The late great Joe Sobran came up with the metaphor of the insect hive to describe the group behavior of various sorts of Progressives. It was a useful way of describing the spontaneous cooperation that has always been a feature of the Left. It is the dominant feature. Progressives will suddenly flock to an issue, all chanting the same lines and howling the same protests, as if they are a trained army of lunatics unleashed on the rest of society. It is a behavior that looks coordinated, but it is spontaneous and instinctive.
The most recent example of this was the reaction to the Dylann Roof shooting at the black church. All of sudden, as if commanded by a super villain from a secret lair, the nation’s Progressive loonies began chanting in unison about the Confederate battle flag. Even the sober minded had to wonder if this was not a planned effort, all setup and ready for the signal from HQ. Within a few hours we went from indifference to Confederate symbols to roving bands of lunatics toppling over statues and digging of Confederate graves.
Imagine the sort of person, who, upon hearing about a shooting, immediately thinks it is time to topple over a statue in their local park. What sort of person sees their coreligionists howling about something and then begins howling uncontrollably as well. Imagine what it is like to have no agency, in terms of how you react to public events. Presumably, there is something stimulating to the person who does this. Perhaps the swarm behavior releases endorphins, freeing the adherent from the torment of reality for a while.
It’s not an unimportant question. A generation ago, Progressives were programmed to swarm over economic issues. Socialism still provided the general framework of their imagined utopia, so they regularly launched into assaults on business, claiming to defend the interests of the working class. Yet, when socialism collapsed, Progressives quickly shifted from socialist utopianism to sexual and racial utopianism. The same people who used to put Darwin fish on their Subaru, now howl about scientific racism.
Sobran was correct to point out that Progressives have the same reaction to perceived threats as bees when they fear a threat. The resulting attacks are not indiscriminate, but they are excessive. The Progressive has a binary view of the world, where those inside are allies and those outside are enemies. In this regard, Progressivism functions like cult, where the focus of the adherents is always on a devil, real or imagined. The difference is, their devil is a shape-shifter, taking on new forms to fit every occasion.
It’s tempting to assume that a pattern must have some causal agent, some intelligent force behind it. It is the nature of man to confuse cause and purpose. In fact, this is why efforts to oppose the Progressive war on the American culture have always failed. The defenders assumed an intelligible purpose behind the actions of the Left so they invested their time in defeating those arguments. In reality, the cause of Progressive rage was always a biological response to what the groups has determined to be a threat to the hive.
Another way the Left functions like a hive is how individual members react to being cut off, even temporarily, from the hive. A lefty in a room full of people it perceives as hostile will become very passive. Reverse the roles and put a normal person in a room full of Progressives and they will attack him relentlessly. It’s why far left TV shows have a narrow, but loyal following. It is how the isolated Progressive can connect with the other members of the hive. These TV shows are the televangelists of the Left
This is probably why the Left has become obsessed with purging dissent from the Internet. Social media now supplements the pheromones used to synchronize behavior of the group. Twitter and FaceBook are becoming neural pathways for the hive, so that far flung members can pick up cues from other members. “Trending in Twitter” is becoming a way for Progressives to know what they are suppose to like and, more important, what they are supposed to hate. Right wingers on social media scramble the signal.
Even though observed patterns may not have a central control mechanism, they must have a cause. In the case of Progressives, it is clearly something biological. Even those who manage to leave the cult, never really lose the hive mindedness. Like reformed smokers, they usually direct this instinct to criticizing their former hive mates. You never see a former Progressive activist that is now disconnected from social causes, living a quiet life alone somewhere. When Lefty leave the hive, it is to serve another queen.
Most likely, this behavior traces back to the dawn of man. A deep, emotional commitment to the group would have evolutionary advantages. Status within the group would be higher for those who were most ferocious in defending the group. Well into the agricultural age, the leader of a people was often the most celebrated warrior. Perhaps this small group instinct manifests in a organized society, as a form of social fanaticism. In all times and all places, the reformer imagines himself protecting the weak from the strong.
Fanaticism, of course, has its utility to organized societies. The Greeks figured this out when observing that warriors were most ferocious when fighting on their own land. When advancing into foreign lands, they became more conservative. A focused, controllable fanatic is very useful in warfare. Similarly, organized religions can never have a shortage of those willing to risk it all to spread the good word. More than a few zealots ended up in the cannibal’s pot, but there were always more zealots ready to convert the cannibal.
This innate hive-like behavior of some elements of Western society has obviously not been a detriment to progress. The thing is though, there has always been a transcendent set of limiting principles, operating like a leash on the fanatic. Christianity, for all its faults, puts hard limits on what people can do to one another. When that is removed, the zealots are free to attack perceived enemies without restraint. Like Africanized honeybees, utopian socialists of various types slaughtered tens of millions they saw as threats.
The key insight of Sobran was that the hive-like behavior of the American Left was not caused by socialism or radical ideology. The causal relationship was the other way around. The hive-like behavior was a constant, a part of the American biology. When the socialist paradise collapsed, the Left switched to sexual and racial utopianism. That means when the current rage heads burn what’s left of society, only to not arrive at the promised land, they will find some new fantasy to embrace. The Hive is eternal.