Sunday, July 30, 2017

Melanie Phillips: The Tory Jacobins

The reason why conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic have lost their way so badly in recent years is that they never understood, and paid scant attention to, the culture wars. In Britain, this has now led some of them to come out as warriors on the wrong side.
Conservatism is not an ideology but an attitude of mind. It involves identifying and holding onto what is most valuable and defending it against erosion or attack. In the 18th century this was embodied in the thinking of Edmund Burke, widely considered to be the philosophical godfather of conservative thought, when he defended freedom and human rights against the barbarism of the French Revolution.
In the 20th century, conservatives knew what they were defending and against whom. They were defending liberty and democracy against Soviet communism. When the Soviet Union collapsed, they assumed their fox had been shot since everyone seemed to have accepted capitalism.
What they never understood – at least, most of them – was that the left-wing war to destroy the west had not in fact ended but merely shifted its strategy. Instead of the workers seizing control of the levers of the economy, the left would now seize control of the levers of the culture – the universities, media, civil service, churches, the legal profession – and subvert them from within.
Its aim was to undermine and weaken the normative values of the west and then flip them, so that what was transgressive became normative while what was normative became ostracised as transgressive. That way the west would be destroyed and would be transformed into… quite what was never very clear, but some kind of new world order.
The institutions at which this cultural revolution took particular aim were the family and the education system – the principal means though which a culture replicates itself.
And since the purpose was to destroy the west’s core values, and since these core values were enshrined in the Hebrew Bible and the Christianity that embodied those Biblical moral codes in western civilisation, traditional Christianity was directly in its cross-hairs. It had to allow itself to become diluted by secularism to became a pale and meaningless shadow of its former self, went the threat, or else it would be attacked and destroyed.
To begin with, the Conservative Party in Britain ignored all this. It just didn’t grasp that the great cause for which conservatism now needed to fight tooth and nail was a muscular defence of Biblical morality and the principles of truth, reason, justice and human dignity which were underpinned by that morality alone.
Instead, many Tories unfurled their banner behind the liberty of the individual – which just propelled them straight onto the turf of the amoral, hyper-individualistic, lifestyle-choice fanatic, Bible-bashing left. Too unthinking even to begin to understand the significance of the de-moralisation now taking hold throughout the west, the Tories increasingly decided to take the path of least resistance and “go with the flow”.
And so now we have reached the next stage, in which Tory politicians are themselves going onto aggressive attack against Christianity and western core values. Despite her own Christian upbringing and faith, the Prime Minister Theresa May has nevertheless appropriated the left-wing shibboleth of egalitarianism which negates personal responsibility by promoting equality of outcomes regardless of circumstances.
Some years ago, Mrs May famously decried the Tories’ reputation as “the nasty party”. Unfortunately, she thinks that to be nice one has to be left-wing when the very opposite is the case.
Justine Greening, the Education Secretary and Equalities Minister, has emerged as the latter-day Robespierre to May’s Danton. Ms Greening is displaying a distinctly nasty impulse to crush freedom – the freedom, that is, of all who disagree with her view that society and human nature itself must be remade. I wrote here about her intention to legislate against truth, reality and compassion by allowing people to change their gender at will without even any medical diagnosis of a sex-change. Now she is telling the Church of England to drop its opposition to same-sex marriage. She said:
“I think it is important that the church in a way keeps up and is part of a modern country. I wouldn’t prescribe to them how they should deal with that. But I do think we are living in a county where people broadly recognise that attitudes are in a different place now to where they were many, many years ago. We have allowed same sex marriage, that’s a massive step forward for the better. For me, I think people do want to see our major faiths keep up with modern attitudes in our country.”
So she “wouldn’t proscribe” what the church should do – but she’s telling it what to do nevertheless on the basis that “people want to see our major faiths keep up with modern attitudes in our country”. Really? All modern attitudes? How does she define a “modern attitude”? How does she know “most people” want this? And all major faiths? Is she going to start telling Orthodox Jews and Muslims to accept same-sex marriage too, along with transgenderism on demand?
When same-sex marriage was introduced, we were told the church would remain free to stick to its traditional doctrines. Given that the distinction between men and women is now being destroyed by legislative fiat, we can all see what freedom of religion – and freedom in general – actually means to these Tory Jacobins.
What a betrayal. Burke must be revolving in his grave.

