Mythologizing and romanticizing acts of violence against political or ideological opponents –something that is often done by the media and pundits– helps crowds assume collective identities that while being popular, are not virtuous, but that serve their purpose to commit heinous acts.
A case in point is Antifa in the United States, but social movements are more effectively used as tools for violence in Latin America.
Recently, the federal police and the army in Bolivia ousted its president Evo Morales. Previously, masses of people rose in Venezuela to denounce the actions of the former president, Hugo Chavez and his protégé, Nicolas Maduro.
In Bolivia, Morales’ supporters and relatives were attacked before his resignation over the weekend. In the case of Venezuela, the government went after protesters, killing thousands in the run to keep a grip on power after several attempts by internal and external forces to overthrow Chavez and Maduro.
A separate case in Brazil, where communist and socialist parties had been in power since the end of the military dictatorship. The South American giant is a separate case because, after 13 years of a down-hill fall into an economic depression, external forces took advantage of psychological exhaustion within the masses to promote the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff.
Now, after unlawfully and unconstitutionally being released from prison, convicted criminal and Worker’s Party’s leader, Lula da Silva is regrouping with his cohorts to launch a new wave of poisonous socialism in the years to come.
The most common tool for social manipulation is color revolutions, which are used by power groups on the Left and the Right. On the Left, leaders use pipe dreams and arrogant virtue-signaling practices to light up the population. On the Right, well-known political and business leaders point their fingers to Leftists as a reason to defeat socialist leaders at the voting booth or through massive protests as in the case of Dilma.
As explained by social psychologist, Aaron Pomerantz, deindividuation, or the process of assuming a collective identity, and of using such identity by crowds to commit crimes, is used by Left and Right interest groups to take advantage of tense situations -sometimes born from social strife caused by Left and Right groups themselves- to assume ownership of those large groups while taking up the “moral high ground”.
What deindividuation does is dilute the guilt of present and future crimes amongst the members of the crowds to inadvertently or explicitly diffuse responsibility. Once people die or property is destroyed, it is nobody’s fault, it was the crowd.
Although not mentioned in news coverage, deindividuation is present during events such as riots and public lynchings carried out by angry mobs, which at that point is passively and complacently accepted by newspaper readers and TV news viewers as a natural consequence of “injustices”.
When inside the mob mindset, the collective and even the individuals –members or not of the criminal mobs- no longer see property burning, theft or beating people up as crimes. Under this circumstance, the elderly, children and anyone on the path of the mob is fair game, because for them the aims justify the means.
As pointed out by Pomerantz, in many cases, the villain of the story is society, which has allowed itself to be modeled to the likeness of one or another interest group.
It is a recurrent practice of the masses when they rise up to blame “government” for a bad state of affairs, socially or economically. The mob mentality has been so strongly ingrained into their brains that they do not have the capacity to think critically anymore.
For example, it is impossible for protesters to understand that total responsibility for the actions of a politician or the government lies on them, society because they were the ones who elected that government.
In the words of Pomerantz, who puts it better than I could explain it:
“In the search for meaning amid an increasingly polarized and hostile political climate, groups come together and lionize monsters. Mass murderers like Che Guevara and Mao Zedong are praised by many on the Left, their self-aggrandizing brutality ignored in favor of the mythologized virtues of socialism and communism. Meanwhile, the same nationalist ideologies that have so often led to tragedy in the past are lauded by the Right.”
It is not a coincidence to find numerous examples of what Pomerantz talks about in today’s society –both in developed nations and third world countries. Deindividuation is not a disease of the poor or the rich, of the uneducated or the highly educated, but of societies that are extremely ignorant despite their access to little or much information.
The one thing a political or social actor needs to exploit is social and communal disenfranchisement and resentment to produce violent mobs because, in spite of clear and evident historical references, people still think that one man or woman will magically change it all.
The success or failure of social and / or political actors in balkanizing society relies on their ability to follow, not lead; to sit in comfort; not self-reflect. Society wants heroes and villains to allow them to have a reason to blame ideological opponents for their afflictions rather than to think for themselves about their own potential for change.
As illustrated in the movie Joker, the disease that largely consumes today’s society is not poverty, inequality or discrimination. Those problems are the result of the disease, and the disease itself is group deindividuation.
Today, social and political hordes seek to villainize those who disagree with them while excusing the behavior on actions committed by out of control mobs of which they are active members. This situation is a vicious circle that continues to feed cycles of mass violence and more deindividuation.
The way to fix this car, whose wheels are falling off as we speak, is simply to think critically about our role in family and society. We can all see and recognize the dangers of the rhetoric of our own or of groups we support and the power this rhetoric has to drive psychological force through the unconscious, out of control crowds.
If we cannot see it and recognize it, then we are the clowns in the circus and the joke is on us.