Social pathologies including abuse of power to maintain and gain from inequity and deprivation of resources key to health and security reinforce fear-based survival tactics: conformity, thought compliance, and subservient affirmations of fabricated deceptions.

by Clark Miller

Published August 27, 2021

The internet has captured individual behaviors and utterances as public record, globalized group think, and weaponized superego to generate a lethal epidemic of fear of authentic expression and identity, fear of dissent and truth.

All that’s left is that the new epistemology and theory of truth be described and in language that instumentalizes likes, nightly ratings, followers, promotions, search engine metrics, and expert credentials. 

The signs are everywhere, from cancel culture to identity politics, to the Orwellian spectacle of collusions of government with social media giants to control undesired speech, to public acceptance – by absence of protest or opposition – of the instrumental value of fabrications, not veracity, creating and defining the “news” delivered by corporate media giants.

From 9-11 to WMD to Russiagate, fear and risk of punishment for deviation from a group’s constructed reality are the inhibitors and drivers. Fear of not fitting in, of no longer being included. The black mark of truth-telling and authenticity can ruin lives and careers. Fear of loss of standing and status with the group is among the most potent remnants of the psychoevolutionary  track of social animals whose very existence, survival, has depended on inclusion, acceptance, conformity to group needs.

Nietzsche’s corollary and transaction – that solitude is the price paid for integrity – may feel less than compensatory for social death, or imprisonment, or loss of means to make a living.

Statue in Bulgaria

There was a time when group think was conceptualized and applied to real groups of persons, meeting together face-to-face and engaging in purposeful discourse toward a common goal.

That time is past as would be evident from any emerging sociological or psychological look at how social media are changing human behaviors.

Adolescents and teens –

in that critical developmental period of identify formation and desperate task of replacing the protection and social capital of the family of origin with a peer social group – feel threats to group status and standing so acutely that it too often does become about life and death.

More than adults – like the medical professionals compelled, against all lines of relevant evidence for lack of safety and efficacy, by pressure from peers, hospitals, medical boards to prescribe the opioids that generated a lethal epidemic; like American corporate media safely and comfortably in the role of useful idiots to publicize lethal health misinformation for a pat on the head and a career – young people are vulnerable to the desperate need to not be excluded, not be left out. With potentially tragic results.

“We found that advertising, social connections and social norms, particularly via social media, influence people to take up vaping,” said Dr Laranjo, both a medical doctor and PhD.

“This is the case not only for people who want to quit smoking – which is supposed to be the primary goal of electronic cigarettes – but also non-smokers.”

The more fearful a world, the more dangerous, the more that individual gain – for standing, connection, capital, protection, survival of the individual –  replaces the social good, the more scarce goodwill and compassion and tolerance, the more wealth, resources and social capital are monopolized and controlled – the more existentially important to fit in, to go along to get along, to surrender authenticity, integrity and personal control of safety to the overwhelming, unconscious need to belong, gained by compliantly producing the needed, accepted utterances and behaviors that allow group dominants to maintain dominance and that avoid rejection. 

Wittgenstein’s insight that “meaning is use” has never so acutely described as now the overt disconnection of public utterances, statements, words dissociated from the world of shared experience, coherence, and veracity to serve the function of signification of unthinking assent to protect inclusion and safety. Assent for protection is the use of language, its meaning; whether assent to lethal lies, constructed delusions,  absurdities, or truths irrelevant. 

That these forces are overwhelming and driven increasingly by the new sociology of social media seems unquestionable; the measures and symptoms are increasing rates of youth depression, obesity, suicide, and substance use.

The illness is social, psychological, developmental, anthropological; any real cure radical.

Crisis is a necessary condition for a questioning of doxa, but is not in itself a sufficient condition for the production of a critical discourse.”

– Pierre Bourdieu  Outline of a Theory of Practice (1972)

In Bourdieu’s Theory of Practice, heterodoxy is dissent, challenge to what “goes without saying” – the accepted, constructed doxa, “knowledge”, reality, that goes without saying precisely because it “comes without saying”, without real scrutiny, untested, unquestioned. The function of doxa is not knowledge or truth or promotion of the collective good, but to protect and serve the interests of those with the power, the cultural capital, to create it.

Why A Critical Discourse?

Because an uncontrolled epidemic of desperate and deadly use of pain-numbing opioid drugs is just the most visible of America’s lethal crises of drug misuse, suicide, depression, of obesity and sickness, of social illness. Because the matrix of health experts and institutions constructed and identified by mass media as trusted authorities – publicly funded and entrusted to protect public health – instead collude to fabricate false assurances like those that created an opioid crisis, while promising medical cures that never come and can never come, while epidemics worsen. Because the “journalists” responsible for protecting public well-being have failed to fight for truth, traded that duty away for their careers, their abdication and cowardice rewarded daily in corporate news offices, attempts to expose that failure and their fabrications punished.

Open, critical examination, exposure, and deconstruction of their lethal matrix of fabrications is a matter of survival, is cure for mass illness and crisis, demands of us a critical discourse.

Crisis is a necessary condition for a questioning of doxa, but is not in itself a sufficient condition for the production of a critical discourse.

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