Melanie Phillips is a British journalist, broadcaster and author - you can follow her work on her website HERE


Anonymous said...
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“The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.” -- Friedrich Nietzsche, The Dawn, 1881

“Human beings never think for themselves, they find it too uncomfortable. For the most part, members of our species simply repeat what they are told - and become upset if they are exposed to any different view. “ -- Michael Crichton, The Lost World

““It is not difficult to deprive the great majority of independent thought. But the minority who will retain an inclination to criticise must also be silenced …” -- Friedrich Hayek

Capturing the Academy in order to use it as an indoctrination factory for the views and values of the political and lifestyle Left has allowed a relative handful of West-Hating Communist traitors to multiply their effectiveness many thousand-fold. This could be likened to dropping a stone into a pool and watching the ripples spread in ever-widening circles.

Society’s future opinion-shapers are fed a pre-determined set of views and values then told that all educated, enlightened people think this way. This readymade world view then become part of the warp and weft of our culture through the principles of mass marketing described below, which turn our universities into a transmission belt, and our public discourse into a giant propaganda machine, for ideas that were deliberately crafted and deployed to white-ant our existing society.

Though these ideas and associated value shifts appear to have arisen spontaneously from the culture, they in fact represent a totalitarian form of intellectual coercion. Our universities are no longer committed to free speech or open debate. Only Leftism is allowed, a trend that has become increasingly evident in the Western Academy over several decades. Universities are meant to be an open forum for all ideological viewpoints. Yet Leftism is not only dominant, but unchallenged.

Leftists loudly proclaim their commitment to “diversity,” but when it comes to the most important diversity of all, the diversity of ideas, they see no irony in deliberately excluding competing value systems. “Since all teaching is ideological,” they reason, “it may as well be our ideology that is being taught.”

Canadian author, Mark Steyn, warns of the consequences of this mind-set: “Universities are no longer institutions of inquiry but ‘safe spaces’ where delicate flowers of diversity of race, sex, orientation, ‘gender fluidity’ and everything else except diversity of thought have to be protected from exposure to any unsafe ideas.”

As Friedrich Hayek reminds us: “Collectivism means the end of truth. To make a totalitarian system function efficiently, it is not enough that everybody should be forced to work for the ends selected by those in control; it is essential that the people should come to regard these ends as their own. This is brought about by propaganda and by complete control of all sources of information.”

In the modern Western university, intolerance of opposing ideas is not only openly extolled, but held up as a virtue. In many tertiary disciplines, especially those specialising in the study of society, it is now possible to go all the way from undergraduate to PhD. level without having been exposed to a single conservative or libertarian professor.

As a simple illustration of this point, if you were known to hold conservative or libertarian views, outside of the hard sciences and practical professions, would you apply for a teaching position at any Western university? And if you did, do you think that you would be accepted?

This Leftist stranglehold on the Academy means that by default a whole spectrum of ideas doesn’t exist. Or if peripherally acknowledged, they are put up only as a straw man to be rubbished, with nobody able to robustly defend them at hand to do so.

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Capturing students at a vulnerable point in their intellectual development and isolating them from competing information sources means that their core values can be readily reshaped in the desired direction. Appropriately programmed graduates then remain in the university system as wholesalers of the views and values that originated with their Marxist-Leninist professors, or after completing their degrees, go off to retail what they have been taught to the wider community.

To convince the retailers to sell enthusiastically, the wholesalers must ensure that their unwitting minions are firewalled as much as possible from the source of the ideas they have been conditioned to peddle. After all, Communism still has a bad name with most people, and nobody likes to feel that they are someone else’s glove puppet.

Ideas can be marketed in exactly the same way as any other product, but with a few added twists. The most powerful tool for marketing ideas is the persuasion theory developed by Richard E. Petty and John Cacioppo in the early 1980s, and known to marketing experts as the Elaboration Likelihood Model (“ELM”).

Petty is currently Professor of Social Psychology at Ohio State University, while Cacioppo is Director of the Social Psychology Program at the University of Chicago, as well as the Director of its Centre for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience. High-powered credentials indeed!

Antonio Gramsci would have immediately understood the application of the theories developed by these men to his vision of “the long march through the institutions, until socialism and relativism are complete. “

The ELM proposes a dual process theory about how attitudes are formed and changed. It evaluates persuasion strategies based on where they might fall on a continuum between two information processing routes: central (high elaboration) and peripheral (low elaboration).

Central route processing is a high elaboration persuasion strategy requiring detailed intellectual scrutiny of the marketing message to determine its merits. A convincing argument is likely to result in attitude change even if it is at odds with the recipient’s original position. If the argument is seen as unconvincing, the message is likely to be rejected. For the message to be centrally processed, the recipient must have both the ability and motivation to do so.

