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).
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