Nicolai Sennels’ latest essay examines the possible psychological causes behind the bizarre state of denial that is imposed on Westerners by political correctness.
Psychological explanations of political correctness
by Nicolai Sennels
The disadvantages of Islam and Muslim immigration into Europe are many and obvious.
Negative economic effects, rising crime and less security, entire neighborhoods transformed into parallel societies, the frequently negative influence of Muslim children in schools and institutions, etc. — all these consequences affect the lives of most children and adults on an everyday level in one way or another.
Many of us have wondered why there still are so many — both ordinary people, Media and politicians — who do not speak openly about, and perhaps do not even realize, the problems.
Being a licensed psychologist and having had years of experience as a publicly known critic of Islam and Muslim immigration and culture, I will endeavor here to give three psychological explanations for political correctness.
As always, when large groups ignore obvious problems, the issue is one of social psychology:
The “Bystander effect”
The bystander effect is a psychological phenomenon that explains why people remain passive during emergencies.
Research on the bystander effect started in connection with the murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964, when several neighbors remained passive while they watched Genovese being stabbed to death.
An example of psychological research in the bystander effect is a study in which a woman pretends she faints. If the subject is alone, he will help the woman in 70 percent of cases. If there are several people present, only 40 percent of subjects help the woman.
The bystander effect makes spectators to a disaster tend to watch others’ reaction — instead of the situation itself — as a way to assess the seriousness of a situation.
As people in many cases await each other’s reaction, rather than take the initiative, the result may be that nobody does anything — since all are waiting to see if somebody else does something.
If the others do nothing, it is seen as a sign for the individual that the others believe that there is no need for intervention. This affects one’s own judgment, and thus one’s reaction. The majority’s response acts as a kind of “barometer” for the truth.
If we transfer this phenomenon to political correctness, it means that since the majority do not express criticism of Islam, Sharia (also called Islamization) and Muslim immigration, people take it as a “proof” that there is no need to criticize such things.
Conditions for the bystander effect are therefore particularly ripe in cases where people feel uncertain about what is the right thing to do, and as a result use other people’s reaction as a way to assess the situation.
The best way to counter this kind of behavior is to give people so much information that they are able to make their own decisions. In addition, it is obviously important that as many as possible do something, so that people who are under influence by the bystander effect acknowledge reality. It is psychologically important that the people who take the initiative do it in such a way that others will find it easy to identify with it — so avoid anger and unnecessary provocation, show your joy and personal optimism, be relaxed, and only talk about these things when there is a natural reason for it (e.g. family or colleagues mention the subject themselves).
The bystander effect is often connected with pluralistic ignorance. Pluralistic ignorance is a social psychological phenomenon in which the majority of a group individually reject a norm (e.g. Muslim immigration), but at the same time suppose that the majority accepts the norm. As a result of the desire to be well-regarded by the majority, people accept the norm, even though they secretly oppose it. In this way a democratic process can lead to the acceptance of norms which the majority actually oppose.
Applying the theory of pluralistic ignorance to the phenomenon of political correctness would mean that the majority actually want less Islam, Sharia and Muslim immigration, but every individual believes that the majority is not against these things. Because people do not dare to stand up against the “illusory majority”, they refuse to openly criticize these things.
Fear of criticism can therefore pressure the majority not to speak their minds — even though they would actually able to get what they want, if only all dared to raise their hands say what they think.
Pluralistic ignorance is thus made possible partly by the lack of self confidence to stand by one’s position, and partly by a miscalculation of what the majority thinks.
The best way to deal with pluralistic ignorance is therefore to give people courage and show that they are not alone with their viewpoint. This is accomplished primarily by showing a courageous example oneself. In addition, it is important to support other critics, so they do not feel vulnerable and alone. Finally, it is vital to spread knowledge and arguments that help people to counter criticism.
The third explanation consists of a theory of my own. It is based on the assumption that in all cultures and societies there exists a definition of what “a good person” is.
Out of a desire to feel liked and part of the community, most people have a psychological drive to live up to the definition of “a good person”. But the definition of “good people” is influenced by many things, and is subject to change.
In the old Danish Christian community, you were a good person if you went to church every Sunday. In societies with a strong work ethic, it is seen as better to care for oneself than live on benefits. In many circles it is seen today as “good” to worry about the climate or ecology — or at least it is bad if you do not care. When I was a child in the 1970’s, it was hip and Leftist to fight for women’s freedom, criticize the social control imposed by religion and society, and fight for the right to criticize authority and religion.
Nowadays it is a widespread view that “tolerance and openness” characterize “good persons”. This includes a provision that criticism of minorities and others’ standards is “bad”.
Thus we have ended up in a situation where criticism of Muslim immigration and Islamic religious and cultural standards has become socially unacceptable.
Since only a small minority therefore criticize these things openly, the bystander effect makes many people think that there is no problem — or that it is not so big that it is necessary to speak about it.
The harsh criticism faced by Islam-critics (especially among Muslims themselves) increases the extent of pluralistic ignorance, because fewer people dare to speak up. Even though majority are critical of Islam, they believe that they are a minority.
People with good self-esteem are better able to maintain their own assessment of their own moral “goodness” without being influenced by others’ criticism or current definitions of “good people”. Thus they are less vulnerable to the bystander effect and pluralistic ignorance.
Who is neurotic?
Critics of Islam, Sharia and Muslim immigration are often called racists (expressing hostility against other races), xenophobic (having an irrational fear of the unknown) or Islamophobes (having an irrational fear of Islam).
But Islam and Muslims are not a race, and neither Islam nor Muslims are unknown, since most of us encounter or read about the phenomenon in one form or another almost daily. And there’s really nothing irrational in fearing Islam, as Islam’s holy scriptures say that Muslims have a duty to suppress or kill all non-Muslims and to spread their faith by any means.
Which Islam and many Muslims also do, kindly aided by all the people, politicians and media who do not speak against Islam, sharia and Muslim immigration.
By calling people racists or diagnosing them, political correct lovers of multi-culture attempt to define Islam-critics as dysfunctional people or neurotics. But we are not.
Proponents of Islam, Sharia and Muslim immigration, however, are actually victims of the bystander effect and pluralistic ignorance. And, being insecure, many of them follow the current trends and their peers’ views on what defines “good people”.
There is no reason to fear such intellectually flabby people. So just open your mouth and say what you think. You are not crazy, evil or neurotic. Quite the contrary.
Based on the above-mentioned social psychological theories, it is my conclusion that that we Islam-critics are better informed and have better self-confidence than the many who lack knowledge, courage, and personal authenticity to speak about obvious problems.
Nicolai Sennels is a psychologist and the author of “Among Criminal Muslims: A Psychologist’s experiences with the Copenhagen Municipality”.
Previous posts by or about Nicolai Sennels: