W. J. Sidis Archives Boris Sidis Archives Mental Epidemics
A STUDY OF THE MOB
Atlantic Monthly, 1895, 75, # 448, 188-197.
THE NATURE OF THE MOB
What is the nature of the mob? It is at one moment so humane, at another so savage, at one moment so heroic, at the next so cowardly, that it would seem at first glance as if it were governed by caprice, not by law. Yet there are certain conditions which favor the production of a mob, and a study of these conditions may help us to understand its apparently lawless nature. The examination of a few cases may disclose some of the factors which form the problem.
In 1883, in the city of Ekaterinoslav, Russia. a Jewish merchant happened to quarrel with a peasant woman. "Murder! murder!" she screamed at the top of her voice. A crowd of idlers soon gathered about the two combatants. "Beat the Jews!" suggested someone in the crowd. A few stones flew in the direction of the Jew's store, more and more followed; then the mob made a rush for the building and destroyed it.
At about the same time, in one of the suburbs of Nijni-Novgorod, the following incident occurred. A child fell into a ditch; a Jewess pitied it, took it in her arms, and carried it into the synagogue to warm it A Christian woman witnessed the scene, and began to cry out that a Christian child had had been kidnapped for sacrificial purposes. A crowd of about three thousand men gathered; a drunken fellow called out, "Beat the Jews!" Thereupon an attack was made, and the mob, after having demolished the Jewish synagogue proceeded after the manner peculiar to all Russian anti-Jewish riots, breaking into Jewish houses, killing, violating, and barbarously demolishing every person And thing they found in them.
These cases clearly show that a mob is not formed of its own accord; it needs an instigator, a leader, who shall ferment the crowd and give it an impulse. A mob, then, can be analyzed into two principal elements: a single person initiating, directing, and a crowd that follows and obeys blindly. We find a similar relation in the case of historical heroes and the masses directed by them. Blind obedience is the characteristic trait of the masses that follow a Cæsar or a Genghis Khan, and blind obedience is the striking feature of the mob that follows some intoxicated fellow or superstitious woman. Cæsar and the Russian drunkard, Napoleon I. and the stupid woman, are equally heroes in so far as they produce a common result. The difference between one hero and another is a quantitative one. Some heroes move masses on a greater scale and for a longer time than others do. The leaders of mobs, although they may be stupid, superstitious rascals, are still heroes―heroes of the moment.The question next arises, How does it happen that the crowd blindly obeys its hero? The cases given above do not show it clearly. It would therefore be well to cite some more cases of mobs, and then perhaps the mechanism of the mob will be detected more readily.
At the beginning of the previous century, Madame de Krudener was a woman who possessed great influence. She was hysterical, and so affected by passion as to throw herself, in public, on her knees before a tenor singer. Afterwards, impelled by disappointment in love, she believed herself chosen to redeem humanity, and, possessed by this belief, delivered herself with a most fervid eloquence. She went to Basle, and turned the city upside down by preaching the speedy coming of the Christ. Twenty thousand pilgrims responded to her call. The Senate became alarmed, and banished her. She hastened to Baden, where four thousand people were waiting on the square to kiss her hands and her dress.
Lazzaretti, an insane workingman, thought himself a prophet. The people, astonished at his changed mode of life, his inspired speech, his long, neglected beard, and grave bearing, flocked in crowds to hear him. A pilgrimage was organized, in which Lazzaretti, accompanied by priests and some of the influential among the laity, marched to different places. Wherever he went he was received by the people on their knees, and the parish priests kissed his face, his hands, and even his feet. In obedience divine commands, as he declared, he left his native city and went to Rome. On his return he found a great multitude awaiting him, attracted by both devotion and curiosity. Lazzaretti was then arrested by the civil authorities, hut shortly released, when he went away to France, "carried," as he said, "by divine power." He returned again to his native city and assembled a larger multitude than ever. One day, at the head of an immense crowd, he marched out to establish the "kingdom of God." He was dressed most fantastically, thereby greatly impressing his followers. He was shot down by a soldier, and the crowd immediately dispersed.
