The Crowd A Creature Of Hate

Probably the most telling point of likeness between the crowd-mind and

the psychoneurosis--paranoia especially--is the "delusion of

persecution." In cases of paranoia the notion that the patient is the

victim of all sorts of intrigue and persecution is so common as to be a

distinguishing symptom of this disease. Such delusions are known to be

defenses, or compensation mechanisms, growing out of the patient's

exaggerated feeling of self-importance. The delusion of grandeur and

that of being persecuted commonly go together. The reader will recall

the passage quoted from the pamphlet given me by a typical paranoiac.

The author of the document mentioned feels that he has a great mission,

that of exposing and reforming the conditions in hospitals for the

insane. He protests his innocence. In jail he feels like Christ among

his tormentors. His wife has conspired against him. The woman who owns

the hotel where he was employed wishes to put him out of the way. The

most fiendish methods are resorted to in order to end his life. "Some

one" blocked up the stovepipe, etc., etc.

Another illustration of a typical case is given by Doctor Brill. I quote

scattered passages from the published notes on the case record of the

patient, "E. R."

He graduated in 1898 and then took up schoolteaching.... He did

not seem to get along well with his principal and other

teachers.... He imagined that the principal and other teachers

were trying to work up a "badger game" on him, to the effect

that he had some immoral relations with his girl pupils....

In 1903 he married, after a brief courtship, and soon thereafter

took a strong dislike to his brother-in-law and sister and

accused them of immorality.... He also accused his wife of

illicit relations with his brother and his brother-in-law, Mr. S.

Mr. S., his brother-in-law, was the arch conspirator against

him. He also (while in the hospital) imagined that some women

made signs to him and were in the hospital for the purpose of

liberating him. Whenever he heard anybody talking he immediately

referred it to himself. He interpreted every movement and

expression as having some special meaning for himself....

Now and then (after his first release by order of the court) he

would send mysterious letters to different persons in New York

City. At that time one of his delusions was that he was a great

statesman and that the United States government had appointed

him ambassador (to Canada), but that the "gang" in New York City

had some one without ability to impersonate him so that he lost

his appointment. (Later, while confined to the hospital again)

he thought that the daughter of the President of the United

States came to visit him....

After the patient was recommitted to Bellevue Hospital, he told

me that I (Doctor Brill) was one of the "gang." I was no longer

his wife in disguise (as he has previously imagined) but his


Brill's discussion of this case contains an interesting analysis of the

several stages of "regression" and the unconscious mechanisms which

characterize paranoia. He holds that such cases show a "fixation" in an

earlier stage of psychosexual development. The patient, an unconscious

homosexual, is really in love with himself. The resulting inner conflict

appears, with its defense formations, as the delusion of grandeur and as

conscious hatred for the person or persons who happen to be the object

of the patient's homosexual wish fancy. However this may be, the point

of interest for our study is the "projection" of this hatred to others.

Says Brill:

The sentence, "I rather hate him" becomes transformed through

projection into the sentence, "he hates (persecutes) me, which

justifies my hating him."

The paranoiac's delusional system inevitably brings him in conflict with

his environment, but his feeling of being persecuted is less the result

of this conflict with an external situation than of his own inner

conflict. He convinces himself that it is the other, or others, not he,

who is the author of this hatred. He is the innocent victim of their


This phenomenon of "projection and displacement" has received

considerable attention in analytical psychology. Freud, in the book,

Totem and Taboo, shows the role which projection plays in the

primitive man's fear of demons. The demons are of course the spirits of

the dead. But how comes it that primitive people fear these spirits, and

attribute to them every sort of evil design against the living? To quote


When a wife loses her husband, or a daughter her mother, it not

infrequently happens that the survivor is afflicted with

tormenting scruples, called "obsessive reproaches," which raise

the question whether she herself has not been guilty, through

carelessness or neglect, of the death of the beloved person. No

recalling of the care with which she nursed the invalid, or

direct refutation of the asserted guilt, can put an end to the

torture, which is the pathological expression of mourning and

which in time slowly subsides. Psychoanalytic investigation of

such cases has made us acquainted with the secret mainspring of

this affliction. We have ascertained that these obsessive

reproaches are in a certain sense justified.... Not that the

mourner has really been guilty of the death or that she has

really been careless, as the obsessive reproach asserts; but

still there was something in her, a wish of which she was

unaware, which was not displeased with the fact that death came,

and which would have brought it about sooner had it been strong

enough. The reproach now reacts against this unconscious wish

after the death of the beloved person. Such hostility, hidden in

the unconscious behind tender love, exists in almost all cases

of intensive emotional allegiance to a particular person;

indeed, it represents the classic case, the prototype of the

ambivalence of human emotions....

By assuming a similar high degree of ambivalence in the

emotional life of primitive races such as psychoanalysis

ascribes to persons suffering from compulsion neurosis, it

becomes comprehensible that the same kind of reaction against

the hostility latent in the unconscious behind the obsessive

reproaches of the neurotic should also be necessary here after

the painful loss has occurred. But this hostility, which is

painfully felt in the unconscious in the form of satisfaction

with the demise, experiences a different fate in the case of

primitive man: the defense against it is accomplished by a

displacement upon the object of hostility--namely, the dead. We

call this defense process, frequent in both normal and diseased

psychic life, a "projection."... Thus we find that taboo has

grown out of the soil of an ambivalent emotional attitude. The

taboo of the dead also originates from the opposition between

conscious grief and the unconscious satisfaction at death. If

this is the origin of the resentment of spirits, it is

self-evident that the nearest and formerly most beloved

survivors have to feel it most. As in neurotic symptoms, the

taboo regulations evince opposite feelings. Their restrictive

character expresses mourning, while they also betray very

clearly what they are trying to conceal--namely, the hostility

toward the dead which is now motivated as self-defense....

