Dilbert's Scott Adams Explains "How To Know You're In A Mass Hysteria Bubble"

Authored by Scott Adams via Dilbert blog,

History is full of examples of Mass Hysterias. They happen fairly often. The cool thing about mass hysterias is that you don’t know when you are in one. But sometimes the people who are not experiencing the mass hysteria can recognize when others are experiencing one, if they know what to look for.

I’ll teach you what to look for.

A mass hysteria happens when the public gets a wrong idea about something that has strong emotional content and it triggers cognitive dissonance that is often supported by confirmation bias. In other words, people spontaneously hallucinate a whole new (and usually crazy-sounding) reality and believe they see plenty of evidence for it. The Salem Witch Trials are the best-known example of mass hysteria. The McMartin Pre-School case and the Tulip Bulb hysteria are others. The dotcom bubble probably qualifies. We might soon learn that the Russian Collusion story was mass hysteria in hindsight. The curious lack of solid evidence for Russian collusion is a red flag. But we’ll see how that plays out.

The most visible Mass Hysteria of the moment involves the idea that the United States intentionally elected a racist President. If that statement just triggered you, it might mean you are in the Mass Hysteria bubble. The cool part is that you can’t fact-check my claim you are hallucinating if you are actually hallucinating. But you can read my description of the signs of mass hysteria and see if you check off the boxes.

If you’re in the mass hysteria, recognizing you have all the symptoms of hysteria won’t help you be aware you are in it. That’s not how hallucinations work. Instead, your hallucination will automatically rewrite itself to expel any new data that conflicts with its illusions.

But if you are not experiencing mass hysteria, you might be totally confused by the actions of the people who are. They appear to be irrational, but in ways that are hard to define. You can’t tell if they are stupid, unscrupulous, ignorant, mentally ill, emotionally unstable or what. It just looks frickin’ crazy.

The reason you can’t easily identify what-the-hell is going on in the country right now is that a powerful mass hysteria is in play.

If you see the signs after I point them out, you’re probably not in the hysteria bubble.


If you read this and do NOT see the signs, it probably means you’re trapped inside the mass hysteria bubble.

Here are some signs of mass hysteria. This is my own take on it, but I welcome you to fact-check it with experts on mass hysteria.

1. The trigger event for cognitive dissonance

On November 8th of 2016, half the country learned that everything they believed to be both true and obvious turned out to be wrong. The people who thought Trump had no chance of winning were under the impression they were smart people who understood their country, and politics, and how things work in general. When Trump won, they learned they were wrong. They were so very wrong that they reflexively (because this is how all brains work) rewrote the scripts they were seeing in their minds until it all made sense again. The wrong-about-everything crowd decided that the only way their world made sense, with their egos intact, is that either the Russians helped Trump win or there are far more racists in the country than they imagined, and he is their king. Those were the seeds of the two mass hysterias we witness today.

Trump supporters experienced no trigger event for cognitive dissonance when Trump won. Their worldview was confirmed by observed events.

2. The Ridiculousness of it 

One sign of a good mass hysteria is that it sounds bonkers to anyone who is not experiencing it. Imagine your neighbor telling you he thinks the other neighbor is a witch. Or imagine someone saying the local daycare provider is a satanic temple in disguise. Or imagine someone telling you tulip bulbs are more valuable than gold. Crazy stuff.

Compare that to the idea that our president is a Russian puppet. Or that the country accidentally elected a racist who thinks the KKK and Nazis are “fine people.” Crazy stuff.

If you think those examples don’t sound crazy – regardless of the reality – you are probably inside the mass hysteria bubble.

3. The Confirmation Bias

If you are inside the mass hysteria bubble, you probably interpreted President Trump’s initial statement on Charlottesville – which was politically imperfect to say the least – as proof-positive he is a damned racist.

If you are outside the mass hysteria bubble you might have noticed that President Trump never campaigned to be our moral leader. He presented himself as – in his own words “no angel” – with a set of skills he offered to use in the public’s interest. He was big on law and order, and equal justice under the law. But he never offered moral leadership. Voters elected him with that knowledge. Evidently, Republicans don’t depend on politicians for moral leadership. That’s probably a good call.

