Tearing the Veil: Parts 1-3

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Offline tehowe

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Tearing the Veil: Parts 1-3
« on: November 05, 2007, 01:23:50 PM »
Tearing the Veil: Mass Media Misdirection, Manipulation, and Mythology - Part One

Part One: Misdirection – The Proliferation of Media Terror

“the Men who for their desperate ends
Had plucked up mercy by the roots were glad
Of this new enemy. Tyrants, strong before
In devilish pleas, were ten times stronger now,
And thus beset with foes on every side,
The goaded Land waxed mad; the crimes of few
Spread into madness of the many, blasts
From hell came sanctified like airs from heaven”

- William Wordsworth, The Prelude, 1805, Book Tenth

There was a story told once by a sage in which a man, travelling in the darkness at the crest of a valley, slips from a rock. Catching himself with the aid of a branch as he falls, he hangs in the darkness throughout the night, his mind racing with fear. He shouts: all that he hears back is the sound of his own voice, and he imagines the abyss yawning below. His body shakes with ceaseless tremors, his hands shift and he fears losing his grip.

The man’s perseverance wavers and he fears he is at the end of his strength when the sun finally returns, bathing the valley in light. And there, not far below his feet, lies a large ledge on which he could have spent the night in safety and comfort. The man could have stood upon his own two feet; there was never anything to fear.

How refreshing this story seems in the midst of a decade obsessed with geopolitics. As I write this, it is midsummer in Canada, a land more concerned with geography than politics. Unruffled lakes lap idly at the shores of sand beaches here in Ontario, and families – speaking variants of Slavic, French, English, and Asian tongues at one park in Central Ontario – bring their children to the water’s edge, and the cares of the world are worlds away, at least for a day. The light beats down, and one has little to do but stare at the sand, the trees, the sun. It’s a place of seemingly simple truths and contrasts painted in primaries, a place in which we all might feel comfortable.

Here, we are locked safely in the moment, with no immediate consideration of either the past or the future, simply existing, and it seems that we – or at least, my companions on this beach – like it this way.

I’m thirsty, so I rise and return to the campsite in search of something to drink. On the way back, I sit in the car to check the time and turn on the radio, closing the door. There is news of a bombing – catastrophic explosions in Glasgow at an airport. An automobile rammed the front doors in what was described as a fiery conflagration.

I turn off the radio and return to the beach, shaken. Are any of us safe?

Distorting Meaning – A New Curriculum

Of course, it wasn’t like that at all. Clouds did occasionally scud across the clear blue sky you may have envisioned in your mind’s eye. Too warm in the heat, I moved my seat under a tree. Though I was taking a few notes at the time, I’m actually presently writing this in an equally humid, stuffy room in Toronto rather than at the beach as may have been implied. And if I was taking notes at the time, I wouldn’t have been staring at the sun, staring at the sand, or making oblique references to Camus. But these details seemed somehow less important to the fabric of my point – that we like things simple and direct. Too much detail sometimes obscures the power of simple symbols like the beach, and so I omitted a few trivial facts.

But the simple and direct myths that we tell each other may also fail to capture the nuance of a given situation, or distort it altogether. Take for instance the frenzied hype surrounding the aborted London Car Bombing incidents, described as a “devastating terrorist plot” [1] capable of “carnage” [2] and “a huge fireball and a shockwave spreading over 400 yards in all directions” [3], but which was characterized by Ex-CIA counterterrorism expert Larry Johnson as incapable of doing anything more than causing “a lot of damage to the interior of the Mercedes”. “This is not a shrapnel-causing device” he said of the setup, which consisted essentially of a propane barbecue cylinder beside a jar of nails. [4]

In point of fact, as Mr. Johnson also outlined, only 50,000 people have been killed since the 1960s by terrorism. In a report released by Ohio State University entitled “A False Sense of Insecurity” it is revealed that this is equalled or surpassed in the US by the number killed by stray deer, peanuts, and lightning strikes. [5]

We have yet to see that particular detail make front-page news.

