When I was a youth back in the early 1970s, there was an unusual restaurant just off the exit ramp from the Baltimore-Washington Parkway on Rt. 197 outside of Laurel, Maryland. It was a little bar and grill called Delaney’s Irish Pizza Pub, and its sign featured a leprechaun holding out a pizza.
Now that’s cognitive dissonance.
It’s a benign cognitive dissonance, the sort that makes you laugh out loud when you drive past, and exclaim, “Is this a great country, or what?”
But there are other more sinister and dangerous types of cognitive dissonance at work in the land.
Take, for example, the case of the Finnish blogger Mikko Ellilä. We have been writing a lot about him recently, and also about the general climate of repression that is emerging in Finland. The Finnish government, like other governments within the EU, is intent on exerting ever more control of its citizens’ thoughts by cracking down on free speech in the blogosphere. The modus operandi is the usual one: applying the nebulous principles of Multiculturalism to hunt down “hate speech” and “racism”.
Finland’s Ombudsman for minorities, Mikko Puumalainen, believes that even facts can be “hate speech”:
[H]e repeatedly refused to specify his allegations and to email me the relevant material that he had sent to the police. I was able to obtain the material from him only after I notified him that I could sue him for failing to send me the relevant material because the police had explicitly asked me to comment on his allegations in written form, which I obviously could not do as long as I had not even seen the allegations in the first place. Puumalainen undoubtedly committed a crime by acting like this.
In other words, a criminal bureaucrat is harassing me. Puumalainen is also seriously wasting taxpayer money by forcing the police to spend time reading my blog posts and discussing them with me, instead of trying to catch criminals.
In a similar vein, the EU created an internal regulation for bureaucrats, forbidding them to refer to “jihad”:
The European Union has drawn up guidelines advising government spokesmen to refrain from linking Islam and terrorism in their statements.
Brussels officials have confirmed the existence of a classified handbook which offers “non-offensive” phrases to use when announcing anti-terrorist operations or dealing with terrorist attacks.
Banned terms are said to include “jihad”, “Islamic” or “fundamentalist”.
The word “jihad” is to be avoided altogether, according to some sources, because for Muslims the word can mean a personal struggle to live a moral life.
One alternative, suggested publicly last year, is for the term “Islamic terrorism” to be replaced by “terrorists who abusively invoke Islam”.
An EU official said that the secret guidebook, or, “common lexicon”, is aimed at preventing the distortion of the Muslim faith and the alienation of Muslims in Europe.
According to the article, “Details on the contents of the lexicon remain secret.”
Look what’s happening here: certain types of speech are proscribed or limited, but the exact rules aren’t revealed. So we know generally that many things are forbidden, but not exactly what they are.
I’ll bet I’m not the only one who is reminded of this quote:
– – – – – – – – – –
“Catch-22,” the old woman repeated, rocking her head up and down. “Catch-22. Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can’t stop them from doing.”
“Didn’t they show it to you?” Yossarian demanded, stamping about in anger and distress. “Didn’t you even make them read it?”
“They don’t have to show us Catch-22,” the old woman answered. “The law says they don’t have to.”
“What law says they don’t have to?”
Forty-five years ago the famous exchange in Joseph Heller’s novel was a prescient description of the paradigm now being realized by the self-destructive governments of the West.
All these speech codes remain non-specific, so that everyone will learn to self-censor broadly, hoping to comply somehow with the Catch-22 that no one is allowed to see. Rather than create the expensive and inefficient apparatus of the totalitarian state — secret police, a network of informers, brainwashing, torture, and a gulag — the soft totalitarian state simply applies a method designed to induce its citizens to perform the repression on themselves.
It’s a very effective technique, and is probably farthest advanced in the UK. An article in the Daily Mail tells the story of Codie Stott, a teenager who was arrested for “racism” because she didn’t want to sit with fellow students who spoke only in Urdu. Robert Whelan, deputy director of the Civitas think-tank, said this:
A lot of these arrests don’t result in prosecutions — their aim is to frighten us into self-censorship until we watch everything we say.
Similarly, the authorities did not give Mikko Ellilä the charges — meaning that he could not know what specific speech code he had violated — and therefore, if he were to be charged, the message to other bloggers would be to self-censor in hope of remaining within the law. But — and this is important — there only has to be an occasional charge filed in order to make this stratagem successful.
Random violence — random negative reinforcement, like shooting people in the head, but for no discernible reason — is the most efficient way to get the citizenry to behave with absolute compliance. The condition thus produced is cognitive dissonance — the shattered self, the disjointed mind, a psychological no-man’s land.
Dymphna spent many years working with victims of domestic abuse at a battered women’s shelter. One of the things she learned from her experience was that the most effective tool of control for an abuser was the capricious, intermittent, and unpredictable application of violence. If the abuser were to use a rational and consistent system, the victim could figure out the rules and simply comply. An irrational pattern of violence destroys the victim’s self-integration and creates an absolutely supple partner, a passive vessel waiting to be filled by her abusive master.
The same principle applies to political systems. Soft totalitarianism requires rules that are so general and unspecific that citizens comply with anything and everything, no matter how irrational, because people always try to find a rule, even where there is none. It’s human nature.
Simultaneously, by forcing people to hear and mouth nonsense over and over again, and to pretend to believe it, the system destroys their self-worth.
And then, in a ludicrous attempt to fix the dysfunctional products of this noxious regimen, the same people have to be given classes in “self-esteem”.
Do you think I have just described the United States public school system?
That’s some catch, that Catch-22.