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POPULAR DELUSIONS AND THE MADNESS OF CROWDS

1073. As instinctive tribalists, we are programmed for herd-like thinking.

1063. Religion is a kind of formalized insanity in which suppositions are transformed into facts. The trouble is -- any insanity sufficiently common and widespread is viewed as completely normal.

1060. It is remarkably easy to prove that a professed multiculturalist is a fool, a monster, or a liar. It is simply necessary to ask: "Are you in favour of cannibalism, slavery, appeasement of the Gods with human sacrifice, stoning for adultery, female genital mutilation, and honour killings?" If all these customs are approved, then the "multiculturalist" is -- clearly -- either a half-wit or a monster. The "multiculturalist" who balks at any of these practices is obviously a liar who likes the sound of the term, and thinks it denotes his superior tolerance and compassion.

1041. The weakness of science is that it is a human endeavour: scientists do not live in intellectual or social vacuums. They need jobs, funding, and the respect of their peers. Thus -- for surprisingly long periods of time -- science can become the handmaiden of orthodoxy.

869. Everyone seems to agree that hatred is a terrible emotion; no one seems willing to admit that there are terrible things worthy of hatred.

817. (a) When enough people share the same insanity, it is considered normal.

(b) Men -- tribal and conformist in nature -- prefer to bleat with the herd; in this manner, insanity becomes epidemic, triumphant, and normalized.

796. Diversity in a population can provide strength and resilience, but it is not an end in itself. The ultimate in diversity is simply chaos. 

789. The phrase "freedom of religion" has become, unjustifiably, the byword for a modern taboo against criticism of any religion. The taboo is recognized both by unbelievers -- who may regard criticism as bad manners --an unkind assault on cherished illusions -- and  believers -- who doubtless see criticism of any religion as setting a precedent dangerous to their own assumptions. The power of superstition should never be underestimated.

714. When not giving offense becomes the chief good, dishonesty and stupidity share equally in the triumph.

630. Facts and reality have little chance against a narrative that has captured the public imagination.

612. The trouble with brains is -- they are so easily washed.

611. Bandwagons have no brakes; nor do they explode in a collision with fact. Rather, over a period of time, the enthusiasts leave quietly, one by one, until the seats are mostly empty. Then -- a puff of derision does the trick. The end comes with neither a screech nor a bang -- but with a whimper of embarrassed acquiescence.

576. Those who breathlessly praise 'cultural diversity' as an end in itself seem to forget that, in the natural world, diversity provides not only good ideas which triumph, but bad ideas which, deservedly, fail.

572. Herds may do much ill-considered and foolish trampling; the choice between being a trampling fool -- or a wise man trampled -- is not difficult to make.

571. Men think in herds, not because herds are right, but because they offer security, mutual respect, and a needed sense of certainty.

566. "Tolerance" becomes totalitarian when it denies the right to criticize.

402. Bandwagons have no brakes.

364. "Groupthink" suggests certainty where there is none. (Cf. Voltaire: Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.)

297. Some degree of certainty is a necessary prelude to all action and enterprise; but the notes of certainty are too often sought, found, and sung -- in the sanctimonious bleatings of the herd.

296. A bandwagon, fuelled by the opinion of the masses, runs swiftly and with confidence down an agreeable gradient. Few are bold enough to cry halt, or point out the jagged rocks of contrary fact in the road ahead.

295. Communal error is usually preferred to independent truth.

294. If a popular opinion is exposed as erroneous, the heavy burden of folly falls lightly on many shoulders, and is tossed aside with an easy shrug.

257. Diversity and uniformity represent ends of a spectrum. The most useful light is generated somewhere in the middle.

256. "Diversity" is not an end in itself. At the end, one must conclude that some ideas are better than others.

255. A collection of stupidities, though breathlessly praised for its "diversity," is yet unlikely to result in wisdom.

159. The important thing about an opinion is that it be dearly held; hence--of a comfortable weight, convenient configuration, and of a pattern with its fellows. Whether it be supported by the facts, or not--why, that, of course, is of no importance at all. (From The Fool’s Dictionary and Commonplace Book)

55. An idea does not have to be valid to be respectable; all that is required is a sufficiency of fools.

38. The “Messiness Principle” suggests that all grand schemes for the improvement of human affairs, carried far enough, and consistently enough, will eventually reveal the internal contradictions which make them ineffective, unworkable, and absurd.

37.“Self-esteem” acquired without accomplishment is nothing but a dangerous arrogance.

30. The trouble with bandwagons is that their engines are fuelled by untested and often deficient novelties.