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.


dixiedog said...

Not surprisingly, it's yet another telltale sign of either the folks' total moral ambivalence or an irrational love affair with the leadership principle (f├╝hrerprinzip) manifested currently in the form of George Bush. Since they are mutually inclusive traits, probably both.

I mean when the media, in this case the Deseret Morning News, can overtly state and confess to, without much tongue in cheek in the process, the deceptions that were used to get us into this war while simultaneously implying, "So what?!", it signifies more to me of the collective commoners' state of mind and, in essence, moral decay than anything spectacularly unexpected within the leader(s) or media maven(s) who happen to be tossing this bilge out.

Unfortunately, the moral of this entire piece that I gather is that when the commoner cannot discern what's right, wise, prudent he naturally defers to the leader, or "the expert" to make that determination for him/her. It's how con artists have made their way through life since antiquity, whether the con artists in question were auto mechanics, politicians, whatever doesn't matter. When their respective target is ignorant of the moral, legal, mechanical, scientific subject, those cons are deemed "the experts" and the target allows them to make the "right, wise, prudent" decision for the target.

It's a sad state of affairs, eh, Will?

William N. Grigg said...

Dr. Roberts, the persistence of statism among Mormons is nearly as puzzling to me as the cognate attitude among Jews.

Brother Dixiedog, are you familiar with Mussolini's statement, "mankind has grown tired of liberty"? The European populations Il Duce was referring to at the time had been left battered, impoverished, and demoralized by what may be the most unjustified and destructive of which we have record, and they were ready simply to give up.

Contemporary Americans have no such excuse, yet we're behaving much the same way. THAT's what terrifies me. Imagine how much worse things will become if -- rather, when -- the consumer economy collapses and we catch the blow-back provoked by Busholini's wars of aggression....

Arne, I appreciate your detailed and thoughtful comments, and I'll reply to them in a separate post.

William N. Grigg said...

Arne, delighted as I am that you retain your independence of mind, you have probably had the same experiences I have in trying to encourage LDS friends and family to look critically at the Iraq war. For too many of them, the mental portcullis slammed shut when President Hinckley pronounced his benediction -- hedged, equivocal, and allusive as it was -- on the war. Nothing more need be said.

This morning a good friend in Utah referred me to a thread on "Zion's Camp" -- an online discussion board for LDS Patriot activists -- that contains more than a few museum-quality specimens of the cultivated deference to leaders I described in my post.

Here's one:

"Why did our prophet tell the Saints in conference that we as Americans stand solidly behind our President in this war on terror against al-queda and its operations and the war in Iraq was just an outgrowth and continuation of this war on terrorism? The prophet said that he had prayed and pondered much concerning his remarks to the Saints. If the prophet felt that this war on terrorism had extended into Iraq and that we as Americans needed to support our President on this decision to go into Iraq and eliminate Hussein and fight the terrorist factions there then that is good enough for me.

When the prophet speaks in conference concerning a principle then the debate ends for me. I know that this has caused many who disagree with the decision to go into Iraq a lot of consternation but I have had to accept that the prophet understands this issue and feels in his heart that we need to unite with the President in the decision made to go in.... I guess if President Hinckley has an opinion that he expresses in conference to the Saints I tend to weigh that opinion very strongly before I decide that my opinions are more valid....I hear LDS patriots all the time say that President Hinckley was wrong in this and that He just missed the boat in his support for President Bush because they believe that the President is the real Gadianton that needs to be ferreted out. I am not at a sufficient spiritual level yet to second guess the prophet and label him uninformed on these issues so I will just stay in the safe zone and go with Him on these conflicts."

Seek the safety of the Collective by deferring to the leader: This is the Hive Mind par excellence.
And it's the preponderant mindset among conservative Mormons of my acquaintance, tragically.

dixiedog said...

Contemporary Americans have no such excuse, yet we're behaving much the same way. THAT's what terrifies me. Imagine how much worse things will become if -- rather, when -- the consumer economy collapses and we catch the blow-back provoked by Busholini's wars of aggression.... [emphasis mine]

That's because in the words of Francis Bacon, "Prosperity doth best discover vice; but adversity doth best discover virtue."

Naturally, I don't know precisely what Mussolini himself had in mind by that statement of "mankind's growing tired of liberty," but you seem to be linking it to adversity, which I don't believe was true at all. They had already lost the virtue during their years of prosperity relative to the rest of the world, even America pre-WWI. And their arrogance in that era was legion. Still, the prosperity they enjoyed in that era was nothing like the level of prosperity and extreme extravagance Americans have enjoyed uninterrupted for decades since WWII with absolutely no temperance to speak of. That formula is absolutely toxic if/when tribulation comes as it inevitably will.

Though the Europeans were "battered, impoverished, and demoralized" after WWII especially, and to some degree after WWI, they had been prosperous and even pomp for many years prior to WWI erupting, and not battered, impoverished, and demoralized in the slightest. Civilian men and women were exuberantly marching alongside the troops on the streets of Berlin "on their first mile to Paris" in 1914, lauding WAR and having a lovefest over what the commoners of the respective nations at the time thought would surely be an easy victory! IOW, the virtue had already largely disappeared by the time the Great War began and, of course, by the time it ended what virtue there had been prior to the war had virtually disappeared altogether. It was only after WWII that the European populations were in such a condition you describe.

