Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Propaganda: Though This Be Madness

"Though this be madness, yet there is method in it."

Polonius, Hamlet,
Bill (Shakespeare)

When most people think of Propaganda they think of sinister people -- clever people, master manipulators --wearing swastikas or hammers & sickles -- plotting ways to brainwash ordinary people into becoming faceless automatons saluting the image of the Great Leader.  Oh, and they almost always play chess, --which just proves they are psychopaths.  We all knew these people in High School –although they didn't have the uniforms or the emblems in the photo below.


The Propagandists are the Puppeteers --and we, the Puppets --doomed to play out our roles in scenarios scripted for purposes we do not understand.  A conspiracy.  This too we learned in the brutally hierarchical world of High School.

It never occurs to us that the Puppeteers may themselves be Puppets,  hardly aware of why they do what they do.  They are controlled by other agents -- who are controlled by still others, in an endless regression – without consistent logic or method. 

And controlling everything is…the Matrix.   The movie was right.

Shakespeare knew this. He presumably based Hamlet on the movie.  So, Polonius does not mean that Madness comes from Method -- that it is a distraction, a mere tactic.  But rather that the Method derives from Madness.  And that we are all screwed.

We don’t want to believe that things evolve from chaos willy-nilly over time.  We want to believe there's some kind of Purpose – some “Design” (another word for “method”) .  We want to believe that we have some Free Will, even if it is suppressed.  Somebody somewhere has to know what's going on, right?  Like Mom and Dad did when we were kids.  In this sense, we are all ontological Creationists.   

However, I would suggest that  what we perceive as “method” in Propaganda really comes from madness, the craziness of civilization (sic) itself.

All societies are schizophrenic  -- and propaganda is one way of controlling the consequences.  Illusion to fight delusion, if you like.  Happy pills to keep reality at bay.  By definition, that means papering over the inherent contradictions – and assuming   deeper purpose, or at least “design”, when all we are trying to do is to achieve a quick fix and superficial gratification – or maybe just have our cake and eat it too.

Ours is the smartest, most advanced, most technologically capable society ever – and clearly headed for self-destruction, as it destroys the planet.  How is that possible?  Madness is a priori .   So,  we must convince ourselves that it’s OK to burn coal and frack Mother (earth) and drive SUVs because we’ll figure a way out … later.  Or our kids will -- because we'll be dead. Ha Ha.

I know, I know …WTF are you talking about?

That’s the trouble. WTF is anyone talking about?  Reality is complex and we like things simple. Like God and Country.  The Flag.   Kill terrorists.

To elucidate…before you join the army!

Uncle Sam wants you alright.  Unfortunately, he may also want you dead.

Back to the basics…..

Propaganda can be defined as the deliberate attempt to influence public opinion through the transmission of ideas and values for reasons consciously thought out, and designed to serve the interest of the propagandist, either directly or indirectly. Whereas information presents its audience with a straightforward statement of facts, propaganda packages those facts in order to evoke a certain response.

This  conventional, and very limited definition of “propaganda” (including both religious propaganda   and commercial propaganda  such as advertising) depends on the idea of deliberate and conscious agency where the agent  “the propagandist” (the puppeteer mentioned earlier)  works consciously, logically  and deliberately behind the scenes to manipulate our perceptions and feelings.

Ah yes, method!  Puppeteers and puppets.  God and Man. Man and Puppies

There is always an immediate purpose – get your money, persuade you to join the army --whatever. 
Reassuring. Wars are not so bad!  There are cute puppies.  But nothing is that simple. Nothing is what it seems.

The  huckster can bring the crowds in – but he doesn't own the tent.  And may know little about the show.   He's drunk when he's not separating you from your hard-earned cash.

But the crowd thinks he isthe Circus.

You have to look what is behindpropaganda – and behind that too.The Circus is entertaining -- but the animals are abused.  And the clowns jacked up on cocaine. The bearded lady is a man.  And one day the tent comes down and people die.
What is hidden in the background can determine success or failure.   "‘Ware the madness" – there are many kinds.    And the result is dead people.

