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I’ve often thought that there were basically two possible ways for a government to gain control of its people, and to maintain its authority: I think of these two techniques as The Washington Method and The Stalin Method. In The Washington Method, the government gains control through the consent of the governed, via elections and representative republican systems of government. Such governments are likely to look for ways to help their citizens, because they can become more powerful only by encouraging the people to vote more and more power to the government. But one hopes that the tyrannical impulses of politicians will be tempered by their need to maintain the appearance of benevolence to their constituents, who simply want to live free. A politician who appears power-hungry is not likely to get re-elected. My descriptor of “Washington” makes sense when you think of Washington the man, but unfortunately not Washington the city.
In The Stalin Method, the government gains power through the aggressive use of threats, intimidation, and overwhelming force. Such governments often portray themselves as all-powerful and all-knowing, and do not tolerate alternative points of view, let alone elections. If they are pressured into holding elections, those elections are controlled, but be sure the correct candidates win. Such governments are likely to look for ways to scare their citizens into compliance with whatever the controlling party is promoting at that time. In this system, the tyrannical impulses of politicians are the source of the government’s power. Stalin was a master of many of these techniques, but such skills are hardly rare in history books.
All this makes sense, I think. But as the years have gone by, I’ve started to think that this is wrong. Or, at least, incomplete. Because I’ve been wondering, which of these systems controls the modern United States? It’s certainly not The Stalin Method. We do have left-wing violence in our country, and the FBI is clearly an organization used to intimidate Republicans. But Solzhenitsyn would not compare the modern United States with The Soviet Union. On the other hand, we’re not exactly a group of people who value freedom and liberty over other concerns. Our obsession with equity and race have led us to a society in which many people don’t feel free speak their mind and live as they please. Try wearing a MAGA hat while ordering coffee in Madison, Wisconsin. So how does our government control us? I think BF Skinner would have something to say about that.
Some things about Dr. Skinner are not well understood. For example, why would anyone go by “BF”? It may seem like an odd choice, but you would do the same thing if your given name was Burrhus Frederic Skinner. You might also wonder why any mother would name their child Burrhus Frederic. Let’s just say that I doubt that it’s a coincidence that Dr. Skinner had such an innate understanding of abused children. But I digress.
Anyway, Dr. Skinner did some brilliant work in his time, including a fascinating experiment involving rats. Some rats were punished if they did something he didn’t want them to do. Other rats were rewarded when they did something he did want them to do.
He found that the punished rats would stop doing the undesirable act for a while, but would later start doing it again. He presumed this was because he had discouraged them from acting that way at that time, but the motivation to act that way still remained, and eventually the rat would go back to doing whatever they wanted to do.
Interestingly, he found that the rewarded rats would modify their behavior as he desired, and they would continue to do so even after he stopped rewarding them. He presumed this was because the reward made them want to do his desired behavior – at this point, the rat had aligned his desires with Dr. Skinners. The rat actually wanted to do what Skinner wanted it to do, and Dr. Skinner did not have to continue to reward it to continue to get this behavior.
As you might imagine, many people were fascinated by this research. People like Huxley and Solzhenitsyn. And many others. The social implications are enormous.
Leftists in the 20th Century tended to view the most efficient means to societal control to be the use of force, like Stalin and Mao. But more recently they appear to have learned a new, more efficient, technique. Perhaps from Dr. Skinner. Or perhaps from Orwell and Huxley.
Democrats don’t encourage people to follow them by explaining the logic of their positions, or by making them fear pain or death for dissent. No, they tell people that following Democrats will make you feel good. You don’t need deep thought, you don’t need effort, and you don’t even need fear. You just need to convince people that your party offers them comfort, security, and even catharsis. Your behavior will be rewarded. “Are you dissatisfied with your life? Vote for us. Your life may not get any better, but you’ll feel really good about yourself…”
AOC doesn’t need Huxley’s Soma to control the people – she is Soma. Support her, and you can feel good about yourself, with no effort or sacrifice whatsoever. Who needs thought or fear? This is easier. Less conflict. And the control gained by the left is more stable and long-lasting. They don’t even have to continue the rewards. Just long enough to get them trained. Which is often done by the time people graduate from high school. Certainly college.
After all, at this point – at long last – leftists can govern with the consent of the governed. Although Goethe might take a different view:
None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. They feed them on falsehoods till wrong looks like right in their eyes. –Goethe
Goethe lived 200 years ago. So this technique is not exactly a new concept. But Stalin didn’t listen. Modern Democrats did. Which is a very serious problem.
Because Stalin’s power was inherently unstable, as it required continued use of force, as Dr. Skinner would later point out. His brutality made people feel scared, desperate, and eventually vengeful. They would bend to his will but were always looking for ways to do what they wanted on the sly.
The Democrat Party’s power appears more stable because it is derived from the consent of the governed. And the governed don’t feel scared or desperate – they feel good about it. Now that our educational system, media, and entertainment industry have produced a generation or two of citizens who have been trained to think as leftists, they will continue to do as they’re told. Without even having to be told. Just like a lab rat in Dr. Skinner’s experiments. These leftists are happy to behave as they’ve been trained, even without being rewarded anymore.
After a lifetime of receiving love for promoting leftism, leftism eventually starts to feel like love to them.
The only thing they hate is anyone who threatens the stupor of their feel-good ideology. Every doctor knows that addicts are obsessed by fear of withdrawals, and will do anything to avoid them. Thus, Democrats are obsessed by fear of, and hatred of, Republicans.
Which sounds like a miserable way to live.
But they feel good about it. As they’ve been trained.
Aldous Huxley is looking down at us, grimly nodding his head. Stalin is looking up at us, laughing his butt off…Published in