Herd Mentality and Other Manipulations – To What Extent Are We As Dumb As Sheep

I have recently become fascinated by the idea of the “Herd Mentality which is the phenomenon of people in crowds or groups who blindly, sometimes mindlessly  follow the “lead”  of certain persons within  the same group who appear to be better informed than the rest of the group.  In a related manner, certain persons who set themselves as “authorities”  in a given situation or on a certain subject can manipulate large groups of people to re-align their thinking to match that of the self appointed authority.  Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck and Sarah Palin come to mind.

We can see this herd mentality phenomena not only in politics, but also in the advertising world and in academia.  What it suggests to me is that human beings are very much like sheep, and we just follow the one directly in front of us for no reason other than just following.  Sort of like this video of sheep who were grazing contentedly on one side of the road and starting following those sheep who followed those sheep who followed the lead sheep who crossed to the other side of the road.

  Are we as dumb as these sheep?  At least for them it worked to their advantage, since there was fresh supplies of grass on the other side.

Mind control is a fascinating and provocative subject, and I feel it’s worth it to study it in an objective fashion, as much as it’s possible for me.  In the past, I’ve railed continually about the hold the mega media outlets have on our minds, and I think now is the time to stop railing and start learning more about this subject of mind control.

I’ll humbly start by using the Far Right as an example, (not dismissing the Far Left or the Center).   I believe the momentum of the Tea Party in particular is a great example of the herd mentality.   One has to ask who are the people who have flocked to this movement?  Who were they before they joined?   Why are they able to join forces with such an anti-social movement, and toss their integrity and critical reasoning on the trash heap of history?  Why are people so susceptible to being baited by words like “Reload” & “Blood Libel” by people like Sarah Palin?  Or why are they susceptible to being manipulated by ideas that invoke “nigger fear” for want of a better term?   Are people in general just like sheep to the slaughter, without an ounce of discernment of what is happening?

Words are a powerful mode of manipulation, both for good and evil, and it seems that the one who uses words most effectively leads by default.   The power seems to lie in the words themselves and how they are expressed, than in the people using them.  Politicians are masters at this.  For example, President Obama has a way with delivering words.  So do Sarah Palin, Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh!  All of these politicians know how to manipulate people against their own best interests to follow behind the politician’s agenda by using words to evoke a range of emotions such as fear, anger, loyalty, patriotism or whatever that politician needs at the moment.

Scientists say that in animal herds, the leader is not necessarily more intelligent, bigger or stronger than the herd.  They just happen to find themselves out front and for that reason they are followed by their closest neighbor, who is then followed by THEIR closest neighbors behind them and so on.  Unfortunately, people are alot like that.  Herd Mentality Tests have been done:  test groups of people are sent out to walk amongst crowds.  They go out walking with an air of authority, and because they seem to know where they’re headed, other people mindlessly follow behind them, even though they have no idea of where the test people are going.  The test people have no idea themselves!  Fascinating stuff!


I’m interested in how this herd mentality applies to black people within our various cultures.  How do we act and follow along based on how others of us act and follow along?  How are we as black people manipulated and self sabotaged or helped and uplifted by the black herd mentality?  How are we shaped by the power of the words we believe?  We need to know the objective answers to these questions.

As black people, we have many cultures throughout the world.  There are so many ways of being black in this world.  Sadly, too many of them are tainted with negativity and brokenness, based on what we have listened to and believed from those who profit from our confusion and degradation.  It’s very dangerous for our so called leaders to promulgate negative stereotypes about us, creating herds of self hating black folks with no concept of who they are or what their history is.  Or when self hating leadership herds are created in the Motherland–when so many African leaders are despots – unwilling to care for the people they lead.  What goes into the creation of these hardened and greed filled “leaders”?   How does this phenomena play itself out where black people are throughout the Diaspora, and in the nations of Africa?  Does this manipulation have anything to do with our continued self sabotage and degradation?

And if so, can we create a revolutionary herd mentality among our people? Have we before?  Often we’ve heard the saying, Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow.  Can we start a herd mentality based on these words of power?


13 Comments Add yours

  1. James McCoy says:

    You are on to something with this post

    1. kekemichel says:

      Hi Anna Renee!

      Your article is most interesting and thought-provoking. Relative to the first issue, I think people who follow in such crowds already have a predisposition, conviction, and belief system about such far right ideology. Some may actually think that they can change things by joining, while others just want a means of venting personal and societal angst. There are those who take advantage of such extremist movements and position themselves for notoriety and leadership roles. Such people can cause more harm than good, to the group and society as a whole, as they seek to self-aggrandize.

      Yes, words are closely tied to motive and intent. Politicians, of course, have their political agenda and use words to get people to support their platform, which is part of the “political game.” However, people who follow leaders and pundits against their best interests are not too emotionally grounded from the start. We can say then that such people were already on edge with angst, and ready to explode.

      It really does make sense that people who know where they are headed are leaders and will be followed by those who have less sense of direction and vision. But, I do not think people mindlessly follow others; instead, everyone has motive and intent, like Malcolm X, played by Denzel Washington, believed that everybody had an angle. People are trying to get certain ideological and emotional needs met.

      Black people follow leaders and movements for various reasons. However, we are no different than others–we want to achieve power and control. However, there are those who are participants who help bring forth change, e.g. those who were part of the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Movement. Today, many Black leaders are not altruistic; instead, they are self-serving. They may have started out idealistic and altruistic. While some may still follower such leaders, more or less, some may have become disillusioned and left all together, especially those with a healthy degree of moral integrity and self-integrity.

      The situation over in various countries in Africa is an outrage. Yet, I understand why those leaders become despots–they do not have hope! Foremost, the human condition is too overwhelming. Second, they do not have the ability to organize the needed support, system/administration, to implement progress, especially because a majority of the people in an administration does not have hope for the masses of people. Another issue is not having access to resources. Even while Africa is rich in resources, Black Africans do not necessarily own or control resources. The plight of African countries is tremendously complex and exhaustive.

      Relative to black people being brainwashed, this is a tremendous phenomenon. The only way one can be brainwashed is if they are culturally and ethnically broken or void, like you mention in your post. Yes, and it is perpetuated when Black leaders compromise once they are on the playing field. I suggest that those very Black leaders are also broken and void–they already had a predisposition before they became leaders and what little idealism and altruism they had was overwhelmed once they got on the playing field. And those who they represent were/are too broken and void and really cannot do much to support and encourage their leaders. However, some Black leaders are making tremendous change because they have a sense of direction, vision, charisma, intelligence, skillful communication, and likeability from voters, stakeholder, and many people in power positions, e.g. Corey Booker, who was featured as one of the top 100 Black Power Players (the actual label of the magazine article) (even though, he has his critics across the board).

      Last, there will always be various types and numerous leaders and followers at every given moment. I think people tend to be part different groups and similar groups, and have many “leaders” therefore. However, more open-minded people tend to belong to various types of groups to support their various interests. It is true–those who have free minds are not followers, but are activists who help make things happen in their groups and movements. I think we should not be followers, but activists in movements and groups that represent our interests. Because, “follower” has a mindless connotation.

      1. Anna Renee says:

        Highly and intelligently thought out and beautifully expressed! You break everything I said down so that I myself can understand it better! Thanks for your crucial analysis.
        You said:
        “But, I do not think people mindlessly follow others; instead, everyone has motive and intent, like Malcolm X, played by Denzel Washington, believed that everybody had an angle. ”

        “The situation over in various countries in Africa is an outrage. Yet, I understand why those leaders become despots–they do not have hope! Foremost, the human condition is too overwhelming. ”

        I so agree with your above statements! We do have angles, however high or low they may be. For example some black folks love Obama simply because he’s a black man in the White House! Others hate him for the same reason. As for the African leaders, It all boils down quite simply to a lack of hope and lack then must then turn into disgust against the people. This would explain how they are able to be such despots!

        “I think people tend to be part different groups and similar groups, and have many “leaders” therefore. However, more open-minded people tend to belong to various types of groups to support their various interests. It is true–those who have free minds are not followers, but are activists who help make things happen in their groups and movements. ”
        Your above statement takes into consideration our humanity. It’s not simply that we are “mindless” per se, but may not have higher ideals. So your statement that we are activists is a perfect description of a “follower” who does more than just follow!

        Thanks a lot for your highly intellectual breakdown of this! You’ve brought enlightenment! 😀

  2. Amenta says:

    Yes, I believe we can create a revolutionary herd mentality. In fact I believe the seeds of this revolution are with us. Unfortunately, most of our people will wait until the fire nearly consumes them to follow the herd.


  3. maurice copeland says:

    Yes, the herd mentality is in everything.
    Following those that:
    Do Nothing!
    Don’t want to see anything!
    Sit back with the ones the wait for others
    to do, then claim it, and want theirs.
    Some want to just wait and wonder when someone else
    is going to get it done, and claim they did it.
    There is the herd that”Know everything”, “Did everything”, so
    that gives them the comfort to, not give a damn about it, sit
    on their butts in wisdom.

    But most of all, there is the Herd Mentality of the WEAKWILLED, UNFAITHFUL TOELINERS.

  4. Reggie says:

    It’s just like meetings in my office. None of us, are as dumb as all of us.

  5. CareyCarey says:

    I’ve come to believe it has everything to do with our emotions. It’s very easy to follow because it does not require one to think. And, it’s safe. Most humans (black & white) love to follow along to get along. It’s a very comfortable state.

    Deep thinking, solid research and the fearlessness to challenge the status quo; the state in which before, the state of affairs that existed previously, ie, family trends, traditions, popular opinion and friends, causes one to be in a unfavorable position. Consequently, if one does not have a vested and to a large degree, a life threatening issue to “be different” then it seldom happens.

  6. Lin says:

    Hey Sista:

    It ain’t no black thing b/c I;m black & that’s not in my heart. I learned long ago in psych class that it’s a very human reality & stems fom something primal in us all. Not buying it. I can recall being in midtown Manhattan and seeing a man about to hurl himself off a building 20 stories high. There actually people gathered in he streets shouting “JUMP! JUMP! JUMP!

    Scary concept. The whole sickened me so I keep walking & praying he didn’t jump. Maybe there’s a loneliness/unhappiness in certain people that gets called upon during dramatic, violent events. I don’t think I possess that trait. I’ve made it business to stay far away from madness & drama especially in crowded places.


  7. Anna Renee says:

    Thanks for your comments my brothers!
    @James, I think I am! I’ve done a bit more research and have found some interesting stuff–nothing new, but interesting none the less.

    @Amenta, I agree. Look at Egypt for an example of a revolutionary herd mentality!

    @Brother Maurice, “Some want to just wait and wonder when someone else is going to get it done, and claim they did it.”
    It’s frustrating, but true for too many of us.

    @Reggie, seems like fear to break out and be the one.

    @Brother Carey, Yes it is comfortable…most of the time. There are times when it just aint comfy no more and one has to break out and take a chance. I’ve wondered about those people who found organizations like MADD. If her child hadn’t been killed by a drunk driver, would she had found MADD? Extreme situations does give us that courage it seems.

    @Brother Eastside: I’ll be posting a few videos on different aspects of this herd mentality. It manifests itself in numerous ways. Black folks fall victim to it as well, but I agree, it’s NOT a black thang, but a HUMAN thing, so they say. But if it is a human thing, then there are those who definitely don’t fit in with this. Maybe it depends on one’s personality–whether they are conformists or not. If not then they are the leaders capable of creating their own herd–such as Rev Jim Jones back in the 1970s.
    Fascinating and deep stuff.

  8. James says:

    that’s a really interesting article! maybe i will now become obsessed with herd mentality…

    1. Anna Renee says:

      Nooo! Don’t!!!

  9. Ivie says:

    Hi I am writing a post (just a little one) on African leaders, corruption and how their subjects just seem to meekly stand by and accept it. I put it down to a combination of selfishness, shamelessness and the ‘herd mentality’. While looking for a wider definition of ‘herd mentality’ I came across your post. Well, it’s interesting to note that I am not the only person thinking along these lines. By the way I think this is an excellent well thought out post in all respects. I hope to finish mine in a few days. I’m not one to criticize but it has been an issue that has been bugging me for a while and I just have to write about it.

    Have you read Marcus Garvey’s Message to the People: The Course of African Philosophy? You can view it on Google Books and probably read most of it on your phone/tablet. Once you take out the dated aspects, it is a very good read. To me Marcus Garvey was an intellectual way ahead of his time who is yet to be appreciated or understood.

    1. Anna Renee says:

      Welcome Brother! No Ivie, you’re not the only one. Many of us are trying to figure out how we got into this mess and seem to be stuck in it. There are millions of stories about control and lack of control; power and lack of power; and overthrowing power and wrestling power from the powerful. This is the stuff of life.

      Im looking forward to your post on this subject, and am a new follower of your blog.

      BTW, I havent read Marcus’ book. I’ll add this one to my list of about 1,000 to read before I die! Peace!

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