3.7 Thought policing

The three additional moral virtues of authoritarians and their inability to understand that these can be covered by the first two (libertarian) values entails that authoritarians — and especially fearful authoritarians — may have problems with the contents of thoughts of others and may find it quite acceptable to prevent or forbid particular thoughts in themselves and others: they function as thought vigilantes.

The reasoning behind this support for thought-policing is that the authoritarian, in times of adversity, focuses on everything that can return the complexity of the world within manageable bounds. Any seed of increased (or perpetuated) complexity (as perceived by the fearful authoritarian) is to be detected, controlled and suppressed. This leads to a number of characteristic and predictable consequences.

Deriding uncomfortable thoughts

Probably the most visible and prevalent form of thought policing is the suppression of uncomfortable, typically authority defying thoughts or other normative threats. Even fairly strong libertarians tend to responds with a default aversive reaction towards uncomfortable opinions. The first reaction might be ignoring the opinion, but a second much stronger reaction is one of revulsion and disgust: namely an active distancing from all uncomfortable thoughts. People’s reaction to the suggestion that the official account of what happened on the on 9/11, 2001 is absurd and that Bin Laden might not be the most likely culprit, or that global warming might be a carefully crafted scientific myth lead often to the direct activation of the you-should-ridicule-it-because-it-is-a-conspiracy-theory meme.

The reasoning behind this is something like: “The consensus is always correct and those who doubt the consensus have a minority opinion that, in our democratic society must be, wrong.” Or alternatively: “Our authorities do not lie to us, because if they do they couldn’t be my authorities anymore and I need them so much to feel adequate. So let’s not even allow — in me and in others — thoughts that challenge the authoritativeness of authorities.” These reactions aim to protect personal adequacy and is indicative of a deep and existential process. However the associated sense of revulsion towards people who harbor authority challenging thoughts prevents the spreading of perfectly reliable information that can greatly enhance one’s future’s sense of adequacy.

A not unimportant site effect of this is that truly independent thinkers are often viewed with suspicion and they should be careful (i.e., self-censor) when they ventilate their opinions to authoritarians.

Propaganda and self-censorship in the media

The owners or controllers of the media only have to ensure that they employ (intelligent) people with strong authoritarian tendencies and they have an army of communicators who will, in times of adversity, always protect their authorities (whatever these are). This entails that they, as individually felt responsibility, forget their normal journalistic responsibilities and fall-back to suppression of free-thought by ignoring any information that might put their authorities into a bad light (self-censorship) and instead focus on all types of information that lead to more uniform thought (propaganda).

Even a cursory analysis of corporate and state-owned media suggests very little truly libertarian tendencies in the media: it is the party-line everywhere. Although it is packaged in critical discourse of the authorities of outgroups it characteristically lacks intelligent analysis independent of any external authority. For authority-independent analyses one needs to be at the uncontrolled (libertarian) alternative media.

Outgroup membership suppression

The authoritarian may judge self-generated fear — in response to personal coping inadequacy — as a measure of the intentions of other people. This entails that individuals or groups who, even for some completely innocuous reason, instill fear in an authoritarian society might be judged as terrorists. The Obama-approved the NDAA 2012 that allows terrorism suspects to be incarcerated indefinitely without any form of process, or the Nazi extermination activities of Jews, but also of gipsies, homosexuals, the handicapped, and other “deviants”, and the draconian Stalinist suppression of free-thought are all based in this type of authoritarian logic.

Socialization in education

Something similar occurs in schools. Authoritarian teachers define and understand their role according to authoritarian child rearing qualities. Apart from the fact that they might not even be able to help to learn their students to think for themselves and to follow their own conscience, they see a role for themselves to socialize their students (i.e., make the students behave in a way that is acceptable to their society by suppressing their ability for free thought). So instead of learning children the skills to make their own decisions, they train children to behave within the bounds of “ordered” society. This training has nothing to do with the concept of education.

Wars on victimless crimes

Authoritarians have no difficulty in punishing victimless crimes against morality such as recreational drug-use or non-standard (but fully consensual) sexual practices. The distaste they feel is based on some violation of their morals and it is enough to incarcerate “moral violators” for years. So these victimless crimes are not completely victimless: the victims are the authoritarians through their increased feeling of inadequacy to deal with the situation. Libertarians tend to be baffled by this kind of reasoning and authoritarians do not understand the real reason of their intolerance to particular behaviors. More than 85% of the incarcerated 1% of the US population is so for a victimless crime (typically drug-use related). Like the dissidents in the Soviet Union or in China they are imprisoned for a moral crime.

Encroaching bureaucracy

Bureaucracy results inevitably from efforts by “superiors” who interpret an open world as too complex to handle – which it is true for them – and as such they consider complexity reduction the first priority of the organization. This leads to human organizations that are fully described in rational and formal terms but lack the commitment, understanding, compassion, and autonomy to address the social demands that justify the existence of the organization. Bureaucracy is a pathological state of human organization, characterized by intelligence without understanding.

Spying on the population

Since the general population is a source of initiative, self-empowerment, and diversity, authoritarians and their leaders find it important to assemble as much information about the population as possible. The better the model of each and any individual, the more effective any source of diversity and change can be suppressed, coerced, blackmailed, or removed. Western societies and in particular the US have developed this to the extreme. The Sentient World Simulation (SWS) does exactly this. And see this and this