“There is another important weapon that totalitarians use in their campaign to frighten the world into submission. This is the weapon of psychological shock. Hitler kept his enemies in a state of constant confusion and diplomatic upheaval. They never knew what this unpredictable madman was going to do next. Hitler was never logical, because he knew that that was what he was expected to be. Logic can be met with logic, while illogic cannot—it confuses those who think straight. The Big Lie and monotonously repeated nonsense have more emotional appeal in a cold war than logic and reason. While the enemy is still searching for a reasonable counter-argument to the first lie, the totalitarians can assault him with another.”
― Joost A. M. Meerloo MD – The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing. Published 1956
History can be an endearing and protective shield for all of us who believe, to the depths of our minds, hearts and spirit, in Democracy. History has been teaching with every historic event who has been on the right side of Democracy and who has sought its demise. The strategies used to disrupt and abolish a Democracy have also been clearly analyzed and identified.
In 1933, Joost Meerloo began to study the methods by which systematic mental pressure brings people to abject submission, and by which totalitarians imprinted their subjective “truth” on their victims’ minds. Let’s keep in mind, this was 1933 not 2023! History is continuously beckoning us to reality.
Meerloo was born Abraham Mauris Meerloo in The Hague, Netherlands. He assumed the name Joost to avoid the occupying Nazi forces and in 1942 he fled Belgium, escaping to England. In 1946 he came to the United States where, as a member of Columbia University, he continued his journey of identifying and analyzing the tenets of autocratic brainwashing. He is renowned throughout the world for his research and findings.
His work explains how scientific brainwashing is accomplished and argues that “hardly anyone can resist such.” “Fear, and continual pressure are known to create a menticidal hypnosis. The conscious part of the personality no longer takes part in the automatic confessions. The brainwashee lives in a trance, repeating the record grooved into him by somebody else.”
But how do the findings of Meerloo impact the American citizenry in the 21st Century? By first reminding us that history is ever present, but must be called upon by us living in the present.
His book also provides critical language like “menticide” – The systemic effort to undermine and destroy a person’s values and beliefs, by the use of prolonged methods available in order to induce radical, extremist ideas, attitudes and behavior. Again I remind and emphasize, Meerloo is writing about such crucial research and findings in the 1930s.
Meerloo posited that like their totalitarian counterparts, democratic societies are subject to the insidious influences of mind control. Such influences surround the citizens of free societies, “both on a political and a nonpolitical level and they become as dangerous to the free way of life as are the aggressive totalitarian governments themselves. People must guard against the creeping intrusion into their minds by technology, bureaucracy, prejudice, and mass delusion.”
Meerloo writes that freedom and democracy depend in part on education for mental freedom—helping children and adults to think for themselves and to see the essentials of a problem—helping them to understand concepts, not merely to memorize facts. This was a stark warning to every global educational system and process. That is, that a Democracy requires metacognition, intelligence, critical thinking and constant analytical focus.
Throughout most of his book ,“The Rape of the Mind”, Meerloo’s targets are the historic roles played by the Nazis and of the Communists in the post-1945 world. In it, he goes far beyond the direct military implications of mental torture to describing how our own culture unobtrusively shows symptoms of pressurizing people’s minds. He presents a systematic analysis of the methods of brainwashing and mental torture and coercion, and shows how totalitarian strategy, with its use of mass psychology, leads to a systematized “rape of the mind.”
He describes the new age of cold war with its mental terror, verbocracy, and semantic fog, the use of fear as a tool of mass submission and the problem of treason and loyalty, so loaded with dangerous confusion.
The “Rape of the Mind” is written for the interested layman, not only for experts and scientists. The book contains 18 chapters of which the last is titled Freedom – Our Mental Backbone.
Our Mental Backbone . . . do we have a spine of steel to fight off attacks against the truth? A more significant critical question is to what extent are the untruths and lies “raping” the minds of American citizens or is the process a form consensual psychosis based on the legacy of American history?
In other words, has the psychosis been ever present? History can provide answers as to the past and how that past impacts the present, but it can’t create the future. That is up to us. History provides evidence as to the depth and breadth of each ideology. It is all there in black, white and living color.
