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"Write a list of things you would never believe. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will either believe them or be forced to say you believe them."

(19 Posts)
EmbarrassingAdmissions Sun 03-Jan-21 12:22:13

Very fine essay from Sarah Kendzior in 2016. The whole essay is quotable and it's disturbing how prescient she was and how akin it is to so many things we've seen over the past few years:

Authoritarianism is not merely a matter of state control, it is something that eats away at who you are. It makes you afraid, and fear can make you cruel. It compels you to conform and to comply and accept things that you would never accept, to do things you never thought you would do.

You do it because everyone else is doing it, because the institutions you trust are doing it and telling you to do it, because you are afraid of what will happen if you do not do it, and because the voice in your head crying out that something is wrong grows fainter and fainter until it dies.

*We are heading into dark times, and you need to be your own light. Do not accept brutality and cruelty as normal even if it is sanctioned
That voice is your conscience, your morals, your individuality. No one can take that from you unless you let them. They can take everything from you in material terms – your house, your job, your ability to speak and move freely. They cannot take away who you truly are. They can never truly know you, and that is your power.*

But to protect and wield this power, you need to know yourself – right now, before their methods permeate, before you accept the obscene and unthinkable as normal.

OP’s posts: |
Molesmokes Mon 04-Jan-21 15:42:16

I find that the best way to keep ahead of the game is to take everything that Titania McGrath says as gospel.

Titania’s New Years Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions for a better world:

• Burn all books by white authors to prevent fascism.

• Decolonise haberdashery.

• Amplify straight lesbians and trxns womxn of colxr.

• Remake “Schindler’s List” with an all-black cast.

• Close the gender menstruation gap.

Thelnebriati Mon 04-Jan-21 17:49:33

I think we should talk about the Asch conformity experiment and the Milgram experiment at every opportunity.

the Asch conformity experiment

the Milgram experiment

A class divided

UppityPuppity Mon 04-Jan-21 18:37:25

How about the Zimbardo experiment too?

Positions of power...

ArabellaScott Mon 04-Jan-21 18:49:43

And the 'smoke filled room'

Molesmokes Mon 04-Jan-21 20:02:13

Bear in mind, “Why (almost) everything you know about Milgram is wrong”


Milgram’s 1961 experiments into obedience set out to answer a question that we’ve been asking for centuries – what makes normal individuals do monstrous things? Milgram’s participants were told the experiments were a study of punishment and its effects on learning – they acted as ‘teachers’ giving electric shocks to ‘learners’ when they misremembered the second word from a list of word pairs. Participants were in a separate room to the learners – who, in reality, were confederates of Milgram and received no shocks – but could overhear their shouts of pain as the shocks increased in power. These sessions were overseen by a white-coated experimenter who would coax any struggling participants to continue with the experiment.

Prior to this work Milgram asked colleagues how many people would give a shock of 300 volts or more, and many said only true psychopaths would do so. But in his first baseline study of 40 people, 26 went all the way to 450 volts and beyond – in other words two out of three people would kill someone for making an error in a learning experiment.

From this work Milgram developed a theory that, during obedience, people adopt an agentic state seeing themselves as instruments to carry out the will of another and feel little or no responsibility for their actions. However – and it’s a rather big however – there are some key elements from Milgram’s studies which undermine the theories he developed from them.

First, while his baseline study would back up the agentic state theory he actually did around 30 studies and obedience varied between 0 and 100 per cent … overall 58 per cent of people actually disobeyed the pushy experimenter. How can we understand this variability, Reicher asked, if the agentic state is true?

Second, when we consider the goings-on during the actual experiment and look at the experimenter’s four prods to encourage participants to continue, they reveal that people really do not like following orders. The four prods used were: ‘please continue’, ‘the experiment requires you to continue’, ‘It’s essential you continue’ and ‘you have no other choice – you must go on’. Reicher pointed out that only the final one of these phrases is a direct order, and in fact none of Milgram’s participants continued with the study after hearing this order. As Reicher said – Milgram’s own research here is emphatically not showing that people have a tendency to obey orders.

