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?

Bookcase: McLuhan and “The Medium is the Message” — Part II

Marshall McLuhan, 1945. (Wikimedia Commons)

What did Marshall McLuhan mean by “The medium is the message?”  I think the idea is clearer today than back in 1962 when he published his landmark book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.  He argued that it was not the content within the media that affects us the most, whether the media be radio, TV, newspapers, or anything else.  Rather, it is the actual medium itself that changes us, that transforms our minds. To try to unpack this concept, just think about your average teenagers today with their smart phones.  (Or yourself!)  Is it mostly the content on that phone that influences them as they ceaselessly tap and slide their fingers across the screen? Are they really looking for the latest news? What’s more addictive — the content or the process? McLuhan would  likely argue that it is the environment of the medium itself that has us transfixed.  It is the technology that is transforming us.

This is a also a theme in Nicholas Carr’s 2011 book The Shallows, in which he posits that the internet actually is changing how we think and even the very structure of our brains as we allow ourselves to get pulled into its clickholes that never seem to end.  As an aside, I’ll add that is why it’s critical that we step back from communications media and re-learn how to connect with people one-on-one and face-to-face.  The forces of these technologies have become way too powerful, as have the tech titans who are controlling social media.

It is the way in which we use a technology that causes it to become an “extension of man,” as McLuhan subtitle implies. Interestingly, he means that he sees technology as extensions of our bodies, extensions of our natural functions.  For example, he has a chapter on clothing as a medium — an extension of our skin.  And transportation such as cars and bicycles are media that are extensions of our feet.  Those that affect our minds in terms of audio-visual media are, likewise, extensions of our central nervous systems.  If you are interested in the development of language — and especially how the phonetic alphabet impacted human society — that’s another reason for extending your eyes to read this amazing book.

By the way, five years later (in 1967) McLuhan coined another phrase: The Medium is the Massage.  This is the idea that a medium –whether TV, radio, the internet, a photograph — actually massages our senses and changes our perceptions in ways we don’t realize. So rather than the content of the message itself, it’s the medium — the presentation of the content, if you will — that affects us most.  I tend to agree.  And I think awareness of this point is key to building self-awareness today.

Bookcase: Looking at “The Medium is the Message” 56 years Later — Part I

Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) was a communications professor in Canada when he published his landmark book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man  in 1962. It is an absolutely fascinating read, though convoluted at times.

You may know that McLuhan coined a lot of well known phrases, such as “The medium is the message” and “global village.” But his theories are amazing and prescient.  Some of what he writes is all over the map and I don’t agree with all of it.  But he predicted with uncanny accuracy that with the information explosion due to hit later in the 20th century, our society would not really experience pluralism.

Quite the contrary.  At the time, he wrote about how the medium of television was affecting us.  His general thesis was that the effect of a medium itself — the environment it creates — is far more vast than the content of any particular program on it. His verdict:  we were actually undergoing an implosion of the Western society.  In other words, television was causing us to regress, to return to tribalism and divisions as opposed to becoming a more cohesive and open society. Consider also how the internet is affecting thought processes — causing a loss of clarity with all the noise and scatter that accompanies the technology. Well, McLuhan seemed to foresee that. He warned that newer communications technologies would only further expedite the implosion.

I’m certain this was very counter-intuitive when he wrote the book.  After all, what could seem more mind-opening than having more avenues of expression that would come with more avenues of information?  And more people chiming in? My personal conclusion is this: Well, it depends on how aware we are of how media plays on our minds. Are we more open to reason and logic, or have people become more emotional?  And it also depends on who controls the media. We as individuals who believe in self-governance? Or power elites directing a media that drive us more into a collective mindset?

Part II tomorrow . . .

