Freedom is Taken in Tiny Bites: Shifting Baseline Syndrome and Mass Formation Psychosis 

mass formation psychosis
Edvard Munch. Anxiety, 1984.

January 18, 2022

When COVID took hold of the West, governments took swift action to mitigate and, with vain hope, cease the spread altogether. In unprecedented steps, countries around the world rolled abruptly to a halt. 

An Anthropology course I was taking at the time was ironically titled Terminality, where we studied and thought about the end of the world. In February 2020, we went around the room to get everyones thoughts on the possibility of a worldwide economic shutdown: many of us being optimistic, offering our own forms of naive “it’s all going to be okay.” The Doomsday Clock at the time was at 100 seconds. Today, it remains there. 

For the first time, Americans experienced nearly a year long lockdown where the world became socially narrower and politically larger; and across the West, the pandemic left behind it a virulent anxiety caused and perpetuated by a few men who feast upon it like leeches. 

As though our society wasn’t already experiencing a social disconnect between one another in an increasingly digitized world, 2020 came and crushed any semblance of a communal attachment we may have had. Social media became the predominant and sole focal point of our everyday life—a trend that may not have begun in 2020, but was exacerbated. The world was watching the world crumble, not through their window, but from their screen: and there’s nothing anyone could have done about it. 

If we consider the total effort of all media outlets, influencers, social media platforms, and politicians, trying to get information out to the public, we can visualize how many people, organizations, and institutions in the world are competing for a voice; and subsequently, for narrative predominance. Now, if we consider the concerted effort (cooperative, collaborative, collective) of those people, outlets and platforms to achieve narrative predominance, we begin to drown in their malfeasance. 

There always will be in that prepubescent human tendency the desire to construct a political reality for the “pursuit of truth and the good of society.” But the dangers of a concerted effort amongst a global group of actors doesn’t stop at one’s narrative attaining predominance. Firstly, such an effort entails a monopoly on outlets to disseminate their information. Secondly, in reaching this point, a narrative must be maintained. Through big tech social platforms, this might come in the guise of “terms of conditions,” however arbitrarily outlined they might be that allows for both the constant fluidity of the information and the latter’s consistent legitimacy in spite of that fluidity. In other words, the terms of conditions function as a company’s way of filtering information that it deems undesirable. 

It might be obvious what type of content is most produced and disseminated by our informative oligarchs. News outlets and politicians are consistently constructing products of emotion; and the number one most bought and sold product of 2020 was fear. As we waited to be told when we could leave the house and resume our lives once again, we were sold other narratives to keep us preoccupied in the meantime. When an “injustice” was done, the media cheered on riots. When the President tried to assuage our fears, they condemned his nonchalance. While we waited for a return to normalcy, the media even peddled doubts about the potential for a vaccine, since it would have been produced under then-President Trump. 

But since then, another year has gone by. COVID “misinformation” is still vehemently fought and arbitrarily defined according to the whims of the CDC, big tech, and Democrat politicians, along with other bureaucrats around the world. 

How did we get here? Why does it seem like the world is spiraling out of control? Why have we become so tribal and polarized? Why do some people trust the government and others do not? When did governments around the Western world become so emboldened to tyrannize their citizens? Is this new, or was it always like this? 

Two terms that will be useful for us to analyze our contemporary situation will be Mass Formation Psychosis and Shifting Baseline Theory. These two will be discussed in the context of the mass hysteria surrounding COVID-19, freedoms around the world curtailed by government because of it, and how the liberal disposition to fight against establishmentarian dictates have been quelled, so that those towing the line are those one would expect to “resist.”

Mass Formation Psychosis 

Mass Formation Psychosis is a recent term that has garnered a lot of attention since Joe Rogan interviewed Dr. Peter McCollough and Dr. Robert Malone. It was coined by Dr. Mattias Desmet. It’s been used as a growing indictment of the ‘establishment,’ comprising the pharmaceutical companies, the government, and the technological elites who will coordinate together with their subjects to bury dissent. 

In a normal world, McCollough and Malone would be considered “experts,” given their vast medical credentials; however, because of their position against vaccination mandates and the technological and governmental push to control the COVID narrative, they are not considered the “experts” that we should be listening to. 

Just recently, Joe Rogan’s interview with Malone has been taken down from Youtube, and Malone has been permanently suspended from Twitter for what the tech giant considers misinformation.

As Malone wrote on his substack, “We all knew it would happen eventually.”

“Today it did. Over a half million followers gone in a blink of an eye. That means I must have been on the mark, so to speak. Over the target. It also means we lost a critical component in our fight to stop these vaccines being mandated for children and to stop the corruption in our governments, as well as the medical-industrial complex and pharmaceutical industries.”

Dr. Robert Malone is internationally recognized. He’s the inventor of mRNA vaccination as a technology, DNA vaccination, and multiple non-viral DNA and RNA/mRNA platform delivery technologies. The list goes on. Likewise, Dr. Peter McCullough is another widely recognized doctor specializing in cardiovascular diseases, advanced clinical lipidology, and internal medicine. 

