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A followup to yesterday’s post on Love Bombing: On our side of the aisle, one of the sites using cult indoctrination and thought reform techniques most effectively has to be DailyKos.  Of course they will tell you I am saying this because I am a disgruntled former Kossack.  That’s to be expected.  They have to say that.  They’ll also tell you that I was a racist when I was writing on that site.  That is *also* predictable since they needed to associate negative personality traits to me because I wouldn’t go along with the program.  Nevertheless, it’s about as close to a cult as you’re likely to find on the left.  Yep.  Noooo doubt about it.  Read my comment here to find out how it works.

On to phobias.

Did you ever wonder why Mormon missionaries and Jehovah’s Witnesses emphasize living forever when they come to your door?  It just hit me that the reason they do it is because their potential hits have some things in common that distinguish them from the general population.  They are vulnerable in some way.  They may have undergone some recent trauma and sometimes that involves a death in the family.  Or it could be that they just have an irrational fear of death.

Most people go through a stage in their adolescence when they come to understand their own mortality.  And it’s extremely frightening.  But at some point soon after this realization, you come to understand that if you don’t take that thought and push it to the back of your mind where it can lurk with all of the other childhood boogiemen, you will be constantly paralyzed with fear and will always be looking for someone to alleviate that fear.  What amazes me about the rapture addicts is they swear they are Christians that believe in resurrection but they refuse to take the prerequisite step.

And cults like the JWs and other fundamentalist religious groups know that thing is lurking and play upon it.  They nourish that phobia by recognizing it, promising to alleviate it and then, threatening you with it if you step out of line.   You will get everlasting life if you do everything they expect of you.  If you don’t, the everlasting life will be withheld from you.  For a person who is scared to death of death, it’s a fantastic way of getting compliance.  In retrospect, it would have been so much easier on everyone if the person affected had just learned to master their fear and tucked it away into the back of the mind where it belongs. You can’t do a damn thing about dying, it happens to everyone.  Why worry about it? Failure to master it has broken up families and subjected the person to a lifelong pursuit of unattainable perfection and personal sacrifices.  It also enriches the people who run the cults and the fundamentalist organizations that promote this crap while depriving the person of a full, rich life.

Here are a couple of videos from CSTheApostate about how JWs use phobias.  And yes, they really do this.  Let’s just say that I grew up with imaginary demons {{eyes rolling}}:


You’ll notice that CSTheApostate also mentions an apostate phobia. You do not want to have dissenters hanging around harshing your mellow so it’s to the benefit of the high control group to make being an apostate as unpleasant an experience as possible.  Your reputation is ruined, you are permanently ostracized and you are made a shining example of what will happen if you buck the system.  Note that this keeps apostates from seeking each other out.  In the eyes of an apostate, other apostates are bad people. See my remarks above about DailyKos to see how this works.  One of the reasons why the left is having such a problem getting the band back together is because it purged all of the apostates in 2008.  The ones who want to move forward don’t trust the apostates. (Kudos to people like Lambert at Correntewire who seems to have conquered this fear) I’m happy to be an apostate former Democrat because the party went seriously off the rails in 2008 and is now in the grip of unscrupulous people who will continue to use thought reform techniques to control the party.  Yes, the other party does it too but that didn’t make it right.

It’s not the only phobia high control groups play on.  Withdrawal of love and affection and disassociation from your family is also a powerful one.  Also, playing on the supernatural to alienate you from the world is sometimes used.  If the world outside the group is in the grip of Satan, why would you ever want to stray?  It’s both funny and admirable that CS went so far as to try to conjure up a demon so he could face his fear of demons.  JWs are scared silly of demons and truly believe they are real spirit creatures, so doing this is about as brave a move as he could make.  (I’m betting alcohol was involved) Of course, there are no demons and once he’d proven it to himself, he could cross that phobia off his list and resume his growth towards maturity.

Political groups also use phobias.  Democrats are particularly good at dangling Roe v Wade at young women. If you don’t vote D, poof!  There goes your bodily autonomy.  They don’t actually have to protect anything because they know that Republicans will never get rid of Roe.  It’s the one tried and true motivation to go to the polls for their voters.  In the last couple of years, Democrats have introduced a new phobia.  *They’re* the only ones that stand between your social security benefits and the Republicans who want to destroy social security.  Back in 2000, I would have believed this.  I think Al Gore was genuinely concerned about keeping those benefits safe in a “lock box”.  But now, the Democrats have got the hang of manipulating their base, having done such a masterful job in 2008, that they have no qualms about dangling social security in front of the snapping Republican alligator to get its base to comply.  Social Security will be allowed to be eroded bit by bit by the Democrats.  It will be under constant threat and we’ll all be scared to death that there won’t be anything left for us to retire on unless we vote for the only party that will prevent the elimination of Social Security.  Someday, it will become as meaningless as Roe but the Democratic party will have been rewarded, over and over again, for keeping it around even if few people can benefit from it.  This is how it works.

