Why Modern Authorities are (Generally) Dishonest Manipulators

[This will not be news to most Orthosphere readers, but we need clear statements of basic principles to educate the young.]

Not all authorities are dishonest manipulators, of course, but the higher their rank, the more dishonest and manipulative they tend to be. And this is not just an unfortunate fluke. In the modern world authorities have to be manipulators. They have no real authority but they must somehow establish and maintain order, so manipulation is usually their only recourse.

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A bit of history: Until modern times (roughly, before the end of World War I), most people made most of their important decisions based largely on tradition and authority. “Tradition” means the ways of thinking and living they inherited from their ancestors, and “authority” means the teachings and the commands of people such as lords, kings, pastors and teachers. Tradition and the authorities were recognized as having the right to answer the important questions of life and to tell us, in broad terms, how we ought to live.

But now, thanks to the successful liberal takeover of the West, tradition and authority are greatly diminished.  The liberal jihad fights, in large part, under the banner of personal freedom, and in the modern world we are all supposed to be autonomous, self-actualizing freedmen who accept no authority not freely chosen and who are liberated from the tyranny of tradition.

Since everyone believes this, our leaders have no choice but to accept this way of thinking. But in order to function as authorities they have to do something to influence our behavior. Society will collapse if everyone literally does his own thing, but tradition and authority count for nothing. So the only recourse for those charged with maintaining social cohesiveness is manipulation. Liberalism tore down authority and tradition in the name of freedom, only to usher in an age of dishonest manipulation.

[It’s true that there remains residues of tradition and authority. My thesis is a generalization.]

Manipulation has two basic components: making people feel good through flattery and personal charisma, and threatening enemies and potential dissenters in way that is subtle enough not to arouse widespread resistance but clear enough to intimidate most potential troublemakers. Under the rules of liberalism the true exercise of authority and the appeal to tradition are not allowed, so our leaders have no choice but to manipulate.

Leaders, of course, have always resorted to manipulation from time to time. But nowadays they have no other way to exercise leadership. Every high-ranking leader is, in a manner of speaking, a prime minister whose coalition is always in danger of collapsing rather than a king who can do the right thing to benefit his subjects, even if it is unpopular, because his position is secure.

There is also the fact that since tradition has been smashed, everything is up for grabs. We are, in effect, creating a new way of life, and the potential rewards for those who combine unscrupulousness with charisma are almost limitless. We are creating new fashions, new arts, new religion, new lifestyles. A bold entrepreneur—whether it be of the market or of the spirit—can make a mint, if only he can get you to buy (metaphorically or literally) his product.  As if that weren’t enough, he can also earn the glory of having instituted an influential New Thing. The potential rewards are vast, for the skillful manipulator.

*

We see this in the church, too. In the old days, the pastor was the keeper of the traditions of his denomination, and his authority to declare true doctrine and the traditions of the denomination would generally be respected by his parishioners.

No more. Most prominent pastors these days are theological and religious entrepreneurs who must constantly be refining, marketing and defending their religious product if they are to keep parishioners in their seats. Instead of delivering the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3), the modern pastor generally seeks to tailor his message to the desires and perceived needs of local unbelievers so as to attract a good-sized paying audience. [While at the same time keeping up the appearance of fidelity to traditional doctrine so as not to offend genuine believers.] This is why the most prominent pastors tend to be the biggest hucksters. And although I’m Protestant and therefore don’t have my finger on the pulse of American Catholicism, my knowledge of human nature and the spirit of the times leads me to be fairly certain that a similar malady affects the Church of Rome. Given modern conditions, even the Pope cannot afford to exercise real authority, at least not if he wants to remain popular.

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How should we react to all this? For one thing, this shows that authority—real authority—is needed. Authority, the possession by some of right to be believed and / or obeyed, is necessary for man to live well. And if it’s necessary, then it’s a real good. It really exists, and is good. It is not, as the liberals would have us believe, just the residue of an ancient plot by dead white males.

So, young reader, if you sense that most of our leaders seem to be hypocritical, manipulative poseurs, that’s because, generally speaking, they are. (At least when they’re wearing their leadership hats.) And that’s because the current liberal system, favored by many of your peers, demands it. Under the liberal system of freedom, equality, tolerance and multiculturalism, just about every high-ranking leader has to be a phony-baloney. Therefore our only hope is for people to refuse to agree with the liberal system of the world.

