I hate to post another video, however, the subject is one I have meant to write about for some time. Several years ago I read the book The True Believer by Eric Hoffer. The book breaks down the myriad of ways in which mass movements prey on people and result in the “true believer”, a type of person who will defend the movement not because they believe in it but because it is necessary for their own sense of self.
The book is not about a specific group, although it frequently mentions Communists, fascists, and the religious. As I read the book I thought of the far left and feminists. Yet the notions could easily apply to groups like the Tea Party or Black Lives Matter.
The video, another one by Sargon of Akkad, analyzes another book that covers the same material from a different angle. Sargon gives an overview of Dr. Arthur Deikman’s book The Wrong Way Home, which focuses on cult behavior. Sargon mentioned in other videos that he was somewhat hesitant to post the video out of concern that his viewers might simply use it to label other people “cultists”.
Yet his analysis shows that the theory Deikman presents can apply to anyone. Indeed, Deikman states that everyone is susceptible and likely belongs to a cult of one form or another. It is the extremes, however, that interest me most.
Listening to excerpts from the book reminded me of Hoffer’s position in that it appears the more insecure the person, the easier they will be swayed by mass movement and cults. Their sense inadequacy makes them open to manipulation. They desire to belong, to matter, and anything that offers this is too tempting to resist.
There is, of course, the negative end of this, which is that people are ultimately controlled by these mass movements and cults. They are tied to the charismatic leaders and to the sense of community, making it difficult for them to recognize what happened and to break away.
Sargon goes over Deikman’s perspective on this in the video. I thought I would add in Hoffer’s opinion:
The fanatic is perpetually incomplete and insecure. He cannot generate self-assurance out of his individual resources — out of his rejected self — but finds it only by clinging passionately to whatever support he happens to embrace. This passionate attachment is the essence of his blind devotion and religiosity, and he sees in it the source of all virtue and strength. […] Still, his sense of security is derived from his passionate attachment and not from the excellence of his cause. The fanatic is not really a stickler to principle. He embraces a cause not primarily because of its justness and holiness but because of his desperate need for something to hold on to. […] The fanatic cannot be weaned away from his cause by an appeal to his reason or moral sense. He fears compromise and cannot be persuaded to qualify the certitude and righteousness of his holy cause. But he finds no difficulty in swinging suddenly and wildly from one holy cause to another. He cannot be convinced but only converted.
This is something I have experienced when dealing with feminists. It is impossible to convince the “true believer” that their position is wrong. No evidence will suffice, and the more evidence that one presents results only in the person doubling down further on their position. While it may seem that they are closed-minded, and to an extent they are, this happens largely because this is what the doctrine demands. This is what their community demands. Nothing that challenges their worldview can be allowed in because the worldview is too fragile for counter evidence.
This is why it takes very little to dismantle feminist theories and why those who cling to them become so easily incensed. Their identity, their very sense of self and self-worth, is tied into their worldview. The only way to change their mind is by allowing them to change it for themselves. They cannot be forced or dragged out of it. More so, even once a person willing decides to change, the cost is still high. They lose their community and their sense of self. Aspects of their former beliefs will linger with them regardless of how much they toss them aside.
To this extent, one could argue that people stuck in this deep ideological bind deserve sympathy, even if they have essentially chosen this path, because once they commit to it they have little chance of breaking away unscathed.
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Great article! Say hello to nationalism, Scientology, etc.
I am myself typically very insecure, but weirdly, also very paranoid. So I kinda alway felt the need to belong, but an even greater panic of actually belonging. I guess this was a gift in disguise, because it kept me from fully identifying with anything ultimately.
People give praise to those they need. Not to those they value. Those they value receive love.
Eric Hoffer’s book should be required reading for all seniors about to enter college.