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How the State Spreads Mass Hysteria | Mises Wire

Posted by M. C. on December 19, 2020

Fifth, the state sometimes actively wants to instill fear in the population, thereby contributing to the making of mass hysteria. In fact, during the first months of the corona epidemic, an internal paper of the German Department of the Interior was leaked to the public. In the paper, the experts recommend that the German government instill fear in the German population. The paper recommends increasing fear with three communication measures…

Philipp Bagus

The history of mass hysteria, or mass sociogenic illness is fascinating. Cases of mass hysteria have been documented since the Middle Ages. Let me just mention a few of the more recent cases.

When a radio play by Orson Welles, War of the Worlds, was broadcasted in 1938 shortly after the suspension of the Munich agreement, the play allegedly caused panic among listeners, who thought that they were under attack by Martians. Another intriguing case is an episode of a Portuguese TV show called Strawberries with Sugar. In the episode, the characters were infected by a life-threatening virus. After the show, more than three hundred students reported similar symptoms as the ones experienced by the TV show characters such as rashes and difficulty breathing. Some schools even closed. The Portuguese National Institute for Medical Emergency concluded that the virus did not exist in reality and that the symptoms were caused by mass hysteria.

Similarly, on Emirates flight 203 in September 2018, dozens of passengers started to believe they were sick after observing other passengers with flu-like symptoms. As a consequence of the panic, the whole flight was quarantined. In the end only a few passengers had a common cold or the seasonal flu.

It is well known that there exist nocebo effects, which are the opposite of placebo effects. Due the placebo effect, a person recovers from an illness because she expects to do so. When we suffer a nocebo effect, on the other hand, we get ill just because we expect to become ill.1 In a self-fulfilling prophecy, the expectation can cause the symptoms. Anxiety and fear exacerbate this process.2

Mass hysteria can cause people to have symptoms. Moreover, hysteria, be it collective or not, makes people behave in ways that prudent persons not affected by the hysteria would likely consider absurd. It is open for empirical research to investigate if and to what extent the world has been suffering from mass hysteria during the covid-19 epidemic.3 We all have seen people hoarding toilet paper, wearing masks while driving alone in cars, or have heard stories of people virtually not leaving their houses for months. We also know people who are scared by the virus even though their own risk of death is minuscule.

While investigating the possibility of a corona mass hysteria is certainly interesting, I would like to focus here on a more fundamental question; namely, the extent to which the existence of the state can exacerbate mass hysteria. Certainly, there can be cases of mass hysteria in a free society, due to the negativity bias of the human brain. We focus on negative news and suffer psychological stress when we think we are not in control. This may happen also in a free society when negative news prevail. Yet in a free society there exist certain self-corrective mechanisms and limits that make it more difficult for mass hysteria to spiral out of control.

As a corrective mechanism, there exist well-known strategies to reduce fear and anxiety. In a free society people are free to make use of these strategies. One can release tension from one’s body through sports and exercises. Moreover, it is essential to find distractions from the negative news and socialize. In a free society these distractions abound.

It is true that hysteria can lead people to inflict enormous harm on themselves and others. Yet in a free society there exists an essential limit to the havoc caused by mass hysteria, and this limit is private property rights. In a free society mass hysteria cannot lead to a massive violation of private property rights by the state, simply because the state does not exist.

Moreover, while anyone in a health hysteria may voluntarily close his business, wear a mask, or stay at home, in a free society no one can force others who do not succumb to the hysteria to close their businesses, wear masks, or quarantine. A small minority who continue to live their normal lives and are free to do so can be a wake-up call to those who succumbed to the mass hysteria, especially the borderline cases. Imagine that a small group of people continues to go shopping, to work, to breath freely, to meet with friends and family, and that they do not die. Others may then follow their example and the group of hysterics shrinks.

While the destruction inflicted by mass hysteria is limited by private property rights in a free society, such limits do not exist when there is a state.4 Indeed, a well-organized group that has succumbed to mass hysteria may get control of the state apparatus and impose measures on the rest of the population and inflict untold harm. The possibility of mass hysteria is an important reason why the institution of the state is so dangerous.

Moreover, while in a free society there are mechanisms that reduce mass panics, mass hysteria can be exacerbated by the state for several reasons:

First, the state can and, as in the case of the covid-19 epidemic, does prohibit and diminish those activities that reduce fear and anxiety, such as sports and diversion. The state actually fosters social isolation, contributing to anxiety and psychological strain, ingredients that spur mass hysteria.

