As much as I am sure this does happen quite a lot, something that does not get enough emphasis is how much people's relationships to themselves erode under the very ordinary conditions of quotidian life with its stresses, indignities, and disappointments. Nothing so deliberate as a propaganda campaign is needed for this first step to already take hold of people through the subtle misery of their personal relationships. This is not to say that institutions and ideologies are not involved with this process, but I think the unconscious subtleties of this all too easily get overlooked when we culturally take a normative view of what it means to be mentally healthy as successfully living a normal life.
Arendt, in the same book, also argued that personal resentments fueled the rise of fascist regimes. I think in general, if, as a society, we want to curtail the rise of totalitarian politics, we have to really address the very personal individual antagonisms that arise in people's everyday lives; loneliness among them, but not alone as the sole culprit by a longshot.
My own interpretation is that it begins by inculcating an identity of shame and powerlessness, which respectively create the necessary righteous cruelty and infinite appetite for power to get a totalitarian movement going and neutralizing opposition to its aims, e.g. "for good men to do nothing." It is systematized, and simple enough to iterate and scale, because what it truly was is directed chaos. Defeating it is also simple set of rules, and is in fact related to defeating loneliness as well, but that's a much longer topic.
People are not encouraged to find their own identity or explore inner mind. It's all bread and circus everywhere, to stop you from paying attention to your inner self. We have ancient teachings on this topic dating way, way back (like Upanishads), yet we still haven't found a good way to actually teach and implement them.
For instance, Lenin and Co immediately surrendered to the Germans because "it is not our war" and the Germans said "Great! Here's our list of demands!" and it was an embarrassment given that Germany lost the war a month later.
See the Chris Harman classic
to see what went down in Germany afterwards.
It was the result of a campaign of arbitrariness and farcical lying because the real target and conquest of totalitarianism is truth itself. When nothing can be believed, all opposition is neutralized. This neutralization and eventual liquidation is the totalitarian process. Activists project this as "stochastic terror," these days, but the technique goes back over a couple hundred years. What was exceptionally notable about that book, and is a bullet point in the article, is that the very idea of history as progress itself is the initial condition of ideology.
The final chapter "ideology and terror," is the distillation I think people should read today, but the whole book, particularly the initial chapters that are an unblinking view of antisemitism, colonial thinking, and the nation state are sound foundations for thinking about the 20th century.
But what kind of study could yield valid, reproducible data about how much atomization is caused by how much lockdown, and how much authoritarianism is caused by how much atomization?
I'm gonna recommend watching Hypernormalization by Adam Curtis. In it he talks about Vladislav Surkov basically turning the Russian political scene into a bizarre post modernist theater, where he would publicly proclaim to fund left wing, right wing or other, centrist parties and NGOs, to give the impression that everyone is working for Putin.
You can see this so clearly in any video of Trump rallies, or their protests. There is no conversation, conviviality, or sense of community happening between the attendees. It's a collection of completely disconnected individuals taking selfies and angrily screaming platitudes to the general crowd. It's quite disturbing to see.
A prime example: https://youtu.be/L5hksM_R59M
Sounds like my ex-wife (fell victim to QAnon). :/
Fast forward a few years and the thought of sex-trafficking rings took root. She was convinced that girls were being abducted for sex slavery and that people in government were supporting them.
This twisted even further when I confronted her about it, told her that what she thinks is real isn’t, and she immediately jumped on me for gaslighting her.
Needless to say, it was she that filed for divorce. I’m way happier now.
Those that downvoted my comment above because my ex-wife, you should meet her, she’s completely crazy now.
Btw, the downvotes are not related to the specifics of what you posted. It’s simply that there are a bunch of people on HN who downvote every single comment that’s somehow critical of Trump or the alt-right. They come back even into old threads to do this. It’s absurd.
I don’t have the qualifications or experience to know how to do that effectively. I’m happier now.
Indeed, it is usually conservatives that actually, in practice, attempt to promote community and family values.
Although portions of the right have contributed to atomization via the 'free market', the left's project of scientism and eschewing of tradition arguably has also contributed significantly to this.
It seems kind of funny to see these two lumped together ... I don’t think neoliberalism would be considered left by left people ...
I think the confusion arises from the different interpretation of liberalism on either side of the Atlantic.
Neoliberalism is an economic movement rather than a social one (unlike neoconservatism, the political ideology that funnily enough advocates neoliberalism) and it’s an iteration of classical economics aka “economic liberalism”.
Liberal economics is actually more like libertarianism which is paradoxically more closely aligned with the “right wing” mindset.
Neoliberalism does incorporate some notes about redistribution of wealth for reasons of economic expedience but this is rarely seen in practice.
This all goes to show that words are slippery and labels are bullshit and you’re far better off trying to understand where the people you’re disagreeing with are coming from than be lazily painting them as this or that.