When the horror in Charlottesville shocked the country, citizens instinctively looked to their president for moral leadership. The president instead provided a generic law and order statement. Under pressure, he later named specific groups and disavowed the racists. He was clearly uncomfortable being our moral lighthouse. That’s probably why he never described his moral leadership as an asset when running for office. We observe that he has never been shy about any other skill he brings to the job, so it probably isn’t an accident when he avoids mentioning any ambitions for moral leadership. If he wanted us to know he would provide that service, I think he would have mentioned it by now.

If you already believed President Trump is a racist, his weak statement about Charlottesville seems like confirmation. But if you believe he never offered moral leadership, only equal treatment under the law, that’s what you saw instead. And you made up your own mind about the morality. 

The tricky part here is that any interpretation of what happened could be confirmation bias. But ask yourself which one of these versions sounds less crazy:

1. A sitting president, who is a branding expert, thought it would be a good idea to go easy on murderous Nazis as a way to improve his popularity.




2. The country elected a racist leader who is winking to the KKK and White Supremacists that they have a free pass to start a race war now.




3. A mentally unstable racist clown with conman skills (mostly just lying) eviscerated the Republican primary field and won the presidency. He keeps doing crazy, impulsive racist stuff. But for some reason, the economy is going well, jobs are looking good, North Korea blinked, ISIS is on the ropes, and the Supreme Court got a qualified judge. It was mostly luck.




4. The guy who didn’t offer to be your moral leader didn’t offer any moral leadership, just law and order, applied equally. His critics cleverly and predictably framed it as being soft on Nazis.

One of those narratives is less crazy-sounding than the others. That doesn’t mean the less-crazy one has to be true. But normal stuff happens far more often than crazy stuff. And critics will frame normal stuff as crazy whenever they get a chance.

4. The Oversized Reaction

It would be hard to overreact to a Nazi murder, or to racists marching in the streets with torches. That stuff demands a strong reaction. But if a Republican agrees with you that Nazis are the worst, and you threaten to punch that Republican for not agreeing with you exactly the right way, that might be an oversized reaction. 

5. The Insult without supporting argument

When people have actual reasons for disagreeing with you, they offer those reasons without hesitation. Strangers on social media will cheerfully check your facts, your logic, and your assumptions. But when you start seeing ad hominem attacks that offer no reasons at all, that might be a sign that people in the mass hysteria bubble don’t understand what is wrong with your point of view except that it sounds more sensible than their own. 

For the past two days I have been disavowing Nazis on Twitter. The most common response from the people who agree with me is that my comic strip sucks and I am ugly.

*  *  *

The mass hysteria signals I described here are not settled science, or anything like it. This is only my take on the topic, based on personal observation and years of experience with hypnosis and other forms of persuasion.

I present this filter on the situation as the first step in dissolving the mass hysteria. It isn’t enough, but more persuasion is coming.

If you are outside the mass hysteria bubble, you might see what I am doing in this blog as a valuable public service.


If you are inside the mass hysteria bubble, I look like a Nazi collaborator.

How do I look to you?

*  *  *

Adams wrote a book about how to persuade yourself to success. Based on reader comments, it is working. His upcoming book, Win Bigly, tells you how to persuade others. (For good.) That comes out October 31st.


Cognitive Dissonance Pure Evil Fri, 08/18/2017 - 21:33 Permalink

"Is just me or is Scott Adams suffering from his own cognitive dissonance."First Scott Adams calls me out by name and now you. This can't be coincidence, but more likely a racist Nazi plot to sully my name and destroy my character. This is vile slander and I demand your head on a pike. Nothing less than blood in the streets will suffice to assuage my confirmation bias and delusional rantings./sarc /humor <Just in case it ain't obvious.>

In reply to by Pure Evil

Zero_Ledge Cognitive Dissonance Fri, 08/18/2017 - 22:43 Permalink

"5. The Insult without supporting argument When people have actual reasons for disagreeing with you, they offer those reasons without hesitation. Strangers on social media will cheerfully check your facts, your logic, and your assumptions. But when you start seeing ad hominem attacks that offer no reasons at all, that might be a sign that people in the mass hysteria bubble don’t understand what is wrong with your point of view except that it sounds more sensible than their own. "This fits Trump perfectly, and proves that he is the one in his own mass hysteria bubble.  And HIS mass hysteria is no doubt the BIGGEST in all of history, HUGE!!!

