The other day I suggested that successful ads tell us more about the audience than about the products advertised.
Exactly the same can be said about political messages, though their ability to turn individuals into a herd is more sinister. Advertising changes the way we buy; politics, the way we live.
Perhaps I’m using the word ‘individuals’ too loosely. How many people actually are, in the fullest sense of the word? How many are impervious to the effects of mass propaganda? How many have the will and ability to make up their own minds, and damn the torpedoes?
I don’t know. But, on the available evidence, not many. Just observe how easily the same throngs who in their daily lives try to keep up with the Joneses are swayed to keep up with the Lenins, Hitlers – or for that matter Thunbergs.
Once the head count has reached some critical mass, previously normal people trade their old certitudes for new. Yesterday’s truths become today’s lies and vice versa; yesterday’s insanity turns into today’s orthodoxy.
What kind of leaders are capable of producing such a response? Looking at the people mentioned above, they are variously intelligent (in a descending order, as listed), but none is an intellectual giant. They don’t have to be because they appeal not to reason but to some other faculties.
Hence it’s irrelevant that Lenin and Hitler were considerably cleverer than Greta. That poor Swedish girl proves that intelligence doesn’t even come into it when the task is to create mass psychosis.
Then what does? To answer that question, we have to identify the X-factor shared by all mass demagogues, the area in which they all converge. There exists only one that I can see: the truly demonic energy they all exude, which itself is produced by a mental imbalance.
I’m trying to avoid the trap of claiming that those we don’t like, say Lenin and Hitler, are insane. They were, but not necessarily in the clinical sense of the word.
They were capable of perfectly rational behaviour in pursuit of their insane goals, and neither of them was out of touch with reality. Their goals were indeed insane, but these were presented in a seemingly sensible package.
Both men suffered from hysteria and acute neuroses aggravated by physical defects, neurosyphilis in Lenin’s case, genital deformity and consequences of war trauma in Hitler’s, but neither of them was what we’d call certifiable. They weren’t schizophrenics or any other kind of madmen; they were possessed.
And whatever, or whoever, it was that possessed them acted like water or gas injected into a dying oil well. That process increases the flagging pressure in the formation, and the pressure pushes the oil up, turning a trickle into a gusher.
The energy exuded by successful demagogues raises the pressure in the formation of philistine torpor, pushing to the surface hysterical emotions unsullied by serious thought. Others might have communicated similar messages before, and the masses thought they had a point. But those same messages didn’t produce the same effect.
That’s akin to the difference between the two great orators of antiquity, Cicero and Demosthenes. It was said that when Cicero spoke, people exclaimed, “Great speech!”, but when Demosthenes spoke, they shouted, “Let’s march!”
Cicero was the greater thinker. But Demosthenes possessed that X-factor and Cicero didn’t.
Greta Thunberg, while no match for Lenin and Hitler in evil, has it in spades. She too has injected demonic energy into the Zeitgeist, forcing it bubbling to the surface.
Greta didn’t invent the climate hoax any more than Lenin invented communism or Hitler nationalism. The Zeitgeist was there, like a bear hibernating in its den. Greta just poked it with a stick, waking it up.
The girl suffers from Asperger’s syndrome and also bipolar disorder. At one pole, she experiences acute depression, to a point where she refuses food and is unable to attend school. At the other, she perks up to become a hysterical creature screaming incoherent messages with diabolical venom.
The masses respond – not so much to the content of the message as the energy with which it’s delivered. Greta is so unbalanced herself that she turns previously normal adults into lemmings following her to the precipice.
She is a typological equivalent of the Russian holy fool, Muslim dervish or African shaman. Like them, she goes into a convulsive ritual dance, complete with shrieks, body gyrations and spraying spittle. Like them, she replaces the masses’ will with her own.
What she’s calling for is the destruction of Western civilisation, not just its economic aspect. Her message is remarkably similar to the invective spouted in the past by Lenin and Hitler.
She too screams of the evil few destroying the future of the many. She too paints a picture of an apocalypse, only to be averted by the masses closing ranks and marching to what they can’t quite identify as the precipice.
I’m trying to make sense of the Greta subset of the hysterical socialism phenomenon, and I don’t know whether I’m succeeding. But there has to be an explanation for the seemingly inexplicable effect she has on the masses, including those that sit in parliaments and governments.
Rather than having Greta committed to a place where she can get proper care and schooling, they scream, “Let’s march!”, elevating the child’s hysteria and truancy to a public virtue. Greta doesn’t need adulation; she needs exorcism – except none is on offer.
