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.

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.”

Let’s Build More Awareness of Mob Psychology

Zombies from 1968 horror film “Night of the Living Dead.” (Wikipedia Commons)

The weird thing about mobs is that they tend to be made up of individuals with little or no self-awareness.  Participation in a mob mentality strikes me as a way of compensating for that loss. People tend to lose themselves — and get a false sense of purpose — from taking part in mob action. For example, consider the persona of “social justice warrior.” Those who adopt the SJW persona pretend to be aware of inequality.  Why?  My guess is that’s because they are so unaware of what true inequality is — that it stems from ignorance and a lack of experience in dealing with real people on a real level.  They resist honest interaction, honest relationships.  And nothing could be more self-destructive than that. It’s a zombie-like attitude that actually perpetuates inequality.

Take the case of “Barrett Wilson” — a pseudonym.  He recently wrote a piece for Quillette, entitled “I was the Mob Until the Mob Came for Me.”  He provides a chilling picture of mob behavior.  Having been a part of the “social justice industry” Wilson participated in ganging up on others and smearing them as “racists” and “sexists.”  Why?  Because it felt good.  He explained that he got an emotional rush from behaving that way: “For years, I was blind to my own gleeful savagery.”  Of course, at a certain point the savage mob turned on him.  That’s the nature of the beast.  He lost his well paying job because of the accusations and total lack of due process in the social justice industry.  Now he delivers food for a living.  He’ll lose that job too if the mob finds out who he is.

The silver lining is that Wilson realized that getting off the mob train — and doing honest work — has allowed him to recover some sanity in life, and best of all, appreciation for others:   “It’s led me to rediscover how to interact with people in the real world.  I’m a kinder and more respectful person now. . . ”

I wrote up a piece about this in the Federalist last week.  You can read it here:  What to Learn from the Social Justice Warrior Who was Eaten by His Own Mob.”  The more aware we become of mob psychology, the more able we are to think on our own and relate to others.

Soviet Defector Yuri Bezmenov’s Love Letter to America

In 1970 a Soviet KGB agent stationed in India disguised himself as a hippie and blended in with a crowd. He managed to escape detection and found his way to the West where he defected.  Yuri Bezmenov took the name Tomas Schuman, and wrote a short book entitled “Love Letter to America.”  In it he describes how he fell in love with the goodness of America and couldn’t go on promoting the deceptions and inhumane tactics that poisoned so many lives.  Below is a 1984 interview with him “Deception was my Job” in which Bezmenov tries to warn Americans about the ideological subversion that is practiced on them by totalitarian actors, such as the Soviet KGB:

It’s a fascinating interview in so many ways.  Bezmenov was a member of the privileged elite in the Soviet Union.  He had nothing to gain materially by defecting, and certainly nothing to gain in terms of prestige.  It was the weight of conscience that caused him to break free of a life of practicing deception — and to take the great risks involved in making a break for freedom.  In his new life he resolved to do the best he could to help us understand how totalitarians play the game of ideological subversion, in which they push open societies to become closed societies.  You should look at his book in the link above to get the full story.  On page 22 of his book, he includes a chart to show the four stages of Soviet ideological subversion:  1.) Demoralization, which takes about a generation’s time, 15-20 years; 2.) Destabilization, which takes about 2-5 years; 3.) Crisis, which is a matter of months; and finally 4.) Normalization, basically the mopping up operation once an authoritarian system is in place.

It’s interesting that the demoralization phase in America began a whole lot longer ago than 20 years. I would guess at least 50 years or so.  If Bezmenov’s theory is correct, I think there are several reasons why America would still be standing as a free nation with an intact — though much threatened — Constitution. A lot of unpredicted forces seem to have disrupted the demoralization and destabilization processes. The election of Ronald Reagan would be one disruption, especially with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.  Many would also put the election of Donald Trump into this category of an unpredictable black swan event.  And there are a whole lot of cross currents in a free society that can foil the plans of even the most calculating totalitarians.  Chief among them, in my opinion, are freedom of association and freedom of speech that serve to cross pollinate ideas and feed a ripple effect of freedom.

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.