The following was inspired in large part by the documentary, Hyper Normalization, which was posted on the AC’s new page. This article is not a review of the documentary (the documentary covers much more territory), but this article, about demoralization does attempt an answer to some of the problems posed.
A common tactic used among social movements is the demoralization of the establishment. While it may not always appear this way, much of what happens is geared towards this end. By undermining the trust in the opposing party, it is no longer necessary to deal with a unified front. Once trust is gone there is chaos, and in chaos it is possible to handle disparate, self-interested groups rather than a unified front.
To illustrate this, I point to a few specific examples (Communism, Islam and Donald Trump). After illustrating demoralization, I explain what I think it means for new social movements and how it can be used effectively.
Communism has been rumored to have made use of demoralization to achieve its ends. Yuri Bezmenov, a Communist defector, published a short book in the 1980’s entitled “Love Letter to America” In “Love Letter to America” Bezmenov described what he said was the Soviet Modus Operandi for destabilizing a nation and inciting a Communist revolution. It worked by instilling chaos and positioning oneself to take charge in the midst of the chaos. He listed four stages of this process:
1. Demoralization 2. Destabilization 3. Crisis and 4. Normalization.
To get a full understanding of this process, you would do well to read “Love Letter.” The book is full of Neo-Conservative ideology, but the plan it illustrates (whether it concretely existed or not) was cogent enough.
In a nutshell, the idea is that the Soviet Union worked to undermine a population’s confidence in its own national values and institutions (demoralization) over many years of indirect effort. Following that, it went to work on the efficacy of the institutions (destabilization) until a crisis could be triggered. At this point, a myriad of Soviet sleeper cells would spring into action to institute a new order in the midst of the chaos.
Simply by demoralizing an adversary and undermining its confidence in its leaders and values, the thinking goes, one can assert ones own values and authority in the vacuum. Direct conflict is not required.
How, exactly, does terrorism work in the favor of Islam? It certainly isn’t good public relations. It does not engender sympathy. Islam is certainly the weaker party in its conflict with the West. You would expect the weaker party in any confrontation to be looking for sympathy, but terrorism accomplishes anything but this.
Those who have seen the documentary, HyperNormalization, which the AC linked to, might remember the portion describing some of the thoughts of a prominent Jihadist, Abu Musab al-Suri:
“Independent groups or individuals should stage random, small scale attacks on civilians in Europe and America. The aim was to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt and undermine the already failing authority of Western politicians.”
The parallels between this approach and the Communist approach should be obvious. You level the playing field by weakening opposing sympathies. Islam, like Communism before it, aims to demoralize the West.
It is difficult to imagine that Trump voters were possessed of a consistent ideology. That group consisted of everyone from overt racists to free-speech advocates to those who were merely repulsed by Clinton. Considering the ever changing platform of Donald Trump, it might be claimed that his primary attraction is his character. Maybe the character trait people were looking for is “honesty”. From what a good many Trump supporters say, they like him because he is “honest”.
The claim that Donald Trump is honest is, of course, false. When it is pointed out that he “says what is on his mind” all that is really happening is that he is saying what the average person would get into trouble for saying. Perhaps some might call it “refreshingly politically incorrect” (and, at a gut level, I can see the appeal), but it is hardly the measure of honesty. To be considered honest you have to consistently say things that are . . . well . . . true. As an example of one lie, Trump has announced that he will not release any tax returns after claiming for a long time that he would. This is a lie that he repeated throughout the campaign cycle. At this point, an honest man would release them simply out of good faith, regardless of whether he was asked. It should be apparent that Trump has, at best, a casual relationship with the truth.
So, if it isn’t honesty, maybe it is his advocacy of the working class.
Donald Trump’s claims of advocacy of the working class are nearly as spurious. As an heir and brand manager he has made ample use of the very tools that impoverish the working class along with all the other contributing members of society. Perhaps we can ignore these because Trump’s working class advocacy was largely framed in terms of immigration concerns, but this is also a difficult case to make. His employment of illegal aliens leaves questions as to his actual involvement, but it is factually true. Also, he hires low paid legal immigrants.