For America, on the other hand, it will indeed be MUCH worse because in addition to livin' large in a faux and arrogant sense of prosperity in recent years, but after WWII a real prosperity that trumped every nation in the world precisely and only because we weren't battered, demoralized, and impoverished! We've experienced no adversity on even a picoscale (sic) of what Europeans experienced in the first half of the 20th century.

Had we collectively as a nation experienced extreme adversities at various times since WWII, it would of served to help us rediscover virtue and/or retain what we already possessed. And, at the very least, mitigate, temper or even subdue the reaction a collapse of the economy would no doubt induce. But, this country has never experienced any meaningful adversity! Americans are absolutely clueless and have no conception whatsoever of what it's like having our cities bombed continually day after day (London), firebombed (Dresden), dealing with real foreign occupiers (all major combatants, except the United States, naturally), being nuked (in the case of Japan), or the "Rape of New York City" (in the case of Nanking in China from 1937-45), etc., etc.

As the old adage goes, the more at ease, comfortable, and arrogant they are, the harder will be the fall.

America isn't above and beyond it all. So it will be with America when that fateful day arrives, Will.

William N. Grigg said...

Arne, Gordon B. Hinckley's public remarks about the "War on Terror," including the Iraq campaign, have been masterpieces of Clintonian dissimulation -- an expression I use to describe a tactic, not necessarily the moral character of the man employing it.

He has eschewed clear, declarative language on the issue -- whatever happened to letting one's "yea" be "yea," and his "nay" be "nay"? -- preferring instead to express his support obliquely. This way it is both unmistakable now, and conveniently deniable later.

It's interesting to contrast Hinckley's evasiveness with the late John Paul II's clear, cogent, and compelling opposition to the Iraq war. His was no uncertain trumpet. (I offer this assessment as someone who is neither Catholic nor ever shall be.)

Following the ceremony in which he was awarded the presidential medal, Pres. Hinckley made a point of distancing himself from John Paul II's position. As reported by the June 24, 2004 Deseret News: "When reporters told him that Pope John Paul II had said he was troubled by the Iraqi war when he received his [presidential] medal, President Hinckley said, `Well, he may be troubled by the war in Iraq, but he cannot discount the bravery of the men and women who at the behest of the commander in chief are there in the cause of freedom.'"

That's the voice of a politician, not a prophet. Hinckley got in touch with his inner Sean Hannity, spitting out a slurry of pre-digested soundbites, stiff-arming a man of peace while sucking up to a powerful warmonger.

Besides, saying that Bush's war has anything to do with freedom is an objective lie.

True, it would have been impolite for Hinckley to criticize the murderer who had just draped a bauble around his neck, but then again the prophets described in the Bible didn't place much stock in good manners when there were terrible truths to be told.

That helps explain why Elijah wasn't singled out for honors from Ahab and Jezebel, for example. Prophets didn't do that sort of thing, back when there were prophets (Hebrews 1:1-2).

Emily said...

Enjoyed your article. Personally, I am a Mormon and not a supporter of the war or war in general. I do not feel that my church itself supports war either though many of its members do. Our doctrine asks us only to obey and sustain the laws of the land but I certainly understand what you mean about Utah being a breeding ground for groupthink which is why I have such misgivings about moving there again, which I will probably do this summer.

Anonymous said...


Your opinons on Mormons and Mormonism should be couched with the statement that you are indeed an exmo malcontent. You have the spirit of Judas about you and I have lived to see you leave the church as well as split the John Birch Society down theological lines. Your bitterness has led my father, a lifetime member of the JBS who worked as a coordinator in Idaho before you could pronounce the hallowed name of Robert Welch, to part ways and start working with other groups. You are correct that many LDS folks are severely misinformed when it comes to politics, including some of its leaders. Your assertion about hive mentality is no more than a stereotype furthered by those who condescendingly put themselves out as a voice of reason. You are one of those. The only thing uglier than your egotism is your bile that you spew at us.

Lest you claim that I don't know you, I will let you know that I sat through some of your Sunday School and Priesthood lessons in a mostly newlywed ward in Orem. They were some of the most interesting and enlightening lessons I had ever partaken of. That is why I know that you were once endowed with a teaching spirit and you have turned from it like a Pharisee for the praise of men. You are Judas. You wanted the Church to come out in some sort of militaristic fashion to defend your political stances just as Judas wanted from the Savior. It wasn't his function then and it isn't the Churches function now to comment politically. You know this but have turned away. Make sure you have those 30 pieces of silver with you when you when you die. I'm sure the Savior will be proud of them when you lay them at his feet.

You are an amazing intellect and well read to be sure, but you have sold your birthright for a mess of pottage. I am not asking you return to the church (even though it will always accept you) I am asking you to leave it alone. Not for me, not for the church, but for your own embitteed soul.

Contact me anytime you would like to gnash your teeth on something.

Eric A. Thomas
Lehi, Utah

Anonymous said...

It isn't Will's duty to leave the Mormon world religion alone; it's his biblical mandate to refute its heretical doctrines (Titus 1:9) and to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to us long ago (Jude 3) of which Hades' gates shall NOT overpower (Matthew 16:18).
Institute of Biblical Defense
Seattle, WA