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To Stop Totalitarianism, We Must Understand How It Weaponizes Loneliness


BY: STELLA MORABITO | OCTOBER 12, 2022

Read more at https://thefederalist.com/2022/10/12/to-stop-totalitarianism-we-must-understand-how-it-weaponizes-loneliness/

Weaponization of Loneliness
Victory in the war against tyranny depends more than anything else on understanding how imposed loneliness works on our psyches.

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The following is an excerpt from the author’s new book, “The Weaponization of Loneliness: How Tyrants Stoke Our Terror of Isolation to Silence, Divide, and Conquer.” (Bombardier Books, Post Hill Press.)

Revolutionary elites who push utopias are always a small minority. In order to get all of society on board, they must enlist mobs to promote the illusion of compliance with their visions. Mobs enforce the narrative, often through violence. They help censor any competing views through intimidation and various forms of book burning.

We ought to study how radical utopian revolutions got a foothold in the past in order to better understand the 21st-century incarnation. Mob action was a major catalyst for the French Revolution, accelerating Maximilien Robespierre’s brutal dechristianization campaign and Jacobin revisions of history. Private life came under direct attack after Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution. Those attacks reached terrifying new heights during Stalin’s Reign of Terror.

Identity politics and pseudoscience played out to a gruesome degree during Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich, causing intense hostilities in the society. And American immigrants from communist China can recall the cruel legacy of mob-led struggle sessions during Chairman Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. Some have publicly expressed alarm at seeing similar dynamics develop in their adopted homeland.

But many who sense the brewing of a totalitarian revolution in the 21st century are puzzled because it doesn’t appear to have a central operator. Yes, there remain many dictators on the world stage, as always. But there is no single figure like Hitler, Lenin, Mao, Robespierre, or even Oliver Cromwell, who has been at the center driving all the changes. There has been no single nation-state leading the charge. No specific revolutionary party. No one corporation giving directives to all.

Rather, it all seems more hydra-headed, coming from all directions and from many different sources with seemingly different interests. Indeed, Big Tech selectively bans political speech on social media platforms like Facebook. Twitter even suspended the account of a sitting U.S. president. Big Media is a mammoth propaganda operation with little actual news reported. Financial institutions became more apt to regulate the donations of their customers, some eager to freeze bank accounts of citizens they deem politically incorrect.

Then there’s the World Economic Forum, whose founder Klaus Schwab has incessantly spoken and written about a “Great Reset,” which would lead to a more centrally controlled social order of the entire world. Over the years Schwab groomed a coterie of young leaders, including Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau and Prime Minister of France Emanuel Macron, who cooperate to establish such an order.

The 2020s also opened with more federal judges blatantly legislating from the bench, more military officers requiring recruits to be indoctrinated in woke ideologies, medical organizations promoting vaccine mandates, and more pediatricians endorsing hormone regimens and genital surgeries on children without parental consent. Meanwhile, academia continued its war on freedom of expression, and K–12 educrats grew increasingly hostile to the parents of the children they supposedly teach.

People felt gut-punched by so many unexpected invasions of privacy and attacks against free speech in a nation trusted to protect it. How did so much sudden disregard for due process arise, so little regard for reason and reality? And from so many different places?

It’s All Tied Together by the Machinery of Loneliness

Although all these developments have come at us from different directions, they have a machinery in common. The common denominator of such revolutions past, present, and future is the weaponization of loneliness. All its features pit people against one another. All were at work in various ways in past revolutions of modern history. And all result in our further atomization, our further separation from one another.

The most critical features are the forces of identity politics, political correctness, and mobs. Identity politics is clearly meant to divide us into hostile groups, such as oppressor and victim, based on race or sex or any other demographic grouping. Political correctness induces us to self-censor, which means we drive ourselves into further isolation by limiting our exchanges with others to avoid the risk of social rejection. Mobs then serve as agitation forces that push propaganda into action. They intimidate others into silence and compliance and finally can cause any agenda—no matter how fringy—to become policy.

Another way to think about the machinery is as a combustion engine that can’t operate without ignited fuel. The fuel is our conformity impulse, and the spark is our fear. Without them, the machinery of loneliness simply can’t operate. So if we cannot shake off our conformity impulse and fear of isolation, we will remain self-silenced, isolated, and obedient to the mob. We will end up lonelier, more exhausted, and conditioned to repeat the cycle.

