Sinister frenzy flourishes due to the failure of ruling classes, ecclesiastics, politicians, educators to purge it ---- Establishment now powerless and swept along helplessly with the vengeful and resentful mob
Gordon Strong is Britain’s leading commentator on Arthurian legend and mythology. He routinely lectures on the subject in the United States and Australasia and was recently the subject of a National Geographic Discovery series. Mr Strong, who lives near Glastonbury, is also an authority on the way in which the atavistic characteristics popularly supposed to exist only in ancient myth and superstition exist today and occur all around us now but in a different form and under a different description. His particular area of applied study is in recurring mass hysteria and its causes and effects. He is the author of the just-published book Consciousness & Imagination in which he reveals the reasons founded in timeless superstition that underpin so many eerie events today. Gordon Strong (pictured) now answers Five Questions on Britain’s current bout of moral frenzy
If we look at these developments in terms of a witch hunt, then this one has been running for longer than most?
The most famous of these in relatively modern times was, of course, the events surrounding the Witches of Salem and this is worthy of note because the state governor simply put an end to the affair by decree. Now and in in this current outbreak we find that no establishment representative can come forward and say, in effect “so far- and no further,” simply because the establishment has been so closely identified with this incendiary issue and its continuation. The BBC is one such entity. It cannot take up a moderating role just because it is so closely identified with the outbreak in the case of the broadcasting entertainer Jimmy Savile. This of course then became compounded as the BBC drew in Sir Cliff Richard. Whether the BBC chairman could have been relied upon for any impartial view is a matter for conjecture. It is almost impossible to identify any inherent bias in the Corporation as the stance of the BBC continually alters, and almost arbitrarily so.
This outbreak has been an equal opportunity one with the highest in the land having been encompassed in its compounding hysteria?
Mass opinion, ‘the voice of the people,’ is always dangerous, and is so often hysterical. The once valued notion of common sense has disappeared from much of society. Being misinformed and ill-educated, few have the wit to act independently. We live in a society where the party line is upheld as the only view. This outbreak, it is true, has been remarkable for its duration and the way in which it has encompassed the entire nation and its spectrum from entertainers, through to politicians, and military leaders. That fact makes this current one so interesting from the point of view of students of myth and folklore and of course witchcraft. Let me give you an example of such an outbreak and a very recent one. It was in New Zealand in the form of the one in Christchurch which is outlined with such clarity in Lynley Hood’s work “A City Possessed.” This outbreak in terms of duration had a beginning, middle, and an end, and focussed on a clear cut situation centred on child care. It was though contained within Christchurch and did not engulf the whole nation. The fervour duration was limited to a comparatively short space of time
It is often stated by researchers such as yourself that these outbreaks in history occurred in response to some natural disaster such as a pestilence or a famine?
The nature of the God of the Old Testament as a ‘jealous’ deity may be relevant here. The desire to punish the wrongdoer is aligned to another contemporary manifestation, the blame culture. In this instance, the high profile and celebrity status of so many of those swept up in the current outbreak gives its own clue. There is an overwhelming notion that those who have received society’s greatest reward, in terms of power and appreciation, have somehow deceived them. The notion that these so-called celebrities were and are imposters, in other words. This impression has been fanned by the popular media which profits mightily from this kind of thing, even though, as we have just noted, it causes the problem in the first place by presenting the public with these false gods. That they have become fallen idols seems now almost inevitable.
So you see the British current hysteria as a modern outbreak of what has been going on since mediaeval times?
It is what has been going on since the beginning of recorded history. Something goes drastically wrong. It is only the form that changes. The implied thesis is that someone must pay the price. In the instance of the current United Kingdom outbreak one senses that politicians and their fellow media inspired celebrities have somehow reneged on their promise to make Britain a better place. People are being told that they have never had it so good. But one does not have to be a seer to comprehend that a vast proportion of the adult population is very disappointed about their lot in general. So in the gulf, the vacuum, in between what was promised either directly or implicitly and what has in fact come to pass is the need to topple these false prophets. Public figures are always vulnerable, and ironically their very prominence makes them an easy target for persecution.
Many people see the most sinister aspect of this current and sustained outbreak is that anyone can officially accuse anyone and the accused are tarred for life?
‘Operation Yewtree’, the code name for the operation to entrap the supposed wrongdoers was only partially successful. Of those arrested, only half of that number were eventually found guilty. In the light of that knowledge it all seems a questionable procedure. There was also a flagrant disregard of one of the most ancient of legal precepts, mentioned in Magna Carta. The adage referring to ‘presumption of innocence’ as well as ‘justice must not be delayed’ was ignored. This is the most chillingly atavistic element of the current situation and this does take us back to mediaeval times when this naming/shaming, as we would now call it, phenomenon began to be recorded in detail. Someone has a grudge against someone - so they are exposed. In the electronic era we have this multiplier. Some aggrieved person is able to identify someone they have never even met, but have somehow cultivated a deep antipathy toward what they represent. In former times an authority figure could, by virtue of the trust they embodied and thus the authority vested in them, call a halt to these outbreaks. But the current nominal repositories of such trust and confidence have become so diminished that they stay silent. The reason is that they know that the hysteria is beyond their control, and because they are fearful that by drawing attention to themselves they will somehow become embroiled also. I include in this category, ecclesiastics, politicians, educators, and in British terms, the ruling class.