“Good Boy! Gooood Boy!”

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.

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About thrasymachus33308

I like fast cars, fast women and southern-fried rock. I have an ongoing beef with George Orwell. I take my name from a character in Plato's "Republic" who was exasperated with the kind of turgid BS that passed for deep thought and political discourse in that time and place, just as I am today. The character, whose name means "fierce fighter" was based on a real person but nobody knows for sure what his actual political beliefs were. I take my pseudonym from a character in an Adam Sandler song who was a obnoxious jerk who pissed off everybody.
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5 Responses to “Good Boy! Gooood Boy!”

  1. Heil Hizzle says:

    “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.”

    Yeah, but somewhere in the recesses of their mind they know they’re full of shit, and they are scared of us because we aren’t. I post regularly at “Huffington Post” and “Mother Jones,” and everything I say there i say at “American Renaissance.”

    Try this some time. Take any issue on which they think they have the high ground and all the answers. Say, immigration for example. Come up with a cogent argument, buttressed by perhaps some real stats from a study with a solid methodology. Make your point in a couple paragraphs or less. Then watch, as all of the liberals either tepidly agree with you, give you a “like” or ignore you altogether.

    They won’t argue most of the time. They search out the conservative who has a right to be angry but not the tools to correctly express himself. That is their dream confrontation, because they are good at ignoring the action that gave rise to the reactionary, and pointing at him as the source of all their troubles.

    Still, as you mentioned (a couple years back, I think), even if you don’t accomplish much with this tactic, it pisses them off, and one comment piercing their hermetically-sealed echo chamber can ruin a liberal’s day. 🙂

  2. spandrell says:

    I think there’s two dimensions to it.
    One is pure mass psychology, and how people will believe anything in particular if sufficiently pushed, and once you reach a critical mass the ideology just flows on its own.

    Then there are the objective criteria than an ideology needs to get popular, i.e. it has to appeal to inborn cognitive biases that make people feel good, which creates a positive feedback loop with the above propaganda.

  3. Ryu says:

    Hmm. My old associates at colony of commodus always talked about technologies of decentralization. You’ve taken the opposite stand.

  4. cassander says:

    but did the same desire to go along to get along not exist in communist states? Of course it did. the question is not “how does the system use that impulse” but why is it so much more successful at using that impulse than other systems seem to be.

  5. RS says:

    I haven’t seen diachronic data on Black self-esteem, but I’m not so inclined to believe it has changed all that much, necessarily. That academic might have just been a huckster. Or perhaps the truth lies on the middle ground between those two possibilities.

    On the cult of self-esteem, I think there may be something American about its origins — based not just on the weird ideals imported to America (largely to New England), but also on the cheap land that made people more equal.

    I recently cracked Hemingway’s stories — somewhat less impressive than I remembered from being a lad, though many favorites stood among the ‘unpublished’ ones in the back of the ‘Finca Viglia(?)’ edition, which I don’t have anymore. Anyway, I remember Hemingway’s brief comment about how the medals he got were for nothing much while the WWI and/or Spanish War Europeans he consorted with actually got theirs for elite acts. While this is fiction, I’m pretty sure it was based on his actual experiences as a WWI ambulance driver (perhaps exposed to considerable fire, not sure) and later as a close observer of the Spanish War.

    This difference in decorations policy may have occurred partly because the Europeans had more at stake in these wars — real shit — while Americans in WWI were just making the world safe for democracy vis-a-vis the vile Hun or whatever, which is not really as real. But it may also have been a function of a cultural difference, with more of a hierarchical differentiation persisting in Europe, vs American equalism. This may be an early example of equalism being translated into a concrete cultural practice of universal self-esteem.

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