Nearly 100 years ago, Walter Lippmann wrote about “the manufacture of consent” in his classic work, “Public Opinion.” On the heels of that book, Edward Bernays penned a little volume called “Propaganda,” in which he stated that an elite would always be responsible for making the public aware of “new ideas” which the public would then act upon as the elite nudged them into it. Related, but more in-depth is Jacques Ellul’s 1962 book, “Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes.”
Political propaganda aims to mobilize the masses to move an agenda forward. That’s most effectively done when the masses are unaware of the process. It’s what “community organizers” work towards, whether they know it or not. Once the masses are mobilized to push for a cause, the propagandists’ goals can be put into law.
In fact, many newly propagandized ideas seem to have taken America by storm just in the past decade or so. Same-sex marriage is only one of those ideas. Transgenderism is now eclipsing that notion, and its propaganda techniques—wrapped in the language of civil rights—are getting Americans on board with the idea of erasing all sex distinctions in law, including their own. It’s as though Americans are buying into a fast-talking sales pitch without being allowed to read the print, whether it’s large print or small.
There’s more on the horizon: a singles’ rights movement that promises to end legal recognition of all marriage. Then there is transhumanism, which includes a push to end “fleshism” by enacting laws that protect non-biological entities from discrimination.
Propaganda Is Directing Us Leftward
American conservatives are by and large clueless about propaganda methods and tactics. And it shows. There are virtually no conservative social psychologists around. You’d think once a liberal social psychologist hits the public over the head with this fact some on the Right would take notice and at least try to get clued in.
Meanwhile, the Left has been employing social psychology and depth psychology on the masses for decades. President Obama’s campaign staff was filled with social psychologists. In this context, those who believe conservatives can subsist on reason and logic alone are kidding themselves. It’s no wonder GOP leaders are caving on so many principles, and being absorbed so easily into the Left’s machine.
A lot of people are scratching their heads today, wondering how life got to be so surreal, so fast in the United States of America. Based on the silencing tactics revealed by the LGBT lobby, many observers are likely now thinking: “Gee, I thought marriage equality was merely a gay rights movement. I didn’t realize that fascism was part of that package.” The Great Unraveling continues at a rapid clip when slipping on a pronoun in these days of transgender rule could cost you your career or earn you massive social media rallies chanting “hater” at you.
Even benign reminders of the First Amendment—embodied in Religious Freedom Restoration Acts—are quickly dispatched by mob hysteria. One day a supposedly principled leader like Indiana Gov. Mike Pence promotes the RFRA, and the next day he folds and essentially signs on with the mob.
There seem to be few independent thinkers left. But even they don’t seem to know what hit them. A woman gets banned by her gym and labelled a bigot because she told management that a man—who she only later learned “identified as female”—entered the locker room while she was getting undressed. Comedians who dare tread into trans territory are shut down. Never before have the media and pop culture dictated in such a draconian manner how each and every one of us is supposed to think about identity. Our own identity.
The list goes on. The unrest and rioting from Ferguson to Baltimore seem to be happening on cue also, with media propaganda that urges it on. There is no real debate on the merits of policies that depend on a blind faith in man-made global warming: those who disagree are labelled “deniers.”
Our Age of Mass Delusion and Logicide
But it was all so predictable.
One of the best books that cracks the code on what we are living through was written by Dutch psychiatrist Joost A. M. Meerloo about 60 years ago. Mull over the first line of his book’s forward, and you will think he is writing about today: “This book attempts to depict the strange transformation of the free human mind into an automatically responding machine – a transformation which can be brought about by some of the cultural undercurrents in our present-day society as well as by deliberate experiments in the service of a political ideology.”
That’s from “The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing” (1956). There is indeed a war on the private mind, as Kevin Williamson explained in a recent National Review column. Unfortunately, too many Americans have been sleeping through most of its propaganda battles, and for a very long time. When it comes to understanding the inner workings of social psychology and political correctness, we seem to be at a loss.
Meanwhile, the power elites who now control the media, academia, and Hollywood seem to understand social psychology well enough to exploit it on a massive scale. They have engaged in psychological warfare against the private mind by inducing “collective belief formation.” There’s really nothing new here. Conditioning and nudging the masses into groupthink is a very old trick of all wannabe dictators. The bloody twentieth century is filled to the gills with examples.
Yet it feels like we’ve awakened to an ambush. A lot of Americans watched in shock while cultish mobs suddenly attacked the RFRA that Pence initially defended. But the groundwork for mass hysteria like this was stealthily laid for decades, and the minefields sown.
Family breakdown led to community breakdown, which we can see in the decline of trust in society. Ignorance was cultivated in the schools through political correctness and squashing free debate. The academy’s disparaging of western civilization virtually wiped out respect for any serious study of history and civics, as well as for the Socratic method and the rules of civil discourse. Political correctness sewed confusion into the language, particularly regarding identity politics. Youth are now set to be programmed for conformity through the K-12 “Common Core” curriculum mandates.