The Portuguese king, Dom Pedro, was prostrated with grief over the loss of beloved wife. He became insane, and his insanity took the form of an irrepressible inclination to dance. He would go out into the streets late at night, and by the lurid light of torches, dance madly to the sound of pipes. The sleeping citizens, awakened by the noise, followed him, and, being gradually drawn into the circle the king and his servants, joined the dance, dancing sometimes the whole night through.
Analyzing the cases here cited, we find crowds attracted and influenced by a strong sens[ation?], caused by persons in unusual states of mind; by madmen indeed, but it might just as well be by genuinely great men. Since our object is to find out the nature of the mob and the way it is set in motion, it is more interesting to take the cases of mobs whose heroes are insane persons, because then the personality of the hero is more or less eliminated, and only the method of setting the mob in motion and the nature of the mob itself remain as main points to consider. We may say with perfect assurance that a mob becomes formed under the influence of some strange event, be it the dream of a lunatic, the fiery speech of insane man, the screams of a superstitious woman, or the mad dance of a crazy king. A strong sudden excitement makes men obedient and causes them to lose their will, their personality, and makes them ready to play a blind obedience to an external command. Can we find an analogous state in the life of the individual? I think we can.
"Hypnotization," says Binet, "can be produced by strong and sudden excitement of the senses. The patient comes hypnotized, and hence obedient to the hypnotizer." We find the same phenomenon in the ease of the m[?] the mob is hypnotized by a strong, sudden action, and becomes for a time obedient to him who hypnotized it; that is, to the ringleader, to the hero. As Krafft-Ebing tells us of a peculiar state which he observed in his patient, namely, fascination. "In this state the patient feels herself to be a pure automaton, and knows herself as absent from the body, existing only as an image the experimenter's eye." "This disappearance of the consciousness of personality," he adds, "is of great interest." It is of great interest in the study of mob, as we shall see further on. The form of hypnotism called fascination was first discovered by Donato, and has been described by Bremand. It is produced in men presumed to be perfectly healthy, and is effected by the subject fixing his eyes on a brilliant point. Thereupon he appears to fall into a sort of stupor; he follows the experimenter
Bremand considers fascination as hypnotism in the lowest degree of intensity. A similar state, but of less intensity, we find in the mob when fascinated by its hero; and when this state is more intensified, we have something approaching the hypnotic state of fascination. What particularly characterizes the man of the mob is the entire loss of his personal self. In a dense crowd, not only is our body squeezed and pressed upon, but also our spirit. The individual self sinks sensibly in the crowd; it seems to get submerged in the fermenting spirit of the possible mob. The mob has a self of its own, and this self is the stronger the more it consumes of the individual self. It is true that this mob self is extremely changeable; but is not this so with the individual self, though in a lesser degree? This mysterious fact that the individual self sinks in the crowd needs explanation; and should such an explanation he found, it would throw strong light on the dark nature of the mob. In his investigation into the nature of the "self of selves" Professor William James advances a very important hypothesis: "Our entire feeling of spiritual activity, or what commonly passes by that name, is really a feeling of bodily activities whose exact nature is by most men overlooked. If anything gives us a strong sense of own individuality, it is surely our voluntary movements. We may say that the individual self grows and expands with the increase of the variety and intensity of its voluntary movements; and conversely, the life of the individual self sinks and shrinks, with the increase of variety and intensity of voluntary movements occurring during this in mind, it is easy to understand why the individual sinks in the crowd. This sinking of personality in the crowd is due largely to pressure; it is the result of limitation of voluntary movements. Nowhere else, except perhaps in solitary confinement, are the voluntary movements of man so limited as they are in a crowd; and the greater the crowd is, the greater is this limitation, the lower sinks the individual self. Intensity of personality is in inverse proportion to the number of aggregated men. This law holds true not only in the case of crowds, but also in the case of highly organized masses. Great social organisms produce, as a rule, very small persons. Great men are not to be found in ancient Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Persia, but rather in the diminutive communities of ancient Greece and Judea. This limitation of voluntary movements is one of the prime conditions which help to hypnotize crowds and turn them into mobs. The individual becomes fascinated, and blindly obeys the hero. "Fascination," says Dr. Moll, "is induced by limitation of voluntary movements. The subject imitates every movement of the experimenter." A large crowd, on account of the cramping of voluntary movements, easily falls into a state of fascination, and is easily moved by a ringleader, or hero. Large gatherings of men carry within them the seed of the possible mob. The Russian government, knowing well by experience the conditions that favor the formation of mobs, prohibits all kinds of public gatherings; an assembly of only four or five men is strictly forbidden, because even such a small gathering is the possible nucleus of a mob.