The double feeling--tenderness and hostility--against the

deceased, which we consider well-founded, endeavors to assert

itself at the time of bereavement as mourning and satisfaction.

A conflict must ensue between these contrary feelings, and as

one of them--namely, the hostility, is altogether, or for the

greater part, unconscious, the conflict cannot result in a

conscious difference in the form of hostility or tenderness, as,

for instance, when we forgive an injury inflicted upon us by

some one we love. The process usually adjusts itself through a

special psychic mechanism which is designated in psychoanalysis

as "projection." This unknown hostility, of which we are

ignorant and of which we do not wish to know, is projected from

our inner perception into the outer world and is thereby

detached from our own person and attributed to another. Not we,

the survivors, rejoice because we are rid of the deceased, on

the contrary we mourn for him; but now, curiously enough, he has

become an evil demon who would rejoice in our misfortune and who

seeks our death. The survivors must now defend themselves

against this evil enemy; they are freed from inner oppression,

but they have only succeeded in exchanging it for an affliction

from without.

Totem, taboo, demon worship, etc., are clearly primitive

crowd-phenomena. Freud's main argument in this book consists in showing

the likeness between these phenomena and the compulsion neurosis. The

projection of unconscious hostility upon demons is by no means the only

sort of which crowds both primitive and modern are capable. Neither must

the hostility always be unconscious. Projection is a common device

whereby even normal and isolated individuals justify themselves in

hating. Most of us love to think evil of our enemies and opponents. Just

as two fighting schoolboys will each declare that the other "began it,"

so our dislike of people often first appears to our consciousness as a

conviction that they dislike or entertain unfriendly designs upon us.

There is a common type of female neurotic whose repressed erotic wishes

appear in the form of repeated accusations that various of her men

acquaintances are guilty of making improper advances to her. When the

"white slavery" reform movement swept over the country--an awakening of

the public conscience which would have accomplished a more unmixed good

if it had not been taken up in the usual crowd-spirit--it was

interesting to watch the newspapers and sensational propagandist

speakers as they deliberately encouraged these pathological phenomena in

young people. The close psychological relation between the neurosis and

the crowd-mind is shown by the fact that the two so frequently appear at

the same moment, play so easily into each other's hands, and are

apparently reactions to the very same social situation.

In Brill's example of paranoia, it will be remembered that the patient's

delusions of persecution took the form of such statements as that the

"gang" had intrigued at Washington to prevent his appointment as

ambassador, that certain of his relatives were in a "conspiracy against

him." How commonly such phrases and ideas occur in crowd-oratory and in

the crowd-newspaper is well known to all. We have already seen that the

crowd in most cases identifies itself with "the people," "humanity,"

"society," etc. Listen to the crowd-orator and you will also learn that

there are all sorts of abominable "conspiracies" against "the people."

"The nation is full of traitors." The Church is being "undermined by

cunning heretics." "The Bolshevists are in secret league with the

Germans to destroy civilization." "Socialists are planning to corrupt

the morals of our youth and undermine the sacredness of the home." "The

politicians' gang intends to loot the community." "Wall Street is

conspiring to rob the people of their liberties." "England plans to

reduce America to a British colony again." "Japan is getting ready to

make war on us." "German merchants are conducting a secret propaganda

intending to steal our trade and pauperize our nation." "The Catholics

are about to seize power and deliver us over to another Inquisition."

"The liquor interests want only to make drunkards of our sons and

prostitutes of our daughters." And so on and so forth, wherever any

crowd can get a hearing for its propaganda. Always the public welfare is

at stake; society is threatened. The "wrongs" inflicted upon an innocent

humanity are rehearsed. Bandages are taken off every social wound.

Every scar, be it as old as Cromwell's mistreatment of Ireland, is

inflamed. "The people are being deceived," "kept down," "betrayed." They

must rise and throw off their exploiters, or they must purge the nation

of disloyalty and "anarchy."

It cannot be denied that our present social order is characterized by

deep and fundamental social injustices, nor that bitter struggles

between the various groups in society are inevitable. But the crowd

forever ignores its own share in the responsibility for human ills, and

each crowd persists in making a caricature of its enemies, real and

imagined, nourishing itself in a delusion of persecution which is like

nothing so much as the characteristic obsessions of the paranoiac. This

suspiciousness, this habit of misrepresentation and exaggeration of

every conceivable wrong, is not only a great hindrance to the

conflicting groups in adjusting their differences, it makes impossible,

by misrepresenting the real issue at stake, any effective struggle for

ideals. As the history of all crowd movements bears witness, the real

source of conflict is forgotten, the issue becomes confused with the

spectacular, the unimportant, and imaginary. Energy is wasted on side

issues, and the settlement finally reached, even by a clearly victorious

crowd, is seldom that of the original matter in dispute. In fact, it is

not at all the function of these crowd-ideas of self-pity and

persecution to deal with real external situations. These ideas are

propaganda. Their function is to keep the crowd together, to make

converts, to serve as a defense for the egoism of the crowd-man, to

justify the anticipated tyranny which it is the unconscious desire of

the individual to exercise in the moment of victory for his crowd, and,

as "they who are not for us are against us," to project the crowd-man's

hatred upon the intended victims of his crowd's will to universal

dominion. In other words, these propaganda ideas serve much the same end

as do the similar delusions of persecution in paranoia.

