Friday, October 15, 2021

Why Smart People Are Stupid


What convinces masses are not facts, and not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system of which they are presumably part.

-          Hannah Arendt

Why is it that when you offer facts, even the most intelligent will look at you with a blank stare….

John Waters wrote a piece on Substack, Covid Totalitarianism: The Deification of Error.  In it, he examines the work of Belgian psychologist Dr. Mattias Desmet, who, as he describes, “may be the most articulate voice on the most clear and present danger facing us: the mob-baiting now being pursued by formerly democratic governments.”  Desmet is a professor of Clinical Psychology at Ghent University in Belgium.  He holds both a master’s degree and PhD in clinical psychology, and a master’s degree in statistics.

Waters’ piece is very long…and worth reading in its entirety.  He also includes three videos of Desmet, of which he finds the first most valuable (and the only one I watched; it is also worthwhile).  I will try not to make this post equally as long, only touching on some key points…I hope.  All references are from the essay; none directly from the video.

Desmet describes that the majority of the world’s population has fallen under a kind of a spell – not literally a spell, but what he calls a “mass formation,” a term first used by French philosopher Gustave Le Bon late in the nineteenth century in his book The Psychology of Crowds.

Individual personality disappears, replaced by group sentiment; brain activity is replaced by reflex.  These changes may produce better or worse outcomes, but usually worse – such groups are “generally disposed to destruction.”

‘The ascendancy of crowds,’ wrote Le Bon, ‘indicates the death throes of a civilisation.’ The upward climb to civilisation is an intellectual process driven by individuals; the descent is a herd in stampede. ‘Crowds are only useful for destruction.’

It is this that we see today – throughout the West certainly – in size and scope never before seen in recorded history.  What is interesting is that Le Bon describes, over 125 years ago, that which he saw occurring in his time and that which is overtly obvious today.  The causes are twofold: destruction of common religious, political, and social beliefs, and the creation of entirely new forms of existence due to modern discoveries.

Enough of Le Bon.  What of Desmet?  He sees the strange situation – people indifferent to their own suffering, and certainly to the suffering of their fellow man (talk of increased suicides, drug and alcohol addition, etc., and get a blank stare).  Loss of freedoms, loss of work, loss of human contact.  Everything is closed out and sacrificed except that which has attracted the group’s single focus.

Being educated in statistics as well as psychology, Desmet early on understood that the numbers don’t add up.  His training and study in psychology led him to conclude that the whole point was to drive the crowd toward this phenomenon of mass formation.  His fear wasn’t the virus.  It was the inevitable move toward totalitarianism.

Four conditions must be met to enable this mass formation: a large presence of socially isolated individuals – this described as the most important; second, a large number of people who lack sense-making in their lives; third, lots of free-floating anxiety – anxiety not connected to a mental representation; fourth, free-floating psychological discontent – anger and frustration aimed at…they don’t know what, exactly.  And you need mass media.  And, as Waters adds, the media must be corruptible.

These conditions were all in place prior to covid.  All that was left was for these to be aimed at one specific event, one cause that would set the wheels in motion.  As my own aside: the fear of terrorism was not personal enough; to make it more personal, we needed to be instilled with a fear of breathing.

Now mesmerized, the mass has meaning and purpose – that which they lacked is now offered to them.  A new, bogus, solidarity is offered.  It doesn’t matter the absurdity of the narrative: Desmet offers, “The more absurd a narrative is the better it functions as a ritual.”

Further, politicians once again can become true leaders – and the move toward totalitarianism, desired by the mass and the politicians, is in full form.  This embrace by the masses is required for totalitarianism, unlike simple despotic dictatorships where the masses understand well the enemy.

These circumstances combine to ensure that people don’t want to go back to the ‘old normal’. This is important: Many among the mesmerised do not want their prior meaningless lives back.

But unless there is something else offered to fill their void, there is no possibility that they will let go of the narrative.  In the meantime, camps quickly divide into friends and foes – friends cleaved to, and foes excoriated, banished, destroyed.

Desmet offers an interesting point: only 30 percent are hypnotized.  About 40 percent are just going along with the crowd.  The last 30 percent are those who are not hypnotized, who try to speak out, who resist; this group has some underlying ideological outlook.  Unfortunately, this last group is heterogeneous and disunited.  If they could unite, the whole thing would come to an end.

My observation: this explains why the forces of the state want to crush every move of joining together in dissent.  Who dares attend a political rally against the current narratives?  Yet feel free to march in a pride parade, loot downtown Portland, or fire the unvaxxed.  Even speaking out at local school board meetings is now considered domestic terrorism.

Returning to Desmet.  Intelligence is no guarantor of resistance to this hypnosis: “In mass formation, highly intelligent, highly educated people become exactly as intelligent as everybody else in the masses — everybody becomes equally intelligent, which usually means extremely stupid, in the masses.”