So, Donald Trump got ahead by playing footsie with White Nationalists, presenting the flavor of honesty and making mostly vague statements of his support for the working class. Aside from “The Wall”, there was little for anyone to grab a hold of. A coherent ideology, as it turned out, was not necessary. So why was this?
Donald Trump had a demoralized population to contend with. He took advantage of the invisible chaos. In an other-directed society, bound together merely by the concerns of consumerism, it was easy to find disaffected parties in all quarters, parrot their concerns back to them (either directly or with oblique references) and win their support. Religion was on the wane, and so was the nuclear family. There were no principles for him to answer to, so little effort was required of him to spell out what he stood for. Demoralization lowered the standards such that a crass sales-pitch was of greater value than a coherent message.
Demoralization Does Not Always Benefit the Culprits
It is apparent that Communism has failed to achieve many of its aims in the West. Islam is likewise struggling in the West. These movements remain underdogs despite their efforts. There is no guarantee that the West will not, some day, fall under Communism or Sharia, but Communism and Islam remain underdogs. It should be apparent that simply demoralizing the West was not sufficient to take control.
Donald Trump, by contrast, was not responsible for the demoralization that allowed him to take power. It was already in place. He merely had to take advantage of it.
So, Islam and Communism took action to demoralize, but Donald Trump was the beneficiary of demoralization. The point I am driving at is this: In cases of demoralization, those who take charge are those best equipped to take advantage of it and not those who deliberately cause it.
There is no law that indicates that chaos should favor those who cause it. What helps is planning for it and taking advantage of it regardless of who or what caused it.
Demoralization is Guaranteed
Reading the above, one might have gotten the impression that I was attributing Trump’s rise to Islam and Communism. I wasn’t. I mentioned them specifically because they were ideologies that deliberately attempted to cause demoralization. That’s it.
Trump’s rise might better be attributed to organic factors that required no human help. Values, old and new, are weakening. Religion is on the wane. People are losing faith in their old values. Left-wing political correctness had its day, but its outrageous, poorly defended demands had no staying power. Politicians are not trusted. This one is not new, but the obviousness of political corruption can be confirmed much more quickly than before.
What follows is that a Christian front would likely fail, a stereotypical SJW front would almost certainly fail and political parties, as we have just witnessed, undergo schisms and would fail if they attempted to present as a unified front. As a result, we have fewer people who will say “I will not vote Trump because he is a bad Christian”, “I will not vote Trump because he is offensive” or “I will not vote Trump because I am a Democrat”.
The fact is that Christianity, political correctness and partisan politics are objectively stupid reasons to vote one way or another. They cannot be defended, so they are losing their power with little conscious aid. This is a natural process of demoralization, it cannot be stopped and it isn’t even halfway complete.
We Do Not Need to Assist Demoralization
Two points have been argued. First, the benefits of demoralization do not necessarily go to those who cause it. Second, demoralization is guaranteed to continue occurring. What follows from this is that no effort needs to be made in provoking further chaos. Rather effort needs to be made in establishing institutions that can assert control within and without the chaos. In times of widespread demoralization, simply upholding an unassailable standard is sufficient to stand-out.
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“We are going to tear things down, so that we can rebuild them,” is a statement attributed to the far-left. I would not bother tearing things down. The rot has already set in. Just focus on building. I have the suspicion that folks often aim to instigate merely because they lack the capacity to build anything. This can lead to disastrous consequences. Examples exist in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. In cases where the Arab Spring led to the collapse of the Government, Islamist groups had, by far, the easiest time filling the void.
What society needs these days is new values. The death of the old values is certain. At the present, there is a race to fill the vacuum. People are in search of something convincing. They are in search of standards. They need discipline, but they need something to be disciplined about. They need certainty.
In the future, I am going to be putting out problem sets.
Jason Calhoughney writing for the Apollo Institute of Reason AIR Review©