealthy elite figure that is in bed with Wall Street shows just how well they have the masses trained. That last part is the mose eerie, oh how they have the masses trained and conditioned. It chills me to the bone and soul.