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Humanism vs. Judeo-Christian Mythos
The strange attacks on Mattias Desmet from within the Freedom Movement
Welcome back, my patient readers! It’s been six months since my last stack. (Already this is sounding like a bad joke about a Substackers Anonymous meeting.)
I could say I’ve been busy. But the truth is, I’ve been demoralized—about the state of the world, the nuclear brinksmanship underway, the relentless assault our democracies are waging against their own citizens, the depth of the mass formation that has subsumed most of my left colleagues, and the loss of all my twitter accounts last year.
Plus, my penultimate stack on “Guns, Gardens, Quarantine, Euthanasia” back in August netted me an anonymous email (which wasn’t hard to trace) from a subscriber telling me at some length why I should go kill myself.
Getting all three of my twitter accounts reinstated last month has cheered me up considerably. (Find me at @KimPigSquash.) So has watching thousands of other deplatformed Covid rationalists get restored since Elon Musk became the new owner of twitter in October. Malone, McCullough, Cole, Vanden Bossche, Kirsch, Dowd—thousands of doctors, scientists, journalists and citizen researchers who, like myself, were permanently deplatformed for sharing so-called “Covid misinformation,” are all back on the bird and tweeting up a cyberstorm.
The liberation of my @KimPigSquash account has buoyed me so much, I can finally tackle this perplexing denunciation of Belgian psychologist Mattias Desmet, author of The Psychology of Totalitarianism, coming from within the freedom movement.
For those of you who just want the TL;DR on this: My conclusion is that the major voices within the Resistance that are denouncing Desmet and his theory of mass formation (the Breggins, CJ Hopkins and others) are:
completely and deliberately misreading him;
reaching for the easy fruit of naming and castigating specific wrong-doers while side-stepping the more complex and nuanced problem of crowd psychology; and
in the case of Dr. Peter Breggin, perhaps feeling his own star is being eclipsed at the end of his distinguished career by a young upstart in a related field.
But fundamentally, I see this as the unbridgeable divide between the fine-grained subtlety of a humanist perspective, and the coarser two-dimensional view (Judeo-Christian mythos) that sorts the world into heroes and villains.
I do not see validity in the claims that Desmet and his theory of mass formation are controlled opposition, or blaming the victim, or part of the Covid PsyOp.
Below is a brief chronology of events, which I describe in more detail later.
September 2021 – The book COVID-19 and the Global Predators: We Are The Prey by Peter R. Breggin MD and Ginger Ross Breggin is published by Lake Edge Press.
June 2022 – The book The Psychology of Totalitarianism by Mattias Desmet is published by Chelsea Green Publishing.
July 27, 2022 – The article “Mattias Desmet: Mass Hypnosis Expert or Trojan Horse? The Full Story” by the Breggins is published on America Out Loud. This long article is a compilation of three shorter articles the Breggins published on the platform one week earlier: “Mattias Desmet Demoralizes the Freedom Movement,” “Mattias Desmet Diagnoses Researchers as Mentally Disturbed,” “Mattias Desmet Blames the Victims and Absolves the Perpetrators.”
July 30, 2022 – Desmet posts a response to the Breggins in Dutch on his Facebook page. (This can be automatically translated using the “translate” function offered at the bottom of the post.)
August 22, 2022 – The Breggins publish a new article “The Desmet/Malone Ideology of Mass Psychosis Blames the Citizens and Not the Global Predators” on America Out Loud.
September 1, 2022 – Desmet appears on Tucker Carlson Today for an hour-long interview.
September 4, 2022 – Desmet publishes a longer response to the Breggins titled “Am I an expert in Mass Formation or a Trojan Horse?” on his Substack.
September 11, 2022 – CJ Hopkins (author of The Rise of the New Normal Reich) publishes his own critique of Desmet titled “Mass Formation Hypnosis Disorder” on his Consent Factory website.
October 6, 2022 – Desmet publishes a response to all his critics titled “Some notes on the tragicomic attempt to burn me at the stake” on his Substack.
November 29, 2022 – Three academics critical of Covid policy (David Hughes, Valerie Kyrie and Daniel Broudy) publish a 15,000-word critique of Desmet titled: “Covid-19 – Mass Formation or Mass Atrocity?” on the Unlimited Hangout website.
