University Students’ Support For Terrorism Isn’t Ideology, It’s Conditioning

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In times past, there’d be universal outrage over assassins suddenly invading, taking hostage, and slaughtering more than 1,000 people, including grandmothers, children, and concertgoers. Back then we’d call such actions “crimes against humanity,” regardless of which side did the attacking. But today’s brazen support for Hamas terrorists is an indicator that rule by terror is fast replacing the rule of law throughout the Western world.

Since 9/11 we’ve seen a strange shift in attitudes about the barbarity of such attacks, particularly on college campuses. Rather than condemning such violence, today’s students are justifying it on campuses that include the University of VirginiaColumbia UniversityHarvard University, the University of Illinois, the University of PennsylvaniaUniversity of California at Los Angeles, and Stanford University, to name a few.

How did this happen? Clearly, those students expressing solidarity with terrorists have been groomed to do so. But their stance is less ideological than it is the result of a conditioning process tyrants have always used.


Pundits galore have speculated at length about the weirdness of it all. Former Harvard President Lawrence Summers expressed outrage on social media when numerous student organizations at Harvard quickly came out with a statement saying they “hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.” But what did Summers expect? What should anyone expect these days?

As Mike Gonzalez and J.P. Greene wrote at The Federalist, university administrators long ago handed their keys over to Marxists and other advocates of terror. Students are no longer focused on gathering hard knowledge and thinking things through. The goal now is to get credentialed by any means necessary. That means surviving — and mimicking — the radical posturing enforced by pseudo-intellectual tyrants on campuses today.

For example, check out the programmed posing on the compound of George Washington University in Washington, D.C. (tuition $64,700 per year). Their masked leader apparently reads his script from his cell phone, then delivers it via his de rigueur megaphone. The masked participants obediently repeat back.

It’s cringeworthy stuff. But it’s mostly depressing to see students promote rule by terror.


So the question keeps popping up: How do such tragic absurdities happen?

Focus on Process, Not Ideology

We are missing the biggest part of the picture if we focus only on ideology. Most commentators presume ideological capture of academia got us here. Or that it’s happening through cultural forces like “wokeness” and the spread of mental illness.

Those explanations make sense, but they go only so far. They don’t account for the mechanisms, the patterns, and the psychological processes behind those cultural forces. Ideology serves more as a vehicle for a conditioning process that prods students to accept an agenda. So we must first study those thought reform methods if we are ever to overcome them.

In short, most students you see at such chant-fests have been groomed to believe they must adopt certain beliefs and behaviors to be socially accepted. This is key to understanding the shift in attitude toward terrorists.

We ought to pay a lot more attention to the dynamics of social status — and status anxiety — than to the ideology per se. After all, propagandists have always relied on emotional manipulation to create an illusion of unanimity with their narrative. This is also a central principle in advertising and fashion.

That’s because everybody, especially youth, has a hardwired need to feel connected to others, along with an intense fear of being socially isolated. That need and that fear are natural weaknesses easily manipulated by social engineers, cult leaders, and tyrants of every stripe. If people are conditioned to fear being despised and punished if they stray from the approved narrative, then most will not stray.

The result is a conformity cascade that feeds on itself. According to recent polling, more youth than ever say the government should control speech. More youth than ever say socialism is a good thing. And now we see a big increase in youth who say they have no sympathy for Israel.

Yet whenever speech is regulated so wrongthink will get you canceled, don’t expect polls to give a clear reading of what people actually believe. For example, in oppressive North Korea, Kim Jung-Un gets (surprise!) 100 percent approval. As people succumb to a cultic conditioning process, they lose their moral compass and are less likely to develop their own beliefs independently.

If They Don’t Fall in Line, They’re Ostracized

Consider what the typical college student can expect if faced with an ideological challenge. If they don’t accept the given line about transgenderism, climate alarmism, and now about Hamas’ terrorism as justifiable, they risk being canceled with demonizing labels such as “transphobe,” “climate denier,” “bigot,” and worse. And if they try to connect the dots by asking a reasonable question, they risk mockery as “conspiracy theorists.”

Furthermore, there is no logic in the context of the conditioning process. In Orwellian fashion, an object of hate can be switched back and forth without explanation. In Orwell’s 1984, Oceania was at war with Eurasia, but during Hate Week it suddenly switched to being at war with Eastasia. All were conditioned to comply in lockstep without questioning the abrupt change. (One can sense echoes of Jonestown, where the cult recruits obeyed their leader even to the point of drinking the poisoned Kool-Aid on command.)

The conditioner calls the shots, and the masses conform. That’s where most college students are today. They enter a university striving to get credentialed but are threatened at every turn with ridicule or expulsion if they don’t agree to the assigned narrative.

You’ll find an aversion to speaking openly wherever people are invested in their careers, reputations, and status. We see it with academics, CEOs, politicos, and particularly with the Hollywood celebrity or media anchor invested in preserving her public persona.

What do they all have in common? A terror of being canceled, socially rejected, and despised by others, particularly by their reference group. Consider also the affluent suburban woman, scared to death of losing status among her peers. I made the following comparison during the 2020 Black Lives Matter riots:

The psychological mechanism that drives the woke white woman of 2020 into Black Lives Matter obedience is the same mechanism that would have driven her into the National Socialist Women’s League of Nazi Germany in 1941. It might sound weird, but both appeal to the same forces: craving for status, the need for belonging, obedience to overwhelming propaganda, hatred of a common perceived enemy, terror of being lumped in with the ‘unfit,’ fear of shunning…

Hence, the more conditioned we are to this weaponization of loneliness, the more easily we will accept rule by terror. The same students who might have scratched their heads decades ago asking how the German people could have possibly allowed the Holocaust to happen are now answering that question with their own Exhibit A.


This article was published by The Federalist and is reproduced with permission.

Image Credit: YouTube Screenshot VOA


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