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"We live in a time of radical counter-enlightenment"

by Rainer Mausfeld
Political struggle always means the struggle over the definitional power and appropriation of the world. For decades, neoliberalism has carried out a redistribution project against the majority of the population. This neoliberal project is only possible when the democratic substance is dismantled or neutralized. More and more people recognize the rupture between ideology and reality.

Psychologist Rainer Mausfeld is interviewed about the illusion of being informed, “contempt for the people” and journalists and intellectuals

[This interview published on October 2, 2018 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

Mr. Mausfeld: You are known for your lectures that focus on the hidden role of power elites in our society. You are attacked from many sides. Former ARD-journalist Hans Jessen in a podcast reproached you for a “closed worldview.” The Americanism professor Michael Butter discovers “conspiracy theory features” in your work. Are you surprised by the vehemence of this criticism?

Rainer Mausfeld: Criticism and slander are different. Criticism aims at the cause and slander at the person. Criticism is based on arguments; slander works with a mendacious vocabulary. In my lectures, there is great room for maneuver for different perspectives in considering complex systems. My perspective is influenced by the radical-democratic tradition of the Enlightenment. A methodology is offered to set our everyday political experiences in a context. Autonomy can only be gained and proper conclusions drawn from our experiences through this craft of thinking.

What do you mean by the “craft of thinking”?

Rainer Mausfeld: The methods refined in the Enlightenment uncovering unconscious and often hidden political prejudices are part of the craft of thinking. Thus, ideology criticism is part of methodology. Political indoctrination aims at producing the prejudices that help stabilize the status of the powerful. Enthusiasm cannot be expected from the powerful since ideology criticism is always power criticism.

Every form of dissent is allowed or even desired as a revolution prophylactic in our capitalist democracies as long as the dissent remains ineffective, as the great democracy theorist Sheldon Wolin emphasized. There is a great spectrum of tested dissent management for the enclosure, neutralization and outlawing of undesired dissent.

We could better understand the methods of a dissent management if we focused on its structural qualities instead of on persons… Inadmissable dissent shows the powerful in politics and the media that they have deeply internalized the dominant ideology and is often rewarded in journalist and academic realms with commensurate career chances. These mechanisms of a dissent management in capitalist democracies have been known for a long time.

Are reproaches like “closed worldview” or “conspiracy theory” unexpected for you?

Rainer Mausfeld: Being the target is not surprising tome since my lectures reveal the discrepancy between ideologies and reality and the powerful depend on restricting political dissent.

These reproaches have nothing to do with arguments or evidence… Rainer Mausfeld’s book “What about the silence of the lambs? How elite democracy and neoliberalism destroy our society and our life foundations” was published by Westend publishers.

Language as a Rule Instrument

On the rule of language, you say: “Whoever controls language, the concepts and categories in which we reflect and speak about social-political phenomena has few problems in dominating us.” Words like “populism” or “conspiracy theory” limit thinking and are declared undiscussable. That leads to the question: Can a society make wise decisions when its own thinking is increasingly restricted?

Rainer Mausfeld: Political struggle always means the struggle over definitional power and appropriation of words.” Therefore, language is the most important instrument of rule alongside tanks. Since democracies limit the possibilities of using physical force, the powerful depend on securing stable power relations in other ways. This can be accomplished very effectively through language, for example through an Orwellian redefinition of very fundamental terms like freedom and democracy or even through the gigantic vocabulary of false neoliberal terms like liberalization, globalization, deregulation and reform.

Ideological frames for thought and explanation can be communicated through language that is used mostly unconsciously for embedding our daily political experiences. The framing narrative of a “western value community” is a very serious example because of its millions of victims. Framing ideological narratives are secured by a broad spectrum of political vocabularies against objections. The terms populism and conspiracy theory are now in a boom season. With them, the neoliberal “fanaticism of the middle” has terms to declare itself without alternatives.

How is the term “populism” used today?

Rainer Mausfeld: Populism can be understood today as a kind of nemesis – as an equalizing justice – for the essential contempt of the people which is characteristic for all elites of western democracies.