What is this psychosis they speak of and can we actually see parallels today? 

Dr. Malone describes Mass Formation Psychosis as thus: 

“When you have a society that has become decoupled from each other and has free-floating anxiety in the sense that things don’t make sense, we can’t understand it. And then their attention gets focused by a leader or series of events on one small point, just like hypnosis. They literally become hypnotized and can be led anywhere.

“And one of the aspects of that phenomenon is the people they identify as their leaders, who come in and recognize their pain and say “I alone can fix this for you,” they will follow that person through hell… Anybody who questions that narrative is immediately attacked. This is what has happened. We have all those conditions.” 

Free floating anxiety was the precursor for this hypnosis. In order to become susceptible to the vicissitudes wrought by the pandemic, people needed to feel irrational worry about their daily lives and events.    

The strongest historical parallel is 1930s Germany. The development of this hypnosis is the same; but we aren’t quite there yet and hopefully never will be at the point of exterminating undesirables that we’ve been made to believe are our enemies; for now, we are only intending to segregate the undesirables from society and make it inconvenient for them to get around normally; for now, we are only treating these undesirables as infestations and walking bacteria. 

The people who believe this of the unvaccinated are likely to place their trust in government bureaucracy, their health agencies, and the private pharmaceutical companies that undergird them. They likely support mandates and vaccination passports for entry into public venues and transportation. They look to centralized power as the answer to ‘normalcy.’ They look to centralized power as the answer to anything. Humans can’t be trusted to do the “right thing;” they must be forced, even at the expense of their rights. 

According to a new Rasmussen poll,

“Fifty-eight percent (58%) of voters would oppose a proposal for federal or state governments to fine Americans who choose not to get a COVID-19 vaccine. However, 55% of Democratic voters would support such a proposal.

Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Democratic voters would favor a government policy requiring that citizens remain confined to their homes at all times, except for emergencies, if they refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Nearly half (48%) of Democratic voters think federal and state governments should be able to fine or imprison individuals who publicly question the efficacy of the existing COVID-19 vaccines on social media, television, radio, or in online or digital publications.

Forty-five percent (45%) of Democrats would favor governments requiring citizens to temporarily live in designated facilities or locations if they refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

47% of Democrats favor a government tracking program for those who won’t get the COVID-19 vaccine.

How far are Democrats willing to go in punishing the unvaccinated? Twenty-nine percent (29%) of Democratic voters would support temporarily removing parents’ custody of their children if parents refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine. That’s much more than twice the level of support in the rest of the electorate – seven percent (7%) of Republicans and 11% of unaffiliated voters – for such a policy.”

While my personal inclination is to regard these beliefs with suspicion, who can blame them? People are not generally “good” nor “smart.” These positions have been packaged into the label of “science,” as though science would still be any basis for the confiscation of liberty. It is far easier to comply than to argue, to nod than to ask questions, to align oneself with the masses, however narrative driven they may be. 

Shifting Baseline Syndrome

During an old interview with Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson explained how governments incrementally become authoritarian. In hindsight, his words were indicative of what would come during 2020. 

“Things get to terrible places one tiny step at a time. If I encroach on you and I’m sophisticated about it, I’m going to encroach right to the point where you start to protest. Then I’m going to stop. Then I’m going to wait. Then you’re going to calm down, and I’m going to encroach again right to the point where you protest.”

“Then I’m going to stop, then I’m going to wait. I’m just going to do that forever. Before you know it, you’re going to be back three miles from where you started, and you’ll have done it one step at a time. Then you’ll go, ‘oh, how’d I get here?’ and the answer was, well, I pushed you a little further than you should’ve gone and you agreed; so then I pushed you a little farther again and you agreed.” 

This process can be generally applied to what is called “Shifting Baseline Syndrome” or SBS. SBS was coined by marine biologist Daniel Pauly in 1995. In talking about this syndrome, he was referring to increasing tolerance to fish stock declines over generations, but his theory also has roots in psychology. 

“Simply put, Shifting Baseline Syndrome is ‘a gradual change in the accepted norms for the condition of the natural environment due to a lack of experience, memory and/or knowledge of its past condition’. In this sense, what we consider to be a healthy environment now, past generations would consider to be degraded, and what we judge to be degraded now, the next generation will consider to be healthy or ‘normal’. As Soga and Gaston (2018) argue, without memory, knowledge, or experience of past environmental conditions, current generations cannot perceive how much their environment has changed because they are comparing it to their own ‘normal’ baseline and not to historical baselines.” 

Over the past two years, the baseline for ‘normal’ has shifted ever-ward toward coercion. The left’s obsession with central authority limiting the rights of those they disagree with has become a global phenomenon. We will take two cases: New York City and Canada. 

In New York City, former Mayor Bill de Blasio implemented some of the strictest COVID mandates in the country, now requiring children as little as five years old to show proof of vaccination before entering public venues, including restaurants and theaters. The Mayor has bragged about these mandates, saying that “Human beings are pretty predictable. If you say, ‘Your paycheck depends on it, or your ability to enjoy life, and go do the things you want to do,’ people will make the practical decision…but we’re not pushing hard enough.”

