Sunday, June 8, 2014

Mind Control in America

Joel Kotkin uses the term “clerisy” to designate a new class of ideological “overlords. These are the people who tell us what we can and cannot think, what we can and cannot say, what we can and cannot believe. They merely want to control our minds.

Kotkin, a Democrat, has been decrying this rising social class for some time now.

He sees, more clearly than most, that an empowered clerisy is the enemy of free expression and the marketplace of ideas. A class that rejects all dissent and punishes deviants harshly is the enemy of democracy.

Kotkin defines our new ideological overlords:

The very term Clerisy first appeared in 1830 in the work of Samuel Coleridge to described the bearers society’s highest ideals: the intellectuals, pastors, scientists charged with transmitting their privileged knowledge them to the less enlightened orders.  

The rise of today’s Clerisy stems from the growing power and influence of its three main constituent parts: the creative elite of media and entertainment, the academic community, and the high-level government bureaucracy.

The Clerisy operates on very different principles than its rival power brokers, the oligarchs of finance, technology or energy. The power of the knowledge elite does not stem primarily from money, but in persuading, instructing and regulating the rest of society. Like the British Clerisy or the old church-centered French First Estate, the contemporary Clerisy increasingly promotes a single increasingly parochial ideology and, when necessary, has the power to marginalize, or excommunicate, miscreants from the public sphere.

Obviously, this clerisy enforces ideological conformity on issues ranging from race to climate change to same-sex marriage to sexism. Disagree and you will find out what it feels like to live in an unfree society.

Kotkin continues:

In ways not seen since at least the McCarthy era, Americans are finding themselves increasingly constrained by a rising class—what I call the progressive Clerisy—that accepts no dissent from its basic tenets. Like the First Estate in pre-revolutionary France, the Clerisy increasingly exercises its power to constrain dissenting views, whether on politics, social attitudes or science.

An alliance of upper level bureaucrats and cultural elites, the Clerisy, for for all their concerns about inequality, have thrived, unlike most Americans, in recent years. They also enjoy strong relations with the power structure in Washington, Silicon Valley, Hollywood and Wall Street.

As the modern clerisy has seen its own power grow, even while the middle class shrinks, it has used its influence to enforce a prescribed set of acceptable ideas. On everything from gender and sexual preference to climate change, those who dissent from the official pieties risk punishment.

The clerisy wields its power because it controls most American thought centers . Like Michael Bloomberg, Kotkin is appalled at the groupthink that infests American universities and American media outlets.

Apparently, those who labor in such places have learned that ideological conformity can be used as a cudgel to beat down opposition. It represents an exercise of power.

The more absolute the power the more it is corrupt. As Lord Acton famously said:

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The exercise of such power produces what Kotkin calls “ideological unanimity:”

The current atmosphere of ideological unanimity—in academia, the arts and much of the government bureaucracy—set the stage for the outrages of this commencement season, making painfully palpable the growing authoritarian spirit in so many of our leading institutions. They often see themselves as a liberating force in our society, but in their dislike of conflicting ideas and open debate, today’s  Clerisy increasingly resembles the closed-minded dogmatists of the Medieval church.

In fairness the Medieval church allowed for more diversity of opinion. A church that contained both Aquinas and Bonaventure was more tolerant than an American university or an American newsroom today.

Ideological uniformity is a beast of a different color. It feels like a vestige of totalitarian governments, and thus, seems especially necessary when the thought leaders are promoting lies.

It is probably not an accident, as Kotkin points out, that the clerisy has greatly enhanced its power during the Obama administration.

If the free trade in ideas, as Justice Holmes said, is the best way to arrive at the truth, shutting down debate and dissent is all the more necessary for a government that has been trafficking in lies.

Where the Bush administration’s failures were widely reported and more widely denounced, our new clerisy has made it its mission to cover up the failures of the Obama administration. It has done everything in its power to blind us to the president’s incompetence and his inability to take responsibility for his mistakes.

The worse these mistakes, the more the clerisy feels obliged to enforce speech and thought codes.

After all, if no one thinks you have made a mistake is it still a mistake? According to the principles that inform the clerisy, thinking is what makes it so.

Similarly, these thinkers believe that reality is how you interpret it. If you are induced to see things differently, then things will be different. If the clerisy can police your language and your thought, it can, it believes, change the world.


Anonymous said...

What an interesting word "clerisy" is.

Now, Mr. Kotkin, WHO makes up this intelligentsia? He mentions places where they reside, roles and professions, and how they're tapped into power structures. But who, o who, do you say they are? In the article, he mentions Peter Orzag and Tom Friedman (a "Had Enough Therapy?" fan favorite). But that's it. Other than that, the Pritzker family gets mention, Larry Ellison's daughter, the Kennedy/Pelosi/McCain kids, etc. but these sound like celebrities and rich folks who are riding coat tails. I would like to know who the real thought leaders are, and their intellectual ancestry of their ideas. It's easy to follow the money. Following the ideas -- who influenced who, why, and the what and how of their actions -- is more difficult, but I assert is more instructive and meaningful. Why? Because these ideas can be challenged in the arena. You can't challenge inherited wealth or name-brand... family names. You have to get at the ideas and the self-serving lies they're based on. Things like "I'm a good person because I care about _____. People who don't care about _____ are bad, if not evil." Indeed, there is little substance beyond this framework in an Obama speech (unless they don't want to say anything, in which case they hide behind mention of an "ongoing investigation").

It seems that the regulars on "Charlie Rose" (like Mssrs. Friedman and Krugman) would be a good place to start assembling a thought leader list. Maybe I'll start doing that and see what I find...

This is where Lord Acton's longer quote is more useful: "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority."

Intellectual and other thought influence is a greater source of power today than ever before. Academia, media, etc. At the end of the 19th century, the progressive movement was on the move, using democratic means to secure ideological victories amidst massive economic shifts. It was really a form of "soft power." The progressive left pursued and consolidated power in the early 20th century, gained a foothold during the New Deal era, and vaulted ahead in the second half of the 20th century into the 21st. This is where influence met power and linked with authority. In academia, that authority is hegemonic, and we get a peek at what it leaves in its wake. Obama is the most obvious example... a man who daily shows he's not learned anything since college.

It's really not enough to just talk about a "clerisy." We have to name the members of this intelligentsia, and publicly dissect their ideas and positions, one-by-one, while simultaneously demonstrating their direct connections to power structures. This is where their naked ambition and benefits they gain will betray their declarations of proletarian sympathy and make-nice posturing on vacuous talk shows.

What's happening now is that the intelligentsia and their ideas operate tangentially, out of view, away from scrutiny. My hope is that getting these ideas (and their devastating economic, social, political and spiritual consequences) out in the open will break the heretofore shadowy (now overt) hostility to the American idea of government. We can reverse today's dismantling of American constitutional traditions and a restore a federal republic founded on the rights of the citizen (read: not citizen groups). Perhaps I'm naive on this one, but that is what I hope for.

For as long as the Obamatrons have been in power, I have used their cries of "Racism!" as a gauge for their discomfort and fear. These cries are heard more often these days. As Lincoln said at the close of the Civil War, "Let the thing be pressed."


Anonymous said...

That the powerful
will always try to gain control of the masses is nothing new.

But why is this happening in a free democracy? In the past, wasps used to rule America, and there were plenty of radical and subversive voices that challenged and took on the elites.

But why is there such silence from the masses and the conservatives? If anything, conservatives seem to get riled up only about taxes, which is rather funny since Bush's tax cuts mostly did wonders for the Liberal urban super-rich.

How come Republican politicians are so afraid of taking on the homosexual agenda?

Maybe it's because conservatism is, by nature, conformist and submissive to authority.
In the past, when conservative forces had the power, it was natural for liberals and leftists to challenge and subvert the established order. Opposing power came naturally to the liberal mentality.

But now that the Liberals have taken over the system, they are the ruling elites.
Therefore, Conservatives should be taking on the subversive role once held by the left, but conservatives don't make good subversives since they are, by their very nature, conformist and prefer to defer to authority... which may be why so many Conservatives are deciding to just bend over to the homosexual agenda. Since the rich and powerful in Wall Street and Silicon Valley are totally for the homosexual agenda--even in conservative Texas, the big urban and academic centers are ruled by Liberals--, Conservatives prefer to go along than play the role of the new radicals.

Liberal elites rule but still act like they are subversives.
Conservatives are out of power but still act like the rich and powerful are on their side... when, in fact, the rich and powerful are on the side of Liberal globalism and the homosexual agenda.

Soviet of Washington said...

Let's give the full Acton quote, which is even more interesting:

"I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by full authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it."