The very mode in which a crowd is formed is highly favorable to its hyponotization, and hence to its becoming a mob. At first a crowd is formed by some strange object or occurrence suddenly arresting the attention of men. Other men coming up are attracted by curiosity: they wish to learn the reason of the gathering; they fix their attention on the object that fascinates the crowd, are fascinated in their turn, and thus the crowd keeps on growing. With the increase of numbers grows the strength of fascination; the hypnotization increases in intensity, until, when a certain critical point is reached, the crowd becomes completely hypnotized, and is ready to obey blindly the commands of its hero; it is now a mob. Thus a mob is a hypnotized crowd.
The hypnotic-like state of the mob throws much light on its mysterious capriciousness. The mob has no definite personality. Like a hypnotized person, it possesses a high degree of plasticity; it changes its personality with the change of its hero; its personality, as in the case of Krafft-Ebing's patient, lies in the eye of the experimenter, of the hero.
A striking picture of a mob is drawn by Count Tolstoy in his novel, War and Peace. He represents Rostoptchin as the hero who is forming a crowd and stirring it up against an obscure individual, Verestchagin, who is under the suspicion of having betrayed Moscow to the French.
"Raising his hand and turning to the crowd, Rostoptchin screamed at the top of his voice, 'Settle with him according to your judgment! I deliver him to you!'
"The crowd remained silent, and only pressed on one another closer and closer. To bear the pressure of one another, to breathe in this stifling, contagious atmosphere, not to have the power to stir, and to expect something unknown, incomprehensible and terrible, became intolerable. Those who were in the front, who saw and heard everything that took place, all those stood with eyes full of fright, widely dilated, with open mouths; and straining their whole strength, they kept on their backs the pressure of those behind them. . . ."A tall fellow, with a petrified expression of face, with his hand raised and rigid, stood near Verestchagin. . . .Strike!' almost whispered the officer to his dragoons, and in front of the soldiers, with a face disfigured by ferocity, struck Verestchagin with the butt of his gun.
"The tall fellow gripped with his hands the slender neck of Verestchagin, and with a wild cry they fell together under the feet of the surging, roaring mob. Some were striking and tearing Verestchagin, and some the tall fellow. And the cries of those who were crushed and of those who were trying to save the tall fellow only the more excited the ferocity of the mob. . . .
"Only when the victim ceased moving, the mob began to move freely. Each one went up to the bloody, mangled corpse, looked at it, and drew back full of horror and amazement."
