Being a history buff I've questioned how much of it is revisionist, urban legend combined with a tad bit of truth. Over the course of time, leaders have come up with some good and beneficial ideas while other ideas could be put under social conditioning. Situations or group mentality proves that what passes for reality is more scary that what any movie or book could come up with.
Over the years there has been several cases where the herd mentality has triumphed over common sense and reasoning. Three examples are the trial of Jesus, witchcraft trials and the McCarthy era. A fourth one was Halloween 1938. This was when Orson Welles directed and narrated H.G. Wells novel, War of the Worlds, on radio. Apparently thousands of listeners believed there was an actual Martian invasion happening though I believe pre war tensions in Europe had a lot to do with the hysteria.
In recent times I've noticed 4 areas that involve some form of hysteria that contribute to the collective mindset. I've called them the Four Horsemen of the Modern Apocalypse. They are political rallies, sporting events, religious revivals and rock concerts. I've attended a number of the above gatherings over the years. I sit far enough away from the crowd so I can remain detached yet close enough to keep an eye on the goings on.
Political rallies, left or right, sound almost exactly alike in their speeches from the podium or chanting from the crowd. The more extreme the left or right go in the rhetoric and doings, the more they seem the same. As both sides go full circle denouncing each other I can almost vision them backing into each other.
Sporting events can bring out the best and worst of people. It's one thing to get behind the home team but chanting obscenities, soccer game riots or spitting on the "bad guys" shows an ugly aside of the human condition.
Religious revivals are interesting due to the glitz and glamour involved. Usually at the end of the service an altar call is offered where a person can come forward to accept Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Saviour. It would be interesting to fast forward a few years to see how many have kept their commitment to Jesus Christ. But when someone says or does something in the name of God how many of us stop to question whether this is the case or not. I've wondered if at times if there is some form of personal agenda on part of the speaker is wanting to be filled.
While the above groups are quite capable of putting people under a hypnotic spell, rock concerts are probably the most effective way of putting fans into a zombie like state. Repeat the same lyrics over and over with a heavy bass sound and let's see how easy it is to put a person into a catatonic state.
One can't shut themselves from all social contact in order to be "safe" from all "bad" influences. But one can be careful of where they go, who they associate with and how much they take in at any one time. How many dissenting voices are there in the above four groups? I'm not all that optimistic of the human race dropping the mental paralysis in favour of learning how to think or developing honest communication with each other. Some have learned to do this. Imagine what would happen if this happened on a world wide basis.