“The Mortal Storm:” First, Imposed Silence, then Mandatory Enthusiasm

When power elites are pushing an agenda, the first step is to silence the opposition.  Political correctness is a tool that manipulates the universal human fear of being socially smeared in order to squash dissent.  PC begins by teasing out a spiral of silence that causes people to perceive majority approval for an agenda — even when it doesn’t exist — so that they remain silent instead of expressing opposition.

But that’s just the first step.  PC agendas cannot withstand scrutiny or open debate.  They get poor mileage and need lots of fuel.  So, at a certain point the silencing of dissent is just not enough to keep the illusion going.  That’s when power elites will ratchet it up and enlist your enthusiasm and approval.  And it’s mandatory.

A fascinating illustration of mandatory enthusiasm is in the clip below from the 1940 movie “The Mortal Storm,” starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan.

Begin watching at the 2:00 mark:

When faced with this type of cascade of human madness, we have two choices, according to the story:

1. Safety through retreat, which is really a trap, because it only feeds the cascade and makes the problem worse;

2. Courage, which forces us to confront the evil, and allows us a fighting chance in defeating it.

Part of the fallout of PC is that it tears apart families and life long friendships.   At one point in the movie, the character Freya says to Martin: “You’re the only friend I have left and the only one I can talk to.  I’ve never felt so all alone in  my life.”

And that’s the aim of  any power-mongering force:  to separate dissenters from any source of support — from friends, from family.  To make sure they have no one they can talk to.  That message from the “The Mortal Storm” is timeless and urgent.

By the way, during the 1930’s Hollywood bowed to pressure from Nazi Germany and avoided any negative portrayals of the Nazis.  “The Mortal Storm” was the first time this pact had been breached before US involvement, and it resulted in a German boycott of MGM.   (If you’re planning to watch the whole movie, here’s a quickie review of its shortcomings: I wish it was more cohesive and had more natural dialogue in several of the scenes.)

Another interesting aside is that after WWII you’d be hard pressed to find an average German who claimed to be a willing member of the Nazi party.  It seems the old line about being “on the right side of history” can often serve as a manipulative and empty slogan.

On opinion cascades and marriage, read Doug Mainwaring today

If you wonder how the whole issue of genderless marriage took off so fast — from fringe issue to public policy in just a few years — read Doug Mainwaring’s excellent article in today’s American Thinker:  “Manufacturing Consent on Same Sex Marriage.”  You’ll find in it a fascinating discussion that goes beyond Marketing 101.  In fact, you’ll wish that that there was an insightful “Propaganda 101″ course readily available to all.   What has been happening is as confusing to folks as the current understanding of marriage seems to be.

Some of us thought that the public square was for talking through issues that were controversial.   Then after we reasoned things through, we’d talk some more just to be sure.  We’d argue.  We’d debate in a civil society that allowed all views to be heard.  We’d vote on public officials or referenda.  We’d try to learn.  To think independently.   And so on . . .

Silly us.   All the while, “availability cascades” were being tweaked and organized and used to create an illusion of consent for things that seemed implausible, rendering them “plausible” as more and more people were sucked into the spiral of silence that political correctness demands of dissenters.   As people feared social ostracism, they complied.  What passed for “debate in the public square” was manipulated and rendered predictable.

I plan to write more on this subject myself, especially since the frenetic pace of genderless marriage policy provides such an excellent illustration the mechanics of opinion cascades, and the understanding of how fragile they really are.  (Doug and I also co-authored a piece on this last year, which you can read here.)