This contempt of the people now erupts with populist rage and incalculability, often on the basis of emotions that belong to the dark sides of human nature. These emotions are frequently defensive emotions against one’s feelings of political powerlessness that break out among the socially weakest. These feelings of political powerlessness were and are produced in a very systematic way for decades to keep the people from political participation.

Can you illustrate this?

Rainer Mausfeld: For decades, the neoliberal phantom-middle has carried out a redistribution project directed against the majority of the population. This neoliberal project is only possible when the democratic substance gained arduously over long decades is dismantled or at least neutralized. The dethronement of the legislative, the parliament, by the executive is only one momentous aspect. A politics directed massively against the majority of the population cannot remain hidden from the population in the long run despite enormous efforts.

Thus, it is hardly surprising that more and more people recognize the rupture between ideology and reality. The mistrust in political institutions, the potential indignation and the need for change increase correspondingly. Therefore, the neoliberal phantom-middle needs the rightwing populism jointly produced by it for ensuring its power. It depends on it almost symbiotically because it needs a means for producing anxiety to keep the population’s need for change in paths “without alternative.” Thus, the culprits pretend to be rescuers.

What do you think of all-pervasive “conspiracy theories”?

Rainer Mausfeld: The combative political term conspiracy theory is without any serious intellectual substance and has had its day as a slander term…

If the space for public debate is systematically restricted with this combative term, this means solutions necessary for pressing and threatening political problems will not be available to political decision-makers. They will only focus on evading democratic responsibility for the consequences of their policy and stabilizing their power, that is continuing the political measures that first led to the neoliberal destruction of our social and ecological foundations of life.

Illusion of Being Informed

Telepolis: Your book “What about the silence of the lambs?” concentrates on deceptions and illusions concerning the term democracy and the state of society. You speak of an “illusion of being informed” to which the educated sectors are susceptible.

Rainer Mausfeld: Many deceptions and illusions that can be used for political indoctrination are based on characteristics and design principles of our spirit. The underlying internal mechanisms are largely screened from introspective insights so deceptions still function even when people know they are deceptions…

Ideological indoctrination systems form a multilayered highly complex web through which power relations are socially regulated. Alongside the ideology of the western value community, indoctrination systems only exist in states where a system change is sought. Since our social order is founded on rationality and western values, ideologies obviously have no place in it. Neoliberal indoctrination declares itself the end of all ideology and as a pure effect of the natural laws of free markets. My remark that the educated sectors are especially susceptible for the illusion of being informed refers to this kind of indoctrination.

In other words, the educated often succumb to the illusion of being free from ideologies. How does this happen?

Rainer Mausfeld: Those who passed through the educational institutions of a society and the career filters, whether in journalism or academia, belong to these sectors (cf. “path dependency). However, the educational institutions of a society just like the career filter embody the core ideologies of a society. That is a core sociological truism.

In all times, the educated sectors have shows a very high degree of ideological indoctrination. They internalize this indoctrination so deeply that they do not even notice their indoctrination anymore. Like the inhabitants of the cave in Plato’s Parable of the Cave, they react aggressively when this is pointed out. That their opinions and attitudes are ideological stabilizations of power relations is often inconceivable to them since they continuously strengthen each other in their ideological perspectives.

Invisible Ideologies

You say: “We swim in the ruling ideology like fish in water and do not notice it anymore.” There are “invisible ideologies.” What do you mean?

Rainer Mausfeld: All ideological framing narratives and interpretation models shared by the large majority of the population and not recognized anymore as ideology are included. This was racism in the 19th century that was shared by nearly everyone as something self-evident. In western capitalist democracies, it is the meritocratic ideology, the ideology of a performance-oriented society. According to this ideology, social places are assigned in a social order by individual performance. Thus, salary and social status are determined by individual achievement.

According to this ideology, those who are above in our society are rightly on top and those below are rightly on the bottom because they are deficient in their individual achievements. The meritocratic ideology is the favorite ideology of those above who want to feel they are justly on the top by blaming the losers of this power structure for their situation.

What hidden models do you see?

Rainer Mausfeld: The ideology of the western value community and more generally the exceptionalism with which individual nations give themselves a special place among the nations and insist their crimes, even the gravest war crimes, torture or the most grievous violations of international law should be judged by other criteria, and are the crimes of other states.

