Monday, December 13, 2021

Why Smart People are Stupid, Part II


Mattias Desmet, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Ghent, sits down with Dr Chris Martensen of the Peak Prosperity podcast to talk about the psychological conditions of society which allowed the Covid narrative to take such a hold on people. (Video)

I have written of Desmet before, offering Why Smart People are Stupid.  In this post, I will highlight some of the new (for me) points made by Desmet, or points that perhaps I have previously heard but make more sense to me today.

Desmet begins by pointing out the obvious errors in the early covid models, pointing to Sweden as an example demonstrating the nonsense behind the models.  His point here is important, because his comments will move to explaining why smart people are stupid – in the face of all evidence against the corona narrative that claims to be based on science, why does the narrative continue – free-floating from all evidence?

Further, all claims of consequences that result from lockdowns and other measures were ignored – remember that the United Nations warned early on regarding the starvation and poverty that would overwhelm much larger portions of the world than would be impacted by covid.

John Mauldin offered an excellent example of this (here and here) – a smart person who is stupid, one who sees only a virus and not the devastation that the government actions will cause – this despite his own daughter suffering a stroke after losing both of her apparently “unessential” jobs at the start of the lockdowns and with her husband just having returned to school….

From all of this, Desmet concluded that the problem was not a biological problem but a psychological problem.  In August of 2020, he wrote his first paper on mass formation.  This requires, first, a lack of social bonds – a lack of connectedness with other people.  This isn’t just physical isolation, unable to connect emotionally with other people.  This was already a serious problem before the lockdowns.

For example, as evidence of this reality – a lack of social bonds even prior to the lockdowns: a loneliness minister was appointed in the UK; in the US, it was estimated that 50% of the people had connections only online; in a country like Belgium, with a population of 11 million people, each year 300 million doses of anti-depressants are used – to not even mention anti-psychotics and other such medicines.

The second requirement is a lack of meaning-making.  For example, forty percent of the population experienced their job as completely meaningless.  From a different poll, worldwide only thirteen percent felt their job was meaningful; over sixty percent found their job meaningless – they can sleep in their office all day.

Desmet points to the reality that the lack of meaning-making has been developing for the last two centuries.  Consider, (my point, not his), that this corresponds with the Enlightenment taking full impact, the death of God, the sidelining of Christianity.

Returning to Desmet: we can have anxiety connected to a reality – we can be anxious about a roaming dog or a lion.  But what we have today is free-floating anxiety – we don’t know what it is we can run away from.  Martensen asks if this is something buried deep in our brains, something primitive.  Desmet says no – this is an issue of today.   

Finally, there has to be a lot of free-floating frustration and aggression.  It will be without object – they don’t know who or why, so they accept a narrative that focusses them on an object.  Then, the free-floating anxiety will connect to the object.

This will then give these anxious and aggressive people a community, a new bond.  They have to accept the masks, the social distancing, the vaccine.  Even if the story is utterly absurd, they have to believe in it – not because it conforms to facts, but because it offers community for those who have none.

Further, all the frustration and aggression can be directed at an object: the people who do not want to participate in the mass formation.  Examples of this mass formation: the French Revolution, Stalinism, Nazi Germany.  All shared the same characteristics (which says something of where we are headed today; as Pageau offered: this type of thinking can actually destroy the world or lead to tyranny…or both).

Life starts to make sense again – in and through the struggle against the coronavirus; it offers something in which “we are all in this together.”  This is why they continue to believe the narrative even if it is utterly absurd.  My thought: perhaps you can tell who from your friends and family had the most meaningless lives by the extent to which they continue to believe the narrative despite the facts.

There is thirty percent of the population that is really caught in this process of mass-formation.  For them, the more absurd the narrative and the measures, the more they buy into it.  The statement is both stunning and obvious at the same time.  Stunning…well this is self-evident; obvious…this is explained by the fact that many of us gave up talking to friends and family long ago because we saw that there was no point.

Thus, we see the rituals, without pragmatic meaning (no advantages are gained by performing these rituals), and for which people have to sacrifice something.  The field of vision is very narrow – the same thing happens under hypnosis.  In other words, this thirty percent are hypnotized.  You can take away everything from this person, even his own life, and the person will not even notice it.  Desmet means this literally.

This is different than a dictatorship – the people know that they are the enemy.  This describes a totalitarian state – where the people are bought in.  And there is no relationship of intelligence with susceptibility to mass-formation.  “Not at all.”  Everyone in the mass becomes as intelligent and as stupid as the others.  In fact, the most intelligent are the most completely blind.