This likeness between the propaganda of the crowd and the delusions of

paranoia is illustrated daily in our newspapers. The following items cut

from the New York Tribune are typical. The first needs no further

discussion, as it parallels the cases given above. The second is from

the published proceedings of "a committee," appointed, as I remember it,

by the assembly of the state of New York, to conduct an investigation

into certain alleged seditious and anarchist activities. These articles

well illustrate the character of the propaganda to which such a

committee almost inevitably lends itself. Whether the committee or the

newspapers were chiefly responsible for such fabrications, I do not

know, but the crowd character of much of the attempt to stamp out

Bolshevism is strikingly revealed in this instance. No doubt the members

of this committee, as well as the detectives and the press agents who

are associated with them, are as honestly convinced that a mysterious

gang of radicals is planning to murder us all as is the paranoiac W. H.

M. fixed in his delusion that his enemies are trying to asphyxiate him.

It will be remembered that Brill's patient "E. S." interpreted "every

movement and expression as having some special meaning for himself."

This kind of "interpretation" has a curious logic all its own. It is

what I would call "compulsive thinking," and is characteristic of both

the delusions of paranoia and the rumors of the crowd.

First clipping:


W. H. M. declares rivals are attempting to asphyxiate him. W. H.

M., an inventor, was declared mentally incompetent yesterday by

a jury in the Sheriff's court.... Alienists said M. had

hallucinations about enemies who he thinks are trying to

asphyxiate him. He also imagines that he is under hypnotic

influences and that persons are trying to affect his body with

"electrical influences."

Second clipping:


Several hundred men, formerly in United States Service, signify

willingness to aid in project. A "Red Guard" composed of men who

have served in the American military establishment is

contemplated in the elaborate revolutionary plans of Bolshevik

leaders here. This was learned yesterday when operatives of the

Lusk committee discovered that the radicals were making every

effort to enlist the aid of the Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines

Protective Association in carrying out a plot to overthrow the

government by force. As far as the detectives have been able to

ascertain, the great mass of fighting men are not in sympathy

with the Reds, but several hundred have signified their

willingness to co-operate.

Just how far the plans of the Reds have progressed was not

revealed. It is known, however, that at a convention of the Left

Wing Socialists in Buffalo the movement designed to enlist the

support of the Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines Protective

Association was launched. This convention was addressed by

prominent Left Wingers from Boston, New York, Philadelphia,

Pittsburgh, and Paterson. They asserted that trained military

men must be obtained for the organization if the plans were to

be successful.

It was from this meeting, which was held in secret, that

agitators were sent to various parts of the state to form

soviets in the shops and factories. This phase of the radical

activity, according to the investigators, has met with

considerable success in some large factory districts where most

of the workers are foreign-born. In some places the soviets in

the shops have become so strong that the employers are alarmed

and have notified the authorities of the menace. When sufficient

evidence has been gathered, foreign-born agitators working to

cause unrest in factories will be apprehended and recommended

for deportation.

Later report:


Alfred Levitt, secretary of the Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines

Protective Association, yesterday emphatically denied that the

organization was to be used as a "Red Guard" by the radicals

when they started their contemplated revolution. He said he

never had heard any of the members of the association discuss

the formation of a "Red Guard" but admitted that many of them

were radicals.

In the two instances given above, fear, suspicion, hatred, give rise in

one case to a delusional system in the mind of an isolated individual,

and in the other to the circulation of an unfounded rumor by men who in

their right minds would, to say the least, carefully scrutinize the

evidence for such a story before permitting it to be published. As

several months have passed since the publication of this story and

nothing more has appeared which would involve our returned service men

in any such treasonable conspiracy, I think it is safe to say that this

story, like many others circulated by radicals as well as by

reactionaries during the unsettled months following the war, has its

origin in the unconscious mechanisms of crowd-minded people. Every sort

of crowd is prone to give credence to rumors of this nature, and to

accuse all those who can not at once give uncritical acceptance to such

tales of sympathy with the enemy. Later we shall have something to say

about the delusional systems which appear to be common to the crowd-mind

and the paranoiac. In this connection I am interested in pointing out

only the psychological relation between what I might call the

"conspiracy delusion" and unconscious hatred. Commonly the former is the

"projection" of the latter.

One of the differences between these two forms of "projection" is the

fact that the hatred of the crowd is commonly less "rationalized" than

in paranoia--that is, less successfully disguised. Like the paranoiac,

every crowd is potentially if not actually homicidal in its tendencies.

But whereas with the paranoiac the murderous hostility remains for the

greater part an unconscious "wish fancy," and it is the mechanisms which

disguise it or serve as a defense against it which appear to

consciousness, with the crowd the murder-wish will itself appear to

consciousness whenever the unconscious can fabricate such defense

mechanisms as will provide it with a fiction of moral justification.

Consequently, it is this fiction of justification which the crowd-man

must defend.

The crowd's delusion of persecution, conspiracy, or oppression is thus a

defense mechanism of this nature. The projection of this hatred on those

outside the crowd serves not so much, as in paranoia, to shield the

subject from the consciousness of his own hatred, as to provide him with

a pretext for exercising it. Given such a pretext, most crowds will

display their homicidal tendencies quite openly.

Ordinary mobs or riots would seem to need very little justification of

this sort. But even these directly homicidal crowds invariably represent

themselves as motivated by moral idealism and righteous indignation.

Negroes are lynched in order to protect the white womanhood of the

South, also because, once accused, the negro happens to be helpless. If

the colored people were in the ascendancy and the whites helpless we

should doubtless see the reverse of this situation. A community

rationally convinced of the culprit's guilt could well afford to trust

the safety of womanhood to the justice meted out by the courts, but it

is obvious that these "moral" crowds are less interested in seeing that

justice is done than in running no risk of losing their victim, once he

is in their power. A recent development of this spirit is the lynching

in a Southern town of a juror who voted for the acquittal of a black man

accused of a crime.

