Do you Know of Films that Highlight the Effects of Social Isolation?

Ingrid Bergman in “Gas Light” (Wikipedia Commons)

I’m looking for suggestions from my readers! I’m currently working on compiling a multi-media bibliography on the theme of social isolation. As you know if you read this blog, I am interested in how the fear of social rejection causes people to conform and comply with bad policies led by bad actors.  In particular: how social isolation — and the threat of it — is used as a weapon to control people. Such dynamics are evident in every level of life: in our personal lives, professional lives, and in the socio-political landscape.

I have a pretty comprehensive list of books and articles, but I’d really like to expand my list of movies and documentaries on this theme. 

BIG QUESTION: Can you think of some movies or documentaries that are good candidates for the theme of social isolation and how isolation affects us? If so, I invite you to please send your ideas through the contact form on this blog so that I can consider adding them to my list.

To give you an idea of what I have in mind, let me provide a sample list below.  As you will see, there are a variety of genres that appeal to a variety of audiences.  You can suggest popular movies as well as classics or scholarly documentaries. The main thing is that the theme should really stand out. Here’s a brief list:

The Experimenter – 2015 movie about psychologist Stanley Milgram’s “shock” experiments in the 1960’s, which he later wrote about in his book “Obedience to Authority.” He was astonished to discover how often ordinary people were willing to harm others when directed to do so by an authority figure.

Marty – won Best Picture Oscar in 1952.  Tells the story of two lonely people who become smitten with one another. But the main character feels socially pressured to dump his newfound love because his gang of buddies deride her as a “dog.”

Angi Vera, Hungarian Film by Pal Gabor (1978) with English subtitles – After communism was imposed on Hungary in 1948, the leadership made sure that all institutions were run only by those loyal to the party line.  The film takes you into an education camp in which future leaders are trained to replace those from the “old order.” We see “struggle sessions” and the psychology of snitch culture emerging.

The Children’s Story, by James Clavell – Short television movie (1980) which shows how a class of second grade children are emotionally manipulated to get with a program of promoting a new communist order and hating America.

The Wave — dramatization of social experiment at a Palo Alto High School by history teacher Ron Jones. When his students learned about the Holocaust, they could not understand how the German population would stand by and allow it to happen.  Jones’s students agreed to re-enact the basics of social conformity and compliance – and they actually lived through the process. It’s a fascinating look into how good people very often let bad things happen when they are motivated by the fear of social isolation. There is a German version of “The Wave” with English subtitles.

Mean Girls (Lindsay Lohan) 2004 – provides a picture of clique culture in a mega high school whereby meddlesome queen bees dictate all relationships and label everyone for either social survival or social death.  Key lines:  “You can’t sit with us.”  “The rules aren’t real.”

Gaslight (starring Ingrid Bergman) 1944.  This is the film that brought the psychological term “gas lighting” into psychological parlance.  The term is now embedded in social media.  Officially it means the sort of psychological abuse that causes a person to think they’re crazy.

The Lives of Others, 2006 (Academy Award for Best Foreign Film) A look at private life under the control of the surveillance state of communist East Germany. Psychological warfare writ large. (William F. Buckley stated that he thought it was the best movie he had ever seen.)

If you’d like to add to the list, please let me know!

Morale Booster: A Riot of a Dance Party!

I recently posted a depressing little follow-up on my Federalist article about the connection between social isolation and totalitarianism. As promised, today I offer a morale booster as a happy chaser to that bitter shot. You may have already seen the Ricky Rebel YouTube video “BLM Riot Turns into MAGA YMCA Dance Party” in Beverly Hills. It’s up to two million views now. If you haven’t seen it, take a look here! (assuming YouTube hasn’t yet censored it):

First off, I never heard of Ricky Rebel until this, even though he’s a relatively famous performer. I imagine he’ll be invited to some Trump rallies after this. Second, and more importantly, this little number should cheer up any American no matter how they feel about Trump. Most of us have had enough of the dismal division. People are starving for friendship and fun and happiness. This song is all about coming together as Americans, about being happy instead of miserable, about American optimism and our common humanity. The “YMCA” tune is, as always, catchy. There was some grumbling by activists that “YMCA” is supposed to be the “anthem of the gay movement” and is therefore “sacred,” and shouldn’t have the letters MAGA replacing it in parody. Really? Oh, please. Please.