(Book cover above is the MIT Press 30th Anniversary Edition)

Food for Thought: Today’s Two Political Camps are really just Pro-Thought or Anti-Thought

“The Thinker,” Auguste Rodin, 1904. This cast is in the Palace of the Legion of Honor in (Ha! Today’s Belly of the Anti-Thought Beast!) San Francisco (Wikimedia Commons)

Last month I wrote a Federalist piece in which I elaborate on a conclusion I reached some time ago.  There are really only two political camps:  Pro-Thought and Anti-Thought.  Think about it.  The tired old labels of Left and Right and Conservative and Liberal and so on don’t really mean anything.  It’s time people learn — or re-learn — how to think clearly and for ourselves.  And realize that our basic choices in self-identifying are either as a Free Thinker or a Thought Policer.

Here’s a novel idea:  Let’s teach kids — and everyone else! — how to think independently of what the media and Hollywood and Academics on their high horses tell us to think.  (Those folks aren’t really thinking on their own, anyway.)  Let’s stop being slaves to propaganda.

You can read the article here:  “Today’s Two Main Political Camps are Pro-Thought and Anti-Thought.”  And here’s an excerpt:

“Let’s remember that all of the other First Amendment rights follow in logical order from the first:  freedom of religion/belief/conscience/thought. Freedom of speech is the right to express what you think and believe. Freedom of press means the right to record those expressed thoughts in writing or other media. In this vein, freedom of association would mean being able to deliver your ideas to anyone willing to listen. It means the right to peaceably assemble and have open conversation with other people.

“The heavy hand of the state has no right to cut off or interfere in our ability to spark thoughtful conversations. If the state violates our First Amendment rights, the First Amendment also gives us the right to petition as a means of fighting back against that abuse of power.”

And here’s another:

“Once the Mass State starts manipulating language by legislating everyday expressions, such as forcing every citizen to adhere to unfamiliar pronoun protocols under the guise of anti-discrimination, it builds walls between people. That’s exactly what it’s designed to do.

“We’ve probably all observed how political correctness controls speech and thought by inducing self-censorship. How does this happen? Through manipulating the primal human terror of being socially isolated for non-compliance. People comply with political correctness in order to avoid that perceived isolation. Yet political correctness is designed to isolate us socially through our compliance with it! Heads, they win; tails, you lose.

“The only way to avoid that Catch-22 is to stand up to political correctness before its illusions root too deeply. The First Amendment is a use-it-or-lose-it proposition. And it’s all or nothing.

“The only way the bubble of political correctness can pop is if all free thinkers are inclined to follow through with the First Amendment. Thinking will only remain free as long as we express our thoughts by speaking them, recording them, and cross-pollinating them through peaceful assembly. Nothing less can insure against the de-humanizing effects of thought policing.

“Let’s think about that. And talk about it constantly.”

The Link between Mass Schooling and Mental Instability in Kids

High School Hallway. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

The other day I wrote a piece for the Federalist in which I explore the ways mass public schooling actually cultivates mental instability in children.  You can read it here:  “13 Ways Public Schools Incubate Mental Instability in Kids.”

In the wake of another school shooting – and now the ways children are being used to serve as mouthpieces for PC agendas, including (but not limited to) gun control — I think it’s high time we take a good hard look at the institutions that are shaping them for most of  their waking hours. The schools teach abject conformity in so many ways, that I believe they are literally making kids ill.  In my piece I list 13 ways this happens in today’s government mega-schools. They include the hierarchy of cliques, status anxiety, relational aggression, hostility towards family and faith, politicization, and enforced conformity.

I’m sure you can add many more ways today’s schools feel oppressive, and even prison-like.  And yet there are now places called “school refusal clinics” for children to be psychologically “treated” if school becomes so alienating and lonely for children that it literally makes them sick.

Below is an excerpt on just one of those 13 points.  In it, I reflect on how the sheer size of today’s schools have grown exponentially.  I think this in itself promotes an alienating environment that’s not conducive to mental health.

Back in 1929-30, there were about 248,000 public schools in the United States, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. How many today? Far less than half that. By 2013-14, the number had shrunk to 98,000.

