Comedian and political commentator Russell Brand explored how health or energy emergencies that create crises for regular people are opportunities — or ‘crisitunities’ — for the powerful to concentrate their wealth and manipulate the masses.
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Comedian and political commentator Russell Brand explored how crises for regular people — from the COVID-19 pandemic to economic crisis to war — are opportunities for those in power to concentrate their wealth and manipulate the masses, in a recent episode of his show “Stay Free.”
“In various kinds of crises, whether it’s an energy crisis, a health crisis or a military crisis, there are curious profits and benefits to be had,” Brand said.
It seems obvious corporations “shouldn’t be profiteering” in a crisis, he said, but this week BP reported record annual profits of $28 billion for 2022 — more than double the oil giant’s previous year’s profits.
Shell also reported its highest profits in history, Brand said, playing a news clip that attributed Big Oil’s big profits to the war in Ukraine driving up prices.
“For a powerful energy company, an energy crisis is not a crisis — it’s a ‘crisitunity,’ to quote Homer Simpson,” Brand said.
For Brand, the COVID-19 pandemic was another example of corporate profiteering — Pfizer reported a record $31.4 billion in profits on sales of $100.3 billion.
Much corporate profit-making during crises comes directly from taxpayer money, Brand said. “Biden signs a $1.7 trillion government spending bill, 50% of which we know will end up in the hands of companies like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.”
The federal government funded the development and purchase of Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines. If the people pay for these things, “then [they] should share in the benefits.”
Politicians shouldn’t be able to profit from crises either, Brand said, proposing that Congress members shouldn’t own stock in the companies they regulate, and the revolving door between industry and government should be eliminated.
And perhaps most importantly, he said, those in charge of managing a crisis should be prohibited from profiting from it.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, in addition to being the highest-paid U.S. public official, now charges $100,000 for speaking engagements.
Bill Gates made hundreds of millions of dollars investing in BioNTech, which was just one of the vaccine makers he invested in.
Mattias Desmet on ‘The Psychology of Totalitarianism’
Later in the episode, Brand brought on Mattias Desmet, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Ghent University in Belgium, to discuss his book, “The Psychology of Totalitarianism.”
The book theorizes how leaders manipulate crises as psychological instruments for totalitarian control.
Desmet explained that a totalitarian society, which he believes has been forming throughout the pandemic crisis, is different from classical dictatorship in that it relies on “mass formation” — a group psychological phenomenon where people lose their capacity to critically evaluate the group they identify with.
People in the grips of mass formation, he said, will sacrifice their own well-being for the sake of the group narrative and become radically intolerant of dissenting opinions.
He warned that in the final stage of mass formation, which he thinks has yet to arrive in contemporary society, people become willing to commit atrocities against those who do not go along with the masses.
Desmet described the conditions needed for this mass formation to develop across a large population. He said society’s failure to provide strong social bonds leads to a sense of isolation and loneliness.
Before the pandemic, there was already a crisis of loneliness, Desmet said. Lockdowns made the crisis worse.
Loneliness and isolation create the perception that life is meaningless, which in turn evokes widespread “free-floating anxiety” — a condition where people feel apprehensive, frustrated and aggressive, but can’t identify the cause.
“Free-floating anxiety is extremely aversive because when you don’t know what you feel anxious for, you cannot control your anxiety,” Desmet said.
This condition can be easily manipulated when “a narrative is distributed through the mass media indicating an object of anxiety and the strategy to deal with that object of anxiety,” he said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, that object was COVID-19 and those strategies were lockdowns, mass vaccination, etc., he said. And by participating in those strategies, “people have the feeling that they can escape their loneliness, that they feel connected again.”
But the problem is that people in a mass don’t bond to each other, they bond to an idea, and, “All solidarity and all love is sucked away from the bond between individuals. And it’s all injected in the bond between the individual and the collective,” Desmet said, likening the phenomenon to a sort of “mass hypnosis” where everyone becomes focused on one thing.
“I like the way that it is tied to individual psyches and states that are identifiable and empirical, such as loneliness. I like the way that it is connected to the inherent nihilism and loss of meaning that many people are experiencing as many of the ideas of the last century and the religious ideas that preceded them are starting to collapse into ideas of commerce and pleasure and distraction as opposed to meaning and purpose.”
Brand suggested as opposed to totalitarian societies of the past, open violence might not be necessary, because “control can be exerted through the freezing of assets, assets, manipulation of behavior, et cetera.”
Desmet emphasized the open expression of dissent as the most powerful tool to fight totalitarianism. If people stop speaking out, he said:
“Then the system will start to unleash its aggressive potential. Because at that moment, the mass machination becomes complete, the madness becomes complete, and everyone in the masses and the leaders start to be convinced that it is their holy duty to destroy everyone who doesn’t go along with their system, with their ideology — with their totalitarian ideology — of which they always believe that it will create an artificial paradise.”
It remains an open question, Desmet said, whether at some point dissident voices will be eliminated from social media.
“If we can’t speak out on social media, then we just speak out on the streets and in the shops and in the pubs,” he said.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Children’s Health Defense.
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