( – promoted by buhdydharma )
As surely as if tanks were parked in our streets, we are under attack. But this is not just a class war and it’s not just our livelihoods that are at stake. This is an attack on our very freedom, our sovereignty, our lives.
The history of warfare is the history of one nation’s attempt to seize the land, wealth and resources from another nation. That is what’s happening here. The only difference is the weapon used.
In conventional warfare, the aggressor uses weapons of destruction – armed battalions, bullets, bombs. This war is much more clever. Much more subtle. And much more horrifying. The primary weapon being used here is a box you set in your living room.
Do not be fooled, however, by the innocuous appearance of this box. It is more powerful than any army, laser guided missile, or all the arsenals on Earth. For who controls this weapon controls the greatest power humans can possess – the power of ideas.
The old saying, “the pen is mightier than the sword” can be rewritten, “the idea is mightier than the sword.” Because that’s what we’re really dealing with here. In one sense, television is just the medium by which we disseminate ideas. But in the right hands, it is the most powerful political weapon in history. It is a means by which one may control an entire population.
Edward Bernays*, a loathsome and despicable creature, was not exaggerating when he said this:
Those who manipulate the unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. …It is they who pull the wires that control the public mind….
Bernays should know. He spent a lifetime pioneering subversive methods of mass manipulation for his clients in the military industrial corporate complex (otherwise known as the fascist movement). But they weren’t the only ones who admired Bernays’ special talents. Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, was a big fan. According to Bernays, it was Goebells use of his techniques that gave the word propaganda a bad name. So he changed it to “public relations”.
In the early days Bernays was highly effective at manipulating the public consciousness, and subconsciousness too, with the tools available at that time: radio and print. But if the New York Times gave Bernays access to people’s minds, television gave him access to their souls.
Al Gore, in his book The Assault on Reason, does a splendid job of compiling some of the most profound psychological effects of watching television. He discusses how images, unlike the written word, can bypass the reasoning part of the brain and go straight to the emotional centers. This is especially effective with images that cause fear in the viewer. In the right hands, this phenomenon can induce highly irrational responses. Responses that can be used to drum up wars that are wholly unrelated to the traumatizing event that caused the response in the first place.
But there is another phenomenon Gore discusses that is particularly disturbing in its potential for mass manipulation: the orienting response. This is the phenomena that puts us in a trance like state when a sudden movement enters our field of vision. It is presumed that this phenomenon is a sort of alert system. “LOOK!” A tiger may be in the bushes. This would have served our ancestors well.
But in modern times, it has become an Achilles’ heel of the mind. Gore:
The constant and repetitive triggering of the orienting response induces a quasi-hypnotic state. It partially immobilizes viewers and creates an addiction to the constant stimulation of two areas of the brain: the amygdala and the hippocampus (part of the brain’s memory and contextualizing system). It’s almost as though we have a “receptor” for television in our brains.
When I was a little kid, I was fascinated by the trick of inserting a single frame of popcorn into a movie to induce people to crave popcorn. This was a time when pop psychology was all the rave and the power of subliminal advertising was a popular topic. I am extremely grateful for this, because I then proceeded to watch every single television commercial I saw for its hidden subliminal trickery.
Now, as an adult, I am horrified. The trickery used now is so sophisticated, so advanced, and so widely dispersed throughout all forms of television and multimedia entertainment that I have come to completely reconsider my long held beliefs in this thing we call the 1st Amendment. (future essay perhaps: When Your Speech Becomes My Drug)
Fortunately, setting up a commission to police the propagandists is not necessary and 1st Amendment issues may be avoided. All we really need to do is win the information war.
WE CAN WIN
The way I just described the power of television to manipulate the masses one might think that we would all be a race of zombie bots marching single file to the nearest Coke machine to vote for the latest digital representation of a president.
Obviously, as powerful as television is for manipulating the public, it has its limits. One of those limits is (delightfully for its irony) the more they win the class war, the less time people have to watch television. And most businesses still don’t allow Rush Limbaugh to be broadcast into their work area.
But the real limitation is that no one’s figured out a form or method of propaganda that’s strong enough to completely overcomes people’s ability to smell bullshit. Sometimes it may seem otherwise. But just consider this:
According to Bill Moyers, there are over 800 right wing radio stations beaming nothing but lies into people’s brains across the country.(In the image above, I gave each of the 800 stations a scale range of 50 mile red circles and distributed them evenly across the US) All of the television networks are propaganda outlets for Empire Inc., including those we like to think are on our side (MSNBC, PBS). The propaganda extends far beyond “news” programming into television dramas, sports programming and all those little specialty networks like Discovery and The History Channel. This is something most media critics completely ignore. The opening ceremony of a NASCAR race often resembles the Republican party convention.
And yet, despite this complete permeation of corporatist propaganda, in poll after poll after poll, the overwhelming majority of Americans still believe in progressive policies.
A recent poll found that a large majority even believe that we have too much wealth inequality. This survey by the Harvard Business School found that Americans want wealth distribution similar to that of socialist Sweden. Do you not see the hilariousness of this? Billions they spend trying to turn us all into Ayn Rand and it doesn’t work.
Here’s what does work though: LABELS. In the same survey, only 20 percent of these near socialist liberals were willing to identify themselves as liberals. This is true in many other similar surveys as well. People support liberal like policies such as universal, government run health insurance, but they refuse to call themselves liberals. So the propagandists have been impotent to make most people complete enemies of themselves and their government, but they’ve done a smashing job at rebranding the word liberal.