When you consider that the U.S. population nearly tripled in that timeframe, there’s no question this factory model of schooling has grown exponentially. The numbers speak to the intense bureaucratization of a public school system that is becoming more centralized with less local control, packing ever-larger numbers of students in one place.

The natural effect for a young human being is an emotional malaise that fuels a sense of confusion and detachment. I believe the sociologist Emile Durkheim coined the term “anomie” to describe this state of isolation. Even the physical architecture of public schools is getting more estranging. They tend to be larger and more looming, almost blade-runner-like in their effect of shrinking and sequestering individuals to irrelevance.

 

 

My FRC talk about Social and Emotional Programming, the latest fad in Education

I recently spoke at the Family Research Council about a new fad in mass public schooling called “social and emotional learning” (SEL.) Those who advocate for SEL claim the program will give children critical life skills, such as empathy, getting along with others, and making good decisions. An organization called the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) wants a government mandate that will bring this program into every school. You can watch my FRC policy lecture here:

In this talk I give my perspective on SEL.  While good teachers are always a godsend, bureaucrats can never achieve what they promise in such programs. Especially since their framework is mass schooling. Such values and attitudes need to be taught in intimate settings of trust, such as families.  Not in hyper-bureaucratized mega-schools.  I see the SEL program as a bait-and-switch operation, because it demands universal compliance with its methods, with its content, and with its monopoly.  By its very monolithic nature as program driven by a government monopoly, it is coercive. In the video, you’ll see a clip in which a representative for SEL tells us that they “need the WHOLE child.” And if you delve into this more, you can see that the SEL program is really all about enforcing conformity: Conformity of feelings, attitudes, emotions, speech, attitudes, beliefs, and behavior.  When such things are directed by a centralized State mandate, rather than by de-centralized mediating institutions —  institutions of family, faith, and voluntary associations — there can be no freedom, nor can there be real diversity.

Must Read: The Devil’s Pleasure Palace

I have a review of Michael Walsh’s book (now out in paperback) “The Devil’s Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West” over at Acton Institute’s Transatlantic blog.  If you haven’t yet read Walsh’s book, it’s a must read for understanding the Left’s war on reality, and how it spawned political correctness and multiculturalism to divide and control us all.  Here’s the link for purchasing the book on Amazon:  The Devil’s Pleasure Palace

My review is here:  Book Review: “The Devil’s Pleasure Palace” by Michael Walsh.

We can trace critical theory back about a hundred years, to a group of Marxists in Germany:

The neo-Marxist thinkers who invented critical theory coalesced at the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt after World War I. The core idea was to foment radical social change and undermine “repressive” Western culture by advancing roughly the premise that all ideas – except theirs, of course – should be criticized and challenged. The attacks on the institutions that make freedom possible – family, religion, classical education, the arts, free markets, free speech – can be traced to critical theory. Critical theory operates under the guise of “equality” and “social justice,” but suppresses all competing influences.

Walsh’s book is rich with allusions from literature and opera.  The title is based on the Schubert opera “The Devil’s Pleasure Palace,” a metaphor for the nihilism of critical theory which is all built on illusion — and crumbles into nothing when it is confronted head on.

Some Study Questions for “Cults in our Midst”

If you decide to read Margaret Thaler Singer’s book, “Cults in our Midst,” I offer a few study questions below.  I also hope you have the beginnings of a book club to get the conversation going on these issues.

We are living through a time of immense social change and instability.  It is during such times throughout history — especially with fast technological changes — that cult activity takes root and thrives.  But even more alarming is that there is virtually no discussion in public discourse about how cult-like thinking penetrates and infects a society.  This level of unawareness is a red flag.

If you can’t read the whole book, I recommend focusing just on the following pages/chapters:  Singer’s INTRODUCTION (to the first edition); Chapter 1 – DEFINING CULTS (pp. 3-28);Chapter 2  A BRIEF HISTORY OF CULTS – Just 2 pages: 29-30)  THE PROCESS OF BRAINWASHING —  (pp. 52-82); Chapter 4 – WHAT’S WRONG WITH CULTS?  (pp. 83-102); Chapter 5 – RECRUITING NEW MEMBERS (pp. 104-124); Chapter 9 – THE THREAT OF INTIMIDATION (excerpt pp. 224-43); Chapter 11 — WHY IT’S HARD TO LEAVE – (excerpt pp. 270-79)

Pay special attention to Chapter 3 in which Singer identifies the six basic features of cults, which are as follows:  1. Keep the person unaware that there is an agenda to control or change the person; 2. Control time and physical environment (contacts, information); 3. Create a sense of powerlessness, fear, and DEPENDENCY; 4. Suppress old behavior and attitudes; 5. Instill new behavior and attitudes; 6. Put forth a closed system of logic.

Singer also includes discussion of the eight themes of cults, as ennumerated by cult expert Robert Jay Lifton:  1. Milieu control; 2. Loading the language; 3. Demand for purity; 4. Confession; 5. Mystical manipulation; 6. Doctrine over person; 7. “Sacred science;” and 8. Dispensing of existence.

Singer also discusses the Edgar Schein’s theory of three stages that a person in a cult goes through as their attitudes are being reshaped to suit the cult’s leadership:  the freezing of thought processes; the transformation of thoughts; and then the unfreezing of thought processes.

Here are some study questions to consider while reading:

1.     Review the charts in Chapter 3, and especially the list of Singer’s six conditions that allow brainwashing to happen.  Then answer: What makes a person susceptible to that kind of psychological manipulation?  

 2.     What groups (or institutions or policies or social trends) can you name in Western life today that apply cultic methods and techniques to unduly influence behavior and suppress freedom?

3.     According to Singer, the effects of brainwashing are very often reversible. What can ordinary citizens do to help Americans – and especially students – keep their minds free of undue influence?

4. Why do you think the methods and techniques of cult activity never come up for discussion in America today?

 

Next Up for Stella’s Book Club: “Cults in our Midst”

In February I posted a fascinating chart from Margaret Thaler Singer’s book “Cults in our Midst.”  You can find it in my blog post entitled:  “Do you know the difference between real education versus coercive thought reform?”  The chart which Singer drew up is called “The Continuum of Influence and Persuasion.”  On one side of the continuum is true education that involves open and civil discourse with no intent to deceive.  On the other side is coercive thought reform, or brainwashing, which uses deceptive tactics to blunt independent thought and control the person.  In between are other, varying forms of influence: advertising, propaganda, indoctrination.  It’s very helpful to understand what’s going on in each of these forms of persuasion.

I believe that the study of cult methods is useful for resisting political correctness. And especially today.  First of all, few people are actually focusing today on the methods and processes of thought reform.  Certainly not the media or academia.  And as we are battered with floods of information from all quarters — the internet, news outlets, social media, TV, our education institutions, and so on — one thing should be clear:  there is a battle to push us into conformity of thought to the benefit of power elites and their power-consolidating agendas.  There’s nothing new there.  This has been the story in advertising and propaganda from time immemorial.  But what is most disconcerting is that few are investigating the actual guts of the propaganda machinery itself.  At some point we have to tune out the constant barrage of blather and start sniffing out the machinery that its coming from!

The study of cults offers a key to understanding how propagandists behave:  their methods, their features, their techniques for controlling how people think. It’s especially helpful in strengthening us to resist the temptation to self-censor in our culture of political correctness. And that’s critical because giving in to it creates a spiral of silence that makes it ever harder to express an independent thought.  Propagandists know this!  Anyone pushing a power-centralizing agenda tends to be hellbent on shutting off all other forms of influence in people’s lives. Driving you into this sort of isolation is exactly what political correctness is designed to do.  Did it ever occur to you that this is precisely how cult leaders operate as well?

So, please take a look at Singer’s book as soon as possible.  Find another person to do the same so you can talk about it.  Hopefully you can grow a book club like mine, dedicated to propaganda awareness and the fight for freedom of expression.  I hope soon to post some some study questions that go with the book.