The ideology that representative democracy is the best or at least the only realizable embodiment of the key democratic idea or generally embodies democratic intentions is a nearly invisible core ideology of our elite capitalist democracies.

You describe the influencing of the population as “deep indoctrination making intellectual possibilities” invisible. You speak of a “collective hypnosis” and say “those subject to power should not know that centers of power exist – behind the seemingly democratically controlled power on the media-communicated surface. Corporate commercial media vehemently deny a goal-directed power structure in the background of governments and parliaments. This assumption is regarded as “the” conspiracy theory. Such knowledge was common heritage or part of everyday life. In its 1925 Program of Principles, the SPD wrote that “overpowering rulers of the economy bring society into its economic dependence” and “subject the whole economic and political machinery in the state to the dominion of a few financial magnates.” These sentences were the official party program of the SPD over 90 years ago. Was the population more enlightened in the 1920s than today?

Rainer Mausfeld: The term “collective hypnosis” comes from the English dramatist Harold Pinter who gave the ideology and reality of the western value community an unsparing accounting in his Nobel Prize address.

On the understanding of power relations, we think of the hierarchy of power in personal categories and consequently have enormous problems in recognizing and understanding forms of power that are organized in an abstract, structural way. Structural power is practically invisible.

Structurally-organized forms of power may systematically exert influence even if one assumes counter-factually that no concrete persons in the background of governments and parliaments have more influence than the rest of the population. These things were known for many decades in research institutes occupied with power and its organization. The more the media focuses the population on personal aspects of power, the more effectively their understanding of power’s real structural organizational forms is blocked.

Personalization Blocks the Understanding of the Organization of Power

Media mania is manifest in the platforms given to Trump and Putin.

Rainer Mausfeld: With trifling expense, the real centers of political and economic power are made practically invisible to the population. The question about the actual centers of economic and political power can only be answered through empirical studies. In the book, I cite an abundance of careful empirical analyses. Since the pioneering studies of Herman and Chomsky, many empirical studies show how the media is embedded in these power structures.

For example, a few mammoth corporations like Comcast, Walt Disney Company, 21st Century Fox or Time Warner, own practically 90% of all US news media. This obviously does not have any effect on the work of journalists in these media companies because they are only obliged to their professional ethos. The capital interests of their owners are clearly separated from their journalist obligations.

You have humor.

Rainer Mausfeld: Unfortunately, the possibilities of revealing the power relations through satirical exaggeration are largely annulled. The reality of the media takes away the possibilities of satire.

Many empirical Power-Structure-Analyses show the organizational forms of economic and political power have changed since the 1970s and the beginning of the neoliberal “revolution from above.” Political and economic power is now organized in an increasingly more abstract way. All social responsibility dissolves in the fields of abstract networks. The needs for political change of those subject to power cannot have any concrete or politically effective goals anymore.

In other words, people do not know anymore against whom they should demonstrate.

Rainer Mausfeld: The population’s will for change has no addressants anymore among the real decision-makers. With so-called globalization, targeted mechanisms were created through which economic power is transformed into political power.

The term globalization that is almost mystified by many also belongs to the false dictionary of neoliberalism since neoliberal globalization is nothing but a novel form of a nationalism of economically strong countries. In any case, the neoliberal redistribution project was effectively sealed against democratic incursions through the radical reorganization of power.

As long as we do not understand these new forms of the organization of power, all emancipatory efforts and attempts at its civilized enclosure will ultimately fail. Thus, enlightenment is crucial.

“We live in a time of counter-enlightenment”

Telepolis: Your reference point is the French Revolution that gave a constitutional rank to the ideals of the Enlightenment. In your book, you say: “Two hundred years after the Enlightenment of which we are so proud in our political rhetoric, we live in a time of radical counter-enlightenment.” What do you mean?

Rainer Mausfeld: The French Revolution was a very complex event where the forces of the counter-enlightenment were already effective. My reference point is the radical democratic tradition within the Enlightenment. These things can be described simply. To understand this, we do not need special historical knowledge about the Enlightenment.

