Comment // Culture & Media

The Paradigm Wars—Part 1: GloboCap meets Mass Formation

Editorial note: This three-part essay considers the rivenness of Western dissidents on the issue of who is to blame for society-wide compliance with medical martial law. We are of the view that enough dust has settled by mid-2024 for the dynamics of that argument in the dissident camp to be elucidated by an academic contributor.

 

As democracy in the West recedes behind a curtain of shadow-banning, unelected experts, and a suite of mandatory ‘public health measures’ that can neither be voted out nor effectively challenged, a diverse, international resistance movement has emerged. It consists of an assortment of outliers: disaffected members of the culture industries (academia, media, the arts), healthcare (doctors, nurses and allied health professionals), science, and law, as well as a cross-section of the working class and lower middle class, independent contractors and small-business owners: the farmers and truckers, often characterised as ‘angry freelancers’.

The movement is heterodox in two senses: first, it is outside the Overton window of acceptable views and policy standpoints—quite literally ‘beyond the pale’ of polite society; and second, it is characterised by a hitherto unaligned cross-section of society blending both the ‘left’ and ‘right’ side of politics, the upper, middle and lower classes. It appears to be composed of a minority of people from literally every walk of life and demographic group. It includes people of all classes, races, generations, nations, cultures and religions; and both men and women are its constituents and leaders. It is decentralised and leaderless, and yet all who are part of it feel connected, even if only tangentially. Constituents typically define themselves as their own leaders, or in other words as free beings. As the dissident movement clearly shows, this view has, seemingly overnight, become anachronistic, if not taboo.

In this essay, I shall map out a dispute that erupted in this ‘movement’ (that is not a movement) in 2022 and 2023 between the proponents of the theory of GloboCap—the top-down power structure of New Normal totalitarianism—and those that espouse ‘mass formation’—the bottom-up mass psychological Milgram experiment which we saw play out during the coronavirus ‘pandemic’. Politicians, we are reminded by the advocates of the mass formation thesis, swore mandatory vaccines would never be imposed. See, for example, the former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who flipped on his promise.

On the GloboCap side, notable figures include C.J. Hopkins, Catherine Austin Fitts, Peter and Ginger Breggin, and also the long-form research article by David Hughes, Valerie Kyrie and Daniel Broudy on Unlimited Hangout (the unspoken gold standard of the resistance). On the mass formation side, we have its leading proponent Mattias Desmet, author of The Psychology of Totalitarianism (2022), and key expositors Robert Malone and John Waters

 

The Desmet thesis

Despite the sharp critiques, which unfortunately morphed into character assassination of Desmet (see Waters’ compelling defence here), it is my argument that this paradigm dispute between the proponents of GloboCap and mass formation respectively is nevertheless a positive development. It indicates greater internal diversity, and therefore enough growth to warrant intellectual differentiation. We have moved from a single-celled organism to one—notwithstanding C.J. Hopkins’ eloquent expletives—with greater intellectual complexity. As in nature, so in the realm of ideas, diversity is key to our strength and evolution. 

Many readers of UK Column will be familiar with the central arguments of the protagonists, and with the more heated skirmishes that have flared up between Malone and the Breggins (the former sued the latter for $25 million; the case was dismissed in March 2024). A brief excursus may nonetheless prove helpful. First, Mattias Desmet, Professor of Psychology at Ghent University and a psychoanalyst in private practice, published The Psychology of Totalitarianism in June 2022 after many interviews in the alternative media where he enunciated his theory of ‘mass formation’. In a nutshell, this theory identifies the collective hypnosis that overtakes citizens in totalitarian regimes in which a scapegoat is identified as the root cause of social ills and is persecuted (e.g. Jews, the bourgeoisie, kulaks, anti-vaxxers, etc.) in turn, renewing social bonds among insiders. Citizens are vulnerable to ideological capture, contends Desmet, when there is pervasive underlying social and psychological erosion.

Desmet’s thesis, as he readily acknowledges, is essentially, Hannah Arendt’s theory of modern totalitarianism updated for the Covid crisis. A critical aspect of a modern state that turns totalitarian is a complex bureaucracy that ensures the ‘rational efficiency’ of state control and persecution, and which serves to exonerate individuals who can thereafter claim they were ‘just following orders’, as the (sham) Nazi trials in Nuremberg revealed. Arendt’s key point, arising from her observation of the trials, is that modern totalitarianism, unlike classical dictatorship, involves the dissolution of moral responsibility through the institutionalisation of a complex bureaucracy. The diffuse, layered chain of command means no-one—not even the leader himself—is entirely responsible for atrocities carried out.

