Achieving a “Social Consensus” for Tyranny

One of the great Kafkaesque elements of this moment in humanity’s collapse is the repeated sense, experienced only by the conscious minority, we happy few, that we are watching our fellow men behaving as people behave in nightmares — walking directly into obvious traps or off cliffs, seemingly without an iota of doubt or concern. We watch those around us, and around the world, as their rulers impose crushing restrictions on their freedom, or as their news media actively promote their enslavement, and we wait — mesmerized rather than hopeful — wondering when they might suddenly wake up and resist, but somehow also knowing they will not resist. They accept the leash and believe the lies without question, even eagerly, as our shouts of warning increasingly feel like the silent screams we experience in dreams, anxious but ineffectual. What is happening to the world around us, and how is it happening?

An object lesson, if you please, in the mechanisms of democratic socialism, by which I mean the government of your country today, wherever you live, if it is not an overt one-party state yet. 

Today, the Korean government, faced with “record numbers” of new coronavirus cases (i.e., positive tests) — though still a tiny number compared to any Western nation — is considering ramping up its social distancing “level” to a threshold that, they concede, would entail the closure of up to two million small businesses and facilities in Seoul and the surrounding area, with residual effects throughout the nation’s economy, of course. The idea that the national government of a democratic society would even consider such an extreme and despotic course, particularly under such an obvious non-emergency, should send chills up the spine. Instead, it seems to be having exactly the opposite effect on much of the Korean population, which, as with the majority of every other nation on Earth this year, has been so perfectly played by government and mass media fearmongering that the state’s “hesitation” to institute economy-crushing measures is more likely to be met with a mass outcry of “Hurry up and save us before it’s too late!” — precisely the effect this alleged hesitation is intended to have.

Here is how the country’s prime minister Chung Sye-kyun (the number two man in Moon Jae-in’s government) describes the decision-making process: “Under Level 3, around 2 million shops and facilities will be ordered to shut down. We also need to earn enough consensus (before moving on to the highest level).” (Emphasis added.)

That is social democracy at its finest, working on all cylinders. Forcibly shutting down millions of citizens’ livelihoods and destroying their financial stability would be a tyrannical thing to do, of course — unless there were a social consensus. In other words, if the government can persuade enough of the general population to demand this tyrannical commandeering of the lives of millions of its fellow citizens — the outright negation of all their rights and freedoms — then the government will claim the authority to do it, on grounds of popular will. In the meantime, the government, through its media allies, will continue to foment mass panic, while teasing the hysterical public with the coquettish objection that they are just too shy to do anything so nasty…unless, perhaps, the public really, really insists.

With regard to the relationship between public attitudes and the state, the essential difference between totalitarian dictatorship and what we late moderns euphemistically call “social democracy” was spelled out, with perfect sophistry, by the man who, more than any other individual, is responsible for the practical reality of democratic socialism, John Dewey.

Indeed, even totalitarian states differ from previous despotic states in history because they have learned that, under the conditions that exist today, even dictatorships must have a popular support which only some kind of education can furnish. The noble distinction of a democratic society lies in the kind of unity it establishes between education and politics. It is for the people to instruct their officials, not for a few officials to regulate the sentiments and ideas of the rest of the people; the final criterion and test of what is done by our legislative bodies…is what effect their actions have upon the ideas and emotions of the citizens of the country. [Dewey, “Address of Welcome to the League for Industrial Democracy,” 1940, in The Collected Works of John Dewey, Later Works (Boydston, ed.), vol. 14, 262-265.]

Allow me to paraphrase that brilliant synopsis of Dewey’s philosophy of education, for the uninitiated:

An “industrial democracy” — 1940 America’s euphemism for a socialist state — must foster the public perception that the people are controlling the “officials,” rather than vice versa. The state achieves this by perfectly controlling, through legislative and political mechanisms, what the people learn, and how they interpret facts, such that when the state wishes to assert new political powers or institute radical social reforms, it can always activate the well-primed collective will to cry out for just those new powers and reforms, right on cue, so as to create the illusion that the people are controlling the state, rather than simply being coercively manipulated, as was done in those old despotic states. The reality is identical, but the perception — that is, the self-perception of the enslaved — is so much more conducive to the establishment of permanent and undisturbed governance.

You may read much more about Dewey’s theories and proposed methods in my book, The Case Against Public Education. And you really should read up on Dewey, if you live in the so-called “advanced world” and want to understand what is happening to your country today. For what is happening, most obviously, is that progressive practice is fully catching up, at last, with Dewey’s seminal strategies.

And to anyone inclined to object here, “No, what is happening now is flat-out Soviet and Maoist social control,” I urge you all the more strongly to investigate Dewey (again, my book is a good place to start, since I dig in deep), where you will discover that the Soviet and Maoist methods are largely Dewey’s own methods, as his social and educational “pragmatism” was viewed most sympathetically among the leadership of both of those tyrannies — and the admiration was mutual.

We are currently witnessing the most brazen and impressive implementation of the social control machinery of modern scientific socialism: Indoctrinate people to progressive submissiveness; frighten them with a manufactured crisis; instill them with the sense that only extreme state action can overcome the crisis; sit back and wait for the masses to beg for that extreme action, even as they conveniently demonize anyone who dares to resist the ceding of all our rights to the state.

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