All of that and more promotes the semantic fog that allows for mind rape. It amounts to an act of “logicide,” to borrow a term from Meerloo, whom I will continue to quote below. To kill logic and reason that might stand in their way, wannabe dictators “fabricate a hate language in order to stir up mass emotions.” Leaders in Indiana, Arkansas, and Louisiana have been unable to understand this tactic and are grossly unprepared to deal with it. So they simply surrendered. In effect, they joined the mob, further endangering everybody’s freedom.
The Link Between Crowds and Power
The whole image of such mass delusion in America is surrealistic, especially to comfortably insulated Americans who believe our first freedoms could never really be thrown away in the face of such a full-frontal, PC-induced attack. Most cannot grasp that such mobs are mentally detached from reality. And participants in the mob action cannot comprehend that they are actually cutting off their own freedom of expression, as well as everybody else’s.
Why would anyone want to build such a culture of coercion? In a word, power. “Equality” is not the reason for what is happening with such mobs. It is the pretext for what they are doing. Like all such deceptions, its sole purpose is as a vehicle to transfer power from individuals to an increasingly centralized state. The fuel, as usual, is the emotional blackmail of people of goodwill, the uses of mass mobilization to exploit that goodwill, then, finally, to render all such goodwill meaningless.
Most who protest the RFRA laws are more likely pawns than true believers. Like the “Occupy Wall Street” crowd, they tend to be atomized individuals who are drawn to the psychic thrill of being part of a mobilized mass that feeds on emotions and can feel a sense of righteousness in the stated pretext. (In the RFRA case, it’s the semantic device of “marriage equality,” but it’ll just as easily be something else tomorrow.) “The ecstatic participation in mass elation is the oldest psycho drama in the world,” wrote Meerloo.
“Crowds and Power,” by Elias Canetti, is a classic work that explores in detail the draw of the crowd for human beings. With the continued chipping away of the organic family of mother-child-father, human relationships inevitably become diluted and more subservient to a mass state. This detachment cultivates human alienation, which draws more people to answer to the call of the mass state’s mob.
Such protesters and their scores of clueless apologists in the media are also utterly detached from the reality of the meaning of laws such as an RFRA. The RFRA only clarifies that the government doesn’t get to coerce us in private thought or to dictate what we are allowed to feel, believe, think, and express. In other words, the First Amendment is not negotiable if we are to have any semblance of freedom in this country.
But the emotional stew in which we are now boiling doesn’t allow logic or reason to prevail. We can never fight back as long as we are in the dark about how our minds can be manipulated. So we absolutely must try to fully understand the methods and tactics of mental coercion and share that knowledge with others as much as possible.
Brainwashing—Mind Rape—Is for Real
Meerloo published “The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide and Brainwashing” in 1956 after years immersed in the study of social psychology and countless interviews with victims of mental coercion, including Nazi officers and American prisoners of war in Korea. This treasure of insights was written for the layman. It is an absolute must-read for anyone who hopes to uphold the dignity of the individual. The book offers the psychic defenses so lacking among those who submit to logicide.
“The transformation of the free human mind to an automatically responding machine” is essentially the story of the transformation of the United States of America we are watching in real time today. Delusion is an important element, because tyrannies do not stand up to logic. It seems very sudden, but it’s not. We’re only at this tipping point because we let our defenses down. In fact, if the First Amendment collapses, it would simply indicate a return to humanity’s tribal default position, in which a sort of Nietzschean “Will to Power” rules the day.
Mass delusion is an important tool of oppressors because they can’t survive where free exercise of expression and association is practiced. Unfortunately, delusion can be induced anywhere.
“It is simply a question of organizing and manipulating collective feelings in the proper way. If one can isolate the mass, allow no free thinking, no free exchange, no outside correction and can hypnotize the group daily with noises, with press and radio and television, with fear and pseudo-enthusiasms, any delusion can be instilled.”
Free Speech Is the Only Antidote to Mass Delusion
“The Rape of the Mind” could have served as a terrific manual to inoculate many against political correctness and groupthink, had it not collected so much dust since it was published in 1956. More of us could have learned how free speech is essential to preventing mass delusion.
Free expression is always the prime target of tyrants because it promotes logic, the search for truth, and friendship. America is exceptional precisely because it rejects the tyrants’ rule.
Yet as our speech becomes more restricted, we end up more separated from one another and more susceptible to mass delusions. As Meerloo wrote: “Where thinking is isolated without free exchange with other minds, delusion may follow.” He added, chillingly, “Is this not what happened in Hitler Germany where free verification and self-correction were forbidden?”
In his book, Meerloo also shows immense compassion for our human frailties. He understood just how difficult it is to push back against the social pressures to conform. When it comes to brainwashing, every one of us has our breaking point. But we absolutely must push back once we understand those tactics: “The totalitarian potentate, in order to break down the minds of men, first needs widespread mental chaos and verbal confusion, because both paralyze his opposition and cause the morale of the enemy to deteriorate – unless his adversaries are aware of the dictator’s real aim.”
