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The Psychology of Totalitarianism Part 4

For previous installments of this series, see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Chapter 8 of Mattias Desmet's The Psychology of Totalitarianism (PT) continues his discussion of the nature of totalitarian leadership, specifically his contention that the causality of totalitarianism is not best explained by either greed or deliberate conspiracy.1 Rather it is a complex process, the results of which may be conditioned by certain facts on the ground (e.g. technocratic ideology), but which are not intended in the manner many may suppose, i.e. a grand plan agreed upon by a group of conspirators and rationally and systematically put into effect, the results matching more or less with the original goals.

Desmet starts the chapter with the example of the Sierpinski triangle — a fractal where a type of order emerges from seemingly random steps. Here's a video demonstration of how it works:

Comment: See also:


The Serpent and the Staff: Symbols of Safety and Security in the Propaganda of a Global Medical Tyranny

Caduceus Grunge Symbol
© Nicolas Raymond is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Caduceus Grunge Symbol


Understanding the bizarre social and economic transformations afoot in the world today requires a considerably wider view of history than is presented in contemporary corporate media. In this present era of an emerging Bio-Nano Age, we can see, if we squint at history, the faint contours of ancient cultures practicing mystic rites, medicine, and alchemy. It is hardly a stretch of the imagination to witness traces of the mythological past expressed in the present and to see the use of symbols as integral to such practices.

Mass consent to these radical changes is due, in large measure, to powerful forms of propaganda and the effective use of key symbols working on populations terrorized consistently by authority figures issuing ominous warnings of certain societal doom. Why are signs and symbols in the hands of power structures so elemental to a particular social order?

Public consent in democratic societies necessitates that power and authority manufacture or maintain the significance of symbols that will, in the popular imagination, help regiment perception, thought, and behavior. The people must be conditioned to recognize and perceive in the symbol shared meanings, whether consciously or unconsciously, and think about or respond to them in the approved and appropriate ways. This is the job of integration and agitation propaganda — to agitate emotion and enfeeble human reason to sufficient degrees so as to integrate the mass public into approved plans of acceptable social practice.


Why Fukuyama was right all along

protesters Minneapolis
© Steel Brooks/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
War is hell but peace is boring
Long dismissed as liberal hubris, The End of History accurately predicted that the West's greatest threat comes from within.

The American political philosopher Francis Fukuyama has become, perhaps unfairly, something of a punchline in recent years. Written immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union, when global pre-eminence was unexpectedly thrust upon the United States, his National Interest essay The End of History?, later elaborated into a bestselling book, has become a shorthand for liberal hubris. Its central argument, that liberal democracy had essentially won the battle of ideologies and that the arc of history seemed to bend inexorably towards the liberal order, seemed to embody the triumphalist optimism of the 1990s and 2000s, establishing the framework for the politics of the era.

Now that history has returned with the vengeance of the long-dismissed, few analyses of our present moment are complete without a ritual mockery of Fukuyama's seemingly naive assumptions. The also-rans of the 1990s, Samuel P. Huntington's The Clash of Civilisations thesis and Robert D. Kaplan's The Coming Anarchy, which predicted a paradigm of growing disorder, tribalism and the breakdown of state authority, now seem more immediately prescient than Fukuyama's offering.

Yet nearly thirty years later, reading what Fukuyama actually wrote as opposed to the dismissive précis of his ideas, we see that he was right all along. Where Huntington and Kaplan predicted the threat to the Western liberal order coming from outside its cultural borders, Fukuyama discerned the weak points from within, predicting, with startling accuracy, our current moment.


Mindfulness meditation reduces pain by separating it from the self

© iStock
For centuries, people have been using mindfulness meditation to try to relieve their pain, but neuroscientists have only recently been able to test if and how this actually works. In the latest of these efforts, researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine measured the effects of mindfulness on pain perception and brain activity.

The study, published July 7, 2022 in PAIN, showed that mindfulness meditation interrupted the communication between brain areas involved in pain sensation and those that produce the sense of self. In the proposed mechanism, pain signals still move from the body to the brain, but the individual does not feel as much ownership over those pain sensations, so their pain and suffering are reduced.

"One of the central tenets of mindfulness is the principle that you are not your experiences," said senior author Fadel Zeidan, PhD, associate professor of anesthesiology at UC San Diego School of Medicine. "You train yourself to experience thoughts and sensations without attaching your ego or sense of self to them, and we're now finally seeing how this plays out in the brain during the experience of acute pain."


