Flowers From the Garden of Evil: Everyone's Guide to the Elements of Authoritarian Dogma
a book by Aengus Song
(our site's book review)
The Amazon blurb reads: Fascism; Socialism; Collectivism; Theocracy: What do these words really mean? Is there actually any difference between “right-wing” and “left-wing” forms of authoritarianism, or between religious and secular forms? Until now, answering such questions could require years of study; but with the release of Aengus Song’s Flowers From the Garden of Evil: Everyone's Guide to the Elements of Authoritarian Dogma, the fundamental philosophic logic that underlies and is common to all forms of authoritarian ideology is made plain. Students of this survey will not fall prey to the idea that one type of authoritarianism is less dangerous than another, or be blind to destructive ideas when they are promulgated in the form of religion. Armed with the ability to recognize dangerous ideas no matter how they are represented, readers will be able to defend themselves against these ideas, and so defend their culture.
Flowers From the Garden of Evil
Flowers From the Garden of Evil: Everyone's Guide to the Elements of Authoritarian Dogma identifies and pulls the masks off of authoritarian ideologies, philosophies and religions and shows what they really are: devious instruments invented by the few in power to prevent the many from realizing their true freedom and limitless potential. The book sets us free to determine our own "fates", once we recognize these cynical attempts to manipulate us for what they are: oppression. And there are many, some of which we might have never recognized as such, and which all have one thing in common: the presentation of "alternative realities" as the real truth, that can only be obtained through submission and the repudiation of our beings and our freedom to an authoritarian leader, or organization, or ideology, or even all of these.
There is only one reality in this universe—alternative realities can only exist in alternate universes
NOTE: "'Alternative facts' is a phrase used by U.S. Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway during a Meet the Press interview on January 22, 2017, in which she defended White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's false statement about the attendance numbers of Donald Trump's inauguration as President of the United States. When pressed during the interview with Chuck Todd to explain why Spicer 'utter[ed] a provable falsehood,' Conway stated that Spicer was giving 'alternative facts.' Todd responded, 'Look, alternative facts are not facts. They're falsehoods.'" (Source: Alternative facts) So alternative facts are not facts in this universe, but may be facts in an alternate universe.
As Aengus Song himself said on Socialized Education and the Ascendancy of Socialism: Guest Post, "Many today are worried that the liberal West is drifting further and further away from the Enlightenment ideals that historically have distinguished free societies from authoritarian societies. Under contemporary Western governments, people are granted wider personal liberties—such as sexual and intoxicatory liberties (the freedom to indulge in the use of drugs). But their core economic and intellectual liberties—their right to use their wealth as they wish and their freedoms of expression—seem increasingly at risk. Compulsory social welfare programs, such as the Affordable Care Act, nibble away at citizens’ financial prerogatives, while the political correctness culture on campuses threatens to burn through the firewall of the First Amendment. Like monsters in some Hollywood horror movie, the forces assailing the ramparts of liberty seem relentless and somehow irresistible. What is the origin of these forces, many wonder, and why do they seem so potent?"
Like monsters in some Hollywood horror movie, the forces assailing the ramparts of liberty seem relentless and somehow irresistible
In Flowers From the Garden of Evil: Everyone's Guide to the Elements of Authoritarian Dogma, Song tells us that when a free society finds itself assailed by cultural and political monsters it should look first into the lairs of monstrous ideas, monstrous intellectuals, and monstrous intellectual institutions for the source of the forces that threaten it. It is unnatural to be enslaved by ideas and beliefs. They should free us. For an example of ideas that empower freedom, see MC ideas and an MC novel: The Forest Through The Trees.
It is unnatural to be enslaved by ideas and beliefs. They should free us—but often do not
The problem, of course, is that when most people hit on new ideas, the first thoughts that occur to them are usually not about how they can employ them to free and empower others, but to gain wealth and power—or at least status—for themselves. And sometimes they get insanely greedy even if it means killing democracy: Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right
Here a greedy oligarch buries democracy simply to make even more profits
Example: A harmless Christian philosophy professed by a good fellow 2100 years ago, and who wanted it to free us, was turned into a power source exploited by corrupt popes and priests and the next thing we knew there were Inquisitions and the Crusades, both of which were the turning of something harmless into a reason to kill, rob, invade, torture, and exploit—the very opposite of freeing and empowering and loving Jesus preached. The Church found a way to use all this as an opportunity to acquire wealth and power, leaving thousands of dead corpses in its wake.