January 24, 2023 – Irish writer John Waters publishes a lengthy refutation of the previous three-author refutation of Desmet (yes, a refutation of a refutation, meaning a defense of Desmet), titled “The Psychology of a Hatchet-job” on his Substack.
For those of you still with me and wanting the gory details…
Desmet and Mass Formation
Mattias Desmet is a professor of clinical psychology at Ghent University in Belgium. He has been setting the Internet on fire since 2021 with his theory of mass formation. The theory (which is not new in the analysis of totalitarian societies over the past century) explains why the majority of citizens in western countries so eagerly complied with nonsensical, inhumane and economically ruinous restrictions and segregation, all in service to an absurdly flawed Covid policy.
Here is an hour-long presentation by Desmet on the subject of mass formation from August 2021, as he testifies at Dr. Reiner Fuellmich’s inquiry.
Or better still, Desmet’s hour-long interview on Tucker Carlson Today in September 2022.
I first wrote about Desmet’s theory of mass formation in my stack “Mass Formation: How the Left Got Duped” in December 2021.
By early 2022, Desmet, a youngish and previously unknown university prof from a country most people can’t locate on a map, had become a rock star within the worldwide freedom movement, spawned by increasingly tyrannical government restrictions and demonization of unvaccinated citizens. Video clips of his interviews were circulating everywhere. The words “Desmet” and “mass formation” had become a universal short-hand explaining why everyone we knew had gone crazy and wanted us shipped off to quarantine camps. He was lauded as the world’s leading expert on mass formation theory as it applied to Covid pandemania.
In June 2022, Desmet’s much-awaited book The Psychology of Totalitarianism was released by Chelsea Green Publishing.
The book weighs in at a slim 232 pages. The other major tomes about our Covid dystopia have been coming in at 400-600+ pages. While many important books have now been released on the hysteria, fraud, scoundrels, corruption and collapse of democracy that has accompanied the Covid Era, bigger is not always better. Desmet’s book is extremely engaging, well argued, highly readable, and covers fascinating terrain the others don’t.
Desmet’s analysis is focused on the masses (i.e., the citizenry) rather than individual bad actors and elites within government and industry. As Desmet explains, the existence of a mass formation is essential for the rise of totalitarianism. If you can recognize and neutralize a mass formation at its early stages, or break it apart and shrink it at its later stages, then the society will not be able to descend into full totalitarianism. Conversely, if the critics of an official narrative and of the mass formation surrounding it are effectively silenced (through death, censorship, imprisonment, exile or fear), then there is nothing stopping that society from becoming fully totalitarian. As Desmet remarks in his Introduction to his book:
“Totalitarianism, on the other hand [in contrast to dictatorships], has its roots in the insidious psychological process of mass formation. Only a thorough analysis of this process enables us to understand the shocking behaviors of a ‘totalitarized’ population, including an exaggerated willingness of individuals to sacrifice their own personal interests out of solidarity with the collective (i.e., the masses), a profound intolerance of dissident voices, and pronounced susceptibility to pseudo-scientific indoctrination and propaganda.
Mass formation is, in essence, a kind of group hypnosis that destroys individuals’ ethical self-awareness and robs them of their ability to think critically. This process is insidious in nature; populations fall prey to it unsuspectingly.”
He’s not wrong. But his rigorous focus on the abstract concept of mass formation, rather than the easier and more satisfying targets of corrupt or opportunistic leaders, celebrity bureaucrats, CEOs, media outlets and globalist organizations that drove this maniacal narrative, has paradoxically made Desmet a target himself for some prominent voices within the freedom movement. People in crisis crave the simplicity of villains to blame, not the slippery complexity of theory. Even if the theory holds the solution.
Desmet Under Attack
In July 2022, a month after Desmet’s book was released, legendary radical psychiatrist and author Dr. Peter Breggin and his wife Ginger Ross Breggin published a lengthy, scathing review of Desmet and his book on the America Out Loud platform the Breggins are a part of. It was titled “Mattias Desmet: Mass Hypnosis Expert or Trojan Horse? The Full Story.” This 7,000-word article is a compilation of three shorter articles the Breggins published on the platform one week earlier:
Ten months earlier, the Breggins had released a 651-page book of their own—COVID-19 and the Global Predators: We Are The Prey.
