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Already Living in the Camp?
Austrian psychologist Bruno Bettelheim (and all-around fraud) was arrested by the Nazis after the Anschluss and was held for almost a year in two camps that soon mutated into mass murder factories. He reported his observations in a 1943 paper Individual and Mass Behavior in Extreme Situations. While his claimed methodology was suspect (along with much of his other life’s work), observations in the paper do ring true, especially the chilling conclusion that when the goals of the camps were understood—to break, infantilize and instill obedience to and identification with the new regime, then Germany itself was like a camp writ large:
It seems that what happens in an extreme fashion to the prisoners who spend several. years in the concentration camp happens in less exaggerated form to the inhabitants of the big concentration camp called greater Germany…
The system seems too strong for an individual to break its hold over his emotional life, particularly if he finds himself within a group which has more or less accepted the Nazi system. It seems easier to resist the pressure of the Gestapo and the Nazis if one functions as an individual; the Gestapo seems to know that and therefore insists on forcing all individuals into groups which they supervise…
The main goal of the efforts seems be to produce in the subjects childlike attitudes and childlike dependency on the will of the leaders.
We are not now in 1939 Germany by any stretch (Weimar Germany, maybe) but we do have a significant number of well-placed totalitarian wannabes working hard to change the country for the worse.
The academic left is still obsessed with the fiction begun by the garbage works of Adorno and his Frankfurt School spawn, which claimed that the only real threat of totalitarianism in the west is to be found in the supposedly dangerous personality types found among patriotic, law-abiding, rule-following, church-going middle-class folk who are apparently all just waiting for their Führer to appear and order them to rise up. (The extent to which this mass psychosis of lefties has been projected onto Donald Trump and his supporters ought to be its own field of study.)
The absurdly peaceful 2009 Tea Party marches [Side note: My wife and I acted to help fellow marchers police up trash after the large DC march—we had a hard time finding any trash because (a) nobody left any and (b) so many others had already instinctively and diligently cleaned up the streets and park grounds] and the unplanned January 6 fiasco are loudly decried as significant threats to democracy. In stark contrast, the descent of universities into totalitarian thought-control, the rise of thug rule in the streets, the alarming growth of the angry-loser ANTIFA stereotypical future brown-shirts, and the overt government grab for control of social media and the news media are treated as innocuous outcomes if acknowledged at all.
If anything, the American middle class is most likely to be the victims, the specific targets of the new totalitarians, not their army. Bettelheim described how ill-equipped was the average middle-class German to grasp and oppose the Nazis.
The great majority of the nonpolitical middle-class prisoners, who were a small minority among the prisoners of the concentration camps, were least able to withstand the initial shock. They found themselves utterly unable to comprehend what had happened to them. They seemed more than ever to cling to what up to now had given them self-esteem. Again and again they assured the members of the Gestapo that they never opposed Naziism. In their behavior became apparent the dilemma of the politically uneducated German middle classes when confronted with the phenomenon of National socialism. They had no consistent philosophy which would protect their integrity as human beings, which would give them the force to make a stand against the Nazis. They had obeyed the law handed down by the ruling classes, without ever questioning its wisdom. And now this law, or at least the law-enforcing agencies, turned against them, who always had been its staunchest supporters. Even now they did not dare to oppose the ruling group, although such opposition might have provided them with self-respect. They could not question the wisdom of law and of the police, so they accepted the behavior of the Gestapo as just. What was wrong was that they were made objects of a persecution which in itself must be right, since it was carried out by the authorities. The only way out of this particular dilemma was to be convinced that it must be a “mistake.”
I suspect that Bettelheim was also projecting some (understandable) animus against the average German (and Austrian) in this generalized adverse description but again, there is much that seems to ring true. American middle-class capitulation is already ongoing. Loud pleading before the new Gestapo is heard everywhere:
But I have always opposed racism. But I have always supported the rights of LBGTQ people. But I have always rejected Donald Trump and all his works. I had no idea that teaching physics / Shakespeare / history / biology / math offended DEI values. I will take the required class. I will wear the ribbon, display the rainbow flag and affix the bumper sticker. I will tell my children to always obey and not question so they can go to the right colleges. I have always been on your side.
Even nominal loyalty is, at best, a delaying tactic. How many loyal liberals, pioneers of feminism, and racial justice have been swept up in purges despite protestations of innocence like so many latter-day Trotskys and Robespierres taken to the career guillotine by the revolution they once thought they owned?
The conservative resistance is all about preserving the institutions, collective activities, groups, values, and traditions that affirm, vitalize, and protect our lives as free individuals. The enemy wants to eliminate those social entities and ideations and force us to define ourselves solely by group definitions they invent and control. It all seems so clear and so obviously undesirable that it is hard to understand how much ground has been ceded to conspicuously malevolent ideologues. Are we that afraid of confrontation? So unsure of our own values? That it makes so little sense that we are where we are is scarier than are the malignant buffoons who comprise the SS of new totalitarians.Published in General
An excellent and absolutely terrifying analysis of history and our current culture.