There Is Hope

The good news is that there is a wealth of neglected research on these matters of social psychology. We need to make that research common knowledge by discussing it often. In the 1950s, psychologist Solomon Asch conducted experiments on the conformity impulse. Later, Asch’s student Stanley Milgram studied the pattern of obedience to malevolent authorities.

In 1960, acclaimed Nobel laureate Elias Canetti produced his classic study on the behavior of mobs, “Crowds and Power.” In 1957, Vance Packard published his explosive bestseller “The Hidden Persuaders,” which explored the uses of depth psychology by advertisers to manipulate people’s desires and fears.

Eminent psychiatrists like Margaret Thaler Singer and Robert Jay Lifton investigated the practice of coercive thought reform. Singer analyzed cult dynamics that led nearly a thousand people in Jonestown, Guyana, to commit “revolutionary suicide” at the order of Jim Jones in 1978. The term “Stockholm syndrome” had already come into circulation to describe the phenomenon of captives bonding with their captors.

Even earlier, however, scholars were reflecting on the dynamics of mobs, including Gustave LeBon, who in 1895 published “The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind.” And early in the 20th century, Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci theorized that the power of culture, especially as expressed through modern communications, shaped social attitudes far more effectively than any appeal to economic interests.

In the 1930s, the neo-Marxists of the Frankfurt School accepted and applied Gramsci’s theory. We can see it in today’s aggressive media campaigns, the shift to “social justice” action in academia, and Big Tech’s censorship of dissenting views.

The key ingredient of groupthink has always been the fear of social isolation, which leads us to be swept up by propaganda. It’s a fear so pervasive that—like fish in water—we are rarely aware of the effect it has on us.

We can see how this phenomenon worked in totalitarian societies like Stalin’s Soviet Union or Nazi Germany, where people betrayed neighbors and even family members to avoid becoming “nonpersons” in society. The great irony here is that by breaking bonds of family and friendship, people only dig themselves in deeper. They cement their dependency on the state while also helping the state destroy the private sphere of life, which is their only path to escape and resistance.

Hence, totalitarians have always targeted the private sphere of life for destruction. The rallying cry “Abolish the family!” comes straight from “The Communist Manifesto.” Nothing could be more alienating to a human being than to be deprived of healthy familial bonds. The ramifications are vast because strong communities depend upon strong families.

Tyrannical systems also seek to abolish traditional religions and the fellowship of the faithful. Opportunities for such societal breakdown today have accelerated as never before. In the extremist reaction against the Dobbs decision, we saw how state and corporate actors supported by media propaganda can promote an antifamily ethos that produces atomization.

How Tech Tears Us Apart

The machinery of loneliness is running in high gear due to the revolution in communications technologies. This revolution handed us each a “device” that draws us into the web of the internet, often in literally hypnotic fashion. The seduction is so powerful that one can reasonably ask if the endgame is a vast hive mind.

The technological media constantly distract us, prod us, probe us, and flood us with suggestions. We each end up knowing a whole lot less about a whole lot more. At the same time, we become increasingly disconnected from real life among our flesh-and-blood brethren.

Communications professor Marshall McLuhan famously warned in 1964 that electronic media acts within each of us as an extension of our central nervous system. We may think we are gleaning the medium for content, but any content is incidental to the real message. The real message, he insisted, is in the medium itself, which rewires us neurologically. As we allow our devices to pull us into the cyberworld, we become isolated by detaching ourselves from the real world.

When we delve into the internet or connect to our devices, we are not consumers. Rather, we are products—raw material for advertisers— as we let the whole world know what we like and what we don’t like, who we know, where we are located, our habits, our dreams, our desires.

We may offer such data in a quest to be connected with others. But we don’t realize how that information is also pure gold for developers of artificial intelligence who can use it to develop algorithms that predict and modify our behaviors, and even program behaviors into us that actually isolate us further. No medieval wizard or alchemist could have imagined such a boon for his designs or such an infrastructure to empower him.

