Next up for Stella’s Book Club: Doris Lessing’s “Prisons We Choose to Live Inside”

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.

We Should Contemplate the Future of Secret Ballot

The unwillingness of so many to accept the results of elections — both in the United Kingdom over Brexit and in the US over the presidential election — has me thinking more and more about the future of the secret ballot.  Never have I noticed so many people insisting others divulge their vote so that they can determine whether or not the person is worthy of human dignity.  Take for example, the woman in the video below — sitting next to a guy on a plane bound from Baltimore-Washington Airport to Seattle.  After she flat out asked him if he had come to Washington to celebrate or protest Trump, he said he had come to “celebrate democracy.”  This put her into a rage in which she laid into him with such hostility that she ended up escorted off the plane:

Another example was the note sent by Bill Penzey of Penzey’s Spices (a store I no longer patronize) to inform his clientele that a great act of racism had just been committed by American voters, and that those who voted for Trump perhaps could redeem themselves by donating to the Southern Poverty Law Center or the American Civil Liberties Union.  Rod Dreher wrote it all up on his blog here.  I’m sure you can come up with many more examples of the prodding and suspicions of angry social justice warriors who seem to be looking for racists/xenophobes/transphobes/etc.etc. under every bush.

After Brexit, I wrote a piece for The Federalist “Why you Should Expect Challenges to Secret Ballot.” I sensed that we were entering a new chapter of mind hacking.  The “shy Brexit” voter played coy with pollsters.  And, clearly, so did shy Trump voters.  Polling isn’t what it used to be because data mining and the punishments meted out for expressing politically incorrect views in our culture are causing more people to refuse to answer, or to refuse to answer truthfully.  We can see the end point of this sort of thing in totalitarian societies where the likes of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un gets an approval rating of virtually 100 percent. Fear is the motivator.  But having the protection of privacy as you vote your conscience is really beginning to frustrate the out-in-the-open politically correct crowd to no end.

In my essay, I observed the ways in which power elites might hope to get around what they see as the risks of secret ballot.  We should think hard about all of this because any undermining of a citizen’s secret ballot would be a violation of the sacred right of freedom of conscience.  It will likely start by making private voting optional, so that PC activists can take note of who makes use of a voting booth.

Here’s one excerpt, based on my personal observations of the set up of virtually optional polling booths:

I’ve observed a trend I find a bit unsettling: a climate that conveys secret ballot as optional. There are no voting booths. Instead, voters take their ballots to cafeteria-length tables that are strewn here and there with little tri-fold cardboard screens behind which they may mark their ballots if they so choose.

As an election officer, I’ve watched as people sit down and openly mark their ballots for all to see. In a couple of cases, they compared notes with a friend or spouse. When I alerted the head election judge to it, she merely shrugged. The laxity of the layout simply promoted that behavior. If the trend continues, I can imagine a point at which using a screen is socially viewed as having something to hide, and may even indicate how you voted. That’s just the way social dynamics work, especially in today’s atmosphere of political correctness.

 

 

An Ides of March Reminder about the Coercive Nature of Socialism

Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) Soviet dissident and author of The Gulag Archipelago.

As polls report higher numbers of millennials claiming to be socialist (they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about) and spiking membership for Democratic Socialists of America, let’s try to absorb these words of the late Russian human rights advocate and gulag survivor Alexander Solshenitsyn:

 “In different places over the years I have had to prove that socialism, which to many Western thinkers is a sort of kingdom of justice, was in fact full of coercion, of bureaucratic greed and corruption and avarice, and consistent within itself that socialism cannot be implemented without the aid of coercion.”

Refugees from socialism – Russians, Cubans, Vietnamese – all tell the same story.  Socialism is not what romantics in the West think it is.  The system is coercive, by its very nature.  Give it enough time and enough crises, and socialist states always morph into even more coercive communist states.

College campuses are infested today with a political correctness – and a tragic ignorance of history – that has students singing the praises of socialism, a system that promises free stuff and delivers scarcity.