The question is why democracy is really desirable. The key idea of democracy does not only result from our natural human need for freedom, the need not to be subjected to the will of others. The key idea of democracy results from the desire to find ways to safeguard inner and outer peace in view of the immense trail of blood of the history of human civilization – that is protecting civilization against a rule of violence. Protective beams should prevent the rule of the law of the stronger and the strong dominating over the weak. The Enlightenment sought ways to restrain relations of power and violence.

In a society marked by plurality, the heterogeneity of social interests is so great that agreeing on a procedural principle preventing a rule according to the law of the stronger is not simple. Such a principle must ensure that the strong are no longer granted more or different rights than the weak. Thus, it must be an egalitarian principle. The Enlightenment saw such a principle in acknowledging all persons as free and equal regardless of their factual differences as to their social rights.

Such an egalitarian principle leads to the core idea of democracy at home and to the core idea of international law for inter-state relations. It prevents all attempts at establishing conditions of power and violence on racist, nationalist or exceptionalist premises. Therefore, it was fought massively from the beginning and is the core of the counter-enlightenment.

How do you define this counter-enlightenment?

Rainer Mausfeld: Very heterogeneous currents are found in the counter-enlightenment. However, the rejection or even hatred for democracy and the refusal of an egalitarian international law is common to all these currents. Today, we are again removed from all the civilized achievements that were gained at times on the basis of this egalitarian principle. The elites openly express their contempt of democracy and increasingly resort to authoritarian measures to secure their power.

The increasingly more repressive police laws and the brutal police actions at the G20 summit in Hamburg and in the Hambach forest are two examples. In inter-state relations, the leading states of the western value community insist on their right to break international law on their discretion and to press ahead with NATO war preparations that are increasingly more aggressive. The right of the militarily and economically stronger openly prevails again in a gigantic regression of civilization.

In short, we live in a phase of counter-enlightenment destructively affecting nearly all areas of social life in an unparalleled way since the times of the Enlightenment – a phase of counter-enlightenment that insidiously manages to camouflage as Enlightenment.

Representative Democracy as Resisting Democracy

In your judgment, representative democracy – you speak of “elite democracy” – is above all an instrument of “resisting democracy.” In this connection, you quote several famous founding fathers of the US like James Madison and John Jay who said at that time: “Whoever owns the land should also govern it.” Is our present only different in that no one at the political top would openly say something like that today?

Rainer Mausfeld: The term “elite democracy” is conceptually a contradiction in itself. Historically, democracy is said to have carried out a triumphant march since the middle of the 19th century. In fact, there never was a real democracy, a self-legislation of the people and a submission of all state machines under the democratic law. Why should the rulers have an interest in voluntarily limiting or ceding their power to the people?

From the view of the rulers, democracy nearly always only served as a revolution prophylactic. It is also an historical fact that the introduction of representative democracy served as resistance to democracy. This fact is proven in the technical literature under a multitude of analysis perspectives. In the book, I cite the relevant literature. The Harvard legal historian Michael J. Klarman in his book “The Framers’ Coup” showed in meticulous detail that the 1787 American constitution emerged from vehement struggles between different elite groups and is marked by an anti-democratic spirit. From the beginning, the introduction of representative democracy helped safeguard the property system and production of an illusion of democracy by establishing an elite democracy.

The idea of politically competent rational elites committed to the common good is only a phantasy of self-promoting elites. With this ideological fiction, they sought to justify the political incapacitation of the “dumb” people. The political experiences of the past decades show that citizens by no means embody the political stupidity ascribed to them by the political elites, as Ingeborg Maus explained.

With a sober evaluation of the realities and the – long-term – disastrous and destructive consequences of the ideologues of elite democracy and neoliberalism, these ideologies must be regarded as failed more than any past social ideology. Their socially and ecologically destructive work will continue as long as the “dumb” people tolerate it since they have eluded all democratic control.

You mentioned, leading thinkers in the US and elsewhere appeal to a “rationality of the experts.” The people are too fickle and uneducated. Only experts can make rational decisions. The American journalist and government advisor Walter Lippmann saw this similarly and wrote: “Democracy, first of all, is an administrative problem that must be solved by experts as efficiently as possible so the population can devote itself to the individual goals of its private world.” The philosopher John Dewey opposed this in the 1920s: “A judgment about the political competence of citizens is impossible as long as the population does not have all relevant political information, as long as the space of public debate is not open to everyone equally and as long as this space is dominated and systematically restricted by individual power groups.” The role of the media is important here. How must the media be organized to do justice to these demands?

