I’ve mentioned it before, but I highly recommend Robert Jay Lifton’s Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, his study of “brainwashing” in early Mao-era China. He listed eight criteria for successful “thought reform:”
- Milieu Control. This involves the control of information and communication both within the environment and, ultimately, within the individual, resulting in a significant degree of isolation from society at large.
- Mystical Manipulation. The manipulation of experiences that appears spontaneous but is, in fact, planned and orchestrated by the group or its leaders in order to demonstrate divine authority, spiritual advancement, or some exceptional talent or insight that sets the leader and/or group apart from humanity, and that allows reinterpretation of historical events, scripture, and other experiences. Coincidences and happenstance oddities are interpreted as omens or prophecies.
- Demand for Purity. The world is viewed as black and white and the members are constantly exhorted to conform to the ideology of the group and strive for perfection. The induction of guilt and/or shame is a powerful control device used here.
- Confession. Sins, as defined by the group, are to be confessed either to a personal monitor or publicly to the group. There is no confidentiality; members’ “sins,” “attitudes,” and “faults” are discussed and exploited by the leaders.
- Sacred Science. The group’s doctrine or ideology is considered to be the ultimate Truth, beyond all questioning or dispute. Truth is not to be found outside the group. The leader, as the spokesperson for God or for all humanity, is likewise above criticism.
- Loading the Language. The group interprets or uses words and phrases in new ways so that often the outside world does not understand. This jargon consists of thought-terminating clichés, which serve to alter members’ thought processes to conform to the group’s way of thinking.
- Doctrine over person. Members’ personal experiences are subordinated to the sacred science and any contrary experiences must be denied or reinterpreted to fit the ideology of the group.
- Dispensing of existence. The group has the prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not. This is usually not literal but means that those in the outside world are not saved, unenlightened, unconscious and they must be converted to the group’s ideology. If they do not join the group or are critical of the group, then they must be rejected by the members. Thus, the outside world loses all credibility. In conjunction, should any member leave the group, he or she must be rejected also.
I did a whole series on this (start here), but it’s worth rehashing here, as at that point we only had six regular readers and now we’re up to twelve (wow, a 100% increase! We all deserve raises). We can boil it down to two crucial points:
- You can find all of this stuff, right out in the open, at any college in the land. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Lifton’s eight steps are pretty much just what college IS these days.
- It doesn’t have to be “total” to work.
The second point is worth expanding, because of course you can’t go the full Mao on college kids — you have to let ’em off campus sometime. The best you can reasonably do with the majority of kids is to infect them with Social Justice toxoplasma, a latent infection that flares up intermittently for the rest of your life, like malaria. As David Stove said of Hegel, you can’t be exposed to very much of this stuff without contracting the habit of thinking the way they want you to think. “Privilege,” for instance, is everywhere; it’s just part of the human condition. But it’s lethally easy to start blaming people for their “privilege,” and once you do — even once — you’re infected.
Leftism isn’t a set of doctrines, obviously — the SJW catechism changes daily, without warning, as we’ve all seen. Nor is it a mindset, a way of thinking, a weltanschauung. All of those are too all-encompassing, and nobody’s a full-time Leftist, because that’s impossible. Seriously — you can’t grow potatoes by “thinking” like a Liberal, because that would entail you can grow potatoes whenever you want, regardless of climate or season, so long as the soil is sufficiently #Woke about its “nitrate privilege.”
Leftism only works if you think about it as a latent infection, that flares up when conditions are right. One of my granddad’s old war buddies, for instance, got malaria courtesy of Emperor Hirohito back in 1944. Every few years he’d get run down with the flu or whatever, and then, when his constitution was at its lowest, boom! He’d have malaria again.
Leftism’s like that. It’s like the rage virus from 28 Days Later, except instead of turning you into a spastic zombie full time, it only flares up when activated. The point of American “education,” then, is simply to infect you with the virus. And trust me, I speak from long experience — put the typical kid through all eight of Lifton’s steps, and they will contract SJ toxoplasma. It’s almost impossible not to.Loading Likes...