Infected by Ideology
December 11, 2016 8:53 AM   Subscribe

The struggle session at the beginning of The Three-Body Problem was fascinating. What are some books, etc. exploring the general concept of ideology driving an entire society to madness?

It doesn’t necessarily have to be about the Cultural Revolution or even be nonfiction (here I’m thinking something along the lines of Dostoevsky’s The Demons/The Possessed). I'm looking for books, movies, etc. that explore the notion of ideological “infection” – there must be a good one on the French Revolution somewhere?
posted by Ndwright to Society & Culture (7 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
It may be too literal an interpretation for you, but the spread of a "language virus" is a major part of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash.
posted by telegraph at 9:01 AM on December 11, 2016

Pontypool is very much about that idea. An abrasive radio host is trapped in his studio in a rural Ontario town as the whole place goes crazy with a linguistically transmitted virus.

In terms of non-fiction Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds might fit as well. It's a journalistic account of a number of mass movements grounded in hysteria and irrationality.
posted by codacorolla at 9:13 AM on December 11, 2016

There are memetically contagious suicides -- e.g. the Young Werther suicides, but I believe it happens regularly. Wertherism was the extreme case of the wider Romantic ideology.
posted by clew at 12:13 PM on December 11, 2016

Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak has some of this, e.g. mentions of radio speeches that called Tutsis cockroaches, dehumanizing them and laying the groundwork for genocide.
posted by Wobbuffet at 12:20 PM on December 11, 2016

Just to clarify, I'm looking specifically for ideology/ideas, not language-virus stuff like Pontypool/Snow Crash (though if you like linguistic science fiction, China Mieville's Embassytown is superb).
posted by Ndwright at 2:09 PM on December 11, 2016

Does out have to be madness on the part of the dominant class, or are movements OK? Because I want to suggest The Wave.
posted by rhizome at 3:53 PM on December 11, 2016

I'm currently reading Daniel Pick's Faces of Degeneration: A European Disorder, c. 1848–c. 1918 (1989) and finding it fascinating and disturbing. It's about the spread of ideas of cultural and racial decline and decadence in late nineteenth-century Europe, and how these ideas influenced everything from policing to literature to politics.
posted by Sonny Jim at 3:31 AM on December 12, 2016

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