Rainer Mausfeld: The role of the media is crucial in a democracy. A democracy has the difficult task of developing procedures through which the heterogeneity and plurality of very different interests can be harmonized in a peaceful way so a political
action in the sense of the common good is possible. The exchange of individual particular interests occurs through the public debate.

Media Evades Democratic Control

Rainer Mausfeld: The space of public debate is the heart of democracy. However, it can only fulfill its function if it is intact. Since the media now first constitute the space of public debate, they must not be distorted in favor of powerful interest groups. Corporate media by definition cannot fulfill this because of their integration in economic power structures. They almost inevitably become an instrument with which powerful economic lobby groups can enter the public discussion space in a concealed way.

The question about an organization of the media in a democracy can only be considered in the context of the prior question to what extent are all areas of a society democratically organized. As long as central areas of a society like the economy and the media evade democratic control, there cannot be an undistorted space of public debate open to everyone. The condition for the possibility of democracy is left out.

The term “elite negligence” is used increasingly. Billionaires speak “of the responsibility of the media in these times.” This leads to the rhetorical question: How much freedom of the press exists in our system generally?

Rainer Mausfeld: Politics in capitalist democracies only has the possibilities allowed by the economy. John Dewey recognized this more than eight decades ago. This could be understood as a truism. However, neither Dewey nor the innumerable authors that focused on the relation of capitalism and media since then are still present in the public discussion.

The space of public debate is less distorted and reflects a greater spectrum of social interests in times when capitalism allowed a certain degree of democratization as a motor of productivity development. But the advantages seen by capitalism in the national framework in the social pacification function of democratic elements were cancelled in globalized capitalism. Since maintaining the illusion of a democracy is not important anymore, the space of a public debate can now be limited as considered necessary for the stability of the ruling power structure.

What do you mean?

Rainer Mausfeld: Freedom of speech is nearly unlimited with all themes that are irrelevant for the stability of the centers of power. This is true for most themes offered us today in the corporate media. Here everyone can think what they want and enjoy freedom of speech. This is obviously different with politically sensitive themes, themes that touch the stability interests of political and economic power groups.

The Ukraine, Russia, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Venezuela are examples. In the last decades, the space of allowed debate was greatly narrowed. Here there is only as much margin as there are different interests in the elite spectrum.

This recalls the “Indexing hypothesis” that assumes the big media as a rule only reflect the debate within the political elite. Thus, the scope of the “allowed” is marked out.

Rainer Mausfeld: This was already explained by John Dewey. In his 1935 essay “Our Un-free Press,” he declared we cannot raise the question of freedom of the press independent of the respective economic system. Therefore, we must ask “how much genuine intellectual freedom and social responsibility are possible under the conditions of the present economic order?”

Contempt for the People

You describe the structure of ideas behind the existing economic order neoliberalism as “a kind of intellectual pathology” that takes a way of destruction on all planes – “destruction of community, the idea of community, life, cultural and civilized substance and our ecological foundations.” The system aims at the creation of a new person “whose social life is totally wrapped up in the role of the politically apathetic consumer” and has no knowledge about his own history. Here, the role of intellectuals comes into play that could give orientation to society – which hardly ever happens. You write that many intellectuals have long shared “contempt for the people with power elites.” Is this a new development or possibly the same in all times?

Rainer Mausfeld: This has happened in all times. Those above in the social hierarchies, whether in income, education or political power inclined or incline to look with contempt on the “multitude” or the “people.” Even great spokespersons of the Enlightenment were not free from that.

Those who describe their social success to their special abilities do not control the rest of the population. Thus, it is a kind of individual exceptionalism. For these reasons, the concept of the elite is a thoroughly ideological concept. As history shows, this kind of ideological perspective is hard to uncover and combat and intellectuals are very susceptible. This is not different today than in the past.

What is new?

Rainer Mausfeld: What has changed is the far-reaching disappearance of critical intellectuals from public space. This is connected with the neoliberal ideology of no alternative and with the loss of emancipatory utopias as they drove and guided civilization development since time immemorial.