It seems like you want a semantics debate about how neocons and neolibs are are equivalent terms? Sorry, not the conversation for me, nor the main point I was making.
I didn't say that all neoliberals were left wing.
I said that there were some people on the the left that were neoliberals.
Please understand this difference.
> Early roots of neoliberalism were laid in the 1970s during the Carter administration, with deregulation of the trucking, banking and airline industries, as well as the appointment of Paul Volcker to chairman of the Federal Reserve.:5
> During the 1990s, the Clinton administration also embraced neoliberalism by supporting the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), continuing the deregulation of the financial sector through passage of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act and the repeal of the Glass–Steagall Act and implementing cuts to the welfare state through passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act.
You seem to presuppose your claims are de-facto correct; I don't think that is true.
See the 1999 Seattle WTO protests as an example of the left opposing neoliberalism.
Just because those that were further-left than centrist democrats existed and opposed their centrist democrats policies doesn't mean centrist democrats weren't considered "on the left" by a great many people, who would also be considered left of the Republicans at the time.
"No true Scotsman"
Neoliberalism is a center-right, corporate capitalist economic ideology. It has nothing to do with the Left, which it sees (and is seen by as) an enemy. (Americans are particularly likely to get confused by this because the dominant, more centrist faction of the Democratic Party is neoliberal, and the Democratic Party is the left-most of the US’s major parties.)
But, yes, it has played a central role in atomization of society.
Well, nothing to do with the left may be a bit of an overstatement, imho.
If the "Left" is such a problematic term, then let's just agree to avoid using the term, since you seem to be of the position that the "more centrist faction of the Democratic Party" is not Left.
I would assume the term "Left" includes both the "more centrist faction of the Democratic Party" and the more left-leaning social-democratic ideologies.
The left is a big tent composed of many factions.
also, linking this for citations:
Also, neoliberalism was the economic ideology of the dominant faction of the Republican Party prior to Trump, too, and few would call them “the Left". (There were differences in social ideology, of course, between Republicans and Democrats.) Hence the “neoliberal consensus” of the 1990s and beyond.
However it seems who gets to be in "the left" and who doesn't seems to be very up for debate these days.
I'm fairly certain if you asked anyone in the 90's if the clinton administration was on the left they'd answer in the affirmative.
I understand the social democratic part of the left has evolved and differentiated itself since then. This is great, but I think it problematic to retcon the history exclusively this view.
Just because the social democratic faction would like complete ownership on the term "the left" I think does not make it so, or at least can be agreed to be a subjective claim.
This was relatively true for the internet I grew up with, but it is certainly not true now. What happened in the capital was quite a wake up call. And much of the blame for it does look to be the result of things like click-through maximization and engagement maximization pushing people towards extremes, things like karma and likes allocating status to those staking out extreme positions. It is a terrifying thing to think about, but if you start thinking of social media influencers and followers as a sort of client-patron relationship, the historical precedents are not comforting.
For myself, I am coming to terms with the fact that I cannot really trust any opinions that have been inculcated in me during the wild years of social media. I have deleted my Reddit and Facebook accounts, have diligently trained the YouTube algorithms to avoid any even remotely political content. I no longer trust myself to develop sensible opinions in such an adversarial environment and am doing my best to just not have political opinions and focus on simple things like maths and programming.
Steve Omohundro had a talk recently where he described the need for "personal AIs" to help individuals resist manipulation from corporate AIs maximizing engagement. Perhaps once such things like this exist, I will allow myself to have opinions. But until then, I don't think I have any hope of making sense of this cacophony tuned for my engagement. Until I get such a thing, this will be my last post on HackerNews.
This reminds me of The Big Promise of Recommender Systems (2011) :
> However, when we look at the current recommender systems generation from the point of view of the “recommendee” (users’ side) we can see that recommender systems are more inclined toward achieving short-term sales and business goals. Instead of helping their users to cope with the problem of information overload they can actually contribute to information overload by proposing recommendations that do not meet the users’ current needs or interests. ...
> The window of opportunity is now open to innovate in a third generation of recommender systems that act directly on behalf of their users and help them cope with information overload.
I'm working on something in this space myself (an essay recommender system). I think part of the solution is having recommender systems that are decoupled from publishing; e.g. a video recommender that suggests videos across multiple, unaffiliated sites, instead of the recommender that's built into YouTube.
In any case, I would not worry as the chance of being in a situation where political opinions actually matter is quite low for most people
Isn’t that the very definition of totalitarianism? People who won’t make decisions based on ideas they articulate, but rather let themselves go to accept other people’s decisions?
> Isolation and loneliness are not the same. I can be isolated – that is in a situation in which I cannot act, because there is nobody who will act with me – without being lonely; and I can be lonely – that is in a situation in which I as a person feel myself deserted by all human companionship – without being isolated.
