Changing Images of Man and Friendly Fascism



  • Over the past few weeks I’ve been loading the Changing Images of Man research study done by Stanford Research Institute into a simple chatbot. Link

    One of the reasons I wanted to do this was to better study the research paper to find out what was inside that may be hiding in plain sight.

    Friendly Fascism

    The term “Friendly Fascism” appears on page 169 of the study in paragraph 2.
    On the other hand, it seems entirely plausible that these trends could exacerbate our societal problems and bring demands for immediate and drastic solutions to ensure the stability and survival of the society. Methods of regulation that severely reduce individual freedoms could be welcomed in the face of severe disruptions. We could quickly or, more likely, gradually emerge into the kind of society that Bertram Gross (1970) has termed “friendly fascism.” This is a fascism that “will come under the slogans of democracy and 100 percent Americanism … in the form of an advanced technological society, supported by its techniques-a techno-urban fascism, American style” (p. 44). Gross describes it as:

    … a new form of garrison state, or totalitarianism, built by older elites to resolve the growing conflicts of post-industrialism. More specifically: a managed society [which] rules by a faceless and widely dispersed complex of warfare-welfare-industrial-communications-police bureaucracies caught up in developing a new-style empire based on a technocratic ideology, a culture of alienation, multiple scapegoats, and competing control networks … Pluralistic in nature, techno-urban fascism would need no charismatic dictator, no one-party rule, no mass fascist party, no glorification of the state, no dissolution of legislatures, no discontinuation of elections, no distrust of reason … this style of management and planning would not be limited to the economy; it would deal with the political, social, cultural, and technological aspects of society as well … The key theme, therefore, would not be the managed economy, but rather, the managed society

    Points of interest:

    • immediate and drastic solutions
    • ensure stability and survival of society
    • will come under slogans of democracy and Americanism
    • supported by it’s techniques
    • techno-urban fascism
    • a managed society
    • rules by a dispersed complex of bureaucracies
    • new style of empire baed on technocratic ideology
    • culture of alienation
    • multiple scapegoats
    • competing control networks
    • pluralistic in nature
    • doesn’t need a charismatic dictator
    • no one-party rule
    • no mass fascist party
    • no glorification of the state
    • no dissolution of legislatures
    • no discontinuation of elections
    • no distrust of reason
    • not limited to economy
    • would deal with political, social, cultural, and technological aspects of society
    • key theme is a managed society

    Then on page 170 towards the end of the page “Friendly Fascist” is mentioned.
    There are already signs of the emergence of key elements In Gross’s
    "friendly fascist" scenario:

    • Application of military surveillance technologies to urban police problems.
    • Utilization of behavior-changing drugs and operant conditioning in schools.
    • Government attempts at management of news.
    • “Personality screening” and maintenance of files on “pre-delinquent” children, through cooperation between elementary school administrations and local, state, and federal authorities.
    • The cross-correlation of computer-based files containing personal data (e.g. credit, employment records, tax status, insurance, criminal record, education).
    • The introduction of legislation to control access to techniques for self-initiated alteration of consciousness (both non-drug and drug induced).

    Although the above pictures an extreme outcome from the technological extrapolationist image and trend, nonetheless it is an alternative future for the United States that is even now proving its feasibility by its growing emergence. This future would seem unintended to most people; yet, by not “rocking the boat” and by pursuing what is a familiar societal path, it seems clear that we could reach a societal future which was quite different and far worse than was originally anticipated. This future is by no means inevitable but it does confront us with profoundly important choices-both individual and collective.

    Points of interest:

    • Application of military technologies to police problems
    • Use of behavior modification in schools
    • Government management of news
    • Personality screening in cooperation between schools and authorities (local, state, and federal).
    • Cross-correlation of digital personal data
    • Legislation to control alteration of consciousness

    This future would seem unintended to most people; yet, by not “rocking the boat” and by pursuing what is a familiar societal path, it seems clear that we could reach a societal future which was quite different and far worse than was originally anticipated.

    As it states that by not rocking the boat and pursuing a familiar societal path we could reach a future different and far worse than originally anticipated.


    Page 179 Note A
    Given my own pre-paranoid selective-perception ‘set’, the most convincing discussion
    of all is the drift into the Gross ‘friendly fascism’! It is comforting to hear you affirm that
    this is ‘an extreme outcome from the technological extrapolationist image and trend’,
    and ‘unintended to most people’ but it seems to me we are well into it! The very crisis
    nature of our future seems to me to most likely increase the garrison-state dynamic:

    • dissent, repression; more dissent, more repression
    • complexity-breakdown, engineered solution; more complexity-breakdown, more engineered solution
    • fear, surveillance; more fear, more surveillance … etc., etc., ETC.!!.

    Points of interest:

    • The most convincing discussion is the drift into “Friendly Fascism”
    • In 1972 Friendly Fascism was an extreme outcome
    • It was unintended but we are well into it
    • The crisis nature of the future will increase the garrison-state dynamic
    • The constant use of the word dissent

    Page 202 Paragraph 1
    If the post-industrial era of the future is dominated by the industrial era premises, images, and policies of the past, the control of deviant behavior needed to make societal regulation possible would in all likelihood require the application of powerful socio- and psycho-technologies. The result could well be akin to what has been termed “friendly fascism” a managed society which rules by a faceless and widely dispersed complex of warfare-welfare-industrial-communications- police bureaucracies with a technocratic ideology." Evidence exists that this sort of future is already nascent.

    Points of interest:

    • Post-industrial era dominated by the industrial era premises, images, and policies
    • Socio/psycho-technologies would in all likelihood be required to control deviant behavior
    • The result would be “Friendly Fascism” a managed society which rules by a faceless leader with a technocratic ideology

    Page 203 Paragraph 5
    While actions and policies in keeping with the “technological extrapolationist” image would involve no great wrenching in the near term, they could lead to catastrophe or to “friendly fascism” in the longer term. Actions and policies in keeping with an “evolutionary transformationalist” image, on the other hand, might increase the level of seeming disorder and chaos during a transition period in the near term but later lead to a more desirable society. While the choice is not necessarily one that our society as a whole will or should make consciously and deliberately at this time, it is one that confronts each individual who is willing to accept responsibility for the future rather than simply adapt to whatever the future may bring.

    Points of interest:

    • Technological extrapoationist long term could lead to catastrophe or to “Friendly Fascism”
    • Evolutionary transformationalist short term might increase the level of disorder and chaos during transition period but long term to a more desirable society
    • Not a choice society as a whole will or should make consciously and deliberately
    • Confronts each individual who is willing to accept responsibility for the future rather than simply adapt to whatever future may bring

    Some other references from the document:

    • In order to live wisely, men must have a sense of participation in a uniting purpose understandable to all, vital enough and noble enough to be the object of a common sense of dedication.
    • Our survival and our continued evolution depend upon our acting, soon and wisely.

    What is Changing Images of Man?

    Link to original

    Changing Images of Man is an unusual work, one that enthuses some, displeases others, and leaves few neutral. It was undertaken for a specific purpose: to chart, insofar as possible, what changes in the conceptual premises underlying Western society would lead to a desirable future.

    The research study leading to this book was done by a multidisciplinary team, most of whom had not worked together before, in about 8 months. The researchers came from a variety of backgrounds ranging from the humanities and social sciences to engineering and physics. Most had proficiency in at least two specialized disciplines as well as having a generalist orientation-a definite advantage in an interdisciplinary inquiry such as this-and all brought with them a deep appreciation for the profound ways in which myths and images affect the perceptions and actions of humankind in the universe where we now find ourselves.