“Men it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly and one by one.” ~ Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1852)
In the early 19th century Charles MacKay examined how groups of people could quite spontaneously develop a communal form of self-delusion, or even madness. If one were to sit at a bar over a period of hours and observe, from the early fluctuation of post work cocktail sippers to the rowdier crowds of late night, one might see a transformation as fantastic as that of Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. The later the hour grows, the more the madness sneaks into the crowd, like a contagion passed – usually in liquid form – from one person to another. It will start out innocently enough, and the first to succumb rarely expects to as they are in the safe confines of their group of friends. But that is how the madness works, by eluding us into believing there is strength in numbers. The truth is we would have been safer drinking on our own.