Sunday, October 13, 2013

Mob mentality

This was another interesting column in the New York Times about the history, origins, and power of fear + mob mentality in the U.S. Normal people sometimes don't like sociopaths because they don't like feeling that they are just a patsy to the sociopath's intrigues. They are hyper focused on thinking that the sociopath is the root to their problems. It may or may not be true that sociopaths are to blame for as many problems for which they are blamed. Historically, however, it is this fear, suspicion, and hate of "others" that not only perpetuates negative stereotypes to the utter disregard of reality, but leaves people open to be a further patsy to those who would capitalize off of their fear. These opportunists may include political or religious leaders, bosses and neighbors, and anyone else that would use your fear to drive their own ascension to power, or even turn other people's fears against you. Here are excerpts from the column:

A radio interviewer asked me the other day if I thought bigotry was the only reason why someone might oppose the Islamic center in Lower Manhattan. No, I don’t. Most of the opponents aren’t bigots but well-meaning worriers — and during earlier waves of intolerance in American history, it was just the same.

Screeds against Catholics from the 19th century sounded just like the invective today against the Not-at-Ground-Zero Mosque. The starting point isn’t hatred but fear: an alarm among patriots that newcomers don’t share their values, don’t believe in democracy, and may harm innocent Americans.

Followers of these movements against Irish, Germans, Italians, Chinese and other immigrants were mostly decent, well-meaning people trying to protect their country. But they were manipulated by demagogues playing upon their fears — the 19th- and 20th-century equivalents of Glenn Beck.

Most Americans stayed on the sidelines during these spasms of bigotry, and only a small number of hoodlums killed or tormented Catholics, Mormons or others. But the assaults were possible because so many middle-of-the-road Americans were ambivalent.

Suspicion of outsiders, of people who behave or worship differently, may be an ingrained element of the human condition, a survival instinct from our cave-man days. But we should also recognize that historically this distrust has led us to burn witches, intern Japanese-Americans, and turn away Jewish refugees from the Holocaust.
Historically, unreal suspicions were sometimes rooted in genuine and significant differences. Many new Catholic immigrants lacked experience in democracy. Mormons were engaged in polygamy. And today some extremist Muslims do plot to blow up planes, and Islam has real problems to work out about the rights of women. The pattern has been for demagogues to take real abuses and exaggerate them, portraying, for example, the most venal wing of the Catholic Church as representative of all Catholicism — just as fundamentalist Wahabis today are caricatured as more representative of Islam than the incomparably more numerous moderate Muslims of Indonesia (who have elected a woman as president before Americans have).

During World War I, rumors spread that German-Americans were poisoning food, and Theodore Roosevelt warned that “Germanized socialists” were “more mischievous than bubonic plague.”

Anti-Semitic screeds regularly warned that Jews were plotting to destroy the United States in one way or another. A 1940 survey found that 17 percent of Americans considered Jews to be a “menace to America.”

Chinese in America were denounced, persecuted and lynched, while the head of a United States government commission publicly urged in 1945 "the extermination of the Japanese in toto." Most shamefully, anti-Asian racism led to the internment of 110,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II.

All that is part of America’s heritage, and typically as each group has assimilated, it has participated in the torment of newer arrivals — as in Father Charles Coughlin’s ferociously anti-Semitic radio broadcasts in the 1930s. Today’s recrudescence is the lies about President Obama’s faith, and the fear-mongering about the proposed Islamic center.

But we have a more glorious tradition intertwined in American history as well, one of tolerance, amity and religious freedom. Each time, this has ultimately prevailed over the Know Nothing impulse.

Americans have called on moderates in Muslim countries to speak out against extremists, to stand up for the tolerance they say they believe in. We should all have the guts do the same at home.
This is why I am anxious in crowds. This is why I am a libertarian. I think I have a healthy fear of persecution that helps constrain any inclination to persecute others. Similarly, I wouldn't mind if the tables were turned on some of those people who are so sure that they know what's right and best for everyone. Maybe if they were on the receiving end of persecution themselves, they wouldn't be so self-satisfied. But I am glad that with the prohibitions on women wearing face veils in France, protests against a Muslim community center in New York, etc., people who would normally consider themselves open minded, inherently "good" and "wise" individuals with clear definitions of "right" and "wrong" are being faced to stare down the barrel of reality.