Finally, Milgram’s work did not account for the role of participants hearing the learner’s voice shouting in pain. While agentic state theory would suggest we are bound into the voice of the experimenter, deferentially following orders, this is not revealed in Milgram’s own archived materials – Reicher and Haslam found *40 per cent of participants dropped out when the learner spoke for the first time and mentioned the pain he was in.*

All of this flies in the face of the overriding narrative Milgram established after his experiments of obedient people in agentic states blindly following orders. While his findings are in no way artificial, Reicher said, he could have reached the conclusion that people aren’t programmed to take orders but rather make choices over which ‘voice’ to listen to in a given situation, which can vary depending on an individual’s relative identification.

ArabellaScott Mon 04-Jan-21 20:55:02

Somewhat reassuring, Mole!

Thelnebriati Mon 04-Jan-21 21:30:47

The new adjusted figures are still bad enough not to be reassuring. The point of the thread isn't about the resisters. The percentage of people who are prepared to let harm fall on others to save themselves are causing immense amounts of damage right now.

Molesmokes Tue 05-Jan-21 02:08:35

TheInebriati I agree that it is far from reassuring. However, it is actually worse than people being prepared to hurt others in order to avoid harm to themselves as none of the experimental subjects were threatened in any way.

It is much more insidious than the unsuccessful Nuremberg defence of, “I was just obeying orders” as explicit orders appear to be very much more likely to prompt defiance and disobedience.

The danger zone seems to be that there is heightened willingness to harm others when coercion does not involve orders or instructions to do so. Again, this is in the context of no threat of harm to oneself nor of any reasonable expectation of harm. (There was also no evidence found to support this alleged mitigation as put forward in defences at Nuremberg.)

This thread might not “be about resisters” but, you know what, that scolding did the job of triggering my “resistance reflex” 😈

(When did Mumsnet FWR threads ever stay 100% on topic anyway? It’s not like I’ve randomly started talking about something completely different.)

Anyway, I wonder if we see this “resistance” at play when female Detransitioners say that it was being bossed around by much older TW that triggered their disenchantment with “the community”?

Another slight side swerve - or maybe not? This next quote seems very relevant to the fact that some people are more than willing to threaten or seriously contemplate harm against women whose only aims are to protect the rights and safety of women and children:

“What determines obedience," Reicher argues, “is the extent to which people identify with the authority giving the order. We don’t obey others blindly. We obey when we think they represent something we believe in.”

”Aftershock and the Banality of Evil”

The worrying thing is that so many otherwise intelligent people have become so invested in the most bizarre beliefs, just going along uncritically with unsupported claims. (Cognitive capture of the Skeptic Movement is something that should have been impossible but clearly wasn’t, with some isolated, honourable exceptions.)

Molesmokes Tue 05-Jan-21 03:40:56

That said, how to account for the fact that the US Congress has decided to launch 2021 into insanity stratosphere by:

a) banning all “gendered language” including: mother, father, daughter, son, woman, man, etc.

b) opening the Session with a prayer - ending it not with “Amen” but “A Men and A Woman” ! 🙄

I am not going to apologise for linking to a Fox News video. It features the fabulous Tulsi Gabbard, defender of Women’s Rights and Women’s Sports, so be grateful! halo

”Tulsi Gabbard rips 'mind blowing' House rule changes banning gendered language”

NecessaryScene1 Tue 05-Jan-21 07:41:05

Related, more recent piece by James Lindsay:

The Woke Breaking Point

Almost everybody has a Woke Breaking Point. A point of Peak Woke. Or, at least, they should.

There should always be a line that, once crossed, signifies to someone that the ostensibly good or noble thing they currently support has soured or, as the case may be, gone completely bad.