On the Republican side of the aisle, the phobia is about chaos, terrorism, violence and theft.  Lots of elderly widows who missed out on the feminist era depended on their missing spouses to take care of them.  Now that they’re on their own, they may feel vulnerable.  Fox News ups the ante with stories about abductions, pedophiles, random acts of cruelty and murder.  The world looks like it’s disintegrating. And since the right wing has the bigger megaphone these days, these phobias are fanned constantly.  If you ever wonder why the Republican base acts as crazy as it does, it’s because the phobias are hyped every single day.  Adherence to fundamentalist principles, authority, obedience and purity is touted as the remedy to keeping the bad stuff at bay.  Consequently, if you’re experiencing a rough patch of unemployment, foreclosure, sickness and poverty, it’s YOUR fault for not following the rules.  People are supposed to feel guilt and shame.  That makes the lucky feel like luck had nothing to do with it.  It’s personal virtue so they don’t need to do anything for the suffering of others.  They brought their own misfortune upon themselves.  It’s not the Republican voter’s responsibility to rescue you.

David Brooks is the country club version of the phobia promoter.  Here’s an example of the way he caters to the phobia crowd.  This is from one of his recent columns, Midlife Crisis Economics:

In the progressive era, there was an understanding that men who impregnated women should marry them. It didn’t always work in practice, but that was the strong social norm. Today, that norm has dissolved. Forty percent of American children are born out of wedlock. This sentences the U.S. to another generation of widening inequality and slower human capital development.

One hundred years ago, we had libertarian economics but conservative values. Today we have oligarchic economics and libertarian moral values — a bad combination.

In sum, in the progressive era, the country was young and vibrant. The job was to impose economic order. Today, the country is middle-aged but self-indulgent. Bad habits have accumulated. Interest groups have emerged to protect the status quo. The job is to restore old disciplines, strip away decaying structures and reform the welfare state. The country needs a productive midlife crisis.

There’s bad stuff out there.  Follow the rules, obey your masters and no one gets hurt.  If you are hurt, it’s because you’re immoral, depraved, derelict and irresponsible.  It couldn’t possibly be the case that you are one of millions of people whose careers and lives were derailed by some really depraved and irresponsible people on Wall Street.  I don’t know if Brooks really believes this crap or just gets paid to spout it.  If we assume that only fairly intelligent people either merit or finagle their way onto the pages of their New York Times, we might also reasonably assume that Brooks knows that what he writes isn’t true but he does it because there is an audience out there that revels in denigrating people in the classes beneath them and inculcating a sense of learned helplessness.  Yep, I loathe David Brooks.

Neat, huh?

41 Responses

  1. Anyone here know anything about homeschooling?

    • My sister, Bev home schooled her kids for a year or two. And as a librarian I used to work with some home schoolers. But, I don’t have any direct experience myself.

    • I’ve taught numerous home-schooled kids in college. 50% of them were duplicates of their parents. 75% were good students. NC has rather stringent home-school criteria so my experiences may not be typical. At least 25% showed some signs of various socialization issues, shyness being the most prevalent (as a very shy teenager I can appreciate that particular issue more than most people).

  2. I’ve mostly known only Mormons and similar zealots to do that. Years ago, though, when I sailed, I used to admire live-aboards who boat-schooled their kids. The kids were always brighter, better educated, and more independent than their peers in public schools. I knew one boat-schooled kid, my babysitter for a brief period, who scored a 1600 on his SAT’s and was offered scholarships from several top-tier colleges. There was even a correspondence program that followed the kids port to port with educational packets. I wish I could remember the name of the program.

    • The kid says she’s had it with high school and wants to teach herself. She thinks public school is interfering with her desire to learn. I’m inclined to agree with her because I know her and know what she’s capable of doing. It would be nice if school hadn’t been so damn pedantic.

      • My kids both went to a wonderful, progressive boarding high school, Verde Valley School in Sedona, AZ. From my perspective having suffered through a rural deep south public high school in the 60’s with beehive hairdos, all those Sandra Dees lousy with virginity, and required Communism versus Americanism classes, VVS was utopia. My kids thrived and got a better education in high school than I got in 4 years at LSU. My son’s girlfriend, Meghan, didn’t take to VVS and dropped out. Her arguments were similar to the ones you’re hearing. Meghan got her GED and finished college, lickety-split. It depends on the kid. From what I know about you and the little I know about your daughter, I would guess she’ll thrive.

