If followers are zombies, then arguments are futile, and democracy is a farce!

M. Simon's post about the Obama Zombies book linked my earlier post on the general subject of zombiedom, and Simon offers a personal observation:

...a lot of us tried to warn you but you were so caught up in hope and change that your eyes glazed over whenever we tried talking reason.
Yeah, that is a problem. Perhaps resorting to reason is a waste of time when you're dealing with people whose eyes glaze over. However, I have had arguments with leftists who have accused me of refusing to listen to reason, and I admit, my eyes probably would have glazed over.

However, I think the terms "zombies" and "brainwashed" are a form of political hyperbole which tends to dismiss or minimize the possibility that some (by no means all) people might actually think what they say they think, and have reasons for thinking it. In the process, people are absolved of real responsibility for their thoughts. As someone who believes in accountability, I don't think that's the right approach. And as a practical matter, I find it very annoying when people on the left do the same thing to people on the right. An example was candidate Barack Obama's attempt to portray gun owners as victims of demagoguery:

According to Obama, firearms ownership thus becomes not an individual choice, but something other people have planted in the minds of the "gun-clingers." Their clinging to guns becomes not an individual act, but something demagogic leaders drive people to as part of their exploitation of wedge issues. ("Condescending" is almost too kind a word to use for this ruling class-style denial of the fact that gun owners -- and I am one of them -- actually think what they think.)
I have given a lot of thought to the gun issue, and I would not find it persuasive at all if someone told me I was a "Gun Lobby Zombie," or that I had been "brainwashed by the NRA." Disagree with me if you must, but please, give me fucking credit for thinking what I think.

Now, despite what I just said, I will grant that there are plenty of people who in fact do not think what they purport to think, but are instead parroting the thoughts of others in an unoriginal manner. It is one of my pet peeves, of which I have complained in a number of posts. It's tough to define what it is, but I know it when I see it. People resort to canned slogans (like "there's a right to health care!"), but when you ask them about specifics about rights theory, ("Why would you define a right as a positive obligation on the part of others?") they are unable to explain themselves. It's hard to have a discussion with someone who only "knows" slogans, and such people strike me as having at least been indoctrinated.

But I don't think they're brainwashed in the true sense of the word. They just haven't taken the time to think. Whether calling them zombies is effective, I don't know. (It may be in some cases. But there are other people who might see it as name-calling, and it might only heighten their determination.)

Now, I would agree that those who have been indoctrinated (and whose thoughts are not their own) really don't deserve the same credit as people who actually think what they say they think. But calling someone brainwashed who does in fact think what he thinks is futile, extremely condescending, and it tends to let him off the hook. As if what they think is not their fault, because it's someone else's fault. (And where does such a process lead? Were Hitler's and Stalin's and Mao's willing followers actually victims of their leaders?)

I may be a hopeless individualist, but I think the better overall approach is to have the simple common decency to give people credit for thinking whatever they say they think. And if they are hapless followers, maybe that will cause them to stop being followers.

But this touches on another issue which might be strategically important. I'm not a psychologist, but which of the following is an easier admission for people to make?

"I was wrong!"


"That bad leader brainwashed me!"

(I realize there are excuses I am leaving out, such as the "I voted for Obama to prove I wasn't a racist!" excuse, but at least that's driven by practical self interest. So is "I voted for Obama because I want more entitlement money!" Say what you will about such people, but they're hardly brainwashed.)

posted by Eric on 04.18.10 at 01:02 PM


Seems to me that we all hold beliefs along a spectrum between those we have thought through and those we haven't. Some beliefs we have thought through carefully and thus we "think what we think"--great expression, by the way. Other issues we haven't thought through, but we have some general impressions based on authority, related experiences, and so on. At the far end of the spectrum, we hold some beliefs on little or no evidence, simply because we haven't given the issue any thought. At this end of the spectrum, we tend to spout cliches.

The problem arises when you, who have thought through the issue we're talking about, meet me when I haven't thought it through, or vice versa. "We're all ignorant, only on different subjects," Will Rogers said. In a similar way, we're all shallow thinkers, only on different issues.

This is true, unless you're different from me and have thought through everything you believe, right down to the bedrock. If you have, I'll vote for you for President.

notaclue   ·  April 18, 2010 10:25 PM

The left is always promoting the right to something, and the entitlement of the masses to partake of that right at public expense.
Now some European political parties state a vacation is a right and should be provided by the government.
This is all about power and control, taking from the ones that have, using most of it for administration costs, and giving a little to the many who have been promised something for nothing.
As Obama goes down this same path expect massive increases in some form of taxation, we will all be less prosperous, with less freedom of choice, but more equal in our poverty.

Hugh   ·  April 19, 2010 7:56 AM

,b>"I was wrong!"
"That bad leader brainwashed me!

Now that's an interesting question.

For me, it would be much worse to say the second. I try to be my own bad influence so I don't mind being wrong all that much, it bothers me but I'm right often enough that I don't really think it makes me look stupid

I really hate it when I'm gullible.

I can't understand the mindset, but from watching the reactions of Obama voters like Ann Althouse I bet a lot people would say the first is worse. They'd rather blame their being wrong on someone else apparently.
I keep seeing people say how surprised they are that Obama has changed so much or fooled the, but he only fooled people who wanted to be fooled.
He said far too many contradictory and outright ridiculous things for anybody to have any cover for believing that hope and change meant anything except having an inexperienced, marxist, chicago-machine politician as POTUS.

Veeshir   ·  April 19, 2010 9:45 AM


Who was it that said freedom is a curse? One thing I've been seeing over and over, in government, in the corporate world and in the general populace is the over-riding desire to avoid responsibility and the consequences of decisions freely made.

We've seen this recently with Congress' attempt to route the healthcare bill through a process where none of them would could be held accountable. Congress long ago ceded too much power over to the executive branch and this, I think, is nothing more than their wanting to be free from the consequences of taking action. This is not a comment on the them doing what I think is best.

A friend of mine, who would know about these things as he works in upper middle management at a major company, tells me that their whole organizational structure is arranged so that any one employee, project manager or VP can always pass the buck. Over time, the organization has come to reflect the desire of the majority to avoid responsibility. He tells me this plays havoc when the time comes to make decisions.

The desire to avoid responsibility has infected every level of our society. Someone else is always responsible for our problems. I'm poor because . . . I signed that mortgage contract because I was misled by . . .(how someone could be misled about their own income I don't know).

I recently watched the AIG guys testifying before Congress and in the end they basically shrugged their shoulders and asked to be relieved of their responsibilities through governmental regulations.

Two things:
You can't be free and simultaneously dodge taking responsibility or living with the consequences of your actions.

In the end, some ambitious, power craving megalomaniac will gladly step up and say, "I will take all responsibility and make all your decisions for you, just give me the power necessary, trust me to do what's best and don't ask any questions." And all it will take is for a large enough portion of the population to say yes and the game will be over.

RickC   ·  April 19, 2010 10:23 AM

Who was it that said freedom is a curse? One thing I've been seeing over and over, in government, in the corporate world and in the general populace is the over-riding desire to avoid responsibility and the consequences of decisions freely made.

Yeah, it's everywhere. Nothing is anybody's fault anymore.
It's been fed a lot by suing for anything and everything.
I thought it was laughable when I first heard people would sue cig companies for getting cancer from smoking cancer sticks with warning labels.

We are in a place where far too often people claim rights while refusing the concomitant responsibilities.
It's inherently unstable, it cannot go on forever. Sooner or later you run out of other people's money.

Veeshir   ·  April 19, 2010 9:42 PM

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