Mind control: Taking over the houses of research and learning

Main Building, University of Vienna (photo: DY, 2015)

Main Building, University of Vienna (photo: DY, 2015)

If you want to control the minds of the citizenry and the ideas to which they are exposed, then make sure you take over their institutions of higher education.

That’s one of the lessons of a fascinating exhibit, “The Vienna Circle: Exact Thinking in Demented Times,” now showing at the University of Vienna’s Main Building. The Vienna Circle was a group of renowned philosophers, mathematicians, and scientists active during the early decades of the last century, and the University was their home. But when the threat posed by the Nazis became ever more pronounced in the 1930s, many leading scholars who did not see eye-to-eye with the German leadership took flight.

The Nazi Party leader of Vienna inspects the University of Vienna after the German absorption of Austria.

The Nazi Party leader of Vienna inspects the University of Vienna after the German absorption of Austria (the Anschluss) in 1938

Any commitment to academic freedom was swept aside. The University and its denizens would conduct themselves accordingly, with periodic reminders issued by Nazi leaders to stay in line.

A newly-installed senior university official dresses for the part

A newly-installed senior university official goes with the new dress code

University officials dressed the part. So much for a proper suit or a cap & gown. The photo above shows the new University Rector addressing colleagues in a lecture hall.

The faculty, having been properly cleansed, is left with the true believers

Showing support for the new regime

Of course, the remaining faculty got into the act, too. Those who stayed were the true believers, as well as those who wanted to convey that impression out of an instinct to survive. The stakes included your freedom (such as it was), safety, and livelihood.

In short, we see what happens when virulent political and economic forces deny academic freedom and responsible speech in our universities. The example of 1930s Europe may seem extreme, but it doesn’t take much to start going down that slippery slope.


Note: The photos are snapshots of exhibit displays curated by Karl Sigmund and Friedrich Stadler, taken on June 18.

2 responses

  1. Today, we see the nursing schools affected. Students being molded into submissiveness. This evidenced by recent lawsuits in which students are suing the schools for unjust disciplinary actions ranging from suspension to termination when they questioned faculty on legitimate issues or for complaining about compromised learning situations.

  2. “You’ve got to be carefully taught.” Nursing schools are just preparing nurses for what they more then likely will face in the workplace — bullying, absolute hierarchy, unfair demands, unsafe working conditions, an atmosphere of challenge at your own risk.

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