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!

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.

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.

Excerpt of Marshall McLuhan Interview in 1977 — “The Medium is the Message” — Part III

In the last of this little series on Marshall McLuhan, I offer for the curious a video excerpt of a 1977 ABC (Australia) interview with Marshall McLuhan.  It’s about 14 minutes.  Again, his main focus is how the environment created by a medium has more of an effect on us than the content itself.