Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Group Think Has Got to Go!

Students at Stanford University voted last week on a ballot proposal to reinstate the study of Western Civilization.  Whatever the outcome of the vote — and the results have been delayed, ostensibly because of a senate election that was “too close to call” — the fact that this question is being entertained at all is astonishing.  It’s a bold move.  And a victory for independent thought.

I wrote about it in my recent Federalist article “Stanford Students Fight Campus Group Think.”   After the study of Western Civilization was trashed about 30 years ago, group think was able to put down deep roots on our college campuses.  Political correctness created new enemies of thinking in the form of “trigger warnings” and “micro-aggressions.”  I don’t think this is a coincidence.  No way.

When tyrants aim to erase collective memory — by hiding or destroying the literature, arts, and history that bind a civilization together — they aim to create the conditions for conformity of thought.  All totalitarians know this.  ISIS militants, for example, are making a big point of destroying ancient artifacts, as the video below shows.

Obviously, ISIS takes a more direct approach than the cultural Marxists in the West.  But the goals are the same:  cultivate ignorance, promote group think, and destroy independent thought. It’s all about obtaining raw power.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“. . .  learning about Western culture isn’t simply about undertaking a cohesive study of the history, philosophy, literature, and arts that have enormously influenced the world in which we all live. It is also about learning how to express ideas effectively, how to separate fact from propaganda through specific tools of learningdeveloped in the West. Taking those tools away—such as the Socratic method, civil discourse, and rules of order and civil debate—hinders clarity, independent thought, and the powers of observation. It makes students far less able to resist conformity and group think.”

Bookcase: Robert Nisbet’s “The Quest for Community”

If you are trying to make sense of the seismic changes going on all around us in society, sociologist Robert Nisbet tied it all together in his classic work “The Quest for Community.”   It’s not a light read, but it is a must read for anyone who wants to understand how to maintain a free society.  It’s a prescient work, and it helped me understand where so much of the alienation and eerieness of this current election cycle has come from:  the brokenness of civil society, the continuing dissolution of strong community ties.

I find it fascinating that Nisbet was writing about the breakdown of community and alienation back in 1953.  This was half a century before Robert Putnam wrote “Bowling Alone” and 60 years before Charles Murray examined the devastating effects of family breakdown on community in his 2012 work “Coming Apart.”

As the ties that bind people together fall away — family, church, civic societies and private associations– alienation and loneliness in society grow.  But Nisbet noted that as this happens, the strong human impulse for community would remain.  We would merely grope around for a substitute.  So as social brokenness grows, people turn to the government to replace those ties.

It’s so bleak to consider all of this, because it’s happening with ever greater speed before our very eyes.  Worse, too many people cannot comprehend the irony of it all:  dependence on the mass state only leads to even greater atomization of the individual.  Even greater alienation. Is there anything cuddle-worthy in the mass bureaucratic state? Absolutely nothing.  All it can deliver is even greater loneliness.

Here’s an excerpt from Nisbet’s Preface, dated December 1952:

“The real significance of the modern State is inseparable from its successive penetrations of man’s economic, religious, kinship, and local allegiances, and its revolutionary dislocations of established centers of function and authority.  These, I believe, are the penetrations and dislocations that form the most illuminating perspective for the twentieth-century’s obsessive quest for moral certainty and social community and that make so difficult present-day problems of freedom and democracy.”

And in the preface to the 1970 edition, Nisbet noted this about youth and apathy:

“It has become steadily clearer to me that alienation is one of the determining realities of the contemporary age. . . By alienation I mean the state of mind that can find a social order remote, incomprehensible, or fraudulent; beyond real hope or desire; inviting apathy, boredom, or even hostility.  The individual not only does not feel a part of the social order; he has lost interest in being a part of it.  For a constantly enlarging number of persons, including, significantly, young persons of high school and college age, this state of alienation has become profoundly influential in both behavior and thought.”

Wow.  And that was 45 years ago!  Think about the mass cluelessness all around us today.  Think about students’ utter lack of knowledge of history, of civics, of the humanities.  Consider the lack of connection they must be feeling as they grope about, trying on all sorts of personas whether it’s a new gender identity persona or the persona of “social justice warrior.”    The divorce culture has rendered more than half of all children in today’s America the wards of broken homes.  Sure, children can be resilient.  But they so often feel broken and alienated as a result of the disruption in their ties with parents.  It takes its toll. Pathologies abound while folks scramble to find safe haven in the State.