We each have had this experience.  We are dumbfounded by the stupidity of our highly intelligent and (normally) rational friends, colleagues, and family members in the face of facts and counter-arguments.

We ought not to approach our fellows in this condition with the mindset that we might change their minds. That is folly indeed.

Yet, Desmet offers, we must continue to speak out – but be careful to choose our moments.  This is the only way to break the link to free-floating anxiety – in this case, regarding the virus.  Certainly, there is also the middle 40 percent – those who are just going along with the crowd.  They may just need to hear that there is a counter-narrative.

Waters, through Desmet, continues with some examination of the work of German philosopher Hannah Arendt and her book The Origins of Totalitarianism.  These comments – like the entire piece – are worth reviewing.

Now we may be at or approaching the most difficult phase of the totalitarian thinking process: when the mob, like an attack dog, awaits the instruction to go for its designated enemy.

The mass requires an enemy.  First it was the virus; now it is those who don’t buy into the entire narrative – from the virus, to the masks, to the jab.  This bonds the mass further, adding to their newfound meaning in life. 

This, says Desmet, gives rise to a ‘mental intoxication’, providing a ‘new deeply fundamental type of satisfaction for a human being’.  Under mass formation, people become ‘radically intolerant of dissonant voices’, while at the same time being ‘radically tolerant’ of their lying leaders.

This usually only stops after much destruction – crowds are always “intrinsically delf-destructive.”  The only way this comes to a positive end is if those in the mass discover the underlying reasons for their dissatisfactions and find a new, positive, meaning.  But once the mass emerges, people are not easily moved to take on such a search.

When a society reaches the point of transgressing all ethical limits, there are no longer any guarantees. We must not be in any doubt as to the suggestibility of our neighbours. If we doubt that it could go much further, he warns, we should consider how far it has gone already.

The objective for those who are outside of this mass hypnosis is to find a way for the story to survive and to find a way to survive outside the system “for a few years.”  At some point, the masses will wake up.  Then what?

“Then they kill their leaders.”

I think they will also want to kill those who, all along, have been telling them that the narrative is bogus – that they lived a deadly lie.  They won’t want to be reminded of this, and every time they see you – even if you never say “I told you so” – you will be a reminder to them of this.


Society, he says, was being prepared for such a narrative for a long time. For centuries, the dominant view of man has been a mechanistic-materialist view: Man is a machine, a little part of the larger machine of the universe — ‘that is the ideology that has prepared the world for mass formation, and for connecting all our anxiety to a mechanistic-materialist organism such as a virus.’

While it is barely touched on in the essay or video, it is clear that the root cause is the death of God in the Western mind.  There is no higher purpose or meaning to our being, because we are nothing more than the product of random atoms smashing together randomly.


Desmet has so far emerged as the most interesting voice on the Covid totalitarian play, discoursing brilliantly on mass psychology and how it might be manipulated. [Jordan] Peterson has adhered to the continuing Combine-enforced omertà.

The best way to describe omertà:

You must never betray the secrets of this society, observing the ancient tradition of omertà. The penalty for violating this law is death.

-          Michael Corleone

This is quite true about Peterson.  Yet, he finally came out with a video on this topic, a discussion with John Anderson from Australia – a place with as draconian a set of tyrannical abuses as anywhere on earth.  In other words, a place more than any other that should open the eyes of those truly interesting in answering the question.

I give Peterson, at best, a grade of “C” for his performance: no one should be forced to take the vaccine; there has been a forceful clamp-down on dialogue; Biden’s 80-million-person so-called mandate might cause some real pushback.  But none of this forcefully questioned.

Beyond this, the conversation addressed or questioned nothing of importance, and when it strayed in that direction, the answers were mainstream narrative.  And Peterson’s obligatory “we shouldn’t fall into conspiracy theories” was thrown in several times, for effect.

Maybe I will change the grade to a “D.”


  1. I was hoping you'd comment on both Waters' essay and Peterson's interview with Anderson. All of your work here continues to be of great service. Thank you, Bionic.

    1. Thank you, Jeff. Apparently Waters will write a "Part 2," so I will take a look at that when it comes out.

  2. Considering Peterson, I'd estimate that he's 30% hypnotized, 40% going along, and 30% awake. If only Waters had Peterson's audience.

  3. Peterson serves a purpose. Me of 20 years ago wouldn't have appreciated it.

    1. Absolutely. I'm a fan of his. It's just a bit exasperating seeing him flirt heavily with libertarianism and then let things slide the way he did with Anderson (whom I've also admired somewhat based on previous interviews.)

    2. I also value Peterson. He has challenged important untouchable rails. But on this vitally important issue, he seems uninformed - at least that's the kindest view.

