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.

Our Gordian Knot, Part III

Ostriches acting like a lot of people these days. (Hey, maybe we can  try talking to the one on the Left? He probably doesn’t even know he’s on the Left.)

Sometimes it feels as though we’re living in a tangled maze-like machine with a thousand moving parts. If we focus on any given issue, any particular moving part, we lose lose sight of the big picture.  Sometimes we deliberately ignore the big picture. Sometimes we just can’t see it.  And, yet, other times the big picture might seem so daunting and scary we put our heads in the sand, like the ostriches in the photo here.

But it’s critical we step back and assess this machine in its entirety.  What is its fuel?? What does it  feed on?  In a word, dysfunctional relationships  — and especially the declining ability of  people to relate to one another as human beings equally deserving of human dignity. We can see this in the hype that directs us to view ourselves as members of select identity groups or only as a part of an activist community.  Only certain lives matter in this scenario. We’re all being pigeon-holed based on what we look like or where  we come from. We’re being driven apart.  Polarized. Atomized. This sort of polarization is pure poison for happy and healthy human relationships.

And that’s the  big picture we all need to step back and see.

What causes people to paint themselves into such corners? I think people get sucked into this trap for a variety of reasons, but the trap cannot be laid without two essential ingredients:  ignorance and enforced silencing.  Cultivated ignorance and enforced silencing is the fuel of dysfunctional relationships that feed this machine.

Ignorance

Ignorance disables a person’s ability to think deeply and independently about an issue, and even about themselves and their own motives. Family breakdown is a huge contributor to ignorance because it separates children emotionally and often physically  from their first teachers about  the world around them  — their parents.   Sadly, our public schools and universities have been cultivating ignorance for decades.  This happens not only through dumbed down curricula, but also through enforcement of conformity through a regime of political correctness.

Enforced Silencing Kneecaps Relationships

Let’s  never forget that  when you cut off communication, you cut off the potential for human relationships. While practical ignorance undermines the ability to think clearly and discern manipulations, political correctness cultivates the fear of being ridiculed and isolated for speaking logically about anything.  PC cultivates ignorance by preventing people from hearing anyone share insights on a non-PC view. It encourages them to smear the “other” and prevents them from seeing such people as human.  School curricula also rely more and more on the raw emotion of students in “thinking” about things.  (You have Bill Ayers to thank for th at.) Popular culture is steeped in blindness to reason. And, in the end, an ignorant person is a dependent person and great fodder for mass mobilization and a culture of grievance, spite, and anger.

I think if we could bring this picture into focus, people would be better equipped to slice through the overall problem and see the humanity in others.

Our Gordian Knot

“Alexander Cuts the Gordian Knot” by Jean-Simone Berthelemy, 18th c.

A complex problem is sometimes referred to as a Gordian Knot. You may know the Greek legend or myth in which an oracle prophesied that anyone who could undo the complex and intricate knot tied by King Gordius of Phrygia would rule all of Asia.   Many tried and failed.  But when Alexander the Great was confronted with it, he didn’t bother with convention.  Legend has it that he stepped back and just sliced right through the knot with his sword. We sometimes call this kind of solution “thinking outside the box.”

I ponder this story as I consider how crazy and complicated our modern problems have become.

In my teen years at school we used to refer to the news as “current events.”  Homework sometimes included looking at a newspaper or a network news program.  Then there’d be a report to the class.

Fast forward to today and things are moving so fast and furious in unpredictable directions that “current events” seems an antiquated term.  We have layers upon layers of crises that have congealed into a problem so humongous that it confronts us like a complex Gordian knot of cosmic proportions. How can the damage ever be undone? The past month alone contains enough angst and lunacy to last generations. We’ve seen the expose of Planned Parenthood’s racket in trafficking organs from aborted children, with graphic videos that give us a fresh perspective on the horrors and sorrows of abortion.  Then we have the transgender hype being fed to us 24/7 by Hollywood and the media, with a ramped up campaign to push gender confusion hard onto school children.

And now that the Supreme Court has legally abolished marriage as a male-female institution, we are about to see the biggest piece of censorship legislation ever. It pretends to be an anti-discrimination bill and goes by the name “Equality Act.”  The idea is to mete out punishment to anyone who doesn’t get with the agenda to re-program en masse our language and our thoughts.  In particular, it aims to re-design everyone’s thoughts about personal relationships. That’s because ultimately all personal relationships emanate from organic marriage.  How so? you may ask. Because that’s the union that produces citizens who build communities in which other personal relationships are spawned.  Destabilize marriage and you’ve destabilized the basis for functioning families.  Without functioning, autonomous families, we can’t have functioning and self-reliant communities.  In the end, the State wins big.

But the landscape is becoming littered with more and more rabbit holes being dug on a daily basis by our government: data-mining, the replacement of personal medical care with medicine-by-bureaucracy, debilitating multi-trillion dollar debt, the cultivation of ignorance in the schools through enforced conformity by programs such as Common Core, the non-stop attacks on religion.

On the international scene, it’s just as much a Twilight Zone.  We have the Obama Administration’s weird Iran deal that puts the world closer to war. At the same time, the White House turns a blind eye to the mass killings of Christians in the Middle East.  The cult of ISIS marches on to replace the Rule of Law with Sharia Law. In the meantime, the Administration is intent on force-feeding the gay agenda on a global scale, including to under developed countries like Kenya where he lectured the leadership last month. The list goes on and on and on.

That, in a nutshell, is our Gordian Knot.  To be continued . . .