The diffuse, non-centralized, redundant nature of control in the system- I’m sure those with more IT knowledge can think of more precise descriptive terms- fascinates me. It’s been pointed out that even if our rulers decided to quit and end it all, they couldn’t, because they would just be replaced by others.
The system certainly has political commissars, typically found in bureaucratic organizations in the human resources department. But it doesn’t need them nearly as much as formal control systems like the communists did. It inserts the program of control in the minds of people, just as communism tried to do, but far more successfully. Communism strove to make people think of themselves not as individuals but as part of a greater collective whose glory they shared. All good organizations try to do this, but it works best for sports teams or militaries that need intense devotion for a couple of years.
The system instead makes the individual’s ego the “center of gravity”, to use a Clausewitzian term. This takes advantage of the fact that people want desperately to think well of themselves, and they think well of themselves if others think well of them. This has been true as long as there have been people. Social systems have always honored the conforming and shamed the non-conforming; traditionally they have been more group than individually oriented, but not as group oriented as communism tried to be.
Modern capitalism brought the consumer society and the individual as the locus of happiness and satisfaction. The individual would be happy but largely from the approval and admiration of others. This is quite different from happiness obtained from the well-being of the group.
I can’t find the historical origin of the term “self-esteem” but it does not seem to have been in use any earlier than the 1960′s, possibly originating in the 1950′s. In any case the idea of self-esteem as connected to education was a crucial part of the Brown v. Board of Education desegregation ruling. Black psychologist Kenneth Clark determined that segregation created feelings of inferiority in black children and this was responsible for their lower achievement. This ruling made educational institutions- at least those under the control of the federal government, which means almost all- formally responsible for the self-esteem of blacks. Those that say the government can’t accomplish anything are clearly wrong here, and black people now have incredibly high self-esteem. But for the purposes of our discussion, the idea that educational institutions can and should manage the self-esteem of their students.
But what about teaching? Learning? Education? The theory was and is that self-esteem produces learning, and not the other way around. Inculcate self-esteem in the students, and they would learn and achieve. Self-esteem became the primary goal of education, at least primary education although this goal has bled up as high as university now. But clearly only good people, who think the right thing, can have self-esteem! Certainly not racists, or sexists, or homophobes!
If a child expresses the right attitudes about how all people are really the same, everyone is special and wonderful, but of course some people are more special and wonderful than others, she (to use the new gender neutral) is praised. Should he (to use the gender neutral for bad people) notice and express any disagreement with this, he will be admonished. Parents may be called in- busy, tired parents who don’t have time for this shit. Little Johnny may just learn to keep his mouth shut, but little Joey and Suzy learn that agreeing, more than others, and making sure others agree is the way to a little more specialness and self-esteem than the others.
This is powerful stuff. And human nature being what it is, it enables people to repeat gross and obvious lies and attack others for either saying something different or just not agreeing strongly enough. The truth is the farthest thing from consideration.
David Frum is a special sort of commissar. A Canadian, neoconservative and modern Orthodox Jew, he invented the term “axis of evil” and helped get the Iraq War rolling. After the Bush debacle he decided it would be better to sidle away and get a job as an anti-conservative conservative. Liberal media outlets employ a few of these types to say “I’m a conservative but I love Obama and all those others are crazy and evil.” Andrew Sullivan and Conor Friedersdorf are similarly employed.
Frum is a recent convert, and doesn’t have the program as deep in his bones as he should. He just wrote something saying that the new women in combat rule is probably not a good idea. This is blindingly obvious, since what is called “combat” involves only seconds of shooting and hours of carrying a hundred pounds of shit up and down steep hills. You’re not on steep hills? The land is flat? Then you will be walking in deep mud. There are basically no women who can do this.
Frum says nothing more than the clear truth, but dozens of people jumped up to tell him he was a mean, bad, stupid person. They are all anonymous internet commenters, and they don’t get any kind of measurable benefit from it. All they get is the warm, fuzzy feeling that they are a good person and Frum is a bad person. All the moronic lies we are confronted with every day are based on nothing more than this.