The ladder of class mobility has been rigged—the nonrich now have no way to work hard and climb that ladder because the oligarchs want all the wealth for themselves
Another Example: In the U.S., capitalism and democracy was envisioned as a way to free us to follow the American Dream, but sleazy, greedy, corrupt oligarchs saw it as a way to get rich at our expense. In the superb, brilliant Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power, the smartest guy around, Noam Chomsky, gives us a coherent narrative of the corruption of our American socio-economic-political systems. In addition to being a requiem, the book (and film) is also a post mortem, containing descriptions of the strategies and tactics that have transformed the United States of America into an oligarchy. (I.e., democracy is dead [post mortem] so we offer a fond remembrance [requiem]—long live the oligarchs. NOT! See Democracy—an American Delusion.)
While older people value democracy highly, younger people that never experienced WWII do not—1 in 6 in the U.S. wouldn't mind authoritarian rule! (by a demagogue?)
The 99% were tired of being screwed by the elite 1%, and electing Trump was the 99%er's way of saying screw you to the elite 1%. The question is: will Trump merely create chaos and instability with his impulsiveness (yes) or will he make positive changes for the 99% (no)?
As we mentioned in Good News and Bad News, the reason the world is in such poor shape and countries are at one another's throats is—as Song says—because of so much irrational faith placed in authoritarianism. This has led to people being unable to think for themselves, democracies failing or at minimum being corrupted by oligarchies and/or corporatocracies, inadequate parenting and relationship failures, win-lose mindsets that have trouble cooperating, and inadequate or warped character development, to name but a few. It has led to exploitation of the many by the few, whether in dictatorships, corrupt kleptocracies, tyrannical communist rule, religious nationalism, military control, or pseudo-democracies whose real power rests with their oligarchies and corporatocracies, not with the people (like in true democracies, which are supposed to be “by the people and for the people”). The best example of such a corrupted democracy is, we're sad to say, the United States of America. The result of all this authoritarianism is that human rights and freedoms are compromised, parenting is subpar, abuse is common, character formation goes awry, and the symptoms of dysfunctionality are everywhere.
Karl Marx—like with religion, ideas that professed to be to empower people were used to enslave or kill people or at least exploit people
Song describes how the secularized re-imagining of ancient theocratic dogmas eventually emerged in secular authoritarian political doctrines like Marxism and fascism. Organized religion or crappy political doctrine, either way it is merely an excuse for those in power to exploit the have-nots and the gullible. He looks at how these ideas get mercilessly propagated by CIA-filtered mainstream media and in government-monitored schools teaching government propaganda.
Organized religion or crappy political doctrine, either way it is merely an excuse for those in power to exploit the have-nots and the gullible, so we get a huge income gap between rich and nonrich
The author asks, rhetorically: "Why would our freedoms be eroding if our opinions are being shaped in our as yet still relatively free society’s schools? Perhaps it is because these schools themselves are subverting the opinions upon which free societies are based. Critics of modern Western academic culture have more and more remarked upon the increasing leftward ideological list of our colleges and universities, with some observers noting an inclination distinctly more ominous: an open hostility to the ideas and institutions upon which free societies are established."
Why would our freedoms be eroding if our opinions are being shaped in our as yet still relatively free society’s schools? Perhaps it is because these schools themselves are subverting the opinions upon which free societies are based
Example: a conservative speaker, Charles Murray, was physically assaulted by students as he exited a liberal ivy-league college auditorium where he was heckled and not allowed to speak unharrassed. The students had absolutely no idea what the word democracy meant, nor the rule that speakers must be allowed their First Amendment rights to express their ideas and students should wait until he's done to offer criticisms or ask questions. These same students had been spoon-fed a toxic mix of political correctness nonsense that included the idea that all whites (especially European-decended males) had victimized nonwhites for centuries and are still full of victimizing habits so nonwhites were examining every word and expression of white professors and students for microexpressions and oppressive words which they would be called on by interrupting classes and/or reporting them to the administration. Many great teachers were either fired or quit in disgust as this oppressive PC onslaught was not conducive to either teaching or learning—it merely made nonwhites feel better as they angrily confronted teachers for imagined sleights. All ideas of respect were absent—these white teachers were, after all, the oppressors, the victimizers, and the enemy. Refighting the Civil War of 1861-1865 and the civil rights conflicts of the 1960s and 1970s in the classrooms seemed like a good idea to racist blacks that hated whites, but the mystery here is why college administrators put up with such crap. We too disagree with some of the stuff Murray says, but we would never think that gave us the right to mistreat him in any way. Free speech shouldn’t just be free for those who agree with you, or what does our Constitution even mean? When respect is ousted from the classroom, learning soon follows.
Free speech shouldn’t just be free for those who agree with you, or what does our Constitution even mean?