It may be taken as a general law of crowd-psychology that the

"morality" of the crowd always demands a victim. Is it likely that one

of these mobs would "call off" an interesting lynching party if at the

last minute it were demonstrated that the accused was innocent? The

practice of lynching has been extended, from those cases where the

offense with which the accused is charged is so revolting as justly to

arouse extreme indignation, to offenses which are so trivial that they

merely serve as a pretext for torture and killing.

The homicidal tendencies of the crowd-mind always reveal themselves the

minute the crowd becomes sufficiently developed and powerful to relax

be seen in the rioting between the white and the colored

races--epidemics of killing--such as occurred recently in East St.

Louis, and in the cities of Washington, Chicago, and Omaha. The same

thing is evident in the "pogroms" of Russia and Poland, in the acts of

revolutionary mobs of Germany and Russia, in the promptness with which

the Turks took advantage of the situation created by the war to

slaughter the Armenians. This hatred is the specter which forever haunts

the conflict between labor and capital. It is what speedily transformed

the French Revolution from the dawn of an era of "Fraternity" to a day

of terror and intimidation. It is seen again in the curious interest

which the public always has in a sensational murder trial. It is evident

in the hostility, open or suppressed, with which any community regards

the strange, the foreign, the "outlandish"--an example of which is the

frequent bullying and insulting of immigrants in this country since the

war. Much of the "Americanization propaganda" which we have carried on

since the war unfortunately gave the typical crowd-man his opportunity.

One need only listen to the speeches or read the publications of certain

"patriotic" societies to learn why it was that the exhortation to our

foreign neighbors to be loyal did so much more harm than good.

The classic example of the killing crowd is, of course, a nation at war.

There are, to be sure, wars of national self-defense which are due to

political necessity rather than to crowd-thinking, but even in such

cases the phenomena of the crowd are likely to appear to the detriment

of the cause. At such times not only the army but the whole nation

becomes a homicidal crowd. The army, at least while the soldiers are in

service, probably shows the crowd-spirit in a less degree than does the

civilian population. The mental processes of an entire people are

transformed. Every interest--profit-seeking excepted--is subordinated

to the one passion to crush the enemy. The moment when war is declared

is usually hailed with tremendous popular enthusiasm and joy. There is a

general lifting of spirits. There is a sense of release, a nation-wide

exultation, a sigh of relief as we feel the deadening hand of social

control taken from our throats. The homicidal wish-fancy, which in peace

times and in less sovereign crowds exists only as an hypothesis, can now

become a reality. And though it is doubtful if more than one person in a

million can ever give a rational account of just what issue is really at

stake in any war, the conviction is practically unanimous that an

occasion has been found which justifies, even demands, the release of

all the repressed hostility in our natures. The fact that in war time

this crowd hostility may, under certain circumstances, really have

survival value and be both beneficial and necessary to the nation, is to

my mind not a justification of crowd-making. It is rather a revelation

of the need of a more competent leadership in world politics.

Unconsciously every national crowd, I mean the crowd-minded element in

the nation, carries a chip on its shoulder, and swaggers and challenges

its neighbors like a young town-bully on his way home from grammar

school. This swaggering, which is here the "compulsive manifestation" of

unconscious hostility characteristic of every crowd, appears to

consciousness as "national honor." To the consciousness of the

nation-crowd the quarrel for which it has been spoiling for a long time

always appears to have been "forced upon it." Some nations are much more

quarrelsome than others. I cannot believe that our conviction that

Imperial Germany was the aggressor in the great war is due merely to

patriotic conceit on our part. The difference between our national

spirit and that of Imperial Prussia is obvious, but the difference in

this respect, great as it is, is one of degree rather than of kind, and

is due largely to the fact that the political organization of Germany

permitted the Prussian patriots to hold the national mind in a permanent

crowd state to a degree which is even now hardly possible in this

republic. My point is that a nation becomes warlike to precisely the

extent that its people may be made to think and behave as a crowd. Once

a crowd, it is always "in the right" however aggressive and ruthless its

behavior; every act or proposal which is calculated to involve the

nation-crowd in a controversy, which gains some advantage over

neighboring peoples, or intensifies hatred once it is released, is

wildly applauded. Any dissent from the opinions of our particular party

or group is trampled down. He who fails at such a time to be a

crowd-man and our own sort of a crowd-man is a "slacker." Everyone's

patriotism is put under suspicion, political heresy-hunting is the rule,

any personal advantage which can be gained by denouncing as "enemy

sympathizers" rival persons or groups within the nation is sure to be

snatched up by some one. The crowd-mind, even in times of peace,

distorts patriotism so that it is little more than a compulsive

expression and justification of repressed hostility. In war the crowd

succeeds in giving rein to this hostility by first projecting it upon

the enemy.