We see here the gradual hypnotization of the crowd due to a strange phenomenon attracting the attention of people; the attention is fixed on the central scene of action, because the crowd becomes fascinated. The limitation of voluntary movements completely hypnotizes the people, and the crowd turns into a mob. The cataleptic condition of the tall fellow is a good symptom of this hypnotic state. We find Rostoptchin to be the first hero, who forms the mob, and the ferocious-looking dragoon to be the second hero, who brings the mob self into life. And when the crime was committed, each one of the mob went up to look at the work of his hands, but "drew back full of horror and amazement." The individual self was horrified at the work of the mob self. Once generated, the mob self possesses a strong attractive power and a great capacity of assimilation. It attracts fresh individuals, sucks out their personalities and quickly assimilates them. Weak individualities are especially in danger of it. This strange phenomenon can be well illustrated by a curious incident describing the riot of the military colonists in Russia in 1831, taken from the memoirs of Panæff:―"Whilst Sokoloff was fighting hard for his life, I saw a corporal lying on the piazza and crying bitterly. On my question, 'Why do you cry ?' he pointed in the direction of the mob, and exclaimed, 'Oh, they do not kill a commander, but a father!' I told him that instead of crying he should rather go to Sokoloff's aid. He rose at once, and ran to the help of his commander. A little later, when I came with a few soldiers to Sokoloff's help, I found the same corporal striking Sokoloff with a club. ' Wretch ! what are you doing? Have not you told me he was to you like a father?' To which he answered, 'It is such a time, your honor, that all the people strike him; why should I keep quiet?'" To take another interesting case. During the Russian anti-Jewish riots in 1881, the city of Berditchev, consisting mainly of Jewish inhabitants, suffered from Jewish mobs. One day, a Jewish mob of about fifteen thousand men, armed with clubs, butcher's-knives, and revolvers, marched through the streets to the railway station, to look there for the "Katzapi."1 To the surprise of intelligent people, many Christians participated in this Jewish mob.
The body of the mob is not altogether structureless; it has a certain organization, although of a low kind. The mob possesses a nucleus, which is mostly formed in the centre of the crowd, but which is soon forced to the front, acting both as sensory and prehensible organs: The nucleus contains a nucleolinus within a nucleolus; that is, a hero with his devotees,―the originator and the guides. The may, however, be of a still higher organization. The nucleus may be differentiated into two parts, one possessing only sensory, and the other only prehensible functions, and so become the nucleolus with its nucleolinus. This was plainly seen in the Russian anti-Jewish riots, especially as they manifested themselves in Malorussia. A group of Katzapi usually formed the nucleus. This nucleus, however, soon became differentiated: some set an example of pillage, and some guarded the mob against external disturbances, giving signals to the active group of Katzapi,―to turn aside, to run, to walk slowly, to disperse, or to concentrate. The nucleolus with its nucleolinus also tended to divide into two parts, one possessing the function of willing, the other that of guiding. Some men, by raising an alarm, or by preaching inflammatory discourses to the crowd, fermented and formed the mob, while others laid out the plan of pillage and took command. Like all low organisms, the mob possesses an enormous power of propagation. Under favorable conditions, mobs multiply, grow, and spread with a truly amazing rapidity. The anti-Jewish riots in Russia furnish excellent illustrations: once a riot broke out in one place, it went on producing new disturbances throughout the whole country.
To return, however, to the hero. We have seen that every mob must have its hero. The title "hero" applied to a drunkard who strongly smells of liquor and can scarcely stand on his feet, or to a stupid, superstitious old hag, seems incongruous enough when one considers the customary use of the term. If we look from the standpoint of the masses, all those are heroes whom the masses obey and follow, and between a great historical hero and a hero of the mob there is only a quantitative difference. Yet there must also be some qualitative difference between one hero and another. But assuming that there exists only a quantitative difference between Washington and the Russian hag of 1883, how shall we explain this very difference? Why is it that some men rise like bright, fixed stars on the sky of politics and religion, and keep for ages the attention of masses, whilst others are a kind of meteor? The difference between these two categories of heroes lies in the nature of the object by means of which they influence the masses. Great warriors, politicians, religious lawgivers, fix the attention of the people on their own exceptionally powerful personality, whilst a silly woman or a crazy king fixes the attention of the crowd on a stick, on a knife, or on a mad dance. In the case of really great men, the centre of attraction is their powerful personalities; in the case of mob heroes, the centre of attraction is the object, for their personalities are worthless. So long, then, as the vigorous personality of a great man preserves itself intact and remains strikingly brilliant, whether in written works or in tradition, so long will he, to use a technical term, fascinate bodies of men. Thus we find that the difference between historical heroes and mob heroes is not only quantitative, but also qualitative.
