Wednesday, August 30, 2006
The Hive Mind
Utah is "the most culturally communistic society I'm aware of in the English-speaking world," commented Michael Humiston, a brilliant family rights attorney who lives in Heber City.
That's a remarkable assessment coming from a politically conservative man who was born and raised in Utah as an active Mormon (albeit one who -- last time I saw him, at least -- wore his straight, waist-length hair in a ponytail).
During the mid-1980s, Humiston studied abroad behind the Iron Curtain as part of a student exchange program. Upon returning to Utah, he noticed some uncanny similarities between the collectivist societies of eastern Europe and the most Republican state in the Union.
"From practically the time they're old enough to speak, most Utahns are taught reflexive deference to constituted authority, and to seek the security of collective
action rather than the necessity of independent thinking," Humiston told me during an interview in Milwaukee for a cover story I wrote several years ago. "They are indoctrinated in the belief that obedience is the first law of heaven, and that dutiful obedience sanctifies actions that would otherwise be morally unacceptable. These attitudes and inclinations are all very widespread in some eastern societies, and of course they're the foundation of most Communist regimes. But it's somewhat unusual to find them in cultures growing out of the Anglo-Saxon tradition, and Utah is the worst case I can think of."
Humiston's speciality is defending parents targeted by the Child "Protection" bureacracy, and the collectivist traits he describes have caused him no small amount of frustration. Many of his clients "simply find it impossible to believe that people exercising authority would actually mean to do them harm, especially when those officials belong to The Church." (In Utah, only when referring to one church are people expected to use a definite article.)
Utah's variant of collectivism has been displayed to good advantage in recent days.
Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson is both a liberal Democrat and an ex-Mormon, which means that in the eyes of most Utahns he is a twice-damned infidel. Anderson, to his considerable credit, organized a protest rally today in anticipation of tomorrow's arrival of the Wee Decider to emit a batch of lies about the Iraq war in an address to the national convention of the American Legion.
Rocky's rally was deprived of its marquee attraction, Cindy Sheehan, who was recently hospitalized and couldn't attend. The prospect of Sheehan visiting Salt Lake to confront the Bushling was too much for Utah Republicans to abide.
Accordingly, a few days ago the Utah Republican Party urged its members "to call Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and tell him they disapprove of his scheduled participation Wednesday in an anti-war rally preceding a visit by President Bush," reported the Deseret Morning News. "The party put out radio ads Monday asking people to call Anderson and `tell him to stop embarrassing Utah.' The mayor's office had received 183 calls by late afternoon.
The purpose of this campaign, explained Jeff Hartley, Mullah of the Utah Republican Party, was to impress on Anderson the fact that his opposition to Bush "doesn't represent the majority of Utahns' opinions" -- and therefore, presumably, he should simply shut up.
It's the will of the Collective, the consensus within the Hive Mind.
Hartley and the Utah GOP also paid for radio advertisements denouncing Cindy Sheehan's supposedly "anti-American" views, and condemning her for trying "to convince you that America should retreat."
If we're advancing toward the abyss, then retreat is the only rational option. And given that the Iraq war, the offspring of deliberate deception, is making our country less secure, retreat is a patriotic imperative.
But even listening to such views, much less considering them on their merits, is anathema to people suckled on the truism, "When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done."
To reinforce this message, the Deseret Morning News -- the journalistic organ of the Mormon Church -- gave prominent space on Monday to a guest op-ed written by war widow Collete Gourley entitled "Rocky is on the side of terrorists."
"I am ashamed to have Rocky Anderson representing this great city," wrote Mrs. Gourley. "He is a waste of space and energy. To think that he is protesting my husband's commander in chief makes me extremely irritated. I wholeheartedly agree with [the parents of Utah war casualty] Cpl. Adam Galvez's ... when they said that he [Mayor Anderson] is partly responsible for the deaths of our soldiers. As far as I'm concerned, it's either black or white — there is no gray area here. You are either in support of our military troops, or you are on the terrorists' side. I think Rocky has made it clear what side he is on."
While duly recognizing the loss suffered by Mrs. Goulette and her family, I must confess to some amazement that she directs her rage at someone who laments the death of her husband in an unnecessary war, rather than at the lying president who sent her husband abroad to die. And the language she employs stops just short of a literal fatwa against Anderson, whom she describes as useless at best and treasonous at worst, and directly implicated in the death of our soldiers.
In a house editorial last week, the Deseret News (whose editor, John Hughes -- no, not that John Hughes -- is a former undersecretary general of the United Nations and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations)came as close as it comfortably could to a literal recitation of the "when our leaders speak, the thinking has been done" formula.
"Regardless of whether the United States was justified in invading Iraq," opined the paper, "the military [must] stay there until the region is stabilized." Bush's critics "can argue ad nauseam that the president started this war under false pretenses," continues the paper, this is "wrong" and "irrelevant," even though it is
true that Saddam Hussein did not possess weapons of mass destruction.... In any event, the nation can't turn back the clock and undo the war...."
Truth is "irrelevant," facts are "irrelevant," moral misgivings about a disastrous war are "irrelevant"; all that matters is obedience uber alles.
Thus decrees the voice of the Collective, speaking the will of the Hive Mind.
What will happen if, as the paper urges, we "Stay the course in Iraq"?
Some pregnant hints were provided in the following day's Deseret News house editorial, bearing the tin-eared headline "Military Recruiting Challenging."
"Never before has warfare been so complex," began the piece, written in the artlessly coy style of a singles bar Lothario trying to coax a prospective conquest down a very predictable path. "Never before, in a volunteer Armed Services, has the Army lowered the recruitment bar so low — all in the name of meeting recruiting goals in the face of a grueling war and a healthy job market at home."
After reviewing th increasingly dismal and desperate condition of current volunteer recruitment efforts, the editorial reached its inevitable destination:
"Can, in this economy, the military maintain its recruiting goals? More important, will Congress be forced into reinstituting a draft? Something's got to give to ensure the military can continue to entice the best and brightest to serve this country in an increasingly challenging season of warfare."
Of course, the most obvious and necessary "thing" that should "give" would be the demands of constant foreign wars, which would immediately solve the problems described in the editorial. But suggesting as much -- nay, even allowing such a thought the luxury of the most transient appearance in the theater of one's mind -- would be to question the leader. Such things simply aren't done in Utah.
Thus speaks the Collective, the voice of the Hive Mind.
Utah is a somewhat special case. None of the other affiliates of the United State (to use the very appropriate term coined by the insightful folks over at The Last Ditch) displays such a near-identity between an authoritarian church and the ruling political party. Mormons are bound by covenant to "sustain" their prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, the recipient of a Presidential Medal of Freedom from Bush and a public supporter of Bush's wars.
So as far as most Mormon Republicans are concerned, Iraq is, quite literally, a holy war, its divine imprimatur nullifying any constitutional, moral, or legal objections.
The leaders have spoken. The thinking has been done.
But it shouldn't be thought that this heresy is confined to Mormon-dominated Utah. Variations on the same theme are taught at Mega-churches from California to Florida, and on the Sunday before the fifth anniversary of 9-11, pulpits across the land will resound with sermons enjoining the same docile, dutiful obedience to the Dear Leader, preparing young Christians for their future role as sacrificial offerings on the altar of the Warfare State.
Thus speaks the Collective, the voice of the Hive Mind.
But we must remember that resistance isn't futile.
at 4:45 PM