Silence gives consent
0 comment Friday, October 31, 2014 |
In a recent comment, Glenn W provided a link to this online discussion from a few years ago. The subject was something called 'The Preference Cascade.' Just as Glenn W said, it seems to be an interesting idea or theory.
The discussion thread at the above link devolves, unfortunately, into a discussion of the possibility of 'democratizing' the Islamic world, and for the record, of course I disagree that we can 'democratize' any alien country or 'modernize' them; people and nations are not blank slates. In any case, that's tangential to this discussion.
Because the original link which provoked the forum post is no longer good, I can't view the article in question, but a search on the term 'preference cascade' led to a wiki about Timur Kuran, who seems to have been the originator of the idea.
''Professor Kuran has written extensively on the evolution of preferences and institutions, with contributions to the study of hidden preferences, the unpredictability of social revolutions, the dynamics of ethnic conflict, perceptions of discrimination, and the evolution of morality. His best known theoretical work is Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification (Harvard University Press), which deals with the repercussions of being dishonest about what one knows and wants.
Preference Falsification
In articulating preferences, individuals frequently tailor their choices to what appears socially acceptable. In other words, they convey preferences that differ from what they genuinely want. Kuran calls the resulting misrepresentation "preference falsification." In his 1995 book, Private Truths, Public Lies, he argues that the phenomenon is ubiquitous and that it has huge social and political consequences. These consequences all hinge on interdependencies between individual decisions as to what preference to convey publicly. A person who hides his discontent about a fashion, policy, or political regime makes it harder for others to express discontent.
One socially significant consequence of preference falsification is thus widespread public support for social options that would be rejected decisively in a vote taken by secret ballot. Privately unpopular policies may be retained indefinitely as people reproduce conformist social pressures through individual acts of preference falsification.
In falsifying preferences, people hide the knowledge on which it rests. In the process, they distort, corrupt, and impoverish the knowledge in the public domain. They make it harder for others to become informed about the drawbacks of existing arrangements and the merits of their alternatives. Another consequence of preference falsification is thus widespread ignorance about the advantages of change. Over long periods, preference falsification can dampen a community�s capacity to want change by bringing about intellectual narrowness and ossification.
The first of these consequences is driven by people�s need for social approval, the second by their reliance on each other for information.
Kuran has applied these observations to a range of contexts. He has used the theory developed in Private Truths, Public Lies to explain why major political revolutions catch us by surprise, how ethnic tensions can feed on themselves, why India�s caste system has been a powerful social force for millennia, and why minor risks sometimes generate mass hysteria.''
The theory is applied to the fall of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe, which is the subject that immediately comes to mind in examining this theory. In a blog post of mine a few years ago, I wrote about the example of the sudden and largely non-violent fall of the Eastern European regimes back in the 90s. Few of us then had any clue that those regimes were so precarious; few predicted how precipitately they would crumble. The Wikipedia article continues:
''Unanticipated Revolutions
The fall of East European communism in 1989 came as a massive surprise. Iran�s Islamic Revolution of 1978-79 stunned the CIA, the KGB, the Shah of Iran that it toppled, and even the Ayatollah Khomeini, whom it catapulted to power. The Russian Revolution of 1917 stunned Lenin, the deposed Romanovs, and foreign diplomats stationed in St. Petersburg. No one foresaw the French Revolution of 1789, not even the rioters who brought it about. In each of these cases, a massive shift in political power occurred when long-submerged sentiments burst to the surface, with public opposition to the incumbent regime feeding on itself. Preference falsification explains why the incumbent regime appeared stable almost until the eve of its collapse. People ready to oppose it publicly kept their opposition private until a coincidence of factors gave them the motivation and the courage to bring their discontents out in the open. In switching sides, they encouraged other hidden opponents to join the opposition themselves. Through the resulting bandwagon process, fear changed sides. No longer did opponents of the old regime feel that they would be punished for being sincere; genuine supporters of the old regime started falsifying their preferences, pretending that the turn of events met their approval.''
The theory is discussed later in the article in the context of inter-ethnic conflict, but lest we think Kuran is a pro-nationalist, it appears he thinks that ethnic division is a 'false preference'. And lest we have any doubt about his politics, it appears he and none other than Cass Sunstein have, together, developed a theory about 'availability cascades'.
"Availability cascade" is a concept that Timur Kuran developed jointly with Cass Sunstein, initially through a 1999 article entitled "Availability Cascades and Risk Regulation." An availability cascade is a process of collective belief formation whereby an expressed perception triggers reactions that make that perception seem increasingly plausible through its rising availability in public discourse. The driving mechanism ordinarily involves a combination of informational and reputational motives. Individuals endorse the perception partly because they base their own beliefs on the apparent beliefs of others. The other motivation is social acceptance, which individuals achieve through preference falsification.
Kuran and Sunstein observe that availability entrepreneurs � activists who aim to control the content of public discourse � engineer availability cascades to further their own agendas. Their availability campaigns may do great harm. Many popular scares about innocuous products and insignificant dangers have been driven by campaigns that combine the spread of misinformation with the intimidation of doubters. Once public discourse turns in favor of the initiated agenda, fear feeds on itself, as expressed perceptions of danger shape the perceptions of others, and doubters silence themselves. Episodes of mass hysteria have lasting consequences for public policy and the law.''[Emphasis mine.]
I am sure they did not intend this to be applied to the left's way of ''controlling the content of public discourse'', but it's obvious that is what is being done.
But the theory itself can be wielded by our side as well as by the Left, and we have the advantage, as I've said in the past, of human nature on our side. Their way, the Left's way, the globalist/internationalist One Worlders' way, has to go against the grain of human nature, and millennia of tradition.
Regardless of the source of the idea of 'preference cascades', there is obviously much that is true, and above all, useful in it.
I remember the era when things began to drastically change; the leftist revolution that came to a head in the late 60s was in the works for a long time. But it happened gradually enough that it was allowed to succeed, and one day it seemed we woke up in a different world. But here's a question I have: when the older people who were alive in the 60s and 70s suddenly started acquiescing to the new order of things, such as the ''sexual revolution'' and the new racial order, were they just finally dropping all pretence of belief in the old ways, or were they simply adopting a pretence of belief in the new-and-improved America? Did they have any fixed principles or firm beliefs, or are many people simply malleable, willing to go whichever way the wind blows? A few years ago, I wrote that many older Americans of that era were giving mere lip service to the old ways, while in their hearts they were happy to drop the facade of honoring the old morality and the traditional ways.
In a way, this subject ties in with the theme of the 'remnant', to which I've alluded now and then.
Perhaps it is true that the majority, not being given to serious thought or examination of their true beliefs, is simply content to be manipulated, to swim with the current, to go whichever way the tide of fickle public opinion (influenced by propaganda, however) turns. As such these people of no fixed principles are followers, not leaders, and the most we might hope for is that they will not hinder our side, though they will not likely help us either.
Back in 2008 I believed that we could give the current system a push and it might fall of its own weight.
And back in 2007 I wrote that
I simply think the status quo can't continue much longer; the stresses are becoming intolerable, much as the tectonic stresses, like those along a fault line, are building up, and the energy will have to be released somehow; before a seismic event results. ''
I still think that, but I think Kuran's theory is right on this point: every time one of us conceals our true beliefs, every time we hesitate to express our true opinions and feelings about the state of our world, we stifle truth; we aid and abet this false system that has such a stranglehold on us.

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