Breaking the Spiral of Silence
45 minutes of straight talking. The conversation in the vans packed with students following the most recent trip to the Fargo abortion clinic was unreal. Students were processing their motivation and new found excitement regarding the abortion issue. Commenting on population decline that matches the moral decline, students were waking-up to an issue that is plaguing their generation and the sustainability of our nation. They were opposing the common thread of silence on this issue, silence being a repeated phrase numerous times in the 45 minute trip.
Silence is becoming a popular stance within teen culture. Chuck Colson, in the above video, makes note of how the call for silence also affects the academic culture. Presenting friend and collegue Robert George, who is facing a movement against him and Princeton University, Mr. Colson is quick to reference his friends bravery to speak out. The motivation from the aggressive group working to defame Mr. George reference his views against same-sex legislation passed in the United States. Colson comments on a theory coined by Nazi sympathizer Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann titled The Spiral of Silence.
Noelle-Neumann, a former Nazi journalist during Hitler's oppressive regime, saw first hand how a popular figure could control a majority, positing that the majority was actually the minority.
Noelle-Neumann in her work paints the Spiral of Silence as a multi-faceted process. She outlines how public opinion can be altered by a movement utilizing mass-media. She states that mass-media can give the perception that a popular view is actually a minority view, and should not be held by rational citizens. This popular migration then hog-ties what was once the majority from speaking out because they now feel like the minority.
Students commented on this reality as they were at the abortion clinic. Fearing that they would be ostracized for their stance against killing the innocent, many were timid to hold signs as we arrived. Some students at Hillcrest have commented on how abortion has always been presented as a moral and opinion issue in their public school training. Many never thought of it as a natural human right to life, mostly because they were never given evidence. This plays into Noelle-Neumann's theory, as she outlines that the Spiral of Silence only applies to moral or opinion issues. Issues of right and wrong do not apply to the theory, mainly because facts quickly squelch an argument.
Intellectuals have opinions on how to overcome the Spiral of Silence. Some explain that a vocal minority, being a group of highly educated, affluent and often cavalier individuals who don't fear isolation, are likely to speak out regardless of public opinion. Many have outlined that this vocal minority also needs a compliant majority, who provide a necessary factor of stability, to produce a change in society's thinking.
A recent scientific finding seems to support these themes in undoing the Spiral of Silence. Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute discovered that when 10 percent of a population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. Using computation and analytic methods to discover the tipping point, the group of scientists found that when an opinion is held by under 10% of a population, the idea will never become the majority opinion. Scientists believe results from this study have implications in a social context, despite the fact that the tests were completely computer-based models. Current study is being done to assess the 10% idea using movements within politics.
The winds of culture will always beat against the foundations of the church. We believe that the students at Hillcrest are being equipped to be a dissenting voice, raising a remnant generation that defends a Biblical view of the world in a humanistic culture.
Students are not only taught apologetic responses to cultural issues, but are studying a Biblical frame-work for the world. From this, they engage their world through practical, real-world field experiences, being mentored to be a dissenting voice, using Biblical foundations and logical arguments, to establish their life of significance.