That said, do we want to live in the psychotic state of Autocratic Republican Trumpism or in the real world of emotional intelligence and moral courage of a Democracy?
That is the question that we face as citizens and human beings in 2024 . . . and from here on in. The choice must become real and alive not only every two or four years but daily – DAILY! Be it around the kitchen table with family members, schools (teachers and students), workplaces, friends and acquaintances. Our DAILY declaration of Democracy must possess energy, wisdom, facts, credibility and advocacy! DAILY! In other words, who we are and want to become.
So let me be clear. Each vote significantly matters regardless of whether voting for School Board Member, Police Chief and/or political office – from president, governor, mayor, attorney general or Secretary of State – the choice is crystal clear and unequivocal. Each vote will determine the fate for each adult and the children of future generations.
The major question by 70% of Americans is, why would an American citizen vote for the autocracy represented by Republican Trumpsim? Why would 30% of Americans vote, not once, but twice, and ready to vote thrice for a psychotic ideology?
I posit that the major reasons for the support of Republican Trumpsim is based on a personal psychosis rooted in avoiding the reality of facing the veracity of ingrained personal beliefs,
held on to dear life in desperation of facing undeniable truths.
A psychosis requiring long term trauma therapy and intervention.
Am I therefore stating that roughly 30% of Americans require serious psychological trauma therapy because of psychotic ingrained beliefs and attitudes? YES!
A segment of American society has been damaged by way of prolonged insidious influences and radicalizations fostered from birth creating predispositions to biases, prejudices, -isms and phobias.
In other words, inclinations and tendencies cultivated by family members, environment, language, workplace, region and by way of social-cultural-political media outlets used to reinforce and confirm established politicized and radicalized beliefs and attitudes. This is not an ideology but a psychotic disease.
An explanation as to why a segment of America holds on to absolute staunch blind-faith beliefs can be explained by noting how we as human beings come to believe in one religion.
I am not questioning the right to believe or the reasons to believe in a religion or the absolute ferventness and loyalty to one religion. We have a choice whether to believe or not, and which religion to proclaim as the one true religion above others. How we come to our beliefs is a process. We are not born with social-cultural-political-religious beliefs. They are taught by way of complex processes and influences throughout our lives.
It is estimated that there are some 4,000 religions, spiritual groups and denominations that exist throughout the world. Among the majority are Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Each religion has a history, legacy, dogma and fervent dedicated believers.
Each member has a personal story of how they came to believe and continue to practice. For some, religion is highly personal, for some evangelical, for some fanatical, while for others a matter of being agnostic, atheistic or irreligious. The one truth about all religions is that each proclaims to own unequivocal truth(s).
To be clear, this treatise is NOT meant to demean any one religion, or whether religions are good, bad, right or wrong, or judge that one religion is the one true faith, with one true deity or deities, nor offend the millions of followers and believers.
But rather I am using religion as an example as to the process of acceptability, believability, of blind faith and absolute loyalty. With this in mind, each of us makes a decision as to the degree of believability. We live in a country that provides freedom to worship as we please.
At the same time, let’s keep in mind that history glaringly reminds us that there have been some 200 million (and counting) human beings murdered for some religious-political ideology. Therefore, the choices we make regarding our fervent beliefs, and whether we pause to reflect, can have serious cataclysmic consequences.
As with religions, social-cultural-political beliefs tend to be instilled in a similar fashion. We come to believe by the way we are raised, regional influences, institutions, experiences, schools, colleagues and what we hear and see on a daily basis. These are called socializing agencies.
These agencies provide our “social-cultural-political-religious curriculum” that is present 24/7/365 throughout our lives. The process goes beyond formal schooling and is a conscious and unconscious reality washing over us daily on a personal basis impacting our values, attitudes, perspectives and deportment as to how we view life, ourselves and others. These are the lenses by which we view the world and its inhabitants – how we come to value or undervalue each inhabitant and how we view difference and otherness.
The learning curve for each of us is different and yet with similar influences. We become believers of a political ideology via constant external and internal influences. The process of human development, consciously and unconsciously, is highly complex.
I believe, that such a process is too often taken for granted and not focused upon. That is, critically dependent on the educational process of each American citizen.