A year ago — on the Ides of March — I published an essay in the Federalist that explored this phenomenon:  “Socialism’s Bloody History Shows Millennials Should Think Twice Before Supporting It.”  I zeroed in on the case of communist hero Nikolai Bukharin, who was executed in 1937, after the show trials of Soviet strongman Josef Stalin.  It’s a natural progression when a “vanguard” of the people is blindly entrusted with too much power. That’s socialism in a nutshell:  too much power in the hands of too few people.  If you mention this to any pro-Socialist millennial, they are sure to pull out the talking point that theirs is a different brand of socialism, akin to the sort we see in Scandinavian countries.  To them it means social harmony through things like bike-share programs, recycling, free education, and easy housing. I understand, I understand.  The problem is that such freebies are the bait of socialism which cannot help but invite the switch to coercive Borg government.  Which, in the end, means punishment of any dissent and the death of free expression. Forget “resistance” of any sort without Hell to pay.

Prisoners at work in a Soviet gulag camp in the 1930’s.

Here’s an excerpt from my piece, which I hope you’ll read in full:

Socialism and communism both involve ceding to the state control over the distribution of goods and services for the masses. This involves giving up individual rights, and giving the state a good measure of control over our personal lives. This road always leads to tyranny, no matter what you pave it with, and no matter what you name it.

Socialism requires a power clique—or, as Lenin put it, an elite “vanguard”—in order to pretend to function. This means going heavy on executive power and rubber-stamp light on the legislative. Socialism demands that we place blind trust in whoever takes the reins of power to distribute society’s goods and services. This tiny elite, by the way, typically enjoys enormous privileges and a much higher standard of living than the hoi polloi, simply by being a part of the elite “nomenklatura.”

Sure, this oligarchy claims to distribute in the name of “equality.” That’s typically the cover story. The historical fact is that the vanguard, the power clique, eventually takes control of everything that’s produced—medicine, education, housing, food, transportation, etc. Its members then bureaucratically ration out—as they see fit—the means of human survival. In the end, you’ve basically got an elite corps of mobsters with the power to decide which folks are more equal than others.

March 8 as a Day of PC Reminds me of My Little Gig at the UN Conference on the Status of Women

The “International Year of the Woman” was 1975.

March 8 was introduced as the “Day of the Women” early in the 20th century when it was called International Working Women’s Day.  The first observance in the US was in 1908 and was organized by the Socialist Party of America. The communist government of the Soviet Union made it an official holiday soon after the Bolshevik revolution.  This seems logical as the mother-child bond at home was never something celebrated among communists.  Instead, a woman’s place was in the communist workforce, honored to do Drudgery for the State.

We’re hearing a lot more about the Day of the Woman this year than in previous years combined, at least in the United States.  For example, there are calls for women to take part in a general strike on March 8.  Schools around Washington, DC are engaging in political closures  for it this year.  The idea behind the strike is supposedly to help people see what it’s like to have “a day without women.”  I’m not sure how working mothers feel about the last minute political closures that will keep their kids home. Maybe they’ll stay home with the kids? That would seem ironic.  But, I suppose a day without K12 education these days should be welcomed as a day without brainwashing.

In any case, it all reminds me of a talk I gave around this time last year at the United National Conference on the Status of Women in New York.   I was honored to speak on a panel about “Political Correctness and Gender Ideology” along with Michael Walsh, author of The Devil’s Pleasure Palace, and Austin Ruse, president of C-FAM.  C-FAM wrote the event up here:  “UN Panel on Political Correctness Startles Young Social Justice Warriors.”

One of the great ironies today is that those who purport to support women are actively involved in the legal abolition of women.  Think about it.  Acceptance of gender ideology, specifically transgenderism, among feminists results in the erasure of women. Because if one’s biological sex is meaningless and interchangeable with something called “gender identity” then nobody is either male or female in the eyes of the law.  It means, for example, that I am only a woman because I think I’m a woman.  We should be challenging these folks to tell us exactly what a woman is. And why merely thinking about being male or female makes it so.

