Blind Bliss and the Reality of Others: How Consensually Validated Groups Contribute to the Development of Fascism

Bartley, Nancy L. Blind Bliss and the Reality of Others: How Consensually Validated Groups Contribute to the Development of Fascism. 2022. University of Washington, PhD dissertation.

Consensually validated, tightly knit subcultures are capable of othering behavior that is harmful not only to those on the outside of the group but to democratic societies. Consensual validation is illustrated in a variety of ways from the World War II Nazi subcultures to today’s white supremacists, militias and self-described “patriots” who attempt to subvert the democratic process. Of the 700 some charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol, they followed a charismatic leader who encouraged them to believe the unbelievable – a stolen election. Like Third Reich Germans, they ignored all conflicting information. Like many other ordinary people who formed what I call consensually validated subcultures during mass movements, they came from diverse backgrounds, but they were predominantly white and male in a world increasingly diversified.

I intend to prove that while we look to the Nazi control of Germany as the ultimate in evil, the elements of consensual validation have brewed for years within the United States and have long been a factor in creating otherness and fascism, often through the U.S. justice system which should protect the very people who are the most grievously injured. While we have looked at post-Civil War Reconstruction, or reforms in the juvenile court, or changes in policing, all are far more complicated and when aligned with consensually validated power structures, lend themselves to the creation of fascism, the maintenance of racial injustice and oppression. The “Network Society” today is especially of concern as the elements that allow consensually validated hate groups to form are easily spread through homophily or “filter bubbles” that allow users to shut out all competing information -- including the truth. By using the historic photos of Nazis at play juxtaposed with the horrors of the ongoing genocide, I hope to emphasize the banality of Nazi evil and its relevance to the cultural social climate today. In the process, I will discuss the use of historic photographs as the product of a modernist, mechanized panopticon – an ultimate witness. Lynching photos taken 100 years ago ultimately changed public tolerance for the murder of Blacks. Film taken during the last insurrection, is providing micro truths – witnesses during the sea of chaos. And other images swayed judges and juries.

This dissertation concerns consensual validation -- my theory, based on my research and observation. These groups form cohesive subcultures to validate each other and shut out all conflicting information and do so to chase away the wolf of fear of other races, cultures, and countries. They share the belief that others may erode their autonomy and freedom. They are often linked through blood rituals and see blood not only as a life force but a source of identity and belonging. They seek easy solutions to what they see as threatening social crises – the presence of people of color in their once all-white neighborhoods, churches and places of employment, delinquent juveniles, communities suffering from high crime, all usually linked to immigration and race. When they are caught violating someone’s civil rights, it is through what they despise the most -- modernist technology, the panopticon and the link sometimes right in their own hands.

In this study the historic Nazi party frames the elements of mass movements where consensually validated subcultures deny human rights to others. Since power rests within the state, its agents and those seeking access through those channels, I will consider the role of police, militias, and the courts in the othering process. Although there are significant differences – namely the Nazi responsibility for the massacre of millions of Jews – there are similarities in the Kantian sense of duty and how consensual validation influences subcultures, resulting in social boundaries making it possible to ignore rational thought, scientific belief, the plight of others, and even defining what it means to be human.

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