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The Psychology of Totalitarianism

Mattias Desmet

Top 10 Best Quotes

“As Hannah Arendt states, totalitarianism is ultimately the logical extension of a generalized obsession with science, the belief in an artificially created paradise: “Science [has become] an idol that will magically cure the evils of existence and transform the nature of man.”28 In the”

“for example, the aristocracy under Stalinism, the Jews under Nazism, the virus, and, later, the anti-vaxxers during the coronavirus crisis—and at the same time offers a strategy to deal with that object of anxiety, there is a real chance that all the free-flowing anxiety will attach itself to that object and there will be broad social support for the implementation of the strategy to control that object of anxiety.”

“The phenomenon of bullshit jobs (see chapter 2) is perhaps the best illustration of this: In the second decade of the twenty-first century, half of the people were of the opinion that their job was meaningless.19 A 2013 Gallup World Poll found that only 13 percent of people worldwide were truly engaged in their job; 63 percent said they were not engaged”

“Totalitarian systems have always been maintained primarily by systematic indoctrination and propaganda, injected into the population on a daily basis via mass media (without mass media, it is not possible to generate such long-lasting mass formation as that which gave rise to Stalinism and Nazism). This way, the population is literally kept on the vibrational frequency of the voice of totalitarian leaders.”

“This process yields a psychological gain. Firstly, the anxiety that previously roamed through society as a tenebrous fog is now linked to a specific cause and can be mentally controlled via the strategy put forward in the story. 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 (for example, the Belgian government’s “team of 11 million” going to war against the coronavirus). 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, which they will not let go of easily. Through this process,”

“The great minds who followed reason and facts most rigorously came to the conclusion that, ultimately, the essence of things is beyond logic and cannot be grasped.”

“Social connections were also transformed beyond recognition. The invention of radio and television led to the rise of the mass media and a corresponding decline in direct human interactions with a merely social function. Evening meetings between neighbors, pub gatherings, harvest festivals, rituals, and celebrations—they were progressively replaced by consumption of what the media presented.”

“People perturbed by loneliness, lack of meaning, and indefinable anxiety and unease generally feel increasingly irritable, frustrated, and/or aggressive and look for objects to take these feelings out on. The sharp increase of racist and threatening language on social media during the last decade (tripling between 2015 and 2020, see chapter 5) is a striking example. What accelerates mass formation is not so much the frustration and aggression that are effectively vented, but the potential of unvented aggression present in the population—aggression that is still looking for an object.”

“remarkable that it’s mainly the people who perform work that is directly useful—health care workers, garbage collectors, craftsmen, farmers—who get fired or whose work is so poorly rewarded that they have to almost live on the breadline or survive from subsidies (think of farmers, who produce food, the most necessary material object of all). On the other hand, the most meaningless jobs, such as administrative work, are steadily increasing in number and are, in comparison, rewarded more and more generously.”

“prohibitions of the past were declared superfluous, unnecessary to steer society in the right direction. An increasingly loose morality would eventually reconcile man with carnal desires, formerly perceived as threatening. The crippling censorship of anything contrary to the religious discourse disappeared. Freedom of speech became a basic right, education became universally available, legal assistance became a right for all, love was stripped of its duty to marry and have children, sexuality was restored and its coupling with sin and corruption was undone.”

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