The central point in my presentation at the UN Conference was that censorship – and especially government sponsored censorship – is central to pushing through the agenda of gender ideology.  The gender identity anti-discrimination laws require us all to reject the physical reality of  our sex, and legally replace it with something called “gender identity.”  This means that being male or female can only exist in our minds. So once that notion is enshrined in law you end up with severe limits on what you express not only about your perception of reality, but about yourself.  Gender ideology does not tolerate physical sex distinctions.  It is a universal requirement based in the premise of every one of its laws passed so far – that our sex is merely “assigned at birth.” So this restricts what you may express about your own physical reality, your own personal identity, and your own relationships.

Gender ideology absolutely requires a regime of political correctness – or political conditioning – that manipulates the fears of social isolation in people in order to get them to self-censor.  Once self-censorship like this takes hold, a society can be induced to conform to any agenda at all. It takes on a life of its own.

I discussed the four main ways gender ideology serves as a vehicle for consolidating the power of the state.  I also wrote up my experience at the event in the Fall 2016 issue of The Human Life Review in an article entitled, “Transgenderism: A Creature of Political Correctness.”

Do you Know the Difference Between Real Education versus Coercive Thought Reform?

Margaret Thaler Singer (1921-2003)

Every college student should get acquainted with the chart below. In fact, all thoughtful citizens watching the spectacle of the zombification of college students – as they protest against what they don’t understand and shout trendy slogans to promote what they don’t understand – should be familiar with the chart.

Margaret Thaler Singer, the 20th century’s preeminent expert on cults, put together this excellent table called the “Continuum of Influence and Persuasion.” It shows how various forms of persuasion stack up against one another.  She lists five forms of influence, starting with the most open, true education, and ending with the most tyrannical, “thought reform” (also known as brainwashing or coercive persuasion.  You can also find this chart in Singer’s excellent book “Cults in Our Midst: The Continuing Fight Against Their Hidden Menace.”)  Take a look:

As you can see, Singer identifies five major methods by which people can be influenced.  The most open and honest of them all is true education.  Education exposes us to many bodies of knowledge and allows for civil discourse in which students feel free to ask questions openly.  They are therefore able to develop their ability to think clearly and independently.  In an environment of real education, students are respected as individuals with minds of their own.  The aim is to transfer knowledge about our common reality.  There is no deception in true education.

Thought reform or brainwashing, on the other hand, is the most deceptive and authoritarian form of persuasion. The subject is unaware of being manipulated to promote a hidden agenda.  The main purpose of thought reform is to turn the subject into a deployable agent to recruit others to agitate for that agenda.  As you watch today’s student protests, there can be little doubt that they are acting as agents for elites pushing various agendas. When interviewers ask them basic questions about the meaning of their protests, they tend to hem and haw, exposing their ignorance of the subject at hand. Their collectivist mindset tells you that they have had little in the way of meaningful education.

There are various other methods of persuasion that differ in their structure, level of deception, and other factors.  Singer identifies them on this continuum as advertising, propaganda, and indoctrination.  But the main takeaway from this chart should be a clearer understanding of the difference between education and thought reform.

Congress will soon take up reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.  Let’s hope that Congress overhauls it.  If education can not get back on the road to its true meaning, its institutions will only continue to be centers of coercive persuasion, not learning.

Connection Between Riot-Prone Mobs and Cult-like Education

One of many mobs of agitators, angry about the US election results. (Wikipedia)

My article in The Federalist this morning — “Today’s Riot-Prone Mobs are a Product of Today’s Cult-Like Education System” — examines the growth of mindless group think that is fueling so much of the street theater we’re seeing these days.  I believe public education has developed a lot of the hallmarks of cult-like indoctrination, including coercive thought reform, the cultivation of emotional reflexes, and relational aggression against anyone who expresses an unauthorized thought.  Sadly, the agitators have been deployed as cannon fodder to serve the agendas of power elites who are hostile to any truly civil society in which real public discourse can take place.  And the radical education reforms of the past 50 or so years have played a huge role in bringing us to this moment.

