A Plea for Critical Thinking and Common Sense

by Mary Anne Kreitzer

The truism that the “more things change, the more they remain the same” has taken center stage in this season of insanity following the 2016 elections. Like so many countries in the past facing internal turmoil: all of Europe during the Protestant revolt, France during the French Revolution, Russia during the Bolshevik takeover, etc., we have become a nation divided. The division is not only over issues and facts but over personalities and perceptions. One of the biggest dangers we face is the tyranny of mob rule where people become pawns in the power struggle. Critical thinking and common sense disappear among the masses who, manipulated by the power brokers, become tools for an agenda. Participants no longer act as a loose group of individuals, thinking independently, but like a swarm of “killer” bees attacking a perceived threat to the hive.

In his 1896 work, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, Gustave Le Bon described it this way: “The substitution of the unconscious action of crowds for the conscious activity of individuals is one of the principal characteristics of the present age.” [1] He stressed that, while the group may include intelligent individuals, as a crowd they show “mental inferiority” and a failure to think:

Little adapted to reasoning, crowds…are quick to act. As the result of their present organisation their strength has become immense. The dogmas whose birth we are witnessing will soon have the force of the old dogmas; that is to say, the tyrannical and sovereign force of being above discussion…. Certainly it is possible that the advent to power of the masses marks one of the last stages of Western civilisation, a complete return to those periods of confused anarchy which seem always destined to precede the birth of every new society.[2]

Le Bon, one of the first to study mob psychology, warns of the destructive nature of “the crowd” and the “new society” it may introduce:

Crowds are only powerful for destruction. Their rule is always tantamount to a barbarian phase. A civilisation involves fixed rules, discipline, a passing from the instinctive to the rational state, forethought for the future, an elevated degree of culture — all of them conditions that crowds, left to themselves, have invariably shown themselves incapable of realising. In consequence of the purely destructive nature of their power crowds act like those microbes which hasten the dissolution of enfeebled or dead bodies. When the structure of a civilisation is rotten, it is always the masses that bring about its downfall….. [A]mong the special characteristics of crowds there are several — such as impulsiveness, irritability, incapacity to reason, the absence of judgment and of the critical spirit, the exaggeration of the sentiments[3]

Note Le Bon’s comparison of the crowd to “microbes” attacking the weak. One is reminded of Winston Churchill’s description of the master manipulator, Vladimir Lenin, "the most grisly of all weapons," whom the Germans smuggled back into Russia "in a sealed truck like a plague bacillus”>[4] where he used the mob to overthrow the Czar, murder his family, and embark on half a century of persecution of the Russian people and the Orthodox Church.

In our own society, which sadly exhibits signs of a rotting civilization, the psychology of the crowd, or the mob ( the term I will use), is easily seen in Black Lives Matter demonstrations, the Women’s March, the Berkeley anti-Milo riot, and in the more recent anti-Trump travel ban protests at airports around the country. The popular mob meme, “Love trumps hate” would be more accurately stated as “Feelings trump facts,” and, as Le Bon points out, rational thinking gives way to emotion-laden mob psychology. The hate-Trump crowd carries similar signs and seems addicted to vitriol, name-calling, and unfounded assumptions masquerading as truth. Critical thinking and common sense drown in a sea of misinformation, hostility, and media manipulation. What are the facts? What is fiction? Do the protesters really even care? Le Bon also points out the mob need not be geographically together, a fact much more relevant in the internet age than in his own time. Consider “flash mob” events, the “Twitter revolution,” and mob actions arranged by smart phone.

I’ll use the mob assault on President Trump as an example. Even before he took office the level of hysteria in the country rose to fever pitch with silly slogans like “Not my president,” and “We’re All Immigrants.” The hysteria was fomented by a complicit, liberal media and Democrat demagogues. The mobs often don’t seem to know what they are protesting. They simply coalesce into a hate-Trump frenzy using it as an excuse to loot and burn businesses - ironically even those like Starbucks that agree with them. While they scream about love, they assault those with whom they disagree and destroy their property, actions they would likely avoid as individuals. In New Haven, CT, travel ban protesters even blocked an ambulance transporting a critically ill patient to the hospital forcing EMTs to conduct a medical procedure en route instead of being performed by doctors at the hospital.[5] Those claiming to care about immigrants were willing to endanger the life of one of their own countrymen.