Just watching this thing is uplifting — and gives a brilliantly hilarious retort to all of the violence and intimidation thrown our way by self-supremacists who pretend to be for “social justice.” The backdrop is the “Trump Unity Bridge” driving through Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills. That’s a large festooned SUV towing a trailer that carries a multitude of Trump-mania — colorful signs and flags and slogans and a replica Statue of Liberty — and more. Ricky Rebel is absolutely effusive prancing and dancing around the intersection at Beverly Dr. as police officers make sure he doesn’t step over the boundaries. The mood is ecstatic. You’ll want to watch this more than once. It’s a shot in the arm. A blast out of these dreary times!

Wokeness, Wuhan, and the Weaponry of Social Isolation

Tyranny and isolation always go together.  Let’s always remember that. Political philosopher Hannah Arendt made the connection in her book The Origins of Totalitarianism. She wrote:  “Terror can rule absolutely only over men who are isolated against each other. . . . Therefore, one of the primary concerns of all tyrannical government is to bring this isolation about.”

Recent Cover of Hannah Arendt’s classic The Origins of Totalitarianism, first published 1951 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Pubishing Company)

Below is an excerpt from from my (relatively) recent Federalist piece about the connection between tyranny and isolation and today’s dystopian atmosphere:

“How much of the hype about this flu is really about public safety? How much is it about cultivating the social isolation that breeds distrust, division, and malaise, all to be exploited for political purposes? Should we really believe that blue city mayors and blue state governors, the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, et al., are pushing the cataclysmic view of this flu only for our own safety?

“Blatant double standards clarify that their hype is meant to continue our isolation, and is not for our own good. As far-left mayors and governors enforce social distancing for law-abiding citizens, they have pretty much smiled upon Antifa rioters as “peaceful protesters,” especially those who gather en masse for more than 60 [now 100] nights in a row to provoke and attack federal officials protecting a federal court house in Portland.”

You can read the whole essay here: https://thefederalist.com/2020/08/11/how-forced-isolation-makes-huge-power-grabs-possible/

Once you think about it, you’ll see evidence everywhere that every tyrant’s first order of business is to isolate those they’re trying to control.  This is as true for the school yard bully as it is for the world class dictator.  Let’s go down a little list of them. Consider the queen bee diva. Recall how in the 2004 movie Mean Girls, the school’s cool clique made a point of controlling the relationships of all of their peers? Recall their Pelosi-esque line “The rules aren’t real.” What about the gas lighting partner?  Maybe his realm is just to control one person, but he makes sure she is isolated from all other influences. She can’t have any friends or be around anyone he doesn’t control.

And cult leaders? They control recruits primarily by some form of isolation. People’s Temple leader Jim Jones even moved his thousand or so followers into literal isolation – to a jungle in Guyana – to make sure all were isolated and under his strict control. And of course all fascist/communist/totalitarian dictators are invested in human isolation.  Mao Zedong had his Red Guard zealots (very similar in behavior to today’s BLM and Antifa agitators) force struggle sessions on people wherein they mobbed, isolated, and publicly humiliated anyone suspected of wrong think. (BTW, the toll was in the tens of millions killed during China’s Cultural Revolution of the 1960’s.)

And what does political correctness do to us? Induce self-censorship that results in self-isolation. What about identity politics? It divides us so that we are more isolated from one another.

So what should we make of the enforced isolation of today? And what about the Covid shutdowns that did not end on April 1 – and then May 1 — like they were supposed to?   Do they serve a political purpose. Of course they do. The point is to stretch out the misery, stretch out the economic devastation, stretch out the isolation in order to demoralize the population into doing the bidding of our would-be controllers. We have to call this out for what it is. And, hopefully I can offer a morale-booster next time!

