At Davos, conformity is required, and debate is a cancel-worthy sin

If you’re watching the World Economic Forum’s annual ruling class confab in Davos this week, you might be surprised by the lack of disagreement among the rich and powerful there. Every panel in Davos acts as a reinforced echo chamber in which there is one problem, one objective, and only one solution. Regardless of who populates these panels and speeches, whether it’s invited corporate media, governmental officials, and/or business executives, there’s never any apparent dissent or difference of opinion expressed.

Given that the World Economic Forum is best understood as a narrative and ideas generator for the global ruling class, one might be under the impression that Davos would be a place for a healthy, robust debate. That’s why many new observers in the space have been understandably baffled by the incredible conformity expressed by speakers and attendees at the Swiss retreat.

Many noticed as former CNN host Brian Stelter, who claims to defend the importance of a free press, smiled and nodded at a co-panelist’s vicious attack on open speech. 

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14 Signs of Totalitarianism

We all know the cons of Twitter, but one of the pros is discovering new and interesting people.

One of my favorite new follows is Benjamin Carlson, a public relations guru and former editor at The Atlantic. Carlson’s tweets are among the best you’ll find on Twitter, and he clearly has a keen understanding of the intersections between media and government, power and propaganda (both current and historically).

One of his recent tweets caught my eye, and I share an adaptation of it below.

1. Dissent is equated to violence

2. Media is controlled

3. The legal system is co-opted by the state

4. Power is exerted to quash dissent

5. State police protect the regime, not the people

6. Rights—financial, legal, and civil—are contingent on compliance

7. Mass conformity of beliefs and behaviors is demanded

8. Power is concentrated in inner ring of elite institutions and people

9. Semi-organized violence is permitted (in some cases)

10. Propaganda targets enemies of the state regime

11. Entire classes singled out for persecution

12. Extra-legal actions are condoned against internal regime opponents

13. Harsh legal enforcement against unfavored classes

14. Private and public levers of power are used to enforce adherence to state dogmas

The list is a bit troubling. At the very least, some of these techniques are playing out before our eyes. This is certainly not to say that the US is a totalitarian state, however.

There are many definitions of totalitarianism, and I don’t believe one can seriously argue that the United States has arrived there. But authoritarianism is certainly in the air, and it emanates most strongly from our nation’s capital.

While both the political Right and the political Left accuse each other of harboring tyrannical ambitions, the philosopher Karl Popper offered a clue as to when a legitimate government crosses the line and becomes a tyrannical one.

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14 Signs of Totalitarianism

We all know the cons of Twitter, but one of the pros is discovering new and interesting people.

One of my favorite new follows is Benjamin Carlson, a public relations guru and former editor at The Atlantic. Carlson’s tweets are among the best you’ll find on Twitter, and he clearly has a keen understanding of the intersections between media and government, power and propaganda (both current and historically).

One of his recent tweets caught my eye, and I share an adaptation of it below.

1. Dissent is equated to violence

2. Media is controlled

3. The legal system is co-opted by the state

4. Power is exerted to quash dissent

5. State police protect the regime, not the people

6. Rights—financial, legal, and civil—are contingent on compliance

7. Mass conformity of beliefs and behaviors is demanded

8. Power is concentrated in inner ring of elite institutions and people

9. Semi-organized violence is permitted (in some cases)

10. Propaganda targets enemies of the state regime

11. Entire classes singled out for persecution

12. Extra-legal actions are condoned against internal regime opponents

13. Harsh legal enforcement against unfavored classes

14. Private and public levers of power are used to enforce adherence to state dogmas

The list is a bit troubling. At the very least, some of these techniques are playing out before our eyes. This is certainly not to say that the US is a totalitarian state, however.

There are many definitions of totalitarianism, and I don’t believe one can seriously argue that the United States has arrived there. But authoritarianism is certainly in the air, and it emanates most strongly from our nation’s capital.

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Critical race theory is all about conformity

Proponents of critical race theory continue to frame resistance to it in the classroom as racist. In an interview with Education Week, Margaret Thornton, an assistant professor at Old Dominion University in Virginia, characterized opposition to critical race theory as a “whitelash” and a “racist attempt to silence educators.” She insists that in spite of these attacks, she’ll keep teaching the “truth about oppression” in the United States.

