Tyrants gain control through weaponizing the fear of loneliness, author and former CIA analyst Stella Morabito says. In America, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the omnipresent voice of the COVID-19 pandemic, is one example of this, she says.
“I believe that he symbolizes for our era the weaponization of loneliness,” Morabito, a senior contributor at The Federalist, says of Fauci. “When you think about what all these COVID mandates did to our society: the lockdowns, the devastation in human relationships, the way that it created hostilities, even among family members.”
“When COVID hit, our loneliness, our isolation [grew], especially for people [who] lived alone, being put under house arrest … for at least months, and some people afraid to come out,” she says. “I mean, this was the enforcement of our isolation—literal, blatant enforcement. And I think Fauci symbolizes all of that. More than symbolizes it, I mean, he directed so much of it.”
In her new book “The Weaponization of Loneliness: How Tyrants Stoke Our Fear of Isolation to Silence, Divide, and Conquer,” Morabito, who has a master’s degree in Russian and Soviet history, explains how the powerful use the fear of loneliness as a tool to gain and maintain authority.
Morabito joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss how her previous work at the CIA, which focused on studying propaganda, led her to write the book, and how Americans can reject tyranny.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Virginia Allen: Stella Morabito is an author on mass psychology and propaganda. She’s a senior contributor at The Federalist and her new book is “The Weaponization of Loneliness: How Tyrants Stoke Our Fear of Isolation to Silence, Divide, and Conquer.” Stella, thank you so much for being here today.
Stella Morabito: Thank you, Virginia, for having me. It’s wonderful to be here.
Allen: I’m very excited for this conversation and I’m really excited to hear a little bit about your background. I was very fascinated when I picked up your book to read that you actually worked for a time at the CIA, correct?
Morabito: That’s right. And there, one of my main focuses was propaganda analysis, media analysis of Communist Soviet Union, Communist Russia. So this is the sort of thing that I’ve been following a lot. Most of my life, actually, I’ve been fascinated by how easily people are manipulated by psychological operations and propaganda.
As you may also know, I have a master’s in Russian and Soviet history, and that whole process of propaganda plays really large throughout the history of the Soviet Union, as well as other totalitarian systems.
Allen: Well, your new book “The Weaponization of Loneliness: How Tyrants Stoke Our Fear of Isolation to Silence, Divide, and Conquer,” it dives headfirst into this topic. So let’s start big picture, how exactly is loneliness a weapon that powerful people will use to create conformity in culture? How in history have we seen that tyrants wield loneliness in order to gain and maintain control over a group of people or a community?
Morabito: Well, I think first you have to look at human nature. We are really created, we are hardwired to connect with other people. This is a very deep-seated need that all human beings have. We cannot survive in isolation.
That means that we also have a very primal fear of being ostracized, of being socially rejected and cast out of society. And tyrants, whether they do it instinctively or not, or whether they do it consciously or not, know that this is an intense vulnerability that everybody has, especially if they’re not really aware of it. And so it’s very easy to control people by instilling that fear of ostracism.
And we see it happening all the time throughout history with demonization campaigns. You could see how the mob operated during the Jacobin Reign of Terror in the French Revolution to get people with the program and the narrative, and how it repeats itself in the Bolshevik Revolution where there was a very, very blatant war on private life where children were, actually, in the schools, they were encouraged, not just encouraged, but almost demanded to have their loyalty directed at the state and even turn in their family members if they were viewed as enemies of the people.
And of course, it goes on even through Hitler’s Nazi Germany. And you see it writ very large in Mao’s communist system in China, especially during the Cultural Revolution where he had Red Guards operate as mobs. These were young mobs that would beat and humiliate people who were suspected of being enemies of the people or so-called running dogs of capitalism. They used all kinds of smears.
And today we see these smear terms used all the time to shut people up about what they believe, to shut people up and make them even lie about what they believe. For example, bigot, hater, conspiracy theorist is another one. There’s 100 of these that you can probably list, if you think about it—election-denier, truther, all these terms that are meant to shut people up for fear of being ostracized.
I just want to say one more thing, and that is there’s a great irony in all of this because as we comply and conform due to that fear, we may think we’re getting relief from isolation, but the net result is that we isolate ourselves even further as we develop this spiral of silence and all of society ends up falling in the grip of this weaponization of loneliness.
Allen: Now, do you say that we actually become more lonely when we just join the mob because essentially it’s like you’re self-abandoning maybe your personal principles or the truths that you’ve been raised to believe or that you, deep down, hold dear?
Morabito: Well, I think that there’s a lot of factors that go into people being attracted to mobs or cults or gangs, you see the same dynamics at work. And yes, people tend to be atomized already or alienated and maybe come from a sense of brokenness, broken family, broken community, broken sense of faith. And so the mob or the mass state in many cases takes on this pseudo intimacy that attracts people.
