You can brainwash a person in two ways. One, through what you DO NOT tell them. Two, through exploiting their fear or resentment.
Take the example of today’s young people, brainwashed into socialism and other stupid ideas by their government-run schools, as well as their cultural heroes in music, sports and the arts. Do these schools openly state the case both for socialism and capitalism, and then argue why socialism is better? No way. If they did, most kids would probably end up leaning toward capitalism. They’d look at their well-stocked kitchens, their smart phones and their nice clothing and they’d quickly realize that “socialism sucks”.
The way these schools brainwash kids is by PRETENDING that socialism is the only system there is, and pairing socialism with things they idealize — virtue, kindness, sensitivity. They also exploit the fear and other insecurities of young people. “Most other people are mean. It’s better to be nice. The world would be a better place if everyone were nice. If we had the Green New Deal, and higher taxes, and progressive policies, then all would be nice”.
Socialism is what a lot of these young people come to through default, more than the result of any explicit ideological teaching or persuasion.
That’s how you indoctrinate a person. Exploit his fear, as well as his honest ignorance, and pretend that your point-of-view is the only serious one worth considering.
It’s interesting, though. I know a lot of people who were brainwashed in this way in other contexts, in earlier generations. But the brainwashing never stuck. For example, pre-1960s Catholic school students. Nearly all of them grew up to challenge some or all of what the old-style nuns taught them. Not everything the nuns taught was wrong (honesty and character, for example), but a lot of it was, especially when it came to personal relationships and sex. These old-style Catholic school students (now in their 60s and 70s) were brainwashed, but they overcame it. A lot of them questioned what they were taught well before their 30s, and even before their 20s in some cases.
Why the difference? I notice a lot of these Catholic school survivors ALSO say, “Judge the nuns as you wish. Some of them were crazy and irrational. A few were even evil. But they taught me how to read, write, learn and use my brain.” Learning those skills is not the same as learning how to think. But they are necessary tools of thinking. You will get nowhere without them, and many nuns were dedicated souls sincerely committed to the intellectual development of young minds.
Today’s schools, by and large and only with exceptions (like some of the better charter schools) are not teaching kids skills, and are not teaching them how to think. Certainly the mediocre majority and the terrible ones (e.g., the inner-city public schools) aren’t doing it. These institutions exist to serve the teacher’s unions, not the well-being of young minds. So what you get with these children is a combination of propaganda AND failing to learn the tools of thought. In the worst cases, they join gangs and become thugs. Why? Because they started out as evil sociopaths? No, not in most cases. Because they are afraid. And they are afraid because they don’t have the tools for using their minds. And to top it off, they have been trained to become good little citizens, which in our government-school culture means good little Democrats; good little environmentalists; good little angry social justice warriors. It’s pasted on to their intellects and psyches without any challenging viewpoints. Private schools can be just as guilty, by the way, as many are run by leftists, progressives and socialists. But the difference is that private schools have to produce SOME kind of results, as they can go out of business. Public schools will never, ever go out of business, not unless we have some kind of revolution in education toward free markets and school choice, something we desperately need.
In proper education, you’re taught this way: “Some people say socialism is a good idea. This is why they think it, and this is what socialism does. Others say capitalism is a good idea. This is why they think it, and this is what capitalism does.” It has to be HONEST and unbiased. The problem is that school curricula are not written by business persons, or by theoretical experts knowledgeable about capitalism. It simply does not occur to them that anything other than “progressive” and environmentalist, SJW ideas, or anti-business attitudes make any sense or hold any virtue. They transmit this false belief to their students.
By itself, attempted brainwashing in a free country would not be a tragedy. Remember that generations of kids in America have withstood other forms of brainwashing, like the 1950s Catholic school example. But when you pair the brainwashing with inadequate or perhaps ZERO critical thinking skills — even obvious ones such as reading and writing comprehension, the basics — then you have sunk that generation. And remember, it’s all done with the pull and moral-economic force of unlimited government money.
The students who withstand all this brainwashing, and manage to become independent thinkers, are my personal heroes. But there are fewer of these heroes than ever before, and critical, independent thinking seems to dwindle with each generation. Can a free country survive all this?
The next generation will surely write that story.—Michael J. Hurd