One shouldn’t dismiss the power of labels. Look how effective it’s been to label people who are truly the enemies of the common people in this country as Democrats. Many of the most damaging, right wing policies this country has ever seen were implemented by Democrats. In fact, in this PR seduced society, it would seem that labels are rapidly becoming all that matter.
But then another poll comes out and reinforces my hope for humanity. With all the mass communication resources at their disposal, the Corporatist can still only get about 40% of the population to buy their lies. And if that doesn’t give you some encouragement, imagine this.
What if the progressive movement controlled 800 radio stations? What if we had even one well funded news network? And I don’t mean corporatist-lite MSNBC. I mean economic populists, free trade bashing, tax the rich class warriors like Michael Moore.
I can tell you what would happen. The corporatist, right wing/neoliberal/neoconservative movement would be destroyed. Tea baggers would be progressives. And bankers would be utility clerks as they should be.
WHAT WE HAVE TO DO TO WIN
Lately, as it becomes more and more apparent that an electoral solution for progressive empowerment is simply not realistic, many are wondering what next. For so long we’ve believed that working through the political system was our only and best chance for progress. Now, as it becomes clear that that avenue has been cut off to us, by those we believed were our allies, there is a strong sense of aimlessness among our ranks. Like a people lost in the desert, the left is truly at its lowest point in generations. The sense of hollowness was thick enough to cut with a knife at the 10-2-10 rally. Coincidentally, I’ve seen 4 separate people describe it a a nice way to spend a beautiful Saturday. That’s not including similar sentiments expressed here on the front page of Docudharma.
What is missing from our flock is not more shepherds. It is an idea. All the activists organizers in the world cannot move people to action without an idea to coalesce around. And the truth is, once there is an idea to coalesce around, all of the activist organizers in my experience become almost unnecessary.
What is this idea that can unite our movement and drive people to act? It’s the same idea it has always been: compassion. The New Deal was nothing but compassion written into law. It was a covenant that said, “I am my brother’s keeper. We are all in this together”.
The ideas of the left, and the policies derived from those ideas, have always been rooted in one thing – our concern and compassion for the rest of humanity and all life. This is what makes us who we are. And it’s why we used to be called bleeding hearts – till someone figured out that that makes liberals sound sympathetic and so should be avoided.
The great attack on the American people that has been going on since the New Deal has really been an attack on the idea of compassion itself. Karl Rove, who is evil but not stupid, understood this clearly when branding George Bush as a “compassionate conservative”. In fact, the single organizing principle of conservatism is selfishness. And this oxymoron is nothing more than Orwellian doublespeak at its worst.
The entire movement of Ayn Rand and Friedrich Hayek, along with the people coming out of the Rand Institute, was a sinister attempt to rationalize, indeed, glorify selfishness as a virtue. Ayn Rand’s book, The Virtue of Selfishness, was promoted by oligarchs hostile to FDR’s programs. And while the psychotic ravings of Miss Rand were far too radical for even the right wing in the 1940s and 50s, they began to catch on in the 60s as the me generation came of age.
The idea all along has been to counter the tendencies of people to turn their compassion for society into public policy. This had to be stopped at all cost. And three generations later, it would seem that it has worked. Democrats, the party of the New Deal, killed the welfare system. Democrats killed the labor unions. Democrats deindustrialized the work force. And now a Democrat is implementing the psychopathic economic policies of Hayek and Friedman.
So what do we have to do? Get off your asses and hit your computers. You have been given the greatest tool of empowerment in human history and all you can think to do with it is sit around and complain about why we have no power.
All human activity, creation, production, transformation, they all begin with an idea. And while ideas are being used as weapons against us, we must use them to defend ourselves.
We must restore the purpose to our movement. We must save the idea that has almost been killed by our enemies and those we called our friends. Instead of wasting precious time and resources on a rigged political system, as though we could have created change without a unifying idea in the first place, we must put our energy into spreading the truth.
Do people know that Obama is still spraying dispersant into people water in the Gulf?
Do people know that Halliburton and other energy companies are right now injecting billions of gallons of of toxic water and chemicals mixed into the ground below their cities and states and that this toxic mix inevitably seeps into our drinking water?
Do people know that our elected representatives KNEW that this process, call hydrofracking, was toxic to groundwater so a special loophole was written into the 2005 energy bill to exempt energy companies using this technique from the clean water act?
Do people know that Barack Obama was one of the senators who voted for passage of this bill?
That is how we win the information war. And while winning the information war may not be enough, it is the only place to start. For again, action follows ideas.
In summation, our best, and I believe only chance to defeat those who are trying to defeat the institutions of our democracy, hand our country over to corporate oligarchy, and reduce us to slaves of debt and economic servitude, is to wage our own information war.
Not only is the information war the central theater in our attacker’s strategy, it is the only one in which we have the tools to really mount a counter-offensive. The internet is our weapon. And the truth. And before any paradigm shifting change occurs, before any real movement emerges, the idea for that movement must already be in place.
The idea of the corporatist movement was selfishness disguised as liberty, individualism and a fictitious notion of freedom. The idea we restore must be that we have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters, to society whole, and to the planet.
But change need not depend on such lofty ideas. Sometimes, reactionaries that we humans are, change can ride in on the tide of the most primitive of ideas. Like the instinct for survival. When I tell people about hydrofracking, it doesn’t matter what their political orientation is: they are revolted. And a line pops into my head: We are all environmentalists now.