The Mental Health Crisis and Swarm Governance

By Forrest Robinson

“In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”

– Desiderius Erasmus

After beating Covid-19, attention is shifting toward the next public health epidemic—the mental health crisis. Read any mainstream newspaper, and you’ll inevitably come across articles talking about high suicide rates, depression, increased anxiety levels, etc. Much of this mental distress, so evident now, can be attributed to pandemic policies, and the social unrest they caused. Before the 2020 pandemic, public health officials were aware of the harm lockdowns might cause, but they were enforced regardless. This carelessness should be a warning sign for what’s to come, as we approach this new outbreak of mental disorders. The future remains to be seen, but the pandemic and its consequences might offer us a glimpse into what lies ahead. 

During the pandemic, our elites laid the foundation for a new form of political control—swarm governance. Benjamin Bratton, who has done his best at articulating this idea, argues in his book, Revenge of the Real, that governance is the ability of a society to become aware of problems as they occur, and to produce models that might offer solutions. Societal awareness of problems requires a “sensing layer” — ubiquitous technologies and institutions that function like nerves within the body-politic. During the pandemic, testing and tracing were the societal nerves that helped us detect Covid, that were used to help ‘stop the spread’. These methods of detection enabled us to sense what was occurring on both a granular and holistic level. 

Do we have a sensing layer that can produce models of one’s mind, which can detect mental health problems as they occur in real-time? The government already utilizes predict­ive poli­cing — the utilization of computer systems to analyze large sets of data, includ­ing histor­ical crime data, to decide where to deploy police, and to help identify indi­vidu­als likely to commit a crime. What other techniques might be used to predict human behavior in the future? 

Smart technologies offer tech companies a plentitude of data, which can then be used to create psychological profiles of our mental states. In Daniel Barron’s book, Reading Our Minds: The Rise of Big Data Psychiatry, he discusses the way in which machine intelligence can benefit clinical analysis. In one study, for example, it was found “that relative to self-reported measures of suicide risk, Google search data was better at estimating the number of completed suicide deaths over a two-year period.”

Can algorithms forecast an individual’s emotional baseline by mining social media for health data? The answer is yes. According to another study, published in the British Medical Journal, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania looked at over 400 million tweets from users in Pennsylvania. Within this sample of tweets, it was discovered that “nearly 26,000 users (with 46 million tweets) had at least one post with the word lonely or alone.” The twitter-users who posted about loneliness, it was found, “had an extremely high association with anger, depression, and anxiety, when compared to the non-lonely group.”

Will we ever arrive at a point where syndromic surveillance automates away psychiatry? Does our behavioral exhaust, or data, say more about our minds than our own words? Before answering this, it’s important to define what mental illness is exactly. The introduction of psychopharmacological drugs in the 60’s, and the maturation of the brain sciences, led many to the conclusion that most problems of living can be attributed to physicochemical processes. The assumption is often made, nowadays, that mentally ill patients have a neurological defect with an identifiable basis in the brain. Is this true?

What is mental illness? 

“Mental illness”, as Thomas szasz once said, “is not literally a ‘thing’—or physical object—and hence it can ‘exist’ only in the same sort of way in which other theoretical concepts exist.” In other words, mental illnesses are useful heuristics, theories of human behavior, that are conflated with diagnosable physical diseases. This is done, as J.D. Haltigan writes, to “accommodate grant-making bodies, journal reviewers and editors, and to guide treatment and eligibility for insurance reimbursement.” 

Interestingly, a detailed analysis of the 5 key chapters in the DSM-5  on schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, and trauma-related disorders concluded that diagnostic labels are “scientifically meaningless.” Diagnostic categories are so broad, with so many symptoms, that basically any behavior can be pathologized in some shape or form. In another study, it was calculated that in the DSM-5, “there are 270 million combinations of symptoms that would meet the criteria for both PTSD and major depressive disorder, and when five other commonly made diagnoses are seen alongside these two, this figure rises to one quintillion symptom combinations – more than the number of stars in the Milky Way.” 

It should be pointed out that, until 1980—nearly 140 years after the creation of the APA, and 28 years after the first DSM was published—there was no formal definition for what constitutes a mental disorder. Today, the DSM-5 defines a mental disorder as a “syndrome characterized by clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotion regulation, or behavior that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological, or development processes underlying mental functioning.” Notice that the DSM locates mental disorders as a phenomenon that occurs  within “an individual ”, thereby dispelling the notion that disorders are a product of one’s environment, or harmful medical interventions. 