Yet, those not in the mass must continue to speak out – this has, in other situations, successfully prevented the mass from performing atrocities.  However, at the same time, Desmet points out that in the past, it was precisely when dissident voices were silenced that the totalitarian system was able to fully succeed.  Desmet then goes on to describe totalitarian systems.  Sadly, much of what he says we see forming today.

They move to a discussion of the controllers – those who are driving the actions.  They believe that they can control everything.  Desmet agrees that this is their belief, but points out that this is completely contrary to science – it is an absurd idea.  Complex dynamical systems are unpredictable.  This attempt to control everything will lead to only one place: self-destruction.  Totalitarianism always destroys itself (again, reminding of Pageau).

For those free of this mass-formation, the best tactic is non-violent resistance, because violent resistance will always be used as justification for ever-greater totalitarian measures (and those in the mass have no problem with this).  The key is finding ways to buy time, because such systems always destroy themselves.

Find those with whom you can bond.  In making this point, Desmet offers an observation I first found in Robert Nisbet and his book, The Quest for Community (the first of about ten posts based on this book can be found here).  It is in community where some freedom and independence can be found (and survival); it is in the state’s interest to break the bonds of every voluntarily-formed community.

Desmet believes that many of those leading this narrative know that it isn’t true, know that the measures they are pushing don’t work as advertised.  But they are so desirous of shaping the world in the image that they believe is best, they are will to kill fifty percent of us – even one-hundred percent of us – in the process.


From Desmet:

Ultimately, mass formation destroys the core of the human being, it destroys the humanity of the human being.  We are human, I think, as long as we try to speak to each other.

Yes.  But it will be painful.  Potentially even deadly.

The crisis we face today is a symptom of the real problem, that was already faced before corona – and this is due to the mechanistic view of human beings.  We are not mechanical machines.

In other words, the meaning crisis must be resolved.  For this, Christianity and the natural law ethic are fundamentally necessary.


  1. Free-floating social interaction: Everyone is connected to each other via a digital screen. Personal relationships are discouraged. Social bonds are made and broken as easily as pushing a button. Fake persona are manufactured to mask the reality. (The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov.)

    Free-floating meaninglessness: There is no sense of meaning, nothing to live for except to gratify the whims of the moment. Nothing is worth personal sacrifice. (Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.)

    Free-floating anxiety: Everything and everyone is a potential threat. Irrational fear is rampant. People escape by retreating into their digital worlds and rely on chemical concoctions to help them cope with the rigors of everyday life. Don't mess with the narrative. (Both The Naked Sun and Brave New World.)

    Free-floating frustration/aggression: Lash out irrationally against those people or items which are perceived to be the main threats. Guilt is assessed on a case-by-case basis and has no grounding in reality. Any motive or method is excused in the elimination of the threat. (Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler, Gulag Archipelago by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn)

    Result: Massive social/economic/political upheaval, chaos, destruction, and death which only ends when society is exhausted and returns to a semblance of sanity.

    Is this where we are headed or are there enough rational people left who can help steer the world into a calmer, more beneficial place?

    Your guess is as good as mine.

    1. Roger, I think we have to walk through that valley first....

  2. You say people obsess over Covid for lack of something meaningful around which they can come together, and that sounds true enough. But after the last couple of years, I have a very hard time feeling sorry for those who made themselves willing accomplices in the whole charade. I'll likely never be able to look at a random person again without wondering if they're independent thinkers or blind followers.

    It really drove home the point of how crucially important is the genius of Christ's sacrifice as a universal scapegoat. Because there are so many out there who NEED scapegoats - not occasionally, in moments of weakness, but as a matter of course. By placating the weak without need for destructive action, the sacrifice "saves" - in a worldly as well as spiritual sense - both the weak themselves, and their potential victims... and undermines those who would use the masses' foolishness as leverage to push their own agenda.

    Not exactly what you'd call Christian orthodoxy, but it fills me with admiration for the one who would be willing to make such a sacrifice. And it shows the utter naiveté of those who might say "hey, we're all enlightened people now, we don't need any scapegoats!"

    1. Clarification... the naiveté of the "post-scapegoating" people is shown in the constant obsession over virtue-signaling idiocy such as lockdowns, distancing, masks, "vaccines", etc., and the drive to vilify anyone who refused to comply.

      Also: "those not in the mass must continue to speak out – this has, in other situations, successfully prevented the mass from performing atrocities". Are there any specific examples of these "other situations"? I feel we may have come dangerously close to the tipping point with Covid - the counter-narrative took a long, long time to find its footing.

