Category Archives: Psychology/Psychiatry

Back at Ground-Truthing Again and Again and Again

Time and time again, the left sites just keep pushing all those international stories, all those stories tied to this or that political party head, and while China is important, and while we know the dirty deeds of Blinken to Pompeo, all the way back, we still miss out on the common people, us, the little ones.

Sure, this is a trending story, in California, tied to the vaccine mandate, the hysteria, the fascism:

The University of California, Irvine has placed their Director of Medical EthicsDr. Aaron Kheriaty, on ‘investigatory leave’ after he challenged the constitutionality of the UC’s vaccine mandate in regards to individuals who have recovered from Covid and have naturally-acquired immunity.

Last month Kheriaty, also a Professor of Psychiatry at UCI School of Medicine, filed a suit in Federal court over the mandate.

Natural immunity following Covid infection is equal to (indeed, superior to) vaccine-mediated immunity. Thus, forcing those with natural immunity to be vaccinated introduces unnecessary risks without commensurate benefits—either to individuals or to the population as a whole—and violates their equal protection rights guaranteed under the Constitution’s 14th Amendment,” Kheriaty wrote in a Sep. 21 blog post.

“Expert witness declarations in support of our case include, among others, a declaration from distinguished UC School of Medicine faculty members from infectious disease, microbiology/immunology, cardiology, endocrinology, pediatrics, OB/Gyn, and psychiatry,” the post continues (click here to read the rest).

…there is now considerable evidence that Covid recovered individuals may be at higher risk of vaccine adverse effects compared to those not previously infected (as seen in studies herehere, and here, among others). -Dr. Aaron Kheriaty

This issue, though, is more important on a local level for schmucks like me, who are overeducated, aging in a hateful society, left of left in a centrist and capitalism hard left/right contradictory world. I am back at a job, and the pay is embarrassing, and the fact that I am in a rural county with rural thinkers and with a service economy tied to beach combing, fishing, crabbing and vacation rentals also contributes to precarity.

You think I am ready to leave to go somewhere else, to some big sophisticated city, some harbinger of high tech and military industrial complex to find more sustainable and lucrative work? Each day, my skill sets, my background, all the ground-truthing and other on the job training, all the travel, all those deep learning moments in my life in several fields, all of that is mush to the masters of academia, the masters of companies that are small and large, getting on the gravy train of city, county, state, national and international money. Tax cheats and welfare queens and kings are those in the complex, the big C for the CRC, Corruption Racket Complex — military-banking-ag-energy-prison-pharma-education-medicine-mining-chemical-AI-surveillence-real estate-insurance-prison-legal-media-entertainment.

Yep, bad that an environmental lawyer was under ankle bracelet house arrest for more than two years and faces six months in jail for contempt as a lawyer who sued the pants off of Chevron for killing and polluting communities south of this border. Sure, the hellfire and brimstone of this rotting empire is addictive, with all these blogs and newsfeeds and whatnot tapping into the lizard part of the collective American brain.

Chevron Steven Donziger Feature photo

Judge Loretta Preska, an advisor to the conservative Federalist Society, to which Chevron is a major donor, sentenced human rights attorney and Chevron nemesis Steven Donziger to six months in prison Friday for misdemeanor contempt of court after he had already spent 787 days under house arrest in New York.

Preska’s caustic outbursts — she said at the sentencing, “It seems that only the proverbial two-by-four between the eyes will instill in him any respect for the law” — capped a judicial farce worthy of the antics of Vasiliy Vasilievich, the presiding judge at the major show trials of the Great Purges in the Soviet Union, and the Nazi judge Roland Freisler who once shouted at a defendant, “You really are a lousy piece of trash!”

full image
Original illustration by Mr. Fish

So, note the “proverbial two-by-four between the eyes” comment from this judicial devil . . . . From a multimillionaire “judge.” Imagine that! If I told a pig that exact same thing, after stopping me for a dangling mud flap on my minivan, just think what might happen to me. Or if I told that she needed a proverbial two by four between the eyes to a judge during my trial or someone else’s? Or, to the boss, uh? Or to the teacher if I was an 11th grader. Or, to the drill sergeant? Or the TSA guy smelling my feet at the airport.

This judge is human scum, and while this is of national and international importance, I have been in courtrooms (local, small and midsized town) where women lost their children, where drug addicted got the book thrown at them, where homeless rough sleepers were fined and incarcerated, where people more sane than this judge were committed to mental ward. This is the truth about systems of oppression, about modern white civilization, a fucked up rule of law lawlessness. This is it in our world. But it happens every day a few ten thousand times. To we the small ass people.

Now, multiple that by a factor a ten thousand — try suing Boeing, or Pfizer or FDA, or Ford, or General Mills, or Bayer, or Trump Towers or Bank of America, or Amazon, or Google, or the manufacturer of the air bag in the minivan or the pretzel maker  your kid is choking on.

Now, bring it back to a real perspective. Local, where cities have no money for infrastructure, where medical systems are threadbare at least, or missing altogether. No country for old men, for young people, for the sick, disabled, poor, mentally challenged, psychiatrically impaired. This is a country for no regular people.

Paperback No Country for Old Men Book

Yet, we will hear the media mental midgets yammer on and on about us bumkins, us flyover fucks, deplorables, or deploying any other laundry list of pejoratives or socio-psych mumbo jumbo for their elite brains to find more ways to subjugate the many in the name of profits, and in the words of their deep alter egos — “The world of elites and beautiful and worthy and good members of society have to deal with these useless breeders, breathers and eaters. Really, all we want is what’s best for the masses, for these misbegotten, less than high IQ, and multiple-dysfunctional people who in some cases, well, don’t mean to be useless eaters, breeders, breathers, existers. But we can corral them into good deeds, and we can make so much money from their faults, chronic illnesses, their low IQ’s, their inbreeding, their constant bad bad bad decisions in life. Their mistakes and pain and dysfunction are our opportunity to make society the way we want it designed, with a few trillion of profits in greenbacks to boot. But we would never say this outright to Anderson Cooper or Oprah or NPR or what not.”

But reality is always local, no matter how much bullshit college sports and pro football teams and idiotic Republican and Democrat lying and spewing interferes with their noggins. For example, the outfit I work with, as a social services guy, doesn’t ask our clients — developmental and intellectual disabled adults — if they have had “the jab,” but rather, they ask: “If an employer asks you to provide proof of vaccination, will that be a problem?”

That is the reality now — adults barely surviving, after their whole lives have been spent in special ed programs and being evaluated, separated, roomed, housed and institutionalized, and many coming from proverbial messed up families, dysfunction being the functional word — I have to navigate more of the same systems of oppression-poverty inducing-safety net fraying eating at our communities’ very souls. The chances of getting part-time work in a field tied to the five F’s (food, fur, factory, filth, foliage — restaurants, dog cleaning, warehouses, janitorial, and landscaping) are already slim, as so much is stacked against these folk. Think about the propaganda around “those with developmental disabilities are more vulnerable to the covid so they need to be vaxxed first” ideology.

Many clients were so scared that they were more or less forced into getting the Pfizer or J & J, both mRNA biomedical experimental treatments. Most live in supported housing, and most of these in group homes, sanctioned by the state, so the vaccine mandates are not just inferred, but demanded. Boosterism (booster x, y, z, omega) will continue to run rampant. More will be sick. Some will die, or course.

The reality is I know people who are losing jobs, and they are not sitting on piles of cash like a lot of professionals you might read about that are opting out of the forced chemical jabs. These people do not have the luxury of taking a stand with unlimited credit card limits, or fully owned homes, or hobby gardens out back with the swimming pool. These are people who read up about this planned pandemic, who take precautions, who listen to experts. Their choice is to not get jabbed.

Imagine, being a teacher, PhD in physics, after  20 years, and you have 130 accrued sick days (paid) and you refuse to do the jab but accept the draconian test and mask. You are still going to be fired, or put on unpaid leave, and those PTO days you have accrued, well, forget about them.

LEAKED GRANT PROPOSAL DETAILS HIGH-RISK CORONAVIRUS RESEARCH
The proposal, rejected by U.S. military research agency DARPA, describes the insertion of human-specific cleavage sites into SARS-related bat coronaviruses.” (source)

This is reality for one of my friends. Forget about the death proclamations of the Death Cult of Fauci. This guy is criminal, and he has sold millions a bill of goods. This bill of goods is dangerous, deadly, injurious.

A bill of goods, man, the lies, the continuing criminal enterprises, and then, remade, make overs, etc. Take these middle of the road news sites: Robert Scheer is not my favorite, but this takes the cake, no, as he appears as Mister New York Times and Most About USA is Good Scheer. So, no doubts about this fellow joining up with the CIA, and then now in Holly-Dirt?

This is the very celebrity culture that Chris Hedges rails against. This is a sick little blurb here promoting Scheer’s podcast of this criminal — CIA is a criminal outfit of the highest order.

A former CIA officer and Emmy award-winning creator of the hit FX series “The Americans” about two Soviet agents living secretly in Washington during the Cold War, Weisberg offers a refreshing perspective on the tense relationship between the two countries throughout his work. He joins Robert Scheer on this week’s “Scheer Intelligence” to talk about his latest book, “Russia Upside Down: An Exit Strategy for the Second Cold War,” in which he examines how he, like so many Americans, got Russia wrong.

The author tells Scheer about his childhood growing up in a liberal Jewish household in Chicago, Ill. before studying Soviet politics at Yale University and joining the CIA, eager to do his “duty as an American” and fight what he considered then to be the “evil” Soviet empire. Now, after years of writing fiction about the Soviet Union in novels and TV scripts, Weisberg has decided to reflect on the historical events that he briefly played an active role in during his brief time at the CIA as the Soviet Union was collapsing through a more critical, factual lens. Based on both his personal experience as well as detailed research, Weisberg dispels common misconceptions about Russia that he once held to be true in “Russia Upside Down.”

Here we go: More meaningless Hollywood-CIA-millionaire stuff that the average Joe in Tucson or Portland, in Kansas or Utah has zero connection to. But we get he is Jewish (hmm, why this?) a Yale graduate (Yale being a CIA-Imperialist school), and lover of CIA and USA (when he was young — what puke). Fiction writer, and now a book writer and TV series producer, wow, what a radical.  This is the upper echelons of America Putridity, and you couple that with his millions thrown at him as a Holly-Dirt thing, and we have the mini-Celebrity fawning.

Scheer Intelligence Is America’s View of ‘Evil’ Russia Merely Projection?

The Americans: The Complete First Season (DVD)
More TV junk!

I was at a hospital two weeks ago, and the nurses must have thought I wasn’t awake (I never sleep in a hospital, in jail, or on a plane). They talked about the Samaritan Hospital system they work for introducing a “no vaccine, no medical service” protocol. They did not sound happy about it. And here we have it yesterday:

The Associated Press

Leilani Lutali, foreground, and Jaimee Fougner pose for a photo, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021 in Colorado Springs, Colo. Lutali recently found out her hospital wouldn’t approve her kidney transplant surgery until she got the COVID-19 vaccine. Even though she has stage 5 kidney disease that puts her at risk of dying without a new kidney. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert) — source

A hell of a country, and a hell of a “follow the science” kind of messed up system, no? Idiots of the Biden-Obama variety, like Thom Hartman, are yammering on and on about how these hospitals have a right to refuse un-jabbed folk. This is it for the liberals — you eat junk food, you drink booze, you suck on fags, you drive recklessly, you think this or that anti-Democratic Party thought, then we, the good beautiful, Hillary-Obama-Harris have a right to cut you off, cut you down, chop you off at the knees!

Many people I speak with and communicate with are tired of the pro-pro-pro forced jab perspective we are getting from the leftist Counterpunch, and from St. Clair.

I am referencing “Roaming Charges,” Counterpunch, 10/8/2921, from the anti-science pro-some-science get-out-of-that-science’s way thinking coming from some of the articles posted on the site. Very sad in many ways, so sad that there is not a robust discussion of the vaccination that we see on Dissident Voice, even Mint Press, and especially OffGuardian and Left Skeptics. Here, bullet points, direct quoting from “Roaming Charges”:

+ I’m against any exemptions (our social contract should require either all of us to get it or that the jab be completely voluntary ), but if there’s a religious exemption there should be one for philosophy, too. “Dr. Anthony Fauci says he’s worried that people resisting COVID-19 vaccine shots based on religious grounds may be confusing that with a philosophical objection.”

+ Merck is selling its high-touted new Covid pill Molnupiravir, whose development was federally financed by NIH and the Department of Defense,  back to the U.S. government for 40 times what it costs to make.

+ These people, if you want to call them that, seem to have taken their “tactics” from the Westboro (“God Hates Fags”) Baptist Church which used to (and I suppose still does) scream their godly obscenities at mourners during the funerals of people who died of AIDS.

+ Anti-vaxism is itself a kind of brain-eating virus…A Cumberland, Maryland man murdered his brother and sister-in-law in their Ellicott City home last week because his brother, a local pharmacist, had administered COVID-19 vaccines.

+ Cuba began vaccinating its population 150 days ago. In that time, it has administered 192 doses per 100 people. In contrast, the US began its vaccination program 297 days ago and has managed to administer only 119 doses per 100 people. The Covid death rate in Cuba is: 684 per million. The death rate in the US is: 2190 per million. This seems to provide pretty clear evidence that the embargo has been placed on the wrong country for the last 60 years. (end quote)

And therein lies the problem with fake leftists — attacking even doctors and virologists and journalists and educated/educators who have doubts about the entire pandemic and mRNA and coronavirus multiplicity of very pro-pro Capitalist and pro-pro Authoritarian and pro-pro Government Bureaucracy rhetoric. The reality is Cuba is not jabbing its people with mRNA: “All of Cuba’s vaccine candidates—Abdala, Soberana 1, Soberana 2, Soberana Plus, and Mambisa, are subunit protein vaccines, like the Novavax vaccine. Crucially, the vaccines do not require extreme refrigeration, are cheap to produce, and are easy for the country to manufacture at scale. They are made by fermentation in mammalian cells, a process Cuba already uses for monoclonal antibodies.”

A nurse holds up a vial of vaccine

Now, we are worried about more of the celebrities, this time, a professor who was sacked —

Now, think about any criticism against any university, when you are employed by the institution. I was employed by the University of Texas at El Paso. I was an English Department faculty, part-time, a radical, and I fought like hell for adjuncts, for students, etc. I was part of a group of students as a faculty member who made a human chain to stop the group of overweight sheriff posse dudes dressed up as Conquistadors on horses strutting on campus. That was 1992, the 500th anniversary of that evil contact we call Columbus Day. The El Paso Times ran a front page photo of these undercover cops jumping out of the bushes, and wrangling students, clobbering male and female with forearms to the neck. I was right in the middle, and I had to answer for myself to the Provost and president.

This is what a university, then, in 1992, was encapsulated inside, under a rich white president, a campus that was and still is 80-plus percent Mexican-American, Latinx, now. You can’t protest without our permission and our approval of signs!

More cities are recognizing Native Americans on Columbus Day

This was a campus that introduced a free speech zone out of the way of foot traffic. A state sponsored school, with a limited small postage stamp of land near dumpsters where people can gain the public square for protesting. And the campus Nazis demanded permission, permits, and full written details of the “protest” or “information gathering.” Now, sure, talk about Covid, about Nuremburg protocol, about mandates, about those who have the jab and those who do not. Talk about NIH and Fauci and the shadowy origins of the SARS-CoV2, or the doctors who have protocols to stop not only Covid patients getting on ventilators, but getting patients out of the hospital and back home in recovery zone. Not allowed.

These articles are verboten on campuses:

And, if I was still on that campus, how quickly would I be sacked for criticizing a campus– that pushes the Hispanic University of the World theme while colonizing Hispanics (mostly Mexican Americans) — for lock-step falling into the fold of the Corruption Racket Complex — military-banking-ag-energy-prison-pharma-education-medicine-mining-chemical-AI-surveillence-real estate-insurance-prison-legal-media-entertainment? This campus is the whoring field of military, aerospace, drone and weapons makers, and even more nefarious. What ugly optics! Four Star Murder Bomber Air Force General all smiles and the PhD’s just lapping up the uniform!

So, back into that ground-truthing — try being a radical, a revolutionary, a critic of bureaucracies and corporate mandates and this sort of bullshit on a local level. UTEP is a sell-out, an embarrassment, but so are most all the colleges and universities in this shit hole. (Source) I have gone up against every single college and university I have taught in. EVERY ONE.  Can you imagine bringing this into the classroom — anti-war, anti-military, anti-corporation discourse and readings and critical thinking debates? Shit! Then, this? Pfizer Exposed! 

And while the big house is for us in the 80 percent, the ground-truthing in your neighborhood is littered with the poisons of that Complex, the Continuing Criminal Enterprise called capitalism.

[The aim of the international bankers was] nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences.

— Professor Carroll Quigley, Tragedy & Hope, p. 324 (source)

Finally, another point from a friend: “Fishy Felonious Fraudulent Fauci: Read Whitney Webb’s latest.”

During the panel, the moderator—Michael Specter of the New Yorker—asked the question: “Why don’t we blow the system up? Obviously, we just can’t turn off the spigot on the system we have and then say ‘Hey! everyone in the world should get this new vaccine we haven’t given to anyone yet,’ but there must be some way.” Specter then mentioned how vaccine production is antiquated and asked how sufficient “disruption” could occur to prompt the modernization of the existing vaccination development and approval process. Hamburg responded first, saying that as a society we are behind where we need to be when it comes to moving toward a new, more technological approach and that it is now “time to act” to make that a reality.

Several minutes later, Anthony Fauci stated that the superior method of vaccine production involves “not growing the virus at all, but getting sequences, getting the appropriate protein and it sticking in on self-assembling nanoparticles,” essentially referring to mRNA vaccines. Fauci then stated: “The critical challenge . . . is that in order to make the transition from getting out of the tried and true egg-growing [method] . . . to something that has to be much better, you have to prove that this works and then you have got to go through all of the critical trials—phase 1, phase 2, phase 3—and show that this particular product is going to be good over a period of years. That alone, if it works perfectly, is going to take a decade.” Fauci later stated that there is a need to alter the public’s perception that the flu is not a serious disease in order to increase urgency and that it would be “difficult” to alter that perception along with the existing vaccine development and approval process unless the existing system takes the posture that “I don’t care what your perception is, we’re going to address the problem in a disruptive way and an iterative way.”

During the panel, Bright stated that “we need to move as quickly as possible and urgently as possible to get these technologies that address speed and effectiveness of the vaccine” before discussing how the White House Council of Economic Advisers had just issued a report emphasizing that prioritizing “fast” vaccines was paramount. Bright then added that a “mediocre and fast” vaccine was better than a “mediocre and slow” vaccine. He then said that we can make “better vaccines and make them faster” and that urgency and disruption were necessary to produce the targeted and accelerated development of one such vaccine. Later in the panel, Bright said the best way to “disrupt” the vaccine field in favor of “faster” vaccines would be the emergence of “an entity of excitement out there that’s completely disruptive, that’s not beholden to bureaucratic strings and processes.” He later very directly said that by “faster” vaccines he meant mRNA vaccines.

The Bright-led BARDA and the Fauci-led NIAID in just a few months’ time became the biggest backers of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, investing billions and co-developing the vaccine with the company, respectively. As will be explained in Part II of this series, the partnership between Moderna and the NIH to co-develop what would soon become Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine was being forged as early as January 7, 2020, long before the official declaration of the COVID-19 crisis as a pandemic and before a vaccine was proclaimed as necessary by officials and other individuals. Not only did the COVID-19 vaccine quickly become the answer to nearly all Moderna’s woes but it also provided the disruptive scenario necessary to alter the public’s perceptions of what a vaccine is and eliminate existing safeguards and bureaucracy in vaccine approval. (Watch the 2019 Universal Flu Vaccine event here.)

As Part II of this series will show, it was an alleged mix of “serendipity and foresight” from Moderna’s Stéphane Bancel and the NIH’s Barney Graham that propelled Moderna to the front of the “Warp Speed” race for a COVID-19 vaccine. That partnership, along with the disruptive effect of the COVID-19 crisis, created the very “Hail Mary” for which Moderna had been desperately waiting since at least 2017 while also turning most of Moderna’s executive team into billionaires and multi-millionaires in a matter of months.

However, Moderna’s “Hail Mary” won’t last – that is, unless the mass administration of its COVID-19 vaccine becomes an annual affair for millions of people worldwide. Even though real-world data since its administration began challenges the need for as well as the safety and efficacy of its vaccine, Moderna – and its stakeholders – cannot afford to let this opportunity slip through fingers. To do so would mean the end of Moderna’s carefully constructed house of cards.

The post Back at Ground-Truthing Again and Again and Again first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Enigmatic Radicalism of Wilhelm Reich

Despite an enduring fascination with the radical psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957), there has yet to be published a satisfactory intellectual history of Reich’s wide-ranging ideas. In particular, scholars have failed to recognize the roots of his concepts in early 19th century Romanticism. I refer here primarily to German Naturphilosophie, which strongly appealed to those temperamentally opposed to Newton’s mechanistic-mathematical laws of physics. Having grown up on a large farm in rural Galicia, Reich no doubt found the Romantic attitude toward contact with Nature quite congenial.

For centuries, pastoral-agrarian sentiments about the land and its vitalistic forces had been central to Austro-German folk traditions. Rejecting Newton’s scientific discoveries, as well as the scientific method itself, Goethe had insisted that direct sensory perception (purged of preconceived abstractions), might reveal — to the sensitive, discerning observer — the hidden secrets of Nature. (In England, Wordsworth’s nostalgia for lost childhood perceptual innocence found its counterpart in William Blake’s exhortation to “cleanse the doors of perception” — so as to regain such innocence). But Reich was creatively inspired not only by Goethe’s Romantic attitude, but also by the French philosopher Henri Bergson’s insistence that immediacy of perception and intuition could discover natural processes otherwise inaccessible to scientific procedures. (Most conspicuously: a hypothetical “life-force” or elan vital, which Reich was to refashion as “orgone energy.”)

Reich was never much interested in scientific instrumentation (or for that matter, in the scientific method of controlled experimentation). But when he did make microscopic observations, he insisted that he had directly perceived what he called “bions”–moving, living particles which had emerged from inorganic matter (in reality, no doubt Brownian movement). Seeking to fuse Bergson’s vitalism with Freud’s hypotheses about libido, Reich insisted that this was an actual energy (which he first claimed was “bio-electricity” but eventually dubbed cosmic “orgone”). Reich himself would continue along this path into his later years, insisting that–unlike “armored” individuals–he could directly perceive this energy in the atmosphere (as well as in his crude apparatus, the “orgone box”).

As was typical of his approach, Reich early on had revived another discarded theory: the young Freud’s insistence that sexual repression was the primary cause of neurotic disorders. (Freud was soon to shift his focus to early family conflict and trauma.)  But Reich extended Freud’s idea much further: only total orgasm completely discharged “dammed-up” bio-energy, thereby preventing the neurotic anxieties which otherwise would cripple the ego’s confident adaptations to the outer world. While this became an idee-fixe in his thinking, Reich’s insistence on the primal importance of sexual satisfaction certainly seems intuitively true, at least (or especially) to the young. (Given his medical training in the 1920s, Reich was unaware of what we know today about sexual endocrinology.)

If neurotic disturbances stemmed primarily from sexual frustration, a “sex-affirmative” culture would provide the foundation for healthy emotional development. As a Marxist, Reich drew upon Friedrich Engels’ speculations about “primitive” promiscuity and communal “marriage” (The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, 1884) — as well as upon pioneering anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski’s description of minimal sex-norms among the Trobriand Islanders of Melanesia.  As I have written in my book Riddles of Eros (University Press of America, 1994), Reich’s bucolic vision of free love in “primitive” cultures was over-simplistic (see especially Chapter 4: “The Myth of the Insatiable Woman”).

Reich’s lifelong adherence to his Romantic naturalism was such that he continued to extol instinctual spontaneity — especially in sexual relations — as the basis for healthy human relations (ideally in loosely formed, egalitarian communities with minimal norms — a kind of “anarcho-primitivism”).  Herein is the main defect of his Mass Psychology of Fascism (1933): Reich over-emphasized the authoritarian family (and its sex-negative punishments) and almost entirely ignored the historical context of 1933 Germany: humiliated collective-narcissism (military defeat and the Versailles treaty), rampant inflation, hatred of “international bankers” (the Depression), and so forth.

Paradoxically, although Reich was a pioneer in describing the defense-mechanisms of the ego (denial, repression, projection, etc.), he was by temperament powerfully attracted to a regressive id-psychology. While mainstream psychoanalytic theory would emphasize how the maturing child modifies his spontaneous impulses through ego-growth, Reich was emotionally drawn to a vision of complete spontaneity in human relations, to an ideal of total sincerity and completely transparent contact. This, in my view, reveals Reich’s latent paranoia — his chronic suspicion of human motivations and his consequent desire to “break down” the supposed character-armor which defensively blocked such contact. (As a therapist, he could often be cruel, directly confronting “resistance” to emotional honesty in a manner that could degenerate into belligerent interrogation.) (In the context of historical parallels, one can find remarkable similarities in the tormented personality of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.)