Dr. Bruce Alexander’s Rat Park experiment illustrates that addiction, for example, is environmental in origin. It isn’t a disease, per se, but a choice—one that is shaped by our settings. In Bruce’s experiment, rats were placed in a cage, all alone, with no other community of rats, and offered two water bottles—one filled with water and the other with heroin or cocaine—the rats would repetitively drink from the drug-laced bottles until they overdosed and died. Bruce wondered whether the setting or the drug itself were to blame for the rat’s addictive behavior, so he set up “rat parks,” where rats were free to roam and play, to socialize, and have sex. Fascinatingly, the free rats had access to the same drug-laced water but never chose to drink it. They had freedom, intimacy, and social connection — three things that make life fulfilling, all of which are lacking in today’s modern world. Addiction is a lonely disease. Opioid use disorder, for example, is “associated with feelings of social isolation, an increased risk of suicide and, at the community level, lower social capital.”

These studies show that the privatization of stress distracts from the real causes of our internal pains. Raising more awareness of mental health, and potential treatments, will do little to fix the crisis. If that were the case, we’d be seeing mental disorders being treated, but with each day that passes, more-and-more people are being diagnosed with mental illnesses. Looking at the evidence, it’s clear that mental health problems are on the rise. As one study puts it, “despite dramatic increases in the treatment of some mental disorders, there has been no decrease in the prevalence of most mental disorders since accurate record keeping began.” 

How is a physical disease different from a psychosomatic one? Degenerative eye diseases, like Retinitis Pigmentosa, can be detected through a comprehensive dilated eye exam. The disease literally exists in one’s body, can be objectively observed, and is oftentimes genetically inherited. A person’s beliefs about his/herself, by contrast, cannot be explained except through language and culture. Mental disorders like Schizophrenia may cross cultural boundaries, some may argue that it even has a genetic basis. Still, evidence for its objective existence is inconclusive. For example, with schizophrenia, one-third of patients will make a complete recovery. In fact, there is no consensus for what constitutes schizophrenua. In 2008, a group of researchers launched a study designed to identify and critically assess all “facts” about schizophrenia. 77 candidate facts were identified. Each fact was graded on a 0-3 scale of reproducibility, relevant to understanding the disease, and its durability. What was the result? Some facts turned out to be more robust than others, but none got full marks. Even the most robust individual facts pointed in a range of different directions; they did not lead to a logically coherent explanation of schizophrenia.

A mental illness is caught by word of mouth. A psychiatrist arrives at a diagnosis based on his knowledge of the patient’s emotional baseline, or how they normally behave. This emotional baseline is identified through clinical sessions with the patient, where he/she provides a personal account of their past, and social interactions. When the patient presents new evidence to suggest he or she is behaving abnormally, the psychiatrist arrives at a conclusion for what the cause of the patient’s dysfunction is.

Identifying mental disorders throughout this process requires that the “natural functioning of mental mechanisms be known before claims of dysfunction are made.” The problem with identifying disorders is that we don’t understand what constitutes ‘normal functioning of our mental mechanisms’. Our personal accounts will always be fallible, since our autobiographical memory is subject to distortion. Furthermore, Modern science seems to suggest that people are notoriously inconsistent reporters about their own mental health history. When a diagnosis is contingent upon the patient’s reports of his/her past, the real causes of our dysfunction can get lost in translation, as we try to explain ourselves to the clinician. 

The boundaries drawn between normal and dysfunctional behavior are basically arbitrary. Whether you have a mental disorder or not, ultimately depends on whichever psychiatrist you decide to see. They will all have a different opinion as to why you are dysfunctional. In one study, created to test diagnostic reliability, a group of clinicians viewed nearly 600 prospective patients. The objective of the study was to determine whether clinicians who saw the same client would agree on which diagnosis, if any, was appropriate. One would expect the diagnostic agreement would be considerably lower in a normal setting, without the added benefit of having a research team that trains and supervises the clinicians. As Herb Kuchin’s writes, however, “the kappa values (the statistical measures of reliability) were not that different from those statistics achieved in the 50’s and 60’s—and in some cases were worse.” In other words, it’s really one man’s word against another. Psychiatrists can’t distinguish illness from everyday  behavior since symptoms like anxiety, for example, are distributed normally across the population. 

When we visit a therapist, or psychiatrist, oftentimes we are unconsciously striving for recognition, and legitimization of our internal distress. We don’t understand what is causing our problems, so we want a professional to give us an objective explanation as to why we are in pain. Usually, though, feelings of sadness, or depressive episodes, stem from temporary events within one’s life, like the death of a family member or a job loss. As a corollary to this, the recovery rate for mental illnesses is around 65%. 

Diagnostic categories aren’t arrived at through scientific research, so much as they are shaped by political changes and economic forces. For example, in the 1970’s, the APA voted homosexuality out of the DSM. This resolution wasn’t arrived at because of new research. Rather, it was a response to political pressure from homosexual activists within the organization itself. The psychiatric industry is also a business dominated by Big Pharma, who control the knowledge pipeline via ghostwriting scientific papers, funding randomized control studies, rewarding academics that publish favorable studies, etc. Consensus building is hard enough in the natural science’s (due to a replication crisis, an antiquated peer-review process, and a publish-or-perish mentality). What we’ve seen with evidence-based medicine is that negative trials are repressed, journal editors are bribed, outcomes are rigged, etc. All of these things affect treatment plans for patients that are diagnosed with a mental illness by a psychiatrist.

As the opinions of doctors for what constitutes a “real” disease change over time due to theory, practice, and cultural shifts—like the ones mentioned above—the symptoms that patients present will change too. The codification of certain disorders have, interestingly, oftentimes led to the sudden appearance of symptoms within the general population. This is what happened with anorexia nervosa in the 18th century, as it evolved from hysteria into the condition we now know today. In the 1850s self-starvation was a rare symptom of hysteria, but by the end of the century—when anorexia entered the popular consciousness—the medical literature was littered with references to full-blown anorexics. 

Covid-19 and the future of Swarm Governance

Now, instead of doctors, it is the media-industrial-complex that shapes our symptom pools — our culture’s collective memory for how to behave when ill. One need only think back to 2020 to see why this was, and is, the case. During the pandemic, China and western governments deployed fear campaigns to drive consent for draconian policies, like vaccine mandates and lockdowns. The health hysteria we saw during 2020 bordered on insanity — it was a form of what Robbert Mallone called “mass-formation psychosis.” As a result of these campaigns, playgrounds were taped up and shut down; still-sick patients were tossed out of hospital beds and sent back to nursing homes; states imposed Covid-curfews; the elderly were put on medical ventilators; schools were shutdown; and small-businesses were forced to close. 

Covid-19 wasn’t just a pandemic — it created a social contagion that ate away at the social fabric. Evidently, many disorders, including depressive symptoms, disordered eating, and aggression, can also be attributed to peer contagion. In addition, the proliferation of mental illnesses like Tourette’s and rapid-onset gender dysphoria in young teens, can be blamed on apps like TikTok, Twitch, and Tumblr. While not social contagions per se, other disorders, like depression and PTSD, might also be environmental in origin, or diseases of modernity.

This begs the question: if the media can manufacture mass-sociogenic illnesses out of thin air, like Long-Covid, what makes us think syndromic surveillance will help solve the mental health crisis? Big Pharma and Big Tech are creating the very mental illnesses they are seeking to understand. Who’s to say our data won’t be used to modify future behaviors, to create outcomes which are favorable to profiteering companies like Google and Facebook? As Shoshanna Zuboff analyzes in her book, Surveillance Capitalism, the goal of these companies is to harvest data that can predict, and mold, consumer behavior. Social media companies, for example, have an incentive to get us addicted to their products, and they are doing just that.

In light of the rise of Big Tech psychiatry, it’s important to look at how these companies shape our behavior. These know more about us than we do, but only because they engineer contexts that limit our range of choices, reducing us to rats in a maze that are made to do x or y.  As one internet-of-things software developer puts it:

“Context-aware data allow us to tie together your emotions, your cognitive functions, your vital signs, etc. We can know if you shouldn’t be driving, and we can just shut your car down. We can tell the fridge, “Hey, lock up because he shouldn’t be eating,” or we tell the TV to shut off and make you get some sleep, or the chair to start shaking because you shouldn’t be sitting so long, or the faucet to turn on because you need to drink more water.” 