Freud in his little book, War and Death, regards war as a temporary

"regression" in which primitive impulses which are repressed by

civilization, but not eradicated, find their escape. He argues that most

people live psychologically "beyond their means." Hence war could be

regarded, I suppose, as a sort of "spiritual liquidation." But if the

hostility which the war crowd permits to escape is simply a repressed

impulse to cruelty, we should be obliged to explain a large part of

crowd-behavior as "sadistic." This may be the case with crowds of a

certain type, lynching mobs, for instance. But as the homicidal

tendencies of paranoia are not commonly explained as sadism, I can see

no reason why those of the crowd should be. Sadism is a return to an

infantile sex perversion, and in its direct overt forms the resulting

conflicts are conscious and are between the subject and environment. It

is where a tendency unacceptable to consciousness is repressed--and

inadequately--that neurotic conflict ensues. This conflict being inner,

develops certain mechanisms for the defense of the ego-feeling which is

injured. The hatred of the paranoiac is really a defense for his own

injured self-feeling. As the crowd always shows an exaggerated

ego-feeling similar to the paranoiac's delusion of grandeur, and as in

cases of paranoia this inner conflict is always "projected" in the form

of delusions of persecution, may we not hold that the characteristic

hostility of the crowd is also in some way a device for protecting this

inflated self-appreciation from injury? The forms which this hatred

takes certainly have all the appearance of being "compulsive" ideas and


We have been discussing crowds in which hostility is present in the form

of overt destructive and homicidal acts or other unmistakable

expressions of hatred. But are there not also peaceable crowds, crowds

devoted to religious and moral propaganda, idealist crowds? Yes, all

crowds moralize, all crowds are also idealistic. But the moral

enthusiasm of the crowd always demands a victim. The idealist crowd also

always makes idols of its ideals and worships them with human

sacrifice. The peaceable crowd is only potentially homicidal. The

death-wish exists as a fancy only, or is expressed in symbols so as to

be more or less unrecognizable to ordinary consciousness. I believe that

every crowd is "against some one." Almost any crowd will persecute

on occasion--if sufficiently powerful and directly challenged. The crowd

tends ever to carry its ideas to their deadly logical conclusion.

I have already referred to the crowd's interest in games and athletic

events as an innocent symbolization of conflict. How easy it is to

change this friendly rivalry into sudden riot--its real meaning--every

umpire of baseball and football games knows. As an illustration of my

point--namely, that the enthusiasm aroused by athletic contests is the

suppressed hostility of the crowd, I give the following. In this letter

to a New York newspaper, the writer, a loyal "fan," reveals the same

mentality that we find in the sectarian fanatic, or good party man,

whose "principles" have been challenged. The challenge seems in all such

cases to bring the hostility into consciousness as "righteous


To the Editor:

SIR,--The article under the caption "Giants' Chances for Flag to

be Settled in Week," on the sporting page of the Tribune, is

doubtless intended to be humorous.

The section referring to the Cincinnati baseball public is

somewhat overdrawn, to say the least, and does not leave a very

favorable impression on the average Cincinnatian, such as

myself. I have been a reader of your paper for some time, but if

this sort of thing continues I shall feel very much like


W. L. D.

The extremes to which partisan hatred and jealousy can lead even members

of the United States Senate, the intolerance and sectarian spirit which

frequently characterize crowds, the "bigotry" of reformist crowds, are

matters known to us all. Does anyone doubt that certain members of the

Society for the Prevention of Vice, or of the Prohibitionists, would

persecute if they had power? Have not pacifist mass meetings been known

to break up in a row? The Christian religion is fundamentally a religion

of love, but the Church has seldom been wholly free from the

crowd-spirit, and the Church crowd will persecute as quickly as any

other. In each period of its history when Christian believers have been

organized as dominant crowds the Church has resorted to the severest

forms of persecution. Popular religion always demands some kind of devil

to stand as the permanent object of the believer's hostility. Let an

editor, or lecturer, or clergyman anywhere attack some one, and he at

once gains following and popularity. Evangelists and political orators

are always able to "get" their crowd by resorting to abuse of some one.

Let any mass meeting become a crowd, and this note of hostility

inevitably appears.

Notice the inscriptions which commonly appear on the banners carried in

political or labor parades. On the day after the armistice was signed

with Germany, when the most joyous and spontaneous crowds I have ever

seen filled the streets of New York, I was greatly impressed with those

homemade banners. Though it was the occasion of the most significant and

hard-won victory in human history, there was hardly a reference to the

fact. Though it was the glad moment of peace for which all had longed, I

did not see ten banners bearing the word "Peace," even in the hands of

the element in the city who were known to be almost unpatriotically

pacifist. But within less than an hour I counted on Fifth Avenue more

than a hundred banners bearing the inscription, "To Hell with the


That the man chiefly responsible for the horrors of the war should be

the object of universal loathing is only to be expected, but the

significant fact is that of all the sentiments which swept into people's

minds on that occasion, this and this alone should have been immediately

seized upon when the crowd spirit began to appear. I doubt if at the

time there was a very clear sense of the enormity of Wilhelm's guilt in

the minds of those laughing people. The Kaiser was hardly more than a

symbol. The antagonist, whoever he be, was "fallen down to hell," our

own sense of triumph was magnified by the depth of his fall. Just so the

Hebrew Prophet cried "Babylon is fallen," so the early Christians

pictured Satan cast into the bottomless pit, so the Jacobins cried "A

bas les Aristocrats," our own Revolutionary crowds cried "Down with

George III," and the Union soldiers sang, "Hang Jeff Davis on a Sour

Apple Tree." I repeat that wherever the crowd-mind appears, it will

always be found to be "against" some one.

An interesting fact about the hostility of a crowd is its ability on

occasion to survive the loss of its object. It may reveal the phenomenon

which psychologists call "displacement." That is to say, another object

may be substituted for the original one without greatly changing the

quality of the feeling. A mob in the street, driven back from the object

of its attack, will loot a store or two before it disperses. Or, bent on

lynching a certain negro, it may even substitute an innocent man, if

robbed of its intended victim--as, for instance, the lynching of the

mayor of Omaha. Such facts would seem to show that these hostile acts

are really demanded by mechanisms within the psyche. Many symbolic acts

of the person afflicted with compulsion neurosis show this same trait

of substitution. If inhibited in the exercise of one mechanism of

escape, the repressed wish will substitute another. Also anyone

associated by the unconscious reasoning with the hated object, or anyone

who tries to defend him or prove him innocent, may suffer from this

crowd's hatred. Freud has analyzed this phenomenon in his study of

taboo. He who touches the tabooed object himself becomes taboo.