The problem with this sort of attack is that there’s a lot more to critical race theory than just teaching historical oppression such as slavery or Jim Crow. It’s this “more” that should worry parents of any race, especially parents of aspiring entrepreneurs.

Of particular concern: Critical race theory activists often reject the idea of individuality. In her blockbuster critical race theory book White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo rejects the “ideolog[y] of individualism.” What does she mean by individualism? “Briefly, individualism holds that we are each unique and stand apart from others, even those within our social groups.”

The problem is that an individualistic streak is essential to being an entrepreneur. In ” Individualism: A Deeply American Philosophy ,” Patrick Carroll and Dan Sanchez pointed out that the greatest entrepreneurs in U.S. history were deeply individualistic. They were “mold-breakers.”

This individualistic mindset was perfectly captured by Steve Jobs with Apple’s 1997-2002 ” Think Different ” ad campaign. But if you’re told that it’s wrong to see yourself as “unique” or “standing apart” from your social group, what are the odds that you’re going to grow up to think differently?

The odds get even lower when you factor in how critical race theory is actually taught. If the essence of entrepreneurship is “think different,” the core of critical race theory might be described as “make sure you think like us.”

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Resisting Tyranny Depends on the Courage to Not Conform

Social psychologist Roy Baumeister begins his book Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty, with a proposition that will be counterintuitive to many: “Evil usually enters the world unrecognized by the people who open the door and let it in. Most people who perpetrate evil do not see what they are doing as evil.”

Dismissing evildoers as “insane” is an attempt to absolve both them and you of responsibility. Baumeister observes, “People do become extremely upset and abandon self-control, with violent results, but this is not insanity.” If only “insane” people commit “evil” acts, you might reason there is no need to strengthen spiritual and moral muscles. You might skip the reflection, study, and practice that builds spiritual and moral strength.

Would you, Baumeister asks, “obey orders to kill innocent civilians? Would you help torture someone? Would you stand by passively while the secret police hauled your neighbors off to concentration camps?” Baumeister writes, “Most people say no. But when such events actually happen, the reality is quite different.” Today, to the point, will you obey orders to fire upon people who refuse to comply with mandates?

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Slouching Towards Totalitaria: The Groupthink Psychodemic, Part III

The Asch Conformity Test was a series of trials carried out at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, in the 1950s, aimed at discerning how susceptible people might be to peer pressure, and how far this was likely to influence them in the things they believed or claimed to believe. It has often been noted that human beings fear nothing — not even hunger or thirst — more than being cast outside their own tribe, and these tests, also called the Asch Paradigm, comprised a series of studies directed by Solomon Asch to examine whether individuals would yield to or defy a majority group, and study the impact their responses had on their opinions, beliefs and actions. The results show a strong propensity in a minority of humans to follow the herd regardless of facts or even personal understandings. Asch found a strong pattern of yielding towards an erring majority opinion in more than a third of his test subjects, with three-quarters being prepared to concur with the majority’s  ‘blunders’ to some degree — in other words, consensus was more persuasive that truth. Doubt creeps in when we are outnumbered, pressing us to trust the majority. 

Asch’s verdict: ‘That intelligent, well-meaning, young people are willing to call white black is a matter of concern.’ 

Some subjects, though suspecting something was wrong, lacked the confidence to go against the crowd. Some knew the others were wrong but went along so as not to seem ‘out of step’. Further trials over subsequent years discovered that, if one or more of the actors concurred with the subject’s opinion, the number of instances where the subjects answered with the majority was reduced dramatically. The bigger the group, the more likelihood of conformity. The level of conformity was dramatically reduced in experiments in which the answers were written rather than spoken publicly. 

This is why it has been so vital to the Covid deception that contrary views are excluded from public debates. Just one dissenting voice can liberate even a hesitant person to ignore the majority and speak the truth as he sees it. In a mass society, even a few dissenters can turn a general convocation around. That is why the authorities seek to blacken the reputations of dissenters, why journaliars demonise truth-tellers as ‘far right conspiracy theorists’, and so forth. It is also why PC ideas have proved so powerful in bullying the majority to remain silent on issues when certain perspective are defined as taboo. All goes to demonstrate Irving Janis’s third rule of groupthink: Its captives immediately move to marginalise ‘wrongthinkers’.

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