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In Denial of Democracy-Social Psychological Implications for Public Discourse on State Crimes Against Democracy Post-9-11

In Denial of Democracy-Social Psychological Implications for Public Discourse on State Crimes Against Democracy Post-9-11

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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.
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.

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: Etienne De La Boetie on Sep 15, 2011
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http://abs.sagepub.com
American Behavioral Scientist
DOI: 10.1177/00027642093532792010; 53; 848
American Behavioral Scientist 
Laurie A. Manwell
Discourse on State Crimes Against Democracy Post-9/11In Denial of Democracy: Social Psychological Implications for Public
http://abs.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/53/6/848
 
The online version of this article can be found at:
 
Published by:
http://www.sagepublications.com
 
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American Behavioral Scientist 
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 at Auraria Library on March 4, 2010http://abs.sagepub.comDownloaded from 
 
American Behavioral Scientist53(6) 848 –884© 2010 SAGE PublicationsReprints and permission: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.navDOI: 10.1177/0002764209353279http://abs.sagepub.com
In Denial of Democracy:
 
Social PsychologicalImplications for PublicDiscourse on State CrimesAgainst Democracy Post-9/11
Laurie A. Manwell
1
Abstract
Protecting democracy requires that the general public be educated on how peoplecan be manipulated by government and media into forfeiting their civil liberties andduties. This article reviews research on cognitive constructs that can prevent peoplefrom processing information that challenges preexisting assumptions about government,dissent, and public discourse in democratic societies. Terror management theory andsystem justification theory are used to explain how preexisting beliefs can interfere withpeople’s examination of evidence for state crimes against democracy (SCADs), specificallyin relation to the events of September 11, 2001, and the war on terror in Afghanistanand Iraq. Reform strategies are proposed to motivate citizens toward increased socialresponsibility in a post-9/11 culture of propagandized fear, imperialism, and war.
Keywords
state crimes against democracy; terror management; system justification; government;media
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 ghostsand such things next. We know what goes on and if there’s something wrong, there’ssomeone to put it right. . . . You don’t really mean that we got to be frightened all thetime of nothing? . . . . Unless . . . unless we get frightened of people.William Golding (1954),
 Lord of the Flies
(pp. 89-90)
1
University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada
Corresponding Author:
Laurie A. Manwell, Neuroscience and Applied Cognitive Sciences, Department of Psychology,College of Social and Applied Human Sciences, University of Guelph, 50 Stone Road East,Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1, CanadaEmail: lmanwell@uoguelph.ca
 at Auraria Library on March 4, 2010http://abs.sagepub.comDownloaded from 
 
 Manwell
849
 Nearly everyone in our transport [to Auschwitz] lived under the illusion thathe would be reprieved, that everything would yet be well. We did not realize themeaning behind the scene that was to follow. . . . Again, our illusion of reprievefound confirmation. The SS men seemed almost charming. Soon we found outtheir reason. They were nice to us as long as they saw watches on our wrists andcould persuade us in well-meaning tones to hand them over.Viktor E. Frankl (1939/1963),
 Man’s Search for Meaning 
(pp. 16-20)Around the same time Golding (1954) composed his moral tale of the disintegrationof an immature society—with Piggy naively decrying the power of fear to overridereasoned debate in democratic governance—a landmark symposium by leading politi-cal scientists in
 American Political Science Review
(Griffith, Plamenatz, & Pennock,1956) reported agreement that the psychological attitudes necessary to sustain ademocracy—individual liberty, equality, and responsible participation—must beinternalized by its citizens for that democracy to survive. Documenting changes inattitudes toward democratic values across 50 years, researchers have called for greater public education on matters requiring political tolerance. That the freedoms bestowed by Western democracies have been under attack since September 11, 2001, is obvious, but the dynamics underlying this threat are not so obvious. Piggy prophesied the crisisnow upon us: The right to dissent with the majority opinion, and the necessity to havethis dissenting discourse within the public sphere, must be protected. This article dis-cusses the role that individual and collective attitudes play in public discourse anddissent regarding the current state of democracy in the post-911 world. Preservingdemocracy requires exposing illusions of external threat that can prevent citizens andleaders from addressing more concrete internal threats to continued self-governance.The use of repression and terror, including threats of censorship, suppression of infor-mation, imprisonment, and torture, by leaders to subjugate political opponents anddissidents is not exclusive to authoritarian states—such tactics can also be employed by leaders of democratic states: a fact that can be difficult for people to acknowledge,especially if it is not congruent with their belief system (Altemeyer, 1996).
1
Indeed, assome have argued, “In a sense, government repression is the inverse of terrorism”(Baumeister, 1997, p. 112). For example, the most recent Human Rights Watch WorldReport, repudiating many leaders and governments worldwide as “despots masquer-ading as democrats,” reveals how leaders use rhetoric, fear mongering, and suppressionof a free press to undermine the rule of law: charges relevant to the current state of democracy in North America (Roth, 2008):Today, democracy has become the sine qua non of legitimacy. Few governmentswant to be seen as undemocratic. . . . Determined not to let mere facts stand inthe way, these rulers have mastered the art of democratic rhetoric that bears littlerelationship to their practice of governing. . . . The challenge they face is toappear to embrace democratic principles while avoiding any risk of succumbing
at Auraria Library on March 4, 2010http://abs.sagepub.comDownloaded from 

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