How Gustave Le Bon Saw the Times We Are Living in Now
It seems America has changed dramatically over the course of the past three weeks. Who could have imagined in early spring as we were all sheltering-in-place in the spirit of civility and public safety that early summer would visit upon us uncivil anarchy?
If our early June selves could’ve gone back to the future to report to our mid-March selves that June would see major U.S. cities looted and torched, calls for defunding police departments, and still other cities coming under the mob-rule of Antifa and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, would they even believed us? With incredulity, our mid-March selves, in viewing those future images of political and religious leaders everywhere kneeling in submission to the rabid cries of the left-wing mobs, might have stared in disbelief. Imagine your own reaction reading a future headline that mayor’s and city councilmen in several metropolitan areas were entertaining ideas of abolishing their police departments, at the behest of Antifa and BLM?
If Gustave Le Bon could read of these tidings in 1895, his reaction would not nearly be as surprised as ours. No stranger to the bloodthirsty nature of the mob mentality, (which he referred to as crowds) Le Bon describes its psychopathology in his book, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind. (Click on link for a free pdf version).
Now for the many of us alarmed by what we see as “mob rule,” and daring to express skepticism of the earnestness on the part of the BLM movement to truly advocate for improving the lives of African Americans, we can better understand the movement (along with Antifa’s) and where it is going, viewing it through the lens of Le Bon’s crowd model.
For starters, of violent throngs and cities burning, Le Bon warns us that mobs view the world in the very simplistic and imbecilic terms of black and white; of either/ or, as they, “entertain violent and extreme sentiments,” so that “sympathy quickly becomes adoration, and antipathy almost as soon as it is aroused is transformed into hatred.” For the mobs exercised by BLM and Antifa, sympathy for George Floyd quickly turned to adoration as he was lionized as a hero. At the same time, antipathy towards law enforcement has quickly morphed into murderous hatred as many have been targeted and attacked. These are extreme sentiments.
Of the fanaticism of mobs, taking on a seemingly religious fervor, Le Bon reminds us that their deeply-held convictions demand “blind submission, fierce intolerance, and the need of violent propaganda which are inherent in the religious sentiment, and it is for this reason that it may be said that all their beliefs have a religious form.” To these movements, George Floyd has become a deified martyr. In the mob’s fierce demands for total acquiescence, how many careers in the past week have been destroyed simply because an athlete (or his wife) tweeted a statement a bit too nuanced, or that was not in lock-step and conformity to the religious creeds of BLM? (Christians wanting to embrace the movement may want to take a look at their website, blacklivesmatter.com).
For those of us reeling at the dystopia that is now Seattle, Le Bon would suffer no such alarm reminding us that crowds are “difficult to govern, especially when a measure of public authority has fallen into their hands.” Antifa, emboldened by the fecklessness of Seattle’s city government has set up an “autonomous zone,” and are seeking armed volunteers to defend the barricades they have erected around six city blocks. While we might be surprised at Antifa’s gall, Le Bon would not as “like a savage [crowds are] not prepared to admit that anything can come between its desire and the realization of its desire.” Emboldened by the capitulation of leaders everywhere, Antifa is demanding reparations and the abolishment of the police department. Unless challenged with equal force, Antifa will not stop with occupied Seattle.
For the reader curious to know where we go from here, the brilliant polymath has much more to say. To anyone having the guts to read Le Bon’s book, just know that your well-informed June-self will be well-prepared for what your July-self will see in the news. And, like the prescient Frenchman, you will not observe these events with jaw-agape, but perhaps rather a calm-but-disturbed resignation that America has gone nuts. On the bright side, you can get a head start on that toilet-paper run you might have missed in March.
We all really just need to follow Jesus.
 Le Bon, G. (1895). The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind. T. Fisher Unwin.
Emily has had a lifelong appreciation for science, teaching, and research. She graduated summa cum laude from California State University, Fresno with a BS degree in molecular biology and a minor in cognitive psychology. As an undergraduate, she conducted summer research in immunology, microbiology, behavioral and cognitive psychology, scanning tunneling microscopy and genetics; she also published research in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, and co-authored a chapter on scanning tunneling microscopy. She is currently completing a Master’s degree in Instructional Design and Technology at University of Cincinnati and a Certificate in Apologetics with the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. Emily has had the joy of teaching high school chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, anatomy & physiology, and pre-engineering classes over the last thirteen years. As a former Darwinian evolutionist, Emily enjoys stating the case for intellectual agency, considering the arguments posited by the intelligent design movement as much more credible than those proffered by Darwinists.Copyright © 2021 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/post/the-prescient-frenchman