The Power of Brainwashing Displayed in North Korea
Amazing as it seems to Americans, there is actual grief, with spontaneous tears flowing for Kim Jong-il, late dictator of North Korea. Absolute tyrannies which create a cult of personality around the leader are capable of brainwashing their populace to such a degree. Stalin, after all, is still recalled nostalgically by some elderly Russians, and his death caused an outpouring of genuine grief, too. With media and social control, mind control can follow, so that people sincerely mourn monsters.
It is a sobering lesson for political realists who live in a media environment aligned with a "god-like" leader seeking additional sway over the fate of the nation.
Kim's father, Kim Il-sung, initially was a Soviet pawn, who went into exile in the USSR before returning to lead part of the resistance against the Japanese. Following WW II, Kim launched an invasion of the South with Soviet and Chinese support, a war that almost succeeded, until General McArthur launched the brilliant Incheon landing behind their lines.
Following the war, confined behind the ceasefire lines just north of Seoul, KIm Il-sung imitated Stalin's totalitarian, paranoid style of governance, kept it, refined it, extended it, and passed it on to his son. Drawing on deeply rooted Korean historical experiences, Kim the elder created the ideology of juche, or self reliance, moving his satellite state into a more independent and distant orbit, essentially a declaration of independence.
The recently deceased Kim Jong-il, raised to inherit power, was if anything more high-handed than his father, and was even more of a voluptuary, indulging in the most expensive Western luxuries such as cognac and expensive automobiles. He enjoyed the favors of a joy brigade of attractive, very young women, of course, for there were no limits at all to his impulses, and certainly no moral system rooted in anything higher than his whims. In order to cement the loyalties of subordinates who ran the security and military apparatus that kept the population under control, Kim passed out lagniappes like booze, cars, and, it is rumored, orgies.
So how could anyone with any shred of humanity mourn such a monster?
Charles Hutzler of the Associated Press provides some insight:
...the mass mourning over the death of dictator Kim Jong Il is being driven by a mix of forces. Loss and fear of an uncertain future -- the same emotions that many feel at the death of a loved one -- become contagious in crowds. Added to that are the perils of crossing a police state.
Totalitarian cults of personality are aimed at creating a sense of dependence on the leader. He is the protector, the "helmsman" (as Mao liked to be called) who takes care of the helpless. To be sure, Obama is no Mao, Kim or Stalin, but to my eyes he attempts to assume a similar role as protector of the helpless, a group with the Occupy Movement now defines as 99%, basically the entire country, minus the parasitical kulaks in the one percent. I find the odor of a personality cult that has been around him ever since he entered the race for the presidency disturbing.
Hutzler emphasizes the pressures toward conformity, both from the police state watching eyes, but also from the human impulse to conform to what others around them are feeling.
It's the bandwagon effect: a powerful urge to belong to a group that impels people to behave in ways they might not ordinarily.
"Mourning, like laughter, is contagious in a social network," said Scott Atran, an American anthropologist who studies the psychology of groups at France's National Center for Scientific Research. Smoking and obesity, among other traits, he said, are often tied to the influence of a person's social mix.
"People usually believe they are slightly exceptional to the norm. But if they want to be part of the group they overexaggerate and go toward the extreme of what they think the norm is," Atran said
In many ways, our own media seek to create a bandwagon effect. With radically decreasing effectiveness. North Korea has no such problems. The internet doesn't exist, and the state carefully orchestrates everything in the media:
[North Korea's] government rigidly defines social norms and portrays the leader as a protective father who keeps the nation safe and is deserving of total obedience in return. The message is inculcated through absolute control over the school curriculum and the media.
"Bad things have happened to North Koreans who refused the cult of personality around Kim Jong Il.
Fortunately, nothing bad happens to Americans who refuse the cult of personality around Obama. We are nothing remotely like a totalitarian state. But we do have political and media factions who have studied and learned from the techniques of mind control practiced in Communist states. When they control a situation, as they do at many universities, political correctness is used to control discourse. And race card is frequently played to demonize critics of Obama, and now Eric Holder.
The big problem they face is that truth is so corrosive, and without absolute social and media control, cynicism can poison the propaganda. That is what happened to the Soviet satellites, and then the USSR itself. North Korea is the unique exception, a hermit kingdom, isolated from the rest of the world and its intoxicating flow of information.
Celebrate (media) diversity!
Thomas Lifson is editor and publisher of American Thinker.