The media’s sarcastic ridicule of trump’s “herd mentality” as a substitute to “herd immunity” while reasonable and somewhat responsible, on the surface, nevertheless warrants a much closer look.
A radiologist who focuses almost exclusively on brain scans, Dr. Atlas (how paradoxical can this ‘thing’ get?), as the presidential adviser on COVID-19 is not merely a joke, it is an outright devilish and deliberate work of evil. Dr. Birx is today reported to have requested his removal from the COVID Task Force, or at least whatever is left of that body. However, on the political front, trump’s culture, mind-set and personal unconscious lexicon is both rooted in, and still erupting in phrases and words that, far from expressing a slipped-tongue, disclose a much more deep and insidious truth. The current occupant of the Oval Office is a self-designed, self-tutored, and imitative, degenerative plagiarist “mob” figure, dependent on feeding the insatiable appetite of a clearly despised and disdained mass of cultists, over whose surging tide of fearful, and hateful vengeance for their perceived ‘villains’ (Clinton, Obama, Biden, et al). And the more he feeds this venomous bile into those open vacuums of adulatory sycophancy, the more raucous and hollow are the crowd-sourced cries “Lock her/him up!”
There is a highly politically incestuous relationship between this American president and his pubescent press of political/personal vassals. Both are hollow and empty vessels, attempting to satiate an appetite for attention deeply enmeshed in each other’s lives. And the parallel does not end there. Both will use whatever trick it takes to cling to the other: a MAGA hat here, a racist, sexist slur there, a fake promise of a wall here, a rush of thousands without masks or social distance in order to fawn over their ‘hero’..(Yesterday a clip from a trump rally with evangelicals showed a woman who actually uttered these words from her microphone: “The lord told me he was going to give the president a second term.”) A far better health care plan, promised for four years, without the slightest intention to deliver, linked nefariously to a white supremacist/terror-inspired, conspiracy ‘mob’ itself claiming trump as hero to save the children threatened by the “deep state” of elites around the world, known as Q-Anon…while trump himself deflects by yelling almost screaming against something he calls antifah.
The false equivalencies, however, neither start nor stop with that deranged assessment. False equivalencies in Charlottesville, followed by another over Putin/Ukraine influence in the 2016 (and likely the 2020) elections, another in Black Lives Matter and white supremacists with AR15 rifles in Kenosha WI, another in the fraud of mail-in ballots and absentee ballots, the false equivalency between the Mueller investigation and the Barr/Durham report, as well as another in the ‘Biden emails and the false claims of Hillary’s emails. And then there is the glaring cadre of mobsters that have been magnetized, like moths around a flickering light bulb, anxiously shivering in anticipation of a presidential ‘clap’ of one hand on a tweet, signifying empty, hollow and yet indelible and scarring endorsement on their reputation.
Borrowing from a respected text on Social Psychology,
Emory S. Bogardus, Fundamentals of Social Psychology, Chapter 22, Crowds and Mobs, accessed through https://brocku.ca/Mead Project*/1924_22 html at the Mead Project, Monday October 19, 2020)
The masses that comprise the president’s crowds exhibit almost a complete list of what are known as traits and conditions of mobs. A loss of self-awareness, a loss of responsibility, almost complete anonymity, a pack mentality imbued with the impression of universality, pseudonomity (through hats and scarves but not masks in this case) are just some of the traits of crowds.
Bogardus calls crowds, “whirlpools of life” and “effervescent centres olf a common affective and social nature”. In trump’s case, the mob is highly homogenous: determined to secure his re-election. Bogardus also attests that in crowds, “feelings submerge reason,” rendering them “reversionary, with a natural tendency to revert to primitive methods.” He says they can be referred to as a ‘herd of cattle, a covey of birds, a shoal of fish, all with a shared response to danger signals. He asserts that a homogenous crowds must have a leader, demonstrate a “heightened suggestibility” where freedom of speech is ‘ill-tolerated, and both an incapacity to understand abstractions, an a high degree of egotism abound. (QAnon’s We Go One, We Go All)
What trump himself may not wish to hear is that, as Napolean knew, crowds are especially fickle. “Napoleon appreciated this point. ‘Your majesty,’ exclaimed an aid-de-camp on one occasion, ‘hear the crowds cheering for you.’ Without smiling, Napoleon replied, ‘They would cheer just as loudly if I were going to the guillotine.’ As would be expected, there is little to no stability to the feeling elements of a crowd, offering only a low-dependability grade. Bogardus writes:
‘(But) the charlatan and mountebank** are prone to manipulate people through crowd influence, whereas the cultured man confines himself to addressing assemblies.’ More of the co-dependent enmeshment is evident between the crowd and its ‘mountebank’ in that, as Bogardus tells us, ‘the crowd considers themselves ‘ingrates’ if they refuse to respond to a request from the leader.’