Abraham (Joost) Meerloo emphasized “that freedom and democracy depend in part on education for mental freedom—helping children and adults to think for themselves and to see the essentials of a problem—helping them to understand concepts, not merely to memorize facts.“
In America, we rely on mentors, nurturers (family, educators) to raise us by telling us the truth in order to become the best version of citizens living in a Democracy. This means acknowledging and respecting the inalienable rights of others. A Democracy depends on reciprocity, transparency, veracity, collaboration, finding consensus, rule of law, compassion, empathy and mutual respect.
A Democracy does not ask that we agree with each other but rather provide different points of view with intelligence, veracity, facts and ultimately keeping in mind the greater good for all citizens.
As citizens, we use the content and context of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights, Separation of Power and Rule of Law. We are taught that all men and women are created equal with inalienable rights. We experience daily the diversity of our interwoven immigrant stories and how such stories lead to our inclusivity.
At the same time, we realistically understand, but do not fear, American history that has left a legacy of incredible accomplishments and also inhuman atrocities. We take ownership of that history with all of its achievements and human flaws. We do not fear history wanting to understand causes and do not want to repeat cataclysmic brutality. It is up to adults to assure that children understand the causes and the impact on the present and their future.
So how do American citizens, with some 12 years of formal education and beyond,
become victims of mental rape and held hostage in denial?
Or is the process, not a matter of “mental rape” but consensual?
I posit that absolute belief in Republican Trumpism is based on personal dysfunctions, grievances, bitterness, fears, anger, the loss of the delusional power of superiority, and the fear of the loss of a personal identity that was taught, learned and over time ingrained.
For die-hard MAGA supporters, to deal with the truth of their ideology is to face and
reject the painful process of retrospection, introspection, reflection,
personal critical analysis, psychological rehabilitation and cathartic change.
I submit that Republican Trumpism is a psychosis – a mental disorder based on impaired emotions, beliefs and loss of reality by choice and design.
It is therefore not a stretch to have a leader and enablers reflecting the same psychotic narrative, often with constant anger, hate and bitterness.
A once loyal and dedicated member of Trumpism, William Pelham Barr, served as the 85th United States Attorney General for President Donald Trump. He recently seems to have found his moment of “moral courage” divulging the following assessment of the leader of Trumpism and his enablers.
“He ( speaking of Donald Trump) will always put his own interests, and gratify his own ego, ahead of everything else, including the country’s interest, there’s no question about it. This is a perfect example of that (speaking of the Federal indictment). He’s like, you know, he’s like a nine year old, defiant nine year old kid who’s always pushing the glass toward the edge of the table, defying his parents to stop him from doing it. It’s a means of self assertion and exerting his dominance over other people. And he’s a very petty individual who will always put his interests ahead of the country’s, his personal gratification of his, you know, his ego, but our country-our country can’t, you know, can’t be a therapy session for you know, a troubled man like this. Bill Barr on Face the Nation with Robert Costa June 18, 2023 CBS NEWS
The words of Bill Barr were chilling, particularly when he stated, “. . . but our country – our country can’t, you know, can’t be a therapy session for you know, a troubled man like this.”
And I would add that MAGAism, is not only about “a defiant nine year old leader“, but the latest version of the next “Great White Hope” wishing to be emperor.
The psychosis of MAGAism is its constant need for power and control projected by unscrupulous dishonesty, bitterness, anger, narcissism, fanaticism and extremism. It is a delusional psychotic ideology branded and sold as Republican Trumpism.
No, I am not a psychologist nor a psychiatrist. But let me make the case as an argument of what Republican Trumpsim stands for. Let’s begin by using some good old common sense before moving on to direct evidence and facts.
Any discourse demands that language, concepts and context be based on reality, truth and transparency. How else can we enter a debate, conversation or discourse with credibility and trust?
A major goal of a Democracy is its relentless pursuit of the truth. That is, the raw reality of the truth. The truth is the ethos and central core of a Democracy. Every social-cultural-political norm depends on dealing with the truth which is in accord with unaltered facts and reality.
The opposite of living in a reality is to live in a delusional state of falsehoods based on fabrications and distortions of facts and the truth. That is, to deny what has been proven to be authentically real.
In psychological terms, a delusional state of being is an unshakable belief in something that’s untrue based on a belief made by way of incorrect inferences, misinformation and denial of incontrovertible proof or evidence.
