The Digital Acceleration of Herd Mentality

“A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.”

It’s a memorable, often quoted line from the 1997 sci-fi comedy, Men in Black, where Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) explains to his apprentice (Will Smith) why it would be a very bad idea to reveal to the public that space aliens are living secretly among them.

While there are many great one-liners in the film (that still draw a laugh), that particular one has been remembered for the inherent, societal truth it spoke. When an individual alone is presented with new, consequential information, that person is more likely to process it logically and rationally than if he or she had consumed it in a group setting.

This paradox goes by lots of different names, but for the sake of this column, I’ll use the term herd mentality.

Herd mentality is a product of peer influence. It compels people to adopt behaviors and sentiment, not from autonomous reason, but from the passion and emotions of those who surround them. These emotions, in turn, lead to impulsive (and often bad) decisions that wouldn’t have otherwise been made.

It’s been pretty easy to spot herd mentality throughout this nation over the past few months, most graphically in the rioting, looting, and vandalism we’ve seen in major U.S. cities. What began as protests in the name of social justice have turned into an excuse to spread violence, destroy businesses, and destroy lives.

We’ve also seen it with the uptick in the cancel culture, where dissenting, objectionable views are increasingly treated as infectious diseases deserving of eradication.

And we’ve of course seen it in the way mask-wearing (to mitigate the spread of COVID-19) has been turned into a ridiculous culture war, with one side insisting that it’s a heinous violation of their freedoms.

Herd mentality has a far wider reach today than even 20 or 25 years ago because of the virality and boundlessness of the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle. In virtually no time at all, something as simple as a contextless image or video clip can create and accelerate a deeply misleading narrative among a population.

We were reminded of a pretty famous example of this last week with the settlement of Nicholas Sandmann’s defamation lawsuit against the Washington Post. Sandmann was the kid we all remember wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat in front of the Lincoln Memorial, “smirking” as a Native American man (Nathan Phillips) beat a drum and sang a chant just inches from his face. The two were surrounded by other students from Sandmann’s school, who joined in with the chant, smiling and laughing.

I would argue (and did at the time) that a smart, reasonable person watching that video for the first time — even if he or she had a preconceived notion of someone who would wear a MAGA hat — would want to know more about the incident before forming an opinion of what they were seeing. A reasonable person would wonder (not merely assume) what it was that brought those people together, and why they were acting as they were.

But blasted across the Internet at light-speed, filtered through the political instincts of millions, and recklessly reported on by media outlets (who suffer from their own form of groupthink), Sandmann quickly became a national poster-child for racial intolerance. Even after the facts came to light, and it was clear Sandmann hadn’t done anything wrong or even inappropriate, herd mentality kept many from ever accepting that truth.

Another example from last week had to do with the aforementioned war on protective masks. Dr. Anthony Fauci was the target this time, after he threw out the first pitch at the MLB season opener. Fauci, who has been vilified by many on the right for putting forth COVID-era health recommendations that are often politically and economically unhelpful, was later captured in the stands by photographers not wearing a mask.

Being that Fauci has been expressing the importance of masks for months (while acknowledging that he downplayed it in the early days of the health crisis out of a supply concern for medical professionals treating the infected), detractors decided that the photographs had exposed the effectiveness of masks (which has been proven in study after study) to be a hoax:

It didn’t take long before I saw these same photos (accompanied by the same sentiment) popping up all over my Facebook feed.

Fauci’s a fraud!

Look, even he knows masks don’t work!

Why do I have to wear a mask if he doesn’t have to?

I suspect it’s not coincidence that this stuff came from the same friends and acquaintances who’ve been insisting from the beginning that COVID-19 is no biggie, and that every societal sacrifice (or even mere inconvenience) we’ve endured for the health crisis has been based on a delusion created by the power-hungry elite. Even as tens of thousands of new cases of the virus are reported each day, with the death count now around 150,000, these folks keep feeding the narrative to each other, and stoking conspiratorial doubt in others.

As a different buddy said to me, about the reactions to the Fauci photos, “Don’t you love how people suddenly can’t discern any obvious details when they smell a gotcha?”

As Agent K might respond, “A person would pick up on the details… but people? Not so much.