Hypnotism, however, affords a deeper insight into the matter. There are two very different kinds of hypnotic states,―indifferent and elective somnambulism. In the first state, the subject remains calm, and may be approached, and even touched, without causing him to make any gesture of defense. The contractions proper to a state of somnambulism may be produced by anyone, or be produced by one person and destroyed by another; they do not depend on individual influence, and suggestion may be given by anyone of those present. But it is quite otherwise in the case of elective somnambulism: in this state the subject is attracted towards the experimenter; if the experimenter withdraws to a distance, the subject displays uneasiness and discomfort; he sometimes follows the experimenter with a sigh, and can rest only when by his side. "It is remarkable," says Krafft-Ebing, "that at the occurrence of hypnotic influence she [the patient] usually raises her eyes to the experimenter making his image into the darkness of the unknown hypnotic regions. . . . In this case only the experimenter's suggestions [commands] are effectual." In the case of great lawgivers, of great prophets, or of other great men, we may say that the hypnotization of the masses is elective; the image of the great leader is taken into "the unknown hypnotic regions" of his followers, and the latter cannot be influenced by anyone else. Quite different is it with the masses hypnotized by mob heroes: the hypnotic state here is of the indifferent kind; anyone, therefore, can influence and divert the crowd that follows mob heroes. That is why the heroes possessing great personalities are lasting, whilst the mob heroes, the heroes of worthless personalities, are but momentary.
THE SOURCE OF MOBS
Our investigation thus far has touched only the surface of the problem. It is true that whenever great masses of men are in blind movement there must necessarily be some brilliant object that has arrested their attention. Still, it does not follow that every brilliant object possesses the power of moving men. Evidently, there must first be a constitutional predisposition in the masses to pass into the trance-like condition of the mob. What then is the cause of this predisposition? Again we must turn to the phenomena of hypnotism for the solution of this important but extremely difficult problem. Binet tells us that slight and prolonged stimuli of the same nature acting on the subject constitute one of the modes of producing the hypnotic state. Berenheim expresses himself more clearly. "Let us add," he says, "that, in the majority of passes, the monotonous wearying and continuous impression of one of senses produce a certain intellectual drowsiness, the prelude to sleep. The mind entirely absorbed by a quiet, uniform, and incessant perception becomes foreign to all other impressions; it is too feebly stimulated, and allows itself to become dull."
This mode of hypnotization by monotony gives us some clue to the source of mobs. Wherever we find uniformity of life, there we invariably meet with mobs; wherever the environment is monotonous, there men are trained by their very mode of life to be good subjects for social hyponotization, for mobs. And not only are they thus prepared for hypnotization, they are frequently hypnotized by the monotonous environment itself; they require only a hero to obey, to become a mob.
Life is extremely monotonous in the Siberian province of Yakutsk. For whole months, as far as the eye can see, stretch wide plains of white dazzling snow. You may travel for miles and miles, for days and nights, and not find a single village, not meet a solitary human being, see no single sign of life,―the same painfully uniform plains of dazzling white snow stretch out on all sides. We should expect that men who live under such conditions would be hypnotized by the environment itself; and sure enough, we find there many cases of spontaneous hypnotization; men suffer from a sickness known as chorea imitatoria. Dr. Kashin was once the witness of the following curious incident. One of the divisions of the Transbaikalsky Cossack army formed of the natives, repeated, on the review, the command of the officer. The officer grew angry, began to swear, to threaten; but, to his great amazement, the soldiers repeated his oaths and threats. Dr. Kashin put an end to this tragi-comical scene by assuring the officer that the soldiers meditated no revolt, but that they were suffering from a sickness known in that place as olghindja. This sickness, under a somewhat different form, is widely spread among the native women.
