Conservatives believe that there is nothing new under the sun. All human behaviors and attempts to regulate them are known to us through history; “new” ideas are usually old, or distractions. Our basic challenge is to impose self-discipline on ourselves as individuals and groups so that we can perceive and adapt to reality.
As part of this, we recognize that the biggest threat to civilization is herd behavior. Herd behavior occurs when people get together and start deferring to the will of the group as a replacement for actual purpose and perception of reality. People in groups operate by social rules which explicitly deny reality.
The last thousand years in the West have seen a gradual expansion of acceptance of herd behavior and, with it, a fall in the qualitative dimensions of our society. We are no longer great, although we are rich; we have power, but not the ability to wield it well. Incompetence bubbles up in every area.
When a society gives way to herd behavior, the only way to get things done becomes the manipulation of masses. Since there is no caste system, where a small group of the wise must make decisions, change must occur by mobilizing vast numbers of warm bodies with the usual incentives of greed, panic, and other lowest common denominator impulses.
Back in the 1980s, twenty years after television effectively conquered public debate, we saw mass politics in its ugliest form. Grassroots campaigns like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), censorship movements like the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), and other mob outrage campaigns exerted disproportionate influence.
Like fads and trends, these movements of hysteria were highly effective in getting large numbers of people to do the same thing. They also inspired imitators. Since they were made in the model of the 1968 cultural revolution, itself in a decentralized version of the 1789 French Revolution, they were easily imitated.
All of these movements have one thing in common: they are negative movements. They spot a problem — the root of the panic — and want to squash it thoroughly and utterly, usually through some absolute force like government or armed revolt. They do not aim to manage recurring problems, but obliterate them, Soviet-style.
This groupthink mentality gave rise to one of the most disturbing stories from a Western nation since the Salem Witch Trials: the Satanic Panic:
In 1980 in Bakersfield, California, social workers had been reading the just-published Michelle Remembers as part of their training when a number of children came forward to declare that they had been molested as part of a clandestine local occult sex ring. Two of the girls had been coached by a grandparent who was believed to have a history of mental illness. Over the coming months, their story of strange occult sex acts would grow more and more bizarre, as they claimed to have been hung from hooks in their family’s living room, forced to drink blood and watch ritual baby sacrifices, and much more.
Between 1984 and 1986, the investigation into these labyrinthine claims of satanic ritual abuse would send at least 26 people to jail in interrelated convictions, despite a complete lack of corroborative physical evidence for any of the claims.
Nearly all of those convictions have since been overturned, including that of a local carpenter named John Stoll, who spent 20 years of his 40-year sentence in jail. Parents Scott and Brenda Kniffen were each sentenced to 240 years in jail after their own sons were coached, through coercive investigative techniques and overeager therapists, to accuse them of child molestation.
In the original Satanic Panic, seemingly sensible people lost their minds because of the peer pressure caused by mass mobilization. You either went along with the herd, or seemed to be standing up and saying that you felt having Satanists work in daycare centers was fine and normal. No one wanted that stigma, so on went the crusade.
Humans in groups tend to lose their minds in this way. They have deferred to the group, instead of the goal, and therefore are easily influenced by what other people think; they want to remain on the right side of the raging gang that, cult-like, has mobilized to destroy what it fears.
When in the midst of a Satanic Panic, there is little one can do. It is like being accused of being a Royalist during the years after the French Revolution when such accusations got you sent to the guillotine along with your family. Apparently they often killed the wives and children first.
Similarly, those who stood up against the herd often found themselves without jobs, friends, or people willing to interact with them. It is hard to buy groceries when the checkers leave at your approach, afraid of being branded friends of Satan. No workmen will come to your house; no professional will take your calls.
Ostracism proves an effective weapon, but when it is in the hand of a mob chasing its latest fascination, it becomes corrosive. The mob will move on to a new fascination in time, but only after leaving behind ruined lives, because ultimately a mob desires only to feel its own power and the terror in others that this causes, much as the mob themselves live in terror of their own actions and the possible condemnation of the mob.
The age of panics never left us. There are new ones all the time, in addition to old ones — usually styled as wars, like the “war on poverty” — which are never quite solved but always provoke a reaction from the herd. Some things will always stimulate a crowd, usually the foreign enemy or “think of the children!” style tropes.
These perpetual panics exhaust us because they have eliminated stability. Instead of a relatively predictable world in which we know what is good and what is bad, everything is permitted except whatever the lynch mob is excited about this week. We must constantly attend to what the herd is thinking lest it turn on us.
On this site, we talk a lot about one of the enduring panics, which is the great war on racism. This perpetual attempt to make diversity work despite its obvious and fatal paradox has consumed America and Europe to varying degrees for centuries. The more we try to force it to work, the more we find our society crumbling around us.