Here’s an excerpt from my piece:

“Let’s face it. Today’s street theater is the culmination of decades of radical education revision. The radical Left’s systematic attack on the study of Western Civilization has essentially been an attack against the study of any and all civil societies. It is an attack on the features that make a society civil and free. Those features include freedom of expression, civil discourse, the Socratic method of figuring out truth, value of the individual, and a common knowledge of the classics of history and literature that help us understand what’s universal in the human experience. All of that had to go.

“Now, as we see students marching to demonize as “fascists” proponents of free speech, their ignorance is in full view. This is really a full frontal attack on the rule of law, the Constitution, and a system of checks and balances that guards against the consolidation of centralized power.

“That’s the whole point of the education these students have been fed. In fact, a lot of 1960s agitators, including domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, decided to place their bets on radical education revision. For at least 40 years, Ayers has been devoted to transforming schools from places of actual education to places of coercive thought reform. As Andrew McCarthy recently pointed out in National Review: “It was a comfy fit for him and many of his confederates, once it dawned on them that indoctrination inside the schoolhouse was more effective than blowing up the schoolhouse.”

“If you review the history of radical education reform, it’s clear these agitators have been committing mind arson on the children, undermining their ability to think independently and clearly.”

When you Suspect Propaganda, Here are 10 Questions to Ask Yourself

Bolshevik Vladimir Lenin, agitated the masses and spread propaganda, basically to get people to disempower themselves.

Yesterday I was interviewed about an essay I wrote for the Intercollegiate Review, called “Truth or Propaganda?” and you can click here to read it.  (I’ll post a link to the podcast when I get it.) I wrote the piece in order to help people — particularly college students — understand some of the hallmarks of being propagandized. What does it feel like? How to detect it?

Quite often you can discern propaganda — or political correctness — simply by the shut-in feeling you get when being confronted with it.  So, I came up with a list of ten questions to ask yourself whenever you feel pushed to censor yourself. The first step to overcoming this oppressive state of affairs is to recognize it.  If more people got in the habit of recognizing and then confronting propaganda, we can begin to rebuild a civil and free society.

So, here are 10 questions you might ask yourself when you’re trying to determine if you’re having a real discussion with people or if you’re being propagandized:

  1. Is your natural curiosity being suppressed?
  2. Are you being threatened with slurs or labels?
  3. Do you feel you will be ostracized if you ask a question or express a politically incorrect view?
  4. Do you notice a “herd effect” as people shift their opinions to adapt to a politically correct opinion?
  5. Are you being pigeonholed as a result of your question or opinion?
  6. Do you sense that if you express ideas freely, you will be labeled a nutcase?Do you sense relational aggression at play?
  7. Will others be “triggered” by your opinion?
  8. Are you expected to trade in reality to prop up somebody’s illusion?
  9. Are you tempted to self-censor to avoid social punishment?Or are you tempted to falsify what you believe to gain social rewards?
  10. Do you feel like you’re stuck in a cult?

 

About Blog Dormancy

Asleep at the keyboard. (“Sheila the PC Cat” @ Wikimedia Commons)

My lulls in social media use and posting to my blog come down to two things: aversion and fracturing.

First, I’ve built up quite an aversion to social media. Have you? The sad fact is that we live in an increasingly uncivil society, and the trend line only shows that the vulgarity and hostility fueled by political correctness is getting worse.  That’s not constructive for getting anything done.

The second issue is that extensive internet use — and social media in particular — is disruptive to the process of deep thinking. Constant mental gear shifting has a fracturing effect on the mind. You can read about this phenomenon in Nicholas Carr’s excellent book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. I’ve been trying to avoid the constant browsing that the internet and social media require, because so much of what I am trying to explore in my writing requires a very deep focus.