And then, devolving from ‘crowd’ to ‘gang’ (a word clearly applicable to the current series of masses gathering at the altar of Air Force One, almost in a kind of revival sanctuary under the sky, Bogardus tells his readers a ‘gang is a relatively permanent group, but one of such elemental and primitive traits that it resembles a temporary crowd. It’s subservience to a leader, its feeling bases, its use of ‘might’ as the means of determining right, its fickleness, its inconsistencies—all these are crowd characteristics. In addition, it is slippery because it is a primitive group trying to survive under the changed conditions of modern civilization. It must fight for its life, since it is a survival in part of outworn behaviour principles….When hard pressed the gang resorts to mob behavior. It becomes a brute with its back against a wall, gnashing its teeth, and resorting to any means whatsoever in its defense. It recognizes no moral or social standards or responsibility.
There is still more from Bogardus:
‘The mob is a participator crowd. It is not necessarily a group of ignorant or essentially wicked persons, but often is composed of ordinarily intelligent persons who for the time being have resigned their personal standards. The mob is a monster, possessing gigantic power which causes it to throb throughout its being. IT is a tornado, using its pent-up forces irresponsibly and ruthlessly. Mobs are groups that frantically rush toward or attempt to escape from an object or person. They are motivated by hate or fear. In the first case, the group rushes toward somebody; in the second, away from something.’
Could it be that the current mob of trump sycophants has tendencies in both directions: toward the man considered to be their hero, and away from those figures of hate, contempt and revenge: Clintons, Obama and Biden.
These insights of what are considered theory, however, have relevance and application not only to the events currently dominating our headlines. They have also found resonance in lives ostensibly destroyed, by, for example, right-wing religious groups who targeting a ‘sinner’ based on the biblical exhortations to ‘stone’ a long list of miscreants: socerers, Sabbath workers, rebellious children, gluttons and drunkards, kidnappers, blasphemers, idolators, adulterers, murderers.
And in the New Testament, there is the story of Stephen. Chosen with others to steward the gifts of the people for the poor, the story goes that he chastised those people calling them “people with hard hearts and stiff necks, who will not obey the words of God and his Spirit. As your fathers did, so you do, also. Your fathers killed the prophets whom God sent to them; and you have slain Jesus, the Righteous One! As they heard these things,, they became so angry against Stephen, that they gnashed on him with their teeth, like Wild beasts. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up toward heaven with his shining face; and he saw the glory of God and Jesus standing on God’s right hand, and he said, ‘I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God!’ But they cried out with angry voices, and rushed upon him and dragged him out of the council-room, and outside the wall of the city. And there they threw stones upon him to kill him, while Stephen was kneeling down among the falling stones and praying: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit! Lord, lay not this sin up against them!’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep in death, the first to be slain for the gospel of Christ. (Book of Acts)
There is not even a hint here rendering trump analogous to Stephen! Rather, the analogy of the mob currently rushing to trump rallies to the mob who stoned Stephen is in the frenetic energy, the overpowering and almost inebriating influence of the mob sensing its own “inferiority, insecurity, impurity, and especially guilt. Such intense, magnified and unleashed feelings, characteristic of the hundreds if not thousands of lynchings in the U.S. lies in the bowels of the furnace of anger/adulation currently simmering on the tarmacs of American airports….and whether or not the fury that felled Stephen will find another one or more targets in contemporary America remains an open question.
Having watched various forms of re-enactments of the stoning of Stephen, especially among religious fanatics, and witnessing the current wave of religious fervour that clings to trump’s coat-tails, fully endorsed and succored by trump himself, most of us have to be asking ourselves, legitimately and reasonably, if the United States is not sliding into what some would call a theocracy.
Bill Barr, in his HBO monologue last night, poignantly skewered the dominance of 7 of 9 Supreme Court Justices, all of the Roman Catholic, (including the prospect of Barrett’s confirmation) while bemoaning the absence of Muslim justices, Jewish justices and justices espousing atheism and/or agnosticism. If, dear reader, you might pardon the pun, the “lynchpin” holding the forces of the mob together with the forces currently packing the Supreme Court is none other than the president of the United States.
He has engineered a political cabal of sycophantic cabinet secretaries, most of them acting and not therefore requiring Senate confirmation, and also thereby subject to instant replacement should they cross the loyalty oath to the president, while enflaming the media as fake news, decrying honourable and trusted institutions of government along with many current and former individuals, and spewing chaos and melodrama as if these were instruments of the Roman gladiators in the Colesseum. So rapid and overwhelming is the wave of crises, personal, pandemic, political and economic, not to mention geo-political that trump boils in his radioactive cauldron of witches brew that the public is simply unable to remember even back a single week. Hence, loss of public memory has become a valuable intrinsic instrument in trump’s quiver.
In another recent piece in this space, the question of the somatizing of personal emotions was the subject; today, the danger of unleashed, mob-fueled frenetic emotions willingly and somewhat innocently manipulated by a master-manipulator in the service of his personal narcissistic and uncontrollable insecurities sounds a fire alarm of epic proportions.
The proportions are not of this scribe’s doing; they are the work of a single two-headed monster, one a mob, the other a mobster.
And many of us are still wondering who/what will “bell this radioactive cat”?
*The Mead Project, c/o Dr. Lloyd Gordon Ward, 44 Charles Street West, Apt. 4501, Toronto Ontario, M4Y1R8
**Mountebank: a person who deceives others, especially in order to trick them out of their money, a charlatan