Edward Bernays—was influenced by de Bon and Freud.  He represented a cultural elite that feared the masses.  De Bon’s theories about the masses resonated, as did Freud’s notion that human beings are savage animals animated by primal instincts --lust and greed and envy.   Who better to know about Lust, Greed, and Envy than Bernays' masters?

Bernays served the Few – by exploiting the Many.  He thought he was controlling the hoi polloi…by giving them what they wanted.  So, behind Bernays were a lot of rich people. And behind that, memes about human nature. And behind that, culture and history.  Bernays said he didn't know tobacco was bad for you – despite a good half century of solid medical evidence, even at the time.

But did Bernays actually makeanything happen?  Or was he just another insect trapped in the web, rippling its threads?

Hold that idea for a bit…..  

Jump ahead in time.  Freud is now passé. Bernays?  Isn’t that a kind of sauce?

This is the age of polling psychology, neuropsychiatry, and the like.  The psycho-linguist,  George Lakoff sees propaganda in a different way,  emphasizing  perception– talking much of “framing” and metaphors – basic gestalts.

George is  a university professor and a liberal, with a proper beard -- so we can forgive him for being  not quite as kinky, as a conflicted conservative, with a “wide stance”.     In fact, George, unlike Bernays, is not a propagandist at all  -- even though his ideas are taken up by real, bona fide, paid manipulators of the masses -- even though his ideas weren't that new, sorta rehashed 60s stuff..Oh, George is jolly!

Despite George’s emphasis on the psychological of perception, semantics and the like --as opposed to Bernays’ preoccupation with the hankerings of the limbic system and dark desire, they both agree that propaganda can only be successful when it is unconsciously accepted .  In other words, both primal instinct  and semantic gestalts derive their power from being prelogical.  They generate the premises that generate logic.  .

“I see therefore I think therefore I am” wrote Merleau Ponty.   And Lakoff too.

“I feel therefore I think therefore I am”.  Bernays didn’t write that. But he should have.

Ideally,   propaganda gets us to accept certain ideas without questioning them –  to act upon suggestion, rather than follow the authoritarian direction of a Hitler or the logical arguments of a Socrates.
It is clear that Lakoff is aware of this – and, as a progressive who is opposed to plutocracy, it bothers him.  After all, he is a man of the Enlightenment who believes that ultimately  all we should have to do  is be reasonable --  and see things in the right context...er...frame. Then we can all agree and get along.  But the other side is notreasonable. So we have to ‘frame’ things so they will understand – as we do.   Which is, of course, manipulation.   Lest I forget, people also get 'framed" for crimes they do not commit

Lakoff’s ideas were used to sell Obama in 2008.  A Conservative in Progressive jeans.  

Oops....Obama’s failure to act as he had promised empowered the Tea Party. And the whole country lurched to the Right.

So, here’s the thing:  propaganda only works when it is accepted unconsciously. It is like hypnosis.  It works by suggestion, manipulating our own belief system with half truths.  “Your eyes are getting heavy.  You feel sleepy”.  Of course, you do – you have been staring at a shiny watch swinging in front of your eyes for two minutes, idiot!

Hypnosis cannot make people do things they really don’t want to do or don’t think are right.  If offers us illusions.  But sometime, somewhere, some-when someone will snap their fingers and you awake.

The same really applies to propaganda.  Obama’s propaganda worked because people were ambivalent about a lot of things.  Propaganda doesn't make people do what they don't want to or feel is morally repugnant.

Now,  a lot of people are not so sure about Obama. Progressive about some things; conservative about others. Call it the Obama Syndrome. Or Obamaphrenia.    But it is our fault.  Wanting our cake and to eat it ---endlessly.   Quite, quite mad. Behind Obama's victory was propaganda. Behind that Wall Street and wealthy backers.  Behind them…yup…the public, you and me.   Behind us – history and culture.  All madness,  Poor Polonius.  Poorer, still Hamlet -- he died. The Matrix... again
Confusing as all this is. We fortunate perhaps to be  driven by primal emotions – as Bernays knew – so, even when propaganda seems effective – it is temporary – because  where our beliefs conflict with  good ol’ fashioned human nature, human nature tends to win -- at least in the end.  We call this "progress".  