Is music universal?

Music Notes
© Neurologica Blog
From a neurological and evolutionary perspective, music is fascinating. There seems to be a deeply rooted biological appreciation for tonality, rhythm, and melody. Not only can people find certain sequences of sounds to be pleasurable, they can powerfully evoke emotions. Music can be happy, sad, peaceful, foreboding, energetic or comical. Why is this? Music is also deeply cultural, with different cultures independently developing forms of music that are very different from each other. All human cultures have music, so the question is - to what extent are the details of musical appreciation universal vs culturally specific?

In Western music, for example, there are minor and major scales, chords, and keys. This refers to the combinations of notes or intervals between them. Music in a minor key tends to evoke emotions of sadness or foreboding, while those in a major key tend to evoke happiness or brightness. Would anyone from any culture interpret major and minor key music the same way? Research suggests that major and minor emotional effects are universal, but a recent study casts a little doubt on this conclusion.

The researchers looked at different subpopulations of people in Papua New Guinea, and both musicians and non-musicians in Australia. They chose Papua New Guinea because the people there share a common musical tradition, but vary in their exposure to Western music and culture. The experiment was simple - subjects were exposed to major and minor music and were asked to indicate if it made them feel happy or sad (the so-called emotional "valence"). Every group had the same emotional valence in response to major and minor music - that is, except one. The one group that had essentially no exposure to Western culture and music did not have the same emotional reaction to music.

The authors conclude from this that, at least to some extent, the emotional valence of different kinds of music is a culturally learned language. They also point out, however, that this one study does not rule out that musical appreciation is universal. But it does call that conclusion into question, at least to some extent. How does this fit into our current theories about the evolution of music?


The Psychology of Totalitarianism, Part 2

many one-faced
© Unknown
Yes, Virginia, There Is a Mass Formation

In part 1 of Psychology of Totalitarianism (PT), Mattias Desmet describes how society becomes fragmented and individuals isolated from each other as a result of the mechanistic worldview. Part 2, which deals directly with totalitarianism and its psychological basis, describes the process by which it is reunited. Mass formation creates a pathological caricature of social unity, one not built upon a plurality of individuals but upon a Borg-like collective mentality. This is the subject of Chapter 5, "The Rise of the Masses."

For Desmet, mass formation explains:
...the willingness of the individuals to blindly sacrifice their personal interests in favor of the collective, radical intolerance of dissident voices, a paranoid informant mentality that allows government to penetrate the very heart of private life, the curious susceptibility to absurd pseudo-scientific indoctrination and propaganda, the blind following of a narrow logic that transcends all ethical boundaries (making totalitarianism incompatible with religion), the loss of all diversity and creativity (making totalitarianism the enemy of art and culture), and intrinsic self-destructiveness (which ensures that totalitarian systems invariable annihilate themselves in the end). (PT, p. 91)
And among the signs of a "new kind of (technocratic) totalitarianism" on the rise today, he refers to the snooping powers of the world security services and move towards a surveillance society, the loss of privacy, rise in snitching, censorship of alternative voices, QR code mania, etc. Unlike the old totalitarianism with its "ring leaders" like Lenin and Hitler, we have rule by "dull bureaucrats and technocrats" (PT, p. 91). He observes that the process has evolved over time — from the age of autocracies when masses were effectively put down by rulers, to the larger-scale and longer-lasting masses of the French Revolution, still more so with the Bolsheviks, and finally, with Covid, "we have, for the first time in history, reached a point where the entire world population is in the grip of a mass formation over a prolonged period of time" (PT, p. 93).

Comment: See also:


Totalitarian leaders: Greedy, evil, fanatic - or a bit of each?

totalitarian leaders
Chapter 7 of Mattias Desmet's Psychology of Totalitarianism (PT) is titled "The Leaders of the Masses." In it, he provides his answer to the question as to the nature of totalitarian leadership. Is it best to characterize them as a cabal of conspirators carrying out a nefarious plan? Are they just hungry for power and driven by greed? Or are they psychologically deranged in some manner — sadistic psychopaths who have angled their way into power?

Desmet rejects all these explanations, opting instead to argue that the leaders are themselves in the grip of the hypnotic narrative behind the mass formation. Unlike the hypnotist, the totalitarian spellbinder himself "fanatically believes in the ideological basis of the narrative (not in the narrative itself!) that controls the masses." "In fact, this person's field of attention is usually even more narrow than that of the masses" (PT, p. 105).