He also showed his contempt for New Yorkers, suggesting that “Human beings do well when they have carrot and stick.” 

During an appearance on French-language Canadian TV, Justin Trudeau blamed the unvaccinated for the cases in Canada, saying that these people are “extremists, misogynists, and racists.” He then said, “And we have to make a choice, in terms of leaders, in terms of the country. Do we tolerate these people?” 

The Prime Minister of Canada asked if he should tolerate his citizens. 

In a compiled list by business newsletter Morning Brew, “Some people who remain unvaxed against Covid-19 are going to have to budget that decision in along with groceries, car insurance, and the heating bill…unvaccinated people around the world are increasingly being hit by financial penalties as governments try to boost lagging vax rates. A quick roundup…

Greece: Beginning Sunday, unvaccinated people in Greece aged 60 and over will have to pay a monthly fine of €50 ($57), a penalty that’ll be doubled in February. “It’s the price to pay for health,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.Austria: The government is planning to slap all unvaccinated adults with fines of up to $4,108 beginning in mid-March.Canada: The Quebec government announced last week that unvaccinated adults will soon have to pay a financial penalty. Quebec’s premier said the policy was a “question of fairness” for the 90% of Quebec adults who are vaccinated.The US: President Biden’s vax-or-test mandate for large employers, which could have led to fines up to $136,000, was struck down by the Supreme Court last week. Still, a number of corporations have implemented some form of “no-vax tax” on employees anyway: Delta is charging unvaccinated staff on its health plan an extra $200/month, and Kroger eliminated paid leave for unvaxed employees who get Covid.—NF

Those who support these authoritarian measures will chirp the loudest at this point, seeking to defend their leaders who they feel embody the utmost good in society. By definition, this is what a dictator is: Someone who embodies the populist will of the people with designated oppression for dissenters against their beliefs. 

The question is, why did so many Westerners become defenders of authoritarianism? Typical justifications for their desire for centralized power hark back to the “science” and “good for society”—arguments that cannot be disproved, broken down, or argued against, lest their passion and rage grow deeper for believing they are still the righteous. 

And what has caused so many other Westerners to fight back against the dictates of the petty tyrants and bureaucratic accomplices? We have seen protests in New York City, and protests turned violent by the police states in Amsterdam and Australia

Shifting Baseline Syndrome would suggest that those who think this is normal and justified have no recollection of a time when protests that devolved into governmental violence was wrong; when government encroaching on civil liberties in the name of its own politically motivated agenda was a betrayal to the idea of consensual governance and a free society. 

There is no empirical evidence to suggest that there exists no memory or past knowledge of our free conditions for a thriving Western society. Such an idea would be speculative at best, unless a formal study is underway to show that the concepts of a free society has changed overtime, a reality that is nevertheless evidently true: the world is not freer than it was in 2019. 

SBS here described would be best termed as a political pathology—pathology being defined as a discourse on disease. Sociologically, pathology would refer to the study of the conditions that create illness or disease in a social organism, the organism under our scrutiny being society, civilization, governance, and political philosophy. Therefore, this would be appropriately termed political pathology. 


Our society is sick.

Mass Formation Psychosis and Shifting Baseline Syndrome are two very pertinent explanations that help to clarify how we got to this point, but they only go so far as elucidating the problem. When confronted with the question, “how do we begin to lift the haze from our hypnosis and realign our sense of what is normal,” there is, what has become to me, an obvious but still disheartening and exhausting answer: disrupt the mainstream narrative by offering alternative perspectives. 

Our society has grown hostile to information and ideas that run contrary to the mainstream narrative touted by big government and media. We have insulated ourselves in our phones, constructed feedback loops wrought by the algorithms of social media, and seek to construct safe spaces in reality as we do over our screens. But the real world doesn’t function that way, and it can never function peacefully and freely with the tyrannical arm of ideology dictating what people can and cannot do and say. 

If other perspectives are met with hostility, then the resolve isn’t to cease speaking of them, coddling the petty tyrants who will slam their fist and demand more power against their enemies. 

Dr. Robert Malone speaks of a second resolve offered by Dr. Mattias Desmet: to unite against a larger enemy. The world has become transfixed around one thing: the pandemic, COVID-19. But by obsessing over the pandemic, we’ve been unable to see the greater threats to our society: the growing “global totalitarianism” encircling us all. 

There are two issues with this last proposal. Firstly, it demands people to see the larger issue, and secondly, the authoritarians that are wielding their power over our Western society for their benefit are the bulwarks of the divisive COVID narrative that is being pushed into the mainstream. To unite against a “global totalitarianism” would require uniting against that which so many defend as “science” and “true” and “good for us all.” 


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One Response

  1. Thanks. SBS, mass formation, Fabius strategies with in governmental psyops have been clear as day. The intrest for me now in the later da Vinci 2/3 groups of people and how they will navigate intact out of this mess.

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