People are now more easily separated through social pressures that involve shunning and vilification, often magnified through propaganda that is exponentially amplified through Big Tech and Big Media. In the meantime, all these drivers of social decay result in institutional decay, which further contributes to a dangerous state of atomization. The subversion of education is key because education is upstream from all the other institutions, including our legislatures, courts, media, the arts, the corporate world, finance, medicine, and even the military.

Once that “march through the institutions” is complete, then the primordial institutions that shelter our private lives—family, faith, and community—are set to come under direct attack. So if our isolation continues unchecked, it easily becomes a tool to dismantle freedom, no matter the intentions of those who act to dismantle it. Nothing is left but the vast mass state directing the lives of individuals, all virtually separated from one another.

Victory in the war against tyranny depends more than anything else on understanding how imposed loneliness works on our psyches and how it is an indispensable tool of totalitarianism. Once comprehended, we can begin to neutralize its effects and defend ourselves against its inherent machinery.


Stella Morabito is a senior contributor at The Federalist. She is author of “The Weaponization of Loneliness: How Tyrants Stoke Our Fear of Isolation to Silence, Divide, and Conquer.” Her essays have appeared in various publications, including the Washington Examiner, American Greatness, Townhall, Public Discourse, and The Human Life Review. In her previous work as an intelligence analyst, Morabito focused on various aspects of Russian and Soviet politics, including communist media and propaganda. Follow Stella on Twitter.

The Only Way to Fight Disinformation Is to Fight Political Censorship


REPORTED BY: STELLA MORABITO | APRIL 18, 2022

Read more at https://thefederalist.com/2022/04/18/the-only-way-to-fight-disinformation-is-to-fight-political-censorship/

Chicago Disinformation Conference

The surest way to kill a democracy is to practice political censorship under the guise of protecting society from disinformation.

Author Stella Morabito profile

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If outfits like the Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder,” along with Big Tech’s faceless “fact-checkers,” ever get a total monopoly on dictating reality, the result will be a 24/7 mix of falsehoods with the occasional limited hangout to cover up their lies. The icing on this fake cake is the use of conferences about disinformation, such as the recent stunt at the University of Chicago that served as cover for justifying political censorship. There former President Obama presented the perfect picture of psychological projection: a panel of propagandists accusing others of wrongthink.

The Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum, for example, sought to censor the reality of the Hunter Biden laptop scandal by announcing she didn’t find it “interesting.” See how that works? Truth depends upon how our elites personally feel about what should be true. But it gets much worse, because political censorship creates deep dysfunction in society. In fact, the surest way to kill a democracy is to practice political censorship under the guise of protecting society from disinformation.

Censorship causes disinformation. It’s the grandaddy of disinformation, not a solution to it. The sooner everyone recognizes this obvious fact, the better off we’ll be. Whenever a self-anointed elite sets up a Ministry of Truth, the link between censorship and disinformation becomes clear. Before long, they invent reality and punish anyone who expresses a different viewpoint.

So, it’s no small irony that those who claim to be protecting “democracy” from disinformation are the biggest promoters of disinformation and greatest destroyers of real democracy. Their dependence on censorship obstructs the circulation of facts. It prevents any worthwhile exchange of ideas.

Unchecked Censorship Isolates People

Consider what happens if a society is only permitted one propagandistic narrative while all other ideas and information are silenced. People start self-censoring to avoid social rejection. The result is a form of imposed mental isolation. Severely isolated people tend to lose touch with reality. The resulting conformity also perpetuates the censorship. This is unnatural and dangerous because human beings depend on others to verify what’s real. People weren’t able to verify reality in Nazi Germany, during Joseph Stalin’s Reign of Terror, or during Mao Zedong’s brutal Cultural Revolution. All were societies in the grip of mass hysteria because of ruthless censorship to protect a narrative.

As psychiatrist Joost Meerloo noted in his book “The Rape of the Mind,” no matter how well-meaning political censorship might be, it creates dangerous conformity of thought: “the presence of minority ideas, acceptable or not, is one of the ways in which we protect ourselves against the creeping growth of conformist majority thinking.”

