When I first began writing this manual, I fully expected the answer to this question to be “no”. However, after looking into it, I will have to say the answer is at least “maybe” or “somewhat”. I am quite disturbed by my findings.
Most SJWs do not engage in the full set of tactics that is commonly meant by “brainwashing”. Some definitions of the term include extreme measures such as the use of physical torture, threats of physical harm, sleep deprivation, malnutrition, and the complete isolation and dependency of the target. I am not aware of any Social Justice course that goes that far.
However, some definitions say that physical coercion does not need to be involved; nonphysical coercion and control can meet the requirements for a program to be brainwashing.
Since SJWs typically use an implied (or explicit) threat of labeling people as “bigots” if they do not comply, this qualifies as nonphysical coercion and control. In today’s society, being accused of bigotry can cause such social isolation and shame that many people will do just about anything to avoid this label.
In addition, some SJWs are college professors, who use their positions of authority to coercively impose their beliefs on students by, for example, giving assignments in which students must agree to SJW assumptions in order to get a good grade.
In college, many students are already isolated from their families and their usual support networks, and even this degree of isolation may make them more susceptible to influence.
So, since both coercion and isolation can be involved, along with other tactics that are known to be a part of brainwashing, perhaps some SJWs really are using techniques of brainwashing. I’ll let you be the judge.
Now, what is brainwashing? Let’s take a look at a model of brainwashing from the late 1950s, created by psychologist Robert Jay Lifton, who studied former prisoners of Korean War and Chinese war camps. He delineated a multistep process, beginning with attacks on the prisoner’s sense of self and concluding with an apparent change in beliefs.
Below are Lifton’s 10 steps of a typical brainwashing program, with notes about how a SJ program might be similar:
1. Assault on identity. At this step, the brainwashing victim, or “target”, is told that he is not who he thinks he is. The target’s sense of self is attacked and he is convinced that he is wrong about who he thought he was.
This parallels nicely with the Social Justice program, which starts by convincing people that they are not whole human beings; they are, instead, a sum of their identities. If they are white, then they are not good people who strive to treat people fairly, as they may have believed; instead, they are part of the problem, because they have “privilege”.
The IAT test mentioned above is intentionally used by instructors to convince people they are not who they thought they were; they are bad or wrong. “‘We’ve got the last couple generations growing up flooding into college courses thinking that they’re post-racial, or that they’re post-racist at the very least,’ she [IAT researcher Paluck] said. ‘This is a powerful way to make the point that no, you’re not, and you still come out looking biased in this way. And you shouldn’t trust your instincts — you shouldn’t trust yourself, you shouldn’t trust your belief about yourself that you’re free of racism. And that’s valuable, and that’s why it’s also been wildly successful with instructors, because it does make a very powerful point in classrooms. Then you can extend that to things like diversity trainings.’”
2. Guilt. “You are bad.” In this stage, the target is taught to feel guilt and shame.
This parallels with the Social Justice efforts to get white people to identify with slave owners and white racists from the past, and to feel guilt by association.
Some SJWs will say “oh, no, we aren’t trying to make people feel guilt by association”, but they are arguing over semantics. They know guilt by association does not sound good, so they will jump through all sorts of linguistic hoops to give their program a semblance of respectability.
The fact is, by encouraging white people to identify with their skin color, and coupling this with a reminder of the horrors of slavery and Jim Crow, plus alleging that white people are still benefiting from the system of slavery today—all of this has the net effect of getting white people to associate themselves with slave owners. This is truly devious. A normal person, under these circumstances, will indeed feel guilt or shame, whether or not the feeling is given this name.
3. Self-betrayal. At this step, the target will be coerced to agree that he is bad and wrong, and also to condemn everyone he loves who holds the same beliefs that he has held.
In a Social Justice program, people are often encouraged to view those who have not adopted the Social Justice paradigm as backward and ignorant.
4. Breaking point. The goal for this step is for the target to have a nervous breakdown. “It may involve uncontrollable sobbing, deep depression and general disorientation. The target may have lost his grip on reality and have the feeling of being completely lost and alone. When the target reaches his breaking point, his sense of self is pretty much up for grabs — he has no clear understanding of who he is or what is happening to him.”