And here’s the catch:  at the same time that the state gives  free stuff to individuals, it takes away from the individual’s personal relationships and associations.  As those relationships continue to weaken, State power grows. Let’s not forget that our families, our institutions of faith, our civic and private associations have always served as buffer zones balancing the freedom of the individual against the power of the state.  We’ve no choice but to defend and rebuild them.

What if there was an opinion cascade about pet rocks?

Availability cascade” is an academic term that basically has to do with manufacturing public opinion approval for a policy of some sort.  Any kind of policy at all.  In fact, think about how you might make an implausible idea seem plausible in public discourse, an idea no one ever even considered before.  Next, think about how to create a public opinion “cascade” in favor of that strange idea.  Availability cascades involve injecting a new idea into public discourse, which makes the idea more “available” to people to consider.  If you saturate the media with praises for the idea, and add just the right celebrity endorsements, you may well get a bandwagon effect and even get a majority to go along with it.  It can involve a lot of hype, but with political correctness it can also involve push back against those who don’t go along with the hype.

Let’s take an apolitical example of how an availability cascade might work.  In the 1970s there was a silly fad called “pet rocks.”  The pitch was that you didn’t have to feed or care for your rock, so it was the perfect pet!  Below is a youtube video that revisits the sort of narrative that would have gone with the sale of pet rocks.

Obviously, the pet rock was just a marketing gimmick and a passing fad.  The whole thing was tongue-in-cheek.  But just imagine what might have happened if anyone who called the idea of pet rocks “silly” was labelled and publicly smeared in the media as a “bigot.”  Repeatedly.  Imagine if Hollywood made films seriously praising the merits and the heroics of pet rocks and cast skeptics as villians.  Next, imagine if you could be fired from your job or socially shunned if you didn’t start talking respectfully about pet rocks and honoring them. My guess is that a lot of folks would start taking pet rocks very seriously, even if they privately found the whole thing ludicrous.  They would refrain from passing judgment.  They’d shut up about the silliness.  Or, to gain public approval, they might express great admiration, just as the crowds admired the Emperor’s non-existent New Clothes. And with a surging opinion cascade and great public acclaim for pet rocks, everyone would “ooohh and aahhh” before them, enthusiastically praising them, and giving them a special protected place in public policy.

Sure this idea seems far-fetched.  But we should consider how easy it is to get people to climb on board such a bandwagon.  Because with certain propaganda tools and insights into human behavior, it’s far too easy to do that.  Especially given a citizenry unaware of how propaganda affects them as individuals, which makes them even more vulnerable to psychological manipulation.  There are many social psychologists (virtually all on the political Left)  who study and measure the process of opinion cascades and how propaganda tactics can be used to tease out improbable trends.  (One such trend currently is the saturation of the media with agitation and propaganda to get the population on board with the transgender project.)

So an “availability cascade” is a bandwagon effect in public opinion that can be teased out through just the right propaganda and agitation techniques. More next time. . .

A Conversation with Robert Oscar Lopez on Campus Insanity

Please listen to a podcast I did with Robert Oscar Lopez, Professor of English at Cal State Northridge, by clicking here: https://soundcloud.com/militant-de-lenfant/cogwatch-13-morabito-on-the.

Professor Lopez and I discussed the current unrest on college campuses.  Why do so many students today seem unable or unwilling to engage other points of view?  Why do so many feel the need to retreat to “safe spaces” whenever they encounter a word or thought that “triggers” negative emotions?  Why are they so incoherent? So hostile? So blindly obedient to leftist agendas?  So divorced from reality?  To explore these questions, listen in!

Professor Lopez, author of Jephthah’s Daughters: Innocent Casualties in the War for Marriage ‘Equality’ has been targeted and harassed for the past several years by the LGBT lobby.  This is not only because of Lopez’s stance against same-sex marriage, but because he has a compelling story of his own:  He was raised by lesbians and identifies as bisexual.  (He may also be the object of their scorn because he has been faithfully married to the mother of his children for 15 years.)  The “diversity” bureaucrats at Cal State Northridge have worked tirelessly to concoct a case against Professor Lopez.  The video clip below will give you a brief summary of Professor Lopez’s insights:

You can also explore some of the related links on my site.  Here’s a post on the program “Bonds that Matter” that Professor Lopez hosted at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library last year. And here’s a previous podcast with Prof Lopez and me on the parallels between the LGBT lobby’s tactics and Bolshevism.  Also, here’s a brief review of mine of Jephthah’s Daughter’s.   Please order your copy from Amazon today!

 

 

A Reading List to Promote Sanity and Hack-Proof Your Mind

I offered “Ten Resources for Hack-Proofing Your Mind” in my Federalist article earlier this week, and I list them below. We need far more conversations about how political correctness – i.e., coercive thought reform – undermines our ability to think independently.  We also need to understand that when we lose the capacity to think freely, our minds become extremely vulnerable to being manipulated. On a mass scale, this is very bad for any society.

The resources below can help us inoculate ourselves against the process of extreme undue influence or brainwashing .  It’s a process that has no doubt affected the members of the death cult we call ISIS.  We can see the dangerous effects of undue influence in various other cults as well.  And we can also see that after decades of political correctness, coercive thought reform has become the order of the day on college campuses, coercing conformity among students.  In fact, any student who simply wishes to be left alone to pursue studies can end up harassed, like those who were hounded by protesters in the library at Dartmouth recently.  You can watch that incident here:

But I don’t believe those student agitators are really free agents. Their resentments have been so cultivated, and their access to diversity of thought has been so cut off, that they behave more like they have been mind-hacked by elites who have shamelessly recruited them for their own purposes.

The “safe spaces” that campus agitators demand really serve as little more than Pavlovian conditioning chambers that isolate them and guard them from exploring unofficial ideas. This way they are kept “safe” as fodder for  demagogues and propagandists.  What the students really need – what we all really need – are sane spaces where we can exchange ideas and develop friendships and goodwill.

A big part of the problem is that there has been precious little public understanding about the dynamics of coercive persuasion, and too little self-awareness about how vulnerable we all are to it.  So I’ve prepared a very select list of materials that I think are well worth exploring.  Ideally, people would consider these titles for book club discussions.  For a summary of each entry, you can go to my Federalist article:

  1. Prisons We Choose to Live Inside, ”by Doris Lessing (1986).
  2. The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashingby Joost A. M. Meerloo (1956)
  3. Cults in Our Midstby Margaret Thaler Singer (1995).
  4. The APA-Suppressed DIMPAC Report (1986)
  5. The Manipulated Mind:  Brainwashing, Conditioning, and Indoctrinationby Denise Winn (1983).
  6. Influenceby Robert B. Cialdini (1984).
  7. The Undiscovered Selfby Carl Jung (1957)
  8. We, by Yevgeniy Zamyatin (1922)
  9. NJ Safe and Sounda voluntary non-profit with the mission of educating the public about predatory alienation
  10. The Power of the Powerless,by Vaclav Havel (1978)

Militant Atheists Target an Old World War I Memorial

The Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial, or “Peace Cross.”

One of the latest targets of militant atheists is the Bladensburg World War I Veterans Memorial Cross pictured here.  In my latest Federalist article, I discuss the lawsuit filed by the American Humanist Association that demands the removal of this monument which is also known as Peace Cross.  I wrote it in anticipation of Veterans Day and I hope many in the Washington, D.C. area will attend the wreath-laying there on Wednesday. You can read my article here:  Killing the Dead:  Atheists Attack World War I Memorial.

It’s been standing there — at the crossroads of Annapolis Road, Baltimore Ave, and Bladensburg Road just outside Washington, D.C. — for 90 years. Two mothers of fallen soldiers broke ground for it back in 1922.  On a bronze plaque at the base are the names of the 49 local soldiers who lost their lives in World War I.  The monument is massive, but its size accurately and appropriately reflects the feelings of people in the aftermath of a war that was unimaginably massive and tragic (total casualities — dead and wounded, both civilian and military — was about 38 million.)

There are two basic themes in my essay: the impact of World War I and the symbolism of crosses.  World War I was a cataclysmic event in human history that really set the course for so much of the violence of the 20th century, and the violence that continues to this day all over the world. And yet WWI is woefully neglected as a subject of study both in K12 public education and in higher education.  So more than ever, we ought to preserve and respect our memorials to World War I, not tear them down!  Second, the cross is basically a symbol of self-sacrifice.  It has been recognized as a symbol of sacrifice in war memorials for a very long time.

We honor the fallen because of their self-sacrifice. If you are able to grasp that reality, then you understand the need for an effective symbol to express it. More than anything else, the Bladensburg Peace Cross is a symbol of self-sacrifice in keeping with the enormity and the calamitous history of World War I. No other symbol so efficiently communicates self-sacrifice and suffering. No other symbol serves also to signify the hope that the dead did not die in vain, that they laid down their own lives so others would live in peace and freedom.

Understanding the history and the purpose of memorials is key here. If the plaintiffs thought this through in a meaningful and sincere way, they wouldn’t be doing mental gymnastics with the First Amendment’s establishment clause in order to tear down the 90-year-old Bladensburg Peace Cross.  Obviously, they have another agenda, which is to empty the public sphere of any and all religious imagery.   In the end, this is not just a war on religion.  It’s a war on history and memory.