Reich offered what amounts to a fantasized return to childhood (with the addition of free, adult sexuality). The instinctual core of the human being, if freely and spontaneously expressed, would be “naturally self-regulating.”  Drastically modifying Freud’s tripartite model of the psyche, Reich envisaged the ego developing within “primitive communism”  in a virtually conflict-free manner — without the internalization of a repressive, authoritarian superego.

Reich can be credited as an innovative thinker on pathological character structures — on the rigidly defensive maladaptations of what are now called “personality disorders” (narcissistic, obsessive-compulsive, etc.). Still, in his Romantic quest, he tended to view the mature character (ego structure) of an adult as in itself primarily defensive (pathological) rather than rationally adaptive (to the limited degree, of course, possible under dehumanizing social conditions). Thus, in his enduring adherence to Romantic naturalism, his thinking became terribly flawed; the lifespan, a one-way path only traveled once, requires mature, rational coping and critical thinking to confront socio-political institutions and constraints.  A regression — to the child’s world of basic impulses and spontaneity — is no solution.

The post The Enigmatic Radicalism of Wilhelm Reich first appeared on Dissident Voice.

As the Body Is to the Mind

Psychology, what the analyst makes of the mind, by necessity, must see toward the complex, above the ideologically convenient and beyond the simple. “Our psychology,” William James writes, “must therefore take account not only of the conditions antecedent to mental states, but of their resultant consequences as well.” Approaching the psyche, then, it is not only that which comes before that matters, all that has been, but that which comes after, one’s development onward—all that could be. On the relation between the mind and the body, the self in one’s state of being, this observation appears at the beginning of James’s 1890 work The Principles of Psychology.

A few years ago, I remember having read a headline in The Guardian that said “Governor of Tavistock Foundation Quits Over Damning Report into Gender Identity Clinic,” published in February of 2019, about Marcus Evans. Whether more or less conservative or liberal, many have seemed mistaken in the widespread belief that what can be called “gender dysphoria” names a medical problem with a medical solution. Applied to the concept of “gender identity,” which seems to be seen as another word for one’s sense of self, this basic idea of being sick followed by being cured has seemed lacking in critical attention. Alongside the Evanses, we will return, albeit in brief, to the self in society and the paradigm of pathology—or, as Thomas Szasz critiques of psychiatric diagnoses: a belief that diagnoses are diseases. We might wonder just what it means pertaining to gender dysphoria, a state of mind in the body, and, more to the point, the great problems that have been produced by this conceptualization.

Thinking back to that 2019 piece, a passage from Marcus Evans’s resignation email to the Tavistock, as quoted by The Guardian, seems to remain of significance. Evans writes:

I do not believe we understand what is going on in this complex area and the need to adopt an attitude which examines things from different points of view is essential. This is difficult in the current environment as the debate and discussion required is continually being closed down or effectively described as ‘transphobic’ or in some way prejudicial.

Then, just months later, in October 2019, another piece appeared, this time published in The Times, with a headline that said “Therapist Raised Alert at Troubling Practices at Tavistock Clinic,” about Susan Evans. As before, the following observation seems important still, especially in the aftermath of the Keira Bell case. Evans writes:

When you work in the area of gender dysphoria you begin to see that many of these children have other areas of concern or difficulty, such as depression, autism, trauma, childhood abuse, internalized homophobia, relationship difficulties, social isolation and so on.

Between the Evanses’ accounts, which seemed rather similar to what I had been hearing from other mental health professionals, albeit in whispers, there have been similar concerns about the pervasive medicalization of gender. Broadly having been suppressed, these concerns have particularly regarded medicalizing children and young people, but they can apply, more generally, to such practices becoming more harmful than helpful, even for adults. By 2019, my own concerns over queerly unacknowledged and unaddressed misogyny and homophobia, in both law and medicine, had only been continuing to increase. Then, I read an essay by Julia Diana Robertson about Jaah Kelly, R. Kelly’s daughter, and how the medicalization of gender has an impact upon otherwise gay youth.

In her case, at only fourteen, Jaah believed that she must truly be male for two main reasons: her not being feminine and her being sexually oriented toward other members of her same sex. “I knew that I was a girl who liked other girls,” Jaah tells us, adding: “But because of what I was taught, I felt like the only way you could like another girl is if you were a boy.” By eighteen, however, she realized that her thinking she must not be female, in her case, seemed to come mainly from internalized homophobia. This case might well be compared with the more recent case of Keira Bell, who, unlike Jaah, had already been medicalized—going too far along with it by then.

To me, at the time, it seemed very striking that Jaah’s case appeared similar to those of so many other females around her age, those who believed they must be male. Among patients, degrees of distress arise in relation to the developing female body, typically with relation to having breasts and, in particular, experiencing menstruation. Diagnosed as “gender dysphoria,” this bodily discomfort has seemed to be something appearing, in recent years, far more so for girls than for boys. Between the sexes, the social conditions around gender identity development also seem to be significantly different, but often unremarked as being so. A “one size fits all” assumption in treatment, which can be the case, might indicate this failure for sexual difference to be drawn out. More remarkably, there has been a change in the patients who present at gender identity clinics. In the decades before, seen in all existing studies on this subject, most cases of childhood gender dysphoria had involved male children, not teenage females.

Over the past few years, I have been observing an odd increase, an unprecedented spike, in teenage females, a disproportionate number of whom have autism, presenting at gender identity clinics. They say how they should be male, not female—and therefore also must be medicalized to make it so. A newer paradigm of “affirming” them as “transgender,” taking each young patient here to be a boy trapped in a girl’s body, does not question what underlying problems might be there. Diving into the wreck, as others have done, I have seen deep issues that, despite any fear we might feel, require our reflection. In all of the talk about doing more research, there has been dread toward doing precisely that, primarily because ideology has come into conflict with reality. Following the Evanses and Robertson, among the few writing such analyses, I then finally joined those who have been standing on trial.

Written by Susan Evans and Marcus Evans, Gender Dysphoria has been a critical addition to the continued analysis of our psyches and ourselves, significant in the present debates around the medicalization of gender. Discussions of gender dysphoria have been polarized by political activism, seeming to be dead ends, where one falls into empty rhetoric about “affirmation” and “conversion.” But the Evanses, as they tell us, make a point in their model of being “neither ‘pro’ nor ‘anti’ transition,” departing from the unhelpful dualistic framework. Engaging this subject with true nuance, then, the Evanses’ proposed therapeutic model considers the individual, specifically the drives and the motivations submerged beneath the surface. Of some concern here, contemporary approaches, most notably the “gender-affirming” model, have not been this way, lacking this understanding: one size does not fit all. A lack of consideration for drives and motivations for the individual could very well be dangerous and deadly. It can be especially costly in the case of misunderstanding other underlying mental health conditions.

Above, in my sketch of Jaah Kelly, we see elements, here and there, which the Evanses explore in their book. They argue that, for the child or young person with internalized homophobia, adults being “affirming” of gender identity, such as in cases like that of Jaah, can be their collusion in homophobia. In such a case, “affirmation” would serve not to actualize, but rather to alienate the individual from coming to terms with having a homosexual orientation. The defense mechanism expresses itself in denial, here a basic fear of being gay, where continued repression takes the place of resolution. “Affirmation” poses a problem, not because it considers the changes in individual development, but rather because it actually denies the dynamic nature that needs attention in the development of the self. A contradiction, “gender fluidity,” all of this rhetoric about rebelling against “the gender binary,” corresponds to a rigid framework of “gender identity”: to make real “the ideal self,” it must be medicalized into being. “Self-actualization,” in this sense, can become revealed as self-annihilation, with the patient not closer, but rather so much farther away from the true self. What I depict here for the reader is but “a certain Slant of light,” to draw from Emily Dickinson.

Pain can be characteristic of one’s bodily feelings—at least, it does seem to be so, in one way or another, during the life course. Psychic pain happens not only with relation to the body but also within the body. By contrast, one might imagine a painless existence, where the self can become safe from all stress, either real or imagined in nature. But the patient should not be led to expect that promise from the professional. “Psychoanalysis,” the Evanses write, “has a basic assumption that being involved in life is a painful business and that it helps if the individual can be supported in bearing pain, rather than attempting to eradicate it.” As the Evanses write, it can be far more harmful, rather than helpful, for the patient to believe in a false premise of the eradication of all pain. Indeed, as the authors explain it, the false idea of taking away all pain not only plays into paternalistic attitudes toward the patients but also presents false promises. For children, the idea that any psychic pain, including gender dysphoria, must be deadened by medicalization can be extremely damaging to their development. The Evanses write:

Children need to develop a capacity to notice pain and be helped to understand and process the experience as part of their learning about themselves. Children also need help differentiating the type, degree, and cause of pain and to be given some confidence that psychic pain can be both tolerated and understood.

There would seem to be, then, significance in learning that not all pain must be intolerable for us, as if utterly beyond our understanding, and that deeper issues can drive us to fear even feeling itself. On trauma, one might consider Bessel van der Kolk’s 2014 work The Body Keeps the Score. Indeed, the point of psychoanalysis, as the Evanses apply it, seems to be the support of the individual as part of one’s developing sense of self, thinking about one’s interiority with relation to others in the external world. However, a contrary assumption within the wider culture has seemed to involve the patient going to the clinic and the professional then giving a cure to a disease. Following this framework, particularly applying it to the making of mental illness, one might be led to believe, rather simplistically, that a medical problem should be met by a medical solution.

Cases discussed by the Evanses give the reader a view into the complexity of each individual patient, something far beyond the space of this review. In reading the book and writing notes, I find myself considering each patient and really wanting to return to think further into this or that set of social conditions affecting the individual psyche. Those involving teenage girls remind me of the work of the German-American psychoanalyst Hilde Bruch, particularly her 1978 book The Golden Cage, in which she discusses anorexia nervosa. Regarding the girls, the Evanses’ observations hold similarities to those observed in Bruch’s work, including fears of adulthood, hatred of the female body, and the making of identity as a method of control. In Bruch’s cases, there were also similar troubles between the girls and their families, struggles over control typical in adolescent development. But, in such cases, the identities were not being cemented into place by social institutions and their potentially harmful, even if well-meaning, interventions.

How does one become who one isor, more precisely, who one will be? There seems to be a concept of “killing” “the false self,” for it to “die,” thereby allowing the “birth” of “the true self.” The religiosity of this idea of identity really betrays itself. But, even more than the bizarreness of “gender identity” becoming a secular religion, this paradigm can pose any number of problems, ones that the Evanses book indeed brings into the light. In his 1984 work Narcissism, Alexander Lowen, a student of Wilhelm Reich, writes of the meaning of “specialness,” this sense that one actually must be above others. Meaning for the self, whatever one might seem to perceive as such, becomes itself bound to the subjugation of the other. The one subjects the other to one’s “specialness.” There seems to be some application here to what the Evanses discuss of “the ideal self” among patients for whom the fantasy becomes a fixation. “Through the new self-image,” Lowen writes, “they compensate for the sense of unlovableness and unworthiness that they previously experienced.” This concept of “the authentic self,” however, could be exposed as the false perception of authenticity, only further artifice in the denialism of true selfhood—all that could be.

Reading Gender Dysphoria, I find myself reflecting on another work, old and yet oddly fitting, particularly for the present subject: The Neurotic Personality of Our Time, a 1937 work by Karen Horney. In her book, Horney defines the term “neurosis” as “a psychic disturbance brought about by fears and defenses against these fears, and by attempts to find compromise solutions for conflicting tendencies.” The analyst sees in this psychic disturbance called “gender dysphoria” a comparable set of symptoms, similar anxieties and defenses analyzed in the literature, dating back decades. As seen with Bruch and those with anorexia nervosa, with their corresponding multidisciplinary treatments, one cannot help but draw comparisons between then and now. More chillingly, one might also contrast the protocols and treatments from then with those now said to be “affirming” and sold as “life-saving.”

Thoroughness, both the before and the after, together, matter in the analysis of the patient. One might say that, with regard to the mind, the pill and the procedure alike have been historical methods for dealing with matters of the mind. Can the patient be promised something that might not come true? “The fantasy that the body can be changed and sculpted as a way of being rid of profound psychological problems,” the Evanses write, “needs to come under much closer scrutiny.” Capitalistic and consumeristic, buying a “new” body, either to escape from development and one’s corresponding distress or to distract oneself from other pain, must be critiqued. Perhaps more consumeristic than previous eras, political activism has made a model for gender medicine now defined by the dictum “the customer is always right.” Following this point of view, in a 2018 op-ed for The New York Times, transgender theorist Andrea Long Chu writes how “surgery’s only prerequisite should be a simple demonstration of want.”

In these neurotic times, engaging us with their analyses, the Evanses give the reader a look into this one fashion of the mind in its feeling. Finding the body as the self left to medicalization, more so now than before, has become the more frequent lot for those who see themselves as somehow not their sex on the basis of gender identity. An understanding of a condition followed by a cure, one’s destiny in one’s diagnosis, has been the rationale for the medicalization of gender. This basic dynamic has become maybe the most evident for children and young people. Being at once compassionate and still critical can be an insurmountable barrier, as most writers know all too well, but the Evanses brilliantly do just that in this book. Although itself complex, like all matters of the mind, psychoanalysis applied to the self in relation to sexual being appears presented in a comprehensible way for the common reader. To the Evanses, I express my thankfulness for their work.

The post As the Body Is to the Mind first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Three Strikes You’re Out for Western Psychotherapy

Orientation

Patient questions and therapeutic answers

The therapist says to the client, “tell me about your dreams” and the client shakes their head slowly and says “I had this dream …”. A therapist says to a teenager, “who are you?” The teenager answers, “I don’t know”. The therapist says to the teenager, “that’s normal at your age”. A client tells their therapist, “I am very angry at my father”. The therapist says, “let’s do a role play. You be your father and I’ll be you. I’ll show you how to do it.” A client says they are sick of their job but they stay because the money and benefits are good. They want to get into another field. The cognitive therapist says, “let’s brainstorm the different fields you want to get into. We can look at the Occupational Handbook for the skills and pay scale for the different kinds of jobs. Then we can set some goals and seasonal objectives so we make sure you follow through with your goals”. The client feels overwhelmed but agrees. A mother expresses great sadness when her thirty-three-year-old son is getting ready to move out. The therapist says to the client, “it’s long overdue for your son to leave.” After the patient leaves the therapist adds “dependent personality” to her diagnosis.

If you are an individualist living in an industrial capitalist society, both the problems and the therapeutic responses probably sound familiar and the therapeutic interventions sound reasonable. But how good are these interventions with people whose home culture is collectivists outside Yankeedom, specifically India, China or Japan?

What are collectivist and individualist selves?

Roughly 80% of the world’s population is “collectivist”, consisting of most parts of the world with the exception of the United States and Western Europe. The latter country and part of a continent have been characterized as “individualist.” For collectivists, the group is prior to the individual in two senses. The caste group is prior to the family, and the family is prior to the individual. For individualists, the importance of the individual is prior to that of the family and the family is prior to one’s membership in a social class. In the history of human societies, there have been two kinds of collectivists, horizontal and vertical. Horizontal collectivists have been hunter-gatherers, simple horticultural societies who do not have castes or classes. This is why they are called “horizontal” collectivists. Agricultural states are vertical collectivists because they have social castes. We will be using the agriculturalist states of India, China and Japan for our case studies for collectivists. Industrial capitalist societies will be the type of societies we will characterize as individualist.

For collectivists, society is like an organism and extension of nature. Different castes within that society are pictured as being like the organs of a body. Individuals are like different cells in the body. For individualists, society is autonomous from nature and is governed by its own laws. Social institutions are built up by individuals via a social contract. Individuals are independent of society and social relations appear to them as being voluntary, contractual and accidental. Lastly, collectivists value stability. What is old is revered and what is new is looked upon with suspicion. For individualists it is the reverse. There are many other interesting differences. Please see Table A for the full list. The question we will seek to address is how well will Western theories of personality work with collectivists?Six western theories of personality

There are six western theories of personality: Psychoanalysis; Behaviorism; Humanistic; Biological Physiological; Biological Evolutionary and Cognitive. Each of these theories can be broken down into sub-schools which have various kinds of quarrels and emphasis, but for our purpose the six original theories are plenty.

Unit of analysis

The basic unit of analysis for psychoanalysis is dreams, fantasies and drives. For behaviorism the basic unit is habits – what people do, over and over again. For humanistic psychology the most important focus is curiosity and peak experiences. For the biological-physiological school, what matters most are hormones, genes and brain chemistry. For the biological evolutionary school what drives individuals is survival and reproduction. For the cognitive school the main focus is the qualities of reasoning.

Structure of the psyche

The structure of the psyche for psychoanalysis is the id, ego, superego and the unconscious, the conscious and the preconscious. For behaviorism, the structure surrounding the habit  it is what happens just before the habit (associations, Pavlov) and what happens after (consequences, Skinner). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs focuses on where to place the individual for humanistic psychology. For the biological physiological theory, one major topic is temperament theory. For biological evolutionary school adaptation and sexual selection strategies is where the action is at. For the cognitive school automatic thoughts, cognitive interpretations , explanatory styles and assumptions is the focus.

Sources of conflict

For psychoanalysis there are two conflicts: between the conscious and the subconscious; and between id and the superego. For behaviorists the conflict is between the unconscious acquisition of associations and consequences which reinforce bad habits. For humanistic psychology the conflict is between the false self which is acquired from what they call a “a materialistic“society and the real self. For the biological physiological school, conflicts arise when people don’t know their own temperament and find themselves in a work or educational setting that are mismatches with their temperament. The use of drugs to stabilize hormonal balances can cause problems due to overuse and side effects.  For evolutionary psychologists many psychological problems stem from “evolutionary mismatches” between the predispositions we acquired as hunter-gatherers where we formed our human nature and our existence in industrial capitalist societies, which are far from our human nature. For cognitive psychologists, conflicts come from far-fetched automatic thoughts, cognitive interpretation distortions, pessimistic explanatory styles, and irrational assumptions.

My claim

On the surface it appears that western psychotherapy theories are very different from each other and they are –relatively. But when we consider the whole world, 80% of whom are collectivists,Western personality theories have more in common than they are different. Western psychotherapy is oozing with individualism as it falls under individualism in the last twelve categories under Table A. Because of this, Western psychotherapy has major liabilities as a therapy for collectivists. The “three strikes you’re out” in the title of this article stands for the average length of time some researchers have estimated that collectivists will stay in therapy with Western psychotherapists. My sources for this article will be the Sue’s book Counseling the Culturally Diverse; Harry Triandis’ book Individualism and Collectivism and John Berry’s Cross-Cultural Psychology.

Qualification

What I will  present covers a thirty-year period from 1970 to 2000. Perhaps in the past twenty years things have changed. I remain skeptical because cross-cultural psychology is the black sheep of the field and the field of psychology has historically resisted social and cultural explanations for psychological process, whether it be class, race, gender or religion. I would be happy to know that Western psychotherapy has become more cross-culturally sensitive in the past 20 years.

Where are we going?

The heart of the article will be to cite:

  • instances of problems that collectivists may raise in therapy;
  • Western psychotherapists’ interventions with a particular interpretation or suggestion; and,
  • why the intervention won’t work.

I will strive to have at least two examples for each school of Western psychotherapies interventions. As you will see, some Western theories are worse than others when it comes to alienating collectivists. After these examples are given I will state my five qualifications and then draw conclusions.

Ways in Which Western Psychotherapy Fail Collectivists

Psychoanalytic

Since moving to Yankeedom four years ago, a collectivist son has begun to see a counselor who his friend recommended because he feels worthless.  He claims it is because he is not able to keep up with the other kids in terms of dating and partying. After many sessions, the psychoanalytic therapist suggests to the son that his parents may be trying to keep their son dependent because it makes their lives more meaningful. How will the collectivist respond? Not well. The collectivist would be horrified to think that his parents, to whom he owes his life, would be capable of these machinations. He was raised in a Confucian culture where the family comes first.

A collectivist woman expresses dissatisfaction with her marriage. The therapist suggests the collectivist take out a sheet of paper and list all the virtues and vices of her husband. Then on the back sheet of a paper, list the virtues and vices of her father. The therapist then asks the client to compare the characteristics of her husband and her father. They are very similar. The therapist announces that their client is going through the Electra complex – a girl’s psychosexual competition with her mother for possession of her father. How good an interpretation is this? It is out to lunch. Even if Freud’s theory was right, in order for it to work you would need to live in a nuclear family. The collectivist woman lives in an extended family with her grandfather and mother’s brother helping to raise the child. This diffusion of male responsibility will undermine Freud’s Electra complex.

A collectivist teenage boy has been feeling anxious in the presence of his older brother. An Adlerian therapist suggests that as the second born in the birth order, what he might be feeling is repressed competitiveness. “Competitiveness with the older brother  is how middle children behave.”  How will that go over with the collectivist? It won’t make much sense. Adler’s birth order assumes that the primary relationship is between the parents and each of the children taken separately. This ignores the fact that in collectivist societies older children take care of younger ones. Brother-sister dynamics are strong enough to throw a monkey wrench into the birth order theory. The job of the middle child is to take care of the younger child, not compete with the eldest.

A collectivist parent comes to therapy and says his son does not display the proper respect for them or towards his elders. The son talks back to them, questions their authority and complains that he can’t stay out as late as the other kids. The therapist suspects the problem is that the parent is raising the child in an authoritarian way. Will it be helpful to tell the parent this? No, it will not. With rare exceptions, collectivists of all castes raise their children to be obedient. What this parent is doing is not pathological. They are raising their children in the way in which the entire culture operates.

A collectivist female teenager comes to a school counselor because they are tired of taking care of their younger brothers and sisters. The Eriksonian therapist asks the teenager what they would like to do with their time. The teenager says they don’t know. The therapist announces  that teenager is going through a developmental crisis called “identity vs role confusion”. During this stage, adolescents explore their independence and develop a sense of self. How well would this interpretation work for this teenager. Not well. Typically, collectivist teenagers do not have a time as teenagers where they go to school and not work. They begin helping their parents, working as early as seven years old. They are also expected to do the same work their parents did. There is no asking “who am I?“ There are no “rebels without a cause” in collectivism.

A female therapist has been seeing a single collectivist male patient once a week for the past two years. The male patient asks his therapist if she would go out with him.

The female therapist thinks to herself that the transference is going very well. How right is her interpretation? She is off.  Transference is based on the idea that in order to become healthy, the patient must temporarily transfer their loyalties from the family of origin to the therapist. This theory will not work with collectivists because the family is too important to the client to ever allow any transference to occur.

Behaviorist

A collectivist is court-referred to attend therapy because of a drinking problem. A behaviorist therapist begins asking his patient what were his associations right before he began to drink. Then he asks him what were the consequences (positive or negative reinforcement) right after he has a drink. The therapist explains the patient must change the associations and consequences in order to stop drinking. How will this work for the collectivist? Not well. Behaviorists are very optimistic about getting people to change because mostly they think of people as blank slates. The collectivist is much more conservative and thinks of himself as a certain “type” (temperament) and there isn’t much that can be done.

When this technique doesn’t work well, the behaviorist refers the collectivist to an AA meeting. The collectivist is a Muslim and it is difficult to find an AA meeting with a Muslim higher power. Eventually he finds one. At the first meeting, in front of complete strangers, he is asked to admit he is an alcoholic. He is very uncomfortable and leaves after one meeting.

A collectivist man is violent with his partner. A social behaviorist following Bandura is interested in the relationship between watching television violence and committing real violence. The therapist suspects that the models he is following are attractive and competent and are not punished for their violence. The collectivist wife doesn’t think much of the intervention. She says men have always been violent with their wives and it goes back generations in her family. “That’s just how men are.”

Biological physiological

The medical doctor notices a collectivist female patient seems to have extreme mood swings and refers her to a psychiatrist at the hospital the doctor works for. The collectivist is embarrassed to see a psychiatrist because that means she is “crazy”. She goes anyway and the psychiatrist diagnoses her as bi-polar and gives  her medication. He explains to his patient that the drugs will “even out” hormonal imbalances. The collectivist takes the medication but does not understand how temperament can be changed with medication. She thought temperament was something you were born with and doesn’t change.

The collectivist woman’s mood stabilizes and she feels much better. She would like to continue to see the psychiatrist and, in fact, she invites him over to meet her family.

The psychiatrist tells the patient the hospital does not provide for ongoing therapy. The patient says okay, but still wants the psychiatrist to come over once to meet her family. The psychiatrist explains that would be very unprofessional. The collectivist is hurt that the psychiatrist rejects her offer.

Humanistic

A collectivist female patient complains to the therapist that her daughter is being selfish. She wants to go away to medical school to become a doctor. The collectivist patient says she should be helping out with the family business so they can pass their business to the next generation. The humanistic psychologist sides with the daughter and tells the patient her daughter is striving to be self-actualized as an individual and she should make room to let her grow. How does the collectivist react? Negatively. Collectivists have no models for self-actualization, and especially not for women.

A collectivist arrives at a therapy session and wants to report on a dream. The therapist is a follower of the Gestalt psychologist, Fritz Perls (image at the front of the article).  Perls believed that all the different parts of the dream were fragmented parts of their client’s personality. Perls wanted the patient to act out the different parts of the dream. So if part of a dream was a spewing fire hydrant, you acted that out. If a spinning house were part of the dream, you acted out the spinning house. Then the different parts of the dream talked to each other. Perls believed the parts of the dream talking to each other were ways to integrate the personality. How would that work for collectivists? It would be a disaster.