This may be an exaggerated description of what most students go through with the Social Justice program. However, we do know that in general, destroying a person’s sense of self is disorienting, if not depressing.
5. Leniency. Now that the target’s sense of identity is broken down, the brainwashing program pivots toward salvation. The agent offers the target some kindness, some positive acknowledgment.
In the Social Justice Program, cooperation with the first steps are rewarded and praised. So even if, for example, a white person is distraught to “discover” that she carries the shame of slaveholders, she will be praised by the SJW for making progress.
Sociology professor Dae Elliott at San Diego University has given students extra credit for filling out a survey to determine how much privilege they have. This “extra credit” is a reward for those who participate within the parameters of the Social Justice paradigm.
6. Compulsion to confess. The target is offered the possibility of confession, as a way of relieving the guilt and pain caused by the initial steps of the program.
A Social Justice program may ask a white person to apologize for historical slavery and racism. This is supposed to facilitate healing. Apologizing for slavery will earn the target more praise and kindness from the SJW leader.
Notice that the white person has been led to accept guilt for things he has not done. This is looking more and more like brainwashing.
In addition, I have noticed that some SJWs tend to go around confessing their privilege. For example, I was having lunch with some friends, one of whom works in academia. I’m not sure what led into this, but all of a sudden she was talking about her white privilege. She said that where she lives, she doesn’t really notice her white identity, but when she goes to a big city where there are a lot of Hispanic people, then she becomes very aware of her whiteness and white privilege. Privilege confessions seem to be making their way out of academia and into ordinary conversations.
7. Channeling of guilt. “The agent attaches the target’s guilt to the belief system the agent is trying to replace. The target comes to believe it is his belief system that is the cause of his shame. The contrast between old and new has been established: The old belief system is associated with psychological (and usually physical) agony; and the new belief system is associated with the possibility of escaping that agony.”
One presumes SJWs are not inducing physical agony. However, racism and slavery can be sources of considerable shame, which can be psychological agony for sure.
In this case, the cause that the SJWs associate with the shame is whiteness itself, along with everything that the SJWs have associated with whiteness (lots of bad qualities and nothing good). So a simple apology may not be sufficient to absolve the shame.
8. Releasing of guilt. “The embattled target is relieved to learn there is an external cause of his wrongness, that it is not he himself that is inescapably bad — this means he can escape his wrongness by escaping the wrong belief system. All he has to do is denounce the people and institutions associated with that belief system, and he won’t be in pain anymore.”
How many young people have come through Social Justice training having rejected American institutions? Just look at all the SJWs who hate America’s founders, traditional Christianity, white people, the free market, national defense, even bedrock principles such as freedom of speech.
It makes sense that SJWs can turn people against America. That is the door they leave open, to gain salvation. “Even though I’m a sinner [i.e. have white privilege], I can redeem myself by rejecting everything that has been built by white people.”
9. Progress and harmony. Here, the target is offered a new belief system, one that is associated with good feelings. He can see himself as a good person again, by adopting this new belief system.
And what is the new belief system that SJW’s offer? For one thing, you will be expected to believe in the SJ model of privilege, and to believe in the victimhood of all those who are not deemed privileged.
In addition, you may be expected to believe in transferring more money and wealth from white people to black people, and to believe in increasing affirmative action.
10. Final confession and rebirth. In this stage, the target renounces the old belief system and chooses the new one, sometimes in a public ceremony.
A person who adopts SJ principles is sometimes referred to as “woke”. The idea here is that they have “woke” to the new reality, which previously they were asleep to. This metaphor of waking up (or would one say “woking up”?) is similar to the concept of rebirth. Calling oneself “woke” is a way of publicly declaring an adherence to the new belief system.
So then, a person who is “woke” can go around badgering her friends, co-workers, and others, telling them to identify as their skin color and, if they are white and/or male, to “check their privilege”.
In conclusion, while I don’t see a point in arguing whether the SJWs are literally brainwashing people, it is clear that they are using methods which are uncomfortably analogous to techniques that brainwashers use. It is entirely fair to at least call it “pseudo-brainwashing” or indoctrination.