Those “obvious details,” in this case, would include the fact that Fauci and his two companions were outside (where the virus is far less transmissible), that no one else was seated around them (aka socially distanced), that the woman to his left was his wife (who he lives with and breathes the same air as every day), and that the friend to his right was still wearing a mask.

Additionally, a reasonable person might also consider the length of time Fauci was without his mask. Could it have been just a few seconds, perhaps right before or after he took a swig from that water bottle pictured on his lap? According to Fauci, that’s exactly what happened. He also revealed that he had tested negative for COVID-19 just a day earlier.

But when people are frustrated or scared (as many of us are right now), herd mentality impedes the ability of individuals to take a step back, and look at things in an open-minded, rational way. Perhaps this is why Fauci, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, and the CDC felt they couldn’t be upfront with the general public about masks when they were concerned about shortages in March. I still think it was the wrong thing to do, and created unnecessary confusion (that’s unfortunately still being used by others as political propaganda), but perhaps I’m a little more sympathetic to their predicament than I once was.

Regardless, what makes herd mentality on the Internet particularly concerning right now is that, with physical gatherings remaining potentially dangerous for the foreseeable future, the pre-existing cultural trend of social media replacing our traditional institutions has been accelerated. Many of the more focused organizations and establishments in our lives, that bring us together and keep us grounded (whether it be church, sports, live music, community celebrations, etc.) are on indefinite hold. That means people are spending more time online, latching onto viral themes and joining righteous revolts against all kinds of perceived injustices.

It’s not healthy, and in several cases (some described above), it’s contributing to the prolonging of this crisis by promoting reckless behavior that only adds to the spread of the coronavirus.

If there were ever a time when people (especially those with time on their hands) needed to further explore their own individuality, it’s right now. Maybe that means taking up a new hobby, going on some camping trips, or doing some (safe) volunteering in the community.

If it keeps people from subjecting themselves to countless hours of social media and cable news, it’s almost certainly a good thing.

Order John A. Daly’s novel “Safeguard” today!

Anti-Americanism: The New Anti-Semitism

What are the two most hated countries in the world?

America and Israel.

Who hates both America and Israel?

The left (and Islamists).

And why is that? Why does the left (not liberals, the left) hate America and Israel?

In “Why the Jews; The Reason for Antisemitism,” a book I co-authored with Rabbi Joseph Telushkin in 1983 (the latest edition was published in 2016), we compared hatred of America with hatred of Jews.

This is what we wrote. It precisely explains what is happening in America today.

“Perhaps the best way to understand the admiration and resentment elicited by the quality of Jewish life is to compare the reactions of the world to America’s quality of life. No other country has so many people seeking to move there. At the same time, no country, with the exception of Israel, is the target of so many hateful and false attacks.

“The United States, because of its success and its ideals, challenges many people throughout the world. How did America, a nation composed largely of those rejected by other societies (‘The wretched refuse of your teeming shore’ declare the words at the base of the Statue of Liberty), become the most affluent, freest, most powerful, and most influential society in the world? Americans generally attribute this success to the values of America’s founding generations (such as individual liberty, religious tolerance, Judeo-Christian morality, and secular government), to a work ethic, and to the subsequent waves of immigrants who embraced these values. Enemies of America attribute it to the country’s natural resources, just as many people attribute Jewish success to their natural resource, alleged greater innate intelligence. Others claim that through capitalist exploitation, America cheated poorer countries, paralleling charges that Jewish success has been attained through economic ‘bloodsucking.’ Still others develop an imperialist version of America’s past and present, similar to the anti-Jewish charge of a world Jewish conspiracy.

“But the United States is hardly the only society with great natural resources, and it has been the least imperialistic of the world’s powers. America’s values, not unfair resource distribution or world exploitation, have made the United States better, just as Judaism and its values, not genetic advantage or economic conspiracies, account for the quality of life led by Jews. The two people’s quality of life has provoked similar reactions — many admire them, and many resent them.”

Just like the Jews, America is hated because it is successful. For over a century, it has been the most successful country in the world — in virtually every way. If having had slavery was a real issue in the left’s anti-Americanism, the left would hate the Arab world and Latin American countries such as Brazil more than it hates the United States. While The New York Times and other left-wing institutions are preoccupied with slavery in America, they ignore — out of ideological nonconcern or out of sheer ignorance — the vastly larger number of Africans enslaved by Muslim and South American nations.