What I realized is how very helpful it is for people, rather than becoming confrontational, to encourage their Woke-sympathetic friends to start identifying and naming what their non-negotiable lines will be. People’s lines will—and should—vary, but as things get increasingly extreme, they will also get crossed more and more certainly. Knowing the line has been crossed, however, takes knowing there is a line and where it is.

The question to pose, then, is simple enough: What would it take for you to say that the Woke movement has gone too far?


This simple act of getting people to commit to their principles before they let them slip is of tremendous importance and use because of how we process our moral reasoning. We do this by post-hoc rationalization, meaning that we lawyer ourselves into believing we acted morally after act, which often means after we’ve already crossed the line. Drawing a clear line ahead of time, especially in a social context where accountability weighs in, makes it that much easier to see the line, bright and clear, and that much harder to cross first and rationalize after.

newyearnewname123 Tue 05-Jan-21 07:53:13

This discussion reminds me of a book I read years ago. It was a sad rejection of communism after seeing how badly things had gone wrong in Russia. What was interesting was how much the writers had previously ignored or justified until the reality was too bad and they had to switch sides.

That must be the same kind of thinking going on amongst women who don't flinch when rapists are put in women's prisons. They are just not willing to see the reality yet.

ArabellaScott Tue 05-Jan-21 09:00:56

It's not easy to change your mind. It can take a period of time, a gradual dawning.

On this subject it requires a shift from centring the feelings of one group of people to considering the practical consequences- a bit like shifting from a romance novel into documentary half way through. Jarring. Cognitively uncomfortable.

Molesmokes Tue 05-Jan-21 16:34:13

NecessaryScene1 and newyearnewname123 those do go together well. That is a good idea of James Lindsay’s, and I bet that I lot of people would cite a line that, unbeknownst to them, has already been crossed.

Then the task is to get them to believe that it really is true. I’ve had people continue to deny, or genuinely struggle to get their heads around, males being allowed to enter women’s sports, or rapists being imprisoned with women. I sent some links to a guy I know, an ex-Head Teacher. When I asked him if he still disbelieved me he said that either the articles must be misinformed or he must be misunderstanding them. confused

It can be really hard for some intelligent people who have a generally optimistic view of human nature, belief in fairness and common sense, to accept what is going on. When confronted with facts that defy reason it takes a bit of practice to inhibit the reflex reaction that it is all just far-fetched, dystopian fantasy or mischievous scare-mongering.

Some people find it just too distressing or depressing to believe. I mean on the clinically pathological scale, where denial is self-protective to preserve sanity, rather than turning away with a fastidious little shudder.

I think I’ll try that James Lindsay on the ex-Head Teacher to see if that gets through to him.

ArabellaScott Tue 05-Jan-21 19:14:49

I started reading this last year, it is interesting:

Molesmokes Tue 05-Jan-21 19:52:52

ArabellaScott - that looks very relevant to a lot of what we are seeing going on, particularly with scientists and skeptics! Thank you for the link.

ArabellaScott Tue 05-Jan-21 20:10:48

Yes, I was just reading the letter signed against Kathleen Stock and wondering how so many intelligent, learned people can buy into such illogical concepts. I think this book might go some way to explaining it!

Defaultname Tue 12-Jan-21 01:41:52

This thread reminded me of the Not the Nine O'Clock News song:

TirisfalPumpkin Wed 13-Jan-21 08:26:10

Good read, although I am not sure Trump is/was that kind of authoritarian. He has obvious fascist & nationalist leanings and is a narcissistic populist, but he hasn’t really tried to control thought and speech in that way.

I saw a ‘tl;dr of Hannah Arendt’ on Twitter the other day that explained the difference between authoritarianism, fascism and totalitarianism, at least according to Arendt. I’m no defender of Trump but feel like we should categorise the type of evil he is carefully and accurately.

That said, it’s a good article and actually writing down who you are and what you stand for is a great way to build personal integrity and develop your sense of self/resilience. Thanks for sharing.

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