In the first place, collectivists do not think they are the authors of their dreams. They do not say, as individualists might, “I had a dream”. Rather they say “A dream came to me.” Secondly, collectivists do not think the dream is about their personal life. All dreams are about the group. Thirdly, collectivists’ dreams are not random firings of the brain or fragmented parts of their identity. Collectivists think that dreams are prophetic. They predict some future event that will happen to the group. Imagine the Gestalt therapist’s surprise when he learns his patient has travelled to Chinatown in another city to warn his people about a coming flood!

A collectivist has recently been widowed and claims that the house she has lived in with her husband is haunted by him. She claimed he is haranguing her for not showing respect to their grandparents. The therapist asks the client what she thinks is really going on here. Expecting his client to realize this is a projection of her own feelings, the therapist is disappointed that the collectivist lacks insight. This humanist psychologist thinks that insight and understanding are a necessary foundation for action. The collectivist is also disappointed. She came in expecting advice about what to do, not to play mind games.

A collectivist, after much reluctance, admits he is upset with his father for not doing more work on the family business. The Gestalt therapist says to the client, “let’s bring your father into the room”. The frightened collectivist agrees. Then the therapist says “let’s make believe your father is right here. In fact, let’s make believe he is this pillow. What I want you to do is punch the pillow are hard as you can and tell him how you really feel”. The collectivist grows silent and says he can’t do it. There are long awkward silences. Mercifully the session ends. The collectivist never returns. The humanistic psychologist thinks that his patient needs assertiveness training.

Humanistic psychologists are the enemies of formality and structure. They prefer their clients (they refuse to call them patients) call them by their first name and they dress more causally than other professionals. Furthermore, they set no agenda for the session because they want to “be in the present”. Lastly, they want the sessions to be led by the client, rather than the therapist because the client must take the initiative in their own self-healing. How will this work? Badly. Collectivists expect their therapist to play a professional role, including dressing for the occasion and referring to themselves as “doctor”. The collectivist expects the therapist to take the lead in what they will talk about and there needs to be procedures that are explicit in how the problem will be solved. All this lack of structure will raise the anxiety level of the collectivist. The humanist psychologist thinks the anxiety is good for them because it teaches them to handle anxiety in real life. It never dawns on the therapist that the collectivist’s home and work-life might be very structured.

Biological Evolutionary

Why are we attracted to fat and sugar when we know it is no good for us? Evolutionary psychology says because they are quick sources of energy and they are adaptative if taken in small quantities. In the era in which we formed our human nature, neither fat nor sugar was readily available. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, for upper-class collectivists in agricultural states, being overweight was a status symbol because it showed that you were more important and were less likely to be a victim of famines.

However, in the past 300 years sugar and fat are readily available. At the same time, over the same time period, life has been more sedentary – at least for the upper classes. These factors combine to make more people obese. What this meant for collectivist is that being overweight no longer had high status because even the lower classes now carried extra weight.

This upper class collectivist is told by a bio-evolutionary psychiatrist that they need to lose twenty-five pounds. The collectivist is upset because they are proud of their weight and losing weight will affect their perceived status. The collectivist asks the hospital if they are able to transfer them to an Indian doctor who understands these things.

A collectivist has lived in a temperate zone where the sun sets between six and nine PM, depending on whether it is winter or summer. The collectivist works as a middle manager for a transnational corporation and he is reassigned to work in Fairbanks, Alaska. The collectivist notices he has become depressed in the winter. His bio-evolutionary psychiatrist explains to his client he has seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and needs light therapy. The collectivist thinks that remedy is weird and does not want to buy any “magical” light box. He thinks he is depressed because he misses the people in his country of origin.

Collectivist parents come to therapy because they are unhappy with their daughter’s choice of a partner. The boy lacks broad shoulders and he appears scrawny. In addition, the boy has no interest in introducing his parents to her parents. The evolutionary psychologist explains to the collectivist that times have changed. He tells the collectivist that broad shoulders and physical strength were adaptive when men pulled plows. However, with the development of tractors, it became less necessary for a farmer to have physical strength to be an attractive mate. What matters in industrial capitalist society is these teenagers have common interests and are emotionally compatible. Further, he says that these days people marry for love and not for economic reasons.

This is incomprehensive to the collectivist. Their daughter’s boyfriend seems more likely to become sick and not provide for their daughter. Furthermore, their daughter is in no position to know what she wants in a partner. Sexual attraction is a very unstable reason to marry. Both their parents know more about what it takes to make a successful marriage. How can the therapist think that two people barely twenty years old are in any position to decide their future? The collectivist parents leave therapy because they think the therapist is incompetent.

Cognitive

A collectivist mom is upset with her six-year-old daughter for not making a list of all the groceries they need when they go to the store. The cognitive psychologist explains that it’s a lot to expect of a six-year-old to make lists of food and drinks and anticipate when they might run out before next week’s shopping. The therapist explains that her daughter has not mastered Piaget’s concrete operational stage and she is not likely to do this well. The collectivist does not know about western stages of development and treats children as little adults.

A collectivist man is required to attend a 40-week program for domestic violence. His partner is seeing a priest for help and as a result she is getting stronger. This makes the collectivist man very depressed and sad. The cognitive psychologist in the group program suggests they work on a writing a five-part radial message to his wife. A radial message consists of sense data, emotions, interpretations, intention and consequences. For the next three sessions the collectivist man disappears. When he returns, the cognitive therapist asks “where were you?” The collectivist confesses that he travelled to another city to confer with a shaman for help. They did a ritual together and the shaman claims to have expelled the evil spirit that has possessed his wife.

A collectivist lives in a city which has just had flooding as the result of a storm. One of his sons has been injured and there has been significant damage to their house. The cognitive psychologist, trying to be helpful, suggests the collectivist make a list of all the things that need to be done and set a time line for each task of the project. He further suggests that this may be a good opportunity to set some long-range goals for his children. How will this be received? Not well. The therapist is operating with an internal locus of control. That means how long something lasts, how much the event will affect other areas of a person’s life and whoever is responsible is largely under the person’s control. The collectivist won’t go for this. He thinks that the causes of things are either the will of the gods, luck or possibly due to sorcery. How long something lasts, as well as it how it affects the rest of his life are not under his control. He understands the therapist means well, but the therapist is naïve. Meanwhile the therapist is toying with a diagnosis that the collectivist is depressed.

Qualifications

Vertical collectivists are not the only kind of collectivist

As mentioned in the orientation section, I have only discussed collectivists in agricultural states. Horizontal collectivists at the tribal level of society are very different from vertical collectivists. However, we think Western psychotherapy would fare at least as bad with them

The degree of success or failure would depend on the acculturating group membership upon entering the country

There are six kinds of acculturating groups: immigrants, ethnic groups, refugees, sojourners, native peoples and slaves. Immigrants are migrating people who have come to new country intentionally, plan to stay permanently and have at least a modest savings upon entering the country. These folks have the highest probability of having limited success with western psychotherapy. Sojourners, who move from place to place, if they are students, might not do too badly if they had some extra money and would have become more familiar with western ways through courses taken. On the other hand, refugees are usually fleeing their country of origin because of economic, political or religious persecution or natural disasters. They have little money and no clear intention to stay. They are less likely to enter therapy voluntarily and more likely to be court-referred. Native Americans, given the genocide and persecution to which they have been subjected, would hardly come to therapy voluntarily.

There are collectivists in separate countries and subgroups within countries

My article has focused on collectivists as they exist in different countries. However, there are also collectivists who exist within a single country, even in Yankeedom.

There are predictable sociocultural factors that would make people more or less collectivist even within an individualist culture. For example:

Maximum Collectivist                        Maximum individualist

Working class                                              Middle class, upper-middle class

Racial minorities                                        Racial majority (72% white)

Women                                                         Men

Older than 50 years of age                       Between 20-50 years of age

Catholic, Hindu, Muslim, Confucian     Protestants, Jews

Rural                                                             Urban, suburbs

Deep south, farming                                  Coastal cities, industry

Military service                                           No military service

Children                                                       No children

Space does not permit me to explain this, but my point is there can be individualists within agricultural civilizations just as there are collectivists within industrial capitalist societies.

Pristine vs Hybrid Collectivist

In this article I have treated agricultural civilizations and industrial capitalist societies as if they existed in a pristine form with no interaction. But in the last two hundred years capitalism has traded with, colonialized and manipulated India, China and Japan so that they are no longer pure collectivist societies. China, despite the control of the Communist Party, has allowed forms of capitalism to come in so that the Chinese today are not the same as they were two hundred years ago. The same is true of India, thanks to British imperialism. While the Japanese industrialized themselves in the second half of the 19th century, they had their constitution dictated by the Yankee rulers after World War II. Despite this, both Chinese and Japanese capitalism still contain a collectivist core which has not been hollowed out.

I am not saying Western psychotherapy never works with collectivists

It is much more likely to work with people on the individualist side of the collectivist columns above. So a light-skinned collectivist, upper middle-class man between 20 and 50 living in a coastal city without children and no military experience might be very receptive.

Conclusion

I began my article with five psychological problems an individual in an industrial capitalist society might have, along with what seem to be good therapeutic interventions. The issue this article raises is two-fold:

  • How helpful will these interventions be with people who live in collectivist societies such as India, China or Japan?
  • Are the problems the client raises universal problems all people have or are the problems themselves not relevant for people living in collectivist societies?

My claim in this article are that therapeutic interventions fail to deal effectively with the problems that collectivists might face if they are immigrants, sojourners or refugees.

I began by defining what it means to have a collectivist or individualist self. I provided a table which compares collectivists and individualists across nineteen categories. I then gave an overview of six western personality theories and compared them across three categories: the unit of analysis; the structure of the psyche and the sources of the conflict to lay a foundation for understanding Western psychotherapeutic interventions.

The heart of the article is to raise, on average, three psychological problems a collectivist might have in a Western psychotherapy session. Each school was faced on average with three problems the collectivist will present. Then their interventions were criticized for being cross-culturally insensitive.  I closed my article with five qualifications.

• First published in Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

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The System Isn’t Broken, It’s Fixed

Both chronic stress and manipulative abuse can lead to an impairment of cognitive functioning. Whenever humans experience ongoing anxiety, their prefrontal cortex will generate increasingly higher levels of cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that helps us deal with threats and danger. If stress — real or perceived — becomes chronic, we can get stuck in this state of high alert. The brain cannot differentiate between real and fake news. It initiates and sustains the body’s stress response for as long as you feel anxious, tense, worried, or scared.

  • The projected overall 2021 poverty rate is 13.7 percent of Americans. 
  • 78 percent of American workers are living paycheck to paycheck.
  • Roughly 30 million Americans are without health insurance. 
  • Americans collectively hold about $81 billion in medical debt.
  • Approximately 325,000 Americans (age 12 or older) are sexually assaulted each year — about 1 every 93 seconds. As for those under 12, 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of reported child sexual abuse. Keyword: reported.
  • The top three causes of death in the U.S. would be mostly preventable in a society that included economic stability, access to quality health care, protection of the environment, an emphasis on healthy eating habits, and even a modicum of humanity. Instead, each year, heart disease kills about 650,000, cancer kills 600,000, and the third leading cause of death is (wait for it) medical error — taking out at least 250,000 Americans per year. The powers-that-be test their corporate medicines and procedures on us while granting themselves immunity from liability.

According to the American Psychological Association:

  • 63 percent of Americans reported that the future of the nation is a significant source of stress 
  • 62 percent were stressed about money
  • 61 percent were stressed about work
  • 51 percent were stressed about violence and crime
  • 43 percent were stressed about health care

Fifty-six percent said that the mere act of staying informed by following the news causes them intense stress. Three out of four Americans reported experiencing at least one stress symptom in the last month — and this survey was taken BEFORE the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns.

Prices go up. Rents go up. The number of billionaires goes up. Everything goes up… except wages and quality of life. I could go on but you get the idea. Everyday life in the Home of the Brave™ — by definition — keeps the vast majority of its residents in a state of deep distress and high anxiety.

High anxiety = high cortisol. High cortisol negatively impacts our executive functioning, e.g.:

  • Inability to pay attention
  • Decrease in visual perception
  • Feeling agitated and unorganized
  • Memory loss
  • Loss of emotional regulation and rational thinking

This explains why so many of us jammed into supermarkets to fight each other for the right to hoard inordinate amounts of toilet paper when the dangerous and unnecessary pandemic lockdowns were implemented.

When stress is chronic and cortisol is raging, we make exponentially more mistakes. We struggle to complete tasks, we lose concentration, we forget basic information, and we repeat ourselves in conversation. Since life itself in this corrupt culture is a source of relentless anxiety, most of us live in an altered state of inefficiency and confusion. However, this reality is so normalized that it’s become invisible and we often think we’ve got it good. After all, look at all these neat gadgets we own and get to stare at all day, every day.

Think about it: We’re alive because our ancestors were the ones who used anxiety and hyper-vigilance to survive. The more casual or reckless early humans weren’t around long enough to pass on their genes. So, here we are — hard-wired with a hair-trigger fight-or-flight response — and we’re stuck in a world in which simple acts like breathing air or visiting a doctor are unhealthy or possibly lethal. Translation: We are the ideal subjects for a grand social experiment.

If you were a member of the elite class — or the proverbial 1% — wouldn’t you prefer that the masses were pliable, easily controlled, and happy to settle for crumbs? Why wouldn’t you rig circumstances in such a way as to keep billions of potential challengers off-balance, frightened, and divided? What better way to maintain power and control than to implement an insidious form of group manipulation? It’s what cult leaders do. It’s what domestic abusers do. It’s what dictators do. And what are those in power if not abusive and narcissistic sociopaths?

I know, the easiest and most alluring path for you right now is to dismiss this as a “conspiracy.” I get it. Life seems far more palatable if you choose denial. It feels so much simpler if you choose to believe those on top are not abusing you. You may even tell yourself that people never do things like create an oppressive, unfair system just to keep their fellow humans subdued and passive. If that’s your premise, let’s explore it for a few minutes.

Would the folks who run things in God’s Country™ ever coerce people through abusive behaviors? You might want to ask the detainees at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay. As reported by the New York Times, the U.S. hired “two C.I.A. contract psychologists” to create a program that used “violence, isolation and sleep deprivation on more than 100 men in secret sites, some described as dungeons.” Tactics included waterboarding and cramming men into small confinement boxes. The idea here was to induce so much chronic stress, it would break their resistance.

Human Rights Watch has documented other devious and abusive red-white-and-blue techniques paid for by your hard-earned tax dollars; e.g., mock execution by asphyxiation, stress positions, hooding during questioning, deprivation of light and auditory stimuli, and use of detainees’ individual phobias (such as fear of dogs) to induce debilitating stress.

The Land of the Free™ incarcerates more people than any other nation in the world. The Center for Constitutional Rights reports that such prisoners are “repeatedly abused by their guards, fellow prisoners, and an ineffective and apathetic system. They suffer beatings, rape, prolonged solitary confinement, meager food rations, and frequently-denied medical care.” All in the name of punishment and pacification.

Perhaps the best comparison for America’s brutal molding of its citizens is domestic abuse. The United Nations defines domestic abuse as “a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.” Read that again: a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control.

Abusers, says the UN, use actions or threats of action to influence others. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound someone. Are you frightened by the lack of financial stability? Are you terrorized by the threat of sexual assault or injury by medical error? Does the possibility of eviction, homelessness, and poverty manipulate you into making choices you abhor, choices that violate your deepest values and individual freedoms?

If you declare “the system is broken,” just about everyone will agree with you for one reason or another. But what if it’s not broken? What if it’s running exactly as it’s designed to run? A minuscule percentage of humans make the rules and thus reap virtually all the material rewards. The rest of us suppress our desires, our individuality, and our dreams in the name of survival — in its most meager sense. We’re wounded and intimidated into submission, too programmed and fearful to even think about rebellion… let alone solidarity with all the other victims.

Pro tip: All it takes to flip the script is for each of you to change your mind. Demand more pleasure instead of less pain. It doesn’t have to be like this. In fact, it can’t be like this if we take off the blinders and see the ugliness of reality.

“To ask serious questions about the nature and behavior of one’s own society is often difficult and unpleasant,” writes Noam Chomsky. “Difficult because the answers are generally concealed, and unpleasant because the answers are often not only ugly but also painful. To understand the truth about these matters is to be led to action that may not be easy to undertake and that may even carry a significant personal cost.”

Truths like those discussed in this article are ugly and painful but that’s why the big lies are invented in the first place. On that note, I leave you with this from the English Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley:

Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number –
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you
Ye are many – they are few.

The Mask of Anarchy, 1819

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America in an Age of Faucism

Reason can wrestle and overthrow terror.

— Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis

Medical ethics in the West has long been predicated on informed consent, the oath to do no harm, the notion that good health care is a human right, and the search for scientific truth free from skullduggery and censorship. These tenets are not only integral to a sound health care system but are foundational to a civilized society. Lamentably, each of these sacrosanct principles is anathema to the medical industrial complex. For we have entered the Age of Faucism.

In “Why do patients hate going to the doctor?” by Maheswari Raja, MD, the author reiterates the establishment medical narrative, that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with our health care system, and that the problem is the American patient:

And the truth is that the doctor’s office is an uncomfortable place. It is where one answers the most intimate questions and speaks their most intimate fears — where they have to face the reality of the consequences of their behaviors and misjudgments.

Will physicians devoid of a moral compass, the private health insurance companies, and the pharmaceutical industry ever face the consequences of their “behaviors and misjudgments?” No less delusional and absurd, Dana Hassneiah, MD, writes in KevinMD:

Most people in other jobs would probably not care to help a person who is indifferent and doesn’t want to help himself. But in medicine, your knowledge and morals make you the desperate person in the encounter.

These superior morals were on display in the Covid vaccine propaganda video where doctors tell patients to “Just grow the f**k up and get the vaccine,” an obscenity emblematic of the growing push towards severing ties with the Hippocratic Oath.

Embedded in Faucism are three cults: the Cult of Psychiatry, the Church of Vaccinology, and the Branch Covidians. These branches of American pseudo-medicine inhabit a world of authoritarianism, zealotry, and unreason, and are anchored in a deep-seated contempt for informed consent and the oath to do no harm. Just as Europeans who were suspected of deviating from a once supremely powerful church were labeled heretics, necromancers, and accused of witchcraft and sorcery, those that have the temerity to question the pharmaceutical priesthood are denounced as “conspiracy theorists,” “anti-vax,” and “anti-science.” Whether it be Wahhabism, the Cultural Revolution in China, the Nazis, or the Christian fundamentalists of 16th and 17th century Europe, tyranny needs a dogma, and the rapacious corporatization of medicine coupled with the neoliberal belief in the infallibility of the liberal media have spawned Faucism.

The Cult of Psychiatry is grounded in despotism and dogmatism, as virtually all of the diseases in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) can neither be scientifically tested nor proven. (Consider how depraved a physician would have to be to genuinely believe that “oppositional defiant disorder” is a real medical diagnosis). The more mental illnesses are invented, the more psychiatrists are able to create drug addicts for the pharmaceutical industry. Undoubtedly, there are sinister elements within the intelligence services that are delighted with this Huxleyan state of affairs. While there will always be some good people in psychiatry such as Peter Breggin, MD, the field is infested with sociopaths that regard every human emotion as a disease. Indeed, the Britney Spears tragedy offers a harrowing example of psychiatric sadism and cruelty.

When a new vaccine is in production, one should always ask three questions: Is the vaccine necessary? Is it safe? And is it efficacious? The Church of Vaccinology is founded on the notion that every vaccine is necessary, safe, and effective, and history has repeatedly shown this to be a myth going back to the Cutter Incident. Since vaccination constitutes a significant medical intervention which poses an element of risk, why should a vaccine be produced for an illness which is treatable? And if vaccines are unfailingly innocuous, why is there a need for coercion? Alas, wherever there are insatiable pharmaceutical cabals one is sure to find marketing masquerading as science.

The Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) granted for the mRNA vaccines is contingent on there being no treatments for Covid. Yet this claim is fallacious, as Ivermectin (see herehere, here and here) and Hydroxychloroquine (see hereherehere, here and here) have indeed shown efficacy in the treatment of COVID-19, particularly if these regimens are deployed early in the disease process. Moreover, unlike with the mRNA vaccines, Hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin have a strong safety profile, the former being approved by the FDA in 1955, and the latter being on the World Health Organization Model List of Essential Medicines. (The CDC’s website states that “Hydroxychloroquine can be prescribed to adults and children of all ages. It can also be safely taken by pregnant women and nursing mothers”). Those who spurn the studies which demonstrate that Covid is treatable because this would contradict the pharmaceutical priesthood are no less indoctrinated than those who once insisted that the Earth couldn’t possibly go around the Sun because this contradicted the teachings of the church. Terrified of excommunication, the proselytized refuse to look through the telescope. They refuse to see.

Unlike the mRNA hucksters, the physicians of the FLCCC Alliance and America’s Frontline Doctors (AFLDS) have treated thousands of Covid patients and have real-world experience in successfully treating COVID-19. Does this mean that they will be able to save every life? No, it does not. There are Americans that die every year from influenza and pneumonia. Has that led to calls to turn the country into an enormous prison?

The “vaccines” have not been proven to prevent transmission and there have been thousands of so-called “breakthrough cases.” In “Are vaccines driving the surge in new Covid infections?” Marco Cáceres points out that “In the UK, Israel, Chile and other countries with high vaccination rates, Covid infections among the fully vaccinated are outpacing those in the unvaccinated….” Israel’s Channel 13 has reported that in the Herzog Medical Center in Jerusalem the overwhelming majority of hospitalized Covid patients are fully vaccinated. Perhaps we can take delight in knowing what the vaccines have been proven to do: inflict staggering amounts of pain and suffering.

It is likely that FDA, CDC, and NIH have known for quite some time about the efficacy of Hydroxychloroquine, as an article about SARS-CoV-1 appeared in Virology Journal titled “Chloroquine is a potent inhibitor of SARS coronavirus infection and spread,” and was published in 2005. Of course, when science gets in the way of profit-making, one can always publish fraudulent papers which later have to be retracted. As Dr. Peter McCullough has repeatedly emphasized, the public health agencies instructed doctors to send patients home without treatment when they were sick with Covid, as opposed to establishing protocols for how to treat patients early and aggressively with drugs that were already FDA approved. How many thousands died as a result of this malfeasance?

The 1976 swine flu vaccine program was terminated after it caused the death of dozens of Americans and gave hundreds of Americans Guillain-Barré syndrome. Data on the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) indicate that there have been thousands of Covid vaccine deaths in the US, and yet the authorities continue with this unprecedented push to get the entire planet vaccinated. It is important to note that VAERS is notoriously dysfunctional and captures only 1% to 10% of the actual data. Interestingly, the CDC recently decided to slash the VAERS death toll for Covid vaccines from 13,068 to 6,018 citing “foreign reports.”

Distinguished scientists and physicians such as Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, Dr. Ryan Cole, Dr. Sucharit BhakdiDr. Harvey RischDr. Mike YeadonDr. Roger HodkinsonDr. Tess Lawrie, and doctors Stephanie Seneff and Greg Nigh have expressed concern over the growing number of mRNA vaccine adverse events and the lack of long-term safety data. The cultlike notion that one must submit to the collective through masking and vaccination is antithetical to the principle of bodily autonomy and mirrors the sophistry used to defend female genital mutilation. It is also scientific hogwash, for if the vaccine confers immunity what difference does it make if one’s friends, colleagues, and neighbors are vaccinated or unvaccinated?

Branch Covidian dogma mirrors the Nazi medical ethos, which maintained that any medical atrocity can be justified if done for the “greater good.” For instance, if an SS doctor were to place a Russian prisoner of war in a tub of ice water, monitor his vital signs and note how long it took for him to die, and then autopsy the body, all in an attempt to glean information that could ostensibly be used to aid German pilots and sailors, this would be justified by the medical community of the Third Reich as acceptable and executed within their medical guidelines. In this same vein, Branch Covidians would argue that the catastrophic impact of the lockdowns, the growing numbers of Covid vaccine deaths and injuries, and the deleterious consequences of the mask mandates are justified, as these measures represent inevitable collateral damage integral to “flattening the curve” and “preventing emergency rooms from being overwhelmed.” (A remarkable case of sophistry, particularly when one considers the fact that Ivermectin can be used prophylactically). According to Children’s Health Defense, “Nearly 67 million [Americans] lost work between Mar. 21 and Oct. 7, 2020.” And this, for a virus which is treatable and has a 99.7% survival rate! As the public health agencies of FDA, CDC, NIH, and NIAID (which should really be called corporate health agencies) have long fallen victim to regulatory capture, they have no incentive to impose stringent safety guidelines.

In England, more minors have been lost to suicide than to “the coronavirus,” while thousands of American children have suffered serious adverse events from the experimental inoculations (see herehere, here, here and here), even as their risk of dying from Covid is almost statistically zero. Clearly, the Nuremberg Code is being egregiously violated, as EUA biologicals are by definition experimental. Bemoaning this deterioration of bioethical norms, one of the inventors of mRNA technology, Robert Malone, MD, writes in TrialSite News that “The Geneva Convention, the Helsinki declaration, and the entire structure which supports ethical human subjects research requires that research subjects be fully informed of risks and must consent to participation without coercion.”