Desmet identified the p(l)andemic as a vivid instance of mass formation in which unconvincing statistics (involving massively inflated risks), contested public health measures, and the profound destruction of civil liberties coalesced around a virus (itself in dispute). Note, however, that there is a key dispute between those who subscribe to the lab leak thesis (RFK Jr., Brett Weinstein and Heather Heying) and those who contend that there is no virus (Tom Cowan, Kelly Brogan and Andrew Kaufman) because it has never been isolated. This dispute is beyond the scope of this essay. For me, it matters little, because this is a secondary dispute to the issue of civil liberties and the recasting of dissident voices as ‘misinformation’.

The collective mania involved nothing less than the transformation of science into dogma, hereafter referred to by the oxymoronic term ‘the science’. Any opposition—including by credentialed experts — was seen as tantamount to betrayal of one’s fellow citizens and the body politic itself. In other words, there was no legitimate opposition; there was only agreement with the government narrative or stupidity, madness and evil. Overnight, this anathematisation pushed dissidents to the lunatic fringe.

Following Arendt, Desmet argues that a collective delirium or mass formation is only possible when a society suffers three critical conditions:

  1. widespread loneliness (now pervasive across the West);
  2. a lack of meaning associated with ‘bullshit jobs’, mass consumption, alienation, the decline of religion, etc.; and
  3. the pervasive experience of free-floating anxiety defined as frustration and hostility no longer tethered to a tangible cause. 

Regarding Desmet’s first condition, loneliness has been declared an epidemic across industrialised societies. For example, ‘ministers of loneliness’ were appointed in the UK and Japan in 2021; and countries in Europe, the US, Australia and New Zealand have all identified ‘epidemics of loneliness’ in recent years.

On this bleak existential terrain, a narrative that promises to unite the group and expunge a common enemy is enormously compelling. Desmet explains it thus:

[…] the anxiety that previously roamed through society as a tenebrous fog is now linked to a specific cause and can be mentally controlled […]
Secondly, through a common struggle with ‘the enemy’, the disintegrating society regains its coherence, energy, and rudimentary meaning. For this reason, the fight against the object of anxiety then becomes a mission, laden with pathos and group heroism.
Thirdly, in this fight all latent brewing frustration and aggression is taken out, especially on the group that refuses to go along with the story and the mass formation. This brings an enormous release and satisfaction to the masses […]

In the grip of a mass formation, three distinct cohorts emerge in society, according to Desmet: thirty per cent are total believers and beyond the reach of reason; forty per cent will go along with the total believers while remaining open to influence; and another cohort of around thirty per cent is not caught in the groupthink, and will try to speak out and resist. The latter group is heterogenous and disunited, speaking out mostly as individuals (and thus vulnerable and disorganised, by definition). If they could co-ordinate and form an alliance with the middle group, suggests Desmet, they could bring the mass formation to an end. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case.

So far, so good.

Then the outspoken thirty per cent started to fight, as in fact they are predisposed to do, both temperamentally—dissidents are contrarian, and this necessarily includes with each other—and by virtue of their vulnerability. It is a sociological fact that vulnerable, marginalised and under-resourced groups have more conflict. Quite simply, for them there are fewer resources and more stress. This is not to reduce legitimate critique to the label of ‘vulnerability’; it is simply to put this critique in the broader context of what was and is facing dissidents. 

To the details.

 

The Breggin angle

Dr Peter Breggin is a psychiatrist with a long-standing ethical critique of the ‘psy’ and pharmaceutical industries, the medicalisation of emotional distress and the profound damage that the extant business model—including the corporate capture of government—has had on the bodies and brains of Americans, including children. He and his wife, Ginger Breggin, published a three-part review of Desmet’s book in July 2022 shortly after it was published. In it, they outline the ostensible flaws of his thesis, arguing that he is ‘blaming the victims’ rather than addressing the power-political forces behind the Covid tyranny (as we shall see, a similar thesis is propounded by Hopkins and Hughes et al.). People didn’t simply ‘consent’ to lockdowns and mandates; they were threatened with exclusion from society, scapegoating, restricted mobility and, for the especially recalcitrant, reputational destruction, stigmatisation, deregistration (being struck off), job loss, frozen bank accounts, violence and, finally, imprisonment. This wasn’t consent, they rightly point out; it was coercion.