The plains of northern European Russia are almost as uniform in their nature as those of northern Siberia, and we find that the population of northern Russia suffers from many different forms of nervous derangement, and especially of such nervous diseases as spread by imitation. Thus Dr. Drjevetsky, in his Medical Topography of the Ust-Sisolsky Province, comes to the conclusion that in the principal hospital of Ust-Sisolsk "the number of patients suffering from nervous diseases is far greater than that of all Russian hospitals put together. . . . Hysterics and chorea magna are widely spread." Man, in northern Russia and Siberia is half hypnotized by the monotony of his environment.
There is, however, another factor which is far more fundamental than monotony; it is a purely social factor, but it works with such a stupendous power and on such a large scale that it may truly be considered the great source of mobs. This factor is social pressure. Laws and regulations press on the individual from all sides. 'Whenever we attempts to rise above the level of commonplace life, immediately the social screw begins to work, and down is brought upon him the tremendous weight of the sociastatic press, and it squeezes him back into commonplace, frequently crushing him to death for his bold attempt. The individual's relations in life are fixed for him; he is told how he must put on his tie, and the way he must wear his coat; such should be the fashion of his dress on this particular occasion, and such should be the form of his hat; here must he nod his head, put on a solemn air, and there take off his hat, make a profound bow, and display a smile full of delight. Personality is suppressed in the individual by the rigidity of social organization; the individual becomes an automaton, a mere puppet. Under the enormous weight of the sociastatic press, under the crushing weight of economical, political, religious, and social regulations, there is no possibility for the individual to determine his own relations in life, to move freely; voluntary movements are suppressed, and a limitation of voluntary movements produces that peculiar hypnotic state of fascination which is so highly favorable to the formation of mobs. Laws and mobs seem to be highly antagonistic, and still it is true that they are intimately connected. Laws may form mobs.
There have been periods in human history when monotony and social pressure were ceaselessly at work, and mobs were then as plenty as blackberries. Such were the mediæval ages. In our own times there are unfortunate countries where these two factors are also constantly at work, and the number of mobs is there truly alarming. Russia offers us a fair example of such a country. The social, or, more properly, the political pressure in Russia is so great as to hamper all voluntary movements. A Russian cannot move a step without having first to ask the permission of the police. To start a society, to form a club, to print and distribute circulars or advertisements, to meet, to walk in a procession on the street, to deliver a lecture, to form a literary circle, to move from place to place, etc.,―all these things can be done only with the permission of the police. Manufacturers, business men, professional men, literary men, workingmen, cannot go to their work without having first obtained a permit from the police. Man lives, in Russia, the poor monotonous life of a worm. Individuality is suppressed, strictly prohibited; original thought is crushed; all must act in the way prescribed by the routine of the paternal government. "Russia," says Turgeneff, "is a great prison,"―a great prison where hypnotization is practiced on a grand scale.
In a society where the sociostatic press is always at work, where political pressure is far stronger than even in the ancient despotic monarchies, since the Russian government is in possession of all modern improvements, where gray uniformity and drowsy monotony reign supreme, where hypnotization is the means for appeasing pain and putting people into a fool's paradise, obedience must be the rule. Blind, stupid obedience, that slavish obedience which is peculiar to hypnotized subjects, distinctly characterizes the subjects of the Czar. Russian servility is remarkably well reproduced in the following historical incident. Prince Sougorsky, ambassador to Germany in 1576, fell sick en route Courland. The duke of the province often inquired as to his health. The reply was always the same: "My health matters nothing, provided the sovereign's prospers." The duke, surprised, said, "How can you serve a tyrant with so much zeal?" He replied, "We Russians are always devoted to our Czars, good or cruel. My master [Ivan the terrible] impaled a man of mark for a slight fault, who for twenty-four hours, in his dying agonies, talked with his family, and without ceasing kept repeating, 'Great God, protect the Czar!'"
The famous writer and investigator of Russian peasant life, G. Ouspensky, presents the peasant, when coming into town, as falling under the influence of the first scoundrel he meets, and committing shocking crimes at the command of the latter, without the least profit to himself, and with an indifference and childish innocence which are truly amazing. These facts, however, are not so inexplicable as Ouspensky would have them, if we only remember the crimes committed by hypnotized subjects at the suggestion of the experimenter.