I have said that the hostility of the crowd is a sort of "defense

mechanism." That this is so in certain cases, I think can be easily

demonstrated. The following news item is an example of the manner in

which such hostility may serve as a "defense mechanism" compensating the

self-feeling for certain losses and serving to enhance the feeling of





WASHINGTON, July 23.--A bitter partisan quarrel developed in

the House today when Representative ----, of Minnesota, attacked

Secretary Baker and the President for the government's policy

toward conscientious objectors. The attack was the result of

protests by the Marines Fathers' Association of Minneapolis,

Minnesota, representing between 500 and 600 young marines now in

France, all from the Minneapolis high schools and the University

of Minnesota, and many in the famous 6th Regiment of Marines

that took a big part in stopping the Germans at Chateau Thierry.

Upon learning of the treatment accorded conscientious objectors

in this country while their sons were dying in France, the

association asked Representative ---- to fix the responsibility

for the government's policy. Representative ---- fixed it today

as that of Secretary Baker and President Wilson, charging that

they extended the definition of those to be exempted from

military service laid down by Congress in an act of May 17,


"One variety of conscientious objector was not enough for Mr.

Baker," declared Representative ----. "He had 57 kinds...."

Representative ----, of Arizona, defended Secretary Baker,

asserting that of 20,000 men who were certified as conscientious

objectors, 16,000 ultimately went to war. The case of Sergt.

Alvin C. York, the Tennessee hero, who had conscientious

objections at first, but soon changed his mind, was cited in

defense of the War Department's policy.

Let us pass over the obviously partisan element in this Congressional

debate--a crowd phenomenon in itself, by the way--and consider the

mental state of this Fathers' Association.

In spite of the fact that the treatment of those who refused military

service in this country was so much more severe than the manner with

which the British government is reported to have dealt with this class

of persons, that many people, including the Secretary of War, whose

loyalty except to partisan minds was above suspicion, sought in the name

of humanity to alleviate some of the conditions in our military prisons,

it was not severe enough to satisfy these "fathers." It is doubtful if

anything short of an auto da fe would have met their approval. Now no

one believes that these simple farmers from the Northwest are such

sadists at heart that they enjoy cruelty for its own sake. I imagine

that the processes at work here are somewhat as follows:

The telltale phrase here is that these farmers' sons "were dying in

France." Patriotic motives rightly demanded that fathers yield their

sons to the hardship and danger of battle, and while the sacrifice was

made consciously, with willingness and even with pride in having done

their painful duty, it was not accomplished without struggle--the

unconscious resisted it. It could not be reconciled to so great a

demand. In other words, these fathers, and probably many of their sons

also, were unconsciously "conscientious objectors." Unconsciously they

longed to evade this painful duty, but these longings were put aside,

"repressed" as shameful and cowardly--that is, as unacceptable to

conscious self-feeling. It was necessary to defend the ego against

these longings. Compensation was demanded and found in the nation-wide

recognition of the value of this patriotic sacrifice. Expressions of

patriotic sentiment on the part of others, therefore, compensated the

individual and enhanced his self-feeling.

Successful refusal anywhere to recognize the duty which consciously

motivated this sacrifice strengthened the unconscious desire to evade

it. The unconscious reasoning was something like this: "If those men got

out of this thing, why should not we? Since we had to bear this loss,

they must also. We have suffered for duty's sake. By making them suffer

also, they will be forced to recognize this 'duty' with which we defend

ourselves against our sense of loss and desire to escape it." As a

witness to the values against which the ego of these fathers has to

struggle, the existence of the conscientious objector, in a less degree

of suffering than their own, is as intolerable as their own "shameful

and cowardly" unconscious longings. Hostility to the conscientious

objector is thus a "projection" of their own inner conflict. By becoming

a crowd, the members of this "Fathers' Association" make it mutually

possible to represent their hostility to conscientious objectors as

something highly patriotic. Secretary Baker's alleged leniency to these

hated persons is now not only an affront to these fathers, it is an

affront to the entire nation.

Another and somewhat different example of the function of hatred in the

service of the self-feeling is the following item, which throws some

light on the motives of the race riots in Washington. This is, of

course, a defense of but one of the crowds involved, but it is

interesting psychologically.


Dr. W. F. B. DuBois, of 70 Fifth Avenue, editor of The Crisis,

a magazine published in connection with the work of the National

Association for the Advancement of the Colored People, yesterday

attributed the race riots in Washington to the irritability of

all people and the unsettling of many ideas caused by the war,

to the influx of a large number of Southerners into Washington,

and to the presence in that city of many of the representatives

of the educated, well-dressed class of negroes which white

racial antagonists dislike.

Washington policemen are notoriously unfriendly to the colored

people, he added. Time and time again they stand by and witness

a dispute between a white man and a negro, and when it is over

and the negro has been beaten they arrest the negro, and not the

white man who caused the trouble in the first place.

The colored editor pointed out the similarity between the

present riots in Washington and the Atlanta riots which occurred

about twelve years ago. In both places, he said, white hoodlums

began rioting and killing negroes. When the latter became

aroused and began to retaliate, the authorities stepped in and

the rioting stopped.

Major J. E. Spingarn, acting treasurer of the National

Association for the Advancement of the Colored People, said the

soldiers and sailors who have been taking part in the rioting

in Washington resent the new attitude of self-respect which the

negro has assumed because of the part he played in the war.

"The soldiers," he said, "instead of fighting the negroes

because the latter think better of themselves for having fought

in the war, should respect them for having proved themselves

such good fighters." (The italics are mine.)