Intellectual mediators who hand down everything that could be gained collectively in emancipatory insights and experiences are lacking to us. The theoretical ideas on whose basis political experiences can be ordered and political goals formulated are lacking. This includes a great toolbox of ideology-critical methodology and politically effective strategies.

When public intellectuals are missing as mediators, we are separated from all emancipatory traditions. We are socially atomized and intellectually fragmented and thus easy prey for the modern forms of manipulation and control techniques by which present conditions of power seek stability.

An ideological system never before so skillfully understood itself how to dry up and neutralize western capitalist elite democracies with their “soft power” methods developed systematically over more than a century.

Hope is bound to readiness for active conduct

You are not a pessimist or extremist despite the depressing analysis in your book but see a possible way out of the situation in a broad “re-politicization” of the population and in the efforts of every individual to regain the lost social memory – that is, the treasure of experience from centuries of political analysis. What gives you hope in this context?

Rainer Mausfeld: I am often asked that question. I have hope but I do not like to answer simply with a diffuse confession to hope. The nature of this question seems abridged in a way that suggests hope has become a targeted goal-oriented theme of a democracy management as hope management.

In its conceptual history, the word hope referred to two aspects, to the passive aspect of an expectation of a somewhat positive future and to a rather active aspect of striving for something better. Thus, hope was and must always be tied with a will to change in the social-political realm of civilized efforts for a more humane society. Isolated questions about hope seem to lack a decisive dimension since hope and will to change are inseparably connected.

Thus, hope in the political realm cannot be an end-in-itself but is bound to a political goal and to readiness for active conduct. This connection of hope and will to change should be prevented by the rule technology of a hope management. With that, hope threatens to decay from an incentive to political action to a replacement for political action.

As long as one has hope that things are not so bad and civilization progress appears somehow, we can renounce on our political conduct. With that, hope becomes a means of social sedation, a social tranquilizer.

The techniques of hope management use psychic deformations that are produced in the processes of creating a “neoliberal self,” particularly the longing for immediate need satisfaction and extremely narrowed psychic tolerance of division.

The hope for a better world uncoupled from a serious will to change is almost a characteristic of the left-liberal milieu that has established itself in the status quo of the current hierarchy of power. That Barack Obama is the favorite US president of the left-liberal milieu is hardly surprising since Obama was the grand master in selling the favorite product of that milieu, hope. In 2008, he was chosen “Marketer of the Year” by the advertising industry.

In your opinion, can hope for change still be supported when this hope becomes a marketing instrument and is profitably managed?

Rainer Mausfeld: Personal meaning obviously varies from individual to individual. For me, three aspects are particularly important. One aspect is the quality of the human spirit, especially in our natural human need for freedom and in our natural moral sensitiveness for social injustices.

Another aspect lies in the kind of mechanisms that led to the destructive forms of neoliberal social organization. These social transformations are based on human decisions and human decisions, at least on principle, can be corrected and cancelled. Without a radical preceding democratization, such a hope must remain lacking in contact with reality (realitatsleer).

The third aspect is social nature. The social achievements of our civilization history were always gained by only a few, often against the massive resistance of parts of the population interested in maintaining the status quo. Here, we find the models that could give us courage and hope that this could also make possible preserving emancipatory progress in the present and the future. Many examples and models that give hope and courage can be found in the many social movements all over the world who fight for these goals. In any case, hope and the will to change must be allied with a sound understanding of the concrete power structures that strive to cancel emancipatory advances.

Toward the end of your book, you write: “Our future will depend on whether we are finally ready to take the dream of democracy seriously.” Many people hardly take anything seriously including a chance at change. Is “taking the dream of democracy seriously” the real political challenge?

Rainer Mausfeld: That many people hardly take anything seriously, even themselves, is both an important and sad observation. This is only one of many examples that show the far-reaching effects of the ideology of the “neoliberal self” practiced for decades. The psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich was intensely occupied with the relation of personality structure and fascist ideology in the 1930s in his “Mass Psychology of Fascism.” Every social order tends to produce those personality structures needed for its preservation, he explained.

