Extraordinary Popular Delusions

Extraordinary Popular Delusions
Scottish poet and songwriter Charles MacKay (1814–1889). (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Emily Finley

“Induce belief and blind confidence, and you may do any thing,” wrote Charles Mackay in his 1841 book, “Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.”

The financier Bernard Baruch credits Mackay with giving him a perspective that drove him to sell his stocks before the stock market crash in 1929.

Baruch says, quoting another observer: “Have you ever seen in some wood, on a sunny quiet day, a cloud of flying midges—thousands of them—hovering, apparently motionless, in a sunbeam? ... Yes? ... Well, did you ever see the whole flight—each mite apparently preserving its distance from all others—suddenly move, say three feet, to one side or the other? Well, what made them do that?”

If the studies now emerging about the deadliness of COVID-19 are accurate, and its mortality rate is closer to that of the seasonal flu than the astronomically higher mortality rate touted by the World Health Organization, then we must ask ourselves why the United States and the West, ostensible liberal democracies, together took flight in apparent imitation of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

One by one, state governors, beginning with those more sympathetic to the tactics of the CCP, began ordering their citizens to close their businesses and churches, and to stay home. Backed by selective expert opinion, our political leaders have fanned the flames of fear in this country and wielded the most frightening hypotheticals to keep us home.

Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube—our own Orwellian Ministry of Truth—have aided the state in its consolidation of power and censorship of dissenting voices. The opinions of medical doctors and the findings of researchers that run contrary to the prevailing narrative have been quietly expunged from the online historical record. Incredibly, even the research of a biotech firm explaining its ultraviolet light treatment research has been censored by YouTube.

The guiding force behind this desperate and fanatical desire to exclude all countervailing explanations of the mortality rate, possible treatments, and social and economic solutions is a groupthink mentality characterized by a seething hatred of President Donald Trump.

This hatred, some call it the “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” has whipped up a frenzy among those who control the official national COVID-19 narrative. Terrifying images of bodies lying in the streets of China and overrun hospitals in Italy are presented alongside the declaration that we will be next if we don’t all stay home to “flatten the curve.” The result is inevitably widespread panic.

Mackay famously observed that human beings “go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.” The mass hysteria that the media have played no small part in generating has helped to spread fear and panic that may be wholly disproportionate to the cause.

The doctors, researchers, and others who have, one by one, suggested that total lockdown may be medically unnecessary and even unadvisable, resemble the chancellor in France in the early 18th century, whom Mackay recounts as having been the sole oppositional voice to the Mississippi Company, the financial scheme that was to result three years later in the utter collapse of the French currency.

Like the powerful forces in the French government condoning the Mississippi scheme, who stood to gain great power and wealth, technocrats at Facebook, journalists, governors, and the so-called scientific and medical experts featured on the nightly news, have much to gain by turning themselves into our mighty overlords and commanding that the American people cower in their homes en masse.
Yet, while those who wish to correct the course of the American swarm and to offer an alternative point of view are now labeled “traffickers of misinformation,” like others who have seen beyond momentary popular delusions, their broad view of things will no doubt prevail.

We are seeing it now, in fact, as states begin to open up, come what may. There will likely be a “spike” in cases, as human beings interact with one another, but, if the lower mortality rates are correct, it probably will not result in the worst-case scenarios we have been warned of for so long. Cooler heads will prevail and business will slowly return to normal.

The Great COVID-19 Panic of 2020, however, has taught us a valuable lesson about the power of fear in getting Americans and other Westerners to willingly relinquish their historical liberties and basic freedoms.

Hypothesizing an inflated mortality rate of a contagious disease has almost single-handedly allowed the powers-that-be to amass even greater powers of censorship, powers over economic exchange, control of religious expression, and control of our associations, in other words, every aspect of our lives. This is a lesson that will not soon be forgotten.

Emily Finley holds a Ph.D. in Politics from The Catholic University of America and is a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University. She is the managing editor of Humanitas, a journal of politics and culture, published by The Center for the Study of Statesmanship.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Emily Finley is the author of "The Ideology of Democratism" (Oxford University Press, 2022). She holds a doctorate in politics from the Catholic University of America and is currently an instructor at Pepperdine University.
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