The herd instinct (Part 2)


Why do members of large organizations (such as the military) keep quiet about the crimes they see? What causes things like the Mỹ Lai Massacre (16 March 1968) in which U.S. soldiers slaughtered 504 unarmed civilians in South Vietnam?

During the last 708 days, the USA has conducted 4,433 bombing raids on Syria, plus 6,693 on Iraq, at a cost of $11.9 million per day. U.S. bombers have destroyed 1,620 oil depots and other oil facilities. Why do pilots do such things without question?

Why do people insist on believing that the U.S. government is “bankrupt” when they know that the U.S. government can “print” infinite money?

Why would anyone who is not rich, or is not a political insider, support Hillary?

The cause is the herd instinct, which manifests inside organizations, and in the general population. Quite simply, most humans are herd animals. Their livelihood depends on obeying the herd leaders, whether the herd is a company, an army, or society at large.

If they are in the military, they directly or indirectly participate in routine atrocities. As herd members, they rationalize their atrocities, so that they imagine themselves to be righteous, and their victims to be evil.

Even the few members of the herd who have a moral conscience keep quiet, for fear of losing their meal ticket. Besides, they know that if they speak out, they might be imprisoned, or even “disappeared” or “suicided.” Most importantly they know that their self-sacrifice would not be appreciated by the larger herd (i.e. by the public at large).

When we understand this herd phenomenon, we see that the courage and heroism of people like Edward Snowden and Bradley/ Chelsey Manning are very rare.

There’s a good article about this, which I shall condense below (since it is very wordy).

It discusses the military, but its principles can more or less be applied to society at large.



As U.S. President, Dwight D. Eisenhower oversaw a vast expansion of the national security state and the military. Why did he wait until 17 Jan 1961 (three days before retirement) to publicly warn America about an out-of-control “military-industrial complex”?

Gen. George Lee Butler oversaw all U.S. Navy and Air Force nuclear weapons from 1991 to 1994. When Butler retired, he publicly called for the elimination of nuclear weapons, saying they were a “scourge” to the planet, and a danger to humanity. Why did Butler wait until he retired?

Why did William Perry wait until he retired before he condemned the nuclear buildup he had overseen? Perry had spent decades inside the national security state working on nuclear issues. As undersecretary of defense for research and engineering under President Jimmy Carter, and as secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton, William Perry oversaw a massive increase in the U.S. nuclear weapons inventory.

Why do people wait until they retire from an organization before they expose its evil?

There are several reasons for this, and they reinforce each other…

  1. Careerism and ambition

The U.S. military no longer has draftees who are just waiting to get out. Today’s military has “volunteers” who want to excel. Many join the military because there are no job opportunities back home.  Once inside, getting a reputation for critical comments kills one’s chances for promotions and plum assignments.  Thus, instead of expressing honest opinions, most military personnel decide it is better to quietly fail upward. We see this in all those absurdly decorated generals from our endless wars that appear on TV.

  1. Future careerism and ambition

Civilian job options are limited when you leave the military. However you may be able to double or triple your pay if you go to work for a defense contractor as a military consultant, or as an adviser overseas. Why endanger lucrative prospects (or even your security clearance, which could be worth tens of thousands of dollars to you, and to firms looking to hire you) by earning a reputation for being “difficult”?

  1. Lack of diversity

The U.S. military is a selective sampling of U.S. society. It automatically screens out most of the rebels and independent thinkers. After Vietnam, the high command was determined to never have such a wave of dissent within the ranks again, and they succeeded.  Most of the people who join the military (or the police or the government) are chosen precisely because they are sociopaths, or they are mindless.

  1. The false belief that you can effect change by working quietly from within the system

This is a bullshit attempt to rationalize one’s cowardly group-think. “I stay in the organization so I can change it.” During the Vietnam War, Harold K. Johnson was an Army general who considered resigning in protest over what he saw, but decided to stay,  rationalizing that he could better effect change while he was still a general. Later he regretted this decision. He realized that the herd has time-tested ways of neutralizing internal dissent by burying it, punishing it, or channeling it so as to render it harmless.

  1. The constant valorization of the military

Ever since the 9/11 false-flag scam, in which the U.S. government murdered 3,000 Americans, the gushing pro-military rhetoric of politicians has served to quiet any doubts within the military.  If the president and other politicians think you’re a force for human liberation, then who are you to disagree, Private Schmuckatelli?

The Pentagon is America’s national cathedral. Most Americans worship the military as “our greatest national treasure” (in the words of former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta at the recent Democratic convention).  The military has become so crucial to Washington that aspiring civilian commanders-in-chief like Hillary Clinton use retired generals to anoint them as qualified for the job.


  1. Dissent is lonely

What’s the use of exposing the evils of the herd when people outside it are part of another herd? Most people in society are as much herd animals as are military personnel. If you expose military crimes to people in the public, half of them don’t care, and the other half attack you as a traitor or a terrorist. It is one thing to privately vent your frustrations among friends on your military base, or among friends at the local VFW hall.  It’s quite another to talk to outsiders.


Thus, organizations encourage the herd mentality. They exhibit collective behavior. Almost everyone in the herd is subject to groupthink, while imagining that he is immune from groupthink.


Society at large is a herd that consists of numerous sub-herds. For example, socio-economic classes exhibit collective behavior. The middle class clings to lies (e.g. the U.S. government is “bankrupt”) in order to maintain their privileges over “inferior” herds such as poor people. (“There is no money for welfare.”)

hoax denier

Members of the wealthy herd do the same. In order to maintain their privileges, they collaborate less by direct communication than by simply following the swarm, or the flock, or the school, or the stampede. When Wall Street gives Hillary $300,000 for making a speech, this is the wealthy herd reaffirming its collective superiority over the wretched scum (i.e. over you and me).

The formal name for such collaboration is emergence (or emergent behavior) or sometimes spontaneous order, i.e. the spontaneous emergence of order out of seeming chaos.


Sometimes herd behavior is unavoidable, as when we are caught in physical traffic. Other times it is a result of voluntary smugness and hate. Perhaps all of us (including me) are guilty of this to some extent. We seem intelligent, but then we reveal ourselves to be part of the swarm.


Mitchell blog 2

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