      • You might contact VVS about a scholarship for Brook. My daughter graduated in 2000, my son in 1998. My daughter had a scholarship; my son didn’t. VVS is one of the safest, most beautiful places on earth. It’s goal is simply stated: to change the world.

        It was a huge challenge for me to agree to let my kids go to boarding school. I had all the typical negative associations, plus the separation was wrenching for all of us. We have no regrets.

        One huge benefit was that I was a hero to my kids through their teens. My kids struggled for their identity against teachers and administrators, not against me.

      • I’m still convinced that Brooke needs adult educational guidance and supervision, and never thought that public school teachers would be helpful to her. A few of them have probably already told her, “If you’re so smart, then teach yourself”, and it has become a refrain since elementary school is my guess. She’s needed caring mentors from the age of 6. (I enjoyed two in graduate school.)

        I’m glad you’re thinking about home-schooling her. I’ve been out of teaching for too long to be much help. She needs a comprehensive program which I doubt she can put together. I’ll look around. I’ve noted that you’ve already given her a few terrific opportunities: the French exchange student and Stanford’s online high school courses.

        An absorbing worry of mine is that she not be socially isolated, that she find other (real, not virtual) super, and average (!) intelligent teens and possibly some adults, if she is home-schooled.

        Just call me aunt arran.

        • Awwww, you’re so sweet. I’m really touched. Yes, it’s been hell. She already teaches herself. If they think they are calling her bluff, she’s more than capable of blowing their socks off. I’m very puzzled that so few teachers know how to address the needs of gifted kids and also how mean and petty some of them can be. They often think that gifted kids are capable of handling more work and so the quantity is increased but not the complexity or depth. They also put an emphasis on perfection and gifted kids could give a rat’s ass about that. Their goal is to get through the material as quickly as possible. They are self motivated but not by grades or some arbitrary reward system. Reward systems that are designed to gain compliance for average and bright students just get in the way of kids like Brook. She learns it, wants to get tested and move the frack on. If she makes a mistake, it’s usually only once. Correct it and go on to the next topic. Don’t spiral, revisit, drill and draft til it becomes suffocating.
          She seems to ent to teach herself and as long as she can still meetup with her peers, who may not necessarily be in her grade level in school, I think it’s time she was untethered.

          • Ha! Two rat’s asses. We’re on the same wavelength today, RD.

          • Go for it!

          • Naw, not sweetness. I was a little above average student who was bored out of my mind in public school. I’m not having much luck on the internet with resources. You can contact the NJ Homeschooling Association and ask for the high school curriculum for ap students. You’ll need to find out what the job fully entails. I don’t know how you would do bio and chem labs and P.E. at home.

            Suggestion #2 — You could write the Princeton School of Education for some suggestions and advice.

            Lastly, sometime back I looked into boarding schools (for other reasons) and, not to be discouraging, I found many schools had scholarships for “diverse” students, like for Irish, Jewish, hispanic/latino students, but there was no mention of just the garden-variety bright student. They had to apply for student loans and who wants to start owing money at 14? However, there may be some scholarships offered that weren’t listed.

            I need to fade out since I don’t have up-to-the-minute info on the subject. I will be interested in what you decide to do, however.

          • Very bright kids take to home-schooling quite readily. I’ve had several home-schoolers who came through our Early College program who were absolutely top-notch. I love it when I give a student an assignment and watch him/her eat it up and far exceed my expectations. Routine with these kids. Brook sounds like that kind of student.

      • What about some sort of cyber-school? Here in PA you can hit the local school district up for some if not all of the expense.

        My parents pulled us three boys out of public school and sent us off to a Catholic high school. My kid brother went to Admiral Farragut down in Tom’s River his last two years. The nuns couldn’t control him. My kid sister when to Catholic elementary then public high school. It worked for her as she got a PhD in education.

        That Catholic high education plus the people I met on the 18 mile bus trip are what made me a Democrat.

      • The school she goes to should be able to give you the requirements for graduation. Then you can let her knock that out as fast as she wants and get on to the college AP courses. Maybe you could start by talking to a guidance counselor. That person could either be a complete dud or extremely helpful.
        What does she want to do, if she doesn’t want to go to college?

