Mattias Desmet - The Covid Mass Psychosis
Mattias Desmet is a Belgian clinical psychologist and professor in clinical psychology at Ghent University. He has a Doctor of Philosophy Psychological Sciences and has a master's degree in statistics.
Desmet's dissertation is about the validity of the instruments used to measure the interpersonal (hysterical and obsessional) dimensions in psychological research. Desmet has published several books and over 50 articles, mainly in ISI-ranked journals.
Mass formation theory
In 2021, Desmet began to receive widespread attention from both mainstream and alternative media for associating public reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic with mass formation, arguing that most people accepted mitigation measures issued by governments without question, and denounced those who were critical of such measures, or questioned the severity of COVID-19.
With his background in statistics, Desmet studied the statistics that were presented by government and media outlets. When he noticed that most of the people uncritically accepted these numbers, even though they were often "blatantly wrong", he started to study this phenomenon from a mass psychology perspective.
Desmet argued that society had become individualistic prior to the pandemic, and that there was a lot of "free floating" fear and discontent. He points out, for instance, that huge amounts of antidepressiva were prescribed at the time and he refers to the so-called "Bullshit Jobs|bullshit jobs". And as another supportive argument he mentions in several interviews that the United Kingdom has a Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness|Minister of Loneliness.
This was an ideal breeding ground for Mass formation psychosis|mass formation. When the corona crisis arrived, not only an object of fear ("the virus") was pointed out by governments and the media, but also a strategy for dealing with this object of fear: “the corona measures”, such as masks, vaccination and social distancing. A "new social bond" was established by the people who came to wage a "war on COVID". This battle fulfilled their needs for meaningfulness and connection. However, as a result, not only the virus became the common enemy of this new social bond, but also those who did not join in the “war on COVID” or who questioned the government strategy for fighting this war. This is, according to Desmet, because people who ask critical question about the virus and the corona measures, pose a threat to the continuity of this new social bond.
Desmet argues that mass formation is known to have a huge impact on individual’s cognitive functioning; it has similarities with the state of hypnosis. He also refers to Hannah Arendt, who described the role of the masses in totalitarianism. For Desmet, this theory is the only explanation why even highly intelligent people don't question the narrative and the numbers that were in many respects utterly absurd.
Desmet is publishing 'De psychologie van totalitarisme' in Februari 2022 in which he explains his complete theory. This book is also in English available later in 2022.
The Pursuit of Objectivity in Psychology, 2018 (in English)
Lacan's Logic of Subjectivity, a Walk on the Graph of Desire, Feb 2019 (in English)
De psychologie van totalitarisme, Feb 2022 (in Dutch, but also in English later on in 2022)
Desmet, Mattias (2007). Hysterical and obsessive-compulsive depression. A psychometric study. Ghent, Belgium.
"Publications of prof. dr. Mattias Desmet". Ghent University Library. Retrieved 11 January 2021.
"De angst voor het coronavirus is gevaarlijker dan het virus zelf" [The fear for the coronvarius is worse than the virus itself]. VRT (broadcaster) (in Flemish). 25 March 2020. : Text "VRT Nieuws" ignored (help)
Desmet, Mattias (29 August 2020). "In de coronacrisis is de publieke opinie in de greep van absurde oordelen ("In the corona crisis, public opinion is caught in absurd judgements")". Knack (Magazine).
Martenson, Chris (2 December 2021). "Mattias Desmet on our grave situation". Peak Propsperity. Retrieved 11 January 2022.
"Prof Mattias Desmet: Mass Formation and Totalitarian Thinking in This Time of Global Crisis, 30 July 2021". ratical.org. Retrieved 2022-01-12.
This notion of "hypnosis" of the mass is not new, it was already described in Sigmund Freud's Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego|Massenpsychologie und Ich-Analyse (1921) and before him by and Gustave Le Bon.