9/11 and My Descent into Collective Madness
Madness is never a satisfactory explanation. An individual’s descent into madness can be traced and explained but the final destination is always just across the border, always just beyond the reach of justice. Madness is its own excuse. Precisely why a legal insanity defense is so vexing to the injured when it succeeds. And never satisfactory.
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Of course it’s possible to trace and explain a nation’s descent into madness as well. Plenty of historians have done just that with post mortems on Hitler’s Third Reich, Stalin’s Soviet Union, and the fall of the Roman Empire — to name a few. But always the destination is every bit as dissatisfying to those who seek justice for the same reason: madness is its own excuse.
As far as I can tell, America has descended into collective madness, what some refer to as a mass formation psychosis, at least three times so far in the 21st century. Each instance was triggered by a large-scale event that traumatized and galvanized a significant portion of the American population. Each was accompanied and promoted by a massive wave of highly profitable corporate and state propaganda. Each is patently insane and therefore unresponsive to reason.
The first came in response to the horrific trauma of 9/11. It birthed the monstrous Patriot Act and the equally monstrous Department of Homeland Security. Now — with nothing to show after two decades, trillions of dollars, and hundreds of thousands of casualties spread across multiple continents — the collective madness we call the War on Terror has turned inward. Now the War on Terror is focused on us, you and me — and is likely just warming up because of our second bout with collective madness in as many decades…
The collective madness of Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS) is now dismantling the American rule of law. Those driven most insane by it — including corporate media, the technomedia cartel, most of the Democratic Party, and virtually all of institutional America — are now willing to destroy our democracy in order to save it. The driving feature of TDS is a psychotic desire to prevail at any cost, even if it leads to a second Civil War. The mass hysteria of TDS is what informed and guided much of our response to our latest encounter with collective madness…
Much of our patently insane response to Covid, at least in locked-down blue states and cities, was in fact an extension of TDS. Most of it was designed to rid the national body politic of Donald Trump more than to rid our physical bodies of a novel corona virus. The sheer madness of our response to Covid turned our children into killers of grandparents and teachers. It converted parents, small business people, and co-religionists who didn’t want to inject themselves or their kids with an experimental drug into domestic terrorists.
The dominant driving force for each of the above examples of collective madness is abject fear magnified exponentially at digital scale by 21st-century corporate and state propagandists for immense profit. Each mass formation psychosis greatly expanded the reach and influence of both corporate and government power — especially evident in the incestuous relationship of corporate media and the state. Of course, corporate media have always served as de facto extensions of state power. But now that partnership includes the massive reach, wealth, and corrosive influence of a technomedia cartel whose primary tools of compliance and consent are industrial-strength censorship and state-sanctioned default addiction.
All three of the above mass formation psychoses are entirely synergistic, and all three are still very much at work in our lives. Consequently, collective madness and the corresponding inability to respond with reason seem to be inherent features of the 21st century, at least so far. Maybe that’s what happens when both massive institutional growth and state-sponsored default addiction are functions of sheer digital scale. Perhaps collective madness for profit in the 21st century is inevitable — by design.
9/11 is the gift that keeps on giving, and now it’s time for me to apologize for my own participation in the madness that ensued. I was deeply wounded and angered when my city was struck that morning, and I sought the easy way out. To their eternal credit, most of my progressive friends were very much against elements of our national response, very much opposed to both the war in Iraq and the Patriot Act, and very troubled by the subsequent rise of the surveillance state. Most of them warned against the kinds of things that almost all of them — now immersed in the collective madness of TDS and Covid — suddenly embrace and support without question. I should have listened to them back then, back when they were still half sane.
But mea culpas can’t be about the behavior of others. Mine are no exception. In retrospect, I’m both horrified and ashamed by my willingness to surrender my own agency to the whims of government and corporate profiteers for several years in the aftermath of 9/11. I know better now. I knew better back then also.
The lesson for me is this: If I don’t step up to take responsibility for myself and my own backyard, someone else most certainly will. So to those I may have offended and disappointed by my words and behaviors in the aftermath of 9/11, I take full responsibility for my insanity, and I apologize from the bottom of my heart.
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