I have found that when faced with potentially life altering revelations about the world around them, the behavior of people in constructing defense mechanisms to avoid having to examine and possibly alter their own views and lifestyle is absolutely uniform and entirely predictable!

For instance, in the course of a prolonged attempt to make a previously apathetic person aware of the consequences of buying Nike sneakers assembled by eight year olds in sweatshops who have been made an exploitable labor pool by the policies of international bodies, or aware of the implications of driving a gas guzzling climate changing SUV, or aware of their own complicity via non-action in America becoming more of a police state, the reactions from that person will invariably assume the following form and sequence:

1) Finding unspecific fault with the general character of the 'messenger.'
This is the first defense mechanism people employ, and it is probably first because it doesn't require the brain to do any extended analysis of the points and issues being raised, but rather attempts to dismiss them out of hand by positing that they couldn't be valid because of their source. For instance, when objections to America's imperialist adventures in Vietnam were raised a generation ago, this defense mechanism assumed the unsophisticated articulation "Aww, you're one of those pinko pansy spoiled kids who don't know what they're talking about." Lately, although the gut reaction is the same, it has assumed forms couched in more sensitive P.C. language: "Aww, how come everyone who talks about the power and abuses of corporations is some kinda middle class white kid, huh?" or even "People like you just like hearing yourselves talk and don't really understand how the world works yet" (See Thomas Friedman).

Usually this first defense mechanism alone will satisfy only the hard core Authoritarian Personality. Others, when pressed, will have to resort to others.

2) Finding fault with the specific personality of the 'messenger.'
This second defense mechanism is similar to the first but requires a more analysis, forcing the recalcitrant party to actually comprehend the issues being raised enough to find some connection between them and the person articulating them. Example: "You just talk that way about SUVs because you have issues with your father and he drives one." or "You just have a problem with (pick one: a) authority b) people makin' money)."

This defense mechanism satisfies many other people and they are out of the picture.

However, at this point, if it is overcome, the recalcitrant party has admitted to themselves that the 'messenger' has a point. Now they follow one of two paths depending on their level of intelligence and political savvy. Path A is followed by the less political savvy and path B is followed by the more political savvy.

3A) Recognizing a problem but denying out of hand the power to effect anything
They just sort of shut down, sigh, get a bit flustered and say something like "Yep, things are Fucked up. What can ya do?" or "Yep, they're always screwing the little guy." or even "Hey, It's all good." At this point, if the person having followed path A, there really isn't anything the 'messenger' can do, because by following path A the person has indicated that they are not open to any more sophisticated arguments. Discussion over.

However if they follow path B, the next step is ALWAYS:

3B) Citing the failures of the Soviet State to deny that positive progressive change can ever occur in the world.
"Oh so you want to reduce the power of multinational corporations to run the political system, destroy the environment, remake culture into consumption, and enslave the third world? Silly idealist! Don't you know that communism doesn't work??!!" The amount of faulty reasoning here is astounding given that the recalcitrant party is using the failure of totalitarian Stalinism to claim that absolute neoliberal capitalism is the only way to go, and that any possible meddling with it, as the messenger may be suggesting, is folly. As ridiculous as this is, it is the sole current argument of conservative academics, at least those who make it past defense mechanisms 1 and 2. With lay people it assumes a more gentle mantra like "The solution is often worse than the problem, you know" but they have in mind the same thing. They posit that any meaningful attempt to rein in the abuses of corporations or defend the rights of vulnerable populations at home or abroad would result in some sort of totalitarianism. It is ironic that people invoke the specter of totalitarianism while regurgitating the corporate media party line.

If the messenger has gotten past this point, then he or she has created an activist. But its not bloody likely.


Point well taken, Simulacron3.
4) Assuming certain core beliefs they hold are beyond argument.

This is a rather advanced defense mechanism, which normally kicks in when the person is already engaged in an intelligent debate but is not yet prepared to admit defeat and accept their opponent's arguments (note that I do not advocate that every political discussion should be a conflict of egos, but sadly they often are, and when that happens this is a very useful stance to take).

People are prone to take it for granted that their (usually inherited or indoctrinated) ideas of, say, democracy, free market, personal freedom etc. are sacred. They're not. Democracy is a human construct just as much as communism is, and as such it is flawed and often used to do harm. But when attempting to bring up this point in a bid to convince someone that the liberties of entrepeneurs and corporations should be limited and regulated, the response one gets is often of righteous indignation.

If you get this response, you've lost. When people start treating their political ideologies as gospel, you're out of the realm of politics and into evangelism. Give it up and get another pint.

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