This is true for neoliberalism that depends on the creation of a “neoliberal self.” Neoliberalism is a totalitarian ideology since it pervades all areas of society and aims at a new person who comes to like his political disheartenment or despondency and becomes wrapped up in the role of consumer. Its goal is the creation of a “flexible person” who optimizes his usability for the objectives of others and forgets self-development of their own talents and interests.

He has also forgotten what it means to take seriously a cause or him- or herself. Seriousness is conflated to consumer decisions and optimizing self-promotion in the so-called social media.

Earlier translated articles by Rainer Mausfeld:

Rainer Mausfeld, Neoliberal Indoctrination, January 2016
Neoliberalism tells the poor and weak that they are responsible for their misery. The true extent of social poverty barely reaches the public. A re-feudalization bomb rages and investors seek privatizing the public education system. People are atomized and obscured by psycho-techniques that make resistance against this inhuman system impossible.
Neoliberalism – after European colonialism – is the greatest redistribution project of history. Considerable indoctrination and disciplining efforts are necessary to accept and even join in this battle song against their actual experiences and against their own interests. In a democracy, it is important to conceal and make invisible the real goal of redistribution from bottom to top.
Neoliberalism causes one disaster after another worldwide and aims at producing consumers who only find a social identity as consumers in a socially atomized society.
Rainer Mausfeld, Propaganda: Making Alternatives Disappear by, 4/22/2016
The main responsibility of a government in a “democracy” is protecting the minority of the ownership class against the majority of the non-owners… Our bombing Arab countries is not terrorism but a struggle for freedom and human rights…There was a time of mutual symbiosis between democracy and capitalism. That was the New Deal.
The neoliberal indoctrination systems serve an industrial-scale manufacture of ignorance… The US strives for a full spectrum dominance in water, air, outer space and in the opinion market.
Double standards are part of our human nature. We see moral offenses of others very well but are remarkably tolerant with ourselves… We have pessimism of the intellect but optimism of the will. Go Bernie Go!
Rainer Mausfeld, Why are the Lambs Silent?, Jan 18, 2016
Techniques – fragmentation and propaganda – make serious violations of moral norms by the ruling elites morally and cognitively invisible to the population. With many examples, professor Mausfeld gives insight in the actual management of our democracy and how people are kept in apathy and in the illusion of being informed.
“You already know enough. So do I. We don’t lack knowledge. What is missing is the courage to understand what we know and draw conclusions.”
Sven Lindquist (1992). Exterminate All the Brutes.
For Paul Lazarsfeld, the mass media is the “most respectable and efficient of social narcotics.” When citizens feel informed by the mass media, they are so overpowered by their feeling of being informed that “the addict is kept from recognizing his own malady,” Lazarsfeld diagnoses.
Controlling opinions is more important than purely emotional control because opinions are usually more stable than emotions. Therefore a special importance comes to techniques that can control opinions. No special knowledge of psychology is needed for these simple techniques. They are the standard methods of the mass media:
1. Declare facts to be opinions. Dealing with facts as though they are mere opinions is one of the most frightening aspects of totalitarian thought systems, Hannah Arendt explained.
2. Fragment the presentation of connected facts so the context is lost.
3. De-contextualize facts so they are removed from their real contexts and seem as isolated cases.
4. Re-contextualize facts, embed them in a new context with “positive” accompaniments so they lose their original context and the possible potential of moral indignation…

Rainer Mausfeld , “How the Bewildered Herd is Kept on Course”, October 2017
I want to share several insights from the psychologist Rainer Mausfeld in his recent lecture “How the Bewildered Herd is Kept on Course”: 1) Social antagonism is shifted into one’s own person. One becomes a slaveholder of oneself under the neoliberal ideology of human capital. Everyone is a little I-company that must optimize him/herself. (2) Estrangement or de-solidarity can only occur when a necessary measure of fear and uncertainty is induced in individuals. (3) Fear must be induced and has nothing to do with reality. This is an important rule technique. The most important resource in neoliberalism is “accumulation of the fear raw material” (Oscar Negt), “The people are threatening for the rulers when they are without fear” (Tacitus)
Job creation, closing tax havens, redistributing income and wealth and building affordable housing, schools, and hospitals are all trivialized or ignored in the GOP tax bill – in the irrational frenzy to give more benefits and deductions to owners of yachts and private jets!

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