Live not by lies: Solzhenitsyn (no tambourines involved)

(14 Posts)
EmbarrassingHadrosaurus Sat 23-Oct-21 13:15:03

There has been such a roll call of courageous women this week: Ceri Black, Jo Phoenix, Maya Forstater and her legal team, Sophie Scott, Raquel Rosario Sanchez, those who donned the dino suits and others who attended various events from conferences to raising awareness of Stonewall. There are many unseen acts of courage, some of which are 'refusing to say that which we do not think'.

"When violence intrudes into peaceful life, its face glows with self-confidence, as if it were carrying a banner and shouting: “I am violence. Run away, make way for me—I will crush you.” But violence quickly grows old. And it has lost confidence in itself, and in order to maintain a respectable face it summons falsehood as its ally—since violence can conceal itself with nothing except lies, and the lies can be maintained only by violence. And violence lays its ponderous paw not every day and not on every shoulder. It demands from us only obedience to lies and daily participation in lies—all loyalty lies in that.

And the simplest and most accessible key to our self-neglected liberation lies right here: Personal non-participation in lies. Though lies conceal everything, though lies embrace everything, we will be obstinate in this smallest of matters: Let them embrace everything, but not with any help from me.

This opens a breach in the imaginary encirclement caused by our inaction. It is the easiest thing to do for us, but the most devastating for the lies. Because when people renounce lies it simply cuts short their existence. Like an infection, they can exist only in a living organism.

We do not exhort ourselves. We have not sufficiently matured to march into the squares and shout the truth out loud or to express aloud what we think. It’s not necessary.

It’s dangerous. But let us refuse to say that which we do not think.

This is our path, the easiest and most accessible one, which takes into account our inherent cowardice, already well rooted. And it is much easier—it’s dangerous even to say this—than the sort of civil disobedience which Gandhi advocated.

Our path is not to give conscious support to lies about anything whatsoever! And once we realize where lie the perimeters of falsehood, each sees them in his own way."

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NecessaryScene Sat 23-Oct-21 13:28:52

Reposting this from another thread - another relevant piece of writing. None of the stuff we're seeing is new, even if it is new to the UK or US.

This is from Lifton's Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of Brainwashing in China

EmbarrassingHadrosaurus Sat 23-Oct-21 13:57:53

I've just been quickly scanning around for Lifton reviews. According to Wikipaedia, he popularised the phrase, thought-terminating cliché (I'm embarrassed that I didn't know that).

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Reptar Sat 23-Oct-21 14:47:48

Its an age old truth, which is why its one of the ten commandments;
''thou shalt not bear false witness.''
This is why he was considered dangerous by the State, and why he was targeted by the KGB. Because he was right, and if people caught on to his tactic it would dismantle their power base.

''The Soviet secret police tried for years to silence Russia's most famous living writer by framing him in criminal plots. The KGB, for example, attempted to sell to Western publishers, supposedly at Alexander Solzhenitsyn's own request, manuscripts that could have led to his imprisonment on charges of anti-Soviet propaganda.
The KGB worked in such shadowy ways that no one, least of all Solzhenitsyn, was able to establish the secret police's role in these conspiracies.'',33009,911284,00.html

EmbarrassingHadrosaurus Sat 23-Oct-21 15:51:34

The KGB worked in such shadowy ways that no one, least of all Solzhenitsyn, was able to establish the secret police's role in these conspiracies.''

We're so vulnerable to misinformation and disinformation.

I've been reading more of Lifton and it's both helpful and dispiriting.

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DraintheBlood Sat 23-Oct-21 16:15:00


*The KGB worked in such shadowy ways that no one, least of all Solzhenitsyn, was able to establish the secret police's role in these conspiracies.''*

We're so vulnerable to misinformation and disinformation.

I've been reading more of Lifton and it's both helpful and dispiriting.


But also, it requires so more energy than simply being truthful.