Of course, it’s really hard for control freaks to do their work on us if we are speaking freely with one another in friendship, and especially if we all understand what they are up to and can call them on it in one voice. So their first order of business is to separate us. A sense of enforced isolation is a cruel and effective tool for instilling loneliness and then delusion in people.
According to Meerloo, manipulators accomplish this through the knowledge that “far below the surface, human life is built up of inner contradictions.” Our hopes and fears and longing to avoid social rejection are exploited through the dictates of political correctness, which is the tool that separates people today, especially in that one place where ideas and ideals are supposed to be tested most vigorously in adulthood: the university.
By squashing free thought in the one place where it is supposed to be especially respected, political correctness circumvents Meerloo’s warning that “the only way to strengthen one’s defenses against an organized attack on the mind and will is to understand better what the enemy is trying to do to outwit him.”
Of course, the fear of isolation isn’t always enough to silence some people. So manipulators repeat lies and sloganeer endlessly to condition their subjects to repress unauthorized speech and thought: “The techniques of propaganda and salesmanship have been refined and systematized; there is scarcely any hiding place from the constant visual and verbal assault on the mind. The pressures of daily life impel more and more people to seek an easy escape from responsibility and maturity.”
It’s sobering to realize that the above words predate the Internet by nearly half a century. They describe perfectly how transgenderism has become such a “thing” and why so few are willing to admit that the emperor has no clothes.
Love and Laughter Dissipate Delusion
As more people succumb to PC conditioning and cede their freedom of thought, it becomes more difficult for the rest of us to maintain integrity of mind. Our audience shrinks. As we encounter more and more drone-like personalities in daily life, the world seems to sink into surrealism, like so many in Rod Serling’s old “Twilight Zone” episodes.
Meerloo testified to this feeling of disorientation: “Many victims of totalitarianism have told me in interviews that the most upsetting experience they faced in the concentration camps was the feeling of loss of logic, the state of confusion in which they had been brought – the state in which nothing had any validity.”
That’s because in the mass centralized state, “peaceful exchange of thoughts in free conversation will disturb the conditioned reflexes and is therefore taboo.” On a hopeful note, Meerloo writes that “love and laughter break through all rigid conditioning.”
I think the reason there is so little “comedy” that’s funny today is the genre itself has been hijacked by the humorless PC crowd. Why is their humor so unamusing and so dependent upon mean-spiritedness? Consider this possibility: “The totalitarian mind is like the schizophrenic individual; it has a contempt for reality. Think for a moment of Lysenko’s theory and its denial of the influence of heredity. The totalitarian mind does not observe and verify its impressions of reality; it dictates to reality how it shall behave, it compels reality to conform to its fantasies.”
Along these lines, Meerloo offers a prescription: “We must learn to treat the demagogue and aspirant dictator in our midst just as we should treat our external enemies in a cold war – with the weapon of ridicule. The demagogue himself is almost incapable of humor of any sort, and if we treat him with humor, he will begin to collapse. Humor is, after all, related to a sense of perspective. If we can see how things should be, we can see how askew they can get, and we can recognize distortion when we are confronted with it.”
Freedom Requires Self-Awareness
Before human beings can preserve true freedom, they must first be aware of their individual inner contradictions: “Democracy, by its very nature will always have to fight against dictatorship from without and destructiveness from within. Democratic freedom has to battle against both the individual’s inner will to power and his urge to submit to other people . . . Essentially, democracy means the right to develop yourself and not to be developed by others. Yet to develop yourself is impossible without the duty of giving your energy and attention to the development of others.”
So, in the end, freedom truly depends upon breaking down the walls of separation that tyranny builds. It means cultivating the art of friendship, boldly exercising our rights to free association and to communicate our thoughts to others. It means cultivating knowledge instead of cultivating ignorance.
After all, political correctness is primarily a tool for crushing people’s ability to have open conversations in friendship and mutual respect. In this context, it seems very much like a tool to bring all personal relationships under state control. And it shouldn’t surprise us that this is being done today in the name of equality for certain kinds of personal relationships. Tyrannies always pretend to promote the very thing they seek to destroy.
Resistance Is Not Futile
So, where do we go from here? We need to take philosopher George Santayana’s warning to heart, that those who don’t learn from the past are condemned to repeat it. We need to remind leaders who are tempted to cave in to mob hysteria that resistance to tyranny is not as futile as submission to tyranny.
Nearly 60 years ago, Meerloo warned his readers that we absolutely must equip ourselves for this war on the private mind: “In the future, as our psychological understanding grows, leading politicians will have to be better educated in the principles of modern psychology. Just as a soldier must know how to handle his physical weapons, so the politicians must know how to face and handle the mental strategy of human relationships and diplomacy. He will have to become aware of the pitfalls in all human communication and the frailties of his own mind.”
In retrospect, it’s tragic that virtually all well-positioned people of goodwill seem to have been unaware of that warning, or able to effectively act on it. Worse, many end up caving to tyrants because they are unaware of the tactics on the propaganda battlefield.
Our hope, as Meerloo concluded, is in the reality that human rebellion and dissent cannot be forever suppressed: “They await only one breath of freedom in order to awake once more.”