As one might expect, central route attitude change is likely to prove strong, enduring, and very hard to turn around.

Peripheral-route processing is a low elaboration persuasion strategy best understood as a gut level or emotional response to the marketing message, with little or no intellectual consideration of an argument's merits. Recipients rely instead on a message's environmental characteristics: perceived source credibility or attractiveness, a slick presentation, a catchy sound bite, or a desire not to appear out of step with one’s fellows.

Low elaboration strategies are typically used when an argument is weak or lacks evidence, or where a high elaboration message is too complex for the target audience to process. The marketer provides recipients with a mental shortcut to the desired conclusion, meaning the message is accepted or rejected based on external cues supplied by the marketer, rather than conscious thought.

Peripheral route persuasion seldom results in strong or lasting attitude change unless subject to ongoing reinforcement by the marketer.

Anonymous said...
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The Elaboration Likelihood Model when applied to the marketing of ideas intersects with another persuasion model known to marketers as “exaction pricing.” Exaction pricing is the price paid by the target market for not purchasing the product.

In marketing, say, baked beans, it would be very difficult to paint someone as a bad person for preferring one brand over another. But when it comes to marketing ideas, imposing exaction pricing is like shooting fish in a barrel. The socialist capture of the culture means anyone swimming against the tide in the prevailing leftist intellectual sewer can expect to be thoroughly demonised.

In the marketing of ideas, exaction pricing works not just on intellectuals who centrally process information, but on the great mass of people who peripherally process it. It threatens the core identity of its targets, forcing them to accept the programming or risk being labelled as bad and evil.

Excluding competing ideas from the West’s universities means that for society’s future opinion-shapers, central route processing occurs in an intellectual vacuum. The arguments presented have apparent merit because students are provided with no yardstick against which to compare them. This is reinforced by low elaboration processing based on the source credibility of lecturers who appear to know what they are talking about. Graduates are chained still further to received dogma by being told that only “correct” views and values will make them card-carrying members of the intellectual community.

Those who don’t go on to higher education are mostly too busy making a living to centrally process social and political questions, find the issues too complex to process, or both. They can be readily induced to adopt the views and values of the intellectual class via peripheral route persuasion based on perceived source credibility. The programming is then locked in by the same fear of being marginalised for not sharing group-approved attitudes that binds the intellectual class.

In social psychology, “pluralistic ignorance” describes a situation where a majority of group members privately reject a received norm, but wrongly assume it is widely held, and pretend conformity so as not to appear out of step with everyone else.

Most people, whatever their level of intelligence, want to hold “correct” beliefs and attitudes. Their overriding drive is to belong and conform. In order to do so, they will overwhelmingly internalise received dogma without applying intellectual scrutiny to it.

Hans Christian Andersen’s story of The Emperor’s New Clothes is a time-honoured warning against buying into group-think for social approval.

A vain Emperor who cares about nothing but appearances hires two swindlers who promise to make him the world’s finest suit of clothes cut from a cloth invisible to anyone who is stupid or unfit for his position.

After being provided with a workroom and large sums of money to buy materials, the fraudsters pretend to weave the fabric to make the suit. Invited to admire the cloth as it is being woven, the Emperor’s ministers can see nothing, but pretend to see looms full of beautiful fabric taking shape for fear of appearing unfit for their positions. On his own inspection visit, the Emperor does the same thing.

Finally the swindlers announce that the suit is finished. They pretend to dress the Emperor in it and he marches before his subjects at the head of a grand procession. Behind him, his courtiers pretend to be holding up the train of a non-existent cloak, so as not to be seen by others as unfit for their positions.

Not wanting to appear stupid, the townsfolk also play along with the pretense. Then a child in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of keeping up the charade, loudly blurts out that the Emperor has nothing on.

Soon, others take up the cry, until everyone is saying the same thing. The Emperor cringes, suspecting that the crowd is right, but continues to pretend otherwise because backing down would be to own up to his own stupidity.

Peter said...
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The article by Melanie Phillips and the comment series which followed, come at a crucial time in New Zealand's political history. Whatever she said about the deplorable collapse and inversion of conservative values in the UK, the analysis applies equally to new Zealand in every parameter of public life. Poised on the eve of an election we are faced with choices we feel viscerally are suspect or have been subverted. The urgency felt now was deflected and hidden by the covert machinations and expediency of a ruling party that has done an immense disservice to those who supported it in the past. All is NOT clear! Melanie's clarification adds vital perspectives to where we are and where we ought to be. Appreciated!

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