Fascism and Ron Jones' THIRD WAVE EXPERIMENT

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A very good morning to you students and welcome to the LIBERTARIAN LINGUISTICS CLUB dedicated to language, communication, social events, meeting people and making friends.


hɛˈləʊ ænd ˈwɛlkəm tuː ðə ˌlɪbəˈteərɪən lɪŋˈgwɪstɪks klʌb

juː hæv biːn ˈʧəʊzn fɔː ˈmɛmbəʃɪpwʊd juː laɪk tuː ʤɔɪn?



Today we will look at the characteristics of FASCISM. Why is it so fascinating? Why do certain elements of it appeal to everyone? Why did your grandmother like it?


1. The lesson begins with a discussion about some of the more common characteristics of fascism.

2. We then look at the THIRD WAVE EXPERIMENT, where a Californian high school teacher Ron Jones attempted to convert a group of students into fascists. Was he successful?


3. After we will watch the German film 'THE WAVE (2008) which is a modern recreation of the Ron Jones story. The film, unfortunately doesn’t exist in English, but has English subtitles, so you will have to do a lot of reading. 

1. DO THE SELF-ASSESSMENT QUIZ Discuss the themes with your teacher

Are you a fascist? Quiz


The Third Wave (experiment)

The Third Wave was an experimental social movement created by California high school history teacher Ron Jones in 1967 to explain how the German population could accept the actions of the Nazi regime during the Second World War. While he taught his students about Nazi Germany during his "Contemporary World History" class, Jones found it difficult to explain how the German people could accept the actions of the Nazis, and decided to create a social movement as a demonstration of the appeal of fascism. Over the course of five days, Jones conducted a series of exercises in his classroom emphasizing discipline and community, intended to model certain characteristics of the Nazi movement. As the movement grew outside his class and began to number in the hundreds, Jones began to feel that the movement had spiraled out of control. He convinced the students to attend a rally where he claimed that the classroom project was part of a nationwide movement, and that the announcement of a Third Wave presidential candidate would be televised. Upon their arrival, the students were presented with a blank channel. Jones told his students of the true nature of the movement as an experiment in fascism, and presented to them a short film discussing the actions of Nazi Germany.


Background to the Third Wave experiment

The experiment took place at Cubberley High School in Palo Alto, California, during the first week of April 1967. Jones, finding himself unable to explain to his students how the German population could have claimed ignorance of The Holocaust, decided to demonstrate it to them instead. Jones started a movement called "The Third Wave" and told his students that the movement aimed to eliminate democracy. The idea that democracy emphasizes individuality was considered as a drawback of democracy, and Jones emphasized this main point of the movement in its motto: "Strength through discipline, strength through community, strength through action, strength through pride."

The experiment was not well documented at the time. Of contemporary sources, the experiment is only mentioned in the Cubberley High School student newspaper, The Cubberley Catamount. It is only briefly mentioned in two issues, and one more issue of the paper has a longer article about this experiment at its conclusion.] Jones himself wrote a detailed account of the experiment some nine years afterward and more articles about the experiment followed, including some interviews with Jones and the original students.



First day

Jones writes that he started the first day of the experiment with simple things such as proper seating and extensively drilling the students. He then proceeded to enforce strict classroom discipline by emerging as an authoritarian figure and dramatically improving the efficiency of the class.

The first day's session was closed with only a few rules, intending to be a one-day experiment. Students had to be sitting at attention before the second bell, had to stand up to ask or answer questions and had to do it in three words or fewer, and were required to preface each remark with "Mr. Jones".

Second day

On the second day, he managed to meld his history class into a group with a supreme sense of discipline and community. Jones based the name of his movement, "The Third Wave", on the supposed fact that the third in a series of waves is the strongest. Jones created a salute involving a cupped hand reaching across the chest toward the opposite shoulder resembling a Hitler salute,] and ordered class members to salute each other even outside the class. They all complied with this command.

Third day

The experiment took on a life of its own, with students from all over the school joining in: some students who did not take the history class but had a free period decided to join the class. On the third day, the class expanded from initial 30 students to 43 attendees. All of the students showed drastic improvement in their academic skills and tremendous motivation. All of the students were issued a member card, and each of them received a special assignment, like designing a Third Wave Banner, stopping non-members from entering the class, or the like. Jones instructed the students on how to initiate new members, and by the end of the day the movement had over 200 participants. Jones was surprised that some of the students started reporting to him when other members of the movement failed to abide by the rules.

Fourth day

On the fourth day of the experiment, Jones decided to terminate the movement because it was slipping out of his control. The students became increasingly involved in the project and their discipline and loyalty to the project was outstanding. He announced to the participants that this movement was a part of a nationwide movement and that on the next day a presidential candidate of the Third Wave would publicly announce its existence. Jones ordered students to attend a noon rally on Friday to witness the announcement.

Fifth and last day

Instead of a televised address of their leader, the students were presented with an empty channel. After a few minutes of waiting, Jones announced that they had been a part of an experiment in fascism and that they all willingly created a sense of superiority like German citizens had in the period of Nazi Germany. He then played them a film about the Nazi regime to conclude the experiment. 


3. FIND AND WATCH THE MOVIE 'THE THIRD WAVE' (2008) Ask your teacher for a copy if you don't have access to it!


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