Denialism, deflection, displacement and narcissism are signs and tactics of living in an alternate reality. Each term requires some contextual awareness.
- Denialism is a choice to deny reality as a way of avoiding uncomfortable truth. It is an irrational action that withholds the validation of historical experience or events refusing to accept empirical verifiable reality and truth.
- Deflection is a form of gaslighting as the focus is to blame others for one’s mistakes, bad decisions, shortcomings rather than accepting the blame and criticism or focus on resolving the problem(s) rather than blaming others.
- Displacement is a defense mechanism transferring – redirecting negative feelings from one person or thing to another. The behavior avoids confronting issues head on and can redirect pent up anxiety, stress and anger by blaming, scapegoating and prejudice towards others.
- Narcissism is a flawed personality of an individual unwilling or unable to reflect on their behavioral dysfunctions and behavior. They believe to be beyond scrutiny for any wrong doing blaming others for their own bad behavior. For example, a pathological liar accuses others of lying – an unethical individual blames others of being corrupt. Narcissists manipulate and alter reality, and the truth, in order to position themselves as the ideal. Upon being proven to be a liar, they threaten, accuse and demean others as fakes, cowards, or weak, while playing the victim in order to not lose face, status, power and in order to avoid consequences.
I posit that MAGA Republicanism exists in a psychotic delusional state of being. MAGA Republicans have been deceived, misled, fooled, tricked, duped and mentally raped. But the process has a historical legacy.
MAGA Republicanism is not a political party or an ideology but a lingering delusional national psychosis based on anti-democratic historical tenets. Peter Wehner, of the Atlantic June 18, 2023 described and defined the MAGA ideology by providing a metaphor of its enablers in his deafening article, “Morality Is for Trump What Colors are to the Color-Blind.”
“Trump doesn’t just cross moral lines, he doesn’t appear capable of understanding moral categories. Morality is to Trump what colors are to a person who is color-blind. But what’s true of Trump isn’t true of the majority of his enablers. They see the colors that Trump cannot. They still know right from wrong. But for a combination of reasons, they have consistently overridden their conscience, in some cases unwittingly and in some cases cynically…, Trump’s behavior obviously speaks to his own character. But Trump’s behavior has also proved to be a test of the character of others – Republican politicians and voters, the GOP establishment and the evangelical movement . With very few exceptions, and to varying degrees, they have failed it. They have turned against – or at the very least, at a crucial hour, they have failed to defend – ideals and institutions they once claimed to cherish. Donald Trump could not have so deeply wounded our republic without his enablers. It took a team effort.“
So what is the answer – are there solutions? Can history provide any semblance of logical, empirical means by which to understand America’s ongoing dilemma? Yes, history can provide a few lenses by which to learn from the past. It can forewarn with glaring examples. It also can show what still needs intervention, advocacy and healing.
The enormity of human history can humble us providing reasons why we need to pause and reflect on our social constructs, beliefs, attitudes, predispositions and behavior. History can provide awareness of the diversity of human condition calling for introspectiveness and tolerance for difference and otherness.
But history can’t vote. History can’t force us to become astute, mature and responsible citizens of our Democracy. History can’t prevent us from taking Democracy for granted, watching others do the heavy lifting.
The inherent responsibility of preserving a Democracy needs to be highly personal and a core value that is non negotiable. The reality of living in a Democracy is that its preservation and maintenance is complex, arduous, uncomfortable, demanding, requiring authenticity, transparency and the pursuit of the truth – regardless of where it takes us.
Therefore, a Democracy is constantly pulling and pushing us to pursue authentication, validation, credibility and trust. Its frailty, and at the same time its power to empower, needs to be protected and nurtured as a constant and crucial priority. It must become the core of our citizenship to be nurtured as family members, mentored as educators, our ethos as human beings.
Democracy is relentless in focusing on enhancing the quality of life of each citizen – of each human being’s inalienable rights – those rights that human beings are born with . . . those rights that can’t be taken away . . . those rights that move us from just being human to the pursuit of humanness. A humanness that dares each of us to see each other with respect, decency, compassion, empathy and advocacy for the well-being of future generations. In this respect, Democracy is selflessly precious.