Thursday, April 07, 2022

Reversing the field -- or: Who is your hypnotist?

Writing a book -- yes, another book that no-one will read -- has kept me away from current events, and from this blog. Sorry. When my brain spends the morning in 1967, it's tough to haul it back into the present day for the after-lunch writing session. My brain used to have that kind of suppleness. Nowadays, the transition seems to require a night's rest.


But I just read this. And then I found myself half-agreeing -- actually, more than half -- with this

In a time of global peril, I see my party turning into a hyper-woke hideosity determined to repel the electorate. Increasingly, I consider "my team" an alien presence. At the same time, the other party has turned into a conclave of reason-free conspiracy-crazed neo-Nazis who must be resisted at every turn. 

Absolutely everyone, left and right, espouses ideas and ideals that they once would have found abhorrent. Everything has changed, and not for the better. EveryONE has changed. But nobody will admit that change that they have changed. 

We're all in a trance. 

I speak literally. Earlier this morning, I wrote a riff about George Estabrooks, who -- many decades ago -- was the head of the psychology department at Colgate University. In 1943, he wrote a strange and influential book called Hypnotism, which was revised and reprinted a number of times. Esty (as he was known) was the wild man of his science, if what he wrote about can even be called science. He could also be a monster. 

That said: In 1943, he had some astute things to say about the world situation. The apocalypse of his time bears a too-close-for-comfort resemblance to the apocalypse of our time. Below the asterisks, you'll find a section of the piece I wrote this morning. These words may not appear in the final book, but I want them to show up somewhere.

*  *  *

The ’43 version of Esty’s magnum opus contains a chapter on Hitler as a master hypnotist. A few of these thoughts deserve repetition here, given the current fascist revival.

Both the hypnotist and the demagogue (says Estabrooks) can “reverse his field” within seconds:

With hypnotism we can have the subject weeping at one moment, laughing a minute later and very angry in five minutes more.

So Hitler can whip up in his people an almost fanatical hatred for the Russians over five years, then suddenly change his tactics completely. Over night he shifts his ground. The Russians are splendid people. It is really the Poles who are the great menace – and his people accept this as the hypnotized subject does any hypnotic suggestion, which is exactly what it is.

Then, overnight, it is again the Russians.

Any of this sound familiar?

The “party of balanced budgets” keeps running up obscene deficits and then denies having done so. When Covid came, the advocates of frugality embraced massive handouts. The voters who cheered an absurd war in Iraq have convinced themselves that it was all someone else’s idea. After the Ukraine invasion, a demagogue who damned the NATO alliance pretended to be Putin’s foe. Libertarians-turned-Nazis suddenly realized that socialized medicine may have value in the whites-only “utopia” of their dreams. Former fans of Richard Dawkins have embraced Traditionalism, a kind of theocracy. One-time Objectivists have turned to the Dark Enlightenment – a scheme to supplant reason with unreason, liberal capitalism with monarchy.

So, too, with those who take the left road to fascism. The free speech fundamentalists of the ACLU have become censors. Former advocates of science have embraced chic hogwash about gender – hogwash which arose from the postmodernism of Michel Foucault, who hated science. Liberals who once encouraged creativity have turned the arts into exercises in didacticism so repellent that even Madame Mao would have vomited. The alleged heirs of the Civil Rights movement now embrace segregation. Feminists now strain to make sentences without the word “female.” The children of the flower children scream “Conform or die! 

If you want to know what Estabrooks meant by reversing the field, consider this: Rightwingers have become the ones sharing links to videos featuring Noam Chomsky, particularly those videos in which Chomsky kicks the pomos. And when Chomsky came out against deplatforming, lefties damned him as “regressive.” Yes: Noam fucking Chomsky.

The astonishment lies not not the fact that these 180-degree shifts occur so often but in the fact that those who shift refuse to admit that they’ve shifted. That is to say: They refuse to admit that they no longer think for themselves. The horse turns right; the horse turns left. The horse does not hold the reins, yet he believes that he chooses the path.


We wish to emphasize the fact that this astounding control is just as much hypnotic as that ever exercised in any laboratory. It depends on direct prestige suggestion registering on a brain highly sensitized by emotion. That is about as good a description of hypnosis as we can have.



Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I keep wondering, to take one example, how do people believe Q-Anon?

And so many other ridiculous ideas, slogans, memes that gain traction. They seem to come from nowhere and are suddenly everywhere.

It seems to me that this began before the rise of the internet. But of course, the internet and social media have made it much worse.

Fred said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your return Joseph. I've grown increasingly panicked over the complete abandonment of reason, values, history and the common good. Tories are everywhere driving the people off the cliff. Here in Australia we are currently engaged in the likely re-election of a bible-thumping corrupt PM of a truly shocking kind. Murdoch and every dirty trick are working overtime against Labor. Democracy is being run as a game show for entertainment. God help us. At any rate, so pleased to see you still kicking. Cheers.

b said...

Great to see you back, Joe!

And death to Google!

Fun fact about Volodymyr Zelensky: the TV show "Servant of the People" that billionaire Ihor Kolomoyskyi wielded - along with the political party of the same name - to propel him into the Ukrainian presidency was filmed in Russian.

As for "Z" being a version of a rune, that's exactly the sort of thing I would say. There's a lot of runery about. The Scottish National Party and Extinction Rebellion both use runes. But in this case I wouldn't buy into the runery idea in such a specific way, complete with elite or at least second-tier would-be elite fascists believing in "Z's" "ancient" origins. Prima facie we can call it a rune, but ... a new one. Connotations of "запад" (west, as in "western front") and "за наши" (for our own people) are definitely in there. So is the idea of being up-to-the-minute and looking at the near future - hence the orthographical variation from "З" which is how the letter is rendered in handwriting and in traditional typefaces and even in most new ones, but not in all

Meanwhile it's a fact that the Azov Regiment use the wolfsangel symbol (as also that Jens Stoltenberg of NATO is a Steinerite loon, whose gang will "understand" the Putin phenomenon in terms of reincarnation. The AR aren't "Ukrainian nationalist" in the crude sense. Many of their guys are Russian. I wouldn't be totally surprised if some of them were to wheel round and start supporting Putin.

PS I've ordered your book about phantom social workers.

Joseph Cannon said...

Death to Google? A few days ago I would have given a thumbs up. But then I saw Peter Schweicker's new documentary on that very theme. Petey, as you know, was one of the key anti-Hillary propagandists in 2016 -- he spread the false story about Rosatom, using info from Putin's people. Schweicker also assails Facebook without mentioning Cambridge Analytica.

So what do you do when someone you hate attacks a corporation you have no desire to defend? We've been forced to address that question a lot lately.

I was wrong about Zelensky. Well, I was right about his ties to Kolomoisky. But I didn't realize that Zelensky had it in him to become his own man.

The Azov militia used to terrify me. But now that Azov has become Putin's number one excuse for rationalizing the invasion, obviously my opinion has morphed. What is intriguing is the fact that American far-rightists, generally pro-Putin, have nevertheless been joining Azov.

I think it's the symbols and the overall bad-ass attitude displayed in the pictures of the Azov boys in full regalia. The far right responds to such things. They don't really think things out. It's pure gut reaction, pure emotion. And I too would not be surprised if the Azovians change sides.

When you think about it, Azov is Putin's greatest ally. Without them, he would not have a pretext.

b said...

"So what do you do when someone you hate attacks a corporation you have no desire to defend? We've been forced to address that question a lot lately."

My attitude is to try to concentrate on the corporation but if an attack on it by a despicable entity is an especially big nuisance, such as by being a powerful distraction or water-muddier for those who might otherwise achieve something good with their criticisms, then I think "That just shows how effed up things are". This kind of thing has been happening to me quite a lot for a while now, given that for example I reject the view that human activity has played an important role in climate change, am strongly anti the SARSCoV2 mass vaccination campaign, and was opposed to the supposedly anti-Covid lockdowns.

BTW have you read George Estabrooks's "Spiritism", and if so what does he say in it? I've read his "Hypnotism" and am curious about his imaginary pet polar bear and his autosuggested spirit raps (pp.85-86).

Anonymous said...

Hi Joe,
Glad to see you back!