Human nature has little tolerance for a Wide Stance, which results from trying to reconcile contradictory memes. It is uncomfortable for one thing.  Unbalanced. And it is easy to get kicked in the balls in a fight.   Not really a good survival strategy.

And one of the strongest emotions is self preservation.  Dimly we understand that we are under threat, when we are torn in different directions.

To recap:  propaganda can only work if there is an existing belief system to support it – historical and cultural memes.  In addition,  some aspect of human nature – our primal be must support it.  Our social and technological and natural environment is always in flux; human nature is hardwired.  There is a dynamic and it is complex.

And if you get confused, just watch the Matrix again….

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Jesus versus Barack

 Mr. Jesus Christ’s campaign for President has been largely ignored by the media.

Yet, both the major candidates claim to “believe” in Mr. Christ.  They just don’t have faith in His policies.

Today,  we interview Mr. Alec Fencenseitter, co-chairman of the Democrats to Re-elect Barack Obama (DRBO) .  Fenceseitter is regarded as the authority on all things Baracky --and in the DRBO is affectionately known  as “Dr. BO”.

The Republicans are very dismissive of Mr. Christ’s policies – how about your party?

Dr. BO:
Well, the Republicans naturally diss' things  -- they are the party of division.  

We, on the other hand, are all – are not dismissive of anything  -- not ever – because we agree with everything.    . 

We are all inclusive.  We love black people, women, Hispanics,  Jews, gays, Muslims as long as they don’t try to board airlines with us –   trade unionists, too, as long they don’t organize.  We don’t discriminate between rich and poor, especially the rich. We accept donations from everybody.

So, we  naturally support Mr. Christ’s ideals.  And his Dad, too.  They have a right to be heard.     As President Obama says this is America – the greatest democracy on earth. We support minorities.

How can you support someone who is running against you?    Mr. Christ has been very critical of just about everything that President Obama has done from his cozying up to big business -- to his Romneycare health reform --to his policy of  Murder by Drone”-- to his vendetta against whistleblowers to his attacks on medical marijuana.  It’s a long list.

Dr BO,
We understand Mr. Christ’s…umm… idealism.  But, practically speaking, we inherited quite a mess from Bush .   Mr. Christ hasn’t been around for a long time—like the last 20 centuries or so – and he has some catching up to do.  Also, the Republicans are a lot worse.  Look this is a two -party system.
You know,  Mr. Christ, could always run our ticket – for congress.  His Dad, too.   He won’t get elected --but we can always appoint you to some government agency -- immigration or avocado regulation or something-- and later he can get a good job as a lobbyist.

Actually, we have already made JC and his Dad honorary members of the Democratic Party , just like we do for  all Japanese people and CEOs earning over a million a year.

You might say that's a compromise.  What's wrong with compromise?  That's what Democrats do.  And I mean, like the President, we should always be ready to compromise our values.  Fortunately,  we don’t have any. hehe.   Did I mention America is the greatest democracy?

Mr. Christ and his Dad might be a little miffed by your making them Democrats without asking. 

Dr BO,
Well, the President has offered to have a beer with Them anytime – or a Burger, and talk it over.   We are just folks --all about Communication.  It would be just Barack and Mr Christ and his Dad, umm…what’s His name?  And a few hundred reporters.  Did I mention America is the greatest democracy?

Yes, you mentioned that.

Dr. BO.
Yes. Look it’s hard to run a campaign on a shoestring and stuff like Love and Peace and Justice.  I mean, if their campaign were a movie -- who'd watch it?  No sex, no killing.  No CGI.  When was the last time you watched a movie just for the story?

