Political illusions of Baader-Meinhof

Baader-Meinhof syndrome is a relatively recently studied mental disorder.  It was described as a psychological phenomenon about 20 years ago.  The peculiarity of this phenomenon is that, unlike all other diseases known to us, it is not named after a doctor or a scientist, but after terrorists of the German organization “The Red Army Faction” (Rote Armee Fraktion).

This left-wing terrorist organization was founded in 1970 by bohemian Andreas Baader and journalist Ulrica Meinhof, and it has carried out dozens of murders, numerous abductions, and bombings.  Some of the victims of the gang were a colonel of the U.S. Army, the attorney general of Germany, and the head of Deutsche Bank.

The name of the organization was chosen because of solidarity with the Red Army of the USSR, but often this organization was called simply the Baader-Meinhof gang.  The ideological platform of the gang was Marxism-Leninism and anti-Semitism.  The second largest (after Fatah) faction of the PLO, the Marxist-Leninist terrorist organization “Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,” hijacked a passenger plane in 1977 in support of the Baader-Meinhof gang members.

Before its dissolution in 1998, information about the terrorist attacks of this gang often appeared on the front pages of newspapers, radio, and TV.  In 1994, an individual who had never heard of this bloody gang was hearing about them on radio and television twice a day.  After that, he began searching everywhere to find references to these terrorists.  With surprising ease, he searched for references to this gang only and discarded all other news as superfluous.

This is the psychological phenomenon (or illusion) of Baader-Meinhof: after a person has learned something new (however not just new, but rather exciting new), they begin to see these new events or ideas everywhere.  The mind of such a person from the entire informational cacophony of the surrounding world starts to single out only what he is looking for.  In addition, each new mention of the subject further strengthens his confidence that this new phenomenon or idea exists everywhere.

People who developed the Baader-Meinhof illusion are in a permanent search for additional evidence of their illusion.  This is very similar to drug addiction.  Without another dose of news confirming an idea, event, or dogma, these people feel very uncomfortable.  Moreover, of course, any facts that contradict such an idea or event are discarded as superfluous.

A typical social phenomenon illustrating Baader-Meinhof syndrome is anti-Semitism.  The number of Jews in the world is less than 0.2%, and being familiar with a Jew is not a frequent phenomenon, at least from a purely mathematical point of view.  Therefore, the opinion of the Jews in the remaining 99.8% of the population is based mainly not on close acquaintance with the Jews, but someone else’s opinion about them.  Moreover, in the case of anti-Semitism, the spread of the disease is rapid.  If someone hears that “Jews dominate Hollywood,” a person immediately searches for Jewish-sounding surnames in the credits of all films, finds them, and notes with satisfaction one more “confirmation” of the thesis that “Jews control Hollywood.”

By the way, that is why Baader-Meinhof syndrome is also often called the frequency syndrome or the frequency illusion – a psychological state when a certain phenomenon in our mind seems to be much more frequent than it actually is.

Another phenomenon that is manifested at the individual level is the search for diseases in oneself.  Once a person learns about some unfamiliar and serious illness, he or she begins to search on the internet for all the symptoms of such an illness, and in most cases, he finds some of these symptoms in himself.

In the age of the internet, the spread of Baader-Meinhof illusions has no barriers at all.  Any idiotic idea or interpretation of events can immediately be matched up numerous confirmations on the internet.  That is why the anti-scientific notion of “global warming” from the 1990s spread and took root much more than the previous idea of “global cooling” from the 1970s.  Moreover,    thanks to the internet, other no less idiotic ideas – about the ozone hole, acid rain, the planet Nibiru, and the invention of the AIDS virus by racists from the CIA – still have numerous supporters.

The accusation that Trump is Putin’s puppet was the rather loud and unexpected idea in 2016 that quickly found supporters suffering from a mental Baader-Meinhof syndrome.  For more than two years, the left-wing disinformation media have expertly fed the public with new daily “confirmations” of this idea.  As the long-playing ozone hole saga showed, patients suffering from the illusion that Trump is the Kremlin’s marionette will not get rid of this psychological state anytime soon.

In the political sphere, this syndrome affects the adherents of both the left and the right ideology equally.  When propagandists from the Hillary Clinton team in 2016 skillfully introduced the idea of Trump’s Kremlin curators, most leftists believed it.  However, when, in 2008, the very same Hillary Clinton’s propagandists injected the idea that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, the vast majority of supporters of the right ideology believed in it.  As everyone knows, additional daily “confirmations” of these propaganda ideas can be found on the internet easily, thus contributing to the confirmation bias.

Other recent propaganda attempts have failed to cause such mass insanity.  Let us recall some of Trump’s recent high-profile actions – tax cuts, abandonment of so-called Net Neutrality, the transfer of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the construction of a wall on the border with Mexico, and the withdrawal of American infantry from Syria.  The speculations of the mass disinformation media about the fact that these actions of Trump would lead, if not to the Third World War and the end of the world, then at least to the mass death of American citizens were not accepted well.

The American public turned out to be immune to this idea, even though its evidence base is lacking in the same way as it is for as the “Russiagate” theory.  Apparently, the level of idiocy of the idea of a world war and the end of the world because of Trump’s arrival in the White House exceeded a certain “trust threshold” in the minds of Americans, and this idea turned out to be rejected.

Fortunately, the Baader-Meinhof syndrome is not a hopeless disease.  The example of the computer “The Year 2000 problem” (the level of hysteria of which may have even exceeded the level of anti-Trumpism) suggests that the Baader-Meinhof syndrome is treatable.  It just takes time – the disease must run its course through all the stages intended for it.

In conclusion, it should be noted that Baader-Meinhof syndrome is sticky.  Some of those who read this article will immediately begin to look for the symptoms of Baader-Meinhof in their lives – and will find them.  Indeed, this syndrome in itself is a new and rather exciting idea; therefore, unfortunately, some will be stricken by the Baader-Meinhof illusion because of this article about the Baader-Meinhof illusion.


[Originally published at American Thinker]

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