 

Don’t Yawn About Local Elections! They Can Result in Major Social Engineering

Last May the Fairfax County School Board — at the behest of the Obama Administration — forced a policy promoting transgenderism on parents and citizens who showed up in droves at the meeting to protest it.  This is the theme of my Federalist article today:  “Ask Not Who’s Running for President, Ask Who’s Running for School Board.” Since school boards are local and nonpartisan elections, they tend to have very low level interest and can therefore end up in the hands of organized insiders with their own agendas. In the video below, you can watch at the 1:13:50 mark as one true representative of the people, Fairfax County School Board member Elizabeth Schultz speaks before the vote.  (She’s not the one pictured in the frame.  She was the sole vote against in the 10-1 “ruling” with one abstention.)

This school board meeting illustrates just how enormous the impact of local elections is on our lives.  It’s beyond belief how little consideration people give them.  So few of us know who our local representatives are.  And yet it’s so easy to find them because they’re our neighbors!  This feeds right into my blog’s theme about the power of personal relationships.  And if we don’t watch out, local officials easily become cronies of the federal government, instead of tending to the best interests of the citizens.

Your child’s school curricula, public transportation, zoning, and “gun free zones” are just a few of the areas of local impact.  So when citizens don’t engage — or if they’re totally preoccupied with the glitz of the national stage of the presidential elections — they end up allowing less responsive officials to take over locally.  And in a one-party system, corruption finds its way in very easily.

Next week, on November 3 there will be local elections held throughout the nation.  Will any take place in your community?  If you don’t know, please find out!  Learn about your candidates and get out to the polls and vote.  And spread the word so that neighbors also go out and vote for good candidates. If you need to gather information, you can start with ballotpedia.  Here’s a link for municipal elections:  http://ballotpedia.org/United_States_municipal_elections,_2015  To get you started on finding information for school boards, here’s their page for the school board election in Fairfax County, Virginia: http://ballotpedia.org/Fairfax_County_Public_Schools,_Virginia  One of the first things it notes is that there is currently a Democrat majority of 10-2 on that Board, based on endorsements. It doesn’t have to be that way.  Though Fairfax County has been trending leftward for the past few years, it is nowhere near that lopsided in reality.

For County information you may have to dig a big deeper – into the website for your local paper or local “Patch” at patch.com perhaps.  You can also learn more about your county leadership by going to the website for the National Association of Counties.  

Here’s an excerpt from my article today:

All too often our local officials are elected by default. There is high turnout by insiders, and particularly organized get-out-the-vote efforts by teachers’ unions and others with power stakes in the local machines.

Conversely—and ironically—there is much lower turnout by ordinary citizens whose lives the elections most affect. And turnout in local elections has actually been plummeting, according to some recent research. . .

We tend not to pay attention even though many of us may intuitively understand that the decisions of our local officials have a far more direct impact on our lives than those of a federal government that can keep its distance. The trick is to keep local power local, and that means paying attention to who’s minding the store locally.

 

My Daily Caller Interview with Ginni Thomas on PC Propaganda

You can watch my interview with Ginni Thomas at Daily Caller at this link:  “Political Correctness is a manipulative tool for Centralizing Power.

If I had one  key theme I hope listeners will come away with, it is this:  Our personal  relationships are the prime target of political correctness. Full control of one-on-one  relationships has always been the aim of tyrants, throughout history.  The outlets — media,academia and Hollywood — are basically just means for capturing the big prize of controlling personal relationships.  That is why we must not allow PC to silence us.

Here’s an excerpt of the text:

“If you push an agenda to centralize power, you need mass ignorance and effective propaganda.”

Morabito says political correctness provides “a semantic fog where manipulation can occur under the guise of being fair or non-discriminatory.”

She details three tactics of the manipulation she observes. These include being subtle enough that people are not aware of the manipulation, changing our language to achieve thought control and the leverage of social isolation being used to force conformity to the elite’s narratives.

As for those who dissent from the elite’s orthodoxy or narratives, Morabito praises their courage. She mentions three positive possibilities of people who have the courage to be politically incorrect against the dominant narratives in this culture.  First, such a neighbor or friend could embolden a like-minded person who is fearful, causing a positive “ripple effect.” Second, they could influence a “fence-sitter” by nudging deeper thinking, she says. And lastly, even if the listener disagrees and rejects your point of view, you may water down the stereotype or caricature made of those who hold core American principles.

Our Gordian Knot, Part V

Ben Carson took to the streets of Harlem recently just to talk to people in his own quiet and unassuming way.

He spoke about the tragedy of lost youth and broken homes and how important it is to take a close look at the causes of problems in order to find solutions. Government dependency is not a solution, but a palliative measure that perpetuates the problems.  We should all be able to see by now that broken families are the main source of this misery. Real freedom and happiness only comes about through the sense of connection people get from strong personal relationships. And those kinds of relationships depend upon the institution of family that passes on a sense of stability and purpose to children.  Without strong families, there can be no strong communities, and people end up at sea, alienated and separated, which makes them ripe for manipulation by social experimenters.

Many shunned Carson as an “Uncle Tom,” which is exactly what we’re told to do by the dictators of political correctness.  Such propagandists never really explain the causes of poverty, preferring to claim it exists only as a result of racism, which is a very convenient way of breeding resentment, and, ironically, more poverty.  For them, family breakdown has nothing to do with anything.  (In fact, President Lyndon Johnson famously noted that his policies would “have them n—-rs voting Democratic for the next two hundred years.”)

However, Dr. Carson was able to connect with those who were able to listen. When we speak one-on-one and face-to-face with others, we bypass the noise of media technology.    It was this flesh-and-blood connection that caused others in Harlem to tell Carson “We love you.”  One said: “I’m a lifelong Democrat. I love you.” In fact, a lot of folks in this polarized society will always assume the “other side” is the enemy, until someone they identify with puts a human face on the Truth they’ve always known in their hearts.

Most of the battle is just about showing up.  Dr. Carson showed up with goodwill and outreach that has the power to slice through the tangle of misperceptions and resentment people develop when they are polarized and isolated from other identity groups of human beings.

I’m glad Dr. Carson continues to offer prescriptions, including yesterday’s op-ed in USA Today.

Years ago, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Jack Kemp reached out and made some inroads with the philosophy that “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  But his policies went by the wayside except for a few other enterprising folks like Bob Woodson who heads the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise.

Ultimately, it’s up to each one of us as individuals to resurrect such efforts and to cut through the cultural mess we are in.   This is a battle that is going to have to be fought one on one, in our personal lives — through conversations in the “hidden sphere.”

Our Gordian Knot, Part IV

A panel at the FDR memorial in Washington, D. C.

In summary, the Gordian Knot of totalitarianism contains at least three essential ingredients:  family breakdown, censorship, and ignorance.

Family breakdown leads to community breakdown, and that leads to a sense of alienation and dependency.  That, in turn, results in the sort of unrest we’ve recently seen in places like Ferguson and Baltimore.

Censorship is inherent in political correctness, but it’s coming down the pike full force if Congress enacts the Orwellian-named “Equality Act.”  The purpose of censorship of that sort is to inhibit communication among individuals and therefore obstruct autonomous personal relationships.  It sows distrust and fear and helps build a surveillance state.

Ignorance is cultivated first through the erosion of family bonds and community bonds because this separation destabilizes a person’s sense of self and makes it difficult to connect the dots about reality in the world around us.  It gets worse as the forces of this destabilization promote more ignorance by throwing knowledge of the historical record down the memory hole.  At that stage of ignorance, fewer and fewer have a clue as to how propaganda works or how we are being manipulated.

At the end of the day, in such a regime only a small clique of rulers dictate who may say what to whom and who may relate to whom.  As described in the panel illustrated at the FDR Memorial pictured here, these are folks who “seek to establish a system of government based on the regimentation of all human beings by a handful of individual rulers.”

Unfortunately, that’s the goal of the agendas that are built into this Gordian Knot:  control of all personal relationships.  Those who are working to build this dystopia might call it a “new order.”  They might call it a “transformation.”  They can call it whatever they like.  But it is definitely not new and definitely not an order.  It’s just an ancient  divide-and-conquer scheme based on the sin of human pride and power mongering.  “Order” turns out to be something like the inner workings of a clock in which people are simply cogs in a machine and there is no way out.

It’s same old, same old.  And history has shown that it never ends well.  We can only slice through it from the bottom up.  Through individuals who share their knowledge of the truth, speaking in trust and developing real friendship with others.  This creates just the sort of ripple effect that family breakdown and censorship and ignorance are meant to prevent.  It creates the ripple effect that can free us.  Self-cocooning with like-minded folks is a trap.  There is no media or pop culture or academia to help out with this.  Those forces are currently all tied up in the Gordian Knot. It’s now an asymmetric war in which we must all invest in the ripple effect of one-on-one communication.