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« Open Letter To William Kristol | Main | Open Thread »
February 13, 2017

Sarah Silverman Spots Swastikas Painted All Over the Sidewalks, Overt Symbols of a Coming Nazi Takeover.
Or Wait, Maybe Not So Much.

Jim Geraghty documents a particularly deranged case of hysterical hallucination from increasingly unhinged former comedienne Sarah Silverman.

It's both funny and sad -- and also, scary.

Because these people are honest-to-God insane, and that's going to be trouble.

No, Sarah, it's a symbol for a utility line being under the street. You know, so people digging in the streets don't break electric, gas, or water lines.

That's the funny part of it -- the clueless ignorance of these people.

But Geraghty gets to the sad and frightening part:

The best line in the otherwise deeply-disappointing Star Wars: The Phantom Menace: "Your focus determines your reality."

This is the "secret" to a lot of self-help books, including The Secret. (Whoops, spoiler alert.) It isn't magic or the Force, it's mostly psychology: Whatever you look for, you tend to find. If you walk around believing that the world is out to get you, you will find circumstances and examples to fit that belief. If you walk around thinking life is full of opportunities, you will perceive more of life’s circumstances as potential opportunities.

He then ties this "looking for signs of Naziism" to the new past-times of attacking Nazis (or suspected Nazis, or bitcoin enthusiasts).

I keep making the case that this must be viewed as a very serious and dangerous outbreak of mass hysteria, collective hysteria, or mass delusion on the left.

In sociology and psychology, mass hysteria (also known as collective hysteria, group hysteria, or collective obsessional behavior) is a phenomenon that transmits collective illusions of threats, whether real or imaginary, through a population in society as a result of rumors and fear (memory acknowledgment).

People have literally been killed due to mass hysteria, of course. This is just one of the more famous cases:

Salem witch trials (1692–93)[edit]

Adolescent girls Abigail Williams, Betty Parris, Ann Putnam, Jr., and Elizabeth Hubbard began to have fits that were described by a minister as "beyond the power of Epileptic Fits or natural disease to effect."[9] The events resulted in the Salem witch trials, a series of hearings leading to the executions of 20 citizens and the deaths of five citizens of Salem Village, Massachusetts (present day Danvers, Massachusetts) and nearby towns accused of witchcraft.[10] The episode is one of America's most notorious cases of mass hysteria, and has been used in political rhetoric and popular literature as a vivid cautionary tale about the dangers of isolationism, religious extremism, false accusations and lapses in due process.[11]

The past year has taught me -- by watching the media and the NeverTrumpers emerge from their group huddles on Twitter and listservs full of fear and fire -- that most information is not rationalized into people. It's socialized into them. People have a need to belong, and sharing in a group creed gives them a sense of security and a sort of spiritual North Star.

It makes people feel good to agree with each other. There is very little more exciting in the world than being on the same wavelength with another human being. (It occurs to me that this is what makes the couple of hours before a first sexual encounter so narcotic -- you are both vibing with the exact same thought.)

Even better -- being on the same wavelength as lots of other people. Half the reason people go to a rock concert isn't to see the band, but to experience the shared sense of excitement and euphoria of 10,000 people all thinking the same thing.

This all feels good, but philosophy and policy must be about more than solidarity and shared mindthoughts.

And it's dangerous. Hysteria is a memetic virus, passed only by words and emotions (and the pheremones people give off in aroused emotional states). Delusions can be put in someone's head merely by suggestion, and when thousands of people are repeating the same delusion, that delusion is powerfully reinforced not only in newly infected carriers of the memetic virus, but in the already sick.

While contrarians are always a pain in the ass for the people they're being contrary towards, without contrarians to take a crap on the Erotic Agreement Pheromone party, people can rouse themselves into truly murderous rages, each encouraging his correligionists to go just a little bit farther and then being egged on to go a little bit farther himself -- a cycle of positively-reinforced and reinforcing extremification -- until mobs are hunting people down in the streets and grad students are building bombs in their apartments, "because Justice demands" that army enlistee's dance must be bombed.

The media is always pressuring conservatives to sound the alarm and warn their own more excitable members away from lunacy -- this is the "hot rhetoric leads to violence" theory, which I at least partly agree with -- but note that when it comes to lunacy on the left, the media is not only indulgent of increasingly unhinged to talk that leads, inexorably, to the conclusion that political opponents must be beaten, bloodied, or outright murdered, but more and more are ringleaders of the exact type of "Climate of Hate" they try to pin on the right every 4-6 years.

They have gone from being liberal scolds to outright political pornographers.

Where is Jake Tapper to warn Sarah Silverman and her likeminded lunatics of the perils of a Climate of Hate and provocative rhetoric as they are whenever conservatives seem to be "going too far"?

When the rifle bullets start cracking in the night, what will they say?

Will they pause to examine their own roles as serving as the Typhoid Marys of the political violence virus?

I doubt it.

Instead, they'll just continue using the power of suggestion, reinforced by mass repetition, to spread the virus of political lunacy.

digg this
posted by Ace at 06:05 PM

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