The goal of the infamous “Great Reset” is to create digital identities—profiles of one’s unconscious self–which can then be used to orchestrate human behavior from afar. Going forward, our digital identities will be linked to every click, comment, and share we make on social media; what we buy and sell; how much energy we consume; who we vote for, etc. This behavioral data will then determine what products, services, and information we have access to. Furthermore, the aim of all these initiatives is to construct a sensing layer—a digital panopticon—that can detect climatological changes, behavioral trends, and pandemic outbreaks as they occur in real-time. In the not-so-distant future, swarm governance will be imposed via smart cities, microchips, nanotechnologies (Neuralink), Digital pills with embedded sensors, clothing with temperature monitoring, smart watches, etc. All of these technologies will be used to gather our data, and to steer our behavior in the same direction—thereby making future outcomes certain for both experts and Big Tech companies.  

Will this work, though? In countries like China, where Swarm Governance has become the norm, human rights are violated daily. As Mary Hungtinton writes, in China, “citizens burn to death inside buildings they can’t escape because of lockdown confinement and must engage with the “sensing layer” – which is to say, take a PCR test at their own expense – every forty-eight hours in order to use public transport, go shopping, or go to work.” As another article reveals, “china’s ‘social credit’ system ranks citizens and punishes them with throttled internet speeds and flight bans if the Communist Party deems them untrustworthy.” If it isn’t already obvious, the ‘sensing layer’ will not lead to increased awareness of societal problems — it’ll only mask them, or downright force individuals into submission.

Benjamin Button argued that the pandemic was a revenge of the real. As he says, “the pandemic is an irruptive revelation of the complex biological reality of the planet with which we are entangled.” Our subjective beliefs aside, Covid-19 revealed that we are all potential contagion vectors, “objects in a cause-and-effect relationship with the world.” Button’s solution of creating a sensing layer, over-and-above our own, in my view, would only lead to the destruction of reality itself. If we all became quantified selves, mere lines of code on a computer, wouldn’t this blur the line between reality and fiction? Imagine a matrix-like world where you couldn’t differentiate a Deep-Fake video from a real one, where artificially intelligent beings perfectly mimiced human behavior, etc. How would you know if each choice you made was your’s, or not just some conditioned response to an external stimulus? Swarm governance resembles the centralized Soviet system of production and distribution, only this time it is digitalized and privatized. dataism, as it’s sometimes called, is a form of totalitarian control with no precedent in human history.

In order to understand the future of swarm governance, it’s important to look at what totalitarianism traditionally meant in the 20th century. As Byung Chul Han writes in Infocracy

“An important characteristic of classic totalitarianism, as a secular political religion, is that it makes a ‘claim to total explanation’. Its ideology provides a narrative that ‘promises to explain all historical happenings, the total explanation of the past, the total knowledge of the present, and the reliable prediction of the future . . . With totalitarianism, we bid farewell to the reality given to us by our five senses.”

Totalitarian systems construct a sixth sense, one that is infused with the will of the state itself. A society shaped entirely by data, by contrast, will have no second reality behind the one given to us by our senses. It will be driven not by narration, but by algorithmic operations, operations that coldly analyze our behavior without the added religious fervor. Ideologies like Nazism or Communism replaced sensory information—individual knowledge—with state-propaganda, blurring reality with fiction. Dataist regimes outsource the propagandic function to us, to its users. In a datafied society, we will all become isolated nobodies, not because we were told to, or forced to, but because we chose this world. As Byung Chul Han writes in Psychopolitics, “today, everyone is an auto-exploiting laborer in his or her own enterprise. People are now master and slave in one. Even class struggle has transformed into an inner struggle against oneself.”

With A.I. technology developing at a such a rapid pace, soon we will have no choice over whether we want to exist in the natural world or the digital one, since both realms will coalesce. Man and machine, nature and the internet, will merge as one. In a 2022 Expert Survey on Progress in AI, conducted with 738 experts who published at the 2021 NIPS and ICML conferences, “AI experts estimated that there’s a 50% chance high-level machine intelligence will occur until 2059.” Soon A.I will acquire general intelligence, and governance will be determined soley by algorithmic operations. This will result in what Jean Baudrillard called the “perfect crime”. All of our acts and all events will dissipate into pure information. When this occurs, reality will implode, “leaving no trace, not even the sign of its end.” As Baudrillard hauntingly warned, “in the shroud of the virtual, the corpse of the real is gone.” 

