I’m going to explain how you can come to believe it’s a great idea to mutilate your child.
Trust me — this is going to make child mutilation great again.
Here’s how we begin: we find some emotive issue and we create fear around it. For example, “Those snowflake liberal teachers are indoctrinating our children and teaching them that only gay sex is acceptable. Worse yet, they’re also teaching our children to be afraid of good ol’ wholesome guns. This is the real liberal agenda: to feminize our sons and leave them limp-wristed pacifists. And don’t get me started on what those liberal teachers are doing to our girls! Teaching them to go and out-compete men, dress like men, stop shaving their legs and armpits, and get all confused about consent when a guy’s just having a good time. Worst of all they’re attacking our religion, telling our children than Christianity is just one of many beliefs and when science says something different from the Bible we should believe science instead of Jesus! Those liberal snowflakes are trying to turn our kids into atheists so they’ll be doomed to burn forever in hellfire!”
Now we wait for the reaction and use that as proof the other side is doing what we’ve claimed they’re doing. Demonize anyone who tries to show we’ve been lying shamelessly, call it “fake facts,” and amplify the original message just to show who’s boss. There will be lots of people so simple-minded they immediately believe everything we tell them and become so agitated they are easily provoked into acts of violence. This is a good thing because it ensures even more media coverage so our message gets even more attention and thereby attracts even more devoted followers. It also serves to normalize violence, which is an important step that will make our later incitements seem perfectly reasonable.
Next we come up with our Great Plan: “We’re going to fire all the teachers and close down all the schools and set up our own schools that will be better than the old schools because we’ll teach proper values. We won’t waste time on pointy-head liberal nonsense like literacy and numeracy, history, or science; we’ll get straight to the truth of the Bible because that’s all good American children need to know. This will protect them from the liberal conspiracy that wants to turn them into child prostitutes for the liberal elite.”
Then we ramp up the rhetoric. We blame the liberal elite for blocking our plan to shut every school and fire every teacher by 9am next Monday. We call anyone who opposes us traitors and enemies of the people. We act as if we have the vast majority of citizens behind us even when we obviously don’t.
We go to Phase Two of our rhetoric and we blame the absence of corporal punishment for every ill that afflicts modern society. We start saying that if we can’t close the schools and fire the teachers then we’ll need to take things into our own hands. “True patriotic Americans give their children a well-deserved slap on the butt when they misbehave or talk back to their elders. That’s just common sense and if those liberal atheist teachers won’t do it then we’ll have to do it ourselves. We owe it to our children to make sure they grow up right with good moral values.”
From there onward it’s just a question of maintaining the rhetoric and increasing the degree of punishment, always in the name of saving our children from the terrible fate of learning about liberal values. We go from a slap on the butt to applying the belt; from applying the belt to using a buggy-whip. Eventually we can persuade the most gullible (and there will be a lot of these folk) that Jesus wants them to cut off their children’s fingers and toes when they misbehave, in order to ensure their souls achieve eternal salvation.
Over time the majority of our followers will fall obediently into line because no one likes to feel the rest of the group is leaving them behind. Where the extremists lead, the mass of ordinary supporters follow like sheep.
Our supporters won’t remember that we were going to close schools and fire teachers because we’ve shifted the emphasis onto punishment at home. Those supporters, having bought into our original rhetoric, can’t ever go back and reassess their commitment to our cause. The human brain simply can’t unlearn emotionally resonant thinking. It would be like trying to tear up a railway track and re-laying it elsewhere: theoretically possible but to all intents and purposes highly unlikely. We can use the notion of the frog in a pot of water: we start with cold water and then turn on the heat underneath the pot. Slowly, slowly, the water temperature rises. But there’s never a moment where the temperature suddenly shoots up so that the frog realizes what’s happening. With each tiny incremental increase the frog is simply unaware of its fate because it’s normalized its situation.
This is why Trump supporters still howl and drool wildly at his rallies: they can’t remember that Mexico was supposed to pay for his impossible wall; now they blame Democrats for the supposed invasion of rapists and murderers that their Great Orange Pus-Sack tells them is pouring across the border because they blocked taxpayer funding for Trump’s dream. Trump supporters can’t remember that all his promises of creating new jobs never came true and now the USA is about to shed millions of jobs because of the infantile halfwit’s trade tariffs. Those job losses will of course fall disproportionately on Trump supporters but when they lose their jobs and their homes they’ll blame it on the Democrat liberal snowflake elite. Trump supporters aren’t bright enough to follow the details; they just gawp at the spectacle and hear what Trump tells them. Trump supporters don’t remember that the entire US intelligence community was unanimous that Russia interfered in a major way with the last election. Of course Russia didn’t steal the election: that’s just liberal fake news because Trump tells them so.
It would be far, far too traumatic for any of these simple people to face up to the fact they’ve been played for idiots. Much easier to believe the entire world is wrong than to acknowledge the truth.
This is why Brexit supporters continue to support Brexit even though every single thing the Brexit campaign was based on has been shown unequivocally to be a lie. Brexit was supposed to be easy: three years on the UK still has no plan. Brexit was supposed to provide an instantaneous boost to the economy: now even the most ardent Brexit supporters accept there will be a huge and long-lasting recession. Brexit was supposed to turn Britain into an outward-facing global power once again; Brexit supporters now accept that everyone with an IQ of over 100 is leaving the UK as fast as they can and that even after three years of begging the UK has zero new trade deals on the horizon. But Brexiteers have shifted their rationale: now it’s about “taking back control” and other totally empty phrases.
It would be too emotionally debilitating for Brexit supporters to accept they swallowed the most pathetically obvious lies that were always impossible to fulfill; much easier to believe there’s a conspiracy conducted by elites and the European Union to thwart the “will of the people.”
Once we’ve fooled people they will do anything — absolutely anything — to avoid having to face the fact they’ve been played for a patsy. And thus we can use this emotional desperation to manipulate them in any way we wish.
Anyone naïve enough to doubt this should go back to their history books and look at Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, and Mao’s China. Even on a small scale getting people to self-harm is absurdly easy: the Jonestown mass suicide is merely one example among far too many.
We humans are absurdly easy to manipulate. We should be aware of this and be on our guard, but we never are. Hence Trump and Brexit and Putin and Erdogan and Bolsonaro and Salvini and… the list is endless. And things are only going to get much worse from here on out.