Second, the state takes a centralized approach to dealing with the source of the hysteria, in our case the perceived threat of a virus. The state imposes its solution, and in consequence there is no or very reduced experimentation to solve the problem. People who have not succumbed to the hysteria and oppose the state’s approach are suppressed. They cannot demonstrate alternative ways to confront the “crisis,” because these alternative ways are prohibited by the state. As a consequence, groupthink increases and the hysteria feeds itself, as no alternatives are shown to people.

Third, in a state, the media is often politicized. News outlets and social media platforms have close relationships with the state. Media outlets may be directly owned by the state, as are public TV channels, they may need state licenses to operate, they may look for the goodwill of state agencies, or may simply be staffed with people who were educated in state schools. These news agencies and social media platforms engage in massive negative news campaigns, intentionally scare people, and suppress alternative information. If people listen to, watch, or read negative and one-sided stories all day, their psychological stress and anxiety increases. Mass hysteria sponsored by a biased media sector may run out of control.

Fourth, negative news from an authoritative source is especially harmful for psychological health and produces anxiety. If there exists in society an institution of total power such as the state that intervenes in the lives of people from birth to death,5 the announcements of its representatives acquire weight. Many people attach great authority to these representatives and to the warnings of state institutions. So, when a doctor such as Anthony Fauci speaks in the name of the state and tells the people to worry and wear masks, it becomes easier for mass hysteria to develop than would be the case in a decentralized society.

Fifth, the state sometimes actively wants to instill fear in the population, thereby contributing to the making of mass hysteria. In fact, during the first months of the corona epidemic, an internal paper of the German Department of the Interior was leaked to the public. In the paper, the experts recommend that the German government instill fear in the German population. The paper recommends increasing fear with three communication measures. First, the authorities should emphasize the breathing problems of covid-19 patients, because the human beings have a primordial fear of death by suffocation, which can easily trigger panic. Second, fear should also be instilled in children. Children could get infected easily when meeting with other children. They should be told that when they in turn infect their parents and grandparents these could suffer a distressful death at home. This measure intends to invoke feelings of guilt. Third, authorities should mention the possibility of unknown long-term irreversible damage after a corona infection and the possibility of the sudden deaths of people who were infected. All these measures were intended to increase fear in the population. Fear, at the end, is the foundation of every government´s power. As H.L. Mencken put it:

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

To sum up: mass hysteria is possible in a free society, but there are self-correcting mechanisms. The harm such hysteria may inflict is limited by the enforcement of private property rights. The state amplifies and exacerbates mass panics, causing tremendous havoc. What are local, limited, and isolated outbreaks of mass hysteria in a free society the state can convert into a global mass hysteria. Unfortunately, there is no limit to the damage mass hysteria can do to life and liberty if it takes hold of the government, as the state does not respect private property. The unscrupulous violation of basic liberties during the corona epidemic is a case in point. The possibility of mass hysteria is another reason why the state is such a dangerous institution to have.

  • 1. In a famous case a man tried to suicide himself. He thought he was swallowing twenty-nine capsules of an experimental drug. However, they were in reality placebos. But he was thinking he would be killing himself. He arrived at the hospital with extreme low blood pressure and other serios symptoms. When the doctor of the medical trial arrived and told him that he had taken just placebos, the man recovered within fifteen minutes.
  • 2. During the Spanish flu panic contributed to deaths that otherwise would not have occurred.
  • 3. Keep in mind that the psychological strain on and the anxiety suffered by the population during the lockdowns was tremendous.
  • 4. For the psychology of masses and their irrationality see the classical work of Gustave Le Bon.
  • 5. A related point regards the consequences that come with a population that stopped believing in God and started to believe in the state instead. When people turn away from religion and stop believing in a life after death, they start to fear death more. A strong fear of death is another factor contributing to panics, disorders, and mass hysteria. As Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn has put it: “It is difficult to fear death if one is very pious. It is difficult not to worship health if one fears death. It is difficult to enforce general health without large scale state intervention and it is equally difficult to imagine increased state intervention without a loss of liberties.” The Menace of the Herd or Procrustes at Large (Milkwaukee, WI: Bruce Publishing Company, 1943), pp. 38–39.


Contact Philipp Bagus

Philipp Bagus is professor at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos. He is a Fellow of the Mises Institute, an IREF scholar, and the author of numerous books including In Defense of DeflationandThe Tragedy of the Euro, and is coauthor of Blind Robbery!, Small States. Big Possibilities.: Small States Are Simply Better!, and Deep Freeze: Iceland’s Economic Collapse.