    3. I suspect that his recent experience has him shy of controversy. This is sad to see. On the other hand, a lot of these elites were friends of his and he doesn't want to think that they're in on something dastardly. Like when he talked to Bob Murphy about the Fed and he pre-primed Bob not to talk about any conspiracies. Why no, there was no conspiracy to give the banks the ability to expand the money supply without market sanction. It just happened spontaneously. Oh well. Disappointing, but still of some value.

    4. I didn't know about the "pre-priming." Did Murphy mention this somewhere? I don't need a link, just curious.

    5. "I suspect that his recent experience has him shy of controversy"

      Yes...pain killer addiction after hyper-focused media attention, putting him on intense scrutiny, appears to have savaged the man.

      Anyone that makes any kind of traction against the Left on a wide-spread/public basis will experience the same savagery. The money he's made from being outspoken in certain areas probably wasn't worth the trade-off in his emotional and physical health. He is also ignorant on economics, but let's face it, it's not his focus. (and unfortunately, it's a limiting factor in his commentary and understanding on societal/cultural trends)

      He's not a renaissance man per se(in terms of being multi-disciplined to the same degree), but he is a man of character that not only dared to push back publicly against Canadian elitist society (that leans even more Left than the United States in general), but asked important questions.

      He was truly brave, was smashed for it and now after everything he's been through is understandably cautious. I admire parts of him regardless of his short-comings. He just needs more exposure to libertarian thought and scholars and the requisite time to understand said perspective. I fully appreciate the questions he asks surrounding the "meaning crisis" and I've always felt he's a genuine person in listening to his various interactions.

  4. "Society, he says, was being prepared for such a narrative for a long time. For centuries, the dominant view of man has been a mechanistic-materialist view: Man is a machine, a little part of the larger machine of the universe — ‘that is the ideology that has prepared the world for mass formation, and for connecting all our anxiety to a mechanistic-materialist organism such as a virus.’"

    And there is the Achilles heal of the whole project. The mechanistic-materialist view of man is wrong. All that has to happen is for God to act, to awaken people's spirits.

    Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.

    1 Thessalonians 1:5 our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.

    1. More than I knew several years ago when I came to the realization that only through proper Christian churches would liberty be defended, it is even more obvious to me today.

      Because the opposite was demonstrated: impotent Christian leaders have failed society, at a time - nineteen months ago - when leadership, truth, and love were most required.

    2. What "leaders" are you talking about? My church never missed a single Sunday. NOT ONE.

      We ignored the entire thing: We didn't social distance; we continued shaking hands; we drank from the same Cup every Sunday. My sister's church in a neighboring state ignored the whole thing. I belong to a book club, two of whose members belong to a third church I personally know of that ignored the entire thing. So I can't begin even to guess what "leaders" you are talking about. Fools quite often rise to the level of their own incompetence (the Peter Principle). As far as I can tell from your comment, you just need different "leaders." Or let's put it this way: If one needs a leader, then it's because one is already lost.

      As a general remark to any reader: If you belong to a "church" that shut down b/c of this outrageous superstition, then you need to get away from that so-called "church" right away. Our forbears in the Faith faced REAL dangers, but they didn't forsake the assembling of themselves together. If any reader is part of a "church" that thought that ANY danger was sufficient to stop assembling together, then that is not a church AT ALL. It is what Christ Himself classified as "synagogues of Satan." Get away from them. "By their fruits you shall know them."

    3. Mr Darcy, you are truly blessed. Yet, instead of enjoying this, you allow your spite to overcome your Christianity.

      Are you sure you have Christ as a leader? Is your pastor / priest teaching you such hate?

      What I have described was and is the reality for 95% or more of Christians. Rejoice in your blessing.