Of the more than 12 million African slaves shipped to the Western Hemisphere, only about 3% — between 306,000 and 380,000 — were sent to the United States. The other 97% were sent to the Caribbean and Brazil. And the slaves in the U.S. South lived longer and made larger families than the slaves of Latin America. Yet, the U.S. is singled out for hatred. Why? Because the left doesn’t resent Brazil. Brazil is not an object of envy.

Likewise, there is no left-wing hatred of the Arab world, which enslaved far more blacks than the North and South Americas combined did. The internationally recognized expert on African history, Senegalese anthropologist Tidiane N’Diaye, wrote: “Most people still have the so-called Transatlantic (slave) trade by Europeans into the New World in mind. But in reality the Arab-Muslim slavery was much greater. … The Arab Muslims were the most murderous of all those involved in the slave trade.” Part of that murderous treatment of African slaves involved castrating the males so they could not reproduce. And the women and girls were traded as sex slaves.

Where is the leftist anger at the Arab and Muslim world? There is, of course, none. On the contrary, the left protects the Muslim and Arab world against moral criticism.

The left hates America for its success and influence on the world, just as anti-Semites hated Jews for their success and influence on the world.

The left doesn’t hate America because it is bad. It hates America because it is good. If the left hated evil, it would love America and hate its enemies.

Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His latest book, published by Regnery in May 2019, is “The Rational Bible,” a commentary on the book of Genesis. His film, “No Safe Spaces,” came to theaters fall 2019. He is the founder of Prager University and may be contacted at


Last Updated: Monday, Jul 27, 2020 19:12:04 -0700

Too Cool for School

In Europe, 22 countries have allowed students to return to the classroom without any spike in Covid.  Did you know that?  If the answer is no, then you have once again been victimized by a dishonest American press which ignores facts that go against the anti-Trump narrative.

Many believe the kids are a key to the November election.  If schools cannot reopen, the psychological signal will be the pandemic has defeated the Trump administration.  Already, Nancy Pelosi is calling the contagion the “Trump virus.”

In 2016, women voted for Hillary Clinton 54 to 42 percent. Today, the school issue is obviously very important to mothers and grandmothers because they tend to be closer to the urchin action on the ground. Most women want their kids back in school safely.

But some, not all, Trump opponents do not want in person classes to begin and they use a speculative argument that it might not be safe.  Many teachers unions, fiercely pro-democrat, are opposed to classroom education this fall citing “danger” from the vicious contagion that might devastate the schools.

The national press, also pro-democrat, generally agrees.  And if one child contracts Covid in school, you will definitely come to know his or her name.

The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta is pro in-person schooling but there may be some political pressure there, as the Trump administration is asking the medical establishment to help get the students back. So let’s go to another authoritative group that also believes kids should return to class: Harvard University medical researchers.

This is “science” for Joe Biden and his fans.

To support anything Trump at Harvard is to jeopardize your position at the nations oldest and most prestigious university.  Harvard has caved into political correctness and the “woke” movement that is crippling freedom of speech and robust debate, which can lead to problem-solving breakthroughs.  Simply put: the PC left rules Harvard.

Therefore, when issuing perhaps the most authoritative study on Covid’s impact on schools, the researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health were sure to include some Trump bashing to cover their rear assets.  Boring but necessary for their academic survival.

There are two key provisions in the study. Here’s the first:  “School closures may be among the least effective of (halting the spread of Covid).  A study of county rates of Covid across the United States from earlier this year found ‘no evidence that school closures influenced the growth rate’ in Covid infections, and two international studies similarly found large reductions in Covid spread from social distancing policies in general, but no significant effect from school closures on their own.”

Someone alert CNN.

Never mind.  The anti-Trump movement will never acknowledge the study.  Corruption at its most vivid.

But by reading this column as well as the entire study which is available online, the conclusion reached by the Harvard people is clearly stated: “Reopening schools should not be an us versus them argument.  It’s not a Democrat vs. Republican argument.  It’s about our children and about the evidence. We should be following the science that says in-person schooling for our kids is too valuable to give up and that the risks of school-based transmission appear to be low.”