When a powerful pharmaceutical company is impatient to unleash a blockbuster drug they are invariably indifferent to safety, necessity, and efficacy. This apathetic attitude towards basic principles of medical ethics has been glaringly on display with regard to the overprescribing of benzodiazepines, the Vioxx disaster, the opioid epidemic, the psychotropic drug epidemic, anthrax vaccine (also an EUA), Gardasil vaccine, the 2009 Pandemrix vaccine for H1N1, and fen-phen, drugs and vaccines which have destroyed countless lives and some of which are still on the market. Bear in mind that the medical institutions that are responsible for these drug regulatory catastrophes – some of the worst in human history – are “the experts.”

College students are generally kept in the dark about the many illegal wars of aggression, both covert and overt, that have been perpetrated by the CIA and the Pentagon. This is even more common with the indoctrination of military academy cadets and political science majors. Likewise, most medical graduates know nothing about the history of the pharmaceutical industry, rendering them incapable of placing contemporary events in their appropriate historical context. This intellectual amnesia explains how we ended up with an army of doctors that will happily hand out opioids, psychotropic drugs, benzodiazepines, and Covid vaccines as if they were gummy bears. Those among us that can no longer distinguish between real medical care, rooted in informed consent, the oath to do no harm, and medical scientific integrity, and Nazi medical care, where the powers of modern medicine are weaponized and used to enslave, debase, and violate have lost their humanity.

Parents are consistently told by pediatricians that every vaccine is “safe and effective” and that no risk-benefit analysis is needed. As the ghosts of history emerge from the shadows, these claims ring hollow. Granted, this may be true with regard to certain immunizations, but the dramatic surge in the number of mandatory vaccines on the CDC schedule, combined with the treasonous behavior of the public health agencies, and the broad immunity granted for the vaccine manufacturers, has brought us to a precipice from which we are staring at an abyss of tyranny. Indeed, the Church of Vaccinology isn’t interested in public health. They are interested in money and power.

The notion of vaccine inviolability is laid to rest in Dr. Richard Moskowitz’s masterpiece Vaccines: A Reappraisal. Concluding chapter 9, he writes:

Population-based surveys have shown a linear, directly proportional relationship between the number of vaccinations administered in the first year of life and the infant mortality rate, as well as the rate of hospitalizations and emergency room visits during the same period. Other surveys have shown that children vaccinated according to the CDC schedule exhibit higher rates of asthma and other childhood diseases and generally have poorer health than those who were ‘undervaccinated,’ while those children who were never vaccinated at all seemed by far the healthiest in a number of typical parameters.

As discussed in The Virus and the Vaccine, by Debbie Bookchin and Jim Schumacher, millions of Americans were given polio vaccines tainted with the monkey virus SV40, a contaminant initially dismissed as incidental by our public health agencies, but which was later shown to be oncogenic. There is also the unresolved yet compelling hypothesis of Edward Hooper, laid out in his tome The River, where he argues that the HIV pandemic began when the CHAT oral polio vaccine was deployed in the Belgian Congo, an apartheid state, and that chimpanzee kidneys contaminated with SIV, the cousin to HIV, were used in this process, meaning that the origins of HIV would be iatrogenic. Nevertheless, we mustn’t listen to heathens like Hooper who “spread misinformation,” are likely working for the Russians, and are possibly even terrorists.

The totalitarian mentality of the medical establishment is evidenced not only by their lack of humanism and compassion, but by their disdain for checks and balances. Consider the bizarre language on the CDC’s website, where they repeatedly speak of “orders” that they allegedly have the authority to hand down. And who, pray tell, do they take “orders” from? As Senator Ronald Johnson pointed out in his discussion with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. in affiliation with Children’s Health Defense, the government’s response to SARS-CoV-2 has been marked by a dangerous censorship and a growing antipathy towards openness and debate.

The term “anti-vaxxer” is designed to disparage and denigrate those who reject biofascism. In actuality, these people are “pro-informed-consenters.” (Were those who expressed outrage over thalidomide-induced teratogenesis “anti-drug?”) They also resent the fact that the drug companies cannot be sued should their vaccines inflict long-lasting harm, which has been the case in the US since the passage of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, a dastardly piece of legislation which gave the drug companies permission to use children as laboratory ferrets. Furthermore, the drug companies have liability protection for any adverse event caused by a Covid vaccine under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP), providing the pharmaceutical industry with multiple layers of immunity. The drug companies were afforded no liability protection for opioids and Vioxx, yet when it comes to vaccines where they are indemnified “they suddenly find Jesus,” as Robert Kennedy Jr. is fond of saying.

For decades, informed consent has been under a sustained and ruthless assault. From threatening to call Child Protective Services should parents not want their children on psychotropic drugs, to failing to communicate the dangers of opioids and benzodiazepines, to practice pelvic exams performed on anesthetized patients by trainees, to the imposition of unwanted observers during physician office visits, to the violation of do-not-resuscitate orders, to the nondisclosure of long-term chemotherapy side effects, to the growing list of mandatory vaccines of dubious safety and efficacy, informed consent is being systematically and methodically dismantled. The mask mandates, lockdowns, and the relentless pressure to participate in a dangerous medical experiment are merely a perpetuation of this barbarism. Moreover, masks and vaccines are inextricably linked, for if a restaurant, bar, library, museum, school, or workplace has the power to deny you entry due to being unmasked then they will have the power to deny you entry should you be unvaccinated (an unfolding reality in New York City), as a critical precedent for medical martial law has been established.

As pediatrician and pulmonologist Sterling Simpson, MD, pointed out in his interview with The Last American Vagabond, the majority of masks people are using are not FDA approved, which underscores the fact that they do not constitute a real medical device. In other words, the risks, such as extreme isolation, sensory deprivation, mass hysteria, traumatized children (some of whom are showing signs of cognitive impairment), and people becoming acidotic, can easily outweigh the benefits. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is likewise not FDA approved. McBride and Locricchio write for The Defender:

All COVID vaccines, COVID PCR and antigen tests, and masks are merely EUA-authorized, not approved or licensed, by the federal government. Long-term safety and efficacy have not been proven.

EUA products are by definition experimental, which requires people be given the right to refuse them. Under the Nuremberg Code, the foundation of ethical medicine, no one may be coerced to participate in a medical experiment. Consent of the individual is ‘absolutely essential.’

To underscore the dangers of rushing a vaccine to market in under a year, it took Sanofi Pasteur twenty years to create the dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia, which ultimately led to antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE), a phenomenon whereby vaccination inadvertently facilitates viral replication. The formalin-inactivated (FI) Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) vaccine used in the 1960s is another example of ADE. Dr. Malone and Doctors for COVID Ethics have warned that this very scenario could unfold with the mRNA vaccines. (A new vaccine for RSV is expected to be extremely profitable and pharmaceutical companies are presently jockeying for position). Perhaps it is those who are responsible for pushing inadequately tested vaccines that are responsible for “spreading misinformation” and “stoking vaccine hesitancy.”

If a government can force you to take an experimental drug, what will prevent them from forcing you to have exploratory brain surgery, a tracheotomy, or gender reassignment surgery? The Nazification of American medicine is magnified tenfold in the public schools, where sorcery has usurped science and the three death cults are bludgeoning minds, bodies, and spirits, and doing so in an environment of brutality and unmitigated lawlessness.

The interminable fearmongering about all the different variants is simply a more rabid and maniacal version of what precipitated the 1976 swine flu, 2003 smallpox, and 2009 H1N1 vaccination programs. Keep that in mind the next time you’re told to “follow the science.” Another preposterous canard being parroted by the media is that naturally acquired immunity is somehow inadequate and pales in comparison with vaccine-induced immunity. As Dr. Charles Hoffe has pointed out, patients that have immunity for SARS-CoV-1 have immunity for SARS-CoV-2, despite the fact that there is a 20% difference between these two viruses, while the different Covid variants have less than a 1% difference between them.

Can any amount of money restore fulfillment and tranquility to a perfidious soul? Let us reflect on the words of Imogen in Shakespeare’s Cymbeline:

Thus may poor fools
Believe false teachers: though those that are betray’d
Do feel the treason sharply, yet the traitor
Stands in worse case of woe. (III.iv.)

A collection of clowns, witch hunters, Eichmanns, and snickering snake oil salesmen, the Branch Covidians, together with the Church of Vaccinology and the Cult of Psychiatry, are hammering away at two of the most vital, indispensable, and irreplaceable pillars of democracy: informed consent and the First Amendment.

As relationships crumble and the pressure to succumb to the primordial darkness grows, the chasm inexorably widens between the moral and the amoral, the sentient and the nonsentient, the wise and the wicked. Should the citadel of liberty fall to the hordes of Faucism, we will descend into a long and terrible night before our descendants reclaim its resurrection.

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When Questioning Popular Opinion is Prohibited

Once upon a time a new class of people emerged. They were scholars and elitists, ‘special people,’ well ensconced in academia, politics, economics and military intelligence. They righteously demanded eradication of current norms and established ways of being. They insisted that prevailing antiquated inferior practices be replaced with new better ways of living. This required a purging of the old system by any means necessary. Accordingly, those who dissented were either re-indoctrinated, thrown in jail, exiled to other lands or done away with.

These notable visionaries pontificated a whole new outlook on life. Society will prosper! The masses will flourish! There will be no class! We are one!

Eventually, with reluctance or zeal everyone got on board with all the life affirming rhetoric. Well, except for those few unsavory stragglers who were always throwing in a wrench by daring to question the ruling thought system. To adequately manage these problematic skeptics a committee of the purest of the pure, the moral gatekeepers if you will, devised a game plan.

Appealing to the collective quest for power and belonging, the committee ventured forth with teasing out who was aligned and who deviated from partisan loyalty. Some good old fashioned spying would do the trick! Most important, they had to concoct a strategy to nullify those pesky beliefs that sullied right thinking.

To diminish ideological impurities the committee established an auxiliary sub-committee. In charge of assembling and broadcasting interesting and distracting stuff that would encourage agreement amongst the multitudes, the sub-committee culled and re-culled all sorts of stories! With unified intent they agreed that by playing to the collective instinctual need for tribal belonging and highlighting the ethos of upward mobility while simultaneously igniting fear, all-encompassing compliance would be ensured.

Harking back to unconscious reminders of the ‘primal horde’ and raising hopes and fears, proved to be a revolutionary form of thought control. The committee and sub-committee were very pleased. The campaign was so persuasive that without a hitch, it incited the common folk to evince an onslaught of aggression towards those who persisted in thinking for themselves. In fact, it was recognized as their moral and civic duty!

Indeed, this ‘us versus them’ strategy worked beautifully, but there was still more to be done to guarantee complacency. To offset the irritating concerns with the recent unavoidable interruption of economic activity, needs had to be gratified. Hence, with the sanction of Executive Order everyone in the land received monetary incentives. These social safety nets allowed folks to stay home, insulated from the dangers in the world while being entertained in the comfort of their living rooms!

Naturally just in case, a contingency plan was devised.

“Should all else fail,” the committee members concurred, “we will simply raise taxes or go to war to pillage the resources of some unsuspecting nation… for the purpose of humanitarian intervention of course!”

Hence, with the populace sufficiently dutiful and distracted, the rulers in charge got to the important work of brainstorming and changing the world.

Of course, this Kafkaesque allegory is a simplified account of historical trends. It is a repetitive reality that all forms of government irrespective of ideology, are ultimately reducible to the rule of a few global elitists. Likewise, the mass dissemination of a collectively revered ideology accompanied by the manipulation of information has always been standard procedure whenever power has been transferred from one elite class to another.

For instance, when we examine the French revolution, and the Bolshevik’s Russian revolution it’s clear how goals of reform formulated by select elites, drove the movements. These elitist intellectuals introduced a new doctrine that appealed to the people and catalyzed rebellion against the monarchy and the aristocracy.

Revisiting the onset of the French Revolution (1789), reveals the emergence of a new class which had great wealth but no political power. This new class wanted wealth and power, but the monarch class (royalty) refused to share power because of the historic notion that it was their inherent Divine right to rule. This dilemma ignited mutiny.

The monarchy was brought down and a new ruling class known as the Bourgeoisie (middle class) was established. We see a similar trajectory (1917) during the first World War when the Russian Monarch was also brought down by the elite class known as the Bolsheviks.

In both revolutions the violent seizure of power required the support, or at the very least the compliance of the citizenry. Naturally this meant that the throngs were seduced with proclamations of unbridled freedoms. Eventually however, public opinion was policed and injurious speech became a criminal offense subject to execution. Traitors were to be exposed and annihilated.

Accordingly, the Reign of Terror, under the leadership of Maximilien Robespierre, achieved their political goals through executing enemies of the revolution. Euphemistically referred to as the Committee of Public Safety, this powerful war council leveled extreme measures to protect the security of the new regime.

Similarly, the Bolshevik’s Red Terror emulated the Reign of Terror. The removal of state enemies entailed the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of suspected subversives, many who were tortured and executed. Any hint of opposition signified guilt.

Like their predecessors, contemporary elites who possess comparatively greater power and influence within institutions, organizations, and movements engineer decisive political outcomes. In this age of advanced technology, these architects of group indoctrination are members of a powerful superclass. They determine foreign policy, run the government, industry, and the worlds of finance and media. How they mobilize their influence has tremendous bearing not just on the collective mindset, but also on morality.

Charismatic leaders and celebrities are enlisted by these global elitists to promote prescriptive beliefs and agendas. Our susceptibility to aggrandizing and mythologizing of high-ranking people and eminent personalities, who by the way are no more capable than the average person of assuming a political role or declaring scientific expertise, sways us to adapt and conform.

Social psychologist Gustave Le Bon (1895 / The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind) explained how the collective group mind yields to instincts, resulting in a singular mindset. This phenomenon eradicates individual critical thought and makes ‘subordinate’ members of the group malleable to indoctrination and suggestion by powerful leaders.

Sigmund Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays, who achieved acclaim as the “father of public relations” due to his masterful understanding of the psychological workings of propaganda, expanded on Le Bon’s ideas. His writings about how collective collusion with a dominant ideology encapsulated the principle, “if you are not for us, then you must be against us.”

Le Bon and Bernays analysis of the mob mentality is evidenced in the aggressive posturing of political correctness and cancel culture. Through the daily utilization of identification with race, class, gender, religion, nationality and political ideology, special interest groups and the elite corporate media shape the group mind. Carefully crafted campaigns uphold imperialist values, state sponsored violence and incontestable lockdowns.

By championing shaming and cruelty, under the guise of moral superiority, folks submit to the will of the group. This incites boycotts, marred reputations, social ostracism and destroyed livelihoods. In the spirit of moral relativism, it’s all chalked up to ‘the greater good’.

Consequently, we are distracted by what we are instructed to align with, oblivious to the machinations of corporate interests and motives disguised as humanitarian intervention.

Attempts to think for oneself in accordance with a personal moral code, or even factual information is met with an onslaught of aggression.

Still, there will always be those few non-conformists who oppose the ruling thought system. They are the subversives, the whistle-blowers, the conspiracy theorists. (Julian Assange, Martin Luther King, Karen Silkwood, Frank Serpico, Kathryn Bolkovac, Edward Snowden, Gary Webb, Berta Cáceres. The list goes on.) As freedom of expression is restricted to the overriding popular opinion, their controversial views are squelched and the Orwellian corruption of language and thought ensues.

As Edward Snowden endeavored to reveal, the National Security Agency (NSA) in direct violation of the 4th amendment, engages in warrantless surveillance of large volumes of Americans’ phone content and e-mail messages. Agents within the National Security Agency (NSA), have anonymously told the New York Times that the spy agency monitors millions of e-mail communications and telephone calls made by Americans.

This infringement on private communication continues to take on new meaning as government officials are working directly with Facebook to limit the spread of “misinformation.” The escalation of censorship under another name (i.e., managing domestic terrorism and disinformation) appears virtuous. Even while the Biden administration recently moved to shut down the websites of 33 foreign media outlets, it was spun as security protection, not an obvious attack on the 1st amendment.

Nevertheless, being spoon fed questionable narratives through mass deception campaigns dubbed as journalism is nothing new. Instituted in the early 1950s, the Mockingbird Project revealed the CIA’s involvement with major US news media. Through bribing journalists and publishers, propaganda was peddled to the masses. Acclaimed Watergate Reporter Carl Bernstein wrote a piece in 1977 for Rolling Stone magazine, “The CIA and the Media” in which he imparted, that since the early 1950’s the CIA “secretly bankrolled numerous foreign press services, periodicals and newspapers, both English and foreign language which provided excellent cover for CIA operatives.”

Now with six corporations controlling 90 per cent of media outlets in the U.S. (AT&T, CBS, Comcast, Disney, News Corp and Viacom) it’s not a huge surprise that the press has acclimated to the expectations of these corporatized media giants.

In fact, a survey by the Pew Research Center and the Columbia Journalism Review in 2000 found, “Self-censorship is commonplace in the news media today…. About one-quarter of the local and national journalists say they have purposely avoided newsworthy stories, while nearly as many acknowledge they have softened the tone of stories to benefit the interests of their news organizations. Fully four in ten (41%) admit they have engaged in either or both of these practices.”

Capitalizing on survival fears the government sponsored corporatized media bans, persecutes and censors those who deviate from popular opinion. Oppositional views are vilified, in effect muzzling those who question popular narratives. Regrettably many take the bait and participate in random emotionally charged exchanges that culminate in a mob mentality and a snitch culture. Aggressive social norms quickly take hold as hateful communication infiltrates a throng of followers. Competitive rancor and righteous indignation usurps the possibility of rational discourse when group shaming is exalted as a noble feat.

Ironically the proverbial silver lining is that eventually it all self destructs. Elitists and the masses end up fighting amongst themselves, maligning each other for not measuring up to fanatical purity tests.

As Plato conveyed in The Republic, mediocrity is our hubris and our demise. It is what brings down all systems.

Plato also imparted that those who know how to govern, ‘The Philosopher Kings’, are the wise, just elders who through debating and resolving with dialogue and intellect, contribute to mankind’s evolution. They are capable of upholding George Orwell’s interpretation of liberty as “the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

Indeed it is only when we have the freedom to choose and think for oneself that true morality can flourish. Until then forbidden perspectives will continue to go underground. Regrettably, that which could benefit from examination will not only remain hidden, it is destined to quietly foment into backlash and dissent waiting to erupt.

  • First published at Dialogue & Discourse.
  • The post When Questioning Popular Opinion is Prohibited first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    The Rise of the Terminally Online

    Americans, rich or poor, now live in a culture entirely perceived through simulacra-media images and illusions. We live inside a self-referential media hologram of a nation that has not existed for quite some time now. Our national reality is held together by images, the originals of which have been lost or never existed. The well-off with their upscale consumer aesthetic, live inside gated Disneyesque communities with gleaming uninhabited front porches representing some bucolic notion of the Great American home and family. The working class, true to its sports culture aesthetic, is a spectator to politics … politics which are so entirely imagistic as to be holograms of a process that has not existed for decades in America, if ever. Social realism is a television commercial for America, a simulacrum republic of eagles, church spires… and ‘freedom of choice’ between holograms. America’s citizens have been reduced to balkanized consumer units by the corporate state’s culture producing machinery. We are all transfixed on and within the hologram and cannot see one another in the living breathing flesh.

    — Joe Bageant, from a 2005 interview with my late friend, Richard Oxman

    We need to understand that technology is not simply a relation between humans and their natural environment, but more fundamentally a way of organizing global human society.

    — Alf Hornborg, “Technology as Fetish: Marx, Latour, and the Cultural Foundations of Capitalism”, Theory, Culture & Society, vol. 31, no. 4

    Note to readers: This is an impromptu, long overdue, unsolicited, and frankly incomplete second attempt at describing aspects of digital media and “extremely online” culture and ideology. You can read my first essay “Questioning the Extremely Online” by clicking the link. There are conservative, liberal, and leftist variants of the extremely online crowd; what unites them are social media as well as internet and screen addictions, a lack of class analysis, and technological fetishism.

    The Psychology of the Terminally Online

    It is not enough to change the world. That is all we have ever done. That happens even without us. We also have to interpret this change. And precisely in order to change it. So that the world will not go on changing without us. And so that it is not changed in the end into a world without us.

    – Günther Anders, The Obsolescence of Man, Volume II

    There are a few very inconvenient truths about the internet, digital media, and technological “progress” that Western societies have largely failed to account for. They are as follows: the technology and mediums are addictive, alienating, manipulative, exploitative, and violate privacy. Also, the glut of information that the internet and online media stores no longer seems to be able to advance any coherent cultural education or socio-economic framework for change that corresponds to what is necessary to avoid the devastating effects of climate change and various forms of collapse that are on the horizon.

    One of the obvious and pernicious aspects of social media is its addictive and manipulative nature. As we have known for awhile now, social media amplifies negatives news and posts that anger and/or irritate us through algorithms designed to capture and hold our attention. As Silicon Valley guru Jaron Lanier explains in a British TV interview, our social media feeds are designed using behavioral modification techniques to serve an attention economy; where data is sold off to third parties to hook the user on products and/or digital services. This represents a new era for humankind, based on full-scale data accumulation and manipulation of our digital selves, one that Shoshana Zuboff details in her work The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. As Lanier and Zuboff aptly point out, the addictive and manipulative elements inherent to social media leads to degradation of the self and society.

    The nature of time spent on computers and smartphones necessarily involves the lack of use of one’s material body. By atrophying our senses, we no longer question what it “feels like” to be online, allowing the alienating “manipulation engine”, as Lanier puts it, that is social media and web advertising to distort one’s neurobiology: the corporeal biochemical and physiological makeup of each person, and part of what makes an individual unique. Then comes addiction: as Lanier points out in the same interview, the addict is hooked to both the positive and negative aspects of the addiction: in this case the social media addict experiences positive emotions from validation, exposure and pseudo-solidarity and in the best cases deep connections, but also a perverse enjoyment from diving into the swamp of “rancor and abuse” that posting inevitably stirs up. Furthermore, fighting (in this case posting) for a cause becomes an end-in-itself and rationalized as worthy of the time spent: one cannot just give up, as the “sunk costs” of obtaining an outlet, platforms and followers self-justifies the “need” to always be broadcasting one’s unique or even brilliant ideas as well as inane and banal trivia and gossip.

    One main and obvious critique regarding digitally-based sociopolitical manipulation is that people increasingly confuse, if only on subconscious levels, digitally-based “virtual” and “cyber” interaction, friendship, and activism with in-person connections and organizing. Certainly, a great many people fall into this category, as the substitution of virtual life for face-to-face offers a palliative to the endemic depression, anxiety, and host of psychosocial issues caused by the reactionary nature of capitalism and the hollowing out of communal life and civil society. Social media has become the new center of spectacle for post-modern society. As Guy Debord wrote in 1967, “the spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.”

    Capitalism has managed to thrive in our screen-driven world, even with the forces of production being shifted to the developing world, by profiteering off humanities’ sharing/cooperative communal ties: through harvesting personal data, then using targeted advertising to get users to buy and thus hook them on the platform and its products, and also selling one’s digital profile to third parties. Not only that, but mainstream capitalist ideology has managed to insinuate itself into every corner of the internet, and drive public narratives of events, through a process of regimenting the public on every issue, instantaneously, all the time.

    Still, not many are going to readily admit that they believe most mainstream news sources verbatim, or even that advertising is particularly useful or accurate online. In terms of activism, most people still understand that signing online petitions has very little impact compared to in the street protest movements. Many people can see through the “bad faith” inherent to social media. Even taking into account the addictive nature of the medium and the resulting physiological manipulation that social media use causes, on both the conscious and subconscious levels, this still does not explain the immense forces behind internet and social media addiction and its hegemonic position within the cultural landscape.

    What is taking place is quite broader in scope than a “substitution” of communal face-to-face activism and social connection with virtual, internet-based networks. While quite a lot of people fall into the first category above, as somehow ignorant and oblivious to the alienating and exclusionary nature of social media, there is another large group that needs analysis: the ruling class “winners” of social media, those with large platforms and significant followings, as well as those among the “extremely online” who engage in non-stop socio-economic and political commentary.

    The Disintegration of the Digital Commons

    On the floors of Tokyo
    down in London town’s a go go,
    with the record selection,
    And the mirror’s reflection,
    I’m dancin’ with myself

    — Billy Idol, “Dancing with Myself”

    This second group — one that explicitly acknowledges the inequalities and injustices baked into digital media — may indeed have more education and wealth, and some of whom even readily understand what has been lost; yet still view the new world of social media and digital engagement as the only game in town, and therefore the only way to gain new adherents/followers, or in the case of the extremely online left and right, political power.

    Sadly, many on the left appear to be resigned to LARPing: playing an online game where they do not make the rules, do not have any leverage, power, or any money for that matter, and cannot possibly win. There is not any significant need for liberal/left journalists providing day-to-day “hot take” commentary, using platforms and influencer methods to gain followers and viewership, if the goal in mind is revolutionary change and/or attaining political power. If the goal in mind is likes, shares, streams of revenue, and even new forms of social capital, then the actions of these users makes more sense. What is needed is organizing skills and the ability to bridge gaps between classes and cultures in order to activate a working class base, and that is sorely lacking.