EsmaCannonball Sat 23-Oct-21 16:34:51

I'm currently reading about the Soviet army being purged of brilliant military strategists who'd committed the sin of independent thought and subsequent disasters during Operation Barbarossa, caused by commanders who were too scared to defy Stalin's insanely bad diktats. The successful commanders were the ones who had the nerve to defy orders and recognise the situation that was staring them in the face. Seems apt.


EmbarrassingHadrosaurus Sun 24-Oct-21 13:41:53

Reading the thread about Judith Butler's latest piece in the Guardian has made me appreciate what I've just learned about Lifton's book and work even more.

In the book, Lifton outlines the "Eight Criteria for Thought Reform":

Milieu Control. This involves the control of information and communication both within the environment and, ultimately, within the individual, resulting in a significant degree of isolation from society at large.

Mystical Manipulation. The manipulation of experiences that appears spontaneous but is, in fact, planned and orchestrated by the group or its leaders to demonstrate divine authority, spiritual advancement, or some exceptional talent or insight that sets the leader and/or group apart from humanity, and that allows a reinterpretation of historical events, scripture, and other experiences. Coincidences and happenstance oddities are interpreted as omens or prophecies.

Demand for Purity. The world is viewed as black and white and the members are constantly exhorted to conform to the ideology of the group and strive for perfection. The induction of guilt and/or shame is a powerful control device used here.

Confession. Sins, as defined by the group, are to be confessed either to a personal monitor or publicly to the group. There is no confidentiality; members' "sins," "attitudes," and "faults" are discussed and exploited by the leaders.

Sacred Science. The group's doctrine or ideology is considered to be the ultimate Truth, beyond all questioning or dispute. Truth is not to be found outside the group. The leader, as the spokesperson for God or all humanity, is likewise above criticism.

Loading the Language. The group interprets or uses words and phrases in new ways so that often the outside world does not understand. This jargon consists of thought-terminating clichés, which serve to alter members' thought processes to conform to the group's way of thinking.

Doctrine over person. Members' personal experiences are subordinated to the sacred science and any contrary experiences must be denied or reinterpreted to fit the ideology of the group.

Dispensing of existence. The group has the prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not. This is usually not literal but means that those in the outside world are not saved, unenlightened, unconscious, and must be converted to the group's ideology. If they do not join the group or are critical of the group, then they must be rejected by the members. Thus, the outside world loses all credibility. In conjunction, should any member leave the group, he or she must be rejected also.[3]

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TalkingtoLangClegintheDark Sun 24-Oct-21 20:11:07

Fascinating thread. Thank you.

CreepingDeath Sun 24-Oct-21 20:47:34

Wow, so much of this can be applied to trans ideology. Scary how much it has taken hold, and is being endorsed by people who would consider themselves liberals.

EmbarrassingHadrosaurus Sat 30-Oct-21 08:32:41

In the news of the latest demand for compelled speech at Leeds Uni (despite Yogyakarta Principle 6f):

Students and staff at Leeds University have called on their vice-chancellor and senior employees to include gender pronouns when introducing themselves in meetings.

``They also said that the vice-chancellor, Simone Buitendijk, should state her preferred gender pronouns in her email signature.

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EmbarrassingHadrosaurus Sun 21-Nov-21 21:34:36

Vaclav Havel, 1978 has some prescient observations about mantras and the unthinking adoption of an ideology and the true cost of the absolution that it confers.

In an era when metaphysical and existential certainties are in a state of crisis, when people are being uprooted and alienated and are losing their sense of what this world means, this ideology inevitably has a certain hypnotic charm. To wandering humankind it offers an immediately available home: all one has to do is accept it, and suddenly everything becomes clear once more, life takes on new meaning, and all mysteries, unanswered questions, anxiety, and loneliness vanish. Of course, one pays dearly for this low-rent home: the price is abdication of one’ s own reason, conscience, and responsibility, for an essential aspect of this ideology is the consignment of reason and conscience to a higher authority.

The anecdote of the grocer and the window signs is chilling and still relevant.