It is quite possible that in most communities where such race riots

occur certain members of the colored race are responsible to the extent

that they have made themselves conspicuously offensive to their white


But such individual cases, even where they exist, do not justify attacks

upon hundreds of innocent people. And it must be said that in general

the kind of people whose feelings of personal superiority can find no

other social support than the mere fact that they happen to belong to

the white race--and I think it will be found that the mobs who attack

negroes are uniformly made of people who belong to this

element--naturally find their self-feeling injured "if a nigger puts on

airs." Their fiction is challenged; to accept the challenge would force

upon the consciousness of such people a correct estimate of their own

worth. Such an idea is unacceptable to consciousness. The presumptuous

negroes who serve as such unpleasant reminders "must be put in their

proper place"--that is, so completely under the feet of the white

element in the community that the mere fact of being a white man may

serve as a defense mechanism for just those members of our noble race

who approach more closely to the social position of the colored element

in our midst.

As the moral standards of the community will not permit even this

element of the white race to play the hoodlum with self-approval, some

disguise or "displacement" for this motive must be found whereby the

acts to which it prompts may appear to the consciousness of their

perpetrators as justifiable. A misdeed is committed by a black man;

instantly this element of the white race becomes a crowd. The deed

provides the whites with just the pretext they want. They may now

justify themselves and one another in an assault on the whole colored

community. Here I believe we have the explanation of much that is called

"race prejudice." The hatred between the races, like all crowd-hatred,

is a "defense mechanism" designed to protect the ego in its conflict

with ideas unacceptable to consciousness.

The intensest hatred of the crowd is that directed toward the heretic,

the nonconformist, the "traitor." I have sometimes thought that to the

crowd-mind there is only one sin, heresy. Every sort of crowd,

political, religious, moral, has an ax ready for the person who in

renouncing its ideas and leaving it threatens to break it up. The bitter

partisan hatred of crowds is nothing compared to their hatred for the

renegade. To the crowd of true believers, the heretic or schismatic is

"worse than the infidel." The moral crowd will "bear with" the worst

roue if only he strives to keep up appearances, has a guilty

conscience, asks forgiveness, and professes firm belief in the

conventions against which he offends; one may be forgiven his inability

to "live up to his principles" if only his professed principles are the

same as the crowd's. But let a Nietzsche, though his life be that of an

ascetic, openly challenge and repudiate the values of popular morality,

and his name is anathema.

As an example of the hatred of the political crowd for one who, having

once put his hand to the plow and turned back, henceforth is no longer

fit for the "kingdom," I quote the following from an ultraradical paper.

It is hard to believe that this passage was written by a man who, in his

right mind, is really intelligent and kind-hearted, but such is the


AN EXPLANATION.--Owing to a failure of editorial supervision we

published an advertisement of John Spargo's book on Bolshevism.

We have returned the money we received for it, and canceled the

contract for its future appearances. We do not pretend to

protect our readers against patent-medicine swindlers,

real-estate sharpers, canned goods prevaricators, ptomaine

poisoners, fairy bond-sellers, picaroon nickel-pickers, subway

ticket speculators, postage-stamp forgers, pie and pancake

counterfeiters, plagiary burglars, lecherous pornographers, and

pictorial back-porch climbers, plundering buccaneer blackmailers

and defaulting matrimonial agents, journalistic poachers,

foragers, pickpockets, thimbleriggers, lick-sauce publicity men,

notoriety hunters, typographical body-snatchers, blackletter

assassins, and promulgators of licentious meters in free verse.

Against these natural phenomena we offer no guarantee to our

readers, but we never intended to advertise John Spargo's book

on Bolshevism.

Here again, it seems, the reason for hatred is "self-defense." One

important difference between the crowd-mind and the psychosis is the

fact that while the psychic mechanisms of the latter serve to disguise

the inadequately repressed wish, those of the crowd-mind permit the

escape of the repressed impulse by relaxing the force which demands the

repression--namely, the immediate social environment. This relaxation is

accomplished by a general fixation of attention which changes for those

who share it the moral significance of the social demand. The repressed

wish then appears to consciousness in a form which meets with the mutual

approval of the individuals so affected. Or, as I have said, the social

environment, instead of acting as a check upon the realization of the

wish-fancy, slips along in the same direction with it. Hence the will to

believe the same, so characteristic of every crowd. As soon as this

mutuality is broken the habitual criteria of the real again become

operative. Every individual who "comes to" weakens the hold of the

crowd-ideas upon all the others to just the extent that his word must be

taken into account. The crowd resorts to all sorts of devices to bind

its members together permanently in a common faith. It resists

disintegration as the worst conceivable evil. Disintegration means that

crowd-men must lose their pet fiction--which is to say, their "faith."

The whole system elaborated by the unconscious fails to function; its

value for compensation, defense, or justification vanishes as in waking

out of a dream.

Strong spirits can stand this disillusionment. They have the power to

create new, more workable ideals. They become capable of self-analysis.

They learn to be legislators of value and to revise their beliefs for

themselves. Their faiths become not refuges, but instruments for meeting

and mastering the facts of experience and giving them meaning. The

strong are capable of making their lives spiritual adventures in a real

world. The "truths" of such persons are not compulsive ideas, they are

working hypotheses which they are ready, as occasion may demand, to

verify at great personal risk, or to discard when proved false. Such

persons sustain themselves in their sense of personal worth less by

defense mechanisms than by the effort of will which they can make.

As William James said:

If the searching of our heart and reins be the purpose of this

human drama, then what is sought seems to be what effort we can

make. He who can make none is but a shadow; he who can make much

is a hero. The huge world that girdles us about puts all sorts

of questions to us, and tests us in all sorts of ways. Some of

the tests we meet by actions that are easy, and some of the

questions we answer in articulately formulated words. But the

deepest question that is ever asked admits of no reply but the

dumb turning of the will and tightening of our heartstrings as

we say, "Yes, I will even have it so!" When a dreadful object is

presented, or when life as a whole turns up its dark abysses to

our view, then the worthless ones among us lose their hold on

the situation altogether, and either escape from its

difficulties by averting their attention, or, if they cannot do

that, collapse into yielding masses of plaintiveness and fear.

The effort required for facing and consenting to such objects is

beyond their power to make. But the heroic mind does

differently. To it, too, the objects are sinister and dreadful,

unwelcome, incompatible with wished-for things. But it can face

them if necessary without losing its hold upon the rest of life.

The world thus finds in the heroic man its worthy match and

mate.... He can stand this Universe.

Indeed the path for all who would make of living a reality rather than

an imitation leads along what James used to call "the perilous edge."

Every personal history that is a history, and not a mere fiction,

contains in it something unique, a fraction for which there is no common

denominator. It requires just that effort of attention to concrete

reality and the fact of self which in the crowd we always seek to escape

by diverting attention to congenial abstractions and ready-made

universals. We "find ourselves" only as we "get over" one after another

of our crowd-compulsions, until finally we are strong enough, as Ibsen

would say, "to stand alone."

Timid spirits seldom voluntarily succeed in getting closer to reality

than the "philosophy of 'as if'" which characterizes the thinking both

of the crowd and the psychoneurosis. What indeed is the crowd but a

fiction of upholding ourselves by all leaning on one another, an "escape

from difficulties by averting attention," a spiritual safety-first or

"fool-proof" mechanism by which we bear up one another's collapsing

ego-consciousness lest it dash its foot against a stone?

The crowd-man can, when his fiction is challenged, save himself from

spiritual bankruptcy, preserve his defenses, keep his crowd from going

to pieces, only by a demur. Anyone who challenges the crowd's fictions

must be ruled out of court. He must not be permitted to speak. As a

witness to contrary values his testimony must be discounted. The worth

of his evidence must be discredited by belittling the disturbing

witness. "He is a bad man; the crowd must not listen to him." His

motives must be evil; he "is bought up"; he is an immoral character; he

tells lies; he is insincere or he "has not the courage to take a stand"

or "there is nothing new in what he says." Ibsen's "Enemy of the

People," illustrates this point very well. The crowd votes that Doctor

Stockman may not speak about the baths, the real point at issue. Indeed,

the mayor takes the floor and officially announces that the doctor's

statement that the water is bad is "unreliable and exaggerated." Then

the president of the Householder's Association makes an address accusing

the doctor of secretly "aiming at revolution." When finally Doctor

Stockman speaks and tells his fellow citizens the real meaning of their

conduct, and utters a few plain truths about "the compact majority," the

crowd saves its face, not by proving the doctor false, but by howling

him down, voting him an "enemy of the people," and throwing stones

through his windows.

A crowd is like an unsound banking institution. People are induced to

carry their deposits of faith in it, and so long as there is no unusual

withdrawing of accounts the insolvent condition may be covered up. Many

uneasy depositors would like to get their money out if they could do so

secretly, or without incurring the displeasure of the others. Meanwhile

all insist that the bank is perfectly safe and each does all he can to

compel the others to stay in. The thing they all most fear is that some

one will "start a run on the bank," force it to liquidate, and everyone

will lose. So the crowd functions in its way just so long as its members

may be cajoled into an appearance of continued confidence in its ideals

and values. The spiritual capital of each depends on the confidence of

the others. As a consequence they all spend most of their time exhorting

one another to be good crowd-men, fearing and hating no one so much as

the person who dares raise the question whether the crowd could really

meet its obligations.

The classic illustration of the manner in which the crowd is led to

discredit the witness to values contrary to its own, is the oration of

Mark Antony in Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar." It is by this means alone

that Antony is able to turn the minds of the Roman citizens into the

crowd state. It will be remembered that the address of Brutus, just

before this, while not at all a bit of crowd-oratory, left a favorable

impression. The citizens are convinced that "This Caesar was a tyrant."

When Antony goes up to speak, he thanks them "for Brutus' sake." They

say, "'Twere best he speak no harm of Brutus here." He can never make

them his crowd unless he can destroy Brutus' influence. This is

precisely what he proceeds gradually to do.

At first with great courtesy--"The noble Brutus hath told you Caesar was

ambitious; if it were so it was a grievous fault ... for Brutus is an

honorable man, so are they all, all honorable men." This sentence is

repeated four times in the first section; Caesar was a good faithful

friend to Antony, "But ... and Brutus is an honorable man." Again Caesar

refused the crown, but "Brutus is an honorable man." Caesar wept when the

poor cried, "sure, Brutus is an honorable man, I speak not to disprove

what he says" but "men have lost their reason" and "my heart is in the

coffin there with Caesar." The citizens are sorry for the weeping Antony;

they listen more intently now. Again--"If I were disposed to stir your

hearts and minds to mutiny and rage"--but that would be to wrong Brutus

and Cassius, "Who you all know are honorable men"--this time said with

more marked irony. Rather than wrong such honorable men, Antony prefers

to "wrong the dead, to wrong myself--and you." That sentence sets Brutus

squarely in opposition to the speaker and his audience. Caesar's will is

mentioned--if only the commons knew what was in it, but Antony will not

read it, "you are not wood, you are not stones, but men." The speaker

now resists their demand to hear the will, he ought not have mentioned

it. He fears he has, after all, wronged "the honorable men whose daggers

have stabbed Caesar." The citizens have caught the note of irony now; the

honorable men are "traitors," "villains," "murderers."

From this point on the speaker's task is easy; they have become a crowd.

They think only of revenge, of killing everyone of the conspirators, and

burning the house of Brutus. Antony has even to remind them of the

existence of the will. The mischief is set afloat the moment Brutus is

successfully discredited.

The development of the thought in this oration is typical. Analysis of

almost any propagandist speech will reveal some, if not all, the steps

by which Brutus is made an object of hatred. The crowd hates in order

that it may believe in itself.

The Absolutism Of The Crowd-mind The Crowd And The Social Problem Of To-day facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail