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Psychopathology of totalitarianism 2/3

Dernière mise à jour : 4 juin

Series in 3 episodes, published by L’Antipresse, n°286, 287 & 288 23 & 30 May 2021, 05 June 2021 - and translated by

Ariane Bilheran, normalienne (Ecole Normale Supérieure), philosopher, clinical psychologist, doctor in psychopathology, specialized in the study of manipulation, paranoia, perversion, harassment, and totalitarianism.

Episode 2: Methods, Stages, Objective of the Totalitarian Project

“To fight totalitarianism, it is enough to understand this: it represents the most absolute negation of freedom.”

H. Arendt The Nature of Totalitarianism, 1953.

“He who is not internally prepared for violence is always weaker than he who exercises it.”

A.I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 1973.

The totalitarian regime aims at “total domination” (H. Arendt), that is to say, it interferes in the totality of social, private, and intimate spheres, even in the psyche of individuals.

In order to see this clearly, it seems to me imperative to call upon psychopathology. An individual, or a group of individuals, can represent and crystallize the expression of collective paranoia, whose essence is contagious, as in cults[1].

The key instrument for the establishment of totalitarian power is first of all the harassment of minds, which must become permeable to the ideology.

The media propaganda must obtain the division of the collective, of the traditional clans (families, social classes, political clans) according to the paranoiac cleavage between the “good” and the “bad”; the line of designation can evolve according to the chameleon ideology. Terror quickly intervenes, by designating the enemy (here, at the beginning, the enemy is an awful virus that intends to disseminate the human species, and against which “we are at war”[2], then the enemies become the disobedient who do not want to respect the so-called sanitary measures imposed by the political field).

Propaganda, often masked behind subtle manipulations (“it’s for your own good”), rejoices in creating collective traumatic shocks (for example, the mortifying accounting repeated daily), which will then allow it to extend all its control over the stunned and terrorized population, which, under the effect of the paradoxical injunctions and wear and tear, will call on the torturous power as a savior, unaware, for its greatest misfortune, that this supposed savior is at the same time the persecutor.

The propaganda will be the reflection of the ambition of the “new man”, denying the past, the origins, the old reference points, and any form of otherness, by innumerable lies, paradoxes, incoherencies, and absurdities. Ideology, the origin, and principle of totalitarian action must annihilate the existence of reality and the returns of experience. Hannah Arendt notes that, in the Stalinist regime, “all facts that did not agree, or were likely to disagree, with the official fiction – data on revolts, criminality, the real incidences of ‘counter-revolutionary’ activities as opposed to the later fictitious conspiracies – were treated as unreal” (p. 18).

This is exactly what is happening today, and I refer to the work of Vincent Pavan[3], or to the regular warnings of Jean-Dominique Michel, to measure the great gap between the reality of experience and analysis, and the official narrative.

The terror quickly shifts to the opponents to be persecuted, namely those who do not believe in the ideology, question it, or denounce mass manipulation.

This is the first phase, the one of control by elimination of opponents. But the totalitarian surge is unleashed much more afterwards: the paranoiac breakdown becomes blind, and looks for potential enemies (potentially guilty, and not in fact), since there are no more real opponents.

To submit the masses, all means are permitted, especially that of terror through arbitrary action.

All was “well”, in fact, when the masses could be reassured about the harassment of the visible opponents, finally, they deserved it since they did not obey!

It is then essential that the reprisals of the totalitarian power fall randomly, in order to ensure total control.

The arbitrary causes incomprehension and stupefaction (paralysis of the psyche and thinking).

Believing themselves to be covered, many become snitches, and are encouraged to do so by the paranoiac delusion of persecution: it is a question of recognizing the enemy, “however well masked he may be”[4].

The modus operandi of totalitarianism is harassment. It is less about destroying than about leading to self-destruction[5], even to the point of suicide, through repeated traumas over time, generated in terror and violence.

The political regimes functioning with ideology use extreme violence, because it is a question of transforming the experience of reality, willingly or by force, to make the ideology reign, whatever the cost.

Do those who spread the ideology and organize it know that the ideology is false? It is not clear, if we continue the analysis under the angle of psychopathology.

They may believe in it and are probably more dangerous for believing in it, from a religious belief transformed into a fanaticism of dogma.

Some of them are undoubtedly more cynical; we see it today with the scandals of rich men and/or politicians, who exempt themselves from the sanitary measures they impose on people.

In this case, the ideological illusion is for others, and not for them.

Moreover, for H. Arendt, the strength of ideology does not depend in its content (class struggle, race struggle, vaccinated against unvaccinated, conspirators against “conspiracy theorists” etc.) but in its logical form. In order to manipulate individuals in the best possible way, it is necessary to isolate them.

The pervert does not do otherwise, when he intends to exercise his hold on his prey: he isolates him/her.

Is this not this sleight of hand involved in advocating the need for multiple lockdowns, the benefits of which the world’s leading epidemiological expert, John Ioannidis[6], denies?

Totalitarianism removes social relations from individuals, or rather, it will only tolerate certain social relations, those that will be politicized by the ideology (for example, cramming into the subway to go to work, being able to travel only for “imperative reasons” of which work is a part, but not the illness of a loved one, nor the birth of a grandchild etc.).

Family ties are attacked by the disunion created by ideological fanaticism.

Totalitarianism demands a “life and death” loyalty from the individual, up to its ultimate sacrifice.

To do this, the individual must be captured by a series of obsessive gestures that alienate the psyche, as in mafia clans or secret societies: anyone not included is excluded; totalitarian power summons the use of rituals, the absence of factions, the suppression of dissenting opinions, the absolute centralization of command, the demand for total loyalty, the promise of protection and more of something (happiness, power, money, freedom of movement, leisure…) which would make the insider a privileged person.