The pandemic, and our response to it, wasn’t a revenge of the real, as Button argues in his book. Rather, it was the return of illusion, of propaganda disguised as fact. Now states are doing everything in their power to prevent you from recognizing this. Both the public and private sector are aware that the control of information determines how we view reality. That is why such a strong effort is made by Government agencies and Big Tech to punish political dissidents by tracking digital footprints; it’s why companies like Youtube engage in mass-censorship in order to stop the spread of ‘misinformation’’; it’s why bank accounts are even being frozen to prevent protests against vaccine-mandates; it’s why a constellation of public/private entities, from NATO to state-department funded NGO’s, are there at the ready to attack free speech. They want to shape everything that you see, everything that you feel, and most of all — they want to shape how you view yourself. 

During the pandemic, virologists and politicians adopted an ‘ethic of objects’. Each person was identified with their body as a potential contagion vector. Fear took control of the social body. This is why we consented to all the draconian measures imposed from above. We complied, and took an experimental vaccine; we complied, and covered our faces with masks; we complied, and distanced ourselves from others. Globally, A state of exception was declared, and life became ‘bare’ — stripped of all purpose. Survival turned out to be our society’s top priority, as we all huddled in our homes in an attempt to ‘stop the spread’. 

The mental health crisis will be handled using the same ethic of objects, only this time it won’t go for the body — it will attack the mind. A viral threat to one’s body can be understood, somewhat, through scientific consensus; we’ve sequenced the human genome, we know what a virus is, how they behave, and ways in which we can target them. Once the virus disappears, it is thought, the state of emergency will end. Locating a disease within one’s mind, on the other hand, is any man’s game, regardless of your credentials. This makes the new crisis all-the-more dangerous, since a threat as abstract as mental illness can exist anywhere there are people, and persist so long as those people suffer, which is, in itself, a fact of life. 

12 Comments Add yours

  1. Nemo says:

    Save for the simple task of giving anti-psychotics to schizophrenics, psychiatry is an entire religion’s worth of sophistry, complete with the Eucharist as anti-depressants. There may not be a more useless group of people on this planet. Even crack addicts manage to return aluminum cans and cut scrap out of disused buildings.


  2. Eric says:

    Reblogged this on Calculus of Decay .


  3. bert33 says:

    how much of psychiatry is just lies and B.S.


  4. yr says:

    After beating covid. Blah blah blah
    There ain’t no test
    There ain’t no cure
    You need a booster fool


  5. Joe says:

    I grew up in reality (70s,80s)
    Got married young.
    Since early 90s my wife and I have seen the steady deliberate disintegration of humanity.
    Like birds human beings are built to find mates and pair off and have and raise children.
    This sane steady behavior known as “growing up” is what created our entire civilization.
    But now the media- like a dangerous voice in a schizos head – has conned young people to not do this anymore.

    There is no healthy alternative to growing up in the same way as there is no healthy alternative to learning how to read or exercising.

    The media conning young people into thinking that being single is the same thing as being married is the same as if they conned people to think being illiterate is just as good as being literate or that being a fat unhealthy slob is just as good as being healthy and attractive.


  6. Red says:

    “Much of this mental distress, so evident now, can be attributed to pandemic policies, and the social unrest they caused.”

    This is nonsense. This problem is caused by transitions for toddlers, men competing in women’s sports, no borders, CRT, ESG, drag shows for kids, high crime rates, high inflation, human trafficking, drug epidemic, Satan worship at Grammy’s, “Chernobyl” at East Palestine, OH, supply chain crisis, Chinese spy balloon, Afghanistan, “white supremacy”, LBGTQ, dangerous and ineffective “vaccines” for a non existent pandemic, SADS, unbridled abortions, shall I go on? Basically, everything we learned growing up and believe in is under an unbridled assault by the O’Biden regime. That would cause mental distress don’t you think?


    1. Zarathustra's Eagle says:

      Might I suggest something?


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