The Sickness of Mobs: Harassing People Who are Minding their own Business

What’s the real purpose of the BLM harassment of people dining outdoors in Washington, DC, trying to force them to raise their fist in “solidarity” with the Marxist BLM trope? They do it in the same manner of the old childhood bully who twists your arm and demands you “Say Uncle!”  The difference is that today we have dangerous roving mobs of them who should be old enough to know better. Check it out here:

Interesting also how every single one of the mob members surrounding the diner is “white.” No doubt because they are products of an education system that cultivates ignorance in them when it comes to content knowledge. Through ignorance and family/community breakdown, we have a generation of isolated people who look to the mob for a sense of purpose and of “community.” It’s tragic. I wrote about that in my previous post: “At Some Level, Street Agitators Know How Ignorant they are.”

But this is what the curriculum of political correctness and identity politics teaches. They learn that this is how to get their status points. And they have so little else going for them that they really crave status points. They’ve been taught that this sort of thing puts them “on the right side of history.” Well, it does hearken back to some unsavory chapters of history, certainly not the “right side.” How is their mentality any different than the brown shirts of the Third Reich who felt a sense of status when they harassed those they considered to be “lesser beings?” It’s not.

Theory: At some level street agitators know how ignorant they are

Ignorance is a prime culprit for a lot of what ails us today. Ignorance is very isolating. It feeds mobs and mob behavior. Can you make sense of the video below in which street agitators in Portland charged through a residential neighborhood at 1:00 in the morning to harass residents with their loud and threatening chanting?

We have the schools and the culture to thank for this insanity. Much of the street theater and violent mob behavior in cities like Portland would not be happening were it not for the cultivation of ignorance in our system of public “education.” Educrats have spoon fed students with grievance studies instead of imparting the knowledge and stability one gets from learning about history, government, and the blessings of liberty. The resulting chaos and ignorance primes kids to be alienated, atomized individuals who seek a sense of belonging in mobs. They’re clueless, no matter the slogans they spew. They’ve been programmed into politically correct conformity and compliance with identity politics.

Why do they — and the Antifa rioters — do what they do? Because they don’t know how to do anything else. They were never taught to think for themselves or understand anything on a deep level. They’ve been trained to behave this way, afflicted with ignorance. At some level they must sense this loss — this intellectual grand theft perpetrated on them by venal educrats. To the extent they suffer from it, we should pity them and try to figure out ways to turn it around, if possible.

Ignorance is extremely isolating. A lack of common knowledge isolates us from a sense of our common humanity. I believe that it is from this sense of isolation that mob members thrash about looking for a sense of purpose which they think they can find in groups like cults and gangs and mobs. I explore this theory in a recent Federalist piece you can read here: https://thefederalist.com/2020/08/10/deep-inside-rioters-are-angry-that-they-never-learned-anything-but-lies/

Here’s an excerpt:

Imagine being trained to “think” only with your emotions. The consequence is unbridled passions and confusion, like that of someone who can’t read but pretends to. The resulting impulse undergirds the perverse toppling of a statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, or the burning and vandalizing of a beloved elk statue in Portland while “protesting” for justice. Could the angst behind such senseless acts amount to the deep frustration of knowing so little about so much?

The Trap of the Mob Mindset

My essay today in the Federalist expands upon my last few posts. You can read the whole thing by clicking on this link: https://thefederalist.com/2020/06/15/how-socialists-like-black-lives-matter-weaponize-our-fears-of-loneliness/

File:Groupthink.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Slogans of George Orwell’s 1984. When we overdose on group think, that’s where we end up. Wikimedia Commons.

Below is an excerpt:

“The mob mindset is a trap, a form of mental solitary confinement, an ironic form of mind rape. Why? Because mobs of wokeness do not allow for anyone to express an original thought to another human being without the risk of being smeared and isolated.

“As people invest in groupthink to remain in the herd, they end up spiraling even deeper into the mental isolation, cutting off normal conversation. They soon become “triggered” by other points of view. BLM activists have not only taken full advantage of the fear of loneliness already inherent in our culture. They also seem intent in perpetuating the fear by stoking more divisions within private relationships.

“Political correctness and identity politics have long been used as tools of agitation designed to instill groupthink and stir up that threat of loneliness. Political correctness works by inducing self-censorship, cutting off conversation and the exchange of ideas, which might lead to friendship.”People with politically incorrect ideas often confide they feel completely alone. 

