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Mass Psychology & Nonprofits: When Simon, Thomas, and Judas Play with Black Snow

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

Union Protests the 2011 Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill in Madison Wisconsin

It would be difficult for me to avoid political discourse, living in the Washington D.C. metropolis and devoting decades of my free time to economic and cultural research. I have always voted, and I always had my opinion on which candidates would do a better job. Still, I never sought out political campaigns, but they somehow sought me when I began publicly disclosing the results of my analyses.

Many modern political speeches generally disinterest me because they often insult our intelligence and make us question the claims of “progress” for humanity. All the stunning science and technology in the world can’t compensate for a corrosive culture. I encourage people to read the speeches of Abraham Lincoln and Cicero, which were delivered with paper, pen, and voice alone. Then observe the phantasmagoria of modern multi-million dollar productions with teleprompters and lowest-common-denominator language that borrows more from Adolph Hitler’s emotive tendencies than the great thinkers of history. Whether or not you like Bertrand Russell, you may agree with his assessment of these emotive persuasive tactics:

“What is essential in mass psychology is the art of persuasion. If you compare a speech of Hitler’s with a speech of (say) Edmund Burke, you will see what strides have been made in the art since the eighteenth century. What went wrong formerly was that people had read in books that man is a rational animal, and framed their arguments on this hypothesis. We now know that limelight and a brass band do more to persuade than can be done by the most elegant train of syllogisms. It may be hoped that in time anybody will be able to persuade anybody of anything if he can catch the patient young and is provided by the State with money and equipment.

This subject will make great strides when it is taken up by scientists under a scientific dictatorship. Anaxagoras maintained that snow is black, but no one believed him. The social psychologists of the future will have a number of classes of school children on whom they will try different methods of producing an unshakable conviction that snow is black.” –Bertrand Russell, The Impact of Science on Society, 1953

If Russell could see the global political climate today, I’m sure he’d say, “I told you so.” Yet America is far from the globe’s worst offenders. There are those who take U.S. aid while biting the hand that feeds them with kindergarten language. Admittedly, I employed emotive techniques as part of my business counterintelligence strategy for our music technology company, MYnstrel, Inc.

Prospective investors and partners would sometimes say, “your website is so cryptic and loaded with marketing-speak, what are you actually up to?” I insisted that they sign a nondisclosure agreement before I even gave them access to the second level of details. Our strategy paid off when a very large and well-connected competitor robbed our business model just two years after we put our website up. It turns out that one of our consultants spent time in pubs with that competitor’s Chief Technology Officer, so we assumed that was the vector for the breach.

Luckily, we only divulge project information on a need-to-know basis, so we did not lose any significant secrets. Their lame attempt at emulating our business model was no deeper than what anyone could garner from our website. And baby, “there ain’t nothing like the real thing.” There is no way that a competitor would even come close to what we have innovated for music business and technology.

My experience in marketing for MYnstrel was useful for nonprofit leadership as well. In the making of Alvarism, my associates and I ran years of social experiments in testing mass psychology. One of the most disturbing revelations was how people with impressive credentials and high intellect were vulnerable to self-defeat in the pursuit of truth. Once they associated their identity and ego to a particular opinion or leader – their propensity for self-deception and even betrayal of friends was the norm rather than the exception.

We called this subject a “Judas.” For some petty and egotistical affiliation with a leader, policy, or social cause, they did awful things to their friends who had invested good will, trust, and precious time with them. A Judas gossiped, insulted, looked down upon, berated, humiliated, or dissociated from friends who presented existential challenges to their beliefs. The key was how deep the challenge cut to their ego. Friends who opposed their beliefs, but presented weak or trivial arguments were spared the wrath of a Judas. The 2016 presidential primaries unveiled hordes of Judases. I wonder if any of those people still talk to each other.

On the other side, people whose egos were bolstered by the facts we presented viewed us as champions, as we became powerful vehicles for their confirmation bias (the uncritical seeking of justifications for what they already believed). We called them Simons, for St. Peter, the everyday apostle and the common man in his strengths and weaknesses. There is nothing abnormal about confirmation bias. A Simon could become a Judas if they were willing to turn on their friends for differences in beliefs.

The uncommon subject was the Thomas. Just like the “doubting Thomas” of the Bible, a Thomas had to see the evidence for himself before he took a stand. A Thomas was concerned with the evidence and justification, and got frustrated with people who were so eager to take things personally. Thomas’ stuck to the facts and concepts, while Judases focused on personal stories and events from their own lives. There couldn’t be a more blatant demonstration of ego than the reliance upon personal stories to “prove” general beliefs about the world. And Judases typically lacked the introspection to see how that pattern of thinking demonstrated their egotistical barriers to truth.

With the mass psychology context established, you can imagine what was going through my mind when I reviewed the political campaigning rules for nonprofits. I knew how vitriolic political activism could get, so I thought the political campaigning restrictions for nonprofits were great rules. My experience in executive management, organizational theory, and leadership made them intuitive. Alvarism's mission involves more than what donations can handle, so we cannot be a nonprofit.

On the other hand, Alvarism is willing to criticize any politician or policy, as a sociological and economic think tank. Elected officials come and go. While colluding with elected officials may seem pragmatic, it reveals a certain faithlessness in the unique value that the organization has to offer. Affirming a candidate would say that we want to use the power of government to give us an advantage, because our ideas and results aren’t good enough to persuade people honestly.

Consequently, staying out of political campaigning gives us the freedom we need to focus on the mission of this organization. I encourage people to choose the officials who most closely pursue economic sovereignty and valorist principles as described in Economic Sovereignty: Prosperity in a Free Society.

We are not beholden to nonprofit rules. But ultimately, something amazing happened when I affirmed the nonprofit political campaigning rules: I was compelled by my own official capacity to follow organizational standards that fight detrimental mass psychology. Activists who wish to help candidates get elected should form political action committees (PACs). I wish that other nonprofits would stop trying to find ways to circumvent the spirit of these laws. A smart business thrives on predictability and avoids such controversial activity. We need a lot more Thomas’ and fewer Judases in this contentious political climate, or we will soon find that too many of our neighbors believe that snow is black.

(This article is based upon the civics module in Alvarism research, which was presented in “social retrogression” briefings and is described in the third unpublished Alvarism manuscript)

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