The Breggins argue that Desmet’s focus on the psychology of individuals exonerates the true culprits: the corporate state and legacy media, including their various captured institutions, such as the universities, research centres, health and education systems, and so on. The theory of ‘mass formation’ is, they maintain, therefore a ruse that serves to silence opposition and, at its worst, pathologise dissidents. Certainly, we have seen disturbing evidence of the weaponisation of psychology in the infamous case of Swiss cardiologist Dr Thomas Binder, who was diagnosed with ‘Covid insanity’ (Corona-Wahnsinn) for opposing the government narrative. Horrifically, Dr Binder was forced into a medical facility by Aargau cantonal police and, as a condition of his release, forced to take psychiatric medication (see also this interview on UK Column). Importantly, within Desmet’s conceptual framework, the case of Dr Binder is evidence of mass formation insofar as the medical staff were violating Binder’s civil rights ‘for his own good’ in the name of a fanatical ideology.

For the Breggins, therefore, we must ‘dismiss the distraction of “mass formation” and “mass hypnosis”’. Instead, ‘[w]hat we need is mass noncompliance in our private and public lives against the totalitarianism now being forced upon us around the world.’ Breggin makes various additional forays into what he characterises as the deeply flawed characters of Sigmund Freud and Hannah Arendt, two of Desmet’s key intellectual influences. For Breggin, psychoanalysis is a cult, not unlike the Covidian cult, that similarly requires strict adherence to superstitious beliefs—such as, the ‘Oedipus complex’ and the unconscious—and sycophantic rituals (e.g. psychoanalysis in the supine position, ‘free association’, etc.). He contrasts Desmet’s professional identity as a psychoanalyst with his own rejection of it, finally suggesting (or implying?) that Desmet is ‘controlled opposition’.

Dr Peter Breggin is himself a psychiatrist, if anti-psychiatrist, in the tradition of Thomas Szasz and R.D. Laing. Breggin has undertaken critical intellectual and activist work opposing the medicalisation of psychiatry, the weaponisation of diagnoses and the profoundly damaging effects of psychiatric medication. See his numerous groundbreaking books and this film. Nonetheless, he is still in this industry and uses its concepts and methods in his own work. For the record, I too am a registered psychotherapist in Australia.

The Breggins similarly imply that Robert Malone, co-inventor of mRNA technology and populariser of the term ‘mass formation psychosis’ (the noun psychosis not being added to the phrase by Desmet himself), is also likely working for the deep state and interested in his own self-aggrandisement (hence Malone’s defamation lawsuit). For an alternative perspective, see Malone’s account.

 

The Hopkins invective

At this juncture, a Berlin-based American playwright and satirical chronicler of the ‘war on populism’, C.J. Hopkins, burst onto the scene with acerbic, hilarious critiques of the liberal establishment’s hysterical and decadently anti-democratic response to the election of Donald Trump. Tracing a line through to Covid ‘public health measures’, with their totalitarian uniformity—bragged of by the perpetrators as ‘lockstep’—and pathologisation of dissidents, he got to work doing what he does best: writing short, sharp missives that cut through every cliché and piece of gibberish that the Covidians could muster. Hopkins is the movement’s literary mint, either coining or resurrecting phrases that become our political talismans: ‘GloboCap’, ‘Branch Covidian’, ‘Covidian cult’, ‘memory hole’, ‘limited hangout’, etc. He is a frontline kind of guy, who doesn’t mince words. Hopkins rejected Desmet’s theory of mass formation stating unequivocally that the

[…] people who went New Normal (i.e., the vast majority of most societies) were not “mass hypnotized” or in some kind of trance. They were simply looking out for themselves by conforming to the new official “reality”’.

Here again, Hopkins makes the case that the problem is power—i.e., militarised global capitalism, alias ‘GloboCap’—rather than the conforming individuals who adhered en masse to government diktats. Hopkins at this point directed his formidable enmity and eloquence at Desmet (although, interestingly, not at Malone) in a savage piece in which he (rightly) demurred on the question of whether to ‘to tear another vocal opponent of the New Normal a new asshole.’

Hopkins’ theory of ‘pathologized totalitarianism’ brutally satirises conformists but stops short of assuming their complicity (at least in his later pandemic writings). He refers regularly—to the comic relief of his ‘Covidiot’ readers—to the blustering, passive-aggressive rage of those who were just following orders against those who resisted. Nonetheless, for Hopkins there is no ‘hypnosis disorder’, no symbiosis between leaders and followers, and no ‘mass formation’. Mass conformity rather is the logical endpoint of totalitarianism, which can happen in any society where the government has control of the state apparatus and the culture industries. He clarifies in an interview:

Once the transition to totalitarianism begins, you can count on roughly two thirds of the society either embracing it or acquiescing to it, not because they are in some vulnerable psychological state, but rather because they correctly perceive which way the wind is blowing and they don’t want to challenge the totalitarian regime and be punished for doing so. They are not hypnotized or under any other kind of spell. It’s pure survival instinct.