*

Those leaders who are not manipulators are generally those who see themselves as part of the old system, such as pastors and priests of conservative religions, teachers who see themselves as passing on an old tradition of learning, or old-school athletic coaches. These people don’t need your approval, so they can afford to tell you the truth, and this is an important clue about how the world ought to operate. If the human race is to live well, we need real authorities.

And this means that the freedom of the individual, the equality of all groups, and unlimited tolerance are not the proper ideals of mankind. To be able to face an often-hostile reality, mankind needs authorities who have the authority to establish order, punish wrongdoers, and reward the virtuous. But this is impossible given modern conditions.

*

Notice that most people accept the status quo, not just in the sense that they accept that it exists and will not change any time soon, but they also believe that the status quo is good. John Q. Public thinks that the leaders of society know what they’re doing when they set up and participate in a system that requires dishonest manipulation as the fundamental method of leadership. But to accept this system is to believe that reality is fundamentally unjust and absurd, an acceptance that leads an individual either to profound demoralization or to profound corruption.

[There is, of course, a third alternative, one probably taken by the majority: opportunistic indifference. Many people are content to go through life maximizing their personal benefits without worrying about the Big Picture. I assume that if you’re reading an essay such as this, you’re not such a person.]

Since the social system will not change any time soon, the best we can do is to refuse to give the modern situation our loyalty. And those of us who occupy low-level positions of authority (husband, teacher, coach, …) should strive to act like real leaders whenever there is no irresistible outside force compelling us not to. It’s what the human race needs.

7 thoughts on “Why Modern Authorities are (Generally) Dishonest Manipulators

  1. Pingback: Why Modern Authorities are (Generally) Dishonest Manipulators | Neoreactive

  2. Pingback: Why Modern Authorities are (Generally) Dishonest Manipulators | Reaction Times

  3. Some particular advice to go with the practical discussion: Stop reading newspapers and stop participating in the audience for mainstream broadcast media. Turn to samizdat, which is available largely through the Internet, at sites such as The Orthosphere. All real news finds its way to samizdat eventually; and there is little real news in the so-called newspapers, especially the ones that claim to be “of note.” Breaking with “the news” is a healthy gesture, among other reasons, in that it weans the subject from the eagerness for useless information and emotion-manipulating pseudo-facts.

    Another spiritual strategy (I am perfectly serious): Read no fiction published after 1950. Everyone can make his short-lost of exceptions, but it must be a very short list. (Obviously Thorne Smith and Aldous Huxley are in the clear. So is George Orwell. Do not let Martin Amis or Michel Houellebecque crowd the short-list.)

    Read systematically in the Greek and Roman Classics, especially Homer, Plato, the tragedians, and Vergil. After that, read three or four of the medieval French Arthurian romances, and the same number of Icelandic Sagas. Read the English-language classics: Beowulf, Chaucer, Shakespeare, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Herman Melville, Henry James, Ambrose Bierce. and Edgar Rice Burroughs.

    Cultivate ironic detachment, after Socrates and Kierkegaard. If anyone unknown or suspect to you should ask, are you an ironist, smile, shrug your shoulders, and admit only ignorance. A good fillip is to hold your hands in your lap, palms up, while reporting that you “have no idea.” Always keep your facts straight.

  4. I agree in general; I have a TV set for Netflix movies only, and I haven’t read a newspaper in twenty-five years or so. Most of the movies I watch are at least thirty years old. I’m wondering about Cormac McCarthy’s work. His novels seem quite significant, if hardly “traditional”.

  5. Very much in agreement with the sentiment expressed here regarding authorities. I go back to my Four Laws Theory that man since civilization has been governed by the four principle authorities of himself, his state, his God, and his father.

    God has been diminished as an authority through secularism
    The father has been diminished as an authority through feminism

    Now only autonomy and heteronomy do battle, but it is increasingly just a shadow play. People will have autonomy where the corrupt state does not care to wield it, they may kill the next generation in the womb for example, and yet the boundless expanse of laws present in Western countries is indicative of the growing stranglehold on those liberties that have long since fallen out of focus for the common man.

    The heteronomic authority of the Modern liberal state, a state I have often argued is intrinsically illegitimate, wields power no king in history has EVER possessed. The laws governing man are out of balance, and whored out to those with no claim on such authorities.

    Bertonneau offers very sound advice.

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