So there you go, Alice Cooper.  With some exceptions in Covid danger zones, American schools should reopen with distancing and as many other protections as possible. Children need structure and the nation must regain some normalcy.

Let’s follow the “science.”

Does Either Side Know What “Defund” Means?

Last month, when calls to “defund the police” were popularized by the “Black Lives Matter” movement, politicians and pundits on both sides of the aisle quickly understood just how controversial and consequential of an idea it was.

After all, the common understanding of “defund” can be echoed by simply Googling the word: “prevent from continuing to receive funds.”

Even in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, and the identification (and public condemnation) of serious race-related problems within a number of police forces, it’s difficult to think of a more societally irresponsible and politically suicidal measure than removing all police funding. Such a move would effectively end law enforcement as we know it, and just about everyone understands that to be a colossally bad idea.

So, people on the political right understandably (and fairly) jumped on the slogan and exploited it (along with some empathy expressed for the sentiment by liberal leaders) as a testament to just how radical the left has become. In turn, people on the political left worked diligently (and comically) to redefine the very meaning of the word “defund.”

The clean-up effort was pretty exhaustive. In fact, if you go back on over to Google (I swear I’m not a company stockholder) and search on the phrase “defund the police,” you’ll find a seemingly endless list of columns by left-leaning writers explaining what those calling for the action “really” mean.

The liberal-commentary consensus: “defund the police” represents a less crazy directive: redirecting a portion of police budgets to social programs not directly tied to law enforcement, but rather poverty, mental illness, homelessness, etc.

Of course, that’s not the proper usage of “defund,” as righties continued to point out while mocking the left’s tap-dancing on the issue.

More prominent Democratic leaders have steered clear of the rhetorical contortionism on this matter. Presidential candidate Joe Biden has stated outright that he doesn’t want to “defund” the police, but work toward reform. Bernie Sanders has surprisingly taken a similar stance.

Yet, on Fox News last Sunday, President Trump insisted to Chris Wallace that Biden does indeed support defunding and even abolishing the police. When Wallace pushed back against the assertion, Trump cited a “charter” Biden had put together with Bernie Sanders. The president was referring to a document on Biden’s campaign website titled “Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force Recommendations.” In dramatic fashion, he even called for an aide to hand him a copy of it, which he then thumbed through.

There was just one problem: nothing in the 100+ page document supported Trump’s assertion. It was an embarrassing moment for the president, who couldn’t uphold the words that had just left his mouth. Perhaps more damaging was that his team had been running campaign ads promoting the narrative.

Trump and Wallace moved on, but quite a few pro-Trump folks in the media didn’t, electing instead to try and save their guy some face by suddenly adopting the left’s alternate, previously ridiculed definition of “defund.”

Here’s Charlie Kirk from Turning Point USA, citing a recent Biden interview:

And here’s Byron York from the Washington Examiner:

“In interviews with liberal activists, Biden has presented a much more nuanced position on defunding the police, suggesting he supports redirecting police funding toward other purposes, like mental health counseling and affordable housing. Such redirection would be, in fact, defunding police.

They (and many others) are mostly right about what Biden has been saying in recent interviews. The presumptive Democratic nominee has indeed entertained the idea of redirecting some police funding to social programs. I emphasize the word “some” because York forgot to include it in his framing of the argument.

So now, the right-wing media and left-wing media seem to have found bipartisan agreement that “defund” actually means the redirection of a portion of funds. In other words, they’ve finally discovered an issue on which they agree.

Celebrate good times, come on!

But now I’m even more confused. Because if that’s what “defund” means, didn’t President Trump defund the U.S. military when he directed some of their funding to the construction of the border wall?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find it kind of horrifying (in these linguistically challenging times) that the 2020 presidential election is now a “binary choice” between defunding the police and defunding the military.

And by horrifying, I mean, “causing horror; extremely shocking,” not whatever dopey, intellectually flexible definition the political class decides to come up with.

Order John A. Daly’s novel “Safeguard” today!

The Dehumanization of Blacks

If you take black and white left-wing rhetoric seriously, blacks are not human beings like members of other races. They are first and foremost black; they are human beings defined before anything else by their color — not their humanity, their personality, their character, their mind or their heart. So much so that, according to white and black leftists, if you dissent from this racist view, you are now labelled racist.

The idiocy and inhumanity (literally) of this, the “progressive” view of black people, is easily demonstrated. Do any blacks see themselves first as black? When a black man, let’s call him James, looks into the mirror, does he first see a black person, or does he see James? When a white woman, let’s call her Karen (I’m playing with the left here), looks into the mirror, does she first see a white person, or does she see Karen? Does any human being first see his or her color?

Of course not. Yet, we are supposed to believe that the most important thing about a black individual is that he or she is black. And if we do not honor that fact — if we aim to be “colorblind” — then we are labelled racist.

This dehumanizing nonsense goes for racial truth these days. Thus, for example, we who are not black are supposed to acknowledge that we cannot possibly see the world the way a black person sees the world; we cannot possibly understand what it is like to be black. This is part of the dogma the left imposes on society through the media, through cancel culture (say that you are colorblind and you might lose your job and your reputation), and through racial sensitivity training seminars at colleges and in the workplace.

But all this does is promulgate the view that blacks are inherently different from all other people. As a result, the only way the left’s view of blacks differs from that of white supremacists is that the latter believes blacks are inherently inferior, whereas the left believes blacks are inherently different. But both the left and the white supremacists agree that race contains immutable characteristics.

Aside from its inherent racism, the progressive view of blacks is pablum. No one can see the world through another’s eyes. No one can fully understand what it is like to be any other human being. Do all whites understand how other whites see the world? One of the ongoing jokes in the public dialogues I have with Adam Carolla around the country is how much we think alike despite the fact that our backgrounds could hardly be more different.

Other than being white and male, we have essentially nothing in common. He is an atheist; I am a religious believer. He is Italian; I’m a Jew. He grew up poor and on food stamps in Los Angeles; I grew up in a solid middle-class home in Brooklyn. He had little formal education and never went to college; I grew up in a house of intellectuals and went to an Ivy League graduate school. Even though I cannot “relate” to his experience or he to mine, we are nevertheless very close because, in addition to that intangible thing that creates friendships, we have the same values.

On the other hand, I am a Jew, and George Soros is a Jew. Other than the same ethnic ancestry, we have absolutely nothing in common. I have far more in common with the black conservative intellectual Larry Elder. The notion that race or ethnicity bonds people is both stupid and racist.

The prominent black conservative John McWhorter, a Columbia professor, just wrote a review of “White Fragility,” the book the left most frequently recommends to explain America’s alleged systemic racism. The title? “The Dehumanizing Condescension of ‘White Fragility.'”

McWhorter writes:

“One of America’s favorite advice books of the moment is actually a racist tract.”

“The book diminishes Black people in the name of dignifying us.”

(I suspect it was The Atlantic’s choice to capitalize “black”; the syndicators of my own column once changed “black” to “Black” because they follow the Associated Press’ rules for English.)

“‘White Fragility’ is the prayer book for what can only be described as a cult.”

“A corollary question is why Black people need to be treated the way DiAngelo assumes we do. The very assumption is deeply condescending to all proud Black people.”

“Few books about race have more openly infantilized Black people than this supposedly authoritative tome. Or simply dehumanized us.”

“Her answer to white fragility, in other words, entails an elaborate and pitilessly dehumanizing condescension toward Black people. The sad truth is that anyone falling under the sway of this blinkered, self-satisfied, punitive stunt of a primer has been taught, by a well-intentioned but tragically misguided pastor, how to be racist in a whole new way.”

McWhorter understands that to see blacks the way the white and black left want people to see them is to dehumanize blacks. If blacks are black before they are human — if no nonblacks can relate to blacks, disagree with blacks or want to see past color to the person’s heart — black-nonblack relations will have been set back a half-century.

Incredibly, beginning this coming year, thanks to progressive teachers, there will be mandatory reading of racist tracts like “White Fragility” to dehumanize blacks. That any black would see this as progress is worthy of tears.

Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His latest book, published by Regnery in May 2019, is “The Rational Bible,” a commentary on the book of Genesis. His film, “No Safe Spaces,” came to theaters in the fall of 2019. He is the founder of Prager University and may be contacted at


Last Updated: Monday, Jul 20, 2020 18:57:21 -0700