And we’ve seen this in dangerous cults. I’ve brought up the example of Jim Jones in Jonestown in 1978, the horrific mass suicide that he commanded, basically a thousand people that he had isolated in the jungle of Guyana to commit this so-called revolutionary suicide. That’s an extreme case, but it also shows you where this trajectory leads if you don’t do something about it.
Allen: Well, when you give these examples throughout history, it’s easy to look back and point at, these were the individuals who were instigating. But in American culture today with things like cancel culture and politically correct culture, who are the key players? Who are the drivers, really, behind this ideology that is ultimately weaponizing loneliness?
Morabito: Well, I think we would all point to a host of characters today. In the past, you might have been able to point to just one dictator or one person who called all the shots and, say, a geographic reason like Mao in China or Hitler in Germany, or so on, and then they had their little core of propagandists. But today, with cancel culture and the political correctness, we really see a host of players.
I call it a Hydra-headed beast. That includes, especially, Big Tech, Big Media that just keep saying the same thing over and over, keep pushing the same propagandistic narrative.
You see it in the corporate world that goes along with it, that pushes it. And you see it in all the institutions that have become corrupted by all of these other forces, especially education, where it’s lost its mission, especially higher education, the mission to explore and explore where the truth is, wherever the evidence leads. You’re not allowed to do that anymore in big academia, you have to just follow the one narrative.
And so, who are the players? In a sense, it’s like a mob itself because they all seem to be—they have maybe their own ambitions, each of these characters. Whether they’re from Big Tech or Big Media or the corporate world that’s all gone woke, they all seem to have this sense of power-mongering and it’s almost pathological, or psychopathological.
But who are they? I think anyone who will cut you off and not allow you to say what you believe, not allow an actual conversation or discussion about anything that might go against the established narrative.
And the narrative seems to be, as we saw in the World Economic Forum, neatly put together to allow this core, this oligarchy, this little core of power elites, this billionaire class, or whatever you would call them, to just call the shots for all of society, globally.
And this is very dangerous. We have to resist that, push up against it, because self-censorship is really what got us to where we are today, if you think about it.
You give oxygen to all of these crazy agendas if nobody’s speaking out against them or if those who do speak out don’t have anybody backing them up, they end up being identified as crazies or conspiracy theorists, or so on and so forth, just for asking really good questions and just wanting to investigate what’s going on.
So we have to put a stop to that, which means that we have to become a whole lot more aware of how these dynamics operate on us and within us, how this weaponization of loneliness causes us to shut up or lie about what we believe, because that creates a trajectory that ends up with a loss of freedom.
Allen: The title of the book is “The Weaponization of Loneliness: How Tyrants Stoke our Fear of Isolation to Silence, Divide, and Conquer.” And the cover of the book interested me. Dr. Anthony Fauci is on the cover. Why?
Morabito: Well, I believe that he symbolizes, for our era, the weaponization of loneliness. When you think about what all these COVID mandates did to our society—the lockdowns, the devastation in human relationships, the way that it created hostilities, even among family members: “You can’t come to the Thanksgiving table unless you have your fourth booster,” or whatever.
All of these mandates, all of these demands on everybody in society: “Stay 6 feet apart. Cover your face”—which of course is very dehumanizing, that everybody has to cover their face, and especially for children, they are so vulnerable to the weaponization of loneliness.
And so Fauci, I believe—2020, I think a lot of people would agree, was a turning point in our society when we had already had all kinds of headlines about a loneliness epidemic before COVID and then when COVID hit, our loneliness, our isolation, especially for people who lived alone, being put under house arrest for literally for at least months, and some people afraid to come out, I mean, this was the enforcement of our isolation. Literal, blatant enforcement. And I think Fauci symbolizes all of that. More than symbolizes it, I mean, he directed so much of it.
Allen: And how intentional do you think it is? I mean, are individuals, whether it’s Dr. Anthony Fauci or other forces, other leaders, are they waking up in the morning and thinking, “How can I weaponize this tool, loneliness, to control people?” To say that sounds almost conspiratorial, is it that blatant though?
Morabito: Virginia, you’re raising a really interesting question. And at the end of my book, I said, “To understand the intentions of these totalitarians would take another book to explore and try to understand.”
I do have a chapter in there about the totalitarian impulse. And no, I don’t think it’s totally conscious. I think there probably are some folks out there who have actually studied these dynamics, for example, Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler wrote that book called “Nudge” and what they call behavioral incentive—I’ve forgotten what it’s called. These groups that started in London to encourage certain kinds of behavior and discourage other kinds of behavior, really through the example of having other people lead the way.
I mean, if you look at the book “Nudge,” you can see how these scholars or behavioral economists actually looked at these dynamics, and in a cynical sense, really seemed to understand them.
