A sample from Untitled.
Chapter 3. Politics & Propaganda
Freedom of speech, of religion, of the press – these were all freedoms propagated by America’s greatest and worthy proponents for liberty and freedom: Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, George Washington—revolutionaries whose acts of rebellion and mutiny were planted in the minds of the people, and so led to the founding of their nation. Independence came to America and the republic was born.
Propaganda is not always used to manipulate and coerce us away from our best interests. Sometimes in history, the need to lead others has been necessary and there have been positive effects and reasons to propagate. ‘We need peace propagandists, not war propagandists – people whose job it is to increase communication, understanding and dialogue between different peoples with different beliefs,’ said Philip Taylor in Munitions of the Mind: A History of Propaganda. It is in itself not an evil but can be used to make evil and in varying ways depending largely it would seem—on the amount of state control. With this in mind, America is surely the most interesting country to case study the use of propaganda—because it is the most open. ‘In a controlled society, propaganda is obvious and reluctantly tolerated for fear of the negative consequences. In an open society, such as the United States, the hidden and integrated nature of the propaganda best convinces people that they are not being manipulated.’88. In other words – the style of propaganda will bend relative to the amount of state control a nation has or wants. In America: the more hidden, the more artfully effective, like how the libertarian free and independent ideologies of Thomas Jefferson and Paul Revere as symbols of America and American freedom are now hidden by their new symbols: GE, Viacom, CBS, Disney, and Time Warner. Proof of this could be realised surveying how many American people today know the story of Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride, compared with say – The Simpsons Ride ‘Crash Through Krustyland’… at Universal Studios.
“If you can influence the leaders, either with or without their conscious cooperation, you automatically influence the group which they sway,” Bernays said. The century of the intellect was proving in certainty that communication could be harnessed and used like a whip to socially engineer both in ideology, political attachment, consumer habit and migration, the Völkerwanderung. In his book Propaganda, Bernays states ‘If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it?’. The intellect of Bernays, Trotter and LeBon had identified the psychology of the crowd and in the classic work of social psychology, Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War Trotter introduces the concept of ‘the herd instinct’ revealing social habits during times of war but also to “a tired nation seeking peace.” We were it seemed the Proles of Orwell’s masterwork and the invisible intelligencia were our masters.
Bernays was brought in to work for the Woodrow Wilson administration and became influential in promoting the idea that the American war effort was primarily aimed at “bringing democracy to all of Europe”. The intellectually brilliant brains were being released onto the psyche of the common man, hijacking intellects via government administrations who could use their skills to sell their projects, in a way no different to the smoking industry selling their cigarettes. Regime change or tobacco leaf, it didn’t really matter – in making a thing news, a people could be swayed and naturally, the front story of the ‘news’ was what it wasn’t, but how were we to know? It was communication, hijacked to manipulate, bombard and confuse. In the end, it was all too difficult to make sense of – so an exhausted public would go with the most comfortable set of ideas that would cause them the least amount of worry—and the most amount of security.
During the exhaustion, the most base and numbing stories become exchange with the world from ‘it’ to ‘us’, scandals and celebrity suicides replacing anything worthy until eventually, a spectacle emerges, a royal wedding or a sports event, posing as newsworthy to a public too inarticulate to make sense of the meaningless, wallowing in the irrelevant to discuss Hello at the dinner table, and the conversations of who Graham Norton’s shows guests were replacing economics or weather systems, Kim Kardashian and the death of Michael Jackson instead of humanities technological feats, parliament, space, quantum physics, theology, theosophy, psychology, the seasons, Egypt, emancipation, migrating bantu, the first homo-sapiens or a trillion other options we could select other than Jordan’s wedding, and let us never forget – Jordan’s divorce. Actual information in turn grows scarce and the mainstream media fills the space where news is due and fill it they do – we become addicted to ‘the latest’ and feed off new and ideally now the train is moving – fast news – the more intense and shocking, the more our dopamine reward systems are being serviced, ‘we sit watching our TV’s while some local newscaster tells us today we had fifteen homicides, sixty-three violent crimes as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be. It’s like everything is going crazy so we don’t go out anymore.’ Howard Beale screams into the television in the cult hit movie Network. ‘We sit in our house and slowly the world we’re living in is getting smaller.’ Broadcasters the world around as a result covering real global issues in absolute ‘good guy/bad guy scenarios, making war and conflict the favored coverage.’110 We in turn become disinterested in the deeper meaning of stories and eventually—life. Rather than embrace our god given intelligence and begin to investigate for ourselves, we behave like the fast food junkie coming off his sugar rush and queuing for his next half pint of Pepsi. Like the Coca Cola or cocaine addict, we eventually begin to love the addiction, the overwhelming assault and for our systems to be over stimulated—it is the electric feed entering us via The Experience Machine, through twenty-four hour cable and satellite television stations competing for our attention, dissociating ourselves from the long term dumbing down effect of the intelligence da Vinci knew we could all attain, this ‘phenomenal media dependence’84 in turn produces: The Phantom Public. Pulitzer prize winner, public intellectual, political commentator and propagandist during WWI, Walter Lippmann writes of the public that we are “mere phantom,” as the media systems have created a ‘pseudoreality of stereotypes and emotional impressions along with facts’.80
Society according to Lippman is made up of two types of people: insiders and outsiders. The insider is someone who can act “executively” to address an issue, and the outsider is the public-a spectator or bystander, a ‘deaf spectator in the back row,’ and part of a ‘bewildered herd’.85 Because ‘for the most part individuals are more interested in their private affairs and their individual relations than in those matters that govern society.’81 Even the one specific role Lippmann rewards the public during rebellion or revolution is apparently not even for a public to lead (“a crisis of maladjustment,”): ‘intervention during a moment of social disturbance is to be led. It moves to such action not by its own volition but by being led there by those insiders who can identify and assess the situation for them. The public is incapable of deciding rationally about whether there is a crisis.’82 Perhaps Lippmann was right, how could a people change the landscape of their local council or influence their parliamentary leaders if they don’t know where their local council office is, what an MP does or that the earth travels around the sun. Better leave all of the decisions to those ‘insiders’. Who is next on Graham Norton? Goo goo and Gaga promoting Fast & Furious 7 or was it Crash Through Krustyland?
Those that don’t subscribe to a notion that subservience is built into human beings, the “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders” may unplug from The Experience Machine of the soapbox and the tabloid newspaper or gossip smearing magazine and turn to the libraries, to our fellow man or the internet databases for information. Or it seems – suffer the consequences. Author and Professor of Communications at California State University Dr. Nancy Snow writes, ‘as long as we continue to allow the media to function as a manipulative mind manager without fear or disfavor, we’ll continue to see the brain-numbing effects of a society under-exposed to real information and analysis, rendered incapable of critical judgment and social resistance.’79 Communication doesn’t need to have formed into such a high-hurdle, but we only have ourselves to blame. It seems it is for us ‘outsiders’ to become ‘insiders.’
Bernays used the ‘Freudian Theory’ to deal with the public’s conception of communism, to promote the fear of communism, the ‘red under the bed’ and an insidious communist presence who had ‘possibly’ infiltrated and seeded our institutions like The Manchurian Candidate. The Russian spy was to become the new enemy, something that could not be pinpointed, identified and was always at large. He could be teaching English to your children without you knowing, or even live in your own home. It might sound ridiculous in hindsight but will our progeny not look back on this ‘war on terror’ as something equally absurd? Sadly, most of us still feel not – because of ‘the terrorists’, and due to the nature of paranoia as a mental state of being, we can in fact, will terrorism into existence through the processes that paranoia triggers in its hysteria. Paranoia begets paranoia and all of this terrorism hype, will not settle or cool the potential rise of fundamentalist holy jihad, but conjure it, heat it, spread it and disseminate it in perpetuātum. The concept of the terrifying communist Russian monster was so powerful that it became a weapon of its own during the Cold War. It was an Information War and it seemed Bernays was ordered to keep it there, in the psychology of the working public and keeping that public in perpetual fear of an outside enemy because, ‘if an enemy did not exist, it would be necessary to invent one’ said Nietzsche. Such an elitist stance or psychological management of society “economizes the attention of men as members of the public, and asks them to do as little as possible in matters where they can do nothing very well,” Lippmann ruled. The subtext of the message is to remember who you are – a worker, Halutz, laborer, peon, blue-collar, the proletariat, the worker ant – anything in fact, but the ‘insider’ of the educated, intellectual upper echelons.