Covid as Mass Formation Psychosis
The pandemic was a textbook example of the psychological phenomenon.
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“ICU Doctor here: I skied 4 hrs in an N95 + a ski mask on top of it! Did not get hypoxic or hypercapnic!” an anaesthesiologist named Ilad Sharifpour tweeted in January.
How do we explain such ridiculous exhibitionism? How is it that the enthusiasm for repressive covid restrictions among some people, despite these restrictions having achieved nowhere near the beneficial impact that proponents promised, is such that a medical professional felt moved to boast about going above and beyond what CDC guidelines even stipulated at the time while engaging in a solo activity involving high speed travel on a mountain?
And how do we explain this sort of thing:
It remains fascinating in a kind of annoying way that what were once presented as temporary pandemic measures transformed into rituals that signified membership in the covid cult of caution. Even after it became indisputable that many, if not most, of our public health decisions had no basis in real science, why is it that hundreds of millions of people acquiesced to a pathologized-totalitarian science experiment with no off-ramp justified with constantly shifting and contradictory criteria and the calculus of the most risk-averse individuals? And why did so many covid cultists end relationships with people who questioned the consensus narrative?
In order to answer these questions we must look at the pandemic through the lens of psychopathology.
In December of last year, Dr. Robert Malone appeared on Joe Rogan’s podcast. Malone is a career immunologist who helped make the major breakthrough in mRNA in 1988 that laid the foundation for the technology used in the covid vaccines. His name is on the patents, and he’s spent nearly four decades studying at or working with a host of renowned institutions. All of which is to say that this is not some fringe whack job we’re talking about here, but one of the preeminent experts in his field.
Naturally, after Malone appeared on Rogan’s podcast, people proceeded to lose their absolute minds. Why? Because Malone posited a theory explaining why so many people turned into mindless cultists called “mass formation psychosis.” Ironically, the outsized reaction to Dr. Malone’s claim (Google even intervened to bury information on the theory when people searched for “mass formation”) was itself proof of mass formation psychosis, henceforth referred to as MFP.
What is Mass Formation Psychosis?
MFP is not new. Indeed, a passing familiarity with 20th century history reveals numerous examples, with the most prominent being Nazi Germany, which was rooted in a race theory propagated by a bat-shit crazy demagogue who makes Fauci look like a beacon of rectitude by comparison. A majority of Germans were overtaken by a curious state of mind, to put it mildly, driven by evil enthusiasm and fanaticism and wholly dispensing with critical thinking. People denounced family and friends deemed insufficiently loyal to the German People and their Führer; they agreed that the physically impaired should be killed and the elimination of Germans with heart and lung problems was necessary for the future of the Aryan motherland; and they supported the industrialized extermination of “inferior races.”1
As detailed in The Psychology of Totalitarianism, all totalitarian populations are infected with MFP and show striking similarities: A willingness of individuals to blindly sacrifice their personal interests in favor of the collective, radical intolerance of dissent, a paranoid informant mentality that all but welcomes government intrusion into private life, a baffling appreciation for pseudo-scientific indoctrination and propaganda, and tunnel vision that tramples ethical boundaries.
Based on a body of sound social theory and psychology that has accumulated over the past hundred years, MFP was first postulated by Professor Matthias Desmet of the University of Ghent. According to Desmet, for this process of mass formation to happen there must be four conditions—and one need not be a bonafide sociologist to establish that much of society was afflicted by these four conditions before the pandemic began.
The first condition is the most important: Generalized loneliness, social isolation, and lack of social bonds among the population. This condition has grown to such an extent that the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has referred to it as the “loneliness epidemic.” Of particular note, loneliness is strongly associated with the use of social media and communication technology, which is why the problem is greatest in industrialized nations.
The deterioration of social connectedness leads to the second condition: A lack of meaning in life. I’ve written about some of this in the context of widespread “anomie” and the erosion of the white working class. Suffice it to say that this, too, is a problem.
The third condition, which can be traced back to the first two, is the widespread presence of free-floating anxiety and psychological unease within the populace.2 This psychological state is especially aversive because it’s not linked to anything—i.e., fear of spiders, heights, thunder. The free-floating nature of this anxiety is often intolerable, as one doesn’t have the means to modulate or control it and is therefore desperate to escape it by linking it to a specific thing.