    The terminally online in this second category can perceive that notions like the community, a social contract, and democratic consensus based on a shared culture of trust and reciprocity have been demolished in the Western world. They mostly fall into liberal-left/progressive camps but there are certainly conservative and even isolationist/anti-war libertarian variants. The common thread is that even with the implicit acknowledgment that “local community” and even face-to-face interaction is waning (especially in light of the technocratic and authoritarian reaction to the pandemic) the urge remains to put internet technology to work for the good of their own brands and content promotion.

    So a new digital hierarchy of opinion and commentary is becoming entrenched, and has been for over a decade now, controlled by the ruling class and its mainstream media mouthpieces with the ability to censor and shadow-ban dissenting voices. The significant followings of online political commentators have created its own monopoly on user engagement and viewership — whether through a Google search, Youtube stream, or social media account, the masses are herded to the opinions of the same tiny group of influencers by the invisible algorithm. It was always easy to discredit a cable news commentator as biased and untrustworthy, but now the personalized feeds of social media give a new sheen of legitimacy and respectability — even if digital commentators with large viewerships are simply parroting mainstream lies and distortions (which they mostly do).

    A related issue that has come to the fore is that the virtual nature of online “work” and digital influencing models simply mimic the wider mainstream capitalist model of capturing attention; through clicks, “likes”, advertising, and hawking merchandise. This certainly doesn’t take away from the valuable educational and activist networks that are coerced into adopting these models, but simply to point out that the most facile, vapid, compromised, lowest-common-denominator political analysis and trends will float to the surface, and become the most popular, in this environment. It’s no surprise, then, that the serious alternative media on the left has been taking a beating from Google’s adjustment of search algorithms, social media censorship, “shadow-banning” and “throttling” on platforms, as well as being ignored as usual by the mainstream.

    Of course, just taking a wider lens of how most of the non plugged-in world and the poor (in the West and worldwide) views the often bitter, internecine factionalism and sometimes irrelevant controversies within social media would be helpful. When the usual posturing, identity politic culture wars, and cos-playing in online turf squabbles are put ahead of the material needs of the people, open-minded individuals who could be potential allies and comrades check out of the milieu and view socialism as an arcane subculture. Within the maelstrom of fighting for more reach, subscribers, and content promotion, nothing becomes more relatable in a narcissistic culture than endlessly talking about oneself.

    This debased charade of public discourse has been allowed to fester, with basically no resistance, precisely because it suits late-stage capitalism — not only is the profit motive of targeted advertisement too lucrative, but the mechanisms of social control and surveillance too tantalizing, as it enters an era of semi-controlled collapse and corporate consolidation of the entire planet. There are alternate “post-truth” realities (Q-Anon, Russiagate), bubbles of echo-chamber subcultures preaching to the choir, the labeling of any ideas contrary to mainstream media as conspiracy theory (a term invented by the CIA to discredit anyone questioning the official story of the JFK assassination), ego-trippers taking pot-shots and “dunking” on those less knowledgeable, and sections of an overzealous cancel culture which all contribute to dividing, disempowering, and disincentivizing a populace from understanding how the dominant mode of production on the planet, capitalism, is holding the world hostage for the sake of short-term monetary profit.

    The privileges of the extremely online (coming from mainly middle class backgrounds) create insular echo-chambers which keeps them sheltered from the realities of daily labor; it also alienates working class people who might otherwise be attracted to anti-capitalist thinking. The lack of blue-collar life experience and organizing skills from the self-proclaimed “leaders” in online discourse face problems relating to the cultural and aesthetic styles of the working classes, in terms of social capital, personal affect, to how theories and obscure references are flaunted, as well as artistic taste.

    Connected with this notion are a perceived lack of authenticity and dedication; in this context, it is understandable how it is hard to take successful bloggers, podcasters, journalists, and even academics seriously because many do come from more privileged backgrounds, with all of the blind spots of class that this usually entails. This would not be as much of problem if the nexus of the extremely online was not nearly always targeting content towards their own white-collar milieu and focusing on fringe aesthetic pretensions and/or nice forms of cultural capital: instead, if the animus was focused against the ruling classes consistently, the snarky and cringe-worthy cultural signaling, non-stop commentary careerism, and thin gruel of cosmopolitan affects could be dropped.

    Since much of the terminally/extremely online is middle class, they invariably come off as out-of-touch at best; dilettante, effete, or “soft” to put it politely: some re-create bubbles of professional class affluence and gate-keeping hierarchy online; others mimic the non-profit bureaucracy and the pseudo-organizing principles of white-collar NGOs; and more ape serious civic groups, community organizations, subversive ideology, serious strategies of resistance and protest, all the while staying within the confines of their self-imposed defanged and declawed liberal “progressivism”.

    The Memeification of Society

    The spectacle is the moment when the commodity has attained the total occupation of social life. Not only is the relation to the commodity visible but it is all one sees: the world one sees is its world.

    — Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle

    It would be remiss if we did not mention one of the dominant forms of expression on social media: the meme. The function of the meme: a pictogram, is telling insofar as it reminds us that people not only do not want to read anymore, but also often don’t have time to invest in watching a short video, essay or novel, or even examine worthy works of art, either. Memes have become a form of postmodern hieroglyphs for screen-addicted Westerners. The meme acts as a floating signifier par excellence; when there is very little common ground or shared reality inherent in the online world, users (netizens is one cute name scholars like to use) pass along memes and interpret them to fit into prefabricated narratives and beliefs.

    Not only that, certain extremely online media “poison the well” of nuanced online discourse by using the same generic tropes and stereotypical styles borrowed from memes and mass culture, and endlessly regurgitating one-dimensional thinking. Posters then inevitably adopt the same styles of humor from memes, and appear in the form of pre-packaged personalities: there’s the preening virtue signaler; the petit bourgeois influencers hawking a channel, brand, or merchandise; the bipartisan shrieking about the perils of socialism; the self-deprecating very earnest posters with endless commentary; the low-key spiritualist humble-bragger; the perpetual oversharer; the haranguing trolls and snarky “edgelords” who get off on other’s misery; the cantankerous self-appointed ideology police who admonish everyone who deviates from their purity politics; and many other prefabricated templates of virtual personality types to follow and waste one’s time “engaging” with.

    “Posting wars” have taken the mantle from the culture wars that began heating up in the early 2000s: everyone can engage in their own lame version of liberal, conservative, or radical punditry; everyone can be their own asinine Jon Stewart, Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, Bob Avakian — whatever skin one wants to try on for the day; parroting the same tired tropes, shuffling through the never-ending news cycle, applying embarrassingly childish levels of critique, and usually stoking nationalistic fervor on all sides. Through algorithms that amplify the most simplistic, most milquetoast, most authoritarian, and frankly the most enraging and ignorant voices, social media performs a key element of social engineering and low-level psychological warfare: it keeps the population in perpetual angst, disorientation, and even fear; just off-kilter enough to be swayed by authoritarian demagogues, and just desperate and delusional enough to be assuaged by the liberal “resistance” that “democracy” will be restored soon.

    This is just more Hollywood: we can find the same types of styles of media personalities, the same shows and movies promoting US foreign policy, the same jokes and narratives online as in mass consumer culture. Even if the “content” is likeable, or wholesome, or whatever, we often find the same tedious set-ups, the same formulaic variations to get to the punchline, the exact same references online that one might see in a lame superhero movie.

    Again, there certainly is worthwhile work and even political education being done within online culture, but some of the problems with posting are the inexorable rise of the hyperreal blurring of truth and illusion, the layers of shellacking with ironic distance to make things “funny” or acceptable to an audience. Much like the sadistic overseer at one’s job who confuses “being the boss” with having a personality, the new cadres of the extremely online misunderstand that simply having an online presence, significant following in terms of numbers, or a media platform does not confer experience, brilliance, uniqueness, the ability to lead or be a role model about, well, anything. Much like politicians and modern celebrities (who are increasingly becoming the same thing), the extremely online are simply popular for being popular.

    Through the Cyborg Looking Glass

    It’s not an experience if they can’t bring someone along
    They hang on emotions they bottle inside
    They peck at the ground
    And strut out of stride

    — Phish, “Birds of a Feather”

    Another issue that establishment commentators cannot seem to wrap their heads around is the liberal-dominated kitsch and camp social media behavior, attitudes, and posts that appeal to specific subcultures and make things go “viral” within small communities, but face the same echo-chamber issue when confronted with going beyond the “target audience”. By pandering towards in-groups, many internet-savvy influencers (even socialist and radical-minded ones) unconsciously adopt the same tactics as PR and marketing firms relying on focus groups to target audiences. Developing a following now consists of who can shout the loudest, report the fastest, and spurt out the most ridiculous and sensationalist click-bait. In other words, socio-economic control no longer simply functions with capitalist monopolization of the means of production — as many astute observers have pointed out, non-waged labor, leisure time, biopower, and cultural reproduction now are absorbed into the nascent “new world order” of global capitalism; which is in turn reshaping human consciousness in totally unforeseen ways.

    Apparently variations of the above happens among leftists quite often on social media: the retweet/sharing of another’s post followed/captioned by a snappy or poignant comment to provide context, an added emphasis,  an angry denunciation and disavowal of the concept, or a gentle nudge to offer clarity. Certainly this is necessary in some cases, but the idea of becoming each other’s constant 24/7 news aggregators, soundboards, and amplifiers…in order to accomplish what exactly? Is there an unconscious desire to carry on with this quasi-forced show, which is obviously coercive due to social pressures, in order to meet the perceived need to regularly signal one’s beliefs and develop monetization models?

    Another way of framing the question is to what extent are the flurry of posts about daily “news” and critiques of current events required, and to what extent do individuals yearn for and crave the never-ending spectacle of discourse to feed egos, get a dopamine rush, and/or gain popularity? To what extent is the drive to secure social capital an excuse to develop a liberal-left version of having “credentials”, and to what extent are those involved softening the edges of critiques, compromising values, and slowly becoming assimilated into a virtual world where technological power is worshipped and fetishized? Is there an engaged and dedicated minority of revolutionaries ready, willing, and able to storm the barricades physically, or do our online connections consist of a simulacra of ally-ship, and represent the dying embers of a burnt-out husk of a public sphere masquerading as serious discourse?

    Putting aside the ignorance and vitriol all over the web for a minute, and there’s plenty of that, what comes to the fore is the quite boring and tedious background to online discourse. Not only is it incredibly lonely, nearly everyone is in some important sense going through the motions, performing in service of whatever fad or niche subculture, instantly sucked into commentary on any media narrative and scratching the itch; in this environment, political commentary in the West resembles sports news, or movie reviews, or fashion advertising; a running conversation on trendy, stupefying, salacious current events where no serious response to the power structure or the money system is offered. Not only are we faced with online/digital ennui, but internet commentary has become downright predictable- running the gamut from “influencers” who are demagogic authoritarians, to establishment types pandering to centrist neoliberal notions of “bipartisanship”, to libertarian pseudo-spiritual grifters, to tech moguls and celebrities incessantly reminding us “we’re all in this together”.  Pretty soon we will have algorithms and AI writing TV and movie dialogue as well as political news, if it’s not already happening, in order to gauge and profiteer off of what machine learning tells us is “fun” and “likeable” to the public.

    The common thread is that high technology will somehow save us and make the world a more interesting and enjoyable place, which is a technophilic worldview: only the vast arrays of screens, robots, AI, internet of things, smart-grids, ever-watching and listening surveillance, and multinational corporations can solve the problems they themselves have created. No one stops to think — and this is another part of the equation, the lack of free time in the always-online world — maybe, just maybe, modern technology is diverting us from coming together, forming community-level mutual aid groups, organizing the working class, protecting the environment, and many other deadly serious issues.

    As for the reasons why we keep diving head-first into the toxic stew of social media, here’s a quote from one Jay Hathaway at the Daily Dot to ponder over:

    Why do we continue to lap at this useless, mean trickle of garbage juice? Even worse, why do we seek out more of it? Is it because we hate ourselves? Quite possibly, yes. Is it because we’re lonely, and we’re hooked on this simulacrum of human connection even as it makes us less relatable to the real people around us? There’s definitely some of that… At some point, you have to admit that you’re Extremely Online because you want to be. Or because you once wanted to be, and now it’s part of your identity. Who would you be if you weren’t Extremely Online?

    We’re all liable to badger on about whatever pet issue we stand up for, and sometimes rightfully so; but the majority don’t really want to take action or even think through the implications of what would be needed to change our cultural momentum or our personal inertias. This is because, through the money system and the vagaries of an extreme social hierarchy, mainstream liberals and conservatives have become so beaten down that they adopt fatalistic and nihilistic mentality. Part of the reason they despise each other so much is that they recognize so much of themselves in each other. On varying levels of cognition they despise themselves. Being told their entire lives that more money and technology will bring more happiness and progress, and yet not being able to partake in any tangible culturally enriching activities or soul-expanding journeys, many become schizoid.

    Social media and the denizens of the extremely online compound this problem. The loudest, meanest, crudest of the bunch are amplified in our social media feeds by algorithms designed to capture our attention, most obviously for ad revenue. Of course this is how the game got started in Silicon Valley, so we are ostensibly told that this whole racket is all about the money, no other nefarious “agendas”. Unfortunately the extremely online liberal and soft-left has swallowed this hook, line, and sinker that the only motive driving these companies is profit.

    Yet, Facebook and Google are known to have taken start-up money from In-Q-Tel, a CIA created venture capital firm, and intelligence agencies are known to use backdoors through every browser, operating system, social media app, etc. Further, just thinking through what an “attention economy” and Shoshana Zuboff’s notion of “surveillance capitalism” really entails brings up rather unpleasant truths. One of which is that the national security state is monitoring the web at large not to play “defense” but to actively plant and stir up counterrevolutionary ideology not only in the mainstream but in the furthest recesses of online discourse. In short, there are now intelligence operators whose job is to act as an online COINTELPRO.

    Beyond that, the full-scale push for more time spent in online communities as well as the wide availability of broadband internet connected to nascent “digital identity” technologies in the developing world will only allow for the wider use of cyber-based, psychological warfare, propaganda, and counterinsurgency techniques. Even pushing further, establishment narratives and media stories can be amplified through algorithms that favor “trusted sources”. The fact is that the public is not aware of the full capabilities of the national security state, and that social media can operate to create the same sorts of conditions that the CIA program “Operation Mockingbird” used to bribe journalists and editors into printing mainstream-favored news over dissident opinions.

    We’ve already seen Facebook manipulate individuals media feeds as a social experiment to see if it would provoke more positive and negative emotions, and it worked as they readily admit. If, in previous generations mass propaganda worked through the model of “manufacturing consent”, today we are faced with perhaps an even more intractable situation: the normalization of consent and the amnestic erasure of the social, erosion of community, and destruction of a slower type of deliberative discourse, and of history. The regiments of mainstream liberalism and co-opted progressives are stirred into action to promote the interests of the status quo. Take two glaring recent examples from the US and the UK: Bernie Sanders’ supposed misogyny and Jeremy Corbyn’s so-called anti-Semitism.

    Driven by an absurd, relentless media narrative, both messages were amplified and both candidates tarred and feathered in public because of an inane social media discourse. 2016 may have been the year that Twitter became relevant for national politics because of Trump; four years later, things have gotten even more absurd. To cite just one example in the 2020 election race, Elizabeth Warren became incensed about Bernie Sanders’ supporters being mean to her online- this become somehow debate-worthy and relevant enough to provoke national discussion. So not only has mass media become fixated on reactions to bad jokes or distasteful references on Twitter, but it now parrots the same maudlin sentimentality and priggishness as the denizens of the extremely online world.

    Similarly, across the pond Corbyn was smeared over little more than insinuations and hyperbole; again amplified by ridiculous anti-socialist social media influencers, liberal and conservative alike. Then there was the mother of all the liberal delusions and overreactions the past four years: Russiagate. While the mainstream media played the dominant role, social media trolls, bots, and liberal officialdom continued to hammer away at collusion, becoming the mirror image of the nascent conservative post-truth fake news era. Narratives are now almost entirely driven by the profit-motive, money values and celebrity click-bait begin to exclusively dominate discourse, gossip becomes the main focus in a doomed capitalist economy where its leaders can no longer alter its course.

    The fact is that this intentional manipulation of human nature serves the ultra-rich classes through more than their bank accounts. It’s not just about advertising money and profit, and not just about surveillance, or a new form of attention economy. It’s all of that and much more, much darker and dystopian. Social media, the web, and streaming services are the new fuels that run the alienation and atomization engine of our culture. They have become the dominant form of online expression, and through ads, codes, and algorithms have found their way into our collective unconscious. Not only do these pervasive media elements divide those with obvious ideological differences; the intricacies of the algorithms stir up unconscious impulses and polarize those with largely overlapping interests.

    Of course we all know this phenomenon well (the narcissism of small differences) and it predates the internet age, but what is novel here is not its reappearance on a bigger “stage” but its targeted, precise, insidious deployment into our social newsfeeds. Individuals are made to feel the need to keep up with internet flame wars, memes, and obscure references or else the feeling of being “left out” and/or uninformed begins to creep up out the recesses of one’s consciousness. Social isolation and stigmatization for not being able to “keep up with the facts” (Fear of Missing Out-FOMO) and events in our modern world is a very real thing, just as ruthless on social media as the various hierarchies in the corporate world, civic life, and academia, just to name a few instances.

    Further, the lack of being able to have one’s opinion heard or validated online in the maelstrom of discontent it has sown often gives young people, especially those with low self-esteem, the idea that their thoughts and opinions don’t matter and are somehow unworthy of attention. This is compounded for those that, due to propaganda uncritically filtered from others or simply naiveté, believe that the best art, theory, and culture rise virtuously to the top in the great “democratic” marketplace of ideas that the internet and social media has come to represent.

    Unfortunately the trend of the extremely online is to uphold the hegemony of the insulated, college-educated, the mostly liberal but also conservative petit bourgeoisie. Working class leftists and anti-capitalists, and even the very minor celebrities in the international left, will continue to be marginalized, censored, and their work ignored because they do not bear the stamps of officialdom: the Twitter blue check-mark or “verified” Google news.

    All of these trends and addictive technologies converge into a dystopic framework: one that will attempt to enslave humanity in some form of digital prison; one where real-time sensors, AI driven and smart-grid internet hyperconnectivity will be able to drive human behavior on an unprecedented scale. Our “docile bodies” are being reprogrammed and conditioned to accept this, one ad, TV show, one scroll through the feed, one dopamine hit at a time. In order to accomplish this nightmare, the ruling elites need to “data-fy” us by hooking us up — by merging man and machine. Hence, this is why wearable technologies have been marketed so hard: it is not enough for a smartphone or external biosensors to do the job of extracting surplus value from our bodies. The falling rate of profit will eventually force the “data is the new oil” tech oligarchs to police our thoughts, modulate our pleasures and pains, and keep up the façade of a world of obedient workers, even if it means resorting to dystopian totalitarian tactics such as implants, virtual reality gaming systems, cheap or even free housing for those who live where they work, and a host of unforeseen emerging concepts as global civilization continues down the glide path towards oblivion.

    Techno-Feudal Oligarchy

    Bill Gates’ and Paul Allen’s BASIC-MS operating system, which they sold to IBM and ended up dominating the global market for many years, was written in BASIC computer language. This language was developed by professors at Dartmouth in 1964 with funding from the National Science Foundation…The PARC research facility, from which Steve Jobs obtained the basics of the graphic user interface that became the Mac and later all computer interfaces, had several former ARPA researchers working on these display concepts…Facebook’s deferential corporate biographer David Kirkpatrick admits, ‘Something like Facebook was envisioned by engineers who laid the groundwork for the internet. In a 1968 essay by J.C.R. Licklider and Robert W. Taylor, ‘The Computer as Communication Device,’ the two essentially envisioned Facebook’s basic social network. They worked for ARPA… Google itself, considered the most academically inspired of the megacaps, was originally google.stanford.edu, where it was developed through the state and federal tax funding of California and the United States…Page’s first research paper included the note, ‘funded by DARPA’.

    — Rob Larson, Bit Tyrants

    One thing to remember is that Western governments are never going to willingly reign in the monopoly transnational corporations that dominate the internet. The five biggest (Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon) form an internet oligopoly, as Nikos Smyrnaios explains. Through a process of the convergence of IT, web, media, intellectual property rights domination, deregulation of the digital sector, tax avoidance, and a never-ending slush fund from the biggest banks, as well as the “network effect” that herd consumers to a very few web conglomerates, the big five have managed to create basically a private internet cartel, based on inventions and achievements made with public funding, which have been effectively stolen and privatized using intellectual property and patent laws.

    As Rob Larson explains in his book Bit Tyrants, the network effect occurs because the very few big social media networks offer increased connections and usefulness for people as more people flock to the platform. This makes the Big Five and a few other platforms virtual monopolies that can exert leverage; whether through algorithms, censorship, banning, and other opaque measures to destroy competition.

    Naomi Klein pointed out in The Intercept in her piece “Screen New Deal” that the tech oligarchs are prepared to use the pandemic as an excuse to push their business model onto the world. As she writes:

    It’s a future in which our homes are never again exclusively personal spaces but are also, via high-speed digital connectivity, our schools, our doctor’s offices, our gyms, and, if determined by the state, our jails. Of course, for many of us, those same homes were already turning into our never-off workplaces and our primary entertainment venues before the pandemic, and surveillance incarceration ‘in the community’ was already booming. But in the future under hasty construction, all of these trends are poised for a warp-speed acceleration.

    Another glimpse into a high-tech dystopia revealed itself in Toronto, where citizens smartly made an uproar about turning part of the waterfront area known as Quayside into a “smart city” constructed by an innocuous sounding company, Sidewalk Labs. Of course, it turns out that Sidewalk is affiliated with Google, and concerned citizens and privacy advocates shot it down for obvious reasons, such as privacy and surveillance violations which would undoubtedly occur.

    A similar idea has been introduced recently in Nevada, which goes by the innocuous name of the “Innovation Zone”. The Governor has been preparing to allow private corporations to buy land, develop cities, and form private governments, courts, police, and essential services to residents, who would live under private law which would have the same weight as county laws in the state. A company called Blockchains LLC, part of a holding company with very little transparency, has bought a ton of land outside of Reno and is all in on forming a new “smart city” there. This sort of techno-libertarian dystopia is ostensibly being introduced to raise tax revenue and boost economic growth. Yet for a governor to hand over sovereignty to an unaccountable corporation, it begs a number of questions, no? Especially since the company has donated to the Nevada governor, one would think the obvious conflict of interest would be enough to kill the project. Something much larger than the petty corruption of a US governor and the greed and opportunism of a technology company are at play here. As we shall see below, these private-public partnerships and deceitful collaborations are signs from a possible future of total social control and surveillance.

    Online Labor and Value

    If a free market economy plus intellectual property leads to the “underutilization of information”, then an economy based on the full utilization of information cannot tolerate the free market or absolute intellectual property rights. The business models of all our modern digital giants are designed to prevent [access to] the abundance of information.

    – Cryppix, “The End of Capitalism Has Begun”, Blog Post from Medium.com, 2019

    People understand that essential jobs are the only ones who really matter in our economy: food production, construction and housing, keeping store shelves stocked and life-sustaining services running, nurses and surgeons, those kinds of jobs. The rest of the economy falls into the category of what the late David Graeber rightly called “bullshit jobs”. These are jobs that exist solely for the sake of making corporations more profit, and provide no tangible material benefits in terms of food, housing, clothing, making domestic and communal life easier, and even art and culture for humanity.

    White collar jobs (the extremely online included, at least those who benefit considerable or have a career closely related) in the US mainly exist to sell tangential perks and benefits for rich elites and the affluent; whether it’s fancy gadgetry and high technology, or either to reduce their own labor within their households, or to manufacture false consumer needs in the wider populace, or to exploit labor forces domestically and abroad. The modern West increasingly does not physically make or manufacture anything of value. The tech-heavy jobs of the future, as well as the new high technology and extremely online jobs of today, whether it is mainstream jobs in media, journalism, graphic designers, computer coders and software developers, engineering and science in service to the military industrial complex, Ad and PR firms, political consultants, armies of middle managers and think tanks wonks all reinforce and re-circulate narrow-minded and ignorant neoliberal economics and conservative cant about how the US is a shining beacon of freedom and democracy, and not a capitalist-imperialist authoritarian oligarchy bent on world domination and driving the world towards ecological annihilation. This is connected to too much time spent on digital devices. Upper-middle class white collars are “making bank” and have gotten intellectually lazy and morally corrupted by their ill-gotten wealth and they have effectively substituted online life for local community. They decry gentrification and white privilege even as they are the ones pushing minority and working class communities out of desirable inner city areas.

