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26 June 2011

Coulter's Mob & Le Bon's Crowd

In Demonic: How the Liberal Mob is Endangering America, author Ann Coulter cites sociologist/psychologist Gustave Le Bon's work The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1895).  This was a new one for me.  A brief review of wikipedia portrays Le Bon as a formative element of the field of group psychology, especially as it relates to group think and propaganda.  Wikipedia notes that Edward Bernays -- who was influence by Le Bon -- wrote a work titled propaganda, in which "he declared that a major feature of democracy was the manipulation of the mass mind by media and advertising", in addition to both Hitler and Mussolini making use of Le Bon's findings.

Note: The work appears to be amoral; it is an academic study of the collective consciousness as opposed to an Alinksy-style how-to manual.

As for what Le Bon specifically wrote in The Crowd...

  • You can read it here for free.
  • You can download it here for free.
  • You can buy a bound copy here.
  • You can check it out on google books here.
I just began Coulter's book, so I don't have a personal review of Le Bon's book.  I'm a junkie for researching primary sources, though, and was happily surprised to find The Crowd so accessibly online.  If you read it, I'd love to know what you think.  I find it fascinating to consider what one might write about mob behavior in that time period.  

As for Demonic, it's my first Coulter book.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but thus far (only two chapters in), I'm highly enjoying it -- especially in the wake of the Wisconsin protests.  I'm actually considering blogging chapter-by-chapter, but I want to get in a little deeper first, so I know what I might be getting into.  Thus far, most points she makes hit home for me, and to illustrate her points, I could draw a jillion examples from the past  five months of local politics alone.

One thing that I wish she had discussed (and perhaps has already covered in previous work) -- who/what is a "liberal"?  I'm of the school of thought that liberal/Democrat and conservative/Republican are not interchangeable terms.  Indeed, there can be conservatives and liberals in either party.  (No, I'm not talking about flip-floppers or centrists.)  Of course, liberals do tend to be Democrats/Socialists/Lefties.  Ditto Republicans/conservatives.  From the bit I've read so far, Coulter appears to be using liberal and Democrat interchangeably. 

That's fine, if that's her perspective, and I don't think recognition of clearer definitions would change the message of her book.  It might, however, provide an explanation for "exception that proves the rule" times when a Republican action could be an example for one of her demonic liberal points.  Minor point, really.  Just sayin'.

On the super positive side, she provides pages and pages of end notes for her citations.  Love that.  LOVE

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