Saturday, November 10, 2007

Eyebone Connected to the Propaganda Bone

Here is the way my brain is organized (and yours, and everyone else's on the planet since people first appeared): perception--emotion--reason. Know what that means? Perception goes through the more primitive emotional part of the brain first, to the more advanced rational part of the brain last. People always respond emotionally first, even the most egghead of "rational" intellectuals.

Those who control perception, control people. Perception is everything. I should really say they control "the masses" or the "herd," because people individually can't really be controlled all that well, although they can be pressured by the herd. But when you use propaganda techniques against the masses, baby, you've got a propagandist's dream come true.

People should always understand how propaganda techniques work. They'd be shocked at how well they work. I'm not talking about getting them to buy certain products, but to march off to war on the flimsiest of pretexts. No wonder the herd is called "the sheeple."

One man everyone should know is Edward L. Bernays, the American disciple and nephew of Sigmund Freud. He was for all practical purposes the founder of modern propaganda techniques.

Bernays despised most people and regarded them as his inferiors, especially because of intellectual or social claims. (See how it works? I just appealed to your emotions, and convinced you Bernays was attacking you. You fell for it, right?)

Bernays not only pretty much founded modern propaganda techniques, but was also the father of modern PR. Although, you could say they are same thing, and that there's really no difference between them.

In his 1928 book, Propaganda, Bernays wrote, "The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country…"

Remember that quote. Burn it into your memory. Bernays thought people should be ruled by an extremely small elite, who should manipulate them through propaganda. That means you. People who believe in the wonders of government, and that it is their friend, should think twice about it.

In another book, In Crystallizing Public Opinion, Bernays wrote how governments and advertisers can "regiment the mind like the military regiments the body." This can be imposed, he said, because of "the natural inherent flexibility of individual human nature," and suggested the "average citizen is the world's most efficient censor. His own mind is the greatest barrier between him and the facts. His own 'logic-proof compartments,' his own absolutism are the obstacles which prevent him from seeing in terms of experience and thought rather than in terms of group reaction."

Bernays also thought "physical loneliness is a real terror to the gregarious animal, and that association with the herd causes a feeling of security. In man this fear of loneliness creates a desire for identification with the herd in matters of opinion."

He claimed that "the group mind does not think in the strict sense of the word…In making up its mind, its first impulse is usually to follow the example of a trusted leader. This is one of the most firmly established principles in mass psychology." What Bernays called the "regimentation of the mind" is accomplished by taking advantage of the human tendency to self-deception [logic-proof compartments], gregariousness [the herd instinct], individualism [exalting their vanity] and the seductive power of a strong leader.

Good Lord, he's talking about the Borg, the scariest villains ever, the ultimate collectivists, Commies in a Cube! About group Borgification, the late Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, in his seminal book, Leftism Revisited, wrote that people have "a herd instinct, a strong feeling of community that regards another group with hostility." He believed it "tend[ed] to efface self, tend towards an 'usness' in which the ego becomes submerged."

I think he would call the Borg a "terrifying, bigger and more pitiless conformity." If you don't want to use the word "Borg," just use "Mass Man," "the herd," or "the sheeple." They all mean the same thing.

Bernay also expressed the opinion people "have to take sides...[they] must step out of the audience onto the stage and wrestle as the hero for the victory of good over evil." This means appealing to our narcissism, our inborn tendency to see everything as either good or bad, with little or nothing in-between.

He also noted the need for people to feel as if they belong to something larger than themselves. This also means appealing to our narcissism; it's why nearly every tribe in history -- and nations are just tribes writ large -- has called itself "the People" or "the Humans." Or "the Motherland" or "the Fatherland" or "the greatest nation on earth."

When people consider themselves as part of the Humans (by whatever name they call themselves), they exalt themselves. And, of course (and ominously) those outside the tribe are non-people. Although today we call them "collateral damage."

"Mental habits create stereotypes just as physical habits create certain definite reflex actionism," Bernays wrote. "...these stereotypes or clich├ęs are not necessarily truthful pictures of what they are supposed to portray." Perception is everything, the truth matters little or not at all.

Now, let's boil all this down and see what we have:

Mass Man, the herd, cannot think, and is instead ruled by its feelings. The herd will look to a leader to save it. The best way to accomplish this is for the herd to feel it is under attack. The herd will draw together, expell those who see the truth and protest, and then march off to war.

Nazi leader Hermann Goering had this to say about the masses: "Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

Tell the herd they are the Humans, or the People, or best of all, have God on their side. Paint their enemies as insane, evil geniuses. Again, this is appealing to people's narcissism, the tendency to see everything as either good (us) or evil (them). Evoke paranoia and hysteria in them by convincing them the insane evil ones want to conquer and destroy them. What will happen? You can get them to march off to war by the millions, just as Goering noticed. The truth doesn't matter, only the manipulation of perception.

Americans have been manipulated through propaganda into marching off to war. Bush's handlers had him say, "They hate us for our goodness," and it was "evil ones" who attacked us. Keep it simple; make it into a contest between good and bad, with nothing in-between. We were told "the evil ones" were insane, and were going to fly drones of death across the Atlantic, or detonate nuclear weapons in the U.S., or feed us feet first into a woodchipper. People responded just as Bernays -- and Goering -- suggested. They went group-hysterical and overwhelmingly supported the wars. Protestors were branded as traitors.

If it's done right, you can get people to give up their freedom. This has been noticed for a long time. In the famous "Grand Inquisitor" scene in The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky has the Inquisitor say, "For centuries...we have been wrestling with...freedom, but now it is ended and over for good." The author was commenting on the fact that many people want to give up their freedom to "authority," to that one leader who they believe will save them and take care of them, as if they are children and not adults. The Inquisitor goes so far as to claim, "they have brought their freedom to us and laid it humbly at our feet."

The mechanism of propaganda is available in many books. People should take a look at them. By bringing the techniques to light, people can immunize themselves against them.

Perception--Emotion--Reason. It's altogether too simple, and too easy.

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