Friday, May 2, 2014

How Propaganda Works to Enslave and Murder Us

"The people in their overwhelming majority are so feminine by nature and attitude that sober reasoning determines their thoughts and actions far less than emotion and feeling. And this sentiment is not complicated, but very simple and all of a piece. It does not have multiple shadings; it has a positive and a negative; love or hate, right or wrong, truth or lie never half this way and half that way, never partially, or that kind of thing." - Mein Kampf

It's not hard to understand how propaganda works. You don't need a college degree, or to even to read any of those thick textbooks everybody hates. Everything relevant can be explained in one not-particularly-long article. And, I guarantee you, you must understand how propaganda targets you, to immunize yourself against the attempts.

Propaganda works by appealing to our most base, animal instincts. It does not appeal to our better nature, although one of the purposes of it is to convince us it does. It pretends to appeal to our reason, when in fact it appeals to our most primitive emotions. There is good reason for this: perception travels through the emotional brain first, to the rational brain last.

Specifically, propaganda works by appealing to three things: emotionalism, tribalism and narcissism.

I just mentioned perception travels first to the emotional brain, then the rational brain. This happens to everyone, including people who con themselves they are the most rational and intelligent of intellectuals.

As for tribes, we share with every nearly every animal in the world the instinct to form tribes, arranged in a hierarchy, with a leader. We are group animals. The fact we look to a leader to take care of us is one of the most firmly established principles in psychology (if you don't remember anything else, remember that).

When anyone transgresses the taboos of a tribe, they can, and often are, ostracized or even expelled. An example? Say some people oppose a war. What happens? They are often called cowards and told to leave the country. Who hasn't heard the insult, "You're a coward! If you don't like it here, get out!" People who say such things think they're being patriotic; in reality they're acting like animals. Emotional, irrational, herd animals, prone to the fear and flight activated by propaganda. Individuals think; groups do not, and cannot.

Narcissism is our inborn tendency to see everything as grandiose or devalued, good or bad, with nothing in-between. It's why nearly every tribe in the world -- and nations are just tribes writ large -- called itself "the People," "the Humans," "the Chosen," "the Motherland," "the Fatherland," or "the greatest nation on earth," relegating everyone outside the tribe to a devalued non-people, non-human status (aka "collateral damage"). No wonder it's so easy to kill the outsiders -- they're just not quite human.

Narcissism is always part scapegoating, or what psychologists called projection. "It's not my's yours!" It's the first defense people engage in (in the story of the Garden of Eden, Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the serpent) and it supposedly goes back to our being two months old. That means it's the most infantile and primitive of defenses.

When you combine those three concepts, you have the basis for all propaganda. If a leader of a tribe tells the people their goodness is under attack by insane, evil people who want to destroy them, they will react just like animals and attack. The Nazi propagandist Herman Goering noticed all you had to do to get people to march off to war is for the leaders to tell them they were under attack, denounce protestors as traitors exposing the tribe to danger, and the people would slander, ostracize and expel the protestors, and then tramp straight off to be slaughtered. He said this technique worked in every country of the world.

The Bush administration used exactly this technique to start two wars. Essentially they told the public that our goodness was under attack by insane and evil people who wanted to destroy us. See how it works? Tribalism, emotionalism, and narcissism.

Supporters of the war responded by attacking protestors as traitors -- trying to expel them from the tribe -- and marching off to war. It's altogether too simple, and too easy.

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."

Bernays 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.

Bernays 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 also 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. Again, this also means appealing to our narcissism, such as people claiming they belong to "the greatest nation on earth."

When people consider themselves as part of the Humans (by whatever name they call themselves), they exalt themselves. Still again, those outside the tribe are non-people, i.e. "collateral damage."

"Mental habits create stereotypes just as physical habits create certain definite reflex actionism," Bernays wrote. "...these stereotypes or cliches 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, expel those who see the truth and protest, and then march off to war.

The full quote from Hermann Goering? "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 and evil. 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.

