Our global culture seems more and more vulnerable to divisions and conflicting emotions and ideals. In the U.S., at least, social media is not contributing to cohesion. Populist nationalism is a global phenomena; conflict in Gaza and insurgency in Afghanistan reflect the passions of crowds.
Professor Doran Hunter, a member of our board and a contributor to our work on ethical principles for government, sent me a reflection on the dynamics of crowd psychology.
At times, I think that an externality of the service provided by social media platforms is the creation of new “crowds,” sometimes called social or political “bubbles.”
Here are Doran’s insights:
A political, religious, social or economic mass movement is led by a leader who mesmerizes and besots a segment of a national population.
Such mass movements exhibit the following characteristics:
- Personal impulsiveness (sudden desire to believe what the leader is preaching); personal irritability (annoyed, impatient and angry with anyone who disagrees with the leader of the mass movement).
- Incapacity to be reasonable (capable of making only extreme or excessive judgments and incapable of making sound and moderate judgments); being driven by passions that lend themselves to exaggeration – love, hate, disgust, fear, etc.
- The unnerving presence of a “devil” that personifies everything the mass movement detests and embodies the reason for the movement to exist and seek victory at all costs.