    One of the reasons this happens, whether its liberals or libertarian Silicon Valley acolytes on the coasts or conservative tech-savvy suburbanites in the Midwest and breadbasket of the US, is because the upper-middle class thinks of itself as a meritocracy. What they’ve created of course, is a bougie neo-Victorian aristocracy of wealth, social status, and cultural capital, a “New American Aristocracy” as one Matthew Stewart explained in The Atlantic. What is interesting about Stewart’s piece is that he is at least cognizant of his own position in what he calls the “upper 9.9%”, and how the people and families in this class all slavishly service, idolize, strive towards, and navel-gaze at the top 0.1%. Reading his essay one can feel his consternation, as he acknowledges his complicity:

    But that is not to let the 9.9 percent off the hook. We may not be the ones funding the race-baiting, but we are the ones hoarding the opportunities of daily life. We are the staff that runs the machine that funnels resources from the 90 percent to the 0.1 percent. We’ve been happy to take our cut of the spoils. We’ve looked on with smug disdain as our labors have brought forth a population prone to resentment and ripe for manipulation. We should be prepared to embrace the consequences.

    Of course, as Stewart states, “running the machine” is a euphemism for improving the bottom line, and the only way that’s done today is to make blue-collar people work harder for less money, to deregulate industry, to smash labor rights, and to transfer production offshore to countries using essentially slave labor and indentured servitude. We do not live in a Taylorist-Fordist manufacturing economy anymore and even the ruling elites acknowledge that producing more for the sake of more is insane, as most affluent and upper-middle class people just binge on a steady diet of useless mass-culture goods, cycles through endless perks that the service economy provides, and consumes digitally-based mainstream lowbrow entertainment. Anyone who tells you different is mostly likely either a snake-oil salesperson or a sycophantic brown-noser for the ruling class.

    The white collar professional milieu now functions mainly to create make-work jobs to sop up the millions of university educated indoctrinated into the capitalist world order, who otherwise would find  their fields outsourced just as the working class jobs have been for the past forty-odd years. Elite overproduction does present a problem, insofar as late-stage neoliberalism no longer affords the opportunities for obedient, conforming middle-class workers who feel entitled to a slice of the American pie that in the postwar period was more equitable divided — at least towards white, educated citizens. These educated, professional class individuals ostensibly would prefer a modicum of social democracy, but today instead are bribed with aforementioned bullshit jobs in the corporate world, who are eventually psychically broken down and assimilated into “normal” capitalist relations, become inured to human suffering, and begin to accept the self-fulfilling prophecy of capitalist realism.

    The Normalization of Technocratic Language

    The world is awash in bullshit. Politicians are unconstrained by facts. Science is conducted by press release. Higher education rewards bullshit over analytic thought. Startup culture elevates bullshit to high art. Advertisers wink conspiratorially and invite us to join them in seeing through all the bullshit — and take advantage of our lowered guard to bombard us with bullshit of the second order. The majority of administrative activity, whether in private business or the public sphere, seems to be little more than a sophisticated exercise in the combinatorial reassembly of bullshit.

    – Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West, Callingbullshit.org

    Paeans to productivity and a smarter, more efficient economy while doing nothing to alleviate poverty, homelessness, environmental problems, etc. also reinforces the striving, overachieving, smarmy, centrist white-collar dweebs in the professional classes and political wonks of the world whose smugness and arrogance only increases as they delude themselves into believing they are the winners in a fair meritocracy.

    The milieu of the extremely online crowd are the ones occupying these “bullshit jobs” and whose role it is to filter and mediate who, what, when, where, why, and how issues are framed and discussed in the media. This explains some of the sneering dismissal and resentment from the right about the “coastal liberal elites”: the conservatives understand that media liberals have no real expertise and are not serious thinkers, and they doubly resent them because they see in liberals the same moral relativism and nihilism they see in themselves. This can be made clear when one considers who the modern far-right respects and fears among world leaders more: effete neoliberal elitists who peddle bullshit, such as Obama, Clinton, Macron, and Trudeau; or staunch socialists of the recent past and present like Morales (and now Arce), Lula, Chavez, Castro, etc.

    As for what increases in productivity in material terms even means anymore at work for white-collar jobs in 2020, it’s laughable on its face, as our economy has become so divorced from reality. I’m not even referring to small businesses offering tangible, physical products here, but rather professional class jobs which exist solely to make money for giant corporations, aka more bullshit jobs, without any actual corporeal objects to sell.

    What we do know is that, besides tech and computer workers, the only people who talk about increasing productivity and GDP in glowing terms are sadist executives and managers in soulless corporate America, delusional mainstream economists, Wall Street sociopaths, real estate speculators displacing the poor and gentrifying inner cities, CEOs who rely on slave labor overseas, people who work for pyramid schemes, tech moguls destroying middle class jobs and transmuting them into a precarious gig economy, hedge fund managers who instigate hostile takeovers of companies and lay off loyal employees, military contractors who build more drones and bombs, etc.

    Simply put, only the most craven and bougified people used to talk like this about economic issues, but with the emergence of online culture and the double expansion of the financial and computer-centric sectors of the economy, this sort of Orwellian PR-speak has expanded to the “attention economy” and is becoming normalized, internalized, and disseminated by tech entrepreneurs, the culture industry and Hollywood/web influencers, “lean-in” liberals, and social media-addicted journalists, who then feign responsibility for the type of hyper-fast, work all the time environments and disposable culture and entertainment that they help to cultivate and profit off of.

    Essentially, the denizens of the extremely online normalize liberal, bourgeois ideology by couching their ideas in the “woke”, “hip”, rhetoric of identity politics and neoliberal economics, which they interpret as somehow being “progressive”. They normalize an ever-shrinking political discourse which excludes radical thinkers and promotes an updated, social media-savvy version of Orwellian corporate-speak, which Pierre Bourdieu dubbed as “NewLiberalSpeak” in 2001.

    Screen-Captured Subjectivity: Digital Interpellation and Algorithmic Control

    Hence the exclamation ‘another world is possible’ today seems to be confronted with the riddle, ‘would another digitality be possible?’

    – Jan de Vos, “Fake subjectivities: Interpassivity from (neuro)psychologization to digitalization”, Continental Thought and Theory, Vol 2. Issue 1

    Regardless of the many brilliant complex analysis of social ills, either on social platforms or digital media more broadly, it appears that the web and social media provides a very strong new avenue for what we might term digital interpellation. Users of the web and social media are constantly hailed, as in Althusser’s famous example, and continually modulated and nudged by algorithms to conform to bourgeois ideology, and endlessly diverted by the mass culture industry. Again, this constant feedback loop of being online only gives the ruling classes more power — simply logging into social media and posting does this. Academics have even attempted to calculate the monetary values of posts, retweets, and photos shared online: we are literally making money for tech corporations when we post on social media. The only real option is to stop feeding the beast and boycott these monopolies altogether; finding ways to bring people off these platforms onto non-monetized, secure, non-surveilled services, or at the very least use them sparingly — to instigate revolutions, for example.

    Whereas in Althusser’s example it was the policeman doing the “hailing” in the physical environment, today we have moved to the digital plane: and it’s the thought-police and propagandists peddling mainstream narratives that define the new enemy. Jan de Vos describes this evolution from the Althusserian “discourse of the master”, to the modernist “discourse of the university”, and now we are faced with what I’d call a “discourse of the algorithm.” Power is being displaced onto the micrological level, where absent causes have real life devastating effects. In the internet panopticon, which stretches beyond the confines of spatio-temporal planes into the digital ether, not only do we self-censor what we post and share but also annihilate the processes by which we are able to think critically.

    Not only do we take for granted what we know, but how we know what we know ceases to be a domain of contestation: the economic and power relations of how knowledge is constructed and wielded by the ruling class isn’t questioned, and the ways in which invisible actors and algorithms decide what is “popular” and newsworthy are assumed to be neutral and balanced. Whereas Althusser’s concept stemmed from interpellation as the discourse of the master, clearly now this archetypal ruling class figure has dissolved and seeped into the social body with no central character — we now enter the age of the discourse of the serpent, where algorithms and thus viewpoints on subjects as disparate as “science” or “international relations” which guide “professional” mainstream journalism and polite, acceptable thought which conforms with the demands of capitalism.

    Why are these new forms of control so important and relevant in today’s times? Simply put, the national security state and corporations care very much about what we think, and how we feel. As late capitalism lurches towards semi-controlled collapse and contraction due to its internal contradictions, the old model of the corporate state’s indifference to the masses, the “f*** your feelings” approach, is no longer realistic for the goals of social control, especially after the mass outcries against the travesties of Vietnam and the second Gulf War in Iraq. Modern institutions care very much about our feelings nowadays, and are heavily invested in our collective emotional reactions; not only for monetary reasons, but to gauge policy decisions, for psychosocial mass monitoring of dissent, for biopolitical control of birth and death rates, and to market the imperial national security state to the public, among just a few examples. For instance, we know the CIA and intelligence community has been seeding itself into Silicon Valley and Hollywood for decades now, with shadowy agents literally rewriting movie scripts and tech executives making regular trips to Langley and DC to discuss integration and public-private partnerships.

    The new tools of social control involve not only the hard aspects of indoctrination into nationalism and imperialism, but also the “soft” underbelly of manipulating our emotional states, and programming our tastes to like or at least accept aspects of our society that are crass, barbaric, camp, kitsch, trendy and faddish. The culture industry has evolved over the past fifty years to anticipate and channel public discontent into consumption patterns and “acceptable” resistance. The next stage invariably involves the immaterial realm of molding minds: of pacifying the unrest of the gig economy precariat, service economy workers, and unpaid household domestic laborers; of offering endless streaming services and apps to modulate and condition the populace to accept whatever technological mediated and biosecurity-centered “new normal” is coming, and of substituting “cyberspace” for local, grounded, in-person relations.

    “Cruel Optimism” and “Ugly Feelings”: Affect Theory and Interpassivity in Relation to Digital Media

    As a judgement, however, the gimmick contains an extra layer of intersubjectivity: it is what we say when we, unlike others implicitly evoked or imagined in the same moment, are not buying into what a capitalist device is promising. Robert Pfaller refers to this structure of displacement as a ‘suspended illusion’: beliefs like the superstitious ritual of the sports fan that ‘always belong to others, that are never anyone’s own [beliefs].’

    – Sianne Ngai, Theory of the Gimmick: Aesthetic Judgment and Capitalist Form

    It would be a disservice to understanding the extremely/terminally online without applying the lens of two heavyweights of cultural criticism, Lauren Berlant and Sianne Ngai. Berlant became prominent after her book, Cruel Optimism, managed to thread the needle of accessibility and scholarly erudition: her notion of cruel optimism can be succinctly defined as follows: “when something you desire is actually an obstacle to your own flourishing”. There is hardly a better way to explain the effect of social media today on individual psyches and the body politic. As Berlant aptly points out, her idea is connected to the notion of the “American Dream”: a delusional belief system fraught with contradictions; and one increasingly predicated on insecurity and ever-looming economic precarity. In the context of the digital age, social media use is mostly just another escape and addiction for the growing precariat — we know too much web use is bad for us, a way to pass the time with pop-media pablum and ignore the reality that our lives are being wasted on performing pointless rote work — as internet users learn experientially as the addiction takes hold and spirals.

    The figure of the internet/computer addict and the ambivalence the subject has towards the object; the computer or social media account- simultaneously attracted and repulsed by it- provides a good segue towards understanding the work of Sianne Ngai. As Ngai and Berlant point out, these contradictory reactions towards commodities and media at large in some sense determine what the late Raymond Williams called the “structure of feeling” in late capitalist society.

    Ngai builds on this model through a brilliant examination of cultural affect and “aesthetic categories”. Spanning decades now, her work analyses categories of emotion endemic to late capitalism: the “cute” consumer creature-comforts and the dark side of how cuteness is used to manipulate; the “zany” which can represent, among other things, the precarious hyper-active work environment, emotional labor and super-productive demands of the service economy; and the “interesting”, which can stand in for withholding judgment: here the interesting is an invitation towards a discourse with another; how aesthetic judgment comes from shared understandings and mimesis. Ngai’s varied and textured analysis leaves room to show how political subjects today can enact many categories simultaneously — the “cute” always smiling, ever-happy disposition of the service worker and the emotional labor expended performs alongside the zany ever-increasing demands of a super-fast paced retail store.

    There can be no doubt that alongside social media’s hacking of our neurobiology, the systematic playing off on citizen’s mental states and emotionality represents the new “dark arts” in politics. This is why Berlant and Ngai are so prescient, because they foresaw this decades ago, just as, for example, the novelist Octavia Butler was able to foresee the slogan “Make America Great Again” in 1998.

    Ngai’s most fascinating concept is her notion of “stuplimity” — a combination of shock and boredom — of the sublime with the stupid. Really, there is hardly a more apt word to describe being online today, or on social media. The incessant chatter and news headlines may at the same time excite, titillate, awe, bore, and depress us- again, the blended attractive and repulsive nature of which, like capitalism itself, is ingrained into the structure of our everyday lives.

    In her most recent work, Ngai analyses the nature of the “gimmick”, and strikingly reveals the economic undercurrents of how and why we critique commodities as such. Not only do gimmicks simultaneously entertain and annoy us, they show labor and value are at the core of how we judge and develop tastes for consumer goods as well as art (here is a good interview with Ngai to explain).

    To tie back to modern technology — media outlets, social media, and many overproduced devices (computers, cars) as well as superfluous ones (smartphones, tablets, private jets) well, these are all modern gimmicks of an extractivist capitalist economy. They are not capable of being produced sustainably in the long-term. Not only are these objects not built to last, trendy and faddish in a cultural sense, they are built by supply chains and manufacturing techniques which require mass exploitation, coercion, and environmental degradation. The laptop one uses for create surplus value for one’s employer is still just a softer version of accepting a blood diamond — the “cost of doing business”. Laptops with which rare earth elements are mined by child labor and victims of human trafficking in Africa, manufactured into circuit boards under unsafe and extreme conditions in East Asia, and shipped and sold by precarious laborers in transport, big-box stores and online retailers worldwide. If society is in fact unaffected, indifferent, and ignorant of such things, it does in fact reveal that our aesthetic judgments — our interior worlds of emotions as well as discernment of what constitutes truth, beauty, and various affective states has been hijacked by a culture that is hell-bent on advancing technological progress at all costs — even if it means the collapse of our web of life and the enslavement of humankind.

    As the epigraph for this section points out, Ngai reminds us that the gimmick has a fungible quality — one person’s gimmick is another’s useful, or even adored good — and vice versa. The gimmick can also slip between pretentious and useless to utilitarian and labor-saving: Ngai likes to point out how the Google Glass morphed from a fad that was (appropriately) derided by consumers into a workplace device for hands-free smart-device used in industrial work.

    Ngai’s work on the gimmick can be compared to Robert Pfaller’s (with an assist from the inimitable Slavoj Zizek) notion of interpassivity: the delegation of enjoyment. With social media we delegate positive experiences to the “anonymous other” — when we post, we trick ourselves into believing another is viewing and enjoying our content — even if, in fact, there is no one observing. This faces us with prospects of staging “illusions without a subject”; no one may be watching but we take pleasure in the illusion someone is doing so, in Pfaller’s examples of the TV fanatic who records shows without watching them, or of the academic who photocopies books at a library where no one else is watching. Whereas the gimmick relies on the subject who believes someone is being “duped” into buying a trivial kitsch consumer item with no “value” to most people, while they can see through the gimmick; the interpassive subject may be staging an illusion, but either no one is there to question the motive, or there is a perceived “naïve observer” in the mind of the stager.

    Yet with the delegation of enjoyment, and more broadly, life experiences, are transposed in our age from material consumer goods to the immaterial realm of the internet, what passes as a gimmick becomes even trickier to define. Also, just as endless signifying chains can mutate, fold, or implode upon themselves, interpassive subjects can infinitely delegate, one to the other, feeding memes, art (which now has been degraded into “content”), videos, and journalistic forays through endless cycles. Thus the progression of an economy based on production to one based on reproduction and circulation that we find today in the West, solipsistic and self-generating, with varying degrees of simulation and hyperreality.

    Technological Salvation: The Religion of the Ruling Class

    Left ‘accelerationist’ ideas of a post-work society based on state-supported ‘4th industrial revolution’ development, with a UBI to pacify surplus populations, could well be enabler of, rather than alternative to, large scale capitalist AI development. Ecosocialists might also suggest that the idea that human emancipation is identical with the advance of a high-production, high-technological networked society is precisely what is thrown into question by global heating and other environmental-crises…

    – Nick Dyer-Witheford, “Left Populism and Platform Capitalism”, tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique, Vol. 18 No. 1

    As we have seen above, the profit motive is not the only thing being served by social media. Driven by individualized “feeds”, web and screen-based news/commentary are being unleashed with additional benefits — one of which being that it is an updated model for social cohesion and mass obedience, based on elements of what Gilles Deleuze described as a “Society of Control.”

    As the epigraph to this section suggests, many within progressive and even socialist spaces favor the expansion of modern technology into nearly every aspect of our lives, in order to supposedly make labor easier and alleviate undue suffering. These “left-accelerationist” and “Fully Automated Luxury Communism” (FALC) promoters have a lot of overlap with green capitalist and eco-modernist thought.

    To use clumsy and obscure analogy, just as twenty years ago it was written that “Empire can be read as the Lexus and the Olive Tree of the Far Left”, today we can confidently say that FALC and its promotional grifters can be viewed as the Al Gores, Steward Brands or Alvin Tofflers of the far left. Indeed, in a sense the FALCists continue in the starry-eyed idealist vein, in the sense that the technological salvation the former believe in can be juxtaposed with the supposedly inevitable deterritorializing process of “Empire” for the latter: both presuppose and give preeminence to very Western notions of social change and the role of technology.

    Why is FALC delusional, exactly? In part because the technology required to create these notions of automated communism (never mind full or luxurious) would have huge carbon and environmental footprints. Also, an AI driven 5G and eventually 6G smart grid would make even today’s omnidirectional surveillance states look like child’s play. Compounding these delusions of grandeur is the uneven development between the advanced industrial economies and the exploited postcolonial states. Where do the Western FALC advocates believe the physical infrastructure and manufacturing power will come from? From poorer developing nations of course, as there is no real desire of organizational understanding of how to revolutionize an international working class among those hoping for technological salvation. This sort of pseudo-leftism desires the comfort and security of an advanced industrial system without taking into full consideration the levels of sacrifice necessary to create an eco-socialist economic model.

    These are just a few examples of how semi-radical thought reproduces and reinforces capitalist hegemony, but the wider trend has been visible for decades now. As Baudrillard wrote in Simulacra and Simulation:

    It is the justice of the left that reinjects an idea of justice, the necessity of logic and morals into a rotten apparatus that is coming undone…the system puts an end one by one to all its axioms…all the objectives of the historical and revolutionary Left that sees itself constrained to revive the wheels of capital in order to lay siege to them one day…everything that is disappearing, that the system itself, in its atrocity, certainly, but also in its irreversible impulse, has liquidated, must be conserved.

    The Ouroboros Economy

    All corporations become increasingly organized around the worship and control of information. Control over the value chain through ownership of the information vector extends even into life itself…through monitoring its states, through modifying its functions with drugs that alter chemical signals, through patenting aspects of life as design. What is at stake is neither a bios nor a polis but a regime of property in information extending into the organism. The novel forces of production as they have emerged in our time are also forces of reproduction and forces of circulation.

    – Mckenzie Wark, Capital is Dead: Is This Something Worse?

    When Debord noted, and rightly so, that the spectacle is a “social relation among people, mediated by images”, it was understood that we all participate in and collectively make up the spectacular worldview. Yet that is not how many people today think, and when it is casually mentioned, spectacle is situated outside the self, not a set of social relations. Unfortunately, being able to detect vacuously transparent and craven corporate advertising as well as political rhetoric mostly is not sufficient for the second-level effects on the unconscious. As “desiring machines” integrated into late stage capitalism, the prison is not longer only physically constructed around us- and not only have we become both inmate and warden, oftentimes we take it on ourselves to perform the labor, both at work and in leisure time, that entrenches the powers of corporations and the national security state.

    Here, it helps to have a grasp of a few key basic concepts from thinkers such as Debord, Foucault, Baudrillard, Deleuze and Guattari, and also Bourdieu, and even Latour. As many have noted, the pandemic has conveniently set the stage for capital and computer technology to fully absorb nearly all facets of everyday life, which reinforces the arguments of the terminally online and their worship of technology, and thus, American empire.

    For Baudrillard a metaphor of simulation could be visualized as the Mobius strip, and for Deleuze describing the society of control it was the serpent. Today we can conjoin the concepts into the archetype of the ouroboros — a self-contained system of simulation and hyperreality, embedded to an immanent, infinite process of death and rebirth, one that contains within it seeds of destruction and the potential for renewal and societal transformation. The ouroboros encapsulates our era: from cybernetics, to algorithmic feedback loops of code, to cosmology, and even evolutionary anthropology, to the financialization and cannabilization of economies, the circuital globe-spanning nature of capital, the ineffable mimetic nature of cultural transmission and (re)production.

    The consolidation of media narratives into social media outlets performs one unique function insofar as it renders the “official” establishment narrative into the only possible reasonable, logical way of seeing the world. Analogically, one can see this as a digital version of what Deleuze and Guattari called “state philosophy”, the incorporation and transmutation of “proper” stories and events into those which uphold state hegemony and corporate control. Of course, there can never be a totalization of these views online, just as there could not before in the age of print, or before in oral traditions. Reality cannot be consolidated into a tweet, just as it could not before in a newspaper editorial. What comes out of the void are “post-truths”, “alternative facts”, and other unruly features foreseen decades ago by Bruno Latour, when he undertook that could be called an anthropological study of modern science. Thus, what used to be called misinformation or half-truths have been reified by mainstream media, as objects with viral properties that must be censored before they can “infect” the populace.

    What seems to be happening over and over again on the media satured/technophilic left is the refusal, the blind spot which keeps repeating the mantra that media monopolization and social media misuse by tech elites is somehow only driven by money and profit motives. The elites already have all the money. Certainly, their greed is a huge driving force, but what’s another billion to someone with a net worth of 50 or 100 billion. At a certain point one has to concede that there are deeper, more sinister agendas, which involve shaping reality and perception, and total social control. As one can easily see with a healthy degree of skepticism towards technological progress, lockdowns and restrictions due to Covid-19 are a perfect excuse for the nascent authoritarian biosecurity state, just as the legitimate protests against police brutality will be used by the state to implement more curfews and police state measures.

    Social media and digital media are in the midst of a totalizing process in which all dissent will be censored, shadow-banned, or posts that differ from official narratives “throttled” by tech algorithms. The age of book-burning may be over but a new age of technological authoritarianism is emerging. To assuage the worst aspects of this emerging techno-feudal society, where “the economy” has fully replaced society and monetization of content and followings has replaced spontaneous and anarchic/communistic web interaction are the extremely online celebrities, influencers, and the corporate cut-outs and shills who fund them: and they strive towards and imitate tech owners and executives, bankers, lawyers, doctors, and various professional class snake-oil salespeople who offer escapist fantasies, slavish devotion to modern technology and overconsumption.

    Since the upper and upper-middle classes are surrounded by corporate and state propaganda like fish in an ocean, which conforms to varying degrees to Bordieu’s notion of habitus; they are the most likely to “buy in” to the new prison system mediated by new repressive technology apparatuses, which is in line with Herman and Chomsky’s findings in Manufacturing Consent.

    Like the sirens of Greek mythology, the job of the influencer, backed and financed by the ruling class, is to hypnotize the masses, and lull us back to sleep — “be like us” they intonate, we’re rich, successful, famous, powerful. While the vast majority toil away working for technological advancement and capital, the tech tyrants and web celebrities succeed by making internet technology and monopolized media work for them. Since the ruling class and new media elite earn passive income from conglomerate platforms, algorithms, and computing power, they have no interest in discovering how they have become the new architects of inequality and mass immiseration. It’s up to us to show them.

    The post The Rise of the Terminally Online first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    Ruling Class Fears of The Day of Reckoning: Historical Causes for the Biases Against Crowds

    Image from Imgur @i.imgur.com

    Orientation

    As I was looking at images to place at the beginning of this article, I was struck by how many images and quotes there were of Le Bon. It is pretty amazing for someone whose first work was published in 1895 and whose last works are still around 100 years old. It is especially strange given how unscientific his methods were and how recent empirical studies of crowds like David Miller’s Introduction to Collective Behavior and Collective Action contradicts virtually everything Le Bon claimed. Why is Le Bon’s work still circulating despite lack of scientific rigor? Why have the last fifty years of research on crowds that have a solid scientific basis been ignored?

    Purpose of this article

    The purpose of this article is to:

    • Expose the propagandist roots and branches of our biases against crowds while showing some of the scientific evidence that supports the actual behavior of crowds.
    • To outline what historical events occurred that supported the prejudice against crowds.
    • Propose that it is ruling-class fears of crowds that fuels the perpetuation of unscientific theories about crowds.
    • Propose that ruling class fears that working-class people mobilized into crowds will seize their resources, destroy their property and enslave them.

    Crowds vs Masses

    Crowds are large collections of people who meet at the same place at the same time and are large enough that it is difficult to have a central conversation. A loudspeaker, microphone or some external device is necessary to have a single central discussion.  There are different kinds of crowds. There are casual crowds like those that meet by chance at the scene of an accident or a fire. They may congregate to watch a building go up or be torn down. A second kind of crowd are long lines that form to buy tickets to ball games or musical concerts.

