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Nero and burning Rome

The best laid plans of mice and men go oft astray - from a Scots poem by Robert Burns

The highest act of love in a criminally insane society is disobedience. – John Schumacher

Bouts of collective insanity are no surprise to historians, who have detected a pattern of such spectacles in collapsing empires. We all know the legend of how Nero fiddled as Rome burned. The chaotic dissolution of the French monarchy begat the Jacobin Terror. An epidemic of nihilist folly, rendered vividly in Dostoevsky’s novel, Demons, gripped the decadent, Westernized Russian aristocracy in the last decades of Tsarist rule.

Zelensky, the Kievan creature of Washington neocons, epitomizes the insanity, one day castigating his creators with betrayal and the next begging them on bended knee. Not to be upstaged, Poland repeatedly announces plans to reconquer Galicia, a place where Ukrainian Nazi collaborators in WWII exterminated 100,000 Polish inhabitants, imitating the mass murder campaign that Nazi Germany was then carrying out in Belorussian SSR 1.

But consider the antics of the US warmaker faction itself: ignoring saner Washington heads, it escalates what had been a soft war of “sanctions” into a physical war of pipeline sabotage and theft of dollar accounts of other nations to fund the Nazi police state that it has constructed in Ukraine. These acts, despite their purported short run benefits to the West, are already causing permanent damage across the planet to Western credibility, and cannot be reversed with a stroke of the policy pen. And leaders pandering to eco-warriors in the US and Germany are destroying their energy sources, bringing certain long-term suffering to Western societies. Was all this what global elites had in mind?

But why are modern governing classes falling prey to such craziness? Aren’t they chosen to faithfully carry out the plans of an international financial shadow elite who, like the fabled gnomes of Zurich, have the management of the world under a firm rational hand? 2 Or have the bankers themselves succumbed, either to desperation or insanity? Or has the current crop of policy makers – incompetents originally chosen for ease of manipulation – gotten off their leash and out of control? These are questions critical observers are asking themselves.

In this essay I will explore the thesis that a succession of several back-to-back campaigns of fear have spawned a generalized cult or true believer mentality – a form of temporary collective insanity – which Belgian psychologist Mattias Desmet describes as a mass psychosis. Then I will argue that these internationally directed psychological pandemics got out of hand, so that the blind faith in the official narrative du jour and its policy directives has now spread to infect Western governing classes themselves. This essay builds on What is Causing the Astonishing Self-Demolition of the West?, in which I describe a series of interrelated, self-inflicted systemic causes and their results.

The cultural context

First, we need to remember the wider cultural context in which the attacks of fear mongering are taking place. The current extreme bouts of collective insanity that result are an overlay on the culture of capitalism, itself an insanity of more-is-better, wage slavery and overwork in bullshit jobs 3, materialist consumerism, individualist self-absorption and faith in endless technological progress, ingrained over centuries and so normalized that its insanity has become invisible to many of its victims 4. As the West goes into decline 5, the masses begin to question this indoctrinated culture of capitalism, which spawns a generalized anxiety, augmenting what social scientists have identified as alienation or anomie. This free-floating anxiety happens to be an excellent breeding ground for mass psychosis.

The emergence of cults

Next, we need to review the history of recent fear campaigns and unpack their result – the creation of cults of true believers. In the first campaign, the mass media was used to convince and mobilize self-described liberals to hysterically attack a sitting president as a dangerous, demonic leader. For these people, the media had become the oracle of truth, so that consequently, when medical authorities unleashed the pandemic fear campaign, again using the media as a weapon, many had been convinced to accept its mendacious narrative, synchronized across the television networks, as gospel. Conservatives however, who had watched the media drop even the pretense of journalism during the Trump administration, tended [to] enjoy increasing immunity from the media’s pandemic fear campaign. Then, as the fraudulent pandemic story started to unravel, the weaponized mass media conveniently conjured the current hate Russia crusade to replace it.

The impact of this series of fear/hate campaigns has been to convert an already polarized society into cult-like groups some of whom, like hypnotics, tend to either believe everything the media says and directs them to do, while others vehemently discredit most of it. Several elements of the process are important to understand. As a campaign of mass deception gathers believers, it has the reinforcing effect of absorbing recalcitrants in a dynamic of exponential growth. Then it reaches a critical mass that silences and disciplines remaining dissenters.

Ultimately, the government hierarchy that policy makers rely on for advisory functions cannot remain immune to the gathering mass psychosis, and become a gaggle of yes-men (and women) defending the official truth, a process I described briefly in the previously cited essay. For example, former government insiders who have jumped ship or taken early retirement testify that intelligence establishment workers whose reports fail to support the current official narrative are warned to “be a team player”. And in the CIA the once-impenetrable firewall between intelligence work and operations has fallen, corrupting information moving up the hierarchy so that it underwrites the validity of current operations in the field. Finally, top policy decision makers, constantly fed a doctored version of reality, take actions that are obviously crazy, but only to those outside the mass psychosis.


Some political polarization is always present as a divide-and-rule tool of the power elite. Lately, repeated fear campaigns have hardened polarized thinking into faith-based, cult-like worldviews. These campaigns have bred groups of true believers ranged against the evil other both domestic and foreign, often falling back on cherished stereotypes from decades of previous cold war ideological indoctrination. As the Western world began to fall apart, the global capitalist class – a supra-national parasite – originally ordered these giant propaganda psyops to divert the expected social unrest away from themselves and, according to some analysts, as exercises in obedience training for a world order under central control. Now it is losing control over its agents – the policy making national leaders – as the latter tend to split into internally warring factions and their behavior becomes more erratic and contradictory from one day to the next, and appears to the non-Western world as increasingly insane.

As I see it, the faction fights now occurring within Western governments are predictable, and will continue. The series of scare campaigns that their constituencies have endured in recent years are only one element of vast criminal projects for which the governing classes are responsible. Faced with the accumulation of deceits, the mass media can no longer sustain the credulity of its fictional accounts, and more truthful ones are trickling into the public consciousness. The split into factions thus represents early attempts by people in governments to distance themselves from their crimes. The Zelensky puppet regime in Kiev, where firings of top officials are now a common occurrence, is a bellwether in this respect.

My abiding view of the world is that it functions in wholes whose complexity often eludes understanding, and therefore frequently foils attempts at human management. Corroborated by modern complexity science, this view has a long history, which my quote from Robert Burns underscores. The hegemonic agenda of globalist elites is becoming more grandiose at a time when the societies that they seek to put under central control are undergoing drastic upheavals. The sheer complexity of this state of world affairs makes their project most unlikely to succeed. Their efforts are like throwing a handful of pebbles, however well-planned, into a pond that is already producing whitecap waves, and as the ripple effects of each pebble crosscut the waves and ripples of the others, consequences emerge that are hard to predict. Perhaps the craziness of our governing classes, as they see their ships of state taking on water, is one of these unexpected and indeed inconvenient consequences.

[1] Volyn -a film of Ukrainian massacres of Poles

Come and See -   film of the German massacres in Belarus

[2] Shadow Elite: How the World’s New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market

[3] Bullshit Jobs

[4] The Working Life: The Promise and Betrayal of Modern Work

[5] After the Empire: The Breakdown of the American Order


Karl North has been a student, a farmer, a business owner, and a teacher. As a student, his strongest focus for over 50 years has been systems ecology and political economy (the power relations in social systems).