Fear of racism essentially serves to allow the mob to destroy any kind of social order because order involves hierarchy and this naturally does not benefit everyone equally, at least directly. We all benefit from having a stable civilization, but people have taken that for granted and forget that we must maintain it.
Thanks to recent political jockeying, another panic has come to visit us: fear of Russians. Instead of accepting the Machiavellian realist truth that every group acts in self-interest only, we are caught in trying to view Russians as “friends” or “enemies” but never another category. Binaries like this are how mobs are mobilized.
The fear of Russians narrative goes beyond merely noting that Russia acts in self-interest and therefore, wants to displace America and become a superpower, seizing Western Europe in the process in order to stabilize Russian borders. The Russian mind remains deeply terrified of German knights invading and re-asserting noble rule.
Instead, we have come to see the Russians as an almost mythological enemy who is — in shades of fears of Freemasons, Jews, Satanists, and even Nazis — secretly manipulating us into self-destruction. This viewpoint became politically convenient as we noticed that the Russians had noticed our internal division:
Growing political polarization in the United States is a vulnerability that foreign adversaries are exploiting — and experts worry the trend will accelerate.
…There is bipartisan concern that the constant tearing of America’s political fabric provides an opening for Russia, or any other hostile power, to exploit.
…In a New York Times op-ed last month, former President Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice argued that “the most significant, long-term threat to our security may be our domestic political polarization.”
Keep in mind that we are hearing Leftist voices here; in a time where their ideas are unpopular, they are arguing for “centrism,” which translates to some kind of check on the pushback against Leftism, which having finally assumed power after the end of WW2 and the Cold War, has run our society into the ground as it always does.
When Leftists have power, they want nothing like “centrism,” compromise, or bipartisanship; they want to seize control, and since the 1960s, they have been quite successfully doing exactly that. The fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 just eliminated negative examples of extreme Leftism and removed limits on our domestic Leftists.
To address the problem of rising anti-Leftist thought, the Left has decided to resurrect the old Soviet enemy as a way of deflecting from the problems presented by Leftists in America. This allows them to explain away our divisions as both a product of the Soviet enemy, and as a bad thing, so we should eliminate them… and become “centrists”… which allows the drift Leftward to continue.
If we look at the division critically, we see that it is between a Right and Left who have different visions of the civilizations they desire. The Left wants diversity, globalism, socialism, and egalitarianism; the Right wants nationalism, competition, and a social order oriented toward quality instead of quantity. These are incompatible.
This division is especially threatening to the Left because it manifests not just between parties, but within parties, which are dividing between those who endorse the current order and those who resist it, causing political fragmentation:
Most significantly, Democrats were concerned they could face the same threat from the base that Republican officials experienced—that being seen as the Washington-endorsed candidate would be a kiss of death.
…These deepening Democratic divisions underscore how difficult it will be to harness all the anti-Trump energy into pragmatic decision-making in primaries. Priorities USA, the powerhouse party super PAC, warned in a memo last week that Democrats should “not allow themselves to be sidetracked and distracted by Trump’s latest tweets” in favor of a focused economic message geared for the middle class.
Democratic primary voters aren’t looking for electability; most want to be part of the #Resistance.
This shows the Left divided between a pragmatic contingent and the ideological tribe. They won the sixties on ideology, and repeated that with Barack Obama, but perhaps their high point was Bill Clinton, who allowed ideology to lead the discourse but ultimately defaulted to what he saw as practical policies.
The problem with Clinton however was that his ideological lead then conditioned voters and the Left to push further, and their demands for egalitarianism naturally conflicted with those of logic, nature, and pragmatism.They understood the ideological signaling, but not that his strategy was to use that to mask and then bargain for practical achievements as well.
With Obama, all of that went out the window. In the internet age, popularity was reality. Unlike Clinton, Obama struck forward with ideological imperatives knowing that he could unify his base, and he succeeded in that until the economy bogged into stagnation because he had choked it with too many non-profitable obligations.
For Obama to achieve what he desired, it was necessary to have a constant Satanic Panic, the “state of fear” that Michael Crichton described in his book of the same name. This is the face of the #Resistance; they want to be constantly motivated by apocalyptic fear so that their group holds together.
As in the 1980s, our Satanic Panics are useful because they bring people together to fight something that is not the actual problem. People had misgivings about daycare, the fragmentation of their culture, and the increasing selfishness of people, so they projected these onto a symbol, Satan. We are doing the same thing today.
Satanic Panics re-direct our consciousness from real and difficult problems to more vivid problems that can be easily squashed. Satanists are easy; lock ’em up. Social breakdown as part of the decline of a civilization? That is difficult, socially awkward, and we would rather avoid it.
As long as we live in an egalitarian time where mass mobilization is required to maintain power, Satanic Panics will rule the day. Until people more broadly connect equality with the need for mob action, we will always be manipulated by fears and hatreds, forming swarming mobs that do more damage than good.