To: The Tool
It’s clearly not a new phenomenon in either our longer-term collective history or when it comes to you and your base, but given the phenomenal degree of nutso-ness (a totally technical term, btw) I’m not finished unpacking mass hysteria. Here’s the definition that my Google algorithm delivers (from Wikipedia):
“In sociology and psychology, mass hysteria (also known as mass psychogenic illness, collective hysteria, group hysteria, or collective obsessional behavior) is a phenomenon that transmits collective illusions of threats, whether real or imaginary, through a population and society as a result of rumors and fear.”
Or lies from certain presidents….
Moving on, here’s what the handy “People Also Ask” pop-up says about what causes mass hysteria:
“In many cases, hysteria is triggered by an environmental incident — such as contamination of the water supply — that causes people to literally worry themselves sick over getting sick, even though they’re otherwise perfectly healthy.”
We could easily extend this to lies, fear mongering, and race baiting on the part of a certain president who spews pollutants into the civic environment.
And here’s what PAA says about whether mass hysteria is a mental illness:
“Mass psychogenic illness (MPI), also called mass sociogenic illness, mass psychogenic disorder, epidemic hysteria, or mass hysteria, is “the rapid spread of illness signs and symptoms affecting members of a cohesive group, originating from a nervous system disturbance involving excitation, loss, or alteration of function….”
Here the emphasis is on mysterious physical symptoms, but I think it’s still applicable.
Next PAA gives us a nice, highly instructive overview of how contagious mass hysteria is:
“Occasionally the illness persists for days; but usually, once the afflicted crowd disperses, symptoms tend to disappear, probably because they are only contagious when new victims observe others falling ill. Rumors about the cause of these outbreaks tend to spring up throughout the communities.”
Piecing all this together (albeit, not in a terribly effortful or rigorous way) it seems pretty clear that someone in your camp did their homework and could probably teach a dandy “How to Instill, Propagate, and Sustain Mass Hysteria” 101 course. You all spent the last four years bombarding the populous with constant, honed messaging designed to: 1) entrain key segments of the disillusioned to respond to your dog whistles, 2) keep their attention focused on YOU and your surrogates, 3) instill the fervent belief in their own victimhood (i.e., their God-given rights to do whatever the hell they want are being unfairly infringed upon), 4) sow doubt, disrespect, and damn anyone who questions or opposes YOU, and 5) encourage them to buy up weaponry at the smallest sign of change they don’t like.
All of this set the stage for what we’re seeing now with the meta-voter-fraud-campaign. And truly, it’s clear you all did an awesome job. Your efforts are paying off spectacularly, perhaps even beyond your wildest dreams. A recent Monmouth poll shows that 77% of Republicans believe that the election was rigged against you, that it was stolen from you. Assuming this is 77% of the votes cast for you, this works out to nearly 57 million people. That is some serious mass hysteria.
Moreover, as E. J. Dionne points out – you managed to attract 10 million more votes in 2020 than you did in 2016, which he attributes to the QAnons, Proud Boys, and members of other hard (violent) alt-right groups having piled on board the Trump train. This attribution is currently just a hypothesis about who is among these new Trump voters, but it’s a reasonable one, and as Dionne posits, it may very well be why so many in the GOP are going along with your absurd lies about the election. It really is a plausible explanation for why they’re willing to help you sow as much doubt about the results as you all possibly can. In other words, they know which side their bread is buttered on (and who is wielding the knife) and they aren’t about to alienate these new voters, no matter how irrational, immoral, and destructive the positions and postures they must assume to keep the ruse going.
So there you have it – mass hysteria on steroids…… And our democracy on life support.
May we be safe from evil propaganda machines.
May we be willing to think for ourselves.
May we stay strong and not meet hate with hate.
May we accept that we’re in an epic struggle and there’s no guarantee of an ok outcome.