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.

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.”

Two Quotes on Ignorance and Tyranny

Let’s spark imaginations, not stupid Molotov cocktails.

Maximillien Robespierre was a major figure of the French Revolution, probably best known for his role in the reign of terror.  I only bring him up because of this fascinating quote:

“The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.”

In that same vein, Thomas Jefferson noted:

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

But what is education?  What is ignorance? What do those words mean?   Today, only a clear and free mind — not one that has been pre-programmed — can begin to approach the true answers to those questions.  And that’s because our language has been so throughly corrupted by radical education reforms that have replaced content knowledge with politically correct scripts in our schools.  In his novel, 1984, George Orwell showed how the corruption of language leads to a dystopia whose people will accept as true such slogans as “Ignorance is Strength” and “Freedom is Slavery.”

So we need to demand the teaching of real knowledge.  Our schools should encourage natural curiosity instead of enforcing politically correct scripts that squash that curiosity.  They should allow for real tolerance instead using a PC label of tolerance that’s only meant to empower the power mongers, and to smear anybody with whom they disagree.  If we don’t do these things, we have essentially given in to the building of a cult mindset.

Instead, let’s encourage the building of axemaker’s minds that will promote innovation, self-reliance, true community building, and real knowledge.  And let’s fight the mind arson that’s been committed for too long by radical education “reformers.” By doing all of these things, we can begin to spark the productive fire of imagination, not the ignorance that causes people to mindlessly throw Molotov cocktails.  In this way, we can promote domestic tranquility, real friendship, and the possibility of real love among us.

 

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!

“The Donald” vs. the Clinton Machine

In case you haven’t noticed, tomorrow is Election Day in America. I would guess that many Americans don’t really have great faith in either of the two main candidates running for president. But this choice isn’t about what we used to call “character” in quainter times. It’s more about choosing whether America should change course or continue at breakneck speed in the same direction (which ends us up over the precipice.)  Another big question is:  Do we even have faith in the electoral process anymore?   Many issues are muddying the waters when it comes to free and fair elections.  A few of them include:  digital technologies susceptible to hacking; the attack on voter ID; and the growing ignorance about the Constitution itself and why preserving it is important. (A few months ago, I also wrote of my concern that our right to a secret ballot could soon face challenges.)

But I think highest on the list of factors that got us where we are is that we are living in a post-virtue society.  The culture has become so coarse and our institutions have become so corrupt, that we seem to have lost the capacity to govern ourselves.  Such are the conditions that gave us the candidates we now have. I’ve wrestled for a while with the idea of voting for Donald Trump. Yes, he has a penchant for speaking and acting crassly — as do a lot of our celebrities and so many of whom pass today as role models. The reality is that a Hillary Clinton presidency will put us into hyper drive in growing the bureaucratic Borg State. Such a state would end the right to live a private life.  It would essentially cancel out the Bill of Rights.

We are where we are.

So the other day, I explained in greater detail why I decided to pull the lever for Trump:  to allow for a chance to get some breathing room for the Constitution.  You can read it at The Federalist here.

 

A Follow-Up on Age Identity

Following up on my post the other day in which I wrote about my Federalist piece “The Trans-Aged Deserve Equal Rights, too” I see that the idea is starting to get a bit more circulation.  Last week, Newsday ran an essay by J Peder Zane, titled “If Gender is Fluid, What about Race and Age?”  This sounds a bit like my headline a couple of years ago asking , “If We Can Pick Our Gender, Can We Pick Our Age? Our Race?”  I do not understand why so few pundits and virtually no legislators are exposing the parallels here.  We’re talking about self-definition, self-identification becoming a protected category in law, without regard to physical reality.

The premise of transgender law — that sex is not real, but simply “assigned at birth” — is a false premise intended to apply universally to everybody.  As wild as that presumption is, I believe it’s actually a lot easier to accept the premise of being “age fluid.”  I know I’m age fluid — in my mind.  Isn’t everybody?  Some days I’m 75, other days 16, and still others 32.  The fact that age-identity non-discrimination would mess with our concept of time and the calendar should be irrelevant as long as our Administration is in the process of de-sexing all of society anyway. Right?

We ought to press this point while we still can.  Seriously.

 

 

Why Shouldn’t “Age-Identity Non-Discrimination” be a Thing?

Finnish woodcut, Ages of Man (1831.)

A few months ago I wrote a tongue-in-cheek article for the Federalist entitled “The Trans-Aged Deserve Equal Rights, Too.”  I’ve made this point before, a few years ago: here and here.  But don’t you agree it’s high time we take this seriously now that the Obama Administration’s directive on “gender identity” puts the social engineering of our humanity in high gear?