The manager of a fruit-and-vegetable shop places in his window, among the onions and carrots, the slogan: "Workers of the world, unite!" Why does he do it? What is he trying to communicate to the world? Is he genuinely enthusiastic about the idea of unity among the workers of the world? Is his enthusiasm so great that he feels an irrepressible impulse to acquaint the public with his ideals? Has he really given more than a moment's thought to how such a unification might occur and what it would mean?

I think it can safely be assumed that the overwhelming majority of shopkeepers never think about the slogans they put in their windows, nor do they use them to express their real opinions. That poster was delivered to our greengrocer from the enterprise headquarters along with the onions and carrots. He put them all into the window simply because it has been done that way for years, because everyone does it, and because that is the way it has to be. If he were to refuse, there could be trouble. He could be reproached for not having the proper decoration in his window; someone might even accuse him of disloyalty. He does it because these things must be done if one is to get along in life. It is one of the thousands of details that guarantee him a relatively tranquil life "in harmony with society," as they say.

Obviously the greengrocer is indifferent to the semantic content of the slogan on exhibit; he does not put the slogan in his window from any personal desire to acquaint the public with the ideal it expresses. This, of course, does not mean that his action has no motive or significance at all, or that the slogan communicates nothing to anyone. The slogan is really a sign, and as such it contains a subliminal but very definite message. Verbally, it might be expressed this way: "I, the greengrocer XY, live here and I know what I must do. I behave in the manner expected of me. I can be depended upon and am beyond reproach. I am obedient and therefore I have the right to be left in peace." This message, of course, has an addressee: it is directed above, to the greengrocer's superior, and at the same time it is a shield that protects the greengrocer from potential informers. The slogan's real meaning, therefore, is rooted firmly in the greengrocer's existence. It reflects his vital interests. But what are those vital interests?

Let us take note: if the greengrocer had been instructed to display the slogan "I am afraid and therefore unquestioningly obedient;' he would not be nearly as indifferent to its semantics, even though the statement would reflect the truth.

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MrsOvertonsWindow Sun 21-Nov-21 21:50:03

Thank you Embarrassing
It's fascinating how little self reflection / understanding of political /social history proponents of trans ideology have, as they adopt the tactics of some of the most repressive regimes ever.

EmbarrassingHadrosaurus Sun 21-Nov-21 23:56:25


Thank you Embarrassing
It's fascinating how little self reflection / understanding of political /social history proponents of trans ideology have, as they adopt the tactics of some of the most repressive regimes ever.

It's the simplicity of the true embedded meaning of the slogan that hits me in the solar plexus:

"I am afraid and therefore unquestioningly obedient;

It's what stops people speaking up in the workplace, in healthcare or education settings, everywhere. This is the point at which I usually wonder about preference falsification.

Preference falsification, according to the economist Timur Kuran, is the act of misrepresenting one’s wants under perceived social pressures. It happens frequently in everyday life, such as when we tell the host of a dinner party that we are enjoying the food when we actually find it bland. In Private Truths, Public Lies , Kuran argues convincingly that the phenomenon not only is ubiquitous but has huge social and political consequences. Drawing on diverse intellectual traditions, including those rooted in economics, psychology, sociology, and political science, Kuran provides a unified theory of how preference falsification shapes collective decisions, orients structural change, sustains social stability, distorts human knowledge, and conceals political possibilities.

A common effect of preference falsification is the preservation of widely disliked structures. Another is the conferment of an aura of stability on structures vulnerable to sudden collapse. When the support of a policy, tradition, or regime is largely contrived, a minor event may activate a bandwagon that generates massive yet unanticipated change.

In distorting public opinion, preference falsification also corrupts public discourse and, hence, human knowledge. So structures held in place by preference falsification may, if the condition lasts long enough, achieve increasingly genuine acceptance. The book demonstrates how human knowledge and social structures co-evolve in complex and imperfectly predictable ways, without any guarantee of social efficiency.

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