The interview Mattias Desmet gave to Alex Jones on his infamous Infowars channel led to controversy in the newspapers in his home country Belgium. What stood out was his claim that he himself had seen open-heart operations under hypnosis only. Desmet stated later that he had been quite confused by the circumstances of the interview and that that had caused him to make his erroneous statement. In this blog post, I shall show that this was a false excuse.
More criticism emerged after this incident, including about Desmet’s teaching. The university of Ghent even launched two investigations: one into Desmet’s scientific integrity and one into the content and quality of his lecture series. Only two weeks ago the results of these investigations were made public: the investigative committee found that there was sloppiness in the book and that it was based on outdated science. Desmet can therefore no longer prescribe the book to his students and only use parts of it after correcting the errors. However, the reports remain confidential. Desmet is contesting this judgment and refuses to admit that there are serious errors in his book.
On 15 February someone (it was actually Peter Zegers with whom I wrote the extensive book review of Desmet’s The Psychology of Totalitarianism ) pointed me to yet another interview with Desmet, now by a certain Elisa Satta on a small Italian YouTube channel; it had been published that day. This new interview seemed a bit strange. It didn’t address the controversy that had arisen after his performances on the shows of Tucker Carlson and Alex Jones. In most interviews Desmet gave later, he is quite eager to tell that he had corrected his mistake immediately, even before the newspapers started writing about it. That this is not a fair representation of how things evolved you can read in the postscript on a previous blog I wrote about this.
The EuroVox interview is not much different from the many other interviews with Desmet about his book that you can find on YouTube. But in this interview with Satta, like in the interview with Alex Jones, he explicitly tells that he saw these operations under only hypnosis with his own eyes:
A simple hypnotic procedure, I have seen it with my own eyes, a simple hypnotic procedure in a hospital is sufficient to make someone so insensitive to pain that a surgeon can cut through the skin, the flesh, even straight through the breastbone without the patient noticing it.
Was this video a repost from months ago? I couldn’t find a previous posting of it. I did however find a similar interview with the same Elisa Satta that was published in July and clearly seemed to have been recorded earlier. Therefore, it didn’t seem very logical that this “new” interview had still taken place between July and the interview with Jones in September.
So I downloaded the video, cut out the fragment where Desmet talks about hypnosis, captioned it with the name of the YouTube channel and the date of publication for reference, as I usually do, and sent out this tweet:
In retrospect, my choice of words was rather unfortunate here. I should have let my doubts about when the interview had actually taken place shine through. On the night of the 16th, I sent a tweet to Elisa Satta to ask her from which date this interview actually was, but I didn’t get a reply so far.
“Fraud, slander, defamation!”
Now the following day (yesterday,17 February) one of Desmet’s groupies published a post on Facebook in which she wrote that she had contacted Satta who stated that the interview was recorded on 1 July 2022, so before the interview with Jones. Apparently, the video had been waiting for publication on their YouTube channel, but around that time EuroVox stopped. Satta writes that on 15 February she was just going through the material on the backside of the channel to which she still had access and accidentally published it. And when she found out later that day she set the video to private. Although this seems a bit weird, I have no real reason to doubt her story. So we were just lucky to stumble on it in the ten hours or so it was publically available.
The Facebook post goes on to suggest that I had manipulated the video on purpose to suggest that it was a recent interview. Desmet shared the post on his own page accompanied by even more suggestive remarks:
So Pepijn van Erp actually edited footage of me to put me in a bad light. Many thanks to Tineke DC for this thorough piece of investigative journalism. So meanwhile, her darkest suspicion turns out to be confirmed: Pepijn himself had a hand in putting wrong dates on the interview. […] with this, a second critic has fallen through even more severely. This just shows what I already said directly to UGent, you cannot base your sanctioning of a professor on the most negative and in many ways also vulgar reviews. That is clearly demonstrated in this case.
Numerous of his followers picked this up to attack me in the comments, even suggesting slander and libel against which Desmet should file a lawsuit. Some also asked who had paid me for this smearing of Desmet.
Of course, this all only distracts from the substantive criticism of his book I published together with Peter Zegers that Desmet has not addressed for months now.
The interview does prove Desmet has problems with telling the truth
I reacted to the Facebook posts, explaining that the caption was just for reference and in no way a form of deliberate manipulation. And of course, I tweeted a correction as Twitter was the only platform I shared the video.
Here you can now see the fragment with an improved caption. Now we know the actual date of the recording, we can conclude something else, which might be even more damning for Desmet’s statement about his interview with Alex Jones. In the completely relaxed ambiance of this conversation, he is also telling that he saw such operations himself. The confusing environment of the Infowars studio had nothing to do with his ‘slip of the tongue’!
The importance of hypnosis for his theory on mass formation
Why Desmet tries so hard to keep this story on the alleged use of hypnosis for open-heart surgery afloat might seem puzzling at first. But it is an important element in the foundation of his theory. ‘Mass formation is exactly the same as hypnosis’ he repeatedly states, and therefore, if hypnosis, in reality, is not as powerful as he presents it, then logically mass formation is also not as powerful.
Philosopher Tinneke Beeckman also recognizes this in her recent column in the Belgian newspaper De Standaard:
Desmet wants to show not only that we live in a totalitarian society, but also that almost no one notices. To do so, he uses Gustave Le Bon’s mass theory, who stated that people are uncritically part of a mass. Only that theory has since become outdated. Desmet, however, maintains that part of the mass is walking around hypnotized. And a hypnotized patient can even undergo open-heart surgery without anesthesia, Desmet claims. The lie that he allegedly observed this practice himself brought him into disrepute.
The supposed power of hypnosis is crucial in Desmet’s reasoning because the mass consists of three groups: a large group of hypnotized followers; a group that sees through everything but remains silent, and a small group of critical voices. Desmet belongs to the latter. He measures himself a heroic role of resistance. Inspired by Foucault’s concept of truth, “parrhesia,” he wants to proclaim a new kind of free speech. What that means sounds esoteric. Since ultimate knowledge is outside of man, speaking must resonate with the universe. In the final chapter, then, Desmet becomes the therapist of a sick society.