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The New (Pathologized) Totalitarianism – Consent Factory, Inc.

Posted by M. C. on August 12, 2020

Look, I don’t mean to be depressing, but seriously, spend an hour on the Internet, or talk to one of your hysterical friends that wants to make mask-wearing mandatory, permanently. This is the mentality of the Brave New Normal … irrationally paranoid and authoritarian. So, no, the future isn’t looking very bright for anyone not prepared to behave as if the world were one big infectious disease ward.

The New (Pathologized) Totalitarianism

It was always going to come to this … mobs of hysterical, hate-drunk brownshirts hunting down people not wearing masks and trying to get them fired from their jobs, “no mask, no service” signs outside stores, security staff stopping the mask-less from entering, paranoid pod people pointing and shrieking at the sight of mask-less shoppers in their midst, goon squads viciously attacking and arresting them …

Welcome to the Brave New Normal.

And it isn’t just the Maskenpflicht-Sturmabteilung. The new official narrative is omnipresent. The corporate media are pumping out hysteria about “Covid-19 hospitalizations” (i.e., anyone admitted to a hospital for anything who tested positive for the coronavirus) and “major incidents” (i.e., people at the beach). Police are manning makeshift social-distancing-monitoring watchtowers in London. There are propaganda posters and billboards everywhere, repeating the same neo-Goebbelsian slogans, reinforcing the manufactured mass hysteria. Dissent and nonconformity are being pathologized, “diagnosed” as psychopathy and paranoia. Mandatory vaccinations are coming.

You didn’t think they were kidding, did you, when they started introducing the Brave New Normal official narrative back in March? They told us, clearly, what was coming. They told us life was going to change … forever. They locked us down inside our homes. They ordered churches and synagogues closed. They ordered the police to abuse and arrest us if we violated their arbitrary orders. They closed the schools, parks, beaches, restaurants, cafés, theaters, clubs, anywhere that people gather. They ripped children out of their mother’s arms, beat and arrested other mothers for the crime of “wearing their masks improperly,” dragged mask-less passengers off of public buses, gratuitously beat and arrested people for not “social-distancing” on the sidewalk, shackled people with ankle monitors, and intimidated everyone with robots and drones. They outlawed protests, then hunted down people attending them and harassed them at their homes. They started tracking everyone’s contacts and movements. They drafted new “emergency” laws to allow them to forcibly quarantine people. They did this openly. They publicized it. It’s not like they were hiding anything.

No, they told us exactly what was coming, and advised us to shut up and follow orders. Tragically, most people have done just that. In the space of four months, GloboCap has successfully imposed totalitarianism — pathologized totalitarianism — on societies all across the world. It isn’t traditional totalitarianism, with a dictator and a one-party system, and so on. It is subtler and more insidious than that. But it is totalitarianism nonetheless.

GloboCap could not have achieved this without the approval (or at least the acquiescence) of the vast majority of the masses. The coronavirus mass hysteria was a masterstroke of propaganda, but propaganda isn’t everything. No one is really fooled by propaganda, or not for long, in any event. As Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari noted in the opening of Anti-Oedipus:

“The masses were not innocent dupes. At a certain point, under a certain set of conditions, they wanted fascism, and it is this perversion of the desire of the masses that needs to be accounted for.”

I am not going to try to account for the “perversion of the desire of the masses” here in this essay, but I do want to dig into the new pathologized totalitarianism a little bit.

Now, I’m going to assume that you understand that the official “apocalyptic pandemic” narrative is predicated on propaganda, wild speculation, and mass hysteria, and that by now you are aware that we are dealing with a virus that causes mild to moderate symptoms (or absolutely no symptoms at all) in 95% of those infected, and that over 99.5% survive … thus, clearly, no cause for widespread panic or justification for the totalitarian “emergency measures” that have been imposed. I am also going to assume that you watched as GloboCap switched off the “deadly pandemic” to accommodate the BLM protests, then switched it back on as soon as they subsided, and that you noted how their propaganda shifted to “cases” when the death count finally became a little too embarrassing to continue to hype.

So, I won’t waste your time debunking the hysteria. Let’s talk pathologized totalitarianism.

The genius of pathologized totalitarianism is like that old joke about the Devil … his greatest trick was convincing us that he doesn’t exist. Pathologized totalitarianism appears to emanate from nowhere, and everywhere, simultaneously; thus, technically, it does not exist. It cannot exist, because no one is responsible for it, because everyone is. Mass hysteria is its lifeblood. It feeds on existential fear. “Science” is its rallying cry. Not actual science, not provable facts, but “Science” as a kind of deity whose Name is invoked to silence heretics, or to ease the discomfort of the cognitive dissonance that results from desperately trying to believe the absurdities of the official narrative.

