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Glenn Ellmers: "Desmet..startling claim that tyrannical [COVID] leaders are..captive to the mass formation psychosis they seize on..bureaucratic despotism enslaves the rulers & the ruled alike..anonymous totalitarianism"

Glenn Ellmers:

Desmet’s rewarding book, which includes the startling claim that tyrannical leaders are, very often, themselves captive to the mass formation psychosis they seize on. This is not so surprising if we recall the earlier observation from Foucault that modern bureaucratic despotism enslaves the rulers and the ruled alike. Hannah Arendt, on whom Desmet draws heavily, made a similar observation in 1969, when she limned the idea of anonymous totalitarianism, a tyranny without tyrants. Without going into any more detail, let me note that Desmet is an articulate, compelling speaker, and for readers who are interested in learning more about his views I recommend the lively video—easily located on YouTube—of his interview with Tucker Carlson in August 2022.

As valuable as Desmet’s analysis is, however, there are other elements of our political crisis—including key aspects of the leftist or woke ideology—that simply can’t be characterized as mechanistic thinking, or products of runaway scientism. Consider, in particular, the primitive tribalism focused on racial and ethnic identity, which is arguably wokeism’s central dogma. Although Desmet is correct that a fanatical faith in the technological conquest of nature ultimately descends into anti-rationalism, one can only understand this phenomenon adequately by examining (in a way he does not) the work of Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger, the most trenchant critics of modern liberalism and science. Likewise, Desmet recognizes the hole in the soul created by modern society and sees mass formation as a response to this psychic crisis, but he does not fully appreciate the way woke religiosity, and mass formation itself, reflect a deep, innate longing for “natural” political life, including the civic piety of the ancient city. Desmet’s invaluable book, while essential to understanding one key ingredient of our contemporary crisis, requires supplementary analysis to appreciate the other moral, political, and philosophical dimensions of the crisis.

The Other Side of Death

Scott Atlas ends A Plague upon Our Houses with an emphatic plea for public accountability: “The nation still awaits any indication that there will be a full investigation into the origin of the deadly virus, even if it uncovers potential corruption in our nation’s top science agencies and public health leaders. The world is owed full exposure without delay.” This question of responsibility, of how we account for cause and effect in our moral and political life, is the deepest root of the themes discussed here.

The success of transhumanism—a biogenetic regime of indefinitely malleable and repairable bodies—will mean the culmination of Bacon’s dream of immortality. The internal logic of that project suggests it will not be satisfying. Having overcome death, mankind will have no more excuses for the unhappiness found in liberation from all restraints, no more shelter from the truth of nihilistic freedom. Naked we were in the Garden, and to nakedness we shall return—but not to paradise, or innocence. Eternal existence is not eternal life. Facing the curse of everlasting bodies with dead souls, mankind—I predict—will deploy technology for one final challenge, which was implicit from the beginning: the conquest of nature for the relief of man’s agony. The end of history will meet the end of science in the last war, the war waged by mankind in a final, desperate attempt to create meaning out of, and into, nothing. Ex nihilo ad nihilum. The triumph of transhumanism will end with mankind’s war to extinguish itself by obliterating the earth. []


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