My book club met the other day and we had a lively discussion of Denise Winn’s book The Manipulated Mind: Brainwashing, Conditioning, and Indoctrination. Next we’ll be reading Doris Lessing’s book on this topic. That little volume (77 pages) of five essays entitled Prisons We Choose to Live Inside (1986) is a gem that deserves a whole lot more attention. Lessing (1919-2013) was an icon of feminism who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007. Youtube has posted excerpts from those speeches in which she talks about conformity and how group think operates on us. You can listen here:
Over the years, especially as Lessing became more unsettled by the noxious influences of group think and mob psychology in Western society, she became a great champion of free speech. I wrote about her in two previous blog entries: “Acclaimed Author Doris Lessing: Our Future Depends on Resisting Group Think” and “Doris Lessing on Fighting Group Think.”
I am more convinced than ever that awareness of how propaganda works on us is KEY to helping our society regain sanity and reason. As more and more students at campuses around the country shout down politically incorrect speakers — even to the point of rioting — it is clearer than ever that our very individuality is under attack.
Freedom of conscience, of speech, of association is all under attack. Radical education reforms continue to sow ignorance. They continue to intellectually kneecap students so that they are not even capable of listening to diverse points of view. Instead, students seem to have been programmed to respond reflexively and emotionally against free speech, as they did the other day at Indiana University at Bloomington when scholar Charles Murray spoke there. Watch here: https://twitter.com/idsnews/status/851924596769128448 The act is so self-destructive, it’s as though these students have been virtually programmed to shoot themselves in the head.
Let me provide an insightful quote from Lessing’s book. Whether or not you read the book, please keep this particular quote in mind:
“. . . it is always the individual, in the long run, who will set the tone, provide the real development in a society.
Looking back, I see what a great influence an individual may have, even an apparently obscure person, living a small, quiet life. It is individuals who change societies, give birth to ideas, who, standing out against tides of opinion, and change them. This is as true in open societies as it is in oppressive societies, but of course the casualty rate in the closed societies is higher. Everything that has ever happened to me has taught me to value the individual, the person who cultivates and preserves her or his own ways of thinking, who stands out against group thinking, group pressures. Or who, conforming no more than is necessary to group pressures, quietly preserves individual thinking and development. . . .
“It is my belief that an intelligent and forward-looking society would do everything possible to produce such individuals, instead of, as happens very often, suppressing them. But if governments, if cultures, don’t encourage their production, then individuals and groups can and should.”
Isn’t it interesting that political correctness is all about suppressing the voice of the individual? To force self-censorship on us? I suspect that is because the small minority of power elites have always wished to control the masses. But they realize — better than we do — that there is great power in the individual voice. So, as always, they employ group think-tactics in order to mobilize mobs to shut down conversation and friendship. We’ve no choice but to go against that hostile tide. So start your book club to help disable the propaganda machine! Even if it’s only with one other person. It’ll grow.