Another Example: "Shouts. Interruptions. Orchestrated chanting. The predictable convulsions of the contemporary university when a conservative comes to town. This time it was U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, speaking to students, faculty, and others gathered at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government last Thursday night. She joined former FBI director James Comey and current attorney general Jeff Sessions as the third cabinet-level official in the span of a week whose visit to a college campus was met with protests, caterwauling, and the now-rote charges of 'white supremacism.'" (Source: Betsy DeVos vs. the Mindless Mob at Harvard, Frederick M. Hess & Grant Addison)
Song says that "Over the last century, and particularly in the last few decades, these educators’ professional malfeasance [belief that the principles upon which free societies are grounded are a danger to their "privileges" so they undermine them] has severely eroded the intellectual supports of freedom and inspired a public demand for authoritarian—for socialist—solutions to every public and private problem. If this process continues, and it will if nothing is done, then we will surely soon arrive in 'an authoritarian future.'" And who better than Trump and the likes of the Kochs to ensure our early arrival? See also the excellent, thoughtful article The Fallacy of ‘White Privilege’ wherein we learn why the Left has become the only real enemy the black has in America today.
Who better than Trump and the likes of the Kochs to ensure our early arrival to an authoritarian future?
Song purports to show us, in Flowers From the Garden of Evil: Everyone's Guide to the Elements of Authoritarian Dogma, how to spot evil ideas and philosophies that always come disguised as good ideas and philosophies that are for "the good of mankind." We are free to determine our own "fate", once we recognize the attempts to manipulate us—or get us to adopt their ideas—for what they are. In addition to not being swayed by Greeks bearing gifts (that may turn out to be Trojan Horses), beware of demgogues bearing pat answers. E.g., Trump will make America great again, or the Jews are what's wrecking Germany so let us kill them. Song's well-researched book examines what in our psyches lets us buy into being led by authoritarian personality types.
Trojan Horse—beware of Greeks bearing gifts (that may turn out to be Trojan Horses), and beware of demgogues bearing pat answers (make America great again)
Erich Fromm said "the individual’s goal must be to become his own authority; i.e. to have a consciousness in moral issues, conviction in questions of intellect, and fidelity in emotional matters. However, the individual can only have such an inner authority if he has matured enough to understand the world with reason and love. The development of these characteristics is the basis for one’s own authority and therefore the basis for political democracy. . . . what defines the essence of the authoritarian personality is an inability to rely on one’s self, to be independent, or to put it in other words: to endure freedom. The opposite of the authoritarian character is the mature person: a person who does not need to cling to others because he actively embraces and grasps the world, the people, and the things around him." (As depicted in Abraham Maslow's brilliant Toward a Psychology of Being.)
"What The Authoritarian Personality (a classic 1950 study of authoritarianism by Theodor W. Adorno) underscores in 2017 is why political 'gaslighting'—a variety of truth-blurring techniques designed to confuse voters and control citizens—came to be favored by strongmen and authoritarians alike: It augments their power when trust is widely perceived as faulty and missing, especially when there is polarization. . . . it is in ordinary Americans, finally, that Adorno's study finds its antidote—in robust and widespread willingness to reject authoritarianism, to replace it with the arduous, sometimes precarious, always labor-intensive effort at maintaining and restoring a democracy." (Source: Authoritarianism in America “The Authoritarian Personality” in 2017, when gaslighting is political, Christopher Lane Ph.D., Psychology Today)
U.S. citizens approving of authoritarian rule nearly tripled from 6.7% in 1995 to 16.7% in 2015; are our schools failing that badly at supporting democratic principles and values?
Adorno's book was circa 1950—just after the U.S. defeated European and Japanese tyranny. In 2017, few people are around who remember what was at stake in WWII. Many people in the U.S. are simply too uneducated and ignorant to appreciate democratic principles and values. They're a perfect political base for a narcissistic demagogue—or even a tyrant. It isn't as though the basics of democracy go untaught in civics and history classes. It's just that students today are too busy texting each other in class to pay any attention to what seems like boring school stuff. And many of them voted for Trump because they believed the fake news lies about Hillary. Do the math.
Donald Trump is 'gaslighting' all of us, and Frida Ghitis's CNN article, explores how Trump, exactly like the strongmen he admires (Putin, Hitler, etc.), gaslights the public with nonsense like alternative facts, denying lies, and labeling everything not aligned with him as fake news. This has been a favorite technique of demagogues, narcissists, strongmen, and tyrants for over a century. Apparently it is a favorite technique of reality show stars as well. Gaslighting has always been a common feature of dictatorships, but Trump is the first to pull such crap in the U.S. See Fake News: How Propaganda Influenced the 2016 Election, A Historical Comparison to 1930's Germany, and Fake News in Real Context.