    2. I agree - it is difficult to feel sorry for the accomplices.

      To your last point, Desmet has not offered any examples - although it would be helpful. He has repeated this point each time I have heard him speak.

      Without meaningful examples, I remain careful about to whom I speak openly and what I say. Only if the person is important enough to em to take the risk.

  3. Maybe some are motivated to follow the COVID regime due to a lack of meaning in their lives. I think that is true for some.

    However, I think it is one step back logically for most of those who are COVIDians including Christians. Progressive Christians have meaning in their lives but still push for mandates and "following the science". For the secular Leftist and religious Leftist alike though following the global regime is their meaning. They are all convinced that global, secular Leftism is compassionate and that the state is the vehicle to solve the world's problems.

    COVID just gave states the excuse to impose further central planning on us to "save us" from COVID. Leftists have all marched along in step. Maybe they were mass formed before. I don't know.

    1. I think that most of these people want to take the easy way out. They don't want to take responsibility for managing their own lives, and for having to decide what is the right way to live vs the wrong way to live. They would rather have Big Brother take over that responsibility. And Big Brother is more than happy to do that, so that they can manage these people's lives in a way that benefits Big Brother. It's especially galling for me to see progressives who claim to be following the teachings of Christ doing this. I think that the odds that these people really believe what they say they believe is almost certainly zero.


    2. RMB, your point is valid, and it raises something that I think is a criticism also of Peterson. Meaning toward what end? If the end is destructive or nihilistic, such people still find a big hole in life. They keep searching, just moving from one destructive end (Trump and the Russians) to another (covid, 24/7).

      Only if the end is one proper for human beings (beatitudo, etc.), then it is possible to avoid the lack of appropriate meaning in life.

  4. John Waters has just posted an article which dives deep into this subject and even mentions Desmet's 'free-floating' concept. Long article. Well worth the time.

  5. Whenever the topic turns to planners who believe they can remake and control mankind, my mind always goes back to the Tower of Babel story Rabbi Lapin told in his Lou Church lecture back in 2009:

    Since time immemorial, there have been men who believe they can replace the infinitely unique children of God with a mass of interchangeable, molded bricks. They have always failed, and they will continue to fail, but the ruination they leave in their wake is breathtaking.

  6. "Consider, (my point, not his), that this corresponds with the Enlightenment taking full impact, the death of God, the sidelining of Christianity."

    This narrow lense. Or how about people feel their nations are flooded by mass immigration, and they have no connection to their people anymore. As was shown in Bowling Alone, when different peoples live in the same neighborhood the sense of connection is lost, shown in less will to help out in the neighborhood, and less will to vote, etc. How about that? No no, gotta be about religion! We don't need any facts, it's about religion!

    Even though Americans are just as religious today as in the past. People still have to go to church or be ostracized. Swedes are far less religious than American fanatics, and have a much stronger sense of community and commit less crime. Blacks and Latinos are MORE Xtian than U.S. Whites. But do worse in school and commit more crimes. But, religion!

    1. Antonio Gramsci understood that for communism to succeed in the West, it was Christianity and Christian culture that needed to be destroyed. History has proven him correct.

      I suggest he understands this issue far better than you do.

  7. About the purpose and community provided.
    The Purpose is dismal. Disease avoidance. Hypochondria can be something you base your life around, but it doesn't lead to happiness nor (ironically) health.
    The Community provided is poorer quality. At least Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc. had groups of happy, cheering crowds. The "communities" are by necessity synthetic. The very purpose--disease avoidance--necessitates isolation, not seeing others' faces, shunning those you are supposed to be together with.
    This is driving people insane. Along with the dangerous shots these individuals will break down. This mass formation is unsustainable. Do the elitists realize that? Maybe they plan on killing most of them too so they don't care.
    The WEF thinks whatever remnant of humanity they leave can survive forever in masks and semi-isolation. Not temporary torture to make people snap, but the New "Normal" to be accepted. Human nature can only stand so much.
    Have the bad guys thought it through? They also seem confused about how the bribes and excessive pressures for the shot were backfiring. Sophomoric in the extreme.
    Reminds me of BF Skinner at his worst.

  8. "The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow- witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him."
    - Leo Tolstoy

    1. Very good. I think this explains why it will the most brilliant who lead those of us who wouldn't accept the nonsensical narrative to the death chambers.

      When faced with their own stupidity, the will want to kill all witnesses to the contrary.