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In Denial of Democracy:

Social Psychological Implications for Public Discourse on State Crimes Against Democracy Post-9/11

  • Laurie A. Manwell University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada,
American Behavioral Scientist 2010; 53; 848
DOI: 10.1177/0002764209353279


Protecting democracy requires that the general public be educated on how people can be manipulated by government and media into forfeiting their civil liberties and duties. This article reviews research on cognitive constructs that can prevent people from processing information that challenges preexisting assumptions about government, dissent, and public discourse in democratic societies. Terror management theory and system justification theory are used to explain how preexisting beliefs can interfere with people’s examination of evidence for state crimes against democracy (SCADs), specifically in relation to the events of September 11, 2001, and the war on terror in Afghanistan and Iraq. Reform strategies are proposed to motivate citizens toward increased social responsibility in a post-9/11 culture of propagandized fear, imperialism, and war.

I got the conch! . . . I don’t agree with this here fear. Of course there isn’t nothing to be afraid of in the forest. Why—I been there myself! You’ll be talking about ghosts and such things next. We know what goes on and if there’s something wrong, there’s someone to put it right. . . . You don’t really mean that we got to be frightened all the time of nothing? . . . . Unless . . . unless we get frightened of people.
William Golding (1954), Lord of the Flies (pp. 89-90)

Nearly everyone in our transport [to Auschwitz] lived under the illusion that he would be reprieved, that everything would yet be well. We did not realize the meaning behind the scene that was to follow. . . . Again, our illusion of reprieve found confirmation. The SS men seemed almost charming. Soon we found out their reason. They were nice to us as long as they saw watches on our wrists and could persuade us in well-meaning tones to hand them over.
Viktor E. Frankl (1939/1963), Man’s Search for Meaning (pp. 16-20)

See Also

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