He clarifies his point in another essay:

Not to put too fine a point on it, most people are either perfectly content to conform to whatever type of society those in power impose on them as long as their basic needs are met, or they are not content, but they are cowards, so they stand by in silence. I don’t mean that as a judgment or an insult. Cowardice and the ability to abandon one’s principles (or not having any principles in the first place) are very positive traits to have if your goal is survival. When a society goes totalitarian or is otherwise occupied and radically transformed, it’s the rebels and dissidents who get lined up against the wall and shot, not the cowards and collaborators.

In Hopkins’ view, agreement with the tenets of the new biomedical state does not constitute consent (at least not in the pre-2020 meaning of this term), given the overt coercion. Either people are agreeing because they understand the power dynamics and make a pragmatic settlement (i.e., a social contract of the Hobbesian or Don Corleone kind) or they are pretending to do so: the ‘collaborators’ and the ‘cowards’ respectively.

 

Not so black and white

But Hopkins leaves out of his equation two other categories (addressed by Desmet): the ‘true believers’—those who in good faith trusted the institutions and ‘followed the science’—and the resisters. The first group is further divided into those who upheld others’ right to choose (perhaps truly demonstrating their faith in the ‘safety and efficacy’ of the ‘vaccines’) and those who did not: the fanatics. From their own perspective, those who conformed were safeguarding the common good.

One needs to be careful here with the assumption that all those who chose Covid injections are simply dupes. My own view, elaborated in the forthcoming third part of this essay, is that there has been a paradigm break, one which penetrates to the epistemological and ontological core of the culture. The division is between a mechanistic and an integrated world view. Within the former, taking the vaccine was a rational strategy in the best interest of self and other; within the latter, it was a risky experiment bound up with the abrogation of civil liberties and the destruction of culture and society. Pervasive fearmongering, coercion and propaganda blurred this category temporarily at the height of the ‘pandemonium’, turning the majority into fanatics—or, in other words, into a ‘mass formation’!

Finally, although Hopkins recognises the resisters (the category to which he himself belongs), he doesn’t theorise their peculiarity or purpose, other than to suggest that they’re the first ones to be lined up and shot and are thus, from an evolutionary perspective, ‘not very smart’. This is darkly funny for all of us who have been digitally—and at times, materially—blasted out of polite society for resisting, but it also offers less scope than other perspectives. It is a surprisingly un-nuanced assertion for Hopkins, given that he clearly knows the difference between the collaborators and the resisters.

Desmet, by contrast, does examine these differences in granular detail. He asks: is there a purpose to the outlier, hero, saint, heretic, ‘madman’, Cassandra archetype? Moreover, he explores their strengths—namely, integrity and ethics—and weaknesses: dissidents are invariably disunited precisely because they are so independent. Dissidents have an atypical capacity to go against the crowd, a feature that goes against the grain of human psychology, which prefers in-group acceptance and safety. At the same time—and often related to this same capacity—they are often fiercely independent and somewhat cantankerous. Perhaps Desmet’s own feud with Hopkins et al. is paradigmatic! Put even two dissidents together and you will probably get some dissonance! Not only is the movement heterogenous, then, but its individual members are constitutively obstinate.

Certainly, at the anti-lockdown/anti-mandate protests I attended in Melbourne, I was astonished at the demographic diversity: teachers and nurses walked alongside tradespeople and firefighters, nationalists alongside immigrants (who held up signs that they had migrated to Australia precisely to escape such tyranny!), old-school lefties (like myself) alongside Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party voters, hippies and home schoolers alongside conservatives and Christians, ex-Labour voters with ex-Liberal voters, parliamentarians alongside anarchists, mums and dads with young children, alongside boomers, Gen X-ers, millennials and Gen Z. Establishment progressives define these new hybrids as a ‘problematic convergence’, invariably misreading any critique of government coercion as ‘far right’. In fact, these convergences are precisely what democracy outside the manufactured Left/Right opposition looks like. This is heterodox democracy after the pandemic. It is a new and fruitful convergence.

 

Shorn of significance

Back to the point. Desmet’s book is not a collection of extant essays, it is an original work of scholarship in which he develops his central thesis: a mechanistic ideology has prevailed in Western society since the Enlightenment (if not before), and digital totalitarianism is its logical endpoint. He identifies the causes in a plethora of phenomena: pervasive anomie, ‘bullshit jobs’, profound disconnection and loneliness, social media/screen addiction, mass depression and anxiety, mass opioid addiction, inescapable and pointless bureaucratic red tape, and pervasive meaninglessness.