You need millions of dollars to sex up a campaign.  You need TV ads so people can fantasize about killing people worldwide and riding in stretch limousines like the Koch Brothers or  or screwing wannabe bimbos like the Donald would do, if he could find a wannabe bimbo-enough. 
 I mean, we love Mr. Christ. After all, he’s Jewish. And some of our best friends are Jews, except maybe people like Norman Finklestein  and Karl Marx and Lady Gaga.  We like black people too and Hispanics and so on , too.  But JC and his Dad are well...y'know...a little naive.

I have to say that what you say is at best surprising; at worst, just contradictory. Some of Obama's actions indicate that you really don't like Mr. Christ so much.  For example,  I you like Mr. Christ  convening  a secret grand jury convening to discuss Mr. Christ and his Dad.  Something about whistle blowing?

I am not at liberty to talk about ongoing investigations. And anyway, that’s the government.   It’s kinda like the TSA – just because we run the thing, doesn’t mean we can intervene in processes. or we know why stuff happens or anything.   Did I mention America is the greatest democracy?  And we like Jews, muslims, black people, puppies and old people.

You didn't mention the puppies and old people before. 
Also, the NYPD recently tased Mr. Christ in a stop&frisk thing.  They said he looked “suspicious”  .  The was held down and tased 35 times just in case he thought of resisting.  And he died.

Dr. BO.
Well, that’s not us—that’s the NYPD.  Boys will be boys, hehe.  And, if their average IQ was higher than 80, we would have to pay them more.

Anyway, Mr. C  does have a beard --and he looks Middle Eastern.   

 And so he died?  So what?  He resurrects doesn’t he?  

 It was a Friday --and he had the whole weekend to come back to life.  Did I mention we like Jews, black people and Hispanics.  A lot.    Oh…and union members too. And endangered species except when they get in the way of Walmarts.   Also  America is the greatest democracy.

Yeah, yeah....And how did Mr. Christ and his Dad get on the no-fly list?

Dr. BO
As I said,  the Administration may be the government. . But we are not responsible for what it does.  Me:

Another thing.... the President used to smoke weed and snort coke and now Justice raids medical marijuana dispensaries. 

Dr. BO

The law is the law, except of course, if you are Goldman Sachs -- or us. 

And what about the drones that have been targeting Mr. Christ when he travels to the Middle East?  

Dr. BO
Did I mention America is the greatest democracy?   

Look, Accidents happen. Everytime we kill someone, they get due process. The President himself squiggles his name on the dotted line.   For reasons of national security, I can’t go into the details.  But hey,  as I mentioned, JC resurrects doesn’t He?    What’s heaven for if you don’t visit now & again?  
Besides the inconvenience of dry cleaning after getting blown up, Mr. Christ doesn’t like all the innocent people who get killed.

Dr. BO.
I will also add, that in the case of accidents,   we pay up to $500 per corpse, $250 for babies because they are smaller.  

Anyway, Mr Christ is a male of military age, which means that he automatically becomes a military non-combatant.   
Did I mention, we really love middle eastern people?  Saudi Sheiks for example.  And Bahraini princes. 

Look,  Mr C is a great guy and all that.  But he hasn’t a chance of winning.  He sounds too much like a Canadian, or even Hugo Chavez sometimes.  Americans believe in JC – nominally --but they absolutely worship Dirty Harry. 

Think of the alternative to Barack. If Romney gets in, he will just get the Israelis to nuke all the problem areas of the Middle East. We are against that because there might be oil there or rare earths.  Romney will re-create the US of A in the image of 11th Century England, but without the illusion of chivalry .
I like JC – but the hippie thing died out 2000 years ago.  

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mr. Christ Goes to Washington

It's hot.  My brain is sweating.  So this post has little to do with my usual themes.  Or then again maybe it does.
You didn’t know that Jesus Christ was running as a third party candidate for President of the US?  Well, neither did I.  Which just shows what happens, with a real grass roots campaign, that can’t afford TV advertising and the like. The Truth, divine or not, depends on good PR and media access.