The fourth condition also follows from the first three: A lot of free-floating frustration and aggression. The link between social isolation and irritability has been empirically verified. People perturbed by loneliness, lack of meaning, and indefinable anxiety and unease generally feel increasingly resentful, frustrated, and aggressive and look for objects to take these feelings out on.
For these conditions to lead to MFP, there must be a catalyst, which is usually a narrative propagated through mass media that presents what Desmet calls an “object of anxiety” — i.e. the Jews under Nazism, or even more relevant, covid and anti-vaxxers — that also offers a way to respond to that object of anxiety. If said object of anxiety is sufficiently convincing, all the free-flowing anxiety will link to the object and people will back any strategy to control it.
Once “the enemy” is identified, society regains a sense of solidarity and is rejuvenated by this new state of affairs because the “fight” against the object of anxiety becomes a mission demanding group sacrifice. (“Two weeks to flatten the curve!” “Your mask protects me!” “We’re all in this together!”) The fight also serves as an outlet for all the free-floating frustration and aggression, a stabilizing factor, which in turn is enormously satisfying for people. Indeed, the effect of going from the aforementioned four conditions of malaise to a new and profound sense of purpose and interconnectedness is, in a way, intoxicating, and something that many will be loathe to give up.
This is where the radically irrational collectivism comes in—whole swathes of the country committing to absurdities even when obviously false. The validity of the absurdities isn’t the point; what matters is that people believe in the absurdities together. In much the same way, folks bought into The Narrative™ not because it was true, but because it cemented a social bond they desperately needed.
Now think of this in the context of rituals, which are used to create group cohesion. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous the ritual is, certain people are only too willing to participate to show how much they belong to the group. Think of someone wearing a mask while alone in their car, or getting their 12th booster shot and posting about it on social media.
Reasons for participating in mass formation often make no sense whatsoever, but many people nod their head and go along because mandarins and pooh-bahs standing behind podiums make it seem like whatever they’re pushing is not only correct, but widely accepted.
“Surely the experts know what they’re doing.” “Surely they wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true.” “Surely Fauci and Walensky and Jha can’t all be dishonest, pharma-humping cretins.” Many people happily fall victim to the logical fallacies of argumentum ad populum (appeal to popularity) and argumentum ad auctoritatem (appeal to authority), even when our noble public health overlords consistently demonstrate one of the key hallmarks of totalitarian leaders: Ruling by fiat on the basis of temporary rules that can be adjusted at their discretion.
The Hypnotic Nature of Covid Hysteria
French sociologist and psychologist Gustave Le Bon’s Psychology of Crowds illustrated how the effect of mass formation is very similar to hypnosis, except in the case of totalitarian systems the “voice” is transmuted through systematic indoctrination and propaganda injected into the masses every day, while all competing voices are silenced. In both cases, a statement or story focuses attention on a limited aspect of reality. Desmet compares it to the way light from a lamp is focused but everything outside its reach disappears in a penumbra of darkness.
As in individual cases of hypnosis, people display little regard for other measures of wellbeing. The focus is specifically on a particular thing, and they refuse to consider other realities. The pandemic featured just such a narrowing of the field of attention in the form of maniacal avoidance of infections and obsessive “mitigation measures,” while all those who became victims of these measures — people affected by vaccine side effects, food insecurity, domestic violence, unemployment, etc. — were a complete afterthought and received far less empathy compared to covid victims.
Also noteworthy is the fact that while collateral damage of these policies is sometimes vaguely attributed to “the pandemic” by the mainstream media, as if heaven-sent rather than our own doing, rarely is that collateral damage ever presented in a numerical-visual way. This is significant because what’s expressed in numbers and graphs has the effect of being (wrongly) perceived as facts.3 I wrote about this months ago in the context of the mainstream media’s hysteria machine, in which they constantly pushed egregiously inflated numbers to the public, never once bothering to explain that covid deaths and case numbers were based on remarkably sloppy counting criteria and notoriously inaccurate PCR tests.
In choosing to show only graphics and numbers that supported The Narrative™, coverage was sensationalized and geared toward fear mongering, perpetuating MFP. At every step of the way, this was how the consensus position on all things pandemic-related was determined, including the prevailing view that anything and everything possible should be done to “defeat covid,” cost-benefit analysis be damned.
