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How Compulsive Conformity Can Get People Killed

Two dynamics are at work: the conformity impulse and the manipulation of that impulse by power brokers to promote the illusion that their view is the majority opinion.

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Our survival instincts are going to get us all killed.

I’m specifically referring to our hard-wired conformity impulse. That’s what causes us to go along with politically correct absurdities like pronoun protocols. It also causes people to join mobs, and to drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid at the command of a cult leader.

In primitive environments, the herd instinct serves as a means of survival. If some sense danger and rush to safety, all follow. But how does such a conformity impulse work in a high-tech society like ours? It doesn’t really.

Sure, a certain level of conformity is normal for a society to function. But an unchecked conformity impulse in a technological society like ours acts more like slow-motion suicide than a survival mechanism. We think we’re saving ourselves by conforming, but in the long run the opposite is true.

In fact, our instinct to conform has become a weapon tyrants use to control us by threatening social isolation for those who don’t obey. This is especially the case when a monopoly of tech overlords can broadcast propaganda to the herd, instantly and globally. In such cases there is no “wisdom of crowds.” When the masses obey the propaganda to avoid social punishment, they only prop up propaganda and thereby spread social turmoil.

Propagandists Manipulate our Conformity Impulse

We should be aghast at the high level of American conformity to the demands of propagandists: Mask your toddler! He’s a girl and she’s a guy! Mind your pronouns! He’s a white supremacist! And so on. Nobody is safe if we can’t challenge the truth of what the elites who presume to rule us are saying.

Meanwhile, they keep pushing the envelope to get us to say things we know are false and to do things against our own interests. Demonizing those who hesitate to comply fosters a mob mindset that protects their narratives. Hence, people with different views feel alone and tend to be intimidated into silence. This is how resistance to tyranny is eroded.

Demonization campaigns are key to this process. Suddenly, you’re a bigot if you don’t celebrate men invading women’s sports. Or you’re an “insurrectionist” if you don’t applaud punishing people with 24/7 solitary confinement (without a trial date) for “parading” around the Capitol for a few hours on January 6, 2021.

Or you’re selfish if your toddler isn’t wearing a mask. Or you should be expelled as a Yale law student if you don’t take part in shouting down a conversation about free speech at Yale Law School and then sign a statement intended to abolish freedom of speech.

The Conformity Impulse Is Juvenile and Deadly

Teenage girls provide an especially clear-cut example of how the conformity dynamic works. Too many of them are notorious for engaging in relational aggression, a type of bullying that damages someone’s social status, causing others to shun and isolate the victim. This type of aggression is inherent to mob behavior.

For example, pundit Kathleen Parker’s recent hit job on Ginni Thomas in The Washington Post is infused with a smug little middle school flavor. It includes a huge dose of projection, such as Parker’s hallucination that Thomas has a sense of self-importance, when it’s obviously the Parker girl who’s infected with egotism.

Hillary Clinton is perhaps the ultimate case of the “I’m important and you’re not” mentality. The subtext of Clinton’s 2021 wistful reading of her 2016 acceptance speech is that Americans were obligated to elect her because she wanted to be president ever since she was a little girl. Men with a similar mentality include MSNBC anchor Joe Scarborough, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and humorless late-night “comics” like Stephen Colbert.

Their followers imitate and repeat what they’re told by the approved talking heads. They laugh at unfunny lines on cue, regurgitate the assigned opinions, and label the non-compliant with the “eewww” factor. Many are eager to become “influencers” so they too can dictate what others must say and do on pain of being socially rejected.

The Secret Laws of Social Psychology

Far too many have been marching in lockstep with media-pushed narratives, and too few seem to be speaking out. Two dynamics are at work: the conformity impulse and the manipulation of that impulse by power brokers to promote the illusion that their view is the majority opinion.

To resist this absurd state of affairs, we must first learn about the dynamics and understand our vulnerabilities. The information is out there, but it doesn’t get much circulation.

Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing once observed that people are dangerously ignorant of the laws of mob psychology. In 1987 she recommended everyone be schooled in them, especially children. She speculated that power elites are invested in such ignorance. If such knowledge were widely understood, people would be insulated from the manipulations of propagandists.

A lot of the research on conformity was the result of scholars asking how small groups of fanatics could take over whole societies — e.g., Bolsheviks in Russia and Nazis in Germany — resulting in millions killed while the vast majority of the population sat back in silence and fear.

In the 1950s psychologist Solomon Asch conducted his famous experiments on the conformity impulse. At least 37 percent of the time people would deny the evidence of their own eyes — about the obvious fact of a line’s length — if everyone else gave an incorrect answer. The experiment has been replicated thousands of times with the same or worse results. Here’s a video of that experiment conducted in the 1970s:

Stanley Milgram later took that study to a new level with his famous “shock machine” experiments. When Adolf Eichmann said he was “just following orders” while on trial for his leading role in the Holocaust, Milgram wondered how often ordinary people would inflict harm if told to do so by an authority figure.

Participants in that experiment were told it was a study about how punishment affected learning. If the “learner” gave an incorrect answer, the “teacher” was supposed to shock him in increments. The learners were actors who could not be seen but, although not really shocked, would scream in “pain” from the next room. The “teacher” was the subject.

Sixty-five percent of the subjects gave the highest voltage shock when asked to “please continue” by the administrator. For more background, watch “The Experimenter,” a 2015 film about Milgram. Other related research includes the Robbers Cave Experiment; Robert J. Lifton’s research on thought reform and totalitarianism; and Margaret Thaler Singer’s research on cults. All illustrate how elites can manipulate our urge to conform.

Everybody needs to learn about the dynamics of conformity. Blatant censorship, hostility to free speech, and campaigns to demonize mainstream American views were all unthinkable scenarios for most Americans just a few years ago.

But here we are. When we start self-censoring because we’re afraid of not fitting in, we open the door to oppression and social chaos. That unchecked urge to “fit in” can kill us all, and we need to stop.