The only way we can strengthen ourselves against such contagion is through real freedom of speech that allows fully open discussion and debate. However, if we’re confined by Big Tech to a relentless echo chamber and punished for expressing different thoughts, we’ll just keep getting more and more disinformation. In fact, we are now drowning in the distortions produced by “fact-checkers.” Take, for example, narratives that promote the gender confusion and sexualization of children. Public school teachers routinely post TikTok videos of themselves spewing forth their gender confusion. And if someone calls out Disney for its open grooming of children, Twitter suspends them.

If we never push back against such absurdities, we ultimately end up in a state of mass delusion, each of us a cell in a deluded hive mind, obedient to commands about what to say, how to act, and what to think. To get an idea of what that looks like in a population, check out this clip from North Korea:

Censorship-Invoked Social Contagion Is Real

One of the most telling incidents of censorship over the past year was YouTube and Twitter’s take-down of virologist and vaccine inventor Dr. Robert Malone, claiming he was “spreading misinformation”—i.e., spreading a second opinion—about Covid vaccines and treatments. But big tech saw an even bigger threat in Malone’s discussion of Mattias Desmet’s study of Mass Formation Psychosis (MFP) on Joe Rogan’s popular podcast. This is a big reason Spotify was under pressure to de-platform Rogan entirely. Open discussion of such things would erode the illusions big media and big tech so doggedly prop up.

Malone explained how a propaganda-saturated population can end up in a state of mass hypnosis that renders people incapable of seeing reality. He described Desmet’s theory about how social isolation, a high level of discontent, and a strong sense of free-floating anxiety are keys to the development of this psychosis.

The anxiety is so painful that it causes people to cling, trancelike, to any narrative that seems to offer stability. Once all other views are censored, people become so invested in the narrative that they cannot consider any alternative views. They will even mob anyone who endangers the narrative. This phenomenon was prevalent in the German population under Nazism. Their obedience to the propaganda rendered them incapable of understanding any opposing narrative.

Mass psychosis should not sound farfetched. There’s nothing new about it. Hundreds of instances of mass hysteria are documented. In the 19th century, Scottish journalist Charles MacKay wrote up a whole catalog of them. In 2015 medical sociologist Robert Bartholomew co-authored a compendium of popular delusions or “mass sociogenic illness.”

Most past incidents of mass hysteria have been confined to geographic regions, such as the witch trials in 17th century Salem, Massachusetts. But with the internet accessible and addictive in the 2020s, the possibility of mass delusion on a global scale is upon us. Censorship—in the name of protecting “democracy” from disinformation—is the key to creating it.

Propagandists Guard Their Illusions Like Magicians

By definition, propaganda aims to psychologically affect people and change their attitudes. So, our social survival depends upon becoming aware of such phenomena. Building self-awareness about our vulnerability to crowd psychology would serve as a sort of psychological vaccine. Of course, elites do not want us even entertaining the possibility that we can be manipulated or vulnerable to social and psychological pressures. Propagandists are illusionists by nature. If their illusion falls apart, then the game is over for them. This is why they depend so heavily on the slur “conspiracy theorist” to distract us from the truth and from their use of censorship to cut us off from other ideas.

The late Nobel laureate Doris Lessing spoke against the dangers of social conformity and censorship in 1986. She noted there was a great body of knowledge that was continuing to be built about the laws of crowd psychology and social contagion. It was odd that we weren’t applying this knowledge to improve our lives. Lessing concluded that no government in the world would willingly help its citizens resist group pressures and learn to think independently. We have to do it ourselves. Fast forward to the twenty-first century, and it sure looks like the keepers of this secret knowledge use it as a means of social control.

No sane person would want to live inside the boxes that the censors who claim to be fighting disinformation are building around us. If we want to escape this Twilight Zone existence, we must destroy that canard and insist on real freedom of speech everywhere.


Stella Morabito is a senior contributor at The Federalist. Her essays have also appeared in the Washington Examiner, American Thinker, Public Discourse, Human Life Review, New Oxford Review. In her previous work as an intelligence analyst, she focused on various aspects of Russian and Soviet politics, including communist media and propaganda. She has also raised three children, served as a public school substitute teacher, and homeschooled for several years as well. She has a B.A. in journalism and international relations from the University of Southern California and a Master’s degree in Russian and Soviet history, also from USC. Follow Stella on Twitter.

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