When Prophecy Fails is essential reading in Our Thing, because it nails a crucial part of Leftist psychology. Briefly: A cult claimed that a flood would destroy the Earth on December 21, 1954. Only the faithful would be saved, because they’d be evacuated by a flying saucer. 12/21/54 passed without incident, of course, but what you’d expect to happen to the cult, didn’t — instead of everyone dropping out and moving on with their lives, most stayed, and their commitment to the cult’s leader actually increased.
Why? From the Wiki summary, believers will persist in the face of overwhelming disconfirmation if:
- A belief must be held with deep conviction and it must have some relevance to action, that is, to what the believer does or how he or she behaves.
- The person holding the belief must have committed himself to it; that is, for the sake of his belief, he must have taken some important action that is difficult to undo. In general, the more important such actions are, and the more difficult they are to undo, the greater is the individual’s commitment to the belief.
- The belief must be sufficiently specific and sufficiently concerned with the real world so that events may unequivocally refute the belief.
- Such undeniable disconfirmatory evidence must occur and must be recognized by the individual holding the belief.
- The individual believer must have social support. It is unlikely that one isolated believer could withstand the kind of disconfirming evidence that has been specified. If, however, the believer is a member of a group of convinced persons who can support one another, the belief may be maintained and the believers may attempt to proselytize or persuade nonmembers that the belief is correct.
This is Leftism in a nutshell, and it explains why SJWs are impervious to factual, rational argument. Boiled down as far as it will go: Group identity is so important to the Leftist that, faced with the choice between continued group membership and the evidence of xzhyr own lying eyes, xzhey will pick group membership, every time. This sets up its own feedback mechanism, such that disconfirmations of their dogmas actually increase their commitment — only the truest, holiest believers would keep believing in the face of the facts.
There are a million examples, but since climate hysteria is briefly back in the news let’s go with that. That Greta Thunberg freak might not know it — she is, after all, a product of modern “education” — but anyone old enough to remember the early 2000s has heard her spiel before. Al Gore kept telling us that the world would end by 2012 or something; he made a movie about it and everything. Hell, several generations of Americans have heard this nonsense before, going all the way back to the original Earth Day in 1970.
Of course, back then it was global cooling that was going to kill us all, and do you see what I mean about True Believers? The very same people who were convinced that we were all gonna die in a new Ice Age in 1970 were certain we’d die of melted polar ice caps in 2006, just as they’re now positive we’re going to get killed by…. whatever it is Thunberg is hectoring the UN about. Normal folks’ skulls would’ve exploded from cognitive dissonance, but the eco-freaks don’t suffer from cognitive dissonance. Because, for them, it never rises to the level of cognition in the first place. If “pulling a U-turn on your deepest convictions” is what it takes to stay in the group, well, start peeling rubber. The cult’s leadership will come up with a retcon in due time.
Two interesting effects flow from this. The first is the growing disconnect between the cult’s leadership and the True Believers. A cult with a big enough membership roster stops being a cult and becomes a movement. Movements beget organizations, which by universal law attract grifters, with predictable-as-sunrise consequences. E.g. Christianity. Back in the mid-first century, Christians were sure that Christ would return in their lifetimes — after all, He said so Himself. His comeback tour kept getting postponed, though, and these days you can be the leader of a major Christian denomination without ever bothering with that “Jesus” guy, much less any of the stuff He said.*
This is why “global cooling” became “global warming,” which is now “global climate change.” We cognitively-normal folks assume that the eco-freaks keep changing the name to avoid cognitive dissonance. After all, the climate “changes” every day — we call it “weather,” but if you’re looking for evidence that your crackpot eco-doom theories are correct, well, just look at how much the temperature varies from noon to midnight!! But see above: Cognitive dissonance is actually a boon to the eco-freaks, because in cult psychology, disconfirmations prove that you were right all along. The eco-freaks would still trot goofy Greta Thunberg out there no matter what it’s called, and she, poor deluded little sod, would keep on doing her thing, because she’s in the cult. So: They, the eco-freaks, didn’t come up with “climate change;” the grifters in charge of Climate Shakedown Inc. did.
It’s a crucial distinction. As any good cult leader knows, the real money in running a cult doesn’t come from the cultists themselves. It comes from the hangers-on who buy your products and vote for you. Think of it like the gym. Notice how all the gyms these days are called “fitness clubs?” It’s a brilliant marketing move, straight out of the UFO cult playbook.
Gyms fitness clubs don’t make their money off the small hard core of people who work out every day. Rather, it’s the people who sign up — who join the club — but never actually go.
Here’s how you talk yourself into a
gym fitness club membership: “I need to get in shape. So I’ll buy a club membership. That way, I can go whenever I want.” In Festinger’s taxonomy (the bullet points above), you’re at step 2: You’ve taken a significant action in line with your belief. Gyms fitness clubs add a further refinement of late-20th century marketing, in that they offer you a yuuuuge “discount” off the outrageously-high signup fee, but the underlying psychological process is the same.
And now you’re set up for the disconfirmations — that is, all those times you think about going to the gym, but don’t actually go. Objectively you’re wasting your money, but psychologically you’re committed to the idea of yourself as someone who does “fitness” — you’re in a fitness club, after all!** And since everyone you know is doing the same thing — fully 75% of conversations one overhears at Starbucks are soccer moms griping about how they need to work out, but just can’t find the time — you’re in, all the way, bullets 3-5.
The “climate change” scam works the same way. When she’s on the campaign trail pimping the “Green New Deal,” Fauxcahontas Warren knows she doesn’t have to pitch it to the eco-freaks; they’d vote for her no matter what. She has to pitch it to the normies, fitness club-style. That’s where the “climate change” nomenclature really pays off. It’s shockingly easy to get people convinced of a lunatic belief. All you have to do is a) get ’em early, and b) overload them with “evidence.” You know the drill: These days, we’re lectured practically from birth that we must Do Something! for The Environment!… and the “evidence” for this, of course, is the ceaseless, dramatic variation in daily temperature the un-indoctrinated call “weather,” plus all the other dramatic variations in climate that didn’t happen. So long as you pitch it with complete self-righteousness, people with the critical thinking skills of five year olds will fall in line every time.
Then all you have to do is get people to take action… which the government, in all its wonderful helpfulness, has already done: Low-flow toilets, those stupid twisty “light” bulbs, toilet paper that either shreds on contact with skin or sandpapers your asshole off, plastic straw bans, mandatory recycling, you name it. And I’m sure y’all realize by now that the fact that none of this stuff actually works is a feature, not a bug. since it’s the disconfirmations that get you. That’s the pitch to the normies — you obviously care about “the environment,” in the same way you care about “fitness.” Just as the “fitness club” owners will happily keep cashing your checks while you remain a diabetic lardass, so Fauxcahontas will keep cashing your checks while the weather stubbornly remains the weather….
Part II coming soon.
*Before anyone gets their panties in a wad: I’m a Christian myself. But a doctrine’s truth has nothing to do with the organization that propagates it. Jesus’s cultists went through the very same psychological processes as Festinger’s UFO cultists. That Jesus was right, and “Marian Keech” was wrong, is incidental.
**See the work of Robert Cialdini for oh so much more — there’s a reason Influence is the only book most PUA knuckleheads have ever bought.