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.

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.

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.”

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.