In this view, the main driver is ideology, and the overall dynamics "should be understood in terms of mass psychology rather than malicious, intentional deception" (PT, p. 115). The "facts," as presented in the hypnotic narrative (most often in terms of numbers and charts), justify the stigmatization and oppression of a target group (the focus of aggression, the elimination of which acts as anti-anxiety medication on the emotional preconditions of the mass formation, discussed in Part 1), the logic of which is gradually institutionalized and imposed on society, typically "in a fanatical, blind, and merciless way" (PT, p. 106). For the leaders, "Reality must and will be adjusted to the ideological fiction" (PT, p. 107). And this, for Desmet, is what produces the "mental and emotional blindness" that characterizes such regimes.

Comment: See also: The Psychology of Totalitarianism: Reviewing Mattias Desmet's New Book Part 1


The Psychology of Totalitarianism: Technocracy's 'Science Of Social Engineering'

Professor Mattias Desmet

Professor Mattias Desmet
Professor Mattias Desmet, a Belgian psychologist with a master's degree in statistics, gained worldwide recognition toward the end of 2021, when he presented the concept of "mass formation" as an explanation for the absurd and irrational behavior we were seeing with regard to the COVID pandemic and its countermeasures.

He also warned that mass formation gives rise to totalitarianism, which is the topic of his new book, The Psychology of Totalitarianism. Desmet's work was further popularized by Dr. Robert Malone, whose appearance on the Joe Rogan podcast was viewed by about 50 million people.

But as the search term "mass formation" exploded in popularity, Google responded by manipulating the search engine results in an attempt to discredit Desmet and show people in their search results information that would cause them to discount the importance of this work. Why? Because Google is at the core of the global cabal and movement toward totalitarianism.

Comment: Dr. Mercola's interview with Prof. Desmet:

Further reading:

Bad Guys

On natural shitlection, cellular intelligence and Soviet transhumanism

futuristic landscape science fiction
Like a lot of others, I've been working my way through Ian McGilchrist's The Matter With Things. This is one of those truly seminal, vast, once-in-a-century works of syncretic philosophy that is destined to leave a deep impression on the world. The dust cover says 'one of the most important books ever published, and yes, I do mean ever'. It lives up to that billing.

One of McGilchrist's points regards the nature of life. Specifically, he goes after the machine model. This is something that Winston Smith covers in detail in his essay Are You a Machine? That's a long read, and while it's well worth your time, I'll quickly summarize the main points of the argument.

For centuries now, organisms have been understood as basically mechanical in nature. The modern view is that life-forms are basically survival machines, biochemical robots constructed by selfish genes for the purpose of their own propagation.

This is a very left hemisphere way of seeing things. The left hemisphere likes to understand reality as pure mechanism, composed of discrete parts related by clear causal linkages, such that the whole can be decomposed into the parts, understood at the level of the parts, and then reassembled - the whole being no more than the sum of the parts.


The Psychology of Totalitarianism: Reviewing Mattias Desmet's New Book Part 1

book cover
I've been eagerly awaiting Mattias Desmet's new book ever since his podcast appearances delineating the "mass formation" hypothesis regarding COVID-19 and the subsequent announcement the book's English translation: The Psychology of Totalitarianism (PT). Desmet is a practicing psychoanalyst and professor of clinical psychology in Belgium, and he brings a level of insight to his analysis that is sorely lacking in many other commentators. I highly recommend readers get the book. It's an essential addition to the library of ponerology.

In this and subsequent posts I will be summarizing the book's main points, correlating and comparing them to ideas from Lobaczewski, and responding to the very few bits I take issue with.

The book itself is divided into three sections: "Science and Its Psychological Effects," "Mass Formation and Totalitarianism," and "Beyond the Mechanistic Worldview." As Desmet points out in the Introduction:
...part 1 and part 3 of this book only marginally refer to totalitarianism. It is not my aim with this book to focus on that which is usually associated with totalitarianism — concentration camps, indoctrination, propaganda — but rather the broader, cultural-historical processes from which totalitarianism emerges. This approach allows us to focus on what matters most: Totalitarianism arises from evolutions and tendencies that take place in our day-to-day lives. (PT, p. 8)