In Hans Christian Andersen’s classic children’s tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” we’ve heard a lot about an entire village cheering their naked emperor’s exquisite outfit, which didn’t exist. But how so many people came to yield to an overt lie gets overlooked.
Rereading the story, I found it remarkable how Andersen used fiction to capture something very real in stubborn human nature; something that’s now driving the Democrat Party as we are dumbfounded by how they are so willing to believe things that aren’t true.
How a village became complicit in the biggest lie in the history of fairy tales began with the devilish guile of two swindlers who pretended to be weavers. Knowing that the emperor was intoxicated with the theater of clothing more than governing, the rogue weavers told him that they could weave “the most exquisite stuff imaginable” with “colors and patterns uncommonly beautiful.”
One thing made the clothing more unique than the world had ever seen: It had the “peculiar property of becoming invisible to every person who was unfit for the office he held or who was exceptionally stupid.”
“By wearing them,” said the emperor, “I should be able to discover which of the men in my empire are not fit for their posts. I should distinguish wise men from fools.”
So, after requesting the finest silk of the purest gold – which the swindlers stole – they set up machines where they pretended to weave nothing on two empty looms. One by one, the emperor sent his chamberlains to check on the progress of the clothing. When they did, they saw absolutely nothing on the looms but dared not say it aloud for fear of revealing themselves as “exceptionally stupid” and unfit for office.
Just as the swindlers used the fear of being unfit and stupid as a weapon to steal silk and gold, political swindlers are weaving all sorts of lies, like invisible racial oppression, on the looms of America’s political machinery. They know that racial oppression is not real, but they dare not say it aloud for sheer terror of being labeled a racist.
Willful group conformity is no fairy tale. Andersen’s story tapped into something that psychologists say is primal in human nature.
The late gestalt psychologist Solomon Asch conducted an experiment in the 1950s that’s still being used in psychology circles today. The “Asch Conformity Experiment” demonstrated how quickly people will deny what they see with their own eyes and yield to group pressure.
In Asch’s visual perception test of line length, he drew a simple line which was compared to three other lines. It was blatantly obvious which of the three lines was identical to the target line. Four actors who were privy to the test deliberately chose the wrong line. Asch wanted to see whether an unsuspecting fifth participant would yield under the pressure of the other four even though it was obvious they chose the wrong line. He did. Most did. Why? Two reasons:
- They genuinely believed that the group knew better.
- They wanted to avoid the pain of being social outcasts.
Although this explains the Democrats’ group conformity on a host of wacky issues, it’s clear that something far deeper has been at work since Trump took office; something darker. Today, Democrats are not only willing to conform, but they cling to disproven beliefs even when they know their views inflict harm on the country and innocent people.
“[I]f there’s some collateral damage for some others who do not share our view, well, so be it, but it shouldn’t be our original purpose,” Nancy Pelosi, a chief swindler, once said.
Democrats ruined Brett Kavanaugh’s reputation when it was obvious that he was not a drunk or a serial rapist.
They fomented a coup attempt against Trump, despite the horrific impact on the country, when it was obvious there was never evidence of Russia collusion.
They destroy the lives of people and organizations with accusations of racism when it’s obvious that racial oppression is invisible in today’s America, crowned by the election of our first black president – twice.
They’re willing to commit outright infanticide to protect a woman’s “reproductive rights,” when it’s obvious that a baby and a woman are two separate human beings.
They’re willing to eviscerate the rule of law, even in a bona fide crisis, when it’s obvious there’s a big difference between legal and illegal immigration.
Something dark is happening.
The late social psychologist Stanley Milgram’s work offers a clue. In the 1960s, he took the Asch Conformity Experiment to a deeper level, where group conformity led to the kind of blind obedience that had far more dangerous consequences.
Milgram, a Jew, wanted to account for group behavior that justified the butchery of the Holocaust, one of Earth’s most virulent strains of conformity. He conducted tests to see whether ordinary people would use shock to inflict pain on innocent people at the behest of an authority who urged them to do it for some greater good.
“The ordinary person who shocked the victim did so out of a sense of obligation,” Milgram wrote in 1974. “With numbing regularity, good people were seen to knuckle under to the demands of authority and perform actions that were callous and severe. Men who are in everyday life responsible and decent were seduced by the trappings of authority, by the control of their perceptions, and by the uncritical acceptance of the experimenter’s definition of the situation into performing harsh acts.”
A major factor in crossing the line, according to Milgram, was “belief perseverance” – “maintaining a belief despite new information that firmly contradicts it.”
When that happens, there are two ways to reconcile the contradiction, according to social psychologist Leon Festinger, best known for his studies in cognitive dissonance: By changing his actions, or by selectively collecting information that reinforces the disproven belief.
Democrats, unfortunately, have chosen the latter. They’re pretending to weave nothing on empty political looms, to get and keep power.
At the end of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” the emperor paraded around naked as his chamberlains and all the villagers – determined not to appear unfit or stupid – shouted out how splendid his new clothes looked. Then a little child cried out, “But he has nothing on!”
Only then did the villagers shout, “He has nothing on!” The story ends:
“The emperor was startled by this, for he had a suspicion that they were right. But he thought, ‘I must face this out to the end and go on with the procession.’”
That about explains what we’re seeing.