The other genius of it (from a GloboCap viewpoint) is that it is inexhaustible, endlessly recyclable. Unlike other official enemies, the “deadly virus” could be any virus, any pathogen whatsoever. All they have to do from now on is “discover” some “novel” micro-organism that is highly contagious (or that mimics some other micro-organism that we already have), and wave it in front of people’s faces. Then they can crank up the Fear Machine, and start projecting hundreds of millions of deaths if everyone doesn’t do exactly as they’re told. They can run this schtick … well, pretty much forever, anytime the working classes get restless, or an unauthorized president gets elected, or just for the sheer sadistic fun of it.

Look, I don’t mean to be depressing, but seriously, spend an hour on the Internet, or talk to one of your hysterical friends that wants to make mask-wearing mandatory, permanently. This is the mentality of the Brave New Normal … irrationally paranoid and authoritarian. So, no, the future isn’t looking very bright for anyone not prepared to behave as if the world were one big infectious disease ward.

I’ve interacted with a number of extremely paranoid corona-totalitarians recently (just as a kind of social experiment). They behave exactly like members of a cult. When challenged with facts and basic logic, first, they flood you with media propaganda and hysterical speculation from “medical experts.” Then, after you debunk that nonsense, they attempt to emotionally manipulate you by sharing their heartbreaking personal accounts of the people their therapists’ brother-in-laws’ doctors had to helplessly watch as they “died in agony” when their lungs and hearts mysteriously exploded. Then, after you don’t bite down on that, they start hysterically shrieking paranoia at you (“JUST WAIT UNTIL THEY INTUBATE YOU!” … “KEEP YOUR SPITTLE AWAY FROM ME!”) and barking orders and slogans at you (“JUST WEAR THE GODDAMN MASK, YOU BABY!” … “NO SHOES, NO SHIRT, NO MASK, NO SERVICE!”)

Which … OK, that would be kind of funny (or terribly sad), if these paranoid people were not just mouthpieces echoing the voice of the official power (i.e., GloboCap) that is transforming what is left of society into a paranoid, pathologized, totalitarian nightmare right before our eyes. They’re kind of like the “woman in red” in The Matrix. When you are talking to them, you’re not talking to them. You’re talking to the agents. You’re talking to the machines. Try it sometime. You’ll see what I mean. It’s like talking to a single algorithm that is running in millions of people’s brains.

I can’t lie to you. I’m not very hopeful. No one who understands the attraction (i.e., the seduction) of totalitarianism is. Much as we may not like to admit it, it is exhilarating, and liberating, being part of the mob, surrendering the burden of personal autonomy and individual responsibility, fusing with a fanatical “movement” that is ushering in a new “reality” backed by the sheer brute force of the state … or the transnational global capitalist empire.

It is irresistible, that attraction, to most of us. The chance to be a part of something like that, and to unleash one’s hatred on those who refuse to go along with the new religion … to publicly ridicule them, to humiliate them, to segregate them from normal society, to hunt them down and get them fired from their jobs, to cheer as police abuse and arrest them, to diagnose them as “abnormal” and “inferior,” these social deviants, these subhuman “others,” who dare to challenge the authority of the Party, or the Church, or the State, or the Reich, or Science.

Plus, in the eyes of GloboCap (and its millions of fanatical, slogan-chanting followers), such non-mask-wearing deviants are dangerous. They are like a disease … an infestation. A sickness in the social body. If they refuse to conform, they will have to be dealt with, quarantined, or something like that.

Or they can just surrender to the Brave New Normal, and stop acting like babies, and wear a goddamn mask.

After all, it’s just a harmless piece of cloth.

CJ Hopkins
June 29, 2020
Photos: (1) DHVANI billboard/; (2) United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Oesterreichische Nationalbibliothek.

CJ Hopkins Summer 2018 thumbnail

DISCLAIMER: The preceding essay is entirely the work of our in-house satirist and self-appointed political pundit, CJ Hopkins, and does not reflect the views and opinions of the Consent Factory, Inc., its staff, or any of its agents, subsidiaries, or assigns. If, for whatever inexplicable reason, you appreciate Mr. Hopkins’ work and would like to support it, please go to his Patreon page (where you can contribute as little $1 per month), or send your contribution to his PayPal account, so that maybe he’ll stop coming around our offices trying to hit our staff up for money. Alternatively, you could purchase his satirical dystopian novel, Zone 23, or Volume I of his Consent Factory Essays, or any of his subversive stage plays, which won some awards in Great Britain and Australia. If you do not appreciate Mr. Hopkins’ work and would like to write him an abusive email, please feel free to contact him directly.