  5. I dealt with this for almost 2 years in Canada now. For the first couple of weeks or month the propaganda was so enormous and I was laid off from my job that I was concerned. But after a couple of weeks at home and began putting together what I was seeing I was almost immediately disillusioned. Bernays and Orwell kept crossing my mind, as the commercials and sloganeering began almost immediately. I started saying it was BS to family and friends. People were scared and argued with me, and I backed off for a little while. I went back to work after 7 weeks, the policies were absurd, 6 feet, masks disinfect everything. I asked where we came up with this policy? The government, and I started digging into more and more of this stuff. So about a month after my return to work I’m already tired of masks, I begin pulling it down, I said this is nonsense I’m not putting it on. I got scolded on several occasions by scared people. Shortly after that a couple others started pulling their masks down. I got into an argument with what I can only describe as a troglodyte that was arguing with a straight face that ancient cultures wore mask when people from other places came around because they understood diseases had no borders. I replied and what does that have to do with modern society when borders are hardly a barrier to anything? He continued with theological retorts and I just shook my head. After about 5 months of this nonsense I began vociferously arguing against all of the mandates and government policies, arguing that this was a complete abolition of human rights, individual responsibility and human dignity, again mostly upsetting people at first. A few weeks of me doing this and I had swayed several, people were dropping their masks and began asking what we’re doing? The more data that came out, the more I read and studied the Drs and people who seemed to be the most censored the more I realized I was just following my bias. For a couple of weeks I kept quiet, just listened to others and did not make any arguments against what I saw as an abhorrent violation of people’s rights. What I got was herd speak and nonsense, slogans with no factual basis. I shook off that and began making a big stink with my superiors and they all privately agreed but said it’s company policy we have to follow it. By now I had a significant minority agreeing with me publicly, and I was rather astonished at what I had started.
    Then the vaccines and all the time I had spent persuading others that I was right was put back months. The same nonsense slogans about you have to protect others, as if they care about anyone other than themselves, it’s for the greater good etc I hated all of it, I think I went through depression for a couple of months. Now I debate what I want to do with my life, I have a 10 acre farm I bought two years ago, I rent the field to a farmer and use the rest of the land for entertainment and life. But I fear the mandates will come to my work, and I mad e my choice about the vaccines after about 6 months. Thousands of drs and people could be wrong, but if medical professionals are willing to sacrifice their livelihoods for whatever reason something stinks. I have read numerous articles and journals about the vaccines and I’m not against them, but I not taking this one anytime soon. Maybe years from now when I’m old I’ll consider it, but for now, unproven and seemingly less and less effective vaccines with a smallchance of serious complications or death, or a virus with about the same? Admittedly the vacc is probably less lethal, but to my age group it’s a coin flip, the vaccine is a complete unknown in the medium to long term, there are several coronavirus I’ll take my chances my body will be fine on it’s own.

  6. Survive for a few years, and the masses eventually kill their leaders... it sucks to be impotent in the face of the mob, but it's probably sound advice.

    The unfortunate part is that even with the leaders out of the picture, aspects of the delusion are bound to remain. Universal Basic Income, anybody? The US already has a pathetic figurehead Emperor installed by the Praetorians, it wouldn't surprise me if full-on bread-and-circus were to be next.

  7. Hi BM,

    I am also in Canada, living in Ottawa where more than 85% of the population is vaxxed. There is a "health pass" as well.

    You have put into words exactly what I have been saying, and this is recomforting.

    I was wondering if you know Seraphim Rose? His pamphlet "Nihilism" describes the current events as well.



  8. I finally plunged into John Water's article and was almost instantly 'hooked'. It explains a lot. My understanding of human nature during the current episode of mass insanity has been upgraded.

    Charles Mackay had this to say, which rhymes with Waters.

    "Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one."

    Waters offers hope.

    "We should remember, he [De Smet] says, that ‘totalitarianism and mass formation always ends up destroying itself.’ All we have to do is to make sure that our story survives and that we survive outside the system ‘for a few years’."

    In surviving, though, he lays a great deal of emphasis on the importance of community and reinforces the concept that Bionic Mosquito has pounded on for so long--that radically individualized persons who are not grounded into a community will be overrun. We cannot survive if we remain individuals. It is only in the company of other like-minded persons that we have a chance of resisting the evil which is assaulting us.

    This too shall pass. When it does, we need to be ready AND willing to lead the way back to a more sane, honest, and loving way of life. To be ready then means to practice now. We should be working hard to achieve that end, even if we cannot see our way clearly.

    1. To your last paragraph...yes, just because we cannot see the way through doesn't mean that there is nothing to then do.

  9. Apologies if Charles Mackay was referenced elsewhere above, but for those interested, Mackay wrote Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds in 1841. Peg

  10. Regarding stupid smart people:

    I don't have the exact quote, but somewhere Noam Chomsky made the point that propaganda is most effective on the highly educated.

  11. You could write this same article, framed slightly differently, about the other 30%, "your 30%" - caught in hysteria, given new meaning to life as an act of resistance. It would be equally as persuasive and 'objective'. Both sides of the 30% are caught in a war to appear the most rational, intelligent and superior, all equally debasing themselves to the most incoherent and stupid person in their subset.

    All these quotes describe, just as accurately your own 30%:
    "Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one."
    "Many among the mesmerised do not want their prior meaningless lives back."
    "This, says Desmet, gives rise to a ‘mental intoxication’, providing a ‘new deeply fundamental type of satisfaction for a human being’."

    Comment after comment under both "Smart people" posts reek of self congratulation for not being part of the herd, for being superior, having more critical thinking skills, as if they have all found some cause to give their life meaning, one that ascends them above the herd they criticize.

    You are accurate in your criticism of the other 30%, but fall victim to the same logic that plague them.

    1. Of course, you have to ignore the elephant in the room to make this claim.