Yes, and No. We are sure of our values. We understand the level of conflict that will be required to assert and restore them, and we are afraid of that.
As someone who also was curious and went Downtown to witness the early rumblings of the Tea party movement that March afternoon, it was amazing how calm and mellow the crowds were compared to other events I have seen that make noise on the Federal Mall for some weird causes. It was polite, the speakers were basically asking that we return to a more constitutional order thru our legislature and stop with the unilateral power grabbing vs questionable executive agencies assuming tortured interpretation of their original writs.
When they exited, the place was far cleaner then when they arrived, and to label them as some sort of anarchists strikes me as the fear of those who don’t want their apple cart of plundering at our expense to be upset by the hoi polloi.
I think it was subtle awareness of the political elites then that this would be a threat to their positional cinctures, but now it is clear to both them and us with the increasing formation of what folks are branding as the “Uniparty”.
Lets’ hope we don’t have to test the AR15 v the F15 stalemate, because if the Afghani were able to prevent an outside order like the US military to dominate them, do the PTB really think they can subdue between 25 and 50% of the US population?
Everyone needs to read Havel. Point out absurdities and don’t be afraid to laugh. But everybody wont. It’s frustrating to watch. “Ceded to conspicuously malevolent ideologues,” is well put. Thanks for the post.
As Alex the Chick, among others, has been saying since 2016, the Tea Party was the voters asking nicely for change. Trump was them asking not so nicely. Beware how they will ask a third time.
Beautiful — as usual. Thanks.
And this is particularly spot-on:
I ran across Bruno Bettelheim’s name in another essay I read today, coincidentally. That essay was using his name seemingly approvingly, speaking about restoring meaning in the lives of traumatized children using stories and literature.
Why is he discredited, if I may ask? (I’m sure you’re right, I just don’t know much about him at all.)
He was less than rigorous in his academic practices and inaccurately stated his credentials. There are other reasons to dislike him.
I take it you do not live in California, where during the more intense parts of the two year COVID restrictions, I would have to state we went beyond the Weimar regime.
I have experienced being grabbed by the shoulders and ejected from Ace Hardware, because I was no mask. (Despite my having a dr’s note as to why I had to be no mask, and a very visible 65 lb service dog.)
Also being assaulted by a bank manager while standing in the parking lot of the bank, waiting for her to assist me with a bank deposit. (Businesses who had chosen to go all in on the masking were instructed to provide a reasonable accommodation for customers who due to a disability could not comply. Being physically grabbed without warning by a manager and pushed into a chair is not exactly part of a reasonable accommodation.)
The worst was toward the end of the whole COV restrictions hoax. I am standing in a line at Walmart, carefully positioned at least six feet behind the customer in front of me.
The cashier, who should have focused on just processing the customer in front of him, came from out of his slot, zoomed between me and another man. This customer was in the aisle across from me waiting for the other cashier.
He began screaming, “You are not matching! You are not matching!” because although both of us obeyed the 6 foot rule, we were not lined up symmetrically with one another. He was standing maybe 8 inches ahead of my position.
The cashier for this other man stopped ringing up her customer and began screaming “People must match! People must match.”
The cashiers saw to it that they were screaming in unison.
Because both myself and the other customer were trying to “match” and I would move up to match him, but he would move back a step to match me, we continued to remain asymmetrical. This infuriated the cashiers even more.
And then there was the incident in liberal Minnesota where the non-mask wearing hikers were pummelled by ski poles swung by a middle aged woman who I guess thought the maskless were going to put COV germs in the air. (I doubt very much COV germs last long in 5 degree MN weather.)
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Yes to state we are only in the Weimar stages is to overlook the following mass murder project:
Above and beyond the above mentioned business behaviors, we have had hospitals whose admins instituted policies of medical kidnappings galore, where healthy people were brought into hospitals for some needed treatment, like being bit by a tick, then found to test positive for COVID by the over amped PCR tests, and then thrown into a COVID ward.
The family members who brought the relative to the ER were forbidden to stay with them or visit.
The next thing the families knew, they are being told that their perfectly healthy relative “simply had to have” his COVID case managed by remdesivir, the kidney-killer, rocephin, which should never be given to anyone suspected of having a respiratory illness, slammed with fentanyl, and then put on a vent.
Despite all the complexities of those treatments, the first thing that had happened to those patients were the Do Not Resuscitate orders being placed in their file, along with a “nothing by mouth.”
Families of such murdered patients are uniting these days. With Elon Musk opening up twitter discussions, he has allowed many families who lost loved ones to find each other. These were not isolated cases. This was a government-initiated drive to have as many dead COV patients added to the total COVID fatality count as possible. With funds of up to 100K for each death at each hospital, as long as the death was labeled “By COVID.”
I personally will not rest until each and every hospital admin behind the enforcement of the death protocols is in an orange jump suit.