During the last election cycle, news outlets and Facebook pages were full of smears slung out against the challenger for Boundary County Commissioner, Steve Fioravanti and his family, as well as District 1 Senator, Scott Herndon, and a group of citizens circulating a petition to recall members of the library board. In addition, liberty advocates in North Idaho, and elsewhere in Idaho, have been maligned seemingly beyond any reason. Some of these smear agents were undoubtedly political operatives, or biased journalists, but many of them were ordinary citizens repeating the political shibboleths being fed to them by the media.
Right wing extremists, revolutionaries, Nazis, fascists, Taliban Christians, militant Fundamentalist Christians, white supremacists, white nationalists, alt-right, racists, book burners, book banners: these were all smears and insults slung out in order to intimidate and discredit conservatives. This strategy is part of an effort to shame and tame political opposition.
In a recent article for Boundary.News I described a “smear-industrial complex” exposed by prize-winning investigative journalist, Sharyl Attkisson. To briefly recap, Attkisson tells us that David Brock assembled a complex of left-leaning organizations to work for the Clintons. Brock and Google have cooperated to smear and silence conservatives. The main thrust of this cooperation was to smear former President Trump and his supporters. Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter are employed for such purposes, as well as transactional journalists. The library debacle was picked up by national and international news outlets. North Idaho is on their radar.
I think it good to caution North Idaho residents regarding the hazards of swallowing disinformation whole.
The Waking Dream
Mattias Desmet recently came out with a book called The Psychology of Totalitarianism. Desmet thinks the masses of the entire world are sliding into a hypnotic-like state of mind known as “mass formation.” Mass formation is a necessary prerequisite to the implementation of a totalitarian regime.
So is Mattias Desmet a right-wing nutcracker opening and closing his jaws? Not at all. Desmet is Professor of Clinical Psychology at Ghent University in Belgium. He has studied the rise of the masses in totalitarian regimes in history, such as in pre-WWll Germany, the former Soviet Union and other regimes around the world. He distinguishes totalitarian regimes from dictatorships. A dictator controls public speech, but totalitarians extinguish both public and private thought and speech. They partially do this by using the masses to self-police their own and others’ behavior and speech.
Desmet tells us that, in the process of mass formation, individuals unite in the face of fear and uncertainty (such as observed during the Covid-19 pandemic) in order to fight a perceived threat. The individual melts into the crowd and hearkens to the voice of the crowd, to the voice of leaders, experts and mass media. The individuals are absorbed into, and find solidarity with, the crowd (or masses). They adhere to a dominant narrative, but they are not as concerned as to whether or not the narrative is accurate, but that they are all saying it together in solidarity.
Dispensing with Dissent
Among the salient characteristics of masses undergoing mass formation is that they are intolerant of dissident voices. Those individuals who protest against the dominant narrative and who won’t participate in the requirements of the dominant narrative (such as wearing a mask) are seen as traitors to the crowd, hence the crowd starts snitching on those who won’t comply. Dissenting individuals become targets of aggression.
Another characteristic is the crowd’s disregard for basic civil liberties and rights, either for themselves, or for any dissidents. Intolerance and authoritarianism are characteristic of totalitarized masses. The Rule of Law is set aside in the interest of battling whatever is perceived as threatening.
Desmet writes that it is impossible to impose mass formation without the use of media. The leaders use propaganda via the media to persuade the people. One of the main strategies used is similar to a hypnotist’s technique. A hypnotist narrows the subject’s attention to one field of focus the way a lamp lights a certain area, but leaves the unlighted area in darkness. Facts, data and graphs that tend to undermine the dominant narrative are excluded, and the masses’ attention is focused onto the area the leaders “light” via the media. Any unwanted evidence and alternative voices are left in the darkness outside of the masses’ field of attention.
Words that make Us Stupid
One means of narrowing the field of attention is by tinkering with language so it can be used to control rational thought and discussion. Language used to constrict thought is often referred to as Newspeak. Heather Heying, on the YouTube channel, Dark Horse Podcast, comments on Stanford University’s recent list of acceptable language.
Heying says that Stanford’s document is an attempt to constrict and narrow thought and speech, and is an example of the New Newspeak. Bret Weinstein, her husband, comments that the authors of the list also assume, and therefore set up an assumption in others, that the so-called experts have the authority to tell us what we may or may not say. In other words, this is use of language that narrows our field of vision, as does Desmet’s metaphorical lamp discussed above. Newspeak is not dead, nor does it live only in the writings of George Orwell.
Learning a New Language
Roger Scruton (1944-2020), former philosopher, writer, and professor wrote an analysis of thought and language used by the New Left in his book, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left. Scruton follows the development of Newspeak over more than 50 years. Below, he describes the Marxist use of language to bring about revolution:
As Orwell perceived, the first target of every revolution is language. The need is to create a Newspeak that puts power in the place previously occupied by truth and, having done this, to describe the result as a ‘politics of truth’. To achieve this new kind of truth it is important to avoid refutation, but not, as science avoids it, by courting and surviving counter-arguments. Refutation must be evaded, so that the truth within the dogma can be protected from the malice contained in real things [in reality].
Hence, we see the need for censorship and shadow-banning on social media. It’s a tactic of turning our fragile minds’ attention away from unauthorized knowledge, and diverting our focus to the areas desired. It’s a way to evade refutation that might break the hypnotic spell.
Scruton goes on to argue, “Revolutions begin by encasing reality in Newspeak, and thereafter are haunted by the fear that reality will break out of its case and become visible as it truly is.”
Newspeak as Parasite
In order to destroy a culture, its institutions must be implanted with a worm that will feed from the inside out. Newspeak is that worm. Practitioners of Newspeak consider “right-wing conservative” a term of abuse, as conservatives protest against the tearing down of traditional culture and institutions, and therefore are dissidents who get in the way of revolution. This is why Donald Trump and his supporters, who want to make America Great Again, who wish to preserve American culture and institutions, must be redefined as white nationalists, right-wing extremists and fascists. Scruton says the first job of conservatives is to restore our language.
Mattias Desmet cautions us that mass formation can cause the emergence of new forms of governance, especially totalitarian regimes, and can lead to atrocities. That is reason enough for us to analyze whatever information to which we are subjected. Do not swallow information whole, but stringently examine it. Keep an open mind; take everything with a grain of salt. Above all, think for yourself, and resist the occupation of our minds.