“Shock events“


A thought via Ken Fletcher courtesy of
Heather Richardson, professor of History at Boston College: please read and consider.

I don’t like to talk about politics on Facebook– political history
is my job, after all, and you are my friends– but there is an important
non-partisan point to make today.

What Bannon is doing, most
dramatically with last night’s ban on immigration from seven
predominantly Muslim countries– is creating what is known as a “shock

Such an event is unexpected and confusing and throws a
society into chaos. People scramble to react to the event, usually along
some fault line that those responsible for the event can widen by
claiming that they alone know how to restore order.

opponents speak out, the authors of the shock event call them enemies.
As society reels and tempers run high, those responsible for the shock
event perform a sleight of hand to achieve their real goal, a goal they
know to be hugely unpopular, but from which everyone has been distracted
as they fight over the initial event. There is no longer concerted
opposition to the real goal; opposition divides along the partisan lines
established by the shock event.

Last night’s Executive Order has
all the hallmarks of a shock event. It was not reviewed by any
governmental agencies or lawyers before it was released, and
counterterrorism experts insist they did not ask for it. People charged
with enforcing it got no instructions about how to do so. Courts
immediately have declared parts of it unconstitutional, but border
police in some airports are refusing to stop enforcing it.

Predictably, chaos has followed and tempers are hot.
My point today is this: unless you are the person setting it up, it is
in no one’s interest to play the shock event game. It is designed
explicitly to divide people who might otherwise come together so they
cannot stand against something its authors think they won’t like.

I don’t know what Bannon is up to– although I have some guesses– but
because I know Bannon’s ideas well, I am positive that there is not a
single person whom I consider a friend on either side of the aisle– and
my friends range pretty widely– who will benefit from whatever it is.

If the shock event strategy works, though, many of you will blame each
other, rather than Bannon, for the fallout. And the country will have
been tricked into accepting their real goal.

But because shock
events destabilize a society, they can also be used positively. We do
not have to respond along old fault lines. We could just as easily
reorganize into a different pattern that threatens the people who
sparked the event.

A successful shock event depends on speed and
chaos because it requires knee-jerk reactions so that people divide
along established lines. This, for example, is how Confederate leaders
railroaded the initial southern states out of the Union.

people realize they are being played, though, they can reach across old
lines and reorganize to challenge the leaders who are pulling the
strings. This was Lincoln’s strategy when he joined together Whigs,
Democrats, Free-Soilers, anti-Nebraska voters, and nativists into the
new Republican Party to stand against the Slave Power.

Five years
before, such a coalition would have been unimaginable. Members of those
groups agreed on very little other than that they wanted all Americans
to have equal economic opportunity. Once they began to work together to
promote a fair economic system, though, they found much common ground.
They ended up rededicating the nation to a “government of the people, by
the people, and for the people.”

Confederate leaders and Lincoln
both knew about the political potential of a shock event. As we are in
the midst of one, it seems worth noting that Lincoln seemed to have the
better idea about how to use it.

Reposted from http://ift.tt/2kSG9BL.

Tags: politics, redacted.

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