Russia is an immense theatre for hypnotic scenes. Bearing this in mind, we should expect to find in the history of Russia a great number of mob heroes, of pseudo czars, of pretenders. We have not to go far to look for them: the pages of Russian history are studded with cases of mobs. In the history of no other European country can we find such an overwhelming multitude of pseudo emperors, prophets, virgins, Christs, and all kinds of pretenders influencing the current of national life, and bringing great masses into commotion. Russian history is a mob history. At the risk of wearying the patience of the reader, I give here a list of pretenders since the seventeenth century: pseudo Dmitri I, Dmitri II, Peter, August, Ivan, Lavrentius, Feodor, Clementius, Savelius, Semion, Vassili, Eroshka, Gavrilka, Martinka: a whole line of pretenders during the reign of Michael Feodorovitch. In the times of Alexius we find again four pretenders. The great popular uprising led by Stenks Rasin was not without its pretenders: it possessed a pseudo Czar Alexius and a pseudo Nicon the Patriarch. Then appeared a pseudo Czar Joannes (brother of Peter the Great), a few pseudo Alenuses (personating the son of Peter the Great). In the uprising of Pugatcheff appeared a
few claimants to the personality of Peter III (husband of Catherine II). In recent times (1825) the land of the Czar was blessed with a few pseudo Constantines (each pretending to be the brother of Nicholas I). In our own times Russia swarms with multitudes of pseudo apostles, holy virgins, and Christs. Russia is hypnotized by the monotony of its life and by the great social pressure it has to bear: hence its mobs.
Social hynotization plays a great part the life of humanity. This social hypnotization, as all our adduced facts and arguments prove, is due to monotony of life and social pressure. It is an acknowledged fact that women are good hypnotic subjects. Now this fact cannot be explained by the greater weakness of the female organism, because experiments prove that weakness of organization is not at all a condition for speedt and good hypnotization. How then shall we explain it? It can be explained only by monotony and social pressure. For centuries the social pressure was brought to bear on women with special severity; their life was fixed for them by their fathers, husbands, eldest sons, by religions and by class regulations. All individuality, personality, was mercilessly, brutally destroyed in women. They were shut up in harems; at best they were strictly confined by tile boundaries of the family circle. Even in our own times, especially in European and Eastern countries, the sociostatic pressure has not ceased to work out its deadly effects on woman. Her life is full of regulations; she is formed and fashioned, bodily and mentally, according to a certain style and mode. She is confined to a narrow sphere of activity, where she passes a dull, monotonous life. For centuries the anvil on which monotony and social pressure have hammered with all their might and main, we need not wonder that woman has formed a strong predisposition to hypnotic states. Woman, in truth, is half hypnotized; hence the fact that, in comparison with man, woman is more gentle, more submissive, more obedient (obedience and modesty are her virtues), suffers more from nervous diseases (like the the Yakuti of Siberia and the northern Russians), is more inconstant, less original, more impressive, less reasonable, and more imitative.
It is interesting to observe that the common people in general and soldiers in particular are excellent subjects for hypnotic purposes. Thus the soldiers of the Czar, as experiments show, have a strong predisposition to hypnotic states.2 M. Liebault experimented on ten hundred and twelve persons, and found only twenty-seven refractory. Dr. Berenheim remarks on this that "it is necessary to take into account the fact that M. Liebault operates chiefly upon the common people." The great pressure exerted on the lower social strata, and especially on soldiers, the tiresome, dull monotony of their life, predispose them to hypnotization, and hence to social hypnotization to the formation of mobs. Once again then, we are brought back to monotony and social pressure as the source of the mob.
1. A Malorussian term for Velikorussians. In all anti-Jewish
riots Velikorussians were the ringleaders.
2. I am informed by Prof. Münsterberg that the hypnotic predisposition is observed in the German soldier.
W. J. Sidis Archives Boris Sidis Archives Mental Epidemics