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COVID-19 and the Political Economy of Mass Hysteria – a quotation

Investigating the possibility and extension of a mass hysteria related to COVID-19 is beyond the scope of this article. In this article, we analyze a more fundamental question, namely, the role of the modern welfare state in mass hysteria. There can certainly be mass hysteria without the state in a private law society or within the context of a minimal state. This possibility exists due to the negativity bias of the human brain [55], which makes people vulnerable to delusions. Due to biological evolution, we focus on bad news as it may represent a possible threat [56]. Focusing on negative news and feeling a loss of control [57] may cause psychological stress that can develop into a hysteria and propagate to a larger group.

In a society with a minimal state, negative news may start such hysteria. Due to the negative news, some people start to believe in a threat. This threat evokes fear and begins to spread in society. Symptoms can also spread. Le Bon [58] called the spread of emotions through groups “contagion”. Once anxiety has spread and the majority of a group behaves in a certain way, there is the phenomenon of conformity, i.e., social pressure makes individuals behave in the same way as other members of the group. In the end, there may be a phenomenon that has been called emergent norms [59]: when a group establishes a norm, everyone ends up following that norm. For example, if a group decides to wear masks, everyone agrees to that norm. Emergent norms may explain the later stages of contagion. Contagion by fear can lead people to overreact strongly in a situation, even in a minimal state. Nonetheless, in a minimal state, there exist certain self-corrective mechanisms and limits that make it less likely for a mass hysteria to run out of control.

– from COVID-19 and the Political Economy of Mass Hysteria.

I strongly recommend reading this entire paper as it really does an excellent job of explaining where we are now.

6 comments to COVID-19 and the Political Economy of Mass Hysteria – a quotation

  • Flubber

    One thing that is under-reported were those videos ostensibly out of China showing people literally dropping in the streets. They certainly ramped up the fear.

    Gotta hand it to the CCP, they match the west for propaganda.

  • Douglas2

    mass hysteria as manifested by the hoarding of toilet paper and other essentials, the masked driving of single persons in their cars, and people virtually not leaving their houses, not even for a walk, even though the risk of being infected outdoors with physical distancing is minuscule.

    • I’ll note that I’ve done a lot of masked single driving. Local social services in their wisdom have put social accommodation in our village with no public-transport, and arranged for the same clients to have employment in the town 10 miles away. I’m not going to stop picking up my neighbors when they are hitchhiking between, but I am going to continue to my destination masked and with the windows open after dropping them off. I’ll also keep the mask on when on multiple-stop errands just to minimize the handling of the mask.
    • I’ll also note that while that while the risk outdoors when distant is minimal, the guidance or policy in many places has taken the form “just stay home”; which is counterproductive to health.

    There were a lot of statements made in the paper as if they were proven by the footnoted sources, when I would question whether the source in the footnote had really proven the statement, and whether the source was an unbiased observer.

  • but I am going to continue to my destination masked and with the windows open after dropping them off

    I assume you have cofactors, as otherwise…

  • Excellent paper, we need a whole lot more like this.

  • JohnK

    This helps to explain why Matt Hancock, the health minister, is so keen for people who break the covid quarantine to be liable for a ten year prison sentence. Whilst breaking the restrictions, you might as well do a quick armed robbery, you won’t serve any more time, and might make a few quid. Remember to wear a mask.

  • Paul Marks

    I have already answered this on Twitter.

    The “hysteria” (if it exists) was not from below – it was deliberately created from above.

    By a massive governmental and corporate campaign (in many countries) to generate fear – in order to justify lockdowns (Sustainable Development, Corporate State, Technocracy).