Identity politics works by forcing people to focus only on a collective identity and collective guilt while erasing each of us as unique individuals. Both are alienating. Both empower bad actors.

“Most of us have never had a chance to learn the history of how blind conformity breeds terror, and vice versa. Abject conformity led to the hellscapes of Stalin’s reign of terror, of Hitler’s Germany. Those who submit to false confessions of “white guilt” can just as easily submit to such regimes because the psychological mechanism is the same: seeking the social approval they crave and avoiding the social rejection they fear.

Weaponization of Loneliness is a Specialty of Cults. Does BLM employ it?

Struggle session - Wikipedia
The photo above reflects what people are afraid of, and why they submit to false narratives. This photo is of a “struggle session” in Maoist China during the Cultural Revolution. The victim is accused of ideological impurity. In today’s BLM parlance, the shaming and social isolation would be for perceived racism. It is not based on reality, but only on identity politics. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

In this post I will continue to refer to the item I posted the other day on the suburban mass confession of “white guilt” that took place in Bethesda, Maryland. It was a creepy incident of initiation in which you can see four truths revealed about cults and cult activity. We owe it to ourselves to ask first if the participants are behaving like cult recruits. And then we have to ask if the organization to which they are pledging is behaving like a cult. Below I note four hard similarities.

  1. Cult operations always cover up an appetite for raw power with a cover story that sounds very uncontroversial.  Deception is always cover for a power grab. Is that the case with the organization that calls itself “Black Live Matter?” Well, just go to its website and you’ll soon figure out that hardcore socialism, or Marxism, is its actual, avowed agenda. Ultimately, socialism is about one thing: too much power in the hands of too few people. Marxists in America have made no secret of their determination to undermine the individual rights inherent in the Constitution. So when you see huge agendas on the BLM website that are traditionally communist — like “sustainable transformation” and defunding the police and even its goal of replacing the family with collectivist forms of childrearing — well, its veil gets a lot thinner.
  2. Cult  mechanics always involve psychological manipulation. Coercive thought reform is at work in the Bethesda video. It uses a hypnotic chant, as well as guilt and shaming and the weaponization of loneliness to conjure up the illusion of majority support. The recruits have set themselves up for ostracism by the movement if they dare to re-think anything. There is no respect for the principle of free thought or any exchange of ideas.  The movement is highly manipulative and emotionally coercive.
  3. The recruit is ordered to become a deployable agent for the cult by promising to bring others in to it. When the Bethesdans took their pledge, part of it was “to do everything in my power to educate my community.” That’s a pledge to proselytize. This assignment is essential to cults. It grows the mass/mob and empowers the cult’s totalitarian leaders. It always happens under the guise of something that sounds reasonable. Their behavior also brings to mind one of Saul Alinsky’s callous “Rules for Radicals:” to use people’s goodwill against them.
  4. We see the cultic practice of predatory alienation: forcing people to disavow loved ones. The New York Times recently published an op-ed telling white “allies” of BLM that they must prove their loyalty by texting “relatives and loved ones telling them you will not be visiting them or answering phone calls until they take significant action in supporting black lives either through protest or financial contributions.”  This is emotional blackmail, meant to isolate people and meddle in personal relationships. That’s a common pattern in socialism as well.

Margaret Thaler Singer on Cults and How Easily People Obey Them

The other day I posted a video of a “struggle session” – the gathering in Bethesda, Maryland – in which people recited a pledge claiming collective guilt because they were born “white.” As I mentioned, the agitators got a huge number of participants to pledge to submit themselves to a new, totalitarian regime, under the guise of something else. This is how cult indoctrination begins. Cults erase your individual identity and replace it with an assigned collective identity. People succumb largely because they think they’ll be safe from criticism and viewed as “enlightened.” But it’s an old trap.

If you have the time and interest, here’s a video from more than 15 years ago of the late cult expert Margaret Thaler Singer discussing the way cults work, particularly how they use deception and how easy it is to get people to obey.  In those days most people understood cults to be led by one charismatic individual. But once they go global as movements (like communism or even the BLM movement) their leaders are often hidden, organizing behind the scenes. At a certain tipping point, though, a central charismatic figure usually emerges as the leader.

