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.

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.

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.

The SPLC Scam

What would the Southern Poverty Law Center do if there was no poverty? If there was no hate? Or ignorance?  I suppose its leaders would invent all those things.  Because if you examine the SPLC’s operations, it certainly cultivates ignorance, hate, and poverty — perhaps to keep itself rolling in dough.  For more on this, take a look at my recent Federalist article:  “12 Ways the Southern Poverty Law Center is Scam to Profit from Hate-Mongering.”

The tragic irony is that the United States was on the road to real racial healing before self-professed watchdog groups like the SPLC got addicted to the practice of tearing the scabs off of the nation’s wounds and pouring salt into them.  Division is the name of their game:  isolating people, de-humanizing them, labeling them as “haters” or “bigots” and inciting mob anger at anyone who dares to express a different perspective on life than the one the self-appointed authorities at the SPLC have assigned to us all.  Sadly, the SPLC uses pathetic and scattered cases of “white supremacists” as cover to lump in and label anyone who doesn’t buy into their agenda.  And since 95 percent of all media outlets do their bidding, that sort of stereotyping has an impact on creating a society of skittish people loath to treat others as human until they check in with Big Brother.  It’s an ancient dynamic that totalitarian regimes have always depended upon to keep themselves in power.

I think Alexis deTocqueville said in best in his work “Democracy in America” when he noted that the essence of tyranny is to divide people, to make sure they do not love one another. This is the purpose of political correctness, especially as applied by groups like the SPLC.

The truth is that people everywhere are starving for real friendship and freedom. They certainly don’t crave regimes of PC silencing that prevent them from getting to know one another.  There is a loneliness epidemic.  But friendship can’t happen without real conversation and civil society — both of which are shut down by SPLC-styled rhetoric. But friendship — which can only happen through free conversation — doesn’t serve the bottom line of organizations devoted to sowing seeds of discord. It’s all so sad and unnecessary. People of goodwill must confront and end this inhumane practice, which, ironically, is always pushed “in the name of humanity.”

Bookcase: Robert Nisbet’s “The Quest for Community”

If you are trying to make sense of the seismic changes going on all around us in society, sociologist Robert Nisbet tied it all together in his classic work “The Quest for Community.”   It’s not a light read, but it is a must read for anyone who wants to understand how to maintain a free society.  It’s a prescient work, and it helped me understand where so much of the alienation and eerieness of this current election cycle has come from:  the brokenness of civil society, the continuing dissolution of strong community ties.

I find it fascinating that Nisbet was writing about the breakdown of community and alienation back in 1953.  This was half a century before Robert Putnam wrote “Bowling Alone” and 60 years before Charles Murray examined the devastating effects of family breakdown on community in his 2012 work “Coming Apart.”

As the ties that bind people together fall away — family, church, civic societies and private associations– alienation and loneliness in society grow.  But Nisbet noted that as this happens, the strong human impulse for community would remain.  We would merely grope around for a substitute.  So as social brokenness grows, people turn to the government to replace those ties.

It’s so bleak to consider all of this, because it’s happening with ever greater speed before our very eyes.  Worse, too many people cannot comprehend the irony of it all:  dependence on the mass state only leads to even greater atomization of the individual.  Even greater alienation. Is there anything cuddle-worthy in the mass bureaucratic state? Absolutely nothing.  All it can deliver is even greater loneliness.

Here’s an excerpt from Nisbet’s Preface, dated December 1952:

“The real significance of the modern State is inseparable from its successive penetrations of man’s economic, religious, kinship, and local allegiances, and its revolutionary dislocations of established centers of function and authority.  These, I believe, are the penetrations and dislocations that form the most illuminating perspective for the twentieth-century’s obsessive quest for moral certainty and social community and that make so difficult present-day problems of freedom and democracy.”

And in the preface to the 1970 edition, Nisbet noted this about youth and apathy:

“It has become steadily clearer to me that alienation is one of the determining realities of the contemporary age. . . By alienation I mean the state of mind that can find a social order remote, incomprehensible, or fraudulent; beyond real hope or desire; inviting apathy, boredom, or even hostility.  The individual not only does not feel a part of the social order; he has lost interest in being a part of it.  For a constantly enlarging number of persons, including, significantly, young persons of high school and college age, this state of alienation has become profoundly influential in both behavior and thought.”

Wow.  And that was 45 years ago!  Think about the mass cluelessness all around us today.  Think about students’ utter lack of knowledge of history, of civics, of the humanities.  Consider the lack of connection they must be feeling as they grope about, trying on all sorts of personas whether it’s a new gender identity persona or the persona of “social justice warrior.”    The divorce culture has rendered more than half of all children in today’s America the wards of broken homes.  Sure, children can be resilient.  But they so often feel broken and alienated as a result of the disruption in their ties with parents.  It takes its toll. Pathologies abound while folks scramble to find safe haven in the State.

And here’s the catch:  at the same time that the state gives  free stuff to individuals, it takes away from the individual’s personal relationships and associations.  As those relationships continue to weaken, State power grows. Let’s not forget that our families, our institutions of faith, our civic and private associations have always served as buffer zones balancing the freedom of the individual against the power of the state.  We’ve no choice but to defend and rebuild them.

The Transgender Movement is a Vehicle for Censorship and State Power

All transgender law involves state-sponsored censorship. (Image: wikimedia commons)

Few people have considered my thesis which is stated in the title above.  Most assume the transgender movement is just a simple matter of protecting from discrimination a tiny demographic —  .03 percent of the population who consider themselves transgender.  Far from it.  When you consider the enormous degree of state-sponsored censorship that is required by the movement — and the punishments meted out to people of conscience by each and every one of the laws its activists seek to pass — a far different story reveals itself.

Last week I spoke about all of this to an audience at the Family Research Council in Washington.  You can watch the video by clicking on this link:

http://www.frc.org/events/bruce-or-caitlyn-why-everyone-should-care-about-the-transgender-movement

My goal was not to discuss the finer points of “gender identity” and what being transgender means for any particular individual. Instead, I focused on the broader and bigger picture of what the transgender ideology means for society at large.  Transgenderism is an ideology that is based on the presumption that all human beings have something called a “gender identity that may or may not match the sex they were assigned at birth.”  Notice how the word “assigned” is used to hide the reality that your biological sex is based in physical reality.  This premise is written into every gender identity non-discrimination law. It basically aims to legally erase male and female sex distinctions. It applies universally — to each and every one of us.

The implications are vast — for our language, for our relationships, for preserving a free society. There can be no question that all of the gender identity anti-discrimination laws amount to little more than censorship laws, intended to modify everybody’s behavior and everybody’s language on pain of punishment.

So, in short, the transgender movement is operating as a vehicle for conformity of thought. And in the end, that means it is a vehicle for dismantling freedom – in the name of freedom – and for building the power of the State.  In the end, it puts laws into place that abolish the right to free expression and suppress independent thought.  The power of the state enters that vacuum, as it always does under such circumstances.

I’ve identified four features of the transgender movement that serve as indicators of its role as a vehicle for state centralization of power:

  1. Transgenderism is such an extreme form of individualism that accommodating it in law will only create a vacuum for State power.  By its very nature it demands that an individual’s inner sense of reality trump any commonly held understanding of reality.  This makes it unsustainable.  Its extreme individualism demands the breakdown of society’s mediating institutions – such as family, faith, and private associations — that serve as buffer zones that protect the individual from State meddling.
  2. Transgenderism sows chaos into the language, requiring us all – universally and without exception – to accept a seismic change in the definition of what it means to be human, and what relationships mean, particularly family relationships.  Freedom of speech and association are casualities.
  3. It requires a very aggressive program of censorship in order to sustain itself and prop up its illusions over any commonly understood reality.
  4. It depends on a very aggressive campaign of agitation and propaganda to condition people to get with the program.

It thereby sows the conditions for totalitarianism.   We have no choice but to speak out in the face of its censorship. For more, see my talk at the link above.  And let’s never forget that free speech is a use-it-or-lose-it proposition.

Iran’s War on Dogs is Part of a War on All Personal Relationships

Stray 

Wanton cruelty to animals is well known to be a precursor to cruelty to humans. So humaneness to animals is a quality that any civilized society should insist upon. I touch on this in my recent Federalist essay: “Iran’s War Against Dogs.”

Dogs are amazing creatures, and it’s no wonder that there is a strong bond between them and human beings.  As companion animals they have a childlike innocence, a trust and loyalty that tends to melt our hearts. If we are in pain, they often sense that and will stay by our side to lend comfort. They are balm to loneliness.

The empathy and loyalty of dogs to their human companions runs deep.  They are great protectors and morale boosters who bring us joy and laughter. Everybody benefits —  including those who don’t particularly care for dogs — in a society that recognizes and cherishes the canine brand of companionship and unconditional love.

So what are we to think of people who have no qualms about the wanton killing and torture of dogs?  (My essay includes a video of the killing of dogs by acid injection, something I did not post here.) Obviously, there is something sociopathic going on with them.

We ought to understand that that’s the type of mentality the Obama Administration is propping up as it lends hefty support to the authoritarian dictators of Iran. We all know that the mullahs there not only preach death constantly – to America, to Israel, to Jews, to Christians, to Muslims they deem apostate – but they are also in the process of building a nuclear weapons program.

Americans seem to have become desensitized to the gravity of that threat, and even to the beheadings in the Middle East. But the sanctioned barbarity visited upon helpless dogs in Iran is something that can at least direct attention to the nature of that regime.

This is not just a war on dogs, but a war on all personal relationships.  The Iranian government would like all dogs completely banned as companion animals, especially now that more citizens there have dogs and the bond of love is growing. This is in keeping with any tyrant’s pattern of separating people from one another in order to control them. This pattern of isolating the controlled is a specialty of sociopaths like cult leaders and wife beaters too.  The idea is to separate their victims from any source of happiness independent of the tyrant’s control.

Let’s just remember that all dictators have on their agenda the intent to control every aspect of every person’s life.  In Iran this extends right down to the intent to forbid citizens to enjoy the companionship of dogs.