In reply to by Cognitive Dissonance

nmewn drstrangelove73 Sat, 08/19/2017 - 06:28 Permalink

lol...I don't think he/she/it heard you, you are outside its bubble.Its sorta like when they scream that Big Brother should ban speech they disagree with as hateful speech...when what is really hateful is, screaming for Big Brother to ban speech. They put their Fascist intent on visual & audio display for the world to see and then proclaim another is a Fascist.In short, they have a mental disease ;-)

In reply to by drstrangelove73

nmewn U4 eee aaa Sat, 08/19/2017 - 07:23 Permalink

I'm not sure there is enough time left on Errrf until the sun burns out to do it...lol...to list all the acts of projection, willful ignorance & hypocrisy of the left is to try and rationalize insanity.Suffice to say (for example) one can't be anti-Big Brother while advocating for a single payer system, these two positions are in diametric opposition to each other, one of these has to be false.The cognitive dissonance helps comfort the mind but the reality is different, like the man tied to a post in front of a firing squad...those who seek cognitive dissonance for mental comfort during the event will remark at the compassion being shown toward the condemned because a blind fold was placed on his eyes, yet, no ear plugs...he hears...READY...AIM...he knows what the next word is going to be.We all know this to be true but it somehow doesn't rise to our level of awake consciousness, the foreboding of him hearing the next word, it is suppressed.Like despising the IRS...but only on Mondays & Thursdays ;-) 

In reply to by U4 eee aaa

PT Reality Creator Sat, 08/19/2017 - 01:31 Permalink

Scott Adams is a prophet.  I never thought it would get this serious (but then I don't live in the US so I can't see what you guys see directly).  5th of June 2016:"... The only downside I can see to the new approach is that it is likely to trigger a race war in the United States... "http://blog.dilbert.com/post/145456082991/my-endorsement-for-president-… (and if you think he was really endorsing Hillary then you did not read the article properly.  Read it again.  Slowly.) I don't agree with everything he says.  But if the truth comes out then usually it is me who is wrong.Oh yeah, he also takes a very softly, softly approach around the leftards.  You'll get frustrated that he pussy-foots around but I don't care.  Plenty of people attack the leftards head on.  Let them do that.  Let Scott do what he does.  A little variety does not hurt.

In reply to by Reality Creator

lucitanian PT Sat, 08/19/2017 - 07:07 Permalink

Good comment.But, I thought he missed one point which I thing is very important to the phenomenon, and that is the echo chamber effect of corporate mass media and the internet.And to me at least it is clear that these are hugely bias and mostly manipulated for narrow interests.So, the question remains in my mind; to what extent is this present mass hysteria a driven phenomenon and who's driving?(But that might just be my own bubble)

In reply to by PT

jcaz lucitanian Sat, 08/19/2017 - 08:43 Permalink

Very good point, Luc-  going along with what Scott says,  one can assume that someday we'll see reflection back to an era where our allegedly "free press" controlled and slanted content along very narrow lines, and it will be obvious then to those who clearly don't get it now....  Or not.I was just reading a story on Yahoo about Bannon leaving-  the facts in the story are just simply wrong,  so anyone with a room-temp IQ who read the article is now armed and dangerous- yes- the media IS also culpable here;  Would be interesting to hear Scott's take on this.

