CHAPTER II. THE SENTIMENTS AND MORALITY OF CROWDS.
(Exerpts from PP.22-25)
[from wiki: Gustave Le Bon (7 May 1841, Nogent-le-Rotrou, Eure-et-Loir – 13 December 1931) was a French social psychologist, sociologist, and amateur physicist. He was the author of several works in which he expounded theories of national traits, racial superiority, herd behavior and crowd psychology.]
(second edition)219 pages; Norman S. Berg, Publisher, "Sellranraa", Dunwoody, Geourgia, USA. (undated)
"... The creation of the legends which so easily obtain circulation in crowds is not solely the consequence of their extreme credulity. It is also the result of the prodigious perversions that events undergo in the imagination of a throng. The simplest event that comes under the observation of a crowd is soon totally transformed. A crowd thinks in images, and the image itself immediately calls up a series of other images, having no logical connection with the first. We can easily conceive this state by thinking of the fantastic succession of ideas to which we are sometimes led by calling up in our minds any fact. Our reason shows us the incoherence there is in these images, but a crowd is almost blind to this truth, and confuses with the real event what the deforming action of its imagination has superimposed thereon. A crowd scarcely distinguishes between the subjective and the objective. It accepts as real the images evoked in its mind, though they most often have only a very distant relation with the observed fact. To combat what precedes, the mental quality of the individuals composing a crowd must not be brought into consideration. This quality is without importance. From the moment that they form part of a crowd the learned man and the ignoramus are equally incapable of observation. This thesis may seem paradoxical. To demonstrate it beyond doubt it would be necesary to investigate a great number of historical facts, and several volumes would be insufficient for the purpose. Still, as I do not wish to leave the reader under the impression of unproved assetions, I shall give him some examples taken at hazard from the immense number of those that might be quoted.
... (omit one para.) ...
The follwing fact is one of the most typical, because chosen from among collective hallucinations of which a crowd is the victim, in which are to be found individuals of every kind, from the most ignorant to the most highly educated. It is related incidentally by Julian Felix, a naval lieutenant, in his book on "Sea Currents," and has been previously cited by the Revue Scientifique. The frigate, the Belle Poule, was cruising in the open sea for the purpose of finding the cruiser Le Berceau, from which she had been separated by a violent storm. It was broad daylight and in full sunshine. Suddenly the watch signalled a disabled vessel; the crew looked in the direction signalled, and every one, officers and sailors, clearly perceived a raft covered with men towed by boats which were displaying signals of distress. Yet this was nothing more than a collective hallucination. Admiral Desfosses lowered a boat to go to the rescue of the wrecked sailors. On nearing the object sighted, the sailors and officers on board the boat saw "masses of men in motion, stretching out their hands, and heard the dull and confused noise of a great number of voices." When the object was reached those in the boat found themselves simply and solely in the presence of a few branches of trees covered with leaves that had been swept out from the neighbouring coast. Before evidence so palpable the hallucination vanished. The mechanism of a collective hallucination of the kind we have exlained is clearly seen at work in this example. On the one hand we have a crowd in a state of expectant attention, on the other a suggestion made by the watch signalling a disabled vessel at sea, a suggestion which, by a process of contagion, was accepted by all those present, both officers and sailors. ...