This in turn resulted in people forming ideological convictions that justified the social discrimination and vilification of those who declined the vaccine. Vaccination became the easiest way to separate the apostates from the believers, the good from the bad, the right from the wrong, with the covid cult going out of its way to reduce an infinite number of infinitely complex variables to a grossly simplified moral binary: You were either for saving lives or against it, and anything but full-fledged support of the former position meant you were on “the wrong side of history.”
Just as in other examples of MFP, the anger of the covid cultists was directed against those refusing to participate in the mass formation and rejecting the basis for the new social bond.
This gets at a second mechanism that develops: Fascistic intolerance, a kind of crude self-defense that saves the psyche from having to confront anything contradicting its new purpose-filled state. Challenging their newfound reality in which covid was tantamount to the bubonic plague would bring people back to the aversive existence defined by anxiety and discontent that set the stage for mass formation in the first place.
The prospect of shifting back to an old reality devoid of a sense of community, meaning, and purpose is therefore met with stiff resistance. Even now, covid cultists are often so enslaved to The Narrative™ that they generally can’t process, let alone entertain, studies and statistics that question the efficacy of masks, lockdowns, and vaccines. This radical intolerance is how you end up with people becoming so narrow-minded, clannish, mean-spirited, and faith-based that they excommunicate relatives and friends for failing to adhere to the Church of Covid.
Here’s the thing, though: The hypnotic nature of MFP doesn’t result in a lack of agency, as Desmet makes clear:
In a state of mass formation or hypnosis, people do still have the ability to make ethical choices. It is well known that, while under hypnosis, people may be made to do things they would be painfully ashamed of otherwise (undressing themselves, performing ridiculous dance moves) and be led to perform physical feats that they are normally incapable of (laying stiff as a plank between two chairs, for example), but they cannot be persuaded to cross ethical boundaries that they respect in an “awake” state.
In other words, covid cultists weren’t mindless automatons who got lost in the crowd; rather, they consciously disappeared in the crowd and used it as an excuse and a cover for letting compulsions run wild. MFP doesn’t inhibit ethical awareness—if anything, it hides the absence of that awareness.
This is what makes me most angry. Covid cultists all too readily gave in to their basest impulses, adopting preening moral certainty and performative theatric narcissism which, combined with the attendant pious sadism, largely contributed to the zero-covid zeitgeist, which in turn paved the way for biomedical surveillance, vaccine apartheid, and ever more stringent and unscientific restrictions and policies.
Fetishizing the virus and cheering on tyranny, the lazy majority submitted to an ever-changing, neurosis-fueled faux existential crisis propagated by a hysteria-driven mainstream media that itself was dependent upon induced societal responses disproportionate to the true level of risk posed by covid—a pandemic shit show that could have been avoided had the overly neurotic among us come to grips with their own mortality, their own finitude, and demonstrated bare minimum courage in the face of uncertainty rather than prostrate themselves before the altar of Faucism and a respiratory virus with an infection fatality rate under 0.2%.
Those who participated in increasingly authoritarian campaigns for overly-restrictive policies either explicitly or implicitly predicated on the zero-covid zeitgeist while simultaneously casting opprobrium on those who didn’t adopt the same degree of performative alarmism even when it became indisputable that the vaccines do not prevent transmission and no amount of masking, social distancing, or top-down government action can eradicate an endemic, highly contagious respiratory virus—their complicity cannot be written off as “the madness of crowds.” They were cognizant of what was happening as they dehumanized and demonized those who failed to fall in line.
Already we’re beginning to watch as much of the unethical hysteria perpetrated by the covid cult, these would-be authoritarians, spazzes, and hypochondriacs, is memory-holed. Doubtless they’re desperately hoping that when it comes time to write the history of the pandemic, they’ll get little more than a footnote or two. We should deny them that privilege.
Germany’s descent into madness is all the more interesting because it was one of the most sophisticated nations in the world, with a highly intelligent, highly educated population.
Nazism and Stalinism heavily relied on the use of falsified numbers and statistics in their propaganda. In The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn details how in the Soviet Union the numbers showed a “radical contempt for the facts” to the extent that the facts were modified to make the numbers add up. For example, it wasn’t uncommon to randomly pick “traitors” off the streets at the end of the week if a predetermined quota had not yet been reached.