One of my readers, wrote to me
“WTF are you talking about? On the one hand, propagandists manipulate the public, but on the other, the popular mind manipulates propagandists? Were Hitler and Stalin and Mao just doing what people wanted, brainwashed by their own cultures? Weren’t they outliers – psychopaths who managed to indoctrinate millions and murder all those of a different opinion—and create a new culture, in lock step with their perverted view of humanity. The public are children, helpless innocents –ever. We suffer because psychopaths rule”.
This is a “default” view, in which the public is seen as a victim -- prey to demagogues and dictators and all those with the power to control of the media and the organs of public information --and, if necessary, to impose their will with violence. Of course, dictators really, really like being the Fathers of their countries. They just love puppies and kittens and children.
From this point of view, the Many – that’s us –are a collective Child, if not passive, certainly powerless -- and dumb. So, relax – there is nothing you can do. If things go right -- well and good. If things go wrong -- you're a victim -- but you probably won't know that anyway.
In dictatorships, the child’s ‘parents” are abusive and controlling; in our nominal democracies such as the US, authority figures are more benign – but in the end, no matter what the system and who controls it, the public – is not really equipped to think for itself – and not able to distinguish between propaganda and truth, information and misinformation. Or so the theory goes. And, if the Big Baby gets restive and cries?
Well, spare the rod and spoil the child! Yes, we need discipline. We need order.
Of course, you can cuddle distraught kids and tell them some nice story with a happy ending.
This kind of thinking is seductive. The “public” is lied to. We all know that. But who are actually the most lied-to people in the world? Children, of course. Santa, the Tooth Fairy -- parents are not honest with their kids – truth must wait until the kids are “mature” enough--which is basically never --or until they have learned to lie as well as we do -- also known as "growing up".
Of course, kids have so many questions. You’re watching the Game and the kid says: “Daddy, why is the sky blue? “. How do you know? So, you just make shit up. “God likes blue, honey”. When in doubt, blame it on God
That's the trick. Fault other people -- preferably some up there --like God, the President, the One Percent, Congress, teachers, the police, your Mom and Dad... there are lots of targets. Parents -- like politicians and pundits and corporate CEOs-- are "responsible". But, here, the Peter Principle takes over. People in "authority" often just don’t know things they should or what they are doing – but they have to look like they do to remain in control? Hence, the inherently deceitful Blame Game,.
Then again, lies make life easier....
I have to agree on one level with my correspondent – thinking of the public as a child sort of works – although that necessarily means society is the Modern Dysfunctional Family writ large.
"Dysfunctional" means consumerist. And " Family" includes Mom, Dad, the kids and the TV.
That said, there are problems with this line of thought – which nag at me -- and next time I will I explain why – the extent that he is right -- my correspondent is also wrong about the public as a collective child.