        • You mean a school like Sudbury Valley in Framingham, MA, where the kids get to design their own curriculum? It’s a wonderful place for kids who don’t fit into a rigid curriculum, who think they can do it better for themselves than any adult could, but they still get the gentle guidance needed to get the requirements for graduation. The place is absolutely wonderful. My friend’s daughter graduated from there and went on to the College of the Atlantic on Mount Desert Island in Maine, a very similar environment. Tuition at Sudbury Valley is also reasonable for a private school at $7400. Unfortunately, SV is not a boarding school. Another Boston area school with an excellent reputation and similar but not quite as loosey-goosey curricula that is a boarding school is the Cambridge School in Weston, MA. The tuition there is close to $40,000, though. The job market for biomedical professionals is picking up in the Boston area if RD is willing to move to accommodate Brooke. I’m sure there must be similar schools in New Jersey, but most of the kids I work with want to stay local so I’m not as versed in what’s available in NJ. While home schooling is certainly a possibility, an innovative high school would probably be a better choice. Even a genius benefits from some knowledgeable input. I’ll go back to “hippie-punching” now.

          • I’d love to go back to work in my field. However, I have found that the very first thing a phone interview asks is “where did you get your PhD?” They aren’t interested in anything if you can’t answer that question. And I don’t have a PhD. I learned my profession the same way a PhD did. I read the papers, worked on projects, made presentations and defended my work. BUT I don’t have a pedigree and because I did my work in an industry where every thing is kept secret until something is about to be patented, I don’t have a slew of publications either.
            So, while I have my 10,000+ hours of experience, and know all of the applications and have done almost all of the techniques, I can’t get past the question in the interview about where I didn’t get my PhD. It *means* something to the interviewer even if it doesn’t mean anything in the long run.
            So, if you can find someone in Massachusetts who is willing to set aside their prejudice for Harvard trained PhD’s, then I would be happy to relocate.
            Otherwise, I’m seriously considering blowing this popstand and getting out of science altogether. It’s stupid to have invested so much time into a field you love to be blown off by clueless MBAs and hierarchical hiring managers.
            I think the kid will do OK if she keeps attending Stanford OHS, though where I’m going to get the money for next semester is anyone’s guess. I keep buying lottery tickets but they keep selling me the losing ones. Stanford and some part time public school should do the trick until she graduates.

    • The rightwingnuts are probably better organized, have the most materials available, etc. But all sides are doing homeschooling, especially pagans. Definitely worth looking into. Might ask the Montessori crowd for advice.

      How many years is it before she could get some kind of early college entrance?

      • She’s a sophomore. She doesn’t want to go to college yet. I *suspect* that she wants to teach herself as much as she can before she goes to college so that she can get a zillion AP credits and skip the boring freshman stuff. Also, she’s very thrifty, with her own money, and is probably trying to figure out how she can get out of college with a degree in as few years as possible.
        Yep, smart and ruthlessly practical.

        • I have a former business partner who home schooled. He was an engineer and his wife was a teacher. Their 3 children all did well, got into good colleges and graduated with honors. It can work.

        • She sounds a lot like my daughter, the one starting a postdoc at Duke in a few days. I guess you can tell I look for opportunities to boast.

        • Then maybe y’all could shop for colleges that are friendly to homeschooled students and do the AP thing, and see what homeschool organizations and curricula they accept.

  3. Why does Brooks admit we now have “oligarchic economics”?

  4. According to David Brooks things were so much better when the proletariat only felt shame when bad things happened to them. BS!

    There’s another pervasive thread to all these critiques that if only today’s kids weren’t such spoiled brats they would get jobs and live good productive lives. It’s hogwash and has been around forever,

    The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they allow disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children now are tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.

    That was Plato quoting Socrates. The kids are alright but David Brooks needs a padded cell.

    • That attitude can be found almost constantly at both The Agnew Hole and Uppity’s site. 🙄

      • That’s just another reason to ignore them.

      • yeah but they are right, kids are rotten monsters. They always have been and raising them has always been a challenge in waiting them out rather than murdering them out. It was the same for our parents and our parents parents. The problem at Uppity’s is think this is a new thing.

        • My children were not rotten monsters ever. They were good kids when they were growing up and are really fine adults now. Maybe they are the exception but I doubt it. A lot of people suck at being parents though.

    • Though the Socrates character in Aristophanes’ The Clouds actually encourages all those things (except the teacher part obviously). The real Socrates’ opinion on the matter appears to have been lost forever.

  5. A most righteous rant by Charles Pierce.

    America Will Only Get Better When It Is Ours Again

  6. Social Security may have more support than abortion, I hope. Nobody is going to weld the SS doors shut or openly admit they’re against helping all old people.

    • Of course social security has support. That’s why it’ll work. Republicans threaten to dismantle it, democrats agree to small incremental changes, means testing and other restrictions over the years and claim that they are the only thing that stands between what’s left and the republicans. And it will work too unless we tell, them to shove it their asses.