Mass Conformity and the Weaponization of Loneliness

Most people succumb to blind conformity because they are fearful of being socially rejected. And they crave social acceptance. We all know this instinctively. But it’s tragic that we don’t seem to know it consciously. Because social isolation — the threat of it being imposed on us — is actually a primal human terror. And this terror can put some dangerous dynamics into play if we are unaware of its power over our speech and our actions. We then become very susceptible to being manipulated and controlled by bad actors who use the fear against us.

The weaponization of loneliness is probably the most powerful force wielded by tyrants throughout history. And the most commonly used. Consider the video below — of a mass of people participating in a ritual proclaiming their collective guilt:

What you see there (if it has not yet been censored by our tech overlords) is a cult ritual, reminiscent of the Jonestown cult that ended badly in 1978. It also calls to mind the struggle sessions during Communist China’s Cultural Revolution, which were meant to enforce monolithic thought. In the latter case, millions who were tagged as enemies for not submitting — or who were simply perceived to be non-compliant — were exterminated.

We see masses of so-called white people in the affluent Washington, D.C. suburb of Bethesda, Maryland reciting a mass confession of guilt for being “white.” Though it is happening in America, the pattern is clear and recognizable: the weaponization of loneliness in action. The participants are actually pledging to commit themselves – and submit themselves – to a new, totalitarian regime, under the guise of something else. This is how cult indoctrination begins. These people are in the process of rejecting themselves — and others — as individual human beings who have individual responsibilities, experiences, personality traits, thoughts, feelings, and souls. It’s like they’re being absorbed by the Borg’s hive mind. 

They sense their compliance will get them some safety. Being part of the herd probably also gives them a fuzzy feeling of being accepted. Most of all, they hope that submitting to this obvious brainwashing exercise will help them avoid being shunned and turned into social pariahs. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Here’s a Try at some 2020 Foresight — on Human Interaction

Hi. I’m back.  I thought I’d write one post just before 2019 bites the dust.  Yes, it’s been a long hiatus since I posted the video of Marshall McLuhan explaining how “the medium IS the message.” Maybe I’ll explain the hiatus in a future post.

In the meantime, going into 2020, I’d like to pick up on where I left off with McLuhan.  Consider his amazing insight: that we are shaped more by the environment a medium creates than by the content within the medium itself.

So here’s a little thought experiment. Imagine you cross paths with someone you know to be a nasty troll on Twitter, but the person doesn’t know you know that. You strike up a friendly conversation. Maybe you just ask a question about something local, perhaps the parking situation outside the coffee shop or store you’re in.

The person might still be “off.” But I think your face-to-face experience would be very different and likely more positive than any experience contaminated by the environment of social media. 

Why is that?  McLuhan might say that it is because media — especially electronic media — take us out of our natural human context. Media environments set us up more easily for deception too, because they conceal parts of the big picture of whole human interaction.  For example, when someone’s on an audio phone call, they can roll their eyes without offending the listener no matter who it is. And people driving down the highway feel freer to honk (or worse) showing annoyance with other drivers. This is not news, of course. We treat people differently in environments that provide more anonymity than we do face to face.  Even simple written communication causes a lot of human context to get lost, including texting. We lose the big picture: mood, tone, eye contact, body language, nuances, true intent.

So it’s no wonder Twitter is such a cesspit.  There are no real rules of decorum and a lot of anonymity, which is a nasty combination. (Twitter’s censorship policies are, of course, purely political and not about maintaining any sort of decorum)

Anonymity can be a good thing, just as privacy is.  But anonymity does not make for the building of personal relationships.  Or community.  So the foresight going into 2020 is that a better world depends in large part on the health of our personal associations. Which in turn depends on more direct communication. A big key is to understand that loneliness — or fear of social rejection — is often the root of a lot of negative behavior in people.

Maybe you feel as much as I do that 2020 will be a pivotal year with some strong headwinds ahead. If so, one resolution might be to cut back on the digital stuff and increase more direct communication with others. And let’s all resolve to have a happy new year.