I say that if gender identity is a protected category for non-discrimination, age identity should be as well.  Why not? Those who call for age identity non-discrimination have a parallel grievance with those who call for gender identity non-discrimination:  their identity does not match the age they were “assigned at birth.”

In fact, I can say with all honesty that I do not identify with my age “assigned at birth.”  Do you?  I imagine the percentage of the population who feel this way are far greater than those who feel dysphoria over their gender identity.  And yet a 52-year old who identifies as 71 can be turned down for medicare.  A 12-year-old who identifies as 20 is forced to stay in a middle school classroom.  And so on.

There is nothing to lose by pressing legislators (and judges) today to add age identity as a new category to non-discrimination law. We should be asking presidential candidates if they would support laws to halt age identity discrimination, especially if they support the social engineering that comes with the transgender thing.

Here are some excerpts from my piece:

Just as transgender activists will tell you not to conflate gender with sex, so no one should conflate age with time. Trans-aged individuals are just as entitled to anti-discrimination protection as transgender individuals.

Obama and his allies in Congress fully accept the idea that gender identity is a person’s self-perception of their gender whether or not it “aligns” with the sex they were “assigned at birth.” But they brazenly ignore a far more common source of inequality: total lack of equal protection for those whose self-perception of their age does not match up with the socially constructed date they were assigned at birth.

Discrimination on the basis of age identity is rampant in education, medicine, and employment, just for starters. I dare say it is orders of magnitude more common than discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

Think of the 12-year-old who self-identifies as 19, but is stuck in a middle-school classroom. Think also of the 58-year-old who knows she is 75 but is ineligible for Social Security, and must suffer loss of benefits in silence. Let’s have some compassion for the 22-year-old (not to mention the 72-year-old) who knows he is 18 but is nevertheless not permitted to become an Eagle Scout, or even a Boy Scout. And what about the 69-year-old teacher who is forced into retirement even though she knows she is but 49—and is thereby deprived of living an authentic life?

 

The Devoted Mother is the First and Last Line of Defense against Big Brother

Mary Cassatt, Breakfast in Bed (1897)

Happy Mother’s Day.  For me this is a time to contemplate the difference devoted mothers make in our lives. And the difference is much more seismic than it is sentimental.  That’s the subject of my lengthy essay at The Federalist this past week.  Of all the things we take for granted in this life, the sacrificial love of a mother is at the top of that list.  We forget how that bonding has a such a stabilizing and humanizing effect on people — until we are confronted with the depth and breadth of today’s cultural rot.

And the gifts of devoted motherhood are magnified countless times over in the context of an intact family, when the child gains the positive effects of strong and healthy mother-child-father bonds. Unfortunately, broken families and dysfunctional motherhood and fatherhood are epidemic today.  So, we ought to ask ourselves: Whom does that brokenness serve?  There’s no question in my mind that it serves the bureaucratic, authoritarian State, the source of so many policies that serve to break up families.  In a word, the Orwellian monster known as Big Brother. He’s all about separating people and trying to extinguish real love and real beauty.

You can read my article at this link:  “A Little Mother Prevents Big Brother.”  The 19th century philosopher Edmond Burke wrote about the “little platoons” of society being the ultimate source of all other affections:  friendship, community, love of country, love of one’s fellow man.  Erase the little platoons, and you’ve erased the source of all human affections. Here’s the relevant Burke quote that I include in my article:

“To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country, and to mankind. The interest of that portion of social arrangement is a trust in the hands of all those who compose it; and as none but bad men would justify it in abuse, none but traitors would barter it away for their own personal advantage.”

Without those bonds to our “little platoons” — which begin in the family, and specifically through the instinctive mother-child bond — there can be no real inter-connectedness.  Just a fake and forced “collectivism” that takes the place of love.  The instinctive maternal bond has been meddled with, abused and broken through a variety of forces.  The sexual revolution plays a huge role, along with the false doctrine of gender ideology and the siren call of government dependency.  And when we see how coalitions of big government and big corporations are bullying  small businesses and families to bend to the dictates of transgenderism — which has the end effect of abolishing motherhood and fatherhood — we can’t help but see traitors bartering away the family life of others for their own personal advantage, their own power.

But as C.S. Lewis noted in his essay “The Abolition of Man,” we owe a great debt to the “beneficent obstinacy of real mothers, real nurses, and (above all) real children for preserving the human race in such sanity as it still possesses.”

Let’s try to shore up the remaining sanity by shoring up the strength of our little platoons and injecting them with a fresh and heavy dose of such obstinacy.  Let’s celebrate and encourage the devoted and sacrificial love of our mothers to help them deliver that antidote against the poisons of Big Brother.