  7. Norman Lear on fighting the good fight

    The Occupy Wall Street movement has unleashed patriotic outrage. If you don’t want to camp out or protest in the street, find another way to let your voice be heard in the new year.

    Many Americans are in despair, and it has left them open to demagoguery and political manipulation. Blame gays, liberals, unions, immigrants or feminists for your family’s struggles, for shrinking economic opportunity, for foreclosures and disappearing wages and benefits. Blame secularists or Muslims, or both, for the sense that our values have gone haywire.

    A year out from the 2012 election, I am already tired of those who use the phrase “American exceptionalism” to reassert the far-right’s claim that God, the Founding Fathers and any decent freedom-loving American must share their reactionary political agenda. I embrace the idea too that our nation should be a “shining city on a hill.” We are the spiritual heirs to those Americans who struggled to end slavery and segregation, to end child labor and win safe conditions and living wages for workers, to enable every American to enrich his or her community and country by finding a place and a way to flourish in the world. We must make ourselves worthy of that legacy.

    Call it the American dream, the American promise or the American way. Whatever term you use, it is imperiled, and worth fighting for. It is that basic, deeply patriotic emotion that I believe is finding expression — bottom-up, small-d democratic expression — in the Occupy movement. We can, and I would say must, fully embrace both love of country and outrage at attempts to despoil it. What better cause? What better time?

  8. I agree that DKos is very cultish, and I would like to raise another parallel with religious cults.

    The various efforts to make commenters feel part of the “DKos Community” with members encouraged to post highly personal diaries about their careers, marriages, pets, and the like give the owners of the site a powerful lever of control, namely the threat of ostracism.

    If people come feel that Dkos is truly their “community” then exile can be quite devastating–and if it becomes clear that certain ideas and perceptions will invariably result in exile, the psychological pressure to make ones own thinking conform to the “correct” positions can be enormous.

    • I think you make a good point. You invest a lot of yourself and your time and your expectations in dailykos. You make a lot of friends. Exile can be very painful.
      Like i said, my pain only lasted about two minutes. I realized pretty quickly that it was time to move on. But that’s because I already knew what the site had become and knew that I would be an dissenter from that point on and that *they* knew I would be an dissenter.
      But I do feel for the people who suddenly found themselves on the outside without fully understanding why. They blame themselves and in the vast majority of cases, it’s not their fault. They just resist the indoctrination program a little too much.

      • I ended up supporting Hillary because I thought her supporters deserved defending. The attacks they and she were getting were grossly unfair and irrational. As I did some research to make my arguments I just started seeing more and more (or perhaps being reminded) what a strong smart hardworking resource the nation had in her. It really was a no brainer to want her for president.
        Then it became obvious that kos had been bought off and given his marching orders, The same happened at America blog and a few others. Since I never back off from a fight, I was banned. Of course I had several other sock puppets there, but I got bored so they hang on the back of the door mostly unused.

      • Is Dailykos playing any significant role in the 2012 election? If it is just the mouthpiece for Obama, will it generate much traffic? Is Obama a big yawn to most Americans now? Another hyped, empty suit.

        I look at DK once every few months and don’t find any content of interest to me. Has it finished its 15 minutes? Hard to believe how eager I once was to read it–before the Hillary stompers prevailed (using the Karl Rove anti-Clinton playbook).

        • Well, DailyKos still has a lot of posters and readers and as someone above noted, long time Kossacks have a lot of themselves invested in it. My feeling is that if you can’t walk away from a group when it starts to interfere with your ability to think independently without losing your friends, then it’s not a good group. So, unless a lot of those users start to realize they don’t need DailyKos, they’re kinda stuck there.
          I don’t think DailyKos is going to have the same impact in 2012 as it did in 2008, unless Markos has something up his sleeve. This election is different. If Obama remains the D nominee, it’s not an historic election again. It’s just an election and he will be judged on his past performance, just like every other president. I guess they can still scream “racism!” every time someone criticizes him but who gives a flying fig anymore what DailyKos thinks? The Democrats know that they already have the Kossacks in their corner. There’s no need to cater to them like they did in 2008. Oh sure, they’ll put in some time there but the real people who matter this year are those of us who have walked away from the party. They have to get those votes back because if Mitt is the nominee, the numbers are going to be close. Unfortunately, the idiots in charge are going to tack towards the middle and that’s not going to do it to recapture the votes they lost.
          So, it shouldn’t be long before they figure out that this nailbiter of an election might be a lot more risky than they thought.

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