From the outset, it must be said that German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a troubled individual who suffered a wide range of afflictions during his relatively short life. Having said that, in the preface to his work ‘On the Genealogy of Morality’, Nietzsche wrote:
What if a regressive trait lurked in “the good man,” likewise a danger, an enticement, a poison, a narcotic, so that the present lived at the expense of the future? Perhaps in more comfort and less danger, but also in a smaller-minded, meaner manner?
Considering Nietzsche wrote that in 1887, it was a foreboding insight into our modern world and the decline of the West’s morality. Nietzsche considered it “the danger of dangers” – namely, that all individuals, even those with the potential to rise above the mediocre mass, are pressured into becoming a ‘herd animal’ whose only apparent goal was to please or acquiesce to the rest of the herd.
This is most evident in today’s social media platforms, often with enthusiastic reinforcement by the MSM, where critical thinkers are hounded when their conclusions don’t match the groupthink. Globally, Governments have harnessed this phenomenon to keep those individuals in check who dare to question the approved narrative. Within our small community at the Cat for example, there are numerous individuals who have been subjected to a variety of punitive responses on social media or by government for daring to question the official orthodoxy during Covid.
Where an individual is independent and questioning the orthodoxy, that person is deemed by the herd to be ‘bad’ and must be hounded into silence. Alternatively, those who belong to the herd and conform, are deemed to be ‘good’. Social media, government and the MSM can combine to judge the outspoken individual and on many occasions, the pile-on can be vicious. At a minimum, the person’s social standing is damaged and for some, their professional standing is destroyed. Yet this herd behaviour can overturn society’s growth and evolution.
So, is this a new phenomenon?
For millennia, humans have gathered together to form societies (whether tribes, clans, villages and so on) and those societies must have rules for peaceful and productive cohabitation. As many humans were naturally inquisitive and, necessity being the mother of invention, humankind flourished.
Of course, assorted rumours, speculation and vendettas arose every now and then with terrible consequences for those deemed outside the accepted orthodoxy. There are near endless examples in our human history of the persecution of minorities for some alleged or even actual ‘slight’ against the established status quo. But there is also a veritable conga line of independent thinkers from before Aristotle to after Isacc Newton that made vital contributions to society’s evolution, yet many were initially ridiculed or persecuted.
Whilst we consider ourselves far more civilised today, is the persecution of the outspoken independent thinker via social media really much different to the baying mob armed with pitchforks advancing on the hapless individual? Those events usually happened with the consent of the local Chief (who may even lead the attack) – why is this different to our government inciting, and in some cases orchestrating, a vengeful mob?
Social media has a lot to answer for in our modern society with its insidious and destructive impact on our society being fanned and encouraged by every Western government on the planet. Government recognised the opportunity to frame the narrative in a social media context and apply (un)official enforcement via the mob. The rate of transformation, and ferociousness of self-imposed enforcement, must exceed their wildest dreams.
The MSM, for their part, have long recognised their dependence on government largesse via advertising (or ownership) and that their very existence is governed by legislation. Every one of us can point to numerous examples where journalists have utterly failed to challenge the government’s statements or actions. The hand inside the media glove unquestionably belongs to the government.
Will things change? The malevolence of the vested interests, and sometimes outright contempt for the people they are supposed to govern, would suggest that the voice of those who question the official pathway will continue to be threatened. Only sites such as the Cat offer refuge.
Although Nietzsche couldn’t have imagined our society, the principle of silencing questioning thinkers remains – in our time it is a cohort of anonymous social media assailants, MSM and government who persecute those who would rise above the dim-witted and complaint masses; how often have we seen a call to correct some perceived inequality coupled with implied allegations of an anti-social phobia for the non-compliant?
Of course, the desire for control extends far deeper and includes the covering up of government excess (even criminality) or collective censorship of legitimate news or opinion. If it challenges, embarrasses or confronts the official narrative, the attack dogs of social media and the MSM will do their master’s bidding.
Finally, Nietzsche’s pertinent warning:
Our highest insights must – and should – sound like follies and sometimes like crimes when they are heard without permission. Why has an anti-natural morality – a poison which has spread through the entire body of mankind – gained dominion over Western civilization?
I doubt that Nietzsche could have imagined, even in his wildest dreams, the extent to which our social structure has deviated nor the depths to which our morality has descended. Indeed, many of those who contributed greatly to our developing society over the millennia would struggle to be heard in our enlightened ‘modern age’.
Battle on Cats, battle on.