To make it as simple as possible, everything that is needed for a successful propaganda campaign can be summed up in those three aforementioned words: emotionalism, tribalism and narcissism.

We con ourselves we are so advanced. In reality, the human race is stuck in One Million Years BC, except there's no Raquel Welch in a two-piece fur bikini.

I forgot -- there is one another component to successful propaganda: keep repeating the message over and over.

One other thing: those who are intelligent and self-aware (those who follow the Greek admonition to "Know yourself") don't fall for propaganda. The Hivemind (aka the Sheeple) does.

"Naturally the common people don't want war: Neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. 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 peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country." - Hermann Goering


Quartermain said...

I hate to say it but that propaganda does work on people.

It doesn't work on everyone but enough of them especially the loud and the pushy.

Here is an article you may find of interest.

Quartermain said...

Ex-Army coined the system well with the Media Academic Government complex.

Unknown said...

MAG. I remember that.

Glen Filthie said...

Well boys - it sure did a number on you two, HAR HAR HAR!

Propaganda? In this day and age? It might work on the uninformed and those that are being deliberately stupid - such as the libertarians. However, freedom of speech and the internet have literally trumped any excuses Americans have to be stupid and uninformed.

No, George Bush and Rummy didn't pull a string of lies out of their asses to goad Americans to war. We saw the twin towers come down on 911. We saw Saddam cheating and retreating. We saw endless convoys flow past UN inspectors without stopping. We saw the bodies pulled from schools that the Taliban shelled - for the sin of teaching girls to read. We saw the yodelling mud flaps saw the head off a humanitarian aid worker. And we see all the other problems moslems are causing for Britain, Germany, Sweden, France, Denmark, and anybody else stupid enough to show them kindness and hospitality.

But you boys might have missed all that while you were out smoking pot...for its medicinal effects, right? ;)

Quartermain said...

Again the Canadian chicken hawk mouths off in sound and fury signifying nothing.

Quartermain said...

Well Glen the neo-con propaganda believer...

Here is one for you:

Glen Filthie said...


You watch your mouth Quartermain, or I will fly up into a tree and take a HUGE shit on your car!

Bob? Be a sport and give your parrot a cracker and perhaps a rebuttal to the bird-brainery going on in the comments?

Quartermain said...

"I will fly up into a tree..."

What drugs are you taking?


Must be you thinking you can fly.


You keep repeating your brainless verbage, so that must be you.

Your blog is empty, Filth, nothing to say?

Glen Filthie said...

Now Q - no need to get snippy and pissy because you lost a debate. Or do you have something other than lame insults?

Had a blog but it turned out I spent too much time fighting with stupid people on it. Way I figure it - if there is going to be a food fight we may as well have it in the Treehouse where the odd bit of insight occurs amongst the bedlam and mayhem. :)

Quartermain said...


There was no debate, just an exchange of insults.

Unless there is a moderator, there is no debate.

Your last point sounds honest, and I won't make sport of it.

Glen Filthie said...

Well I don't feel insulted at all Quartermain! I can see why you feel that you need a moderator though, people that can't form a rational argument often need a nanny to keep others from laughing at them. I am not one of those people, so the last word's yours.

Soap P. Suds said...

Filthy believes whatever the military tells him. We must pity him.

Quartermain said...

I did not say that I or we needed a moderator, I just said our exchanges was not a debate.

According to, a debate is 1). An argument, or discussion, usually in an ordered or formal setting, often with more than two people, generally ending with a vote or other decision.

That does not sound like we were debating to me.

Yes, we were arguing but not debating.

Another definition of debate from the same source is

2).An informal and spirited but generally civil discussion of opposing views.  

We were certainly informal and spirited but we were not civil.

The argument is going nowhere so let's table it.

Quartermain said...


I will leave with this thought:

There are some that say that say everything their country does is wonderful.

There are some that say that say everything their country does is terrible.

I think both groups are wrong.

I think the majority of Americans (and Canadians),are good people.

The political class? That's another story.