The Psychology of Totalitarianism

The Psychology of Totalitarianism is a book written by professor of psychology from Ghent University in Belgium, Dr. Mattias Desmet. In his book he illustrates his concepts of mass formation psychosis that has led to the irrational behavior of the masses in response to Covid over the past two and a half years. Wearing masks, lockdowns, coerced vaccination, denying healthcare to the unvaccinated, wearing masks in your car when alone, continuing to get boosters when both safety and efficacy are in question, and so on.

One refreshing aspect of the book is that it undermines scientific authority which paradoxically enhances science. Specifically, he cites the work of legendary researcher Dr. John Ioannidis, epidemiologist and professor of medicine at Stanford University, and his research affirming that most medical research is not able to be replicated. Either through researcher bias or outright fraud, most published research, is simply, not valid.

I say this enhances science when Desmet points this out because it undermines the assumption of scientific authority. Science is supposed to be an open ended search for the truth that is inherently self corrective. Once science claims the role of authority and seeks to limit discussion it is no longer science. Censorship and science can’t coexist. In fact, using ‘authority’ to aid an argument is one of the four basic logical fallacies taught in basic scientific research classes. The others are attacking the messenger, i.e., the argument is flawed because the messenger is flawed, the false dichotomy, and assuming a temporal relationship automatically means causality.

Essentially, the isolation of people, or as Desmet calls it, the atomizing of people, the cutting off of general societal bonds mostly due to technology, leads to a lack of meaning, free floating anxiety and frustration with no tangible cause. The introduction of a perceived threat, especially the ‘invisible enemy’ of the virus, galvanizes people into a new group to fight this common enemy. Thus, mass formation into a group identity. The introduction of ritualized behaviors such as masks, walking six feet apart, following lines in stores, all reinforce the new cultlike group identity. This disintegrates all critical thinking and blind obedience ensues. In essence we are left with a kind of group hypnosis. Roughly a third of the people are in trance, a third going along with it out of pressure, and a third wide awake and fully resisting.

As a psychotherapist that specializes in clinical hypnosis, I’d like to offer a few insights. First, of course, and Desmet points this out, this type of blind obedience does not occur in clinical hypnosis because the subject knows they are being hypnotized and knows why. Actually, group brainwashing may be a better word for what is occurring, but that may come off as harsh. The ritualized behaviors mentioned above, such as mask wearing, these, as he mentions, are designed to reinforce group blind allegiance and acceptance into the new group. They are also both convincers and trance deepening techniques.  

There are a few social psychology studies that truly apply to the current situation in America and the world at large. Desmet mentions Asch’s studies on conformity. In these studies, there was a line on the board and three other separate lines and the subject was supposed to state which one matched the original line in length. The matching line was obvious. The catch was that there were 12 confederates in the study that all stated the same wrong line. The participant stated the incorrect line as a result third of the time and attributed this afterword to social pressure and for some participants they even began to doubt their own cognitions. Interestingly, in this study, when there was another confederate that stated the correct line, the participant also stated the correct line 95% of the time.

Another classic study worth mentioning is Milgram’s study on obedience. Milgram was attempting to gain insight into the atrocities that occurred in World War II, especially with human experimentation and the findings of the Nuremberg trials. This study also used confederates. In this case participants were told that the study was about leaning and the learner (a confederate) was strapped to electrodes. The participant functioned as the teacher and provided electrical shocks when the participant answered wrongly. These ranged from slight (15 volts) to danger/severe (375 volts) to XXX (450 volts). The experimenter (another confederate) wore a gray lab coat and instructed the participant when to administer an electrical jolt. Amazingly 65% of the participants turned the dial all the way to 450 volts when commanded to by the experimenter.  

The Milgram experiments are very concerning. Consider law enforcement and members of the military when ordered to force mask, force quarantine, and force vaccinate. These government employees have years of indoctrination and risk losing their pensions if they do not obey.

In The Psychology of Totalitarianism, a detailed analysis of totalitarianism is provided. He differentiates between a typical dictator that rules by fear and often eases up once in power to maintain support and the totalitarian whose blinded by their own ideology. The analysis of the mass formation that occurred under Hitler and Stalin is spot on and Desmet points out that the maniacal leader is not necessary for totalitarianism and that the current global totalitarianism is being conducted via technocracy and its pseudo-science being aided by technology. The cult like aspect of both followers and leaders is highlighted.

Desmet, like others before him, points out that these totalitarian systems eventually collapse on their own weight. The problem is that this could potentially take decades and billions may be murdered by then. He seems to down play the psychopathic aspect of the totalitarians to some degree, this I am not entirely in agreement on, as future articles will reveal. According to Desmet, the ideology of a mechanistic universe leads to mass formation which leads to totalitarian systems.

I am not in total agreement on this either. At times it may play out that way. This time, it appears that totalitarians, believing in their ideology that the planet can’t sustain a growing human population, have engineered the mass formation psychosis.

This book is definitely a worthwhile read. You may want to buy a copy for those friends and family members that have been conned. As disturbing as the Milgram study mentioned above is, the silver lining in Asch’s study is that once one is exposed to the truth, there is a potentiality of being liberated from intellectual slavery.  

This is one reason there is a blatant global push for censorship.