Reporters interviewing participants at the Women’s March the day after the inauguration or those at airports around the country protesting the temporary travel ban failed, for the most part, to find anyone able to give rational reasons to explain why they were protesting. The women echoed the typical “my body, my choice” feminist rant and many others simply engaged in labeling Trump as misogynist, racist, vile, etc. They substituted name-calling for rational argument and most of them sounded like echoes of the organizers who simply want to delegitimize the Trump presidency.

Especially disheartening are the actions of the U.S. hierarchy who also encourage the mobs opposing the travel ban. The Catholic bishops’ (USCCB), through their Committee on Migration released a shrill condemnation of Trump’s executive order claiming it “virtually shuts down refugee admissions…for 120 days”[6] which is simply not true. According to a Pew Research Poll, in 2016 about 50% of refugees came from three counties: The Congo, Syria and Burma. [7] Of those three, only Syria is restricted. The ban targets some countries, the same ones included in Obama’s 2011 travel ban. Other majority Muslim countries are not affected.

In my own diocese, the Arlington Catholic Herald reported on a diocesan group protesting the travel ban at Dulles International Airport with the support of Bishop Michael Burbidge who echoed the misinformation of his brethren. Ironically, Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s running mate and one of the most pro-abortion politicians on record, joined the Dulles protest. The Herald let this scandalous Catholic strut on the moral high ground, a shameful failure on their part to inform Catholics of the truth.[8] It is fundamentally hypocritical to claim to care about welcoming the stranger while advocating the murder of little Americans, including the undocumented, in the womb.

As far as I’ve seen, none of the bishops has articulated what Trump’s policy actually is with intelligent analysis and thoughtful critique. How a country controls its borders and welcomes immigrants is a prudential judgment that can be handled in many ways. It is not a moral absolute like the murder of the innocent which can never be condoned. And yet, instead of common-sense analysis, the bishops show the same irrational mob mentality as liberals fomenting the opposition.

In a recent article at The Christian Review, Thomas Williams, PhD, wrote:
Just two weeks ago, Pope Francis reiterated that “every country has the right to control its borders,” especially where the risk of terrorism exists.

In an extended interview with the Spanish daily El País, the Pope underscored traditional Catholic doctrine regarding immigration, namely, that sovereign nations have the basic right to maintain secure borders and to receive immigrants in an orderly and controlled fashion.

“Yes, every country has the right to control its borders, who comes and who goes,” Francis said, “and those countries at risk —from terrorism or such things— have even more right to control them more.”

Such control can take many forms, and certainly does not exclude actions such as we have seen in recent days.>[9]

Williams also quotes the teachings of Thomas Aquinas on immigration:

Reflecting on questions of immigration, the great saint and scholar Thomas Aquinas taught that every nation has the right to distinguish, even by country of origin, who can migrate to it and to institute the proper immigration policies that will carry this out. In a remarkably apt passage of his Summa Theologica, Aquinas noted that the Jewish people of Old Testament times did not admit visitors from all nations equally, since those peoples closer to them were more quickly integrated into the population than those who were not as close. Some hostile peoples were not admitted at all into Israel due to their historical antagonism toward the Jewish nation and the threat they posed to Israel’s security.[10]

Instead of encouraging groupthink and mindless mob action, the bishops should encourage Catholics to stop, reflect, and examine what Trump is really saying and use critical thinking skills to analyze whether his approach is good for the United States. His 2017 executive order lined up next to Obama’s 2011 order shows some interesting differences. Obama emphasized travel bans under the United Nations Security Council and international law. He referenced 12 U.N. resolutions and 29 executive orders. The proclamation gave wide latitude to the Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Homeland Security to implement the order.[11] Trump, on the other hand, emphasized the Constitution and U.S. immigration laws passed by the Congress. The contexts of the two orders are one-world globalism vs. respect for a sovereign America. Trump’s order, in line with his statements about “extreme vetting” reads:

In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles. The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including "honor" killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.[12] >

Protecting its citizens is exactly what government is supposed to do. And one of the greatest dangers to our safety is the rise of Islam with its goal of creating a universal caliphate under Sharia Law. And it isn’t just Islamic extremists who endanger us. Moderates provide cover for terrorists. Writing at the Chronicles Magazine blog, Srdja Trifkovic, points out what he believes Trump is trying to do:

The unhappy experience of Europe demonstrates that immigration from majority Islamic nations creates a permanent terrorist threat and adversely affects the host-society’s quality of life. In America the process is not as far advanced as it is in Germany or France; the threat can be checked, and eventually even eliminated. President Trump’s January 27 Executive Order is a major step in the right direction. It clearly treats a newcomer’s adherence to the tenets of Jihad, Sharia, etc., as excludable on political, rather than “religious” grounds.

