He whose honor depends on the opinion of the mob must day by day strive with the greatest anxiety, act and scheme in order to retain his reputation. For the mob is varied and inconstant, and therefore if a reputation is not carefully preserved it dies quickly.

NameBenedict (Baruch) Spinoza
Life1632 - 1677
Freedom for whom? Spinoza points to a weakness of Locke's democracy. The relation between the thinking individual and the emotional masses has a long history. Socrates had to drink hemlock. Jesus was crucified. Giordano Bruno, whom Spinoza had carefully studied, was burned at the stake. Spinoza himself was a most acute observer of his corrupted time. For that, he was mentally crucified. As he had questioned the conventional wisdom of his group, the leaders of the Jewish community in Amsterdam, on July 27th, 1656, gave the following command to its members: that "nobody shall have oral or written communications with him, that nobody shall help him, that nobody may come closer to him than four steps and that nobody may read anything published by him." This was the sentence of a so-called elite. One is reminded of the famous statement in chapter XVIII of Machiavelli's Il Principe, that, "in the world there is nothing but the mob". What were the dangerous thoughts for which Spinoza suffered excommunication from his group? You'll find them in his famous Ethica, Ordine Geometrico demonstrata, published after his death in 1677, and Treatise on Political Theology, the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, which was published - anonymously, of course - in 1670. The governors of the State, Spinoza said, are not omnipotent and God-like. The State does not exist for the rich and powerful. The State exists to provide justice, wisdom and tolerance for its many citizens. He defends liberty of thought and speech. He advocates
a separation between philosophy and religion, abhorrent to believers of the Torah or the Koran. He defended the natural rights school or, as we would say today, the "human rights" of all individuals against any ruling mob of any State. For this he was hounded. Don't we need to still to be reminded of Spinoza's penetrating insights? Is it not more valuable than ever in a society where "the opinion of the mob" has been taken over by the manipulated and manipulating God of mass media? In which life's meaning is to be seen for fifteen minutes. More often than we do, we should perhaps look not only at the strength, but also at the weakness of our democracies. The few who carefully observe, think and judge for themselves now tend to withdraw from the vulgar sex-and-violence-dominated public debate. Those who are seen in the media believe they matter greatly when, in fact, they are manipulated by the few who are not seen but who own the media and thereby can appoint those who decide who will be seen in the media. Even the owners form, as Machiavelli pointed out, a mob. They are mainly interested in publicity for selling their new gadgets or the "right" political opinions. They also scrutinize political candidates and provide them with the money and publicity necessary to win elections. In the mass media society, those who are seen as democratic rulers "must day by day strive with the greatest anxiety, act and scheme in order to retain"...the electoral favor of "the mob". Those who are not much seen are the powerful owners behind the screen. Those who dare to question that mob's wisdom are regularly treated by the media like Spinoza was in 1656.