In reply to by lucitanian

lucitanian jcaz Sat, 08/19/2017 - 13:14 Permalink

"someday we'll see reflection back....Or not"The only day that matters is today. It's our actions today that defines our tomorrow, and we try to learn from yesterday to guide what we do today..... But,I've recently been studying the history leading to the 1st WW, as well as the history of the Korean War but without going into all the details I can say that it seems only "approved" histories have survived. There's what's taught in schools covering about 95% of the pop. and then there are the scholarly texts published by institutional writers and read by the few who are interested.Without trying to sound conspiratorial, researchers are mostly limited to government archives and media publications of the time as well as other contemporary writings or a sprinkling of private archives, which are limited. To be published its always better not to be too controversial when it comes to history. So, can we honestly reflect on our own past or the present with any coherence if the information we get from then and now is bias, with a deliberate slant if not propaganda aimed at the time at building a mass hysteria of fear or consent? Clearly "fake news" or "framed news" is not exclusively things of the present. The Lusitania was a legitimate military target carrying munitions and was certainly avoidable given the intelligence available to Britain and the US at the time. Yet, it was a key to the US's participation in WWI.If you're interested here's an article giving another perspective of that time: Hidden History: The Secret Origins of the First World War By Antony C. Black, July 19, 2017 Of the many myths that befog the modern political mind, none is so corrupting of the understanding or so in-congruent with historical fact as the notion that the wealthy and the powerful do not conspire. I think the last para of the article is what makes it very relevant to our immediate time: “That such a tiny, elite group of individuals, completely beyond democratic control, could determine the fate – and deaths – of millions should shock us. It should, but it doesn’t really. It doesn’t because we see the same phenomenon occurring now, repeatedly, before our very eyes. Indeed, the current state of ‘permanent war is, more or less, the unconscious condition of modernity itself.”So, in the absence of so many "room-temp. IQs" it is almost impossible for the masses to achieve any historical perspective and therefore the PTB have an easy task to whip them into any desired hysteria or cognitive disobedience followed by the desired "obedience".

In reply to by jcaz

PT lucitanian Sat, 08/19/2017 - 12:29 Permalink

Scott ignores a lot of facts to focus on things purely from the view point of persuasion.  This can be very frustrating for those who know (or think they know - remember his audience can be either side of any argument) the facts.  But the advantage of his approach is he gives you the distilled, pure-persuasion view point.  Not that persuasion necessarily means truth, it only means persuasion.  It's not a world view.  It's just another tool to help you try and complete your world view. 

In reply to by lucitanian

JRobby PT Sat, 08/19/2017 - 08:05 Permalink

Not hard to see that "THEY" are trying to start a race war to collapse the USA. It is now accelerating into stage 2.Stage 3 will be disastrous if we do not stop it soon. Right now we see the beginning of stage 2, the attempt to erase and re-write the history of the USA. 

In reply to by PT

lucitanian JRobby Sat, 08/19/2017 - 13:21 Permalink

Edward Bernays would be proud. So much depends on the lack of ethical, social, and moral anchors, and framing of the present context, which is so adeptly handled by "THEIR" corporate mass media.As to your Stage 2, I think if you look into it a bit more, you will find many salient parts of US history have been seriously doctored already to suit the PTB, but that's another story.Above all what is lacking is 1) Skepticism and 2) Critical thinking.

In reply to by JRobby

Reality Creator PT Sat, 08/19/2017 - 13:44 Permalink

"Likely to trigger a race war in the United States..."

You're kidding, right? The United States has been in a race war since 2014 Ferguson Missouri...no, wait, before that, 1992 Rodney King...no, wait, before that...Watts Riots...no, wait before that...the attacks against blacks in their fight to end segregation...no, wait, segregation laws were unjustified state institutionalized racism...no, wait before that, all the lynchings and the imprisonment of blacks when they were falsely accused...no, wait, before that, SLAVERY!

Dilbert is no more prophetic than the average school kid who got C's in history and could tell you about the ongoing history of racial attacks, injustice and riots that have persisted throughout the generations.

What is meant by race war if not what has been going on for so long already. You, sir are Exhibit "B" in the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

In reply to by PT

LadyMarmalade peggysue1 Sat, 08/19/2017 - 04:32 Permalink

Welcome to the club. We have jackets. Still holding out hope that Trump knows what he's doing, tho?? We voted for him because he was the opposite of any other choices. We dug the guy because he was independently wealthy (at least, not beholden to DC lobbyists to the degree that Hillary is) and we were amused by his outspoken ridiculousness. And honestly, Ted Cruz seems creepy as hell. I think we're all scratching our heads and wondering what do we do now, right?  If you watch videos of a younger Trump, he was a lot more subtle and laid back. I personally think that guy is still in there.  Ugh. Just wondering what he'll do next.  Another point I'll mention...most insanely rich people have children that behave horribly, yet all of his seem to abide by society's rules. Sigh. No telling what's happening next. Have a feeling that he's been sucked into the deep state stuff. But who knows?  This is still a guy who gets along better with taxi drivers than politicians and that should count for something right?  

