Title Pattern Text
Assembly Line Education

This method of educating students was invented during the industrial revolution, when the main goal of public education was to move children through a school system to become "cogs" in the machine of society.  Although that time has passed, our main system of education has not.  Standardized testing is a big help here since it removes the particular circumstances of the students and promotes teaching to the test.  This kind of education is cheap, if nothing else.

Mock Public Space

Mock public space is generaly physical or virtual "community" space that people perceive as "public" but in reality disallow many aspects of "public-ness" that are important to democracies; free speech for one.  A privately owned social-media website, or a mall would both be examples of this pattern.

Professional Obfuscation

The complexities of the world often make reasoning about it very difficult.  In many public deliberations it can be useful if this situation remains impenetrable and unsettled.  Spreading false information, campaigning to hide the truth, and arguing against the validity of certain studies can all be forms of this pattern.  Public relations corporations are available to do this work -- if the client has the necessary funds.  One of the best cases of this is the cigarette industry in the United States.

Sustaining World Hunger

Due to factors like poverty, displacement of resources, and environmental degradation many in the world go hungry every day.  One of the largest factors may well be that feed is viewed as a commodity to be purchased and sold, and not a human right.  In this way "the market" is responsible, not individuals, corporations, or the world community.

Profit-motivated Health Care

Pharmaceutical and health insurance companies profit off of disease and injury, and so it is in their fiscal interest to keep patients ill and/or injured.  Band-aid "solutions" and expensive procedures target symptoms, instead than causes of diseases in this pattern.  Health through prevention should be studiously avoided as it leads to "prevention" in profits as well.


Monopolies exist when one institution (or a small number of institutions) control all access to something, generally a commodity, information, or a service.  In the absense of external controls, the monopolist institution can (and almost invariably does) make up the rules all by themselves, and rarely to the benefit of the many.

Silenced Voices

Words are powerful, and the stories they make can topple governments.  The voices of the oppressed can sometimes carry an emotional appeal so strong that organizations and governments will actively censor them to maintain the status quo.  Some voices must be silenced to maintain "law and order."  This rationale for silencing some voices -- violently in many cases -- has stood the test of time as it offers a defensible excuse for tacit compliance.

Fear Mongering

Fear is a very big motivator, perhaps one of the biggest motivators for human behavior.  Since it is such an effective motivator it is often used to influence entire societies toward specific ends.  When people are stifled with fear they think less clearly and can become easier to manipulate and control.

Focus on Deficiencies

This pattern suggests that the way that people in dominant positions look at a community, school, country, etc. is to focus on its deficiencies; what's broken or dysfunctional.  Thus, one can "diagnose" a community for its "diseases" such as crime, drug use, broken families, or "loose morals."

Activism Delegitimization

Dissenters, especially those who are active in their dissent can be deligitimized in order to take away their ability to be taken seriously by the public.  This is very effective when done thru mass media outlets.  One very effective form of delegitimization is ridicule because it spreads easily and avoids actually examining the situation.

Media Monopolies

If most major media outlets are controlled by a small number of corporations pro-business perspectives and propaganda that aligns with the special interests of those corporations can dominate the public conversation.  Information that challenges or opposes those interests can be ignored or delegitimized.  Amazing progress has been made: From over 80 companies just 40 years ago, now five corporations control a large percentage of the information that American citizens see.

"Balance" Deception

A journalistic practice whereby one side will be presented and then, with equal time allotment, the "other side" will be presented.  This pattern can be very effective at obscuring the issue; leading to a situation where it appears that there are two equally credible ways to view an issue, when in fact there may not be.  Currently this is being used to suggest that the phenomenon is not established scientific fact.

Advertising-Funded Media

This pattern presents the system wherein media stations are primarily funded by selling advertising time to others. This time is often very expensive and favors large companies. This creates a system in which the media answers not to the public, but to the companies that are paying for the advertising time.

Weapons of Mass Distraction

Societal distractions can be naturally occurring or manufactured in such a way as to distract people and subvert their attention away from social and civic issues of public concern.  If properly occupied by such distractions, public outcry can be better controlled and their attention diverted to issues of unimportance such as the private lives of movie stars.


Dehumanization works by portraying subsets of people who aren't in line with the goals of the state as less than human.  This representation will eventually permeate the minds of the population.  As the public adopts this attitude, they can eventually view the target peoples as less than human.


Racism is the overt and covert, conscious and subconscious, belief that people of different ethnicities have less intrinsic worth than others.  The belief that certain ethnicities are inferior or superior can become internalized and expressed subtly through actions or words that demean or dehumanize others.


An "Us and Them" mentality that leads to extreme prejudices against a group of people.  News coverage often subtly encourages xenophobic beliefs for hidden political agendas.  This is a common tool used during times of war or in the marketing of war.

Societal Apathy

Societal Apathy is a collective indifference toward issues of concern.  A society that is socially apathetic towards its own sense of purpose might lack the civic intelligence to overcome adversities it encounters.  Another form is directed outward upon groups of people so as to ignore their situation by seeing the troubles that they face as eternal, unchangeable, and ultimately not worth thinking about.

Unacknowledged Privilege

Although privilege is rampant in virtually any society, it's generally the best-kept non-secret.  Suggesting that others have it suggests that you are just unhappy you don't have it.  Acknowledging it in yourself acknowledges that you don't really deserve the position you're in.  Unacknowledged privilege can not only help you into areas that you might not be otherwise qualified for, but can buy you out of negative consequences that you might otherwise have to face.


"To qualify as folly ... the policy adopted must meet three criteria: it must have been perceived as counter-productive in its own time, not merely by hindsight. ... Secondly a feasible alternative course of action must have been available. ... third ... the policy in question should be that of a group, not an individual leader." — Barbara Tuchman