In my experimental high school I took a psychology class where my wonderfully countercultural teacher spent a lot of time focusing on conformity and obedience studies. That class is one of the formative cornerstones of my life. It’s where I first learned the importance of questioning authority.
In that class, I was taught about the Milgram obedience study where people were told to give ever-increasing electric shocks to a person getting answers wrong on a memory test. The “learner” was in on the test, deliberately getting answers wrong, to determine whether the “teacher” would keep giving stronger and stronger shocks to a “learner” who cried out in pain, screamed to be released, and eventually stopped responding altogether.
Many of the “teachers” showed distress, but almost two-thirds of them administered the maximum level of electric shock on the board, just because the experimenter in the white coat was perceived to be an authority figure who had to be obeyed. This blew my mind.
I was also taught about the Asch conformity tests where people were asked to say which line was longer out of three lines where one line was definitely the longest.
But everyone in the room was instructed to give the wrong answer except for the one person who was the actual subject of the test.
Astonishingly, three-quarters of test subjects were willing to go along with the wrong answer at least once, rather than stand out as nonconformist.
This mystified me. Why would anyone disregard the evidence of their own eyes? Even if I partially understood why someone might do this in real life, to keep a job or avoid social ridicule, why would you do it in the context of a psychological test?
From that same teacher, I also learned about the Stanford Prison Experiment, where students randomly assigned to the roles of prisoner and guard exhibited the exaggerated sadism and subservience of those roles within a matter of hours. Even though they knew it was only an experiment, the majority of the kind-hearted guards did not stand up to the power-mad ones, and the majority of the prisoners went along with cruel physical and psychological mistreatment instead of just walking out or asking to leave the experiment.
The 2015 movie about the Stanford Prison Experiment is difficult to watch, even knowing some of it has been fictionalized. But there are videos from the actual experiment available on line that are also quite chilling.
That brings us to today, and a Washington Post article where Trump voters and others were asked to look at the now famous photos comparing DJT’s inauguration crowd with Obama’s record-breaking 2009 inaugural.
The first part of the test asked people which photo went with which inauguration. 40% of DJT voters thought the one with more people was the DJT inauguration, as did 20% of the non-voters. Well, that is just a triumph of GOPropaganda. They believe all kinds of crazy crap.
But the more mind-blowing result was when folks were simply asked which photo has more people in it.
While not as drastic as the Asch conformity test result, fifteen percent of the DJT voters were willing to say that the photo on the left has more people.
Because they knew which photo was which and they could not bear to admit they were wrong about whether DJT’s inauguration was better attended than Obama’s!
I leave it up to each of you to determine what that says about the power of propaganda and conformity pressure among Rcons, hateradio listeners, and Fakes News watchers.
We keep hoping that if we do good things for those voters they will eventually come to see the Democratic party in a better light and let go of the stereotypes and demonization they have been force fed.
But now we know there is a subset of them who would rather ignore the evidence of their own senses than admit the Ds are right about anything.
However, there is a silver lining in the Asch conformity test results that does not often get reported.
When a second person was included in the group who was instructed to give the right answer, test subject conformity with the wrong answer went way down.
Even though the subject was still in the minority, even though the majority of people in the group were still giving the wrong answer, having just one other person give the correct answer was enough to drop the conformity rate of test subjects to five percent!
This is why, this is why we fight.
This is why we march. This is why we protest. This is why we retweet the Colbert jokes, this is why we forward the Andy Borowitz columns, this is why we repost the John Oliver videos, this is why we wear the black star or the blue omega or the pink hat or the upside down US flag.
We want to show each other that we are not alone. We want to be publicly identified as people who know what is right, in the hope that our example will inspire someone else to join us.
Standing alone is hard. Some small percentage of people can do it, but human nature being what it is, it is so much easier to stand up and speak out when we see that we are not alone.
And when just one person joins the first, that is the beginning of a snowball effect.
Rcon demagogues and propagandists have successfully used variations of this to draw people into false beliefs. We can use the same tactic in service to the truth.
The best way to make a movement, if you really care, is to courageously follow and show others how to follow. When you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first person to stand up and join in.
Each person reading this has the ability to be a stand-alone leader under the right circumstances.
But if you can’t be the leader, be the first follower.
And if you can’t be the first follower, be the second follower who creates three’s a crowd.
And if you can’t be the first or second follower, be among the early adopters who create momentum.
Eventually it gets to the point where people standing on the sidelines don’t want to be left out and want to be part of what is happening.
If the presence of just one person standing with you is enough to strengthen your resolve to do what your mind tells you is right, then consider what the presence of millions standing with you can do.
Millions stand with us, in this country and all over the world. This is not a moment, it’s a movement.
Always remember, we outnumber them.
Previous TRUE BLUE REPORT diaries
Jan 24: #ResistTrumpTuesday—good news day or another paying dues day?
Jan 23: Spy the Lie 101: How to enjoy watching Rcon spokesbot interviews, even KAC!
Jan 22: Why I prayed for the President* today
Jan 21: The only silver lining in the midst of these clouds
Inaugural (!) diary: Stop expecting Republicons to make sense