I’d suggest that, when a message has to be delivered hysterically, there’s something wrong not just with the messenger, but also with the message. I’ll leave you to ponder what that is in Greta’s case.
15 thoughts on “Have a Greta year”
Greta’s mantra is certainly resonating with the masses. Every time a new fire erupts here in Australia the masses yell at the politicians “don’t you care about climate change?”; rather than asking why was funding cut by state governments for emergency services that directly address bushfires??? And how do we prevent these morons lighting fires in the first place?
Here in the USA, we now having Hollywood stars abstain from meat at the Golden Globe awards in order to combat climate change. Absolute madness on the West Coast.
Oh, if only that madness were confined to the West Coast. It’s a world-wide pandemic, I’m afraid, affecting institutions like Time — not to mention our monarchy.
The asceticism she advocates has its appeal; everyone knows deep down that a bit less hedonism and self-denial helps us live more focussed and productive lives. Recycling, ‘Veganuary’ are modern versions of fasting and prayer.
Climate, in its extreme manifestations, is scary, and the evidence that this is escalating – bigger bush fires, hotter summers, bigger floods – is terrifying, so any straw indicating that mankind can exercise some control over it will inevitably be clutched at. No-one really thinks the world can ‘come together’ and find a solution, that China is going to give up her power plants and Africa is going abandon her dream of industrialisation, but the ideal of sharing and cooperating is noble, isn’t it?
Instead, and in the meantime, we can make small differences in our own behaviour – use renewable energy companies, wear a jumper and turn the central heating down, drive and fly less, and influence the market that way. That’s not socialism, is it? That’s market-led consumerism. Even if anthropogenic carbon emissions are only 10% of the total, perhaps reducing it to 9% will mitigate the damage. We have to try.
As for cute, plucky, angry Greta, she may not understand the politics that led us to where we are, but, when she says her generation has been shafted by the previous ones, she’s not wrong, is she?
Here in America we have fools talking about growing meat in laboratories. This would require massive increases in crops like soybeans which deplete the lands in areas like Iowa and Illinois. How much cobalt and lithium will have to be extracted from the ground to produce solar panels and batteries? These climate change fanatics aren’t interested in cutting back their consumption, they are just green pharisees ready to hurl thunderbolts at the burger eaters.
Oh yes she is.
Yes, she is — psychotically so. The previous generations made it possible for today’s lot to live lives free of hunger and material deprivation.
As to the symbolic gesture of wearing jumpers as a way of controlling climate, this is simply bilge. In any case, it’s important to understand that the face value of modern fads has little to do with their essence. The same rent-a-mob who today scream about CO2 emissions yesterday campaigned against nuclear energy that leaves practically no carbon imprint. It’s not SUVs they hate but out whole civilisation. Just listen to what that evil child says: she screams anti-capitalist invective every time she opens her mouth.
Our civilisation is built on Christianity not capitalism. The latter without the former is a monster. Let the child scream.
Agreed. But somehow I don’t see Great as a Christian apostle. She is riling against capitalism, which is the economic expression of our civilisation. It’s the same animus that drives all socialists/communists. One doesn’t detect much nostalgia for our Christian past.
I was trying to give a middle class British perspective on Greta. We’re just not that extreme in our reactions . We see Greta, we think ‘aww, brave child’ and turn the heating down by half a degree, whilst feeling quietly thankful that we didn’t emerge from higher education in debt and are old enough to have been able to afford a house.
Our children live mainly free of hunger for now, but they will have deal with the excesses of our borrowing and spending on a lifestyle they probably won’t be able to afford.
You’re not of the Sturgeon variety by any chance ?
Glad you didn’t let Nicola get away with such a flippant remark . Greta is wrong , wrong , wrong . Two well off “artist” parents who indulge her every whim -including selective “mutism” and casual attendance of school are child abusers and” main-chancers “as i’m sure they are benefitting financially from their “starlet”. Greta won the lottery of life in Scandinavia and should kiss the ground she resides on. Her childhood has not been stolen by the previous generation , but her parents.
Most of my thinking on the environment comes from Roger Scruton, and my views on the progress of the West have been formed by this column. It’s not going in an upward direction, is it?
I’d like to go into the different possible scenarios regarding climate change, but I have to go to work, something, being an ‘artist’, I’ll probably have to continue to do until I’m 70, if I can.
Some perspective from British telly.
I feared Greta was going to be around for a long time. Rather expect her to be used for a while and then when she is passe’ she will just be shunted aside in a few years and forgotten.