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Don’t buy the media hype over the new China virus

Posted by M. C. on January 25, 2020

The best remedy for all epidemic hysteria is perspective. How is this new outbreak different and thus potentially more dangerous from other diseases we have dealt with in the past or are dealing with now?

There are 1.4 Billion people in China. Bad air pollution. A lot of smokers. It doesn’ttake much to put the venerable over the edge. Blaming flu shifts the blame.

Nearly 600 cases have been confirmed with at least 17 reported deaths.

If and when final, real stats become available, put things in perspective.

The truth. We will likely never know.

A CNN reporter broadcasts from Wuhan, China, on the recent viral outbreak. There is nobody near who could possibly infect him ­— unless the cameraman has Guinness Book of Records coughs and sneezes. So why does he insist on wearing a blue surgical mask while talking?

It’s called “drama,” which is badly needed, because there appears to be nothing very special about this outbreak of the 2019-nCoV or Wuhan ­virus. It should actually be called the DvV, or Déjà vu Virus, because we have been through these hysterias before. Over and over. Heterosexual AIDS, Ebola repeatedly, the H1N1 swine flu that was actually vastly milder than the regular flu and, especially, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003.

Once you start debunking mass hysteria over outbreaks, it gets easy, because the same patterns repeat themselves.

The best remedy for all epidemic hysteria is perspective. How is this new outbreak different and thus potentially more dangerous from other diseases we have dealt with in the past or are dealing with now?

Wuhan is repeatedly labeled “deadly” — but so is every other ­virus most people know about. But especially deadly? Nearly 600 cases have been confirmed with at least 17 reported deaths.

An infected American is reportedly doing well. It’s probably true that the death toll is understated, but it’s guaranteed the infection number is. Probably as with, say, flu, the vast majority of those infected have such slight symptoms, they don’t seek medical attention.

For that reason, a comparison to the US flu death rate is also very difficult. As a share of hospitalizations, the regular flu death rate is 8.5 percent to 17 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — considerably higher than for Wuhan. But counting all ­estimated illnesses, reported and estimated, it’s much lower.

What we can say for sure is that Wuhan will be a lot worse in China, simply because health care there is vastly inferior. It appears that, like flu, Wuhan usually kills through ­often treatable secondary infections. Well, treatable in the West. You’d be surprised at how many potentially deadly diseases ­(malaria, TB) Americans get that wreak havoc in much of the world but kill essentially none of us.

It also appears those most likely to die of Wuhan virus fit the same profile as flu fatalities: people over 65, those with compromised immune systems and those with serious pre-existing conditions. Two of the 17 Wuhan dead were 89-year-olds with pre-existing conditions; the youngest was 48 and suffering from diabetes and a stroke.

Contagiousness is highly important, of course. But so far, there is no evidence that Wuhan, first ­reported more than three weeks ago, is more contagious than ­influenza or spreads differently.

Those are the important factors; everything else is noise and tinfoil-hat paranoia.

We are breathlessly told it’s spread from human to human. Again, most of the contagious diseases we think of are spread ­between humans, with some ­exceptions, such as rabies.

It’s inherently bad because it’s new, we’re told. So were swine flu and SARS.

Chinese health officials warned it could mutate further to either become more deadly or more contagious. Same was said about the aforementioned outbreaks. Actually, viruses usually mutate to become less deadly, to preserve the host body and hence themselves.

The media are correct in saying the closest comparison here is SARS. It also was first reported in China and was what’s called a coronavirus. But while they want you to remember SARS as akin to the Black Death with cries of “Bring out your dead!,” fact is, there was a grand total of only 8,098 cases, of whom 774 died. Then the disease simply disappeared. More than 7,000 of those cases and about 650 of the deaths occurred just in mainland China and Hong Kong. The United States had just 75 cases and zero deaths.

By contrast, the CDC estimates about 80,000 Americans died of flu two seasons ago.

So if you want, buy a (probably worthless) surgical mask to play “twins” with those “courageous” TV newsmen. Or you may consider that flu shots are still available.

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Flu shot is only 36% effective this season, the worst in a ...

Source CDC: Therefore Divide by 2



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