I smell change.


  1. Wow, hits close to home. This topic smells familiar...

    On topic, I wasn't aware sociopaths experience anxiety. Even being judged by regulars bother them. I was under the impression that nothing bothers them, you guys. Wrong again.

    You guys really aren't that different. From what I have read, and learned, sociopaths are human, just the uninhibited version of a human.

    I tried to disgust this topic of sociopathy, this website, to my roomate. She was already aware of if, and suggested writing my thesis on sociopaths being human. I didn't think they were, and didn't see how that would be a reasonable topic, especially with all of the information there is on them. Needless to say my one way view of seeing things pissed her off, and she dropped the subject.

    I keep reffering to the sociopaths in prison, not realizing more than half of them are roaming the streets leading regular to the eye lives. I got emotional (or atleast emotionally written) reactions by plenty of people here, advice (though hostile), and personal life stories, not to mention mental mind games. These are all things that normal people, at times, do. So what really makes you so different?

    If sociopaths can feel anxious, nervous, threatened, then why are they classified as having no emotion. Deep down do you wish to be viewed as normal? You guys seem to, or am I wrong again...

    Sad,eye-opening topic. I have a feeling this was targeted towards me.

    1. How about: deep down inside you want to be different?

      Besides: I am wondering, if this works grammatically?

      I tried to disgust this topic of sociopathy, this website, to my roommate.

  2. Jesse, Capernicus called and apparently the universe doesn't revolve around you..

  3. Sure it does Anon! Jessicon is far more narcissistic than he gives himself credit for.

  4. Ha, think you're right, to freshly blag Charlie Brooker, these public forums are a bit like sitting eating in the window of a McDonald's which is a bit like self-harming in a glass booth. People judge you for it.

  5. As for the NYT article itself... Hmm. I don’t know. I have never had an overwhelming fear of an entire group of people, a fear that was so powerful that it shut down my ability to think rationally. Demagogery is a pretty stupid response to change. Unless you are the demagogue and you are consciously using people’s fear to propel yourself to power. That can be an intelligent tactic. Otherwise, it’s moronic.

    1. Well, are you big, David? If I may figuratively confront you with crowds, for instance crowds in panic or for that matter a huge crowd waiting in front of a concert hall with three to four doors and only one opening at one point in time.

      No doubt the word "mob" is not really useful in the above scenarios. But I can tell you that crowds occasionally manage to kill one or the other "down-trodden".

  6. The defining nature of the term Sociopath doesn't seem to be emotionlessness or reduced emotions as much as it is a disorder of empathy.

    Certain Psychologists are pushing the idea they are three types of empathy:
    Cognitive: The ability to see a person is experiencing a specific emotion.
    Emotional: Feeling the emotions of another person as if emotions were contagious.
    Compassionate: The desire to help a person with whom you are emotionally emphasising.

    This model is useful for analysing the mindset of those you would call "Sociopaths".

    Many "sociopaths" in fact are fully capable of, either via human nature or self-teaching, Cognitive empathy. They see your emotions.

    Without emotional empathy, ability to feel the emotions of others, the rules of basic human morality go out the window. No emotional means no compassionate either.

    Morality is based around positive and negative benefits. For an empath, an action may be avoided because doing it will bring pain to another, and through their emotional empathy they will feel that pain, they feel "guilt".

    A sociopath on the other hand may do the exact same action as an empath, however their internal reasoning (conscious or unconscious) lacks the "guilt factor", it lacks the consideration of another's feelings beyond the material benefits those feelings may later give them. They don't feel that you're sad, so unless your sadness will clearly come back to bite them in a big enough way, they won't factor it into their actions.

    Contrast many on the autism spectrum, who often lack Cognitive empathy but once made aware of your emotions prove fully capable of Emotional and Compassionate empathy.

    For a long time I used to think all morality stemmed from the "sociopathic" reasoning of avoiding actions which will cause more self-harm than self-pleasure. I was right, and still am, but for a long time I could not understand the way emotional empathy factored into it. I dismissed this aspect of empathy as a fairytale, a self-delusional comfort people other than me would wield to convince themselves of their own correctness and superiority. I'm still not convinced I'm entirely wrong.

    1. I like your comment, not least since it starts at home, or actually ends, so to speak.

      Yes, what we all learned during the last decade is that religion may not only be a challenge to communism ´(considered historically) but in fact something else as complex and mis-usable as it has always been. But why, because of religion or because of us humans?

      Where I empathize with "sociopaths" in certain limits as a group is in my utter disbelieve that all people that consider themselves as "empaths" really are in all contexts and circumstances. For a very empirical reason, I know I am not.

      What I do not find helpful in M.E.'s meditation on an NYT article, is this: I don't think I need to the term "mob". Of course "mob" always is some type of "other" group or individual, which ultimately leads us into circles. Always out there, always "other".

    2. Another correction, maybe I should use the preview option. Fast, fast, sometimes too fast may well be my ultimate name:

      I don't think, I need [to] the term "mob".

      I think I cannot use the strike html tag here, but the "to" is not really needed here.

      But strictly "mob" creates some type of group that collectively does not need to be cared about, no idea what made it surface.

      What's the ultimate "ideology" guiding this "useful" simplification from the American "liberal" tradition, who from the US "libertarian (or neo-liberarian) is the respective "other" or "mob"?

      I understand even "libertarianism" is a more complex issue in the US. Isn't it?

  7. Off topic...


    I'm glad I bore you. Now maybe you can leave me alone. See one of my comments, and don't respond. And the name, please, the name is Jesse. That last name you gave me was ridiculous.

  8. Awww, the truth hurts, doesn't it Jessification? See, that's the thing about the truth. It gets a bad rap. It's not truth that hurts. It's denying the truth that hurts. If you don’t change now, you are bound to live a long, unfruitful life of denial. Like everyone around you in what is no doubt your small, dreary life.

    Damn dude. What happened to you to turn you into such a lifeless, cowardly shell of a man? Don't you ever allow yourself to wonder if there is a bigger, brighter world outside of your self imposed, self created and self maintained prison of fear and loathing?

    1. I do not, of course, not know about your longer strife. quarrels. But it is always a pleasure to see someone in the possession of absolute truth, post Einstein and relativity. Are you a Mormon, by the way, on your way to turn into one of the future gods?

    2. Ok, I shouldn't have added another "not" before pressing the publish button. I hope everyone forgives me. Stupid foreigner that I am.

  9. Jesse,

    If you want him to leave you alone then you need to stop making comments towards him. You set yourself up as a target without even knowing it..I know what that's like and take my word. You said you were questioning yourself with what they were saying..they are masters at that. What hurts even more is that they are not completely wrong..I even see that and I'm empath. Just chill and let it die out. I mean how important is this to you anyway? Know what I mean? Don't answer that..just let them be. I feel like a ref.


  10. Out of curiousity, Jesse, why have you been alone for four years? What caused you to be a anarchist? Were you a pseudo-intellectual, or one of those punk rock types? What kind of drugs were you into?

    1. I would be interested in what triggered the anarchist association in your mind. I also apart from some grammatical irritations, don't quite understand what made Jesse the scapegoat here. At least he seems to try to learn, real or made up, I do not care.

  11. And if you were an anarchist, how did you get that inflated opinion of marriage? You a fan of cognitive dissonance, or are you okay with submitting to authority as long as you get to throw a party?

  12. Yet another typically simplistic anglo-western response. Using the tired old "white man's burden" as protector of (women's) rights as an excuse for interference, or intolerance of other cultures.Or is it sociopatic interpretation of "caring"?

    Modern Muslim women in Sydney Australia yesterday protested against similar proposed prohibitions, weilding placards declaring "my burka-conviction not coercion" and "leave my mum alone-we love nikab"

    This is what one of the speakers had to say;

    "Contrary to popular opinion, the face veil has everything to do with feminism. I feel empowered by the knowledge that I am in control of displaying my beauty to whom I choose and the fact that I can move freely throughout society without being subjected to the eyes of every Tom, Dick and Harry. And I feel liberated from the slavery of the male dominated fashion industry and its perceptions of what women should and shouldn't look like"

  13. I'm just sorry that any woman feels like she has needs to completely hide herself to protect herself.

  14. I don't know how I feel about this Muslim Center. One of my bio professors is Muslim and when she lectures I never see her clothing as a symbol of who she is or any of that. I just see and hear an intelligent woman who care about her students and who wants to help us get an A and really learn the material. She commands respect in the class and she has control over it. If we're late..forget it don't even show up.'re out. Cell phone she takes it.

    Americans should treat each other the same way..respect, good conduct and an openmind. Isn't that part of the American dream?

    But I don't think a religious center of any kind should be built there, or near there. Unless it's one we can all retreat to..and that's unlikely.


    1. Grace, in our ever more sexualized society, never mind America's puritan origin's in this context, the non visually available woman seem to be a challenge. And the real question would be, is this about female or male liberty? Our female liberty? But i guess that is too complicated for some type of feminists.

      As a female, the most erotic female I have ever seen in Cologne streets was a no doubt Muslim member of the proprietary classes, quite "erotically" hidden from the "male (or female) gaze" even wearing an elegantly slung headscarf. It no doubt helped in my specific case that just as me she wore black.

      I will never forget this tube experience amid lots of available skin around Thus not only was I surprised when my fellow German, someone, by the way, I highly respected up to that point, Ralph Giordano in an interview concerning the building of the Cologne Mosque with our local paper told us that women in head-scarves "insulted his eyes".

  15. That's just it. It's not a Muslim Center. It's just a community center that happens to have a mosque in it. And anyone *can* retreat to it. A place of prayer is a place of prayer. And that's only a small part of the building. No one complains this loudly about Christian community centers, which are often just churches with a meeting room in the basement. If you're going to persecute, at least be consistent.

    Also, I am now taking donations for a sociopath community center, one street over from Cielo Drive in LA. Just sayin'.

  16. @Anonymous Empaths have emotional intuitions which can help speed up the process of interpreting and responding to emotions. These intuitions can result in empathy, but these intuitions don't correlate with action.

    I think the guiding principle for sociopath or empath action is self interest. An action is right or wrong depending on if its in your self interest and if it leads to the best results. Having emotional intuition helps with certain situations such as handling disputes between family members. It does not help in the business world or in dealing with strangers.

    Compassion for complete strangers will drain you emotionally and financially if you don't learn to restrain it. The value of an emotion in any given situation has to be determined by the ultimate result of following that emotional intuition.

    Following ones gut is not reasonable behavior for an empath or sociopath. I try to follow my mind at all times and follow reason in all interactions. I express empathy or compassion when it's of no negative consequence or when it's of positive consequence to my self interest, but when it's of negative consequence to my self interest I do not express compassion or empathy.

    The conscious mind controls the subconscious mind. Empathy and compassion come from the subconscious mind. If you are an empath you have to learn to regulate your subconscious feelings and coordinate them with what you know is right (self interest), so that you don't self harm. The same can be said for the sociopath who has to manage their anger or other subconscious emotional urges, unless it makes sense to express it in that specific situation then it should not be expressed. It will be felt regardless of whether or not you express it, but the expression of an emotion is not always going to lead to a desirable outcome.

    1. Good comment, Savagelight.

      Although: Having emotional intuition helps with certain situations such as handling disputes between family members.

      But watching the latest dynamics in my own family, I even doubt that.

  17. @"Damn dude. What happened to you to turn you into such a lifeless, cowardly shell of a man? Don't you ever allow yourself to wonder if there is a bigger, brighter world outside of your self imposed, self created and self maintained prison of fear and loathing?"

    This is a classic.

  18. "The conscious mind controls the subconscious mind. Empathy and compassion come from the subconscious mind. "

    You state these as incontrovertible facts, though both "subconscious" and "empathy" are actually vague terms and have multiple definitions with completely different qualities.

    Despite paying attention in grad school, somehow I missed the research that showed: (1) that the subconscious provably exists or can even be defined, (2) that the conscious controls the subconscious, (3) that empathy and compassion are also easily definable, and (4) that they spring undoubtedly from the subconscious.

    What of the concept of cognitive empathy, which implies that at least some aspect of it can be conscious? Where do mirror neurons fits into the assertion that thought process (at any level) is the sole source of empathy?

    While infants (at around 18 mos.) and some animals show a primitive form of empathy, I was taught that fully functional empathy was essentially a skill that was consciously learned, assuming one has the requisite brain architecture and cognitive ability to do so.

    Empathy seems to be a general construct comprised of many facets that spans both the architectural and operational aspects of the brain, though to the best of my meager knowledge, scientists still haven't even settled on its precise definition, much less its source.

    But being a perpetual student, I'm eager to be educated, so point me towards the current research that backs your definitive statements so that I can gain a better understanding of empathy. Just because I lack it doesn't mean I don't find it interesting.

    1. Basically, I read the conscious mind controls the subconscious as mode to suggest that my awareness is larger than just my consciousness. And ideally I am able to dive down below the conscious via memory in search of deeper earlier sources. Especially if I seem to react emotionally slightly over the top, never mind if people notice or in other words you show it, as far as I am concerned they rarely do. But if this happens it makes me curious about the layers that may lie beneath the obvious triggers or "consciousness" as surface.

      On the other hand your critique is well taken.

      Concerning empathy you may be interested in the respective chapter here.

      If socialism is a late secularization of religious thought maybe empathy is inspired by it too? What do you think? Ideals and realities?

  19. " what you know is right = self interest",= Scary

  20. I listened to punk rock, and old 60s folk, rock, n all that, but I wasn't punk. I was against a lot that punk were against, but my ideals weren't as violent. I know nothing about the punk scene, other than the stereotypes, so I can't add much there...

    As far as drugs, I never did the needled drugs, or snorting. I mainly stuck to pills, X, uppers, downers, oxicodin, n weed. Mind numbing drugs, drugs that helped me to relax, or feel good, and think about nothing while getting nothing done.

    Why the curiosity?

    No, never thought I was a pseudo-intellectual. Anarchist? yeah, you can say I was. And as to why I was single for four years, I was dating, they never worked out though. I never had anything steady, so the "relationships" technically never happened. I was interested in a girl about a while ago, but that didn't work out too well. That, and she's kinda crazy, she's the one that told me about this blog. We ended up as roommates instead, she needed a place to stay for school. It's okay, I guess...


    You are right, lol. I need to ignore them, him, but I have to be honest, and state that it's soooo hard. He keeps pressing my buttons, but that is the whole point, isn't it. I had a few selective blunt words to throw his way, but I'll keep them to myself.


    What are you even talking about?

  21. I think I spelled oxycontin wrong...

    I pretty much rotted my brain, such a waste of years, lol.

  22. Interesting. Some names from 2010.

  23. Sigh. The problem with complex topics like this is that everyone has their own theory. It's a lot like the six blind men with an elephant allegory: each one experiences a part of the elephant and concludes it's a different object that they're familiar with, rather than a component part of something much larger.

    You take a topic like mob mentality and try to break it down into its component parts and you have people arguing in circles about their own understanding of a minuscule part of the pattern, never really moving anywhere or accomplishing anything, all insisting that the elephant's tusk is a spear or that the trunk is a snake, never recognizing that there's an elephant to begin with. That's usually how I feel when I'm privy to discussions on anything philosophical or social in nature, these days.. just listening to blind men argue about elephants.

    One thing you notice, reading through the stories that people have told through the ages, is that the fundamental scripts are basically the same. It's a group of familiar motions, retold in different languages and with different symbols, but the characters act and are acted upon by recognizable forces. Progress is cyclical, because people's lives are cyclical. Society is humanity's image, after all. And so are the stories we tell about it. Gilgamesh, all the Norse and Germanic sagas... they share emotional themes with some of today's popular shows. Betrayal, departure, renewal, conflict... they're all familiar tunes. In fact, one of the most common expressions of sophistication in media today is to quote or reference a famous literary predecessor. Breaking Bad directly drew a parallel to "Ozymandias", for example.

    So, yeah, sure. Exposure to more information than ever before, by orders of magnitude, is changing people. It will continue to change people. Some of those changes will force out 'antiquated' concepts like static social boundaries. But there's no way of knowing that what replaces it will be any better. My point is, persecution is a function of power. Put people in large enough interrelated groups, and certain dynamics emerge on their own. Completely setting aside the letter of people's intentions in individual cases, there will always be persecution so long as imbalances in power exist. It's one of the few indirect ways of defending power, be it as simple as jocks and nerds in hallways of a highschool or ad hominem harassment on a message board, or more overt social or political exclusion. It will continue in any forum or medium possible, because that's how people are and will continue to be.

    The tool may change, the symbol might be a god or a Great Animal Spirit or a 120x120 pixel avatar, but people are predictable and want to act out certain things as a function of their emotional states. And when currency is at stake, be it social prestige, money, or something more abstract like a belief system's validity, people get downright vicious. And no 'More Enlightened Era' is going to change that when there's blood in the water. The only people who have the luxury of remaining idealistic are the ones who've never truly been defeated and cast low by others. That's the way that the game is played.

    People are always looking to cast others in certain roles for their lives: lover, villain, friends, peers..
    Unfortunately, the archetype of the sociopath makes for a pretty cut-and-dried Disney villain these days. And thus persecution follows. It's hardly unique. People will act out what they feel they have to, even at the expense of others. And so it goes. Any time I find myself thinking about a hopeful future for humanity, I go read youtube comments until I'm sane again.

  24. There's a very simple explaination for this delemma. People are
    afraid to die, and they think these "threating others" endanger
    their lives.
    The two main fears that people have are contamination fears and
    sexual fears. Anything that "invades" the body. Disease invades the
    body in an insidious way, like the pleg. Sex invades the body resulting
    in race-mixing and destruction of the race. White men are horrified
    at the prospect of "their" women breeding with men of other races.
    Only two white parents can produce a white male. So the primal
    subconscious fears of being anialated knaw away at a person.
    Have you seen the White Nationalist web sites decrying the Jewish
    engineered race-mixing? I bet they consider Miley Cryus the new
    poster girl for the decline and destruction of the U.S.
    When blacks were down at the heel, it was Jews that were the number
    1 enemy. Many people believe they still are. People like David Duke
    believe that it was Jews and Communists that spear headed the
    civl rights movement down south. And there WAS plenty of interracial
    sex between the civl rights workers and the "opressed" victims they
    "helped." Sex is the ultimate form of acceptance. You can't really say
    you are true to the cause of "equality," unless you display a willingness
    to yeld up your very being to the other. That's why the words "safe"
    and "sex" are the biggest oxymoron there is. These "primal fears"
    have been around forever, and are best illustrated by the idea of
    "revenge sex." History is rife with such examples, so there's no need
    to into that here.

  25. High-anxiety psychopaths (secondary psychopaths) tend to be threat focused. They are the sort to lead crusades to "get the bad guys before they get us."

    If M.E. is a primary psychopath, she may find this all a bit irritating, unnecessary and inconvenient. She might not get why the sheeple would get behind a psychopathic crusader, or why the crusader wastes his precious life chasing smoke again and again, or why he'd be so hypocritical or self-deluded as to go after psychopaths if he is one too.

  26. Yet another post fudging the issue. Muslims, Mormons, Germans etc are not dangerous en masse per se. Psychopaths are. They leave a trail of destruction in their path. People are right to be afraid. Stop trying to excuse them by comparing apples with oranges.

    Have any of you read The Dinner by Herman Koch? What did you think? I found it sort of interesting but mostly unrealistic.

    1. Religious people are dangerous. Muslims have slaughtered in excess of 500 million over 1400 years. Christians have slaughtered nearly 300 million over 2000 years. Mass delusion is dangerous. In the modern era one need only look at Fascism, then McCarthyism, and then Regansim, and so on. Sociopaths/psychopaths have not killed nearly as many as these mad folk have.

  27. I wholeheartedly believe with all of my heart that doing the best by others does the best by you. Does one not put money in a bank to gain interest? The stock market is volatile because the wrong people are investing. Power structures based on true self interest are often highly sucessfull and enriching for everyone involved. It's the surveyor who decides where the bulldozer will clear a path, and only so that somthing more beautiful can be layed.

  28. In a libertarian world, your socio asses would be burnt at the stake for entertainment. Do you really think lone wolves would stand a chance against unleashed human neurotypical beasts?> Its a nice dream to think that libertarian individuality and freedom could exist, but trust me-without laws to protect against mobs- mobs would be the rule...


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