It's said that successful demagogues grasp more than others the fact that people when part of a group are manipulated not by reason or argument but by an appeal to emotion and the mere repetition of an easily stated proposition or better yet a claim...an utterly unsupported assertion that is known to appeal to them. It may appeal to them for various reasons. It may be something they desire to be true, it may be something for which they seek assurance, it may be something they want to do or see happen for elemental reasons.
Not surprisingly, those who are successful demagogues are also prized by those they so manipulate. They say what their audience thinks or better yet wants to think, believe or want to believe. Also, they relieve their audience from the need to think. Thinking being onerous, it's easily dispensed with, eagerly put aside. Why think when all is so clear? Why think when someone has already thought, and to your liking, on a matter important to you?
Those who manipulate come themselves to be manipulated, though, through the adulation of those they manipulate. The idol expects to be idolized. They relish it. So it becomes necessary to preserve the idea, or claim, or desire, that fosters the manipulation that causes one to be an idol.
Usually, idols fall after a time. Probably, some other idol comes along. Or it may be that once the idol provides what the idolaters seek, they lose their usefulness. There's something else to be sought and that may be provided by someone else.
Charles Foster Kane, Orson Welles' fictional stand in for William Randolph Hearst, learned this and huddled in his Xanadu while he was forgotten. It's odd, though, that those who idolize when one idol proves unnecessary or unworthy merely replace one fallen idol with another.
Did those religious who smashed icons and idols believe them to eradicated, not understanding that they merely replaced them with idols and icons of another kind? It's likely they didn't. It's likely that they simply convinced themselves that their idol wasn't an idol, not really. A bare cross was substituted for statuary. A book became sacrosanct instead of an image.
It's the same in politics and other matters. There is an unreasoning acceptance of someone or something, replaced eventually by the unreasoning acceptance of someone or something else.
This is the norm it seems in the doings of humanity, for good or ill.
Overpopulation may threaten us for more than one reason, then. It isn't just that our numbers exceed the resources available. It's that we are more and more inclined to think and act as a crowd or mob or group rather than as individuals, which is to say in a thoughtless, irrational manner. We're also more subject to manipulation because the demagogue has access to us in more ways and may more effectively communicate in manners and through methods unimaginable even to those of the 20th century.
Are we herd animals? Have we always been so, or will we become so? Who will ride the herd; who rides it now? For how long?
Idols are accepted without scrutiny. Thus we are where we are. It's hard to explain in some other fashion why we're here, watching a buffoon capering haphazardly on the world stage like a malicious, mean, petty-minded child or brat. But idols fall, and this one will return someday to his own lonely, preposterous and gaudy tower. We can hope our next choice is less scatterbrained and corrupt, hardly worthy of respect even as a villain.