Here, the Fleming Desmet is heir to a long line of predominantly German thinking from Goethe through to the Romantics, Nietzsche, the classical sociologists, Rudolph Steiner and Hannah Arendt, identifying the malaise of secular, hyper-rational modernity with its profound loss of connection to God, Nature, Family, Community, Creativity, Vocation and Self. We see this impulse also in the English Romantic poets. We live in the cult of the expert who is no longer tethered to cultural mythos. To be sure, this is not the natural mystery of mathematics nor the equations that managed to wrench energy from matter, nor the head-exploding wonders of chaos theory or quantum mechanics, which surely provide evidence of divine mystery.

No, what Desmet is referring to is the objectified, lonely number in abstraction from context, subjectivity and meaning. These are the abstract, often socially meaningless, ‘data sets’ that we are increasingly forced to live by. These data can be used to prove anything and therefore nothing. This is the ‘predictive modelling’ that considers ‘public health measures’ in abstraction from their profound social and economic consequences (including for children). This is the data that conflates dying with and dying from Covid (see also here); and that bangs on about ‘case numbers’ in seeming oblivion of the actual IFR (infection fatality rates). These are the ‘death rates’ that failed to mention that the average age of death from Covid-19 was higher than the average age of death. These are the lives saved that somehow fail to calculate lives damaged and lost. The absurd and amoral decisions were based on a fetishisation of data in abstraction from reality.

 

Crisisification

We are in the age of the lonely, misused contextless number shoved down lonely, misused, contextless people’s throats. It is the rating out of five that you were recently asked to provide to an automated recording for the ‘service’ that didn’t solve your problem. It is the ‘data-driven’ drivel quietly destroying the body politic yet held up by élites as the apotheosis of rational efficiency and ‘good management’. It is what ‘Follow the Science’, as opposed to the scientific method, is all about.

Desmet argues that we have a mechanistic paradigm—in Thomas Kuhn’s sense of an overarching worldview—that is now thoroughly disenchanted and driven by meaningless and oftentimes corrupt data. Even for the hard-nosed positivists, science as we know it is broken, replete with in-group bias, corporate capture, a corrupt incentive structure and rabid careerism. What we have, in fact, is a cadre of lemmings in lab coats. As John Ioannides put it in his seminal 2005 paper ‘Why most published research findings are false’, this applies to most research in most fields. That’s a pretty damning statement that is gradually being backfilled with data in every social science discipline. The problem is worst in medicine, psychology and economics. Not surprisingly, this is the trifecta of disciplines undergirding the pandemic response!

However, extrapolating from Ioannides’ insight, we can see that it isn’t only the replication crisis in science that poses a major problem for society; it is the democracy crisis in politics, the loneliness crisis in society, the meaning crisis in work, the free speech crisis in universities, the truth crisis in journalism, the surveillance crisis in social media, the chemical crisis in farming, the disconnection crisis in relationships, the pornography crisis in sexuality, the dysphoria crisis in gender, the inflammation crisis in physical health, the drug crisis in mental health, and so on. Together, these multifaceted and interconnecting crises create the perfect storm—which means that the ‘Corona crisis’, as Desmet aptly calls it, is nested in an ocean of intersecting, mutually reinforcing crises that leave people vulnerable to ideological capture and fanaticism. It is a grave understatement to say that we live in troubled times!

Desmet identifies resistance as an ethical imperative and urges all who haven’t succumbed to groupthink to speak up and speak out persistently, no matter the cost, for the cost of not doing so is far greater (a point Hopkins also makes). He argues that doing so in our own small worlds of family, friends, workplaces, and communities—and social media platforms, if we have them—is critically important, for this is ultimately where our impact is felt. The dissident voice may not—indeed, probably will not—convince others in the mass formation, but speaking out is important precisely because it signals that not all are in agreement. The dissident voice disturbs the groupthink and may even halt its descent into violence: a key point made by the classical theorist of group psychology, Gustave Le Bon.

Speaking out is something we can all do and, to this end, Desmet offers a realistic strategy for the ordinary dissident who has not the capacity to take on GloboCap, or who can only do so in the context of collective action.

In the next essay in this series, we shall examine the considerable overlaps between these ostensibly opposing theories, demonstrating their interrelated nature. Indeed, I shall argue we cannot understand the one, GloboCap, without the other, mass formation.

 

Image: Delusion by Chris Lott (Alaska) | licence CC BY 2.0