Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Fascism Is Simple

I had never heard of The Third Wave until yesterday when someone tweeted this link.
The Third Wave was an experiment to demonstrate that even democratic societies are not immune to the appeal of fascism. It was undertaken by history teacher Ron Jones with sophomore high school students attending his "Contemporary World" history class as part of a study of Nazi Germany. The experiment took place at Cubberley High School in Palo Alto, California, during the first week of April 1967. Jones, unable to explain to his students how the German population could claim ignorance of the extermination of the Jewish people, decided to show them instead. Jones started a movement called "The Third Wave" and told his students that the movement aimed to eliminate democracy.The idea that democracy emphasizes individuality was considered as a drawback of democracy, and Jones emphasized this main point of the movement in its motto: "Strength through discipline, strength through community, strength through action, strength through pride".

Ron Jones is quite a guy.

Here is a detailed account of the experiment, dated 1991, with comments from students who participated. It's chilling. (bold mine)
Although Jones says he would never repeat the Third Wave, he insists it could easily happen today, anywhere in the United States, for a variety of reasons.

"Fascism is always a possibility because it's so simple and people are frustrated. They lose their jobs, their dignity, their sense of worth, and someone comes along and says, "I've got the answer."

School systems prepare the ground, Jones says by using only standardized tests for success and failing to recognize alternative paths of learning, as well as a wider variety of individual achievements.

Educational institutions weed out troublemakers and those who are difficult to teach, he contends, rewarding placid students who want to succeed at any cost and will accept authority.

"That's the sad thing. Teachers can trigger it by telling students they're special, they're part of a community, that they can do special things. All they have to give is their loyalty," Jones concludes. "It happens every day in school, only the paraphernalia isn't there. Kids aren't learning to ask questions. You create a population where freedom's just a spelling word."

At the time the story caught the attention of Philip Zimbardo who a few years later conducted the (in)famous Stanford prison experiment.

Yeah, yeah, I'm just a paranoid pinko lefty trapped in a classroom city and country totally controlled by thugs and bullies.

(There's also a film and a TV movie.)

h/t sick jew


Rob F said...

There's also the authoritarian personality. People with such a personality are more likely to be ethnocentric, sexist, homophobic, hypocritical, and self-righteous. They are more likely to excessively punish people and get pleasure out of doing so. They are more dogmatic, more likely to be fundamentalist and followers of religious dogma, and have exaggerated concerns about sexuality.

Anonymous said...

"trapped in a classroom city and country totally controlled by thugs and bullies."

All these experiments were conducted in the US.
Aren't you in Canada? What gives? USA != Canada.

double nickel said...

You've described Stephen Harper to a T.

fern hill said...

Anonymous: Yes, I am in Canada. Your point? Or have you been asleep for the past five years?

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