It's happened before. Over and over again.1 Large numbers of us fall victim to a particular belief that is false. The same belief for each. It is not necessary to single out any specific belief; the erroneous notion or "claim" could be about anything. Usually such phenomena are framed in terms of a group, often by having recourse to adjectives such as "collective", and "social", but the intellectual history of modern and post-modern civilization can be seen as the rise and fall of the notion of "group," which at times assumes supreme importance in the investigation of many historical phenomena.

Unfortunately, casting the discussion in terms of a group -- instead of calling attention to a certain assemblage of persons -- has the immediate effect of importing into that discussion the veritable universe of claims which have become the inner substance of thought about "groups." It is claimed e.g. that some levels or realms of reality itself are manifest or embodied only where a group is spied out, that is, identified specifically as such, and that if the investigation does not elevate the concept of group to supreme, guiding significance for itself, then that investigation will be fundamentally flawed due to the absence of any attention to those aspects (levels, realms) of reality per se.

The extremely high degree of abstraction required by the last paragraph will alert the savvy reader that not much of use can be wrested out of those particular reflections as they thus baldly stand, beyond, that is, the importance of returning to the fates of human individuals. What happens in the world as consequences of human activity must either begin with (or eventually arrive at) one such human committing an act, and he does this, at least at first glance, as an individual. It is tempting to rush past first impressions to get to "the bottom of things." This leads to what is known as the "genetic fallacy" -- not at all connected to the biological theories of inheritance that so abound -- but the usually unspoken assumption that in order to understand a thing its path of development -- its "story", so to speak -- must be grasped. One is reminded of the old maxim "Do not mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon." My allegiance to the central role of the individual is of course anathema in liberal or "progressive" movements, as it is in any version of politics derived from Marxism.

In the modern era the high-water mark for the study of individual psychology arguably was Freud's psychoanalysis, which eventually dominated the practice of psychiatry until it (psychoanalysis) fell into disfavor in the last few decades of the last century. The academic study of group psychology is a comparatively new arrival. That study began in Europe, and took on serious proportions, for example, with the publication of The Authoritarian Personality, following the emergence of the Third Reich in Germany.

Freud expressed deep interest in social questions throughout his career, and in later life came to focus on those questions almost exclusively, with works such as The Future of an Illusion (1927). Younger psychoanalysts addressed the events in Germany, and so-called "mass" movements of large groups of people. I want to cite, as my text for this post, remarks by one of them, Otto Fenichel (1897-1946) from his magisterial (and finally in the public domain) The Psychoanalytic Theory of Neurosis (1945):

When the child is forced through experiences to renounce his belief in his omnipotence, he considers the adults who have now become independent objects to be omnipotent, and tries by introjection to share their omnipotence again. Certain narcissistic feelings of well-being are characterized by the fact that they are felt as a reunion with an omnipotent force in the external world, brought about either by incorporating parts of this world or by the fantasy of being incorporated by it ("secondary narcissism"). Religious ecstasy, patriotism, and similar feelings are characterized by the ego's participation in something unattainably high. Many social phenomena are rooted in the "omnipotents'" promise to the powerless of the desired passive participation on condition of their fulfillment of certain rules.

While the study of authoritarian personalities produced much sociological data, this small snippet of psychoanalytic thought provides more of a sense of what makes such personalities "tick." I submit that the last sentence, above, "Many social phenomena are rooted in the "omnipotents'" promise to the powerless of the desired passive participation on condition of their fulfillment of certain rules." can shed light on, as 1 Peter 4:8 had it, "a multitude of sins." Who could be immune to the offer of that quid pro quo?

Please consider the above murky prose as prolegomena to blatantly political commentary. The "mass insanity" (title of this post) is of course Trump Derangement Syndrome, especially as it is manifest in the Democratic Party. Their bowels have been in an uproar since the defeat of Hillary in '16. They experienced the loss as total dis-empowerment, as helplessness, as falling into the much bally-hoo'd existential abyss of meaninglessness.

They lash out in pure impotent infantile rage. What's that you say? The first whistleblower's "complaint" was a fraud? Well don't you get yourself in a snit over that; we'll just summon another whistleblower!

My mood is well expressed by this note I sent last week to the local talk-radio morning drive host:

From Wed Oct 2 11:20:51 2019
To: Tara Granahan
Subject: Shame
Date: Wed, 2 Oct 2019 11:20:48
User-Agent: Alpine 2.21 (DEB 202 2017-01-01)

You're amplifying this psychotic feeding frenzy transpiring under the rubric "impeachment" by airing Nancy Pelosi live?


This collective mental breakdown among the Dems does not help our citizens, or the republic, in any way. But it DOES embolden our enemies, who mistake it as evidence of a weakened President.

Do not ever forget that the United States have dangerous powerful enemies spread across this dubious planet, who seek our destruction SOLELY on the basis of WHAT WE STAND FOR.

You ask yourself: What's going on in Bob's mind?
Unix techie:

Thank you for your patience if you were able to wade through this outburst!

  1. A good account of one such episode is Aldous Huxley's The Devils of Loudon.