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Breaking the Spell: How the Intellectual Class Helps the State Control the Masses
On the role of the intellectual class in reinforcing government dominance.
In reading Murray Rothbard’s “Anatomy of the State,” there is one passage that has stayed with me as I participate in the world of political commentary. The book is chock full of truisms and hard truths about the nature of the State and how it manages to maintain the support – or resigned compliance – of we the people.
One of the most compelling quotes from Rothbard’s work comes when he writes:
For this essential acceptance, the majority must be persuaded by ideology that their government is good, wise and, at least, inevitable, and certainly better than other conceivable alternatives. Promoting this ideology among the people is the vital social task of the “intellectuals.” For the masses of men do not create their own ideas, or indeed think through these ideas independently; they follow passively the ideas adopted and disseminated by the body of intellectuals. The intellectuals are, therefore, the “opinion-molders” in society. And since it is precisely a molding of opinion that the State most desperately needs, the basis for age-old alliance between the State and the intellectuals becomes clear.
Rothbard argued that the State relies on the active promotion of an ideology among the masses, an ideology that portrays the government as good, wise, and inevitable, in order to maintain its authority. The task of maintaining this illusion falls to the intellectuals who shape public opinion.
According to the author, the majority of people do not independently create their own ideas or critically evaluate them. Instead, they passively adopt and follow the ideas disseminated by the intellectuals. These intellectuals, who may include academics, journalists, writers, and other opinion-makers, are the "opinion-molders" in society. They have the power to shape public perception, influence policy decisions, and legitimize the actions of the State. This is the part they play in upholding the statist and authoritarian system under which we are living.
The State, as Rothbard argues, needs the intellectuals to promote an ideology that justifies its existence and actions. This ideology often portrays the State as the only viable solution to societal problems, as a benevolent force that protects the common good, and as a necessary institution for maintaining order and stability. The State relies on the intellectuals to propagate this ideology among the masses, to create a sense of unquestioning acceptance, and to discourage critical thinking and dissent.
But why do intellectuals, who are supposed to be independent thinkers and seekers of truth, align themselves with the State? Rothbard argues that intellectuals have various incentives to support the State. One motivation is the lure of power and privilege. The State has the authority to bestow favors and benefits on those who support its ideology, such as government grants, appointments to influential positions, and access to resources and opportunities.
Intellectuals may also seek to use the power of the State to impose their own vision of society and morality on others, which aligns with their ideological or personal beliefs. Indeed, we see this tendency in various institutions that are controlled by authoritarian influences on the left and right.
Even further, intellectuals often have a sense of superiority and elitism, viewing themselves as the enlightened few who know what is best for the ignorant masses. They may see the State as a means to impose their ideas and values on society, with the belief that they are guiding the unenlightened masses towards a better future, whether they like it or not. In this sense, the intellectuals view themselves as the vanguards of progress, and the State becomes a tool for them to implement their vision of an ideal society.
While the opinion-molders are present in almost all aspects of American society, there are two institutions that I believe has become prime mover of public opinion: The press and academia. Media outlets have long been instrumental in swaying the attitudes and beliefs of the populace. In most cases, they tend to steer the public in the direction favored by the State and the elites who control it.
America’s educational system has also been quite useful to the governing authorities. Ever since compulsory schooling became widely accepted across the country, it has been used to dumb down the populace by indoctrinating them in ways that discourage critical and independent thought. The more I learn about the history of America’s schools, the more I see that not only were they indoctrination centers from the very beginning, they were very much intended to serve this nefarious function.
Rothbard's insights highlight the need for critical thinking and skepticism towards the ideology propagated by the State and its affiliated intellectuals. It is important for individuals to question and evaluate the ideas and beliefs that are disseminated to them, and not blindly accept them as truths.
Unfortunately, this is a tough message to sell to those who have been brainwashed into statism since the very day they were born. Indeed, after going through grades one to 12, our minds are primed to blindly accept the legitimacy of a Statist system to which we never consented. After one is finished with academics, the media takes over and continues the brainwashing.
Over the years that I have been a part of the media and the world of political commentary, I have seen that the intellectual class has done its job so well that people actually believe they came to their opinions through research and critical thinking. They have absolutely no idea that their opinions are actually being given to them by their favorite news anchors and political commentators.
Too many people have not yet realized that they have been fed a healthy diet of talking points for years. They do not know that when they regurgitate these talking points, they are merely reciting a script that was carefully crafted for them.
This terrible reality has affected all of us at one point or another. There is not a single person in the country that has not, at least at some point, been bamboozled into buying the false narratives, viewpoints, and mindsets that have been foisted upon us. Even those claiming to have taken the red pill have only traded one script for another, and have clung fiercely to it even if the face of evidence that disproves their highly cherished beliefs.
Sometimes the situation seems so dire that it makes the State seem all-powerful. However, I have been encouraged by the reality that many have actually woken up to the soft dystopia in which we currently find ourselves. These people understand that hyperpartisan politics is a toxic force intended to keep the populace dumb and divided. They finally come to understand that the true enemy is not Team Red or Blue, but the authoritarian elites who have subjugated us in ways that the most dastardly of totalitarians could even dream of.
It will be impossible to wake up every single soul to this reality. But it will also be unnecessary. We need only to open the eyes of enough people to create a tipping point that will lead to a viable push towards liberty. This is the reality that myself, and others, are fighting to create.
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