From now on, it will be legally possible to treat Islamic activism as the grounds for exclusion or deportation. It will also be possible for the government to make exceptions to its refugee injunction “when the person is a religious minority in his country or nationality facing religious persecution,” i.e. a Middle Eastern Christian. This is a major achievement. A new form of clarity on Islam’s political nature is finally present in the White House. Unlike his predecessors, Donald Trump recognizes that we are in a war and in the midst of a clash of civilizations, whether we want that or not.[13]

Readers may disagree with Donald Trump’s prudential judgment on how best to protect our citizens from the threat of terrorism. But attempting to veto his efforts by mob rule is ignorant and irresponsible. How many of the protesters have truly studied the issue and come to a rational opinion based on facts? Their behavior exhibits exactly the kind of manipulation described by Le Bon who says the crowd “is a servile flock that is incapable of ever doing without a master. The leader has most often started as one of the led. He has himself been hypnotised by the idea, whose apostle he has since become…. The leaders we speak of are more frequently men of action than thinkers….However absurd may be the idea they uphold or the goal they pursue, their convictions are so strong that all reasoning is lost upon them.”[14] Have you ever tried to have a Socratic argument with a liberal?

Mobs come in many shapes and sizes and political “hives” are among the worst. Remember the Democrats’ immoral assault on Robert Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Their successful hit job led to Merriam Webster introducing the verb “to bork” into the English language defined as “to attack or defeat (a nominee or candidate for public office) unfairly through an organized campaign of harsh public criticism or vilification.” With the help of their cronies in the press, the Democrat mob attempted to “bork” Clarence Thomas’ appointment to the Supreme Court as well. He described their efforts accurately as a “technological lynching” and fought back vigorously with truth. That is the only way to deal with the mob. Many will resist all efforts to encourage critical thinking, but there is at least a chance that if one maverick is separated from the herd he can be rebranded as an individual. We’ve seen it happen with pro-abortion women and abortion mill workers. With the help of God and prayers for common sense, it’s possible to convert the mob one beloved child of God at a time.

1. Gustave Le Bon, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, Batoche Books, 2001, http://socserv2.socsci.mcmaster.ca/~econ/ugcm/3ll3/lebon/Crowds.pdf

2. Ibid, pp. 9-10

3. Ibid, p. 10.

4. Winston Churchill, The World Crisis, vol. 5, http://loc.gov/exhibits/churchill/interactive/_html/wc0071_2.html

5. Kathryn Blackhurst, Anti-Trump protesters block ambulance rushing to hospital, February 6, 2017, http://www.lifezette.com/polizette/anti-trump-protesters-block-ambulance/

6. USCCB news release, USCCB Committee on Migration Chair Strongly Opposes Executive Order Because it Harms Vulnerable Refugee and Immigrant Families, January 27, 2017, http://www.usccb.org/news/2017/17-026.cfm.

7. Ruth Igielnik and Jens Manuel Krogstad, Where Refugees to the U.S. Come From, Pew Research, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/02/03/where-refugees-to-the-u-s-come-from/

8. Zoey Maraist, Supporting Refugees at Dulles Airport, Arlington Catholic Herald, January 31, 2017, http://catholicherald.com/News/Local_News/Supporting_immigrants_at_Dulles_Airport/

9. Thomas Williams, PhD. Why Catholics Need to Take a Deep Breath over Trump’s Migrant Ban, The Christian Review, February 3, 2017, http://www.thechristianreview.com/why-catholics-need-to-take-a-deep-breath-over-trumps-migrant-ban/

10. Ibid.

11. Barack Obama, Presidential Proclamation--Suspension of Entry of Aliens Subject to United Nations Security Council Travel Bans and International Emergency Economic Powers Act Sanctions, July 25, 2011, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2011/07/25/presidential-proclamation-suspension-entry-aliens-subject-united-nations

12. Donald Trump, Executive Order: Protecting the Nation from foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, January 27, 2017.

13. Srdja Trifkovic, The Real “Muslim Ban”, Chronicles Magazine blog, February 1, 2017, https://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/the-real-muslim-ban/

14. Le Bon, p. 68.

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