How Crowds Go Mad

We live in the age of the triumphant crowd. Liberated from the need to have every person be useful thanks to machinery, electricity, and human ingenuity, each person finds themselves at the center of a magical electronic universe. A feed of pictures, words, and sounds flows into their minds, mediated by soft glass screens responsive to touch.

We humans rely upon our fellows and their thoughts to us what is true and what must be done. If everyone around us believes something to be true, we also must believe it to be true as a short-cut, because complex thinking is expensive and not everyone is capable of doing it.

Today, technology permits people raised as people who go from crowd to crowd to pick and choose which crowd to join at will. Because it is nearly illegal to organize based on anything other than the crowd-principle, few people know anything but the crowd way of life. We accustom people as children to be broken up from their family and friends continuously — at least each year. The chiming of the hourly school-bell disrupts any line of thought that might lead to deep focus and learning. In the workplace, profit and innovation are usually subordinated to the crowd principle, because the notion of genius disturbs the democratic mind more than anything else.

Unfolding how crowds go mad is a trick statement: the default status of the crowd is to be mad, that is, in the terms of Thomas Szasz, to be morally ill relative to the historic standard of social health. The anonymous crowd is a maddening condition because it is alienating for people to be strangers among strangers who have no inkling of their true history, their relationships, or their character.

In this, the crowd is as much of an incubator for moral sickness as it is a risk factor for the sort caused by micro-organisms. To say that it is forbidden to restrict entry into any formal organization for any reason is to annihilate any possible form of organization other than the crowd.

Although it may be possible to form a dazzling, temporary group based on alternate principles, the pressure of crowd-society always rams its way inside, bloating & overwhelming the healthy host.

And the crowd is inherently unstable, tending towards crazes, as there is no authority that can speak to the crowd in order to convince it to end its rampages. The crowd listens to whatever voice hurls it into greater ecstasies. This climaxes reliably with righteous mass-murder.

A restoration of community rights, enumerated in law, enforced by good government, is the only political action that can hold the menace of the herd at bay. In the social structure of the community, the individual is no longer the absolute arbiter of reality, and it becomes far more challenging to deceive either oneself or others, because most members know one another intimately. It was this sense of community that formed the basis of English liberty, and the destruction of the former lead to the destruction of the latter.

There is hope yet for a return to health.

8 thoughts on “How Crowds Go Mad

  1. What hope? Sure, if I had the money and enough time to grow a community to the point where it could survive the sort of attacks likely to come against it. I guess that’s hope, but most of what I think up comes under the heading ‘low probability event.’

  2. Pingback: How Crowds Go Mad | Reaction Times

  3. Pingback: This Week in Reaction | The Reactivity Place

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