Isn’t this exactly what the health passport is about, which is in every way similar to the Aryan passport of 1933 in terms of the prerogatives conferred (museums, theaters, etc.): a community of the privileged?

The Hungarian writer, deported to Auschwitz at the age of 15, Imre Kertész, in his book TheHolocaust as Culture, indicates that totalitarianism cannot exist without the stigmatization of certain populations that it has made its ideological mission to persecute: “At the Jerusalem trial, Eichmann claimed that he had never been anti-Semitic, and even though the courtroom erupted in laughter at the time, I don’t think it’s impossible that he said the truth. […]

We must make it clear to ourselves that no party or state totalitarianism is possible without discrimination, and the totalitarian form of discrimination is necessarily mass murder.”

Let us add that the concentrationary logic is inseparable from totalitarianism, because it is inseparable from the psychic confinement of paranoia.

For some months now, I have been hearing whispers about the creation or existence of quarantine camps in various countries[7]

If the ideology is not stopped (and it will not be), by a mass incredulity, the concentrationary logic will unfold, because it is the result of the totalitarian project: in the camp, freedom is only a distant memory, the freedom to move, to undertake, and the Law as a protection of the individual is no longer effective.

We must remember that, for the paranoiac individual, the Law is him, according to his will; it is no longer the expression of what makes a third party between individuals, to protect their integrity, but becomes an instrument of persecution of opponents and the most vulnerable.

In the camp, one loses one’s name, one’s identity (at best one becomes a number), one’s roots, one’s ties, even any form of socialization; one loses all representation of time; it is the negation of the human being, the body is subjected to aggression, to hunger, to cold, to disease, to sexual abuse, to dehumanization (for example, women are shorn, men are shaved, we recuperate body parts…).

The totalitarian goal of total domination is achieved by the concentration camps.

In the paranoiac psychosis, the subject is psychically locked up, and locks himself up more and more; there is a headlong rush for more and more control, before ending in extermination.

For Hannah Arendt, “the prisoner of a camp has no price because he can be replaced”[8]. The concentration camp logic of totalitarianism in this sense is worse than slavery because the slave has a market value: he can be sold at the slave market.

The market value of the human body is a matter of perversion: to instrumentalize excessively what could be instrumentalized. Let us remember that perversion is the instrument of the deployment of totalitarianism, but it is not the goal: the goal is no longer alienation (submission) but annihilation (reduction to nothing) of the human subject, it is an additional step that is taken.

The market value on the human body can still confer a minor legal personality status, of course in a perverse mode.

But in the apogee of totalitarianism, bodies are replaceable, interchangeable, no longer have any sacred value, and no value at all, even material or commercial.

The moral person is destroyed. Hannah Arendt calls this “the murder of individuality”.

She adds[9]: “The purpose of totalitarian ideologies is therefore not to transform the external world, nor to carry out a revolutionary transmutation of society, but to transform human nature itself”.

But again, “Totalitarian states are constantly trying to demonstrate that man is superfluous”.

As for totalitarianism, it is in essence genocidal: it no longer needs humans, or rather, it claims to create them anew, from scratch.

This is the project of the “new man”; it is necessary to suppress human freedom, and the human in all its asperities, to make the notion of purity reign.

Is this not the ongoing project of the Great Reset, and the transhumanism that accompanies it?

The privileged will have a “market value” and will be able to continue to live in the market world (travel, consume etc.).

What about the others? Paranoia works on a binary mode: the pure and the impure, the strong and the weak, the useful and the useless, the essential and the non-essential…

And it is this notion of purity that makes it park in camps the elements judged undesirable because these so-called impure people cannot come to contaminate the “vital space”.

Purity is already present in the sanitary ideology, where we fumigate everywhere, even in the French grocery store Leclerc of Ajaccio[10], as if we were cockroaches.

Nomadic, stateless, marginal, and poor populations are always targeted, as they do not allow themselves to be subjected to control.

It is likely that this is what threatens a part of the population; Let’s wait and see who the designated enemy will be: for now, we suppose that it will be the non-vaccinated, but it could just as easily extend to “islamo-leftists” (a vague neologism), to any population designated as “terrorist” (on what criteria?),

but also, why not make the vaccinated designated as carriers of variants, because the designated enemy can change, according to the chameleon ideology.


Totalitarianism is international in its organization, universal in its ideological aim, and planetary in its political aspirations.

It pursues “the experience of total domination.”[11]

The goal is the total elimination of all spontaneity.

To achieve this, ideological indoctrination (we are already there), arbitrary terror and concentrationary ambition (it is on the way) are needed to break what paranoia hates: any form of spontaneity.

The camps are the place of completion of the process of dehumanization and spoliation of the person, by the submission of the incarnate bodies, after the breaking of the minds.

Hannah Arendt speaks of desolation to name this trial of a radical loss of the means to experience the world.

The evil is radical: at the root.

In a next and final episode, I will analyze the delusional contagion and the unconscious psychic alliances in the collective and the possible outcomes.

------------------- Notes [1] Bilheran, A. 2019. « Contagion délirante et mélancolie dans la paranoïa », in Santé Mentale. [2] French president said that we were at war in a speech on TV. [3] [4] Discours de Staline 29 juillet 1936 Staline speech [5] Bilheran A. 2012. « Harcèlement et suicide au travail : quel rapport ? », harassment and suicide at work : what is the link ? [6] [7] For the moment, these camps are presented as “vacation centers” in France: [8] Ibid., p. 181. [9] Arendt, H. Le système totalitaire. The totalitarian system [10] Under the curious name of “the tunnel of disinfection”. [11] Arendt, H. Les origines du totalitarisme, p. 723. The origins of totalitarianism.


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