Terror Immersion: Learning the Language

Why then, in the US and in Canada, are we are bathed in a media environment that emphasizes danger and fear? Why do major media outlets feel the need to facilitate the agenda of amateur jihadis? Gwynne Dyer, an independent journalist based in London, points out that European nations that have had experience with various (and greater) ongoing levels of insurgency seem far more relaxed about it:

“Most major European countries have already been through some sort of terrorist crisis well before ‘Islamist’ terrorism: the IRA in Britain, the OAS in France, ETA in Spain, the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany, the Brigate Rosse and their neo-fascist counterparts in Italy… In almost all of these countries, despite the efforts of some governments to convince the population that terrorism is an existential threat of enormous size, the vast majority of people don’t believe it. Whereas in the US most people do.” [6]

While Dyer attributes this to inexperience on the part of the nation itself, it seems unlikely that this charge can be levelled at professional media outlets. Days after the car bomb story hit the front pages, we were warned again and in no certain terms by “unnamed sources” that a terror “spectacular” was planned by ‘Al-Qaeda’ this summer, information on the order of “the warnings and intelligence we were getting in the summer of 2001”, an assertion that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was quick to deny [7] – an important technique if one’s aim is to keep the viewer uncertain, uneasy, and off their footing.

Similarly ambiguous warnings have appeared with some regularity during both the summer travel season and the winter holidays over the last few years. If beaten over the head with enough repetition of these warnings, their message becomes internalized, a new ‘rule of thumb’ or lens through which to view the world, and it becomes difficult to even contemplate a different viewpoint or to consider any information or subtleties which might threaten the existing worldview as credible. Such as the repeated comments by members of the Republican party that all the party needs to regenerate its leadership and flagging poll numbers are new attacks on American soil.[8] Such as the evidence that many of the recent plots heroically foiled by the FBI – the New York Airport Plot, the Plot to Attack Fort Dix, the Miami 7 (the list goes on) have not only been staged by complete incompetents possessing “no weapons, no bombs, no expertise, no money and no operational skill” [9], but were likely encouraged by the FBI moles in the first place.

In the case of the Miami 7, it was the paid informant of the FBI that posed as an ‘Al Qaeda’ operative and extracted oaths of fealty from the men. As Ed Strong suggests,

“fresh evidence of terrorist threats is periodically required. And it has been forthcoming on a regular basis. Every several months another “conspiracy” is unveiled, invariably involving an FBI informant and hapless individuals ensnared in a plot orchestrated by the government.” [10]

This news should no longer come as much of a shock, since it is an oft-repeated pattern and one which should be familiar to Canadians as well. Last year, the Toronto Star reported that the now infamous Toronto 17 – a group of kids from the suburbs armed with walkie talkies, flashlights, and precisely one 9mm handgun – had been baited to purchase a bag of fertilizer by their well-paid CSIS informant, Mubin Shaikh. [11] Shaikh, a well known spokesperson in the muslim community, was said to have led the group in training exercises and discussions on the subject of jihad. [12]

Reinforcement by Rote

Propaganda is a concerted set of messages aimed at influencing the opinions or behavior of large numbers of people, usually through mass or direct media channels or, to be more precise (repeat after me);

“Propaganda is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist.” [13]

Political propaganda has been used historically to great effect on the citizens of the nation producing the propaganda. However, in convincing those fundamentally opposed to its message its value is somewhat dubious. From the Wikipedia entry:

“…propaganda is often addressed to people who are already sympathetic to the agenda. This process of reinforcement uses an individual's predisposition to self-select "agreeable" information sources as a mechanism for maintaining control.” [14] (emphasis added)

And control is the chief aim of propaganda. Students of history may find it interesting to note the similarities between the institutions set up during the French Revolution, the Third Reich, and the present American administration in the following quotes:

“In many ways this emergency revolutionary government can be considered a prototype of the modern totalitarian state. The Committee of Public Safety steadily consolidated most power in its own hands until it exercised a degree of central authority unprecedented even among the so-called absolute monarchs of the Old Regime…. But perhaps the most strikingly modern feature of the revolutionary government during the Terror, and the one which we intend to explore in these talks, was the attempt to mobilize all the existing mass media