    An audience is a more formal crowd with a more deliberate focus. Examples are attending a musical concert or a sporting event. Lasty, there are unconventional crowds which can lead to riots, lynchings, protests and demonstrations. Mass behavior involves large numbers of people who are spatially dispersed but participate in common activities like fads or fashions.  Mass behavior involves the use of radio (Orson Wells, War of the Worlds) television, movies which often lead to rumors or urban legends.

    Questionnaire on Crowds

    In order to understand the purposes of this article, I ask that you spend about 25 to 30 minutes answering the following true-false questions. For the answer to be true, it simply means most of the time, not all the time.  For the answer to be false, it just means it rarely happens, not never happens. Follow your answer with a one sentence justification. Feel free to draw from your experience as well as what you’ve read. It is important to answer quickly and spontaneously and not dwell on the answers. One purpose of the questionnaire is to see if you think there are any significant differences between how people in crowds behave (collective behavior) as opposed to how small groups or individuals behave.

    Here are the True – False questions:

    • Most crowds consist of strangers, rather than family, friends or acquaintances.
    • The percentage of violent behavior is higher in crowds than in small groups such as a musical band or a baseball team.
    • The behavior of crowds is more likely to be unanimous than the behavior of small groups.
    • Crowds of people are more likely to engage in unusual or extraordinary behaviors than either groups or individuals.
    • The behavior of individuals and small groups is more likely to be rational than the behavior of a crowd, which is more likely to be irrational.
    • There are certain kinds of personalities that are drawn to crowds that you could predict would join a crowd if you knew enough about their personalities.
    • There is a disproportionately higher number of working-class people in crowds compared to other social classes.
    • Compared to people without legal convictions, there is a higher percentage of criminals in crowds.
    • Individuals and small groups that are more likely to deliberate and plan their actions are less likely to be spontaneous.
    • You could predict that most individuals are more likely to lose their personal identity in a crowd rather than alone or in small groups.
    • Emotions are more likely to spread by contagions in a crowd rather than in a small group.
    • Groups are easier to disperse than crowds because people in crowds want to linger longer.
    • There has been more research done on crowds than on groups because the behavior in crowds has greater social impact.
    • People conform less to norms in crowds than they do in groups or as individuals.
    • Most violence in crowds is caused by the participants in the crowd rather than the police.
    • There is a higher degree of unpredictability of behavior in crowds than there is in small groups or within an individual.
    • The goals of a crowd are more extreme and unconventional than the goals of groups or individuals.
    • Riots are equally likely to happen regardless of the season of the year.
    • The most typical reaction to a natural disaster or emotional shock is panic – that is, uncontrolled individualistic flight as opposed to a rational, deliberate response.
    • There is a correlation between which people will engage in a protest and their political beliefs before the protests.
    • The most likely group to join a movement is the group who has absolute deprivation of resources as opposed to relative deprivation or no deprivation.

     The last three questions are about mass behavior, not crowd behavior:

    • Fads are less predictable than fashions.
    • Rumors begin mostly because people lose their ability to investigate before coming to a conclusion.
    • Fashions exist in all societies, tribal as well as industrial.

    Myths vs Facts About Crowds

    In their book, Social Psychology, Delamater Myers and Collett, citing the research of Carl Couch, Clark McPhail, David Schweingruber and Ronald Wohlstein argued that there are seven basic myths about crowds. They are:

    • Irrationality
    • Emotionality
    • Suggestibility – mindless behavior
    • Destructiveness
    • Spontaneity
    • Anonymity
    • Unanimity of purpose

    Through these seven myths we are likely to see why all the answers in relation to crowds to the True-False questions are false. The only true answers are the first two questions about masses. Rather than explaining why every single question on crowds is false, I will speak generally and then answer a few questions specifically.

    Are crowds wholes that are less than the sum of their parts?

    One of the great underlying beliefs about crowds is that terrible things happen in a crowd that somehow would not happen in a small group and especially at an individual level.  Individuals are seen as rational, non-violent and prudent, but once the individual is surrounded by enough other individuals, things turn sour. The belief is that while individuals and groups may have differences with each other, those differences melt away in a crowd as individual members turn into a group hive. In fact, differences between individuals and small groups are maintained in crowds. To cite one example, in riots, crowds rarely act in unison. Some throw rocks and break windows. Others climb telephone poles and smash statues. Others disapprove and try to talk the others out of armed conflict. Still others are altruistic and help protesters who have been injured by cops.

    Who is orderly and disorderly in crowds?

    Speaking of cops, research on mass psychology has shown that most of the time, contrary to Le Bon, riots are started by the police, not the crowd. Furthermore, crowds assemble and disassemble at ballgames and concerts without any police necessary. Once gathered crowds do not stick together like honey. They easily disperse and really do not need the police to do so. I have been to many a Yankee and Knicks game in which the crowd, anywhere from 15 thousand to 30 thousand people leave the game, peacefully get on the train and talk about the ballgame. There is no need for police because nothing controversial happens. For conservatives like Le Bon, they cannot imagine that crowds regulate themselves. For them crowds are filled with animalistic, hedonistic barbarians who need the police to whip them into order.

    Are working-class people more likely to be disorderly?

    There is some truth to the fact that a higher percentage of working-class people will be in crowds. This has more to do with the reality that middle-class or upper-middle class people can afford to take a taxi to a ball game or a concert instead of taking the train. But this has little to do with the behavior of working-class crowds. Furthermore, plenty of protests are filled with upper-middle class anarchists who torch police cars and topple monuments. There is no clear relationship between social class and crowd violence.

    How unpredictable are crowds?

    Another one of Le Bon’s mistaken generalizations about crowds is that people in crowds act without rhyme or reason. This demonstrates, as an upper middle-class doctor, Le Bon has no understanding of all the deliberation and planning that goes into protests on the part of the organizers. This planning goes on weeks before the event. It is true that unpredictable things happen in protects, but they are exceptions to the rule. Furthermore, individuals act in unpredictable ways, as in the case of mass shootings. Individuals get caught up in cults and act in unpredictable and astonishing ways. Cults are large groups, not crowds.

    Are emotions in crowds contagious?

    People are every bit as emotional in small groups as they are in crowds. There is nothing contagious about emotions in crowds. People maintain emotional judgement while in the crowd. In fact, the leaders of protests harangue people to sing and chant as a way to unify the group. Just being in a crowd does not automatically unify the individuals. It takes work to do so. When faced with members of a crowd who become hysterical, rather than mindlessly joining in, other members of the crowd will distance themselves and exercise the same prudence that individuals or people in small groups will.

    Is the crowd to social life what Freud’s id is to individual life?

    Le Bon, Freud, Bion and the rest of the crowd psychologists we will soon meet think that at the social level the crowd is like the id, lurking on the margins of society waiting for a chance to jump out and wreak havoc. This is exemplified in the movie Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. In natural disasters these crowd psychologists imagine that the socialized ego is swarmed by the individualistic dictum, “every person for himself”. They imagine the results are pillaging and raping. The trouble is that research on behavior in natural disasters shows that people are consistently heroic and cooperative.

    One hundred years of neglect of scientific research on crowds

    Lastly, unlike individual psychology and group psychology the scientific study of crowds and masses lags way behind. It wasn’t until the late 1960s that the first research was done. Why is this? On the one hand, studying crowds is far more difficult because crowds are so large and their life-times short. But something else was going on. Why were Le Bon’s, Tarde’s and Sighele’s, speculations allowed to stand unchallenged and repeated mindlessly in social psychology textbooks for almost 100 years? In large part it was because their theories served the interests of the ruling class.

    Historical Reasons for the Biases Against Crowds

    Growth of cities

    One of major changes in European history and geography was the gradual reversal of numbers of people living in cities compared to those of people living on farms.  People move to cities in part because there is more work, but also, as the saying goes, “city air makes you free”.  Some people felt trapped by the nosiness and stifling customs of rural life. Non-conformists to religious traditions, artists and hustlers with big dreams were drawn to cities for a chance to start fresh. Living on a farm, the general expectations was that you would engage in the same occupation as your parents. Moving to the city broke that tradition and it raised expectations. Especially those living in coastal cities who were exposed not only to people coming from different cities within Yankeedom, but people from other countries were also looking for work. Different languages, different religions, and different political traditions converged.

    There are rarely, if ever, crowds in rural areas. While farmers may get together on holidays, everyone knows everyone else and rarely are strangers invited.  Even when farmers would go to town to get supplies, the overwhelming number of people knew each other and greeted each other. There were no stadiums or concert halls in which large numbers of people could congregate to watch professional sports or music. Long before the Industrial Revolution, crowds in cities would gather to hear political speeches. So, what we have in pre-industrial cities are relatively rootless people with raised expectations, surrounded by strangers from different cultures for whom being in a crowd is becoming normal.

    The Great French revolutions

    As most of you know, the French Revolution of 1789 overthrew both the king and the aristocrats as the merchants rose to power on the backs of artisans and peasants. The revolution was also anti-clerical. Churches and chateaux were burned to the ground. The aristocrats never forgot this. As if your memory needed any jogging, there were more revolutions in Paris in 1830 and 1848. In all these revolutions, crowds are violent and know where the upper classes live. Doesn’t it start to make sense that the study of crowds would never be objective so long as the upper classes were threatened by them and therefore controlled the research on crowds? In this case they made sure no research was done.

    Industrialization

    At the end of the 18th century and throughout the 19th century, cities became industrialized.  People were forced off the middle of streets to make way for wheeled vehicles accompanied by horses and later, trolley cars. Grid systems of streets were built which sped up transportation and the circulation of goods. Industrial capitalists built factories in cities as opposed to artisan shops in the countryside (the putting out system). The emergence of factories had enormous revolutionary potential because it brought large numbers of people working under horrible conditions together. For 12-15 hours a day, at least six days a week, people have a common experience while all in the same place and the same time.

    Formation of unions

    It is no accident that unions first formed in factories. When common experience is concentrated at the same place and same time, people are likely to compare experiences and accumulate grievances. Some workers begin to recognize that they have collective power if they can organize themselves. They can strike for better working conditions and better wages. Unions made crowds more dangerous because crowds can, in an extremely chilling way, stop and start the work process itself. This is like cutting off the blood supply for vampiric capitalists.

    Emergence of socialism

    The first socialists were theoretical. William Godwin was the first theoretical anarchist, writing Enquiry Concerning Political Justice. In the early 19th century, there were utopian communities set up by Robert Owen, Charles Fourier and others but none of these communities were connected to unions or workers movements. It wasn’t until the writings of Marx and Engels that socialism was really connected to worker’s struggles. The socialism of Marx and Engels or the anarchism of Bakunin both said to workers, “it is not enough to have tiny little pieces of pie. You create all the wealth; you deserve the whole pie.”

    In order to gain the whole pie, workers in crowds had to move in a mass, take over factories and run them for themselves, while confiscating the private property of the upper classes. For the upper classes, socialism and the prospects of crowds burning down their houses, and peasants taking over their land was their worst nightmare. The Paris Commune of 1871 was the first revolutionary situation that was inspired by socialism as a movement.

    Stock Market instabilities

    Crowd instabilities also came from the capitalist side, between 1873 to 1896 when the stock market was very unstable creating panics and depressions. This meant stock market traders were wheeling and dealing on the floor of the stock market at the same time that people who had money in banks were worried about their savings and, in some cases, making runs on the bank.

    Crowd Psychologists

    Origins of Crowd Theory

    Crowd theorists were social Darwinists whose ideas of a liberal society were of individuals who took care of only themselves. Beginning about 1870, crowd psychologists claimed that Darwinian evolution demonstrated that progress was a slow process, and any sudden changes based on violence were throwbacks to premodern times. Crowds were looked upon as akin to Herbert Spencer’s undifferentiated matter.

    According to H. Stuart Hughes, (Consciousness and Society), beginning in the 1890s intellectuals became obsessed with the prospect that unconscious, primitive, and emotional forces were driving things. Crowd psychologists were united in rejecting sociological theorists such as Durkheim and Marx because they ignored emotions and unconscious motivation. What was really driving crowds, they thought, was below the level of consciousness. For crowd psychologists, individuals were both more than and less than the sum of their parts. The four major crowd theorists were Hippolyte Taine, Scipio Sighele, Gabriel Tarde, and Gustave Le Bon.

    Crowd Theorists

    Taine

    Taine’s Origins of Contemporary France (written between 1876 and 1894) was a conservative attack on the Enlightenment. Taine blamed the Enlightenment ideas, including Rousseau’s, for what he considered the bloodbath of the French Revolution. Taine believed that the line between normal cognition and hallucinations, dreams and delusions, was closer than we might suspect. He cited evidence from research on organic lesions of the brain, hypnotism, and split personalities. He determined that the dramatic transformation of humans into savages is caused by what he called “the laws of mental contagion.” With the exception of the hypnosis model, Taine’s book embodies all the rudiments of French crowd psychology. For Taine, all leaders were the crazed dregs of society.

    According to Taine, the Enlightenment failed to factor in the amount of time it took for humans to develop from barbarity to civility. Enlighteners weren’t interested in how people really were, but only as they could be measured by an abstract, ideal humanity. Taine thought the French Revolution was a relapse into primitive barbarism. Like Hume, Taine thought that reason was the passive servant of the passions. Bodily needs, animal instinct, prejudices which Taine thought were hereditary, were really driving people.

    Criminalization of crowds (Sighele) 

    Theories of hypnosis were split in two directions. Followers of Charcot claimed that being suggestible was a sign of psychopathology and only certain types of people could be hypnotized. The Nancy school of Bergheim argued that anyone could be hypnotized. The criminal school of Sighele sided with Charcot, arguing that crowds were composed of criminal individuals who were naturally suggestible. He followed the work of Lombroso who was a medical scholar of deviants in the military. Lombroso measured the skulls and anatomical characteristics of 3,000 soldiers.

    According to Serge Moscovici (The Age of the Crowd), mass psychology was treated simply as part of criminal anthropology. Crowds were seen as mobs, scum, and made up of men who were out of control and would destroy anything in their path. Sighele claimed that hypnotism can explain the process by which individual minds become susceptible to outside forces, leading to actions that are carried out automatically, unconsciously, and then spread to others by contagion. The conservative hand Sighele played was transparent in his labeling of social revolutionaries such as socialists, anarchists, or even striking workers as part of the criminal crowd. The hysteria of stock market traders was never seen as criminal.

    Tarde

    More than Taine or Sighele, Gabriel Tarde placed the crowd on a broader social spectrum. All social life, according to Tarde, is based on imitation, and the process of crowd formation and reproduction simply comes from the laws of imitation sped up. He described the crowd as the first stage of association—rudimentary, fleeting, and undifferentiated. From this foundation, more stable and ongoing groups form, including corporations, political parties, and religious bodies such as churches or monasteries. Unlike other crowd psychologists, Tarde thought that literacy, newspapers, and mass communication would replace the crowd with what he called “the public.”

    Tarde also thought that the extremes of behavior demonstrated in crowds are unique to cities. Unlike his right-wing crowd theorists, Tarde thought the madness of crowds is a product of civilization. He argued that crowd madness was uncommon in rural areas and among pre-state societies. Both Tarde and Le Bon supported the Nancy school, which suggested that there were social-psychological processes that any individual could fall prey to, if exposed to them. They believed that the solitary individual was superior to the group in all ways.

    Le Bon

    Le Bon concocted a mix of anthropological, social Darwinist, and psychological theories, which were in the same family as Taine and the racist Joseph Gobineau. He thought that cranial size could be used as an accurate measure of intelligence and he believed that people in primitive societies had small skulls. Le Bon thought the European race was superior, and only Caucasian males could transcend the constraints of biology.

    Like Sighele and Tarde, Le Bon thought that what happens to an individual when in a crowd was analogous to what happens in hypnosis. All crowd theorists up to Le Bon agreed that the crowd was no more than what was already inside the psychology of individuals. They also believed that whatever destructive behavior transpired in a crowd was due to the lower-class origins of its members. Le Bon was the first to say that all personalities, regardless of class and intelligence, are susceptible to the pull of the crowd.

    According to Serge Moscovici, Le Bon directly challenged Locke’s theory of the mind. As was par for the course in the Enlightenment, Locke believed that as the mind of humanity was gradually ridding itself of religious terrors, there would be fewer and fewer secrets. Le Bon, in contrast, said that revolutions shake the mind from its perch, sending it tumbling and howling into the abyss of the primitive world, which is driven by heredity, instinct, custom, and race. For Locke, visions and dreams were overridden by simple and complex reasoning. For Le Bon, crowds could not follow reason but instead learned by association, just as individuals do in dreams.

    Furthermore, crowd theorists claimed that people in crowds do not deliberate, but are mesmerized by leaders through the power of hypnotic suggestion. When Locke argued that the truth can be seen with open eyes, he neglected to note that crowds are driven by unconscious primitive animalism, which takes over and spreads by what Le Bon called “contagion.” This contagion does not lead to prudent, rational judgment but instead can lead to cruelty or heroism. These extreme reactions are amplified by the feeling of anonymity that grips individuals, allowing a sense of individual responsibility to evaporate.

    Le Bon belonged to a liberal middle-class tradition that argued against both revolution and the weakness of liberal parliamentary systems. Despite his argument’s mediocre quality, rhetorically flattering the reader and lacking depth, Le Bon must have struck a nerve. According to Moscovici, no French thinker other than Georges Sorel and Alexander de Tocqueville has had an influence as great as Le Bon. Le Bon published The Crowd in 1890 and it was a best seller. Why was this? He mixed the disciplines of politics and psychology in an age of growing disciplinary specialization. Le Bon probably tapped into the fears that the middle and upper class and upper classes had about what would happen eventually if the new “democracy” was to expand.

    Distorting the work of Alfred Espinas

    It is worth noting that crowd psychologists distorted the work of Alfred Espinas on wasps and hornets to create an analogy between human crowds and insect societies. Espinas argued that societies were more than an aggregate of individuals and pointed out that alarm and danger were transmitted by visual contagion. Far from viewing this intensely social life of insects as a liability, he saw it as a strength in building bonds through cooperation.

    Crowd psychologists seized on his discussion of the invisible communication of wasps and hornets when confronted with an enemy to draw an analogy to crowds. Just as insects communicate collectively when faced with danger, so crowd behavior becomes contagious among spectators in a theater or when aroused by a great orator. Unlike Espinas, they saw very little, if anything, constructive in this. Crowd psychologists thought the communicability of emotions beyond the individual was proof of the primitive mentality of the crowd.

    Crowd Psychologist Distortions

    Here are Susanna Barrows’ (Distorting Mirrors) damning conclusions about crowd-psychologist theories:

    • Taine, Sighele and Le Bon did not do any empirical research (Tarde was a possible exception).
    • Taine’s work contains grave errors in the scientific method. The idea of empirical investigation was wholly alien to him.
    • What evidence they collected was extremely selective to support their case (again, with the possible exception of Tarde).
    • Statistics indicate that women committed many fewer crimes than men, yet women were blamed for a disproportionate amount of the violence that occurred.
    • Le Bon indiscriminately lumped together socialists and anarchists with common criminals.
    • Crowd psychologists distorted the work of Espinas on wasps and hornets to make an analogy between human crowds and insect societies.

    The Legacy of the 20th Century

    The events of the 20th century hardly provided a break for poor conservatives hoping for a return to religion, God, kings and aristocrats. The Russian revolution, the stock market crash in 1929, Fascism in Germany and Italy and Spain, the Spanish revolution, the Chinese Revolution and the Cuban Revolution vanquished those hopes. This does not even count the Zoot Suit race riots in 1943, Watts in 1967 or the Rodney King riots in 1992.

    Mass Media Propaganda Towards Crowds and Riots Carries Forward Obsolete Crowd Psychology

    Check any newspaper or TV news program in Yankeedom and watch how the crowd and the rioters are treated when they describe a protest or a natural disaster. If it is a riot, does the paper ever show the variety of responses that go on during the riot? No, they focus only on the rioters and assume everyone in the crowd was complicit. When they describe the origin of the riot, do they consider the research which says the police are usually the perpetuators of the riot? Not on your life! The police are depicted as restoring order rather than as being the perpetuators of disorder. Lastly, in a natural disaster do the newscasters show the overwhelming instances of cooperation, compared to natural disaster participants helping themselves in supermarkets and sporting goods stores? No, they don’t. Rather the echo chamber of capitalist media blares out “looting, looting, looting” just like they declared “weapons of mass destruction” in the lead-up to the attack on Iraq twenty years ago.

    Conclusion

    I began this article with a questionnaire designed to expose your prejudices against crowds. I contrasted these biases against what research on mass psychology actually shows about crowd behavior. The heart of my article is to show why these biases continue in spite of scientific research to the contrary. I identified the growth of cities, the revolutions in France in the 19th century, the process of industrialization, the formation of unions, the rise of socialism and stock market instabilities in the 19th century. What do these events have to do with biases against crowds?

    The answer can be found in the theories of mostly right-wing crowd theorists who wrote in the 2nd half of the 19th century. These theorists and their ruling class masters were terrified that crowds of working-class people would take their land, confiscate their resources and burn their chateaux to the ground. There was a great deal at stake for them. To call the people in crowds enraged, childish, criminal, beastly, stampeding, savage, irrational, impulsive, uncivilized, primitive, bloodthirsty, cruel and fickle is to dismiss, embarrass and mock anyone who participates. It is also a warning to future workers to stay away from crowds.

    We socialists have been the victims of a 150-year propaganda campaign that was started by crowd psychologists in the 1860s and has been perpetuated by all sources of media throughout the 20th century. Amazingly, social psychologists who pride themselves on filling their textbooks with empirical evidence, have given this discredited crowd theory a pass. There is so much money for research on what sells products and little or no money is available to study what moves crowds and masses. It is vitally important for the ruling classes to forestall the great day of reckoning by scaring people away from joining crowds that will be one of many vehicles for overthrowing them.

    • First published at Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

    The post Ruling Class Fears of The Day of Reckoning: Historical Causes for the Biases Against Crowds first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    Left-Wing Psychotherapy Cults: Sullivanians from Hedonism to Group Terror

    Photo Image:  FilmDaily

    Orientation

    My Purpose

    A few months ago, I wrote an article titled “Political and Spiritual Cults“. My purpose was to show the commonalties among all cults, whether they are political, spiritual or psychological. In this article I want to narrow the focus to discuss a left-wing psychological cult, the Sullivanians, a countercultural organization that made its mark on the Upper West Side of New York City between 1970 and the early 1990s. Why bother to do this? Because as a socialist I have to face that any socialist organization I join, whether it be social democratic, Leninist or even anarchist has the potential to become a cult. The more we know about the conditions under which cults emerge, the more we can combat them.

    Overcoming Media Biases Against Cults

    When mass media compares cults members to the general population, cult members are portrayed as:

    • Mentally unstable
    • Less educated
    • Lonelier
    • From the poor and working-class backgrounds
    • Physically intimidated into joining
    • Brainwashed
    • Drawn from criminal elements
    • Less moral as people

    Research has shown none of this to be true.

    Plan of the Article

    For the most part I will be following the architecture I built in my previous article, including what is a totalistic institution; the ten characteristics of cults; the stages cults go through; the mechanisms of control in each stage; why people stay; what kind of qualities the leaders have and what is the impact of leaving on cult members.

    I will be adding a short section on the theoretical assumptions of the Sullivanians at the beginning. For each of these units I will say something about how it applies to the Sullivanians. Besides my article, I will be referring to two books on the Sullivanians: Amy Siskind’s sociological analysis, The Sullivan Institute/Fourth Wall Community: The Relationship of Radical Individualism and Authoritarianism and a book by a participant, Artie Honan How Did A Smart Guy Like me….For my general understanding of cults, I owe the most to Margret Singer, Janja Lalich, Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad.

    Theoretical Assumptions

    The Sullivanian Institute was a spin-off organization that broke away in 1957 from the work of Harry Stack Sullivan. Sullivan was sensitive to the social side of psychological dynamics and among other insights blamed the nuclear family for the formation of the ideal capitalist consumer. Both Dr. Jane Pearce and Saul Newton took these criticisms of the nuclear family much further. In 1963, Pearce and Newton coauthored a book called Conditions of Human Growth. In that book they identified the family as socially isolating the individual from developing healthy relationships with friends, especially in adolescence and adulthood.

    Open-ended friendships, both sexual and otherwise, were the way out of the infantilization of the nuclear family and the road to maturity. For them, friendships are the first potential of experience of love between equals. A big part of therapeutic work was to get their patients to expand their friendships as they withdrew from their families. Newton and Pearce considered the desire for the security of exclusive relationships among their patients to be a neurotic symptom. In fact, one of the first things on the agenda of the Sullivanians therapists was to separate the patients from their parents. On the whole the two foundation stones of the Sullivanians community were:

    • To break from their family of origin
    • To have non-monogamous sexual relations among friends

    What is a Totalistic Institution?

    Calling an organization a cult has more to do with how an organization is run than what people believe. Cults are a subcategory of organizations which includes mental health institutions, prisons, army barracks, orphanages, and religious institutions such as monasteries. As opposed to this, in what Erving Goffman calls “pluralistic institutions”, people come and go as they please in and out of various institutions throughout the day as they go from playing one role to another. Within each institution, the group dynamics and power relationships vary. An individual can have great control in one area and little control in another. What produces critical thinking within the individual is the habit, whether conscious or unconscious, of comparing one institution to another, each with their strengths and weaknesses.