> Totalitarianism uses isolation to deprive people of human companionship, making action in the world impossible, while destroying the space of solitude.
> One is taught to distrust oneself and others, and to always rely upon the ideology of the movement, which must be right. But in order to make individuals susceptible to ideology, you must first ruin their relationship to themselves and others.
> Amid the chaos and uncertainty of human existence, we need a sense of place and meaning. We need roots. And ideologies, like the Sirens in Homer’s Odyssey, appeal to us. But those who succumb to the siren song of ideological thinking…can’t confront themselves in thinking because, if they do, they risk undermining the ideological beliefs that have given them a sense of purpose and place.
Twentieth-century totalitarianism could only have arisen from an industrial world in which the local social networks of family, village, and church were destroyed in the process of urbanization. Subsequently the less local social bonds one has, the more one becomes susceptible to mass political movements and extremist ideologies.
Unfortunately the internet has only exacerbated this, where it’s not uncommon to have more social interaction (even if it’s only watching someone else) online than in person.
The point is that urbanization and industrialization encouraged individualism. Today, the market itself does so.
Last but not least it's important to remember that humans have always been fighting and trying to control one another. 20th century war, genocide, and totalitarianism is new only in its scale.
If voters disagreed with quarantine measures, they were free to vote those governments out.
In general, people in representative democracies don't vote on every single government decision. Voters elect representatives who vote on issues. I don't see why temporary health restrictions due to a pandemic would be any different.
I'm sure the situation is the same in many of the elections that you linked, most countries are republics, not democracies.
Admittedly I wonder about the modern use of the word "democracy" being used to legitimize what was supposed to be a republic, was never meant to be a real democracy, and has drifted into being a plutocracy.
This is the case for every single decision that any election official makes. The general public doesn't vote on individual laws, unless you live in Switzerland. Calling quarantine measures "not democratic" is dishonest for this reason.
Like I said, I think the word democracy is abused. Is the U.S. a democracy? The word appears zero times in the constitution. Is the Democratic Republic of North Korea a democracy, just because they say it is? Is Russia a democracy because people get to vote?
In the U.S. we don't vote on issues, we vote on which one of two factions will be in power any given year, the same two parties for the last 150+ years, increasingly the same people over and over, rotating in and out of corporate board rooms and the media, a political class bought and paid for, seemingly more concerned with keeping the population distracted rather than representing them, happy to take on more and more responsibility even thought the population trusts them less and less. Why the need to defend this hot mess and everything it does as democratic, when technically it is not?
Thanks for the Switzerland call-out, I'll be reading more about their system.
If we're arguing technicalities, the US is "technically" a type of democracy - specifically a representative democracy. If we go by your more exacting standards every government decision, ordinance, or law except those by referenda isn't democratic. Which is neither technically correct, nor is it correct as generally understood by laypeople. I agree with all the problems you pointed out but those are orthogonal to the question at hand.
DPRK is not a democracy because it fails several criteria. Russia is a de jure democracy but not a de facto one.
Candidates are effectively preselected via funding by .02% of the population before people can vote, and gerrymandering districts is rampant so that political parties are selecting voters, instead of the other way around .
Would you say that things like that make the U.S. a de jure democracy, also?
I think the problems with our so-called democracy explain why Trump has had the following that he does. He had the money and media experience to get elected based on the outrage so many people have for all other politicians who do not really represent them. The establishment seemed more interested in getting rid of him than addressing the sentiment that brought him to office. I'm not a Trump supporter myself, and I loathe his demagoguery, but I think that understand why he got elected. He's popular with a lot of politically apathetic people because they really believed he would "drain the swamp" and that he wasn't like every single other politician - not another Bush, not another Clinton, another insider, not someone who was going to bail out Wall Street again, etc.
Apologies for nitpicking and spouting off a bit, but like I said this has all very much been on my mind lately. I know that I may be tilting at windmills here, but words are important and shape our thoughts, which led me to throw my original comment out there.
I mean 2 choices is more than 1, which is usually the case in Russia. Could the US be more democratic? Certainly. Does it have 0 democracy? I don't think so.
This has been an interesting rabbit hole. I just took a look at democracy ratings, comparing different countries over time. I'm still reading about Switzerland, how it works, the pros and cons, etc.
Back to the original post in this thread, implying that governments were being totalitarian with lockdowns, and the reply saying that these governments were democracies... I would now say that being a democracy doesn't mean leaders couldn't implement totalitarian measures (using the term loosely), but it should be easier for a population to change course in a democracy than otherwise.
In other words, leaders got authorization to bypass democracy.
And yes Germany is a weird mix of state and federal responsibilities and authority (sorta like the US just different). States are responsible for schools for example. But now Merkel wants to close _all_ schools in all of Germany. Some states object and want to keep them open. Bavaria introduced a requirement to wear FFP2 masks now, while no other state does etc.
Make of that what you will.