In their lengthy roast of Desmet’s book, the Breggins dispute the existence of “mass formation.” And they accuse Desmet of blaming the victims (i.e., the citizens complying with nonsensical Covid policy), demoralizing the freedom movement, diagnosing researchers who probe conspiracies as confused and disturbed, absolving perpetrators by blaming the victims, being an apologist for the globalists, and quite a bit more. The list of claims is so overwhelming that it’s hard to summarize. Nor do most of these claims hold up to scrutiny. The Breggins misrepresent Desmet’s position throughout their critique. It all seems like a massive overreaction to a researcher who is simply looking at a different aspect of the collapse of democracy in the face of Covid ideology.
It’s clear the Breggins view Desmet’s work, which focuses on crowd dynamics, as a direct attack on the validity of their own work, which focuses on powerful individuals who have orchestrated or facilitated the Covid catastrophe:
“Our book, COVID-19 and the Global Predators: We Are the Prey, shreds Desmet’s theory of “mass formation” by demonstrating that there are well-organized global predators who have been planning all the worst aspects of COVID-19 tyranny since Bill Gates announced the Decade of Vaccines in 2010...
We must reject Desmet’s outlandish theories that distract us from the most important task since the founding of America—defending the free world from being further taken over and demolished by the globalists. We must unmask their apologists, like Desmet, and fight the globalist individuals and forces that are destroying Western democracies. Ultimately, we must refound America as a nation based, not on globalism, but on individual and political freedom, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and AmericaFirst policies. Then we can once again become an inspiration to the world for liberty, as our founders originally intended and hoped, spreading the good news that constitutional democracy is the best way for the citizens of the world to live as freely as possible and to prosper in peace.
We urge people to dismiss the distraction of “mass formation” and “mass hypnosis.” And we have no fear of largescale peaceful crowds protesting our loss of freedoms. We need mass noncompliance in our private and public lives against the totalitarianism now being forced upon us around the world.”
The Breggins’ savage attack on Desmet (which continued the following month, tossing Dr. Robert Malone on the burn pile with the article “The Desmet/Malone Ideology of Mass Psychosis Blames the Citizens and Not the Global Predators”) caught most of the freedom movement by surprise.
Desmet and the Breggins had each been revered by the Resistance up to this point. I have admired Peter Breggin for thirty years, since I first read his 1991 book Toxic Psychiatry: Why Therapy, Empathy and Love Must Replace the Drugs, Electroshock, and Biochemical Theories of the "New Psychiatry." He and his wife Ginger continue to do crucially important research and writing to this day.
So when the Breggins tried to take down Desmet and nullify his work, it caused a minor panic and much back-channel chatter in the movement.
In September 2022, CJ Hopkins, an American playwright, freedom advocate, and author of The Rise of the New Normal Reich, joined the anti-Desmet jihad with his article “Mass Formation Hypnosis Disorder” on his Consent Factory website. Hopkins writes:
“The point is, we are dealing with questions of power, not a psychological condition. Desmet’s theory pathologizes the political essence of totalitarianism… In this ‘Mass Formation’ fairy tale, the political conflict disappears. The totalitarian system and those who resist it are replaced by a psychiatrist and a psychiatric patient. In this story, there is no one and nothing to fight. We just need to find a “cure” or a “treatment” for this bizarre new psychiatric disorder that keeps causing the masses to hypnotize each other and invent some new fanatical totalitarian ideology in order to alleviate the pent-up frustration caused by their loneliness and isolation by unleashing their rage on unhypnotized persons!”
Hopkins’ deliberate mischaracterization and oversimplification of Desmet’s proposition parallels the Breggins’ attack on Desmet. Quite a lot of straw-manning is going on in both cases.
Both Hopkins and the Breggins seem to feel the only valid approach to defeat totalitarianism is to expose and remove the identifiable culprits (the elites) who are driving this shitshow forward. And that anyone who focuses the gaze elsewhere, on some other aspect of the totalitarian project, is at best misdirecting the public’s attention and at worst deliberately sabotaging the crucial work of those exposing bad actors.
As someone who has worked as a journalist for many years, I am all for exposing wrong-doers and criminal cover-ups. Some tremendous books have come out in the last three years doing just that (including the Breggins’ and Hopkins’ books).
