“This evidence suggests we are uncovering the most serious, coordinated, and large-scale violation of First Amendment free speech rights by the federal government’s executive branch in US history.”
One aspect of dictatorships that citizens of democratic nations often find puzzling is how the population can be convinced to support such dystopian policies. How do they get people to run those concentration camps? How do they find people to take food from starving villagers? How can they get so many people to support policies that, to any outsider, are so needlessly destructive, cruel, and dumb?
The answer lies in forced preference falsification. When those who speak up in principled opposition to a dictator’s policies are punished and forced into silence, those with similar opinions are forced into silence as well, or even forced to pretend they support policies in which they do not actually believe.
Emboldened by this facade of unanimity, supporters of the regime’s policies, or even those who did not previously have strong opinions, become convinced that the regime’s policies are just and good—regardless of what those policies actually are—and that those critical of them are even more deserving of punishment.
One of history’s great masters of forced preference falsification was Chairman Mao Zedong. As László Ladány recalled, Mao’s decades-long campaign to remold the people of China in his own image began as soon as he took power after the Chinese Civil War.
By the fall of 1951, 80 percent of all Chinese had had to take part in mass accusation meetings, or to watch organized lynchings and public executions. These grim liturgies followed set patterns that once more were reminiscent of gangland practices: during these proceedings, rhetorical questions were addressed to the crowd, which, in turn, had to roar its approval in unison—the purpose of the exercise being to ensure collective participation in the murder of innocent victims; the latter were selected not on the basis of what they had done, but of who they were, or sometimes for no better reason than the need to meet the quota of capital executions which had been arbitrarily set beforehand by the Party authorities. From that time on, every two or three years, a new “campaign” would be launched, with its usual accompaniment of mass accusations, “struggle meetings,” self-accusations, and public executions… Remolding the minds, “brainwashing” as it is usually called, is a chief instrument of Chinese communism, and the technique goes as far back as the early consolidation of Mao’s rule in Yan’an.