In reply to by peggysue1

jcaz peggysue1 Sat, 08/19/2017 - 09:04 Permalink

peggiesue1- ah, a 4 week member of ZH....Let's try some facts with your next post, Pegster-  Bannon RESIGNED WEEKS AGO.  Show us where he got "fired".   Bannon himself came out with a clarifying statement that he's still working FOR Trump's interests,  yet somehow MSM and your ilk missed this;"Globalists"-  you mean the the one you support, Soros?   Good call.  Tell us what YOU think a "globalist" is- this should be amusing.Now fuck off-  go back to CNN and tell them what a fine job you're doing here of turning the tide.....

In reply to by peggysue1

Socratic Dog Pure Evil Fri, 08/18/2017 - 21:34 Permalink

I stopped reading at "McMartin Preschool Case as an example". Dumb fuck. You need to look at some of Dave McGowan's work, Dilbert. McMartin was very, very real, particularly for the children and their parents.


I'm seriously fucking offended by that line, Dilbert. Triggered, you might say. But when I'm triggered, I don't go cower in some safe space, I look around for a head to kick. Where the fuck you drinkin' tonight, Dilbert?

In reply to by Pure Evil

tmosley Socratic Dog Fri, 08/18/2017 - 21:39 Permalink

Wow, who would have thought that such utterly baseless insanity could indeed last for 3+ decades?So much for the hope that these people might one day come out of it, and that we could therefore just leave it alone until that day. Now we have to round them up and put them into camps.Such a pity.

In reply to by Socratic Dog

jeff montanye Cognitive Dissonance Fri, 08/18/2017 - 22:59 Permalink

as much nasty shit as goes on sub rosa, a little agnosticism is my response.  one could have both some real horror and a lot of baseless accusations, perhaps like the u.s. government (except the seemingly baseless accusations keep coming true).  whatever.those not caught in the snowflake globe have their own difficulties, speaking from experience.  we really are to believe that when confronted with an inside data theft the dnc cooked up guccifer 2.0, employed crowdstrike, refused the fbi (and later mueller) access to the email/data servers, did or did not shoot seth rich twice, did or did not kill him in the hospital under medical care and police protection, did enlist some of the fbi, cia and nsa and all of the legacy media to blame the data theft on russia and now, with the rinos, are investigating president trump with a special counsel for committing these disinformation operation non existent crimes with impeachment as the goal?and charlottesville a similar agitprop play with clandestine services dimensions and sedition on both sides of the street fight and in city hall as well?  as long as such work goes unsolved, as long as the masks stay in place, we are going to get more of them.  by deception thou shalt make war.  old mossad motto. 

In reply to by Cognitive Dissonance

VisionQuest jeff montanye Sat, 08/19/2017 - 08:25 Permalink

The Leftist fantasy of "Trump is colluding with Russia" was falling apart. So naturally, highly respected hyper-Leftist Katrina vanden Heuvel published a conclusive take-down of the Trump/Russia claim. The article "reveals" facts that have been known from the beginning. Katrina's imprimatur gave the facts a new kind of "legitimacy" and gave Leftist journo-hounds tacit permission to back off the RussiaTrump tale. The article was published in Ms vanden Huevel's NATION magazine on Wednesday, 9 August 2017.On Saturday, 12 August 2017, riot & racism break out with deadly force in Charlottesville. Big Media instantaneously spins out of Russia and into Racism without missing a beat. After nearly a year of Trump & Russia, all day, every day, the Russian fantasy dies a sudden unmourned death. Trump is no longer a Russian. Trump is now a racist.Big Corporate Media is spreading evil lies and deadly poison. Their mission is to destroy the United States of America & they don't care what it takes to achieve that destruction. Here is the article that buried the Russia Trump fantasy: https://www.thenation.com/article/a-new-report-raises-big-questions-abo…

In reply to by jeff montanye

new game Cognitive Dissonance Sat, 08/19/2017 - 06:33 Permalink

if it don't have a profit motive i'm not interested...lolsometimes pure enjoyment is NOT  making money, like doing a blog. moar lol...this blog serves that function rightly so.pure entertainment with some steam let off the brain.otherwise, just observing and making a snarky comment and tryin to be honest-moar laughter.wtf else ya gonna do? cry or laugh. my choice is laughter at the stupidity of humanity.i know damn well i'm but a red herring in the sea of life.i will never fit in and take pride in that, hopefully your lot is simular til we met in the forest... 

In reply to by Cognitive Dissonance