Our age is distracting enough, especially with the growing attacks on civil discourse.  The recent rioting intended to shut down speech at UC Berkeley and NYU have shown beyond a doubt that we’re in a bad way in that department.  So it’s more important than ever to nurture one’s ability to think clearly and deeply. And independently. Then we should try to spread that habit to others so that they and all of society can flourish in an atmosphere of civility.

I thank all who sent me messages through the contact form.  I very much appreciate your thoughts and support.  If I missed getting back to you about a question you had, I regret that. (Correspondence has become a bit more unwieldy too.)

Going forward, I hope to intensify my efforts on the subject of propaganda awareness.  Propaganda — along with its latter day spawn, political correctness —  is anathema to independent thinking, which means it is hostile to human conversation and friendship.

In the future I hope to post regularly at least twice a month.  Please subscribe if you’re interested!

Please Support Professor Jordan B. Peterson, a Shining Light for Free Speech

If you’re looking for a modern day hero (and who isn’t these days?) one you should check out is Jordan B. Peterson.  He is a tenured professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, and also has a clinical practice.  He is a brilliant lecturer, with several insightful TEDx talks posted on youtube.   I wrote about Professor Peterson last week at The Federalist, and I hope you’ll check out my piece here: “Professor Ignites Protest by Refusing to Use Transgender Pronouns.”

The thought police is after Professor Peterson because he is waging a valiant war against political correctness in Canada. The University of Toronto is challenging him to adhere to speech codes, but he is not backing down.  Bravo!  Check out the video below to see how aggressively anti-speech activists disrupted his attempt to talk about the importance of free expression in a free society.  They fed noise into the sound system to overtake his microphone.  They tried shouting him down.  They pushed and shoved.

Since then, the University of Toronto Adminstration has written to Professor Peterson, essentially demanding he self-censor.  But, thank God, he will not, you can watch his reply to that letter here.    (Professor Peterson has a fantastic Youtube page, which you can access here.  His Twitter feed is here.)

Now, the fact that Professor Peterson won’t use pronouns that play into the gender identity industry is secondary to all of this. Gender politics actually have little to do with gender or sex. Gender identity “non-discrimination” is the cover story, of course.  But the primary effect — and, I believe, the purpose of gender ideology — is the disruption of language.  It’s the disruption of our ability to communicate with one another on a human level.  This is always the first step in thought reform, since words are basically symbols for thought. And if you think about it, pronouns serve an essential function in the structure of the English language.  This structure transcends how we perceive of ourselves as individuals.  The structure of language is paramount to communication.  So to have unelected judges and bureaucrats dictate the structure of language — at their own whim as well as the whim of anybody and everybody else — is really a recipe for chaos and cult-like thought reform.  Such schemes force citizens to self-censor before they open their mouths about even the most mundane things.

Most unsettling is how so-called “social justice warriors” swarmed Professor Peterson simply because he wanted to have an open conversation about what it means to have a real conversation.  In other words, to talk about the importance of freedom of expression. Personally, I don’t believe they even understand what they are doing. They seem programmed in much the way cult recruits are programmed.

The saddest thing about the war against free speech is that it is essentially a war against friendship.   If we cannot speak openly to one another, we can’t have real relationships, can we?  As I’ve written before, that’s really what this power game of shutting down speech adds up to: state control of personal relationships.

 

Propaganda and Agitation in the Aftermath of Orlando

Today I talked with Professor Robert Oscar Lopez, about how the Orlando tragedy is being shamelessly manipulated by the LGBT lobby.  Its propagandists immediately shifted the blame for the massacre from the murderer and his stated motives to the claim that “homophobia” among Christians caused it. Such a wild fabrication amounts to the cultivation of hatred, pure and simple.  It was obviously calculated, and an act of war.  Demonizing Christians — and the attempt to institutionalize that demonization —  is alarming.  It serves only to polarize society further.  It’s a dangerous path which, in the end, only serves power elites.  You can listen to the podcast here: