Tuesday, July 18, 2017

When everyone loses his mind

I blame global warming.
Francis Menton, a retired lawyer in Manhattan, writes about a phenomenon of our information age.
What is it about humans that, when a few people lose their minds, thousands and millions more join in and mass hysteria ensues? There have been dozens of examples in my lifetime. For example, "The Great Day-Care Sexual-Abuse Panic" of the 1980s and 90s. If you aren't old enough to remember back that far, you may not even believe that this possibly could have occurred.
The blunt fact, Philip Terzian writes, is that the “satanic” day-care ritual-abuse cases of the 1980s and early ’90s were our contemporary version of the Salem witch trials of the 1690s; and since human nature tends to be immutable, they featured many of the same symptoms across the centuries: mass hysteria, impressionable and unreliable child-witnesses, prosecutorial zeal and abuse, a mob tendency to prey on the hapless and defenseless.
So dare I mention "Russia"? Menton asks. This one is right up there as perhaps the most pervasive mass hysterias of my lifetime. The only real rival is catastrophic climate change hysteria. After now about 8 months of non-stop "Russia collusion" stories and literally nothing emerging as evidence to support them, yesterday the majority of the top stories on RealClearPolitics were more of same.
Wikipedia recognizes the phenomenon.
In sociology and psychology, mass hysteria (also known as collective hysteria, group hysteria, or collective obsessional behavior) is a phenomenon that transmits collective illusions of threats, whether real or imaginary, through a population in society as a result of rumors and fear (memory acknowledgment).
Here are some of the more interesting examples.
Mourning dead trees. Not the Middle Ages.
Cat nuns (France, Middle Ages)

A nun of a French convent inexplicably began to meow like a cat, shortly leading to the other nuns in the convent also meowing. Eventually all the nuns would meow together for a certain period every day, leaving the surrounding community astonished. This did not stop until the police threatened to whip the nuns.

Tanganyika laughter epidemic (1962)

The Tanganyika laughter epidemic began on January 30, 1962, at a mission-run boarding school for girls in Kashasha, Tanzania. The laughter started with three girls and spread haphazardly throughout the school, affecting 95 of the 159 pupils, aged 12–18. Symptoms lasted from a few hours to 16 days in those affected. The teaching staff were not affected but reported that students were unable to concentrate on their lessons. The school was forced to close down on March 18, 1962.

After the school was closed and the students were sent home, the epidemic spread to Nshamba, a village that was home to several of the girls. In April and May, 217 people had laughing attacks in the village, most of them school children and young adults. The Kashasha school was reopened on May 21, only to be closed again at the end of June. In June, the laughing epidemic spread to Ramashenye girls’ middle school, near Bukoba, affecting 48 girls. Another outbreak occurred in Kanyangereka and two nearby boys schools were closed.

Clown Sightings (2016)
Clown sighting.

Sightings of people in evil clown costumes in the United States, Canada, and 18 other countries were dismissed as a case of mass hysteria, stating that a fear of clowns (which is common in children and adults) may be an underlying cause. Vox likewise claimed that "The Great Clown Panic of 2016 has been perpetuated by pretty much everyone except actual clowns."

Remember these if you're stuck in an airport watching CNN.

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