The Psychology of Crowds

A group of gears that are in the shape of two heads.

In 1841 Gustave Le Bon, a French Polymath (A person of great and varied learning), authored the best selling book, “The Psychology of Crowds”. Le Bon’s conviction is that a crowd assumes the characteristics of blind submission, fierce intolerance, and the need for violent propaganda. The crowd’s leader is acclaimed as a veritable god, holding sway over its imagination by devising new formulas as devoid as possible of precise meaning, thus taking on whatever meaning the follower invents. Le Bon further states that at the same time, this leader destroys his rivals with claims devoid of substance and, by dint of affirmation, repetition, and contagion, he affirms that his opponent is an arrant (without qualification) scoundrel and that it is a matter of common knowledge that he has been guilty of several crimes. Le Bon then adds that it is, of course, useless to be troubled with any semblance of proof.

Well, it seems to me, that 175 years later his observations are closely resembling the 2016 election campaign of Donald Trump. How else to explain the “Crowds” that follow “The Donald†wherever he goes and believes whatever he says, no matter how arrogant, condescending, belligerent, or mean spirited he becomes. Politicians that I respected and thought were pretty darn smart turned out in significant numbers to embrace the drivel that falls from his lips. His favorite slogan is “Crooked Hillary”, yet there is absolutely no proof that she has ever done anything illegal. He blames her for Benghazi but the CIA was responsible for our embassies, not the State Department. He blames her for having a private server for her email but, as we all know, that was not against the law and others in that position prior to her had used them. She assumed it was okay for her to do the same thing. The worst that can be said is that she was technically naïve and should have known better. How can all the good work that woman has done in her lifetime be so easily dismissed. Somehow, Trump brings out the worst in us.

Equally amazing to me is that Trump refuses to show his income tax returns to the public for review. When asked, he responds that he is being audited and, therefore, cannot do so. What kind of logic is required to lend credibility to that statement? The IRS already has your tax forms and what you are divulging to us they already know, so where is that tiny strand of understanding that makes me want to believe you? True, he isn’t required by law to show his returns but it simply begs the question, “Does he have something to hide”?

As George Will so eloquently stated in a recent column, “Sooner, or later, we all sit down to a banquet of consequences.