Fox News has been assisting Trump's gaslighting since the beginning, as if they worked for him as P.R. experts. In Trumpspeak, they're the only network not spewing fake news
Trump gaslights the public with nonsense like alternative facts, denying lies, and labeling everything not aligned with him as fake news
As Christopher Lane says, we are (in Trump's U.S.) on the exact same terrain as in the classic dystopia 1984, Orwell’s scathing critique of authoritarianism, where facts, opinions, conspiracies, and fabrications are all interchangeable. Big Brother IS watching you, in 1984, learning all your secrets, and he is not feeling very brotherly. If only this didn't also describe 2017! But, alas, it fits us to a T. We can't blame Trump—the Orange Oligarch—for this; Bush and Obama helped implement all this surveillance, aided by Facebook and Google. See Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama's Washington.
Big Brother IS watching you, learning all your secrets, and he is not feeling very brotherly! We can't blame Trump for this; Bush and Obama helped implement all this surveillance, aided by Facebook and Google
"The rise of American authoritarianism is transforming the Republican Party and the dynamics of national politics, with profound consequences likely to extend well beyond this election. . . . [research] has come to develop the contours of a grand theory of authoritarianism, culminating quite recently, in 2005, with Stenner's seminal The Authoritarian Dynamic — just in time for that theory to seemingly come true, more rapidly and in greater force than any of them had imagined, in the personage of one Donald Trump and his norm-shattering rise. . . . Authoritarians are a real constituency that exists independently of Trump and will persist as a force in American politics [indefinitely]" (Source: The rise of American authoritarianism, Amanda Taub ,Vox)
Since it turned out that authoritarians were the highest in the fear factor, afraid of the dangers posed by outsiders like immigrants and Muslims or social changes like same-sex marriages and tolerance for transsexuals, perhaps this somehow fits together with their parenting attitudes, it was theorized. It turns out they had classically authoritarian parenting ideas and values. This fits together with the type of people who would punish children, who would hear fundamentalist hell and damnation ideas at their local church, who were likely brought up authoritarian, who learned to fear their parents and/or their punishments, and who'd developed into more fearful people than average citizens.
It turns out that research has shown that kids of authoritarians grow up as obedient but fearful people, comparatively. They are not emotionally secure and they are fearful enough that they are prone to reach out for people to protect them, to save them. Strongmen narcissistic demagogues gain power by exploiting these emotional deficits in the vulnerable. Both kids of authoritarians and the authoritarians themselves are afraid of social change (having no tolerance for gays and trans and gay marriages), immigrants, outsiders, Muslims, and guess what Trump promised he'd save them from? He became a proxy strong father to them, unconsciously, once he made these claims, and these authoritarians overlooked Trump's sexist, misogynistic, boarish, predatory, lying, boasting, narcissistic nature for the same reasons they looked the other way at such deficits in one or both parents during childhood. It is basic psychology: if you need someone badly enough, you overlook whatever you need to in maintaining your close emotional bond with them.
In Discipline That Works, Dr. Thomas Gordon competently tackles the following issues: discipline, logical vs. natural consequences, punishments and rewards, self-discipline, the hazards of authority and autocratic parenting, excess controlling of children, revenge or how overcontrolled kids strike back, overcontrol and crime, overcontrol and health, ways to change kids’ behavior without controlling, problem ownership, P.E.T. applied to families and classrooms, conflict resolution, I-statements, active listening, and democratic parenting. The author helps us see how democratic parenting is the method that science, research, studies, and everyday experiences of democratically oriented parents have validated for several decades. He lets us see why the kids of authoritarians are fearful, angry, punitive, vengeful, hostile people eager to elect authoritarians to protect them from the scary outsiders, terrorists, homosexuals, trans people, immigrants and Muslims or social changes in general. These people are experiencing Future Shock and things are changing at a scary pace, a trend which they will elect an authoritarian leader to attempt to change. They want to regress and Trump is the most regressive leader in U.S. history. Of course, there are problems with fearful authoritarians adopting regressive policies that reverse human evolution as an intelligent species:
There are problems with fearful authoritarians adopting regressive policies that reverse human evolution as an intelligent species—as you can see
The big picture question that arises when studying the state of vulnerable, fearful, needful authority seeking we know as authoritarianism, is how this cycle of permanent, gullible dependence and immaturity can be prevented in the first place or at least halted midcycle. These people did not choose this malady—it was conditioned in via the various aspects of authoritarian parenting. It got passed on from their parents and their parent's parents, etc. The most likely way the cycle will get broken for a person is via therapy or trading his social environment for one full of understanding, compassionate, mature people willing to help him find himself (MC). Help him find—not the scared child hiding as a false self in an adult body which he has become, but the real self feeling lost and unnoticed inside this person, a self that will only emerge from where it is locked away if wise and caring people reach out to him. Escaping from any kind of authoritarian dogma and the people purveying it is uncomfortable and scary to an authoritarian, but it is doable and very worth the effort. See From The Empty Nest—A Traditional Conservative Male Tells All and The Forest Through The Trees and Authoritative and Democratic Parenting Programs.