    In totalistic social formations, all institutions are rolled into one. Economic exchanges, livelihood, sacred beliefs, political dynamics, living situations and sexual encounters are all concentrated within a single institution. In the more extreme institutions like prisons or in the military, working and play activities are done all at the same time, in the same place with uniform expectations. Boundaries between inside and outside are rigid. The authorities are centralized and there is little room for feedback. There are surveillance systems, spying and little privacy, and this breeds insecurity and paranoia.

    Sullivanians as a Total Institution

    The Sullivanian community was divided into four tiers. The four therapists at the top were Saul Newton, Joan Harvey, Ralph Klein and Helen Moses; a secondary tier of therapists in training; a third tier of psychotherapy patients and lastly, community members who were friends of the people in the first three tiers. When the Sullivanians morphed into the Fourth Wall Theatre community in 1977, the fourth tier were people living in Manhattan who came to see the plays, often from poor areas of the city. The biggest factor that made the Sullivanians a totalistic institution was the collapsed boundaries between the tiers. Members of all tiers were invited to have sex with each other, including therapists with clients, clients and those in therapy training. Sleeping alone was considered an interpersonal failure. Furthermore, the therapists ignored confidentiality and talked openly about the problems of their patients. The most important people – the therapists – knew everyone else’s business and encouraged others to be spies to report on any dissatisfactions anyone had with the leadership. This led to mistrust among people in the second and third tiers as well as paranoia.

    The Sullivanians were not as rigid as a prison or an army barracks. Community members worked at different jobs and they lived in different apartment buildings.  However, all households occupied most of an apartment building and each household apparently consisted only of members of the Sullivanian community. These households made enough money to hire people from the outside to cook, clean and babysit. House members had regular meetings in which they talked about household problems but also about their lives. Members also knew each other’s weaknesses and these weaknesses got back to the leadership in one way or another.

    The dependency of community members on the leadership ran deep. Therapists in training were dependent on leadership economically to provide them with referrals. People were dependent personally for their identity through therapy. Interpersonally they played together, lived together and in the 1980s, did political work together. All this supported the authoritarian control by the leaders and made the Sullivanians a totalistic institution.

    Ten Characteristics of Cults

    From my previous article on cults, I named ten characteristics.

    • It emerged out of a political, economic or ecological crisis.
    • It recruited young adults between 17 and 24 of middle-class and upper middle-class origins who were likely to be undergoing some developmental crisis in their personal lives.
    • It has an authoritarian, charismatic leader.
    • It has a revolutionary, dualistic ideology.
    • It possesses a social-psychological array of tools for luring in new members and sustaining their commitment.
    • It lacks mechanisms for critical feedback from the membership.
    • It requires a small group of lieutenants to isolate and keep atomized the membership through spying so that no coherent opposition can form.
    • It develops rituals, myths and celebrations that allow the group to mark time.
    • It demonizes outside groups that are in competition with the cult.
    • It has rigid, terrorized boundaries that make it extremely difficult to leave.

    Sullivanians’ Characteristics of Cults

    It is not true that the Sullivanians cult emerged as a reaction to a political, economic or ecological crisis. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the economy was not contracting. It was possible for community members to work at low paying jobs in the arts, have leisure time and still make the rent, especially because of group living. However, the decline of the Sullivanians community in the 1980s was definitely connected to contracting economic conditions where rents skyrocketed and jobs in the arts shrank. AIDS and the nuclear reactor meltdown at Three Mile Island added to the group paranoia.

    The Sullivanians did appeal to upper middle-class adults. They weren’t in any serious psychological crisis. They were relatively healthy adults who were attracted to an alternative lifestyle including art. music, theatre and dance. Sexual exploration was part of the counterculture and not unique to the Sullivanians. In Saul Newton they had an authoritarian working-class leader who was once a member of the Communist Party and claimed to have fought in the Spanish Civil War. Both men and women in the community agreed he was charismatic. Newton was also erratic and explosive and most members were scared of him. There were no institutionalized feedback mechanisms for criticizing the leadership. Complaining behind his back was dangerous because of surveillance and could easily get back to the leaders.

    Although Newton was either a Stalinist or a Maoist, in the first nine years of the community, he was not heavy-handed politically. It was in the descendent phase when the nuclear meltdown occurred, the AIDS epidemic spread and Yankeedom had become more conservative in the 1980s that his Stalinist or Maoist politics became more hard-edged.  Relations between the Sullivanians and other leftists became increasingly hostile, and their political ideology became more dualistic and sectarian. Here is where the characteristic of the demonization of outsiders took place.

    The psychological array of tools for drawing people in and holding them was pretty straightforward. In all cults, sex is used to control people. However, in most cults sex flows one way, from the members to the leaders. Among the Sullivanians sex among members was immediate and expected. Secondly, unlike other cults, women were encouraged to have more than one partner at a time. Besides immediate and sustained sex for both men and women, there was the opportunity to work with therapists on their problems and to do so for a low fee, compared to the much higher going rate. Thirdly, friendships were made quickly and developed through household living arrangements. Fourthly, the Sullivanians were very supportive of the members developing their creativity. Siskind points out that many of them became famous in the arts, filmmaking, and dance. The Sullivanians were also a utopian community, so joining it helped people to feel that they were a special group, superior to others, in addition to being part of a movements which was going to overthrow capitalism.

    Symbolism and ritual were a strong part of the Sullivanians community. They played hard together at parties and vacations, but this was all secular enjoyment. There was no celebration of revolutionary holidays or the singing of the Internationale, as we might expect of an aspiring socialist community. Neither was there a dramatic change of identity based on change of hair or clothes that I found.

    Stages of Cults

    As I said in my article Political and Spiritual Cults:

    In their book, The Guru Papers, Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad identify two stages of cults: the proselytizing stage and the apocalyptic paranoia stage.

    In the proselytizing ascendant stage, the guru sees the possibility of realizing his ambitions. The group is touted as being at the cutting edge of new knowledge. Outsiders are welcomed although they are treated with a kind of benign superiority. In the ascendant phase, the guru rewards the enthusiasm of his followers and grants them positions which have opened up within the hierarchy. The tone of the community is celebratory. The guru is accessible to the public and is charming and playful. In terms of the recruitment, this is the “honeymoon phase”. The focus is to expand the organization and the emphasis is on the present.

    The apocalyptic, paranoiac, decadent phase is when the numbers of recruits have leveled off and explanations need to be found. The public is now seen as too stupid and blind to acknowledge the merits of the cult. In the declining stage, the message becomes pessimistic, with a doomsday “I told you so” tone. Outsiders cease to be welcomed in a spirit of satisfying their curiosity. Rather they are seen as enemies out to destroy the organization. Part of the descendent phase also involves the guru making more grandiose claims while promising to invoke occult power. The membership begins to have doubts.

    Sullivanians’ Stages of Cults

    The Sullivanians definitely went through these stages. Siskind, in her sociological analysis of them, calls the proselytizing phase the “Halcyon Years” from 1969-1978. Siskind calls the apocalyptic phase “the Revolutionary period of 1979-1983. Between 1984 and 1992 there was a steep decline in membership. In the first period the emphasis was on the psychology of the individual and their full development, including taking classes and the practice of the arts. The full enjoyment of life through sex, friendship, creativity and community was all supported. They also had a comedy club run by a very talented member, Luba Elman who was also responsible for early theatrical productions which later turned into the Fourth Wall Theatre Company. Between 1970 and 1974 the Sullivanian community grew at a steady rate of 100 new members a year, culminating at a peak of 400 in 1974. Political relations with other leftists had some tension but that did not stop cooperation in large protests.

    There were four shock waves which were scattered across the landscape of the Sullivanian community between 1977 to 1983 that turned it from growing, hopeful community into a more stagnant, paranoid and isolated community. The first was the driving out of Luba Elman as the organizer of the Fourth Wall Repertory Company and her replacement by therapist turned playwright and actress, Joan Harvey. Both she and her partner Saul were dictatorial in their expectations of the members of the stage crew and everyone else in the Fourth Wall community.

    Another very dramatic event was the Fourth Wall takeover of the Truck and Warehouse Theatre. The previous company refused to leave the building although the lease was up. They were forced out in an orchestrated attack, with waves of Fourth Wall people invading the building. Some took over the stage sets, rebuilt them with the carpentry and electrical skills of the Fourth Wall community. Two hours after the initial takeover, 160 more members came to support the takeover and guard the building. Then they set up an elaborate security system to guard the building. The violent nature of the whole process must have affected the moral of people. Artie Honan, one of the chief organizers of the takeover, said: ”Looking back, I feel that this was a senseless act of violence. Something I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t been taking direction from Saul. (What’s a Smart Guy Like Me…) I doubt he was alone in these sentiments. Later he said I was preoccupied about having to organize security coverages …I had no time to reflect on the experience or to think about how it ran against the grain of my values. Lack of time to think is characteristic of all cults.

    A third major event was the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979. This spread fear in the community. It led to a panic in which 200 community members en masse fled to Florida to avoid radiation. This event turned the Sullivanians into an explicitly political community as Saul’s Maoist orientation came to the fore. House meetings went from every day discussions about household and personal problems to political book readings and discussion groups. It was in this period that Saul implemented a Maoism anti-intellectual campaign in which community members would renounce their class background in group self-confession circles.

    A fourth major event was the AIDS crisis of the early 1980s. This directly impacted the size of the community and the sex-economy of the organization. The Fourth Wallers were naturally wary of having sex with outsiders and limited the sexual activity to the already existing members. Since, on average, the women outnumbered the men two to one, the shortage affected the women more than the men. There was even a Male Chauvinism campaign within the community to force the men to have sex with women who didn’t have partners! Please see Table A for a contrast between the two stages within the Sullivan community

    Characteristics of Sociopathic Leaders

    In their book Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships, Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias identify fifteen characteristics of a sociopath that could apply to a cult leader. Here they are:

    • Glibness and superficial charm
    • Conning and maneuvering
    • Grandiose sense of self
    • Pathological lying
    • Lack of remorse, shame or guilt
    • Shallow emotions
    • Incapacity to love
    • Sensation seeking
    • Impulsivity and lack of behavioral control
    • Early behavior problems with juvenile delinquency
    • Scapegoating
    • Promiscuous sexual behavior and infidelity
    • Erratic work history of fits and starts
    • Materialistic lifestyle
    • Criminal and entrepreneurial versatility

    Saul Newton as a Sociopath

    As repulsive as Saul Newton might be to you and to me, he did not have all fifteen characteristics of a sociopath. I will begin by eliminating the characteristics he did not possess. We know very little of his history, so we don’t know anything about whether his teenage behavior might be categorized as juvenile delinquency or whether he had an erratic work history. From my reading I did not find instances of sensation-seeking. He put members in the Sullivanians community in risky situations, but he seemed to be sure that he and any of his wives were well-protected. It would be unfair to characterize him as having shallow emotions. He had problems controlling his anger, as in beating his wives. There is nothing I’ve read that indicated that Newton showed any deep emotion but anger. It is reasonable to say he was emotionally repressed, rather than being shallow.

    Criminal and entrepreneurial creativity in cults usually means if one cult group fails and goes bankrupt, the leader wheels and deals and repackages himself with a new name and organization as Werner Erhard did. As far as I know, Saul Newton did not do this. He stuck with the Sullivanian community all his life. Lastly, a “materialistic lifestyle” is a very vague term. How many cars, boats, planes and houses does a leader have to possess to qualify as being materialistic? From my reading, I would classify Newton as upper middle-class, akin to a doctor, lawyer or architect living on the Upper West Side of New York City. He and his wives had their own chefs, childcare providers and shoppers. He owned a brownstone building. Newton lived well, but he didn’t have seven Cadillacs, as Rajneesh had. He did not own any boats or planes, nor did he buy other buildings and deal in real estate. He did not have the lifestyle of L. Ron Hubbard, Reverend Moon or Werner Erhard.

    However, Newton had all the remaining characteristics of a sociopath big-time. He had superficial charm, and as I said earlier, both men and women characterized him as charismatic. He clearly was conning and manipulating the community all his life. He got them to take over a theatre building, told them who could and couldn’t date and set up an elaborate surveillance system for tracking people while convincing the members to do all the work. He maneuvered with Joan Harvey to oust Luba Elman from the Fourth Wall community and put themselves in the leadership position. He seemed to be a pathological liar, meaning he lied so much he lost track of the boundaries between truth and falsehood. There is no indication in either of the books I read that he has the slightest regret or remorse for anything he did. Neither were there any examples in which Newton claimed to love anyone. He was not loved by community members, but feared. In a small funeral gathering in 1992 not a single member of the Sullivan community showed up.

    Newton definably had a grandiose sense of himself. What kind of person would have put himself at the head of a psychotherapy organization with no degree in the field or even having been in therapy himself? He was almost compulsively promiscuous. He had no problem asking his female patients for sex as part of the sessions. At the end of his life when he was suffering from dementia, he continued to see clients even when his memory was failing him. Newton was clearly impulsive (at least around getting angry) and could not control himself. However, in other situations he was extremely deliberative as he plotted and schemed to manipulate community members. Lastly, he was always blaming community members when things didn’t go right. He showed no power of self-reflection in seeing how his behavior was partly responsible for anything.

    Reasons People Stayed in the Community

    Why do People Stay?

    Lalich and Tobias lay down the following most common reasons people stay in cults:

    • Attachment to new beliefs
    • Cognitive dissonance
    • Entrapment
    • Peer pressure
    • Exhaustion from overwork allows little time for objectivity or self-reflection
    • Burned bridges separate members from their past
    • Being ridiculed and called names by cult members is very painful
    • Fear for your life
    • Guilt and embarrassment over having participated in the group to begin with

    From the two books I’ve read about the Sullivanians, I would say virtually every one of these psychological conditions were operating. In the early years, the major belief centered around a conviction that their nuclear family was the major part of their problems. Giving up their belief would mean facing they were dupes who then burned their bridges and hurt their families badly. It would definitely cause cognitive dissonance. Community members were clearly entrapped. Most spend anywhere between 5 and 20 years in the community, forging deep friendships. They spent hundreds of hours in therapy and in the last years of the community, that was not cheap. For many, their livelihoods were dependent on the community and their living situations were all tied together. It is completely understandable they would not want to cut their losses.

    There was a great deal of peer pressure to stay in the group. It was difficult to think clearly about whether or not to leave when they could not easily discuss openly their reservations about staying. They could never be sure if what they said would get back to the leadership. In addition, by the early 1980s, the economy was contracting, requiring members to work longer. Also, Newton was becoming increasingly demanding of members to be available for work on the Fourth Wall community. As Artie Honan says many times in his autobiography, there was little time to reflect on the big picture. Most were like frogs in slowly boiling water. They couldn’t see what was happening to them.

    Unlike other leftist cults, there didn’t seem to be a great deal of name calling, but Saul Newton was brutal about getting rid of any community member he felt was too much trouble and, perhaps more painfully, community members executed his wishes. People were kicked out of the community quickly, often told they had 24 hours to leave their group housing situations. In at least one instance a person’s things were thrown in the street. Ex-members were shunned and ignored in public and the Upper West Side of New York is not a place to easily find anonymity.

    Saul Newton was a violent man. He beat his wives and occasionally publicly punched a few of the men in the community. The violence he used in orchestrating the takeover of the theatre was probably never forgotten by anyone. When one of Saul’s psychological proteges decided to leave, upon Newton’s instruction he was followed, grabbed from behind and held over the subway tracks.

    If members decided to leave, they had little in the way of a support system. Their families were heart-broken, angry and some members were disowned. The road back was unknown, lonely and full of doubt. There was no recovery groups from cult in those days. I don’t really know that the Sullivanian community felt a sense of guilt upon leaving the way members of other cults might. If a member got into the cult early, in the good days of the first seven years, those memories must have been breath-taking, intense and not easily forgettable compared to whatever normal life followed. It was the period from the early 1980s on they might have felt regretful about.

    Aftermath for Cult Members

    In their book Cults in Our Midst, Margaret Thaler Singer and Janja Lalich identify five major areas of life ex-cult members have to deal with:

    • Practical everyday life
    • Emotional volitivity
    • Cognitive inefficiencies
    • Theoretical instabilities
    • Lack of a social network

    How Ex- Sullivanians Members Managed Their Lives in The Aftermath

    Practical, everyday life

    The two books I read on this subject do not have much information about how group members managed after the community broke up. Most of what follows will be what I would call reasonable speculation. In the area of everyday living, I believe the Sullivanians did better than ex-members of other cults. For example, Sullivanians had to find work to support themselves while in the cult and they succeeded in landing jobs in the arts or doing technical work. While ex-members who became therapists were dependent on referrals, this was not a community that was totally dependent economically. The same was true about managing money and finding an apartment. Members had practice in doing these things even when in the cult. While the Sullivanians were not provided with their own medical and health care, as upper middle-class urbanites they would not go without health and medical care as many members of other cults did. All this doesn’t mean they did not suffer. But compared to other cults, the climb back up might not have been as steep.

    Emotional volatility

    In terms of emotional volatility, I suspect the Sullivanians were more like other cults in that members suffered from PTSD, insomnia and dissociation at times. I don’t think difficulty concentrating or flashbacks were part of the psychological processes they had to constantly fight off because there were not that many bad experiences. I don’t believe a loss of a sense of humor was a psychological condition. Membership in households provided opportunity for play and laughter. It wouldn’t take much to bring them back. Depression over loss of the Sullivanian community and its vision must have been great. Before the community as a whole broke up, Saul‘s treatment of those who left would give them every reason to fear for themselves and their loved ones.

    Cognitive inefficiencies

    Many members of other cults have trouble thinking critically when they leave. Especially in spiritual cults which place a great deal of emphasis on meditation, and other altered states of consciousness, where critical thinking is frowned upon. Some young members of cults never learned to think critically. They simply did not know how to set up spread sheets for weighing the pros and cons of different job offers, school choices or romantic partners. After being in cults which for years explained causes and consequences by good and evil forces, it is difficult to reason about complex causes and intended and unintended consequences. I don’t think members of the Sullivanian community ran into these problems much. While they suspended judgment and criticality when under the spell of the leadership, they had to make analytical and comparative judgment while at work, with their partners and at house meetings when they were away from the leadership.

    However, there is one area of cognition which must have been difficult and that is de-toxifying their vocabulary. All cults control their members thinking by narrowing the complexity of their language. When the leaders train someone’s vocabulary to use virtue and vice words, they are training them in dualistic thinking. Dualistic thinking makes people more controllable. This definitely went on in the Sullivanian community. It would take time to reintroduce previously “banned” vice words and repressed virtue words.

    Theoretical instabilities

    The overwhelming majority of cults are spin-offs from major theoretical schools in the fields of spirituality, politics or psychology. Spiritual cults might be spinoffs from Buddhism, Hinduism or Christianity. Political cults may draw from the work of Marx or Lenin. Psychological cults may have drawn from Freud, Jung or Humanistic psychology of Maslow. Upon leaving the cult, the ex-cult member is in a theoretical no-man’s-land. Does the psychological cult member whose leader drew from Freud therefore reject Freud completely or are they able to separate Freud from the cult interpretation of Freud? In the case of spirituality, can a member of the Hindu cult like the Hari Krishna’s reject the cult but hang on to Hinduism? In the case of the Sullivanians, Saul Newton was probably a Maoist. Can ex- Sullivanians separate Maoism as practiced by the Sullivanians from Maoist groups in general? Will they remain Leninists and switch from Mao to Stalin? Will they remain Leninists and become Trotskyists? Will they become democratic socialists?

    A more extreme strategy is to reject the field entirely. So, a follower of a spiritual cult may become an atheist. A member of a political cult might become anti-political or apolitical. A member of a psychology cult might join a group that is anti-psychological, such as Thomas Szasz, a psychiatrist who led the movement against his own field. This may be a good choice because you are starting from scratch. This may also be a bad choice because you are starting from scratch with no infrastructure. There are no easy answers.

    Lack of a social network

    As I mentioned earlier, leaving a cult is devastating for a support system. Most cult members have burned bridges with their family and friends, church and clubs they were once a part of. However, relative to other cults, with the Sullivanians the situation may have been different. I can imagine that anybody who left the cult in the early 1980s when the community was still functioning well would have a rough time. However, once the community itself was disbanded, it was a different story. Why? Because the members of this cult had lived together for years unsupervised directly by the leadership. They played together, they made art together and they made love together, hard and often. These types of connections are easy to remember and hard to forget. Artie Honan says he is still Facebook friends with many former members. He also reports that in 2007, they had a reunion in Harlem. One hundred and fifty people came. Considering the Sullivanians peaked in membership in 1974 at 400, this turnout shows there is something of quality in this community that superseded Saul Newton and the rest of the cult leadership.

    How the Sullivanians Compared to the Experience of Other Cults

    I have a number of reasons for suspecting that the Sullivanians had it better than other cults. In the first place, they did not emerge out of an ecological, economic or political crisis. Neither did they come into the cult at an impressionable age of late teens or early twenties. My sense is that most members were in their mid to late 20s when they joined and were probably more grounded. That meant people were less desperate when they joined the group. Secondly, unlike most, if not all cults, the sexual economy was far more horizontal. Members slept with each other, not just with the leadership, as in other cults. Thirdly, women were as sexually free as the men. Though Saul Newton was definitely patriarchal, women still had many sexual relationships with their peers, just as the men did. Lastly, as I mentioned earlier, the social networks that were built had relative autonomy from the leadership, especially in the living situations. This allowed them to form subgroups with their own experiences, independently of the leadership. In most cults, subgroups are not allowed to form. It was these experiences in subgroups that made it possible not to lose complete touch with each other after the Sullivanians broke up as an institution. It made it possible to have a reunion 15 years later.

    The Socialist Political Spectrum: Which Tendencies are Most Likely to Form Cults

    So, what does the fate of the Sullivanians tell us (if anything) about which tendencies on the political spectrum are likely to form cults? Are Leninists, democratic socialists and anarchists all equally likely to form cults or are some more likely to form than others? Remember earlier I said that the key element in determining a cult is not the beliefs but rather how the cult was organized. In addition, charisma, by itself is not enough to institutionalize a cult.

    A good example of a socialist organizer who was charismatic but never turned his group into a cult was Murray Bookchin. I met Murray 50 years ago on the lower East Side of Manhattan and I can testify that he had a great deal of charisma and a significant following among young hippie anarchists. This continued as he moved to Vermont to teach and founded the Institute for Social Ecology.  But the Institute for Social Ecology or any other organization he was involved in did not became a cult because the egalitarian principles of anarchism blocked this from happening.

    It would be unfair to characterize the Sullivanians as a pure political group. It was not a real political group until the 1980s. Yet the leader of the organization, Saul Newton, was a Maoist and during the last years of the group, he did use Maoist tactics like self-confession of the members’ class backgrounds, along with criticism and self-criticism.  In my previous article, a major focus was on a group called the Democratic Workers Party which definitely was a cult with a Leninist focus. What about other Leninists groups?

    In their hostile analysis of Leninist organization, On the Edge: Political Cults Right and Left, Dennis Tourish and Tim Wohlforth identify five other Leninist groups that were either cults or might have at least cultlike characterhoods. Harvey Jackins’ Reevaluation Counseling and Fred Newman’s New Alliance Party and social therapy, Gerry Healy; Ted Grant and Gino Perente also led organizations that had cult-like characteristics which were either Stalinist or Trotskyist in orientation. Each received a chapter’s attention in the book On the Edge.

    Tourish and Wohlforth summarize their book:

    Each and every Marxist Leninist grouping has exhibited the same cultic symptoms: Authoritarianism, conformity, ideological rigidity, fetishistic dwelling on apocalyptic fantasies. Not all Leninist groups are full-blown cults. However, we have yet to discover one that did not have some cultic features (213).

    As Lenin spelled out in 1910 in What is to Be Done, socialist ideas were to be introduced to the working class from the outside by professional revolutionaries drawn largely from the middle class. They view themselves as a chosen people, the possessor of a gnosis beyond the grasp of ordinary folk. Therefore, a separate organization is in order, tight discipline is required and superhuman sacrifice is demanded from members. Democratic centralism is required so that all members publicly defend the agreed positions of the party, whenever opinions they might hold to the contrary in private. (214) The communist front organization is particularly suited to political cult-manipulation (216).

    In contrast to this, the organization of the Democratic Socialists of America has loosely associated chapters and the whole organization is opposed to any kind of authoritarian organization. In fact, they organized themselves intentionally so they would have no resemblance to Leninism.

    Qualification

    I do not mean to imply that Leninism is not successful as a political tendency in the world. Russia, China and Cuba have all offered working class people significant improvements in their lives by way of steady employment, good wages, safe and reasonably priced housing, free healthcare and literacy over the last 100 years. With the exception of Sweden between the 1930s and the 1970s, social democracy has not had a good track record with the poor and working class. As for anarchism, it certainly had a great deal of success in revolutionary movements in Russia, Spain and recently in Rojava. The problem with the anarchists is that it is harder to tell what successes have carried over after the revolutionary period ended.

    The issue in this article, however, is not how successful each of the three socialist tendencies are in the end. Which group is most likely to use cult-like methods to get there? It is clear to me that Leninism has the most cult-like potential according to the criteria in this article.

    • First published in Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

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