I talked with GOP strategist, Morton Mammon about Mr. Christ’s candidacy.  Later, I will talk to a Democrat spokesperson.  Neither person liked Mr. Christ's platform very much, which is mostly about real-world human needs. Conventional politics, by contrast,  is about delusion and illusion.

Look, we don’t know how he got on the ballot in the first place.  It was a kind of miracle, considering the fact that the guy doesn’t even have a birth certificate.  So maybe somebody, somewhere was pulling strings.  I'm not naming names....

Good. That would be blasphemy  I think.

Anyway... Like, nepotism anyone?  As you know, we Republicans just want a level playing field.  But to do that we need rules about who can play and who can’t. You gotta follow the rules.  Can't have everybody playing.  Just one percent or so.

This guy appears out of nowhere, with no explanations about what he’s been doing for the last 2000 years – and no endorsements or support by a corporation.  Did I mention no birth certificate?

Yes, you mentioned the birth certificate.  So you are suggesting that the Big Guy Up There intervened -- unfairly?

I’m not accusing anyone of anything.  Just that there are some obvious irregularities.  And the fish rots from the head, goddammit. 

Look, Citizens United – which is now the Law of the Land says only corporations get special preferences.   Besides….who it this Christ guy anyway?  Who's his Dad? This is not the same guy  we Republicans know.  Like, he doesn’t even have a license to carry.

 He looks really middle eastern, wears Arab clothes.  The long hair, the beard – just like Osamu.  Yeah, the Muslims love him. Why, they even mention that in that little green book of theirs, the Coo-ran.   He's really a Muslim, y'know.

I think you mean the Koran – and it’s not little and green anymore than the bible is little and purple-brown.  Yes, Jesus is revered in Islam.  But then he occasionally gets respect in some versions of Christianity sometimes too, don’t you think?


Yeah, well, that’s a different Jesus.  Our Jesus  knows poor people are just lazy.  Our Jesus hates fags.  This guy hangs out with twelve guys  --or gays (laughs) -- and the homeless.  He’s a carpenter he says. Belongs to the union maybe?  

 But when was the last time you saw him with a hammer and nails?  (Laughs) That was the crucifixion and he wasn’t the one doing the hammering, for Chrissake. (laughs again).      

Our guy is for job creators like Mitt.  This guy disses the ‘Rich’ .  Like,  he used to drive the money lenders from the temple.  Fortunately we have the NYPD to keep away from Bof A.  

This other Christ guy is  a socialist.   Loaves and fishes – what’s that but redistribution?  And did I mention he doesn’t have a birth certificate?

Well, yes, you mentioned that.  And, yes, Mr. Christ has been identified with progressive causes.

Progressive?  He’s a fuckin’ commie -- for god’s sake.    And  look at his private life.  Kinky.  Gets his feet washed by whores.       And he has these huge meetings, with his so-called “following” which we have to get  broken up by the cops because he never bothers to get a permit.  Thank god for rubber bullets and pepper spray.  I think it is fortunate that the media are ignoring him.

Yes, there has been no mention of him. Don’t you think it unusual? 

Nah….  I know all five guys who own the American media and they agree with me.  The guy’s just a loser.  Anyway, there are more important things to publicize like American Idol.

You’re a born again Christian right?  

Yeah, Jesus changed my life.  But that’s our Jesus.  And he’s dead, thank God.  And when he comes back, he’ll be kickin’ lefty butt, with an M16 in either hand. This other guy – he’s all loveydovey --don’t pay your student loans, organize against foreclosures.  Look,  there’s a big difference between going to church and being a Christian and following this new Christ guy. 

Like, he doesn’t hang out in churches anyway.  Nor does his old man.  Did I mention they're really Muslims? 

Word also is that he’s pro-choice and pro-Palestinian too.   He should be in Gitmo – not  running for President.  This is un-American. 

And did I mention, he doesn’t have a birth certificate?

You know that your candidate, Mitt Romney is a Mormon. And the Mormons believe that Jesus visited America and lived here ministering to the Nephrites, which makes me more or less an American?