But I think most of these folks, Fauci or even Klaus Schwab or … George Soros, I don’t know the extent to which they would intentionally “weaponize loneliness.” I think much of it is instinctive, not conscious. And their intentions could be, they really do believe they’re do-gooders, like [Mark] Zuckerberg.
I think a lot of these folks really do think that they know best and the rest of us schlubs don’t really understand how the world “should work.” That’s why I have that whole section of the book about utopian revolutions and where they lead. They’re trying to build some kind of utopia, which is a very old story throughout history, and it always ends up in a bad place.
But the totalitarian impulse can come from a lot of different places. But I don’t think it’s always conscious. I think it’s primarily instinctive and I think that they develop a sense that they do know best.
And Vaclav Havel, the dissident in Czechoslovakia who wrote that amazing essay, “The Power of the Powerless,” that came out in 1978, actually states in there that the totalitarian himself is really caught in the web of his own lies and maybe, perhaps, is the loneliest among us, who knows? But it’s a very interesting topic that would be a good subject for another book to explore all of these dynamics that you mentioned.
Allen: Absolutely. Well, are there certain signs that we should be looking for in our own lives, in our personal lives? Are there questions that we should be asking ourselves to determine, “Am I one of those people that’s actually fallen into a trap of being controlled by this fear of loneliness?”
Morabito: Well, it’s a very natural instinct. It’s a very natural impulse, to avoid ostracism, especially for children. And that’s why they’re so impressionable and why parents are very concerned about all of these destructive curricula in the government schools.
But what can we do? I think, first of all, and the reason I wrote the book was to try to help people understand how these dynamics work, how they’ve always worked, especially throughout modern history, the science of the conformity impulses.
There’ve been some amazing experiments conducted in the 1950s by Solomon Asch that showed that even for something noncontroversial like the length of a line, people will deny the evidence of their own eyes if everybody else around them is doing that.
So I think if we become a whole lot more aware of how these dynamics operate on us and within us, we can build a culture, especially if we spread that knowledge of checking ourselves and also checking ourselves against self-censorship.
And as I’ve said many times, much of our power comes from within just the daily life, just from one-on-one conversations. It comes from when you hear someone that you implicitly trust, but you don’t know where they’re coming from, and they say something that you agree with, but is politically incorrect, the relief that you might feel can be intense, where, like, “Wow, I’m not all alone. I’m not crazy. I feel the same way too.” And this is very, very powerful.
The more people, just even in your private one-on-one conversations, if you can put your toe in the water and say, “I’m not on that side of the fence. I’m not so sure about these vaccines,” or whatever it is, “I think that J. K. Rowling has a right to say what she believes,” the more people do that, the more you develop that ripple effect that Havel talked about that can turn things around.
And so just the voice of one person can make a huge difference. And if you don’t believe that, just think about what all of these people pushing censorship are doing. They don’t even want one person going against the narrative. So that should tell you everything you need to know.
All totalitarian systems are like that. They will shut down or cancel even one person who says something that goes against the narrative, of course, especially if they’re a well-known person. But in your daily life, there’s a lot you can do to help turn this around just in your personal life.
Allen: And do you think that we’re seeing enough of that? Do you think we’re seeing enough people stand up and push back and ask intelligent questions that you can say with confidence, “America’s going to be OK. We’re not going to fall to a place where we’re too far gone, really, in being controlled by powerful individuals who are weaponizing their power”?
Morabito: Well, I see some very hopeful signs, especially when it comes to confronting the school boards that are pushing these destructive agendas and destructive curricula. I see parents who have decided that, “You know what? Calling me a domestic terrorist, that’s not going to work. I’m concerned about my child.” So there I see hopeful signs.
On the other hand, I don’t think that we can say, “Everything’s going to be all right and let’s just relax totally,” because that old adage is very true, that the price of freedom, the price of liberty, is eternal vigilance. Our Founding Fathers knew that. That’s why we have the First Amendment, that’s why we have the Constitution and the checks and balances on power, because you need eternal vigilance to preserve your freedom.
And part of the reason, as I said at the beginning, that we got to this place is because we let our guard down, is because we just always assume that free speech would always be there for us, even if we didn’t use it. But of course, free speech is a “use it or lose it” proposition, and we just need to become more aware of that.
We can relax to a certain extent, but I think everything will be OK if we follow the lead of people who are speaking truth and listen and develop what is called in Havel’s essay parallel polises, parallel institutions that can take the place of these corrupted institutions. And all of these things work together to rebuild civil society.
Allen: The book is “The Weaponization of Loneliness: How Tyrants Stoke our Fear of Isolation to Silence, Divide, and Conquer.” Make sure to get your copy. Stella, thank you so much for your time today. We really, really appreciate you joining us.
Morabito: Well, thank you, Virginia. I really appreciate your time with me.
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