However, much as we all crave the public flogging of those who steered this Covid disaster, such an outcome would not in itself restore our collapsing democracy. The bad actors will simply be replaced. They too, in their own way, are cogs. They are not as unique or omnipotent as we make them out to be. Which does not absolve them of responsibility. Of course they should be prosecuted for any crimes (although I doubt that will ever happen).
But removing them will not solve our problem or prevent it from recurring. For that, we must look deeper. We must understand the nature of mass formation so we will be less likely to succumb to future iterations of it. Totalitarian objectives cannot achieve lift-off unless the bulk of the citizens are entranced in a mass formation.
If we could prosecute Fauci, Gates, Schwab, Biden, Trudeau and all the rest tomorrow and put them in prison, they would quickly be replaced by their doppelgangers, who would continue the mission. However, if we could undo the mass formation, wake up all those still in thrall to the pseudoscience, empower people to once again behave as individuals and engage in critical thought and plain common sense, then this nightmare would be over.
As Desmet writes in his book:
“The problem cannot be solved by the violent elimination of an evil elite. The essence of the problem of totalitarianism lies in enormous mass dynamics. This means the elimination of totalitarian leaders will be to no avail; they are utterly replaceable.”
Why the Clash?
So why can’t both sides of this investigation coexist? Surely our analysis of the problem can be sufficiently robust and multifaceted to hold both the uncloaking of wrong-doers and the crucial understanding of why the majority of people eagerly comply with nonsense, even at great cost to themselves.
Initially this just looked to me like an unfortunate turf war between a venerated and much published doctor, now in his eighties, who is perhaps feeling sidelined by a younger and previously unknown psychotherapist who rocketed to fame on a novel analysis of the current societal crisis. Desmet’s trajectory and book have eclipsed Breggin’s work to some degree.
But after sitting with this for a while and watching the widening circle of attacks on Desmet, and the deliberate inaccuracy of those attacks, I am inclined to think there is something deeper at work.
Humanism vs. Mythic Struggles
Desmet’s analysis, focusing as it does on the loss of individual identity, is fundamentally a humanist approach to the problem. I see his entire book as a treatise to humanism. A humanist perspective places pre-eminence on individual responsibility and human agency. There can be no functioning democracy or free society without that. And that is exactly what a mass formation robs its citizens of. So, from a humanist perspective, undoing the mass formation and restoring individual self awareness is the linchpin to undoing totalitarianism or any trend in that direction.
This perspective tends to be at odds with narratives that posit grand archetypal dramas playing out between mythic forces of good and evil, orchestrated by diabolical masterminds who are acting upon (and outside of) a helpless and vulnerable citizenry.
And it is those latter narratives, the ones arising out of Judeo-Christian mythos, that underpin a portion of the freedom movement. Notions and rhetoric of “evil forces” and “satanic” or “demonic” figures abound. This has been problematic for me as an atheist. I’m here for the civil liberties. And personal agency. And mutual aid. And, well—freedom. But many seem to be hardwired to frame the crisis in terms of dastardly villains and heroic saviors, akin to comic book caricatures whose superpowers transcend the abilities of mere mortals. And once these villains are toppled, or so the logic goes, our enslavement will evaporate and we will be free again (sort of).
This isn’t just a clash of academic theories. This is a clash of paradigms.
Even the call-and-response dynamic between the Breggins and Desmet recapitulates these two distinct worldviews. The Breggins attack Desmet (seemingly out of nowhere) with their 7,000-word drive-by shooting, casting him as the aggressor to make him a target worthy of public assassination. They concoct a battle between themselves and Desmet, framing it as a struggle between the righteous and the sinister, light and dark, girding themselves for a Wagnerian epic.
Desmet replies on his Facebook page several days later saying (in part):
“Dear Peter, dear Ginger Ross, maybe we should have a virtual cup of tea together and talk quietly from person to person? Send me an email and you can ask me any questions you want, I will answer to the best of my ability. We can even make a podcast about it together.”
You have just witnessed Judeo-Christian mythos run headlong into humanism. One is a land of extremes, eternal battles, beheadings, take no prisoners. The other is about authentic human connection, flaws, growth, complexity, conversation, tea.
Kim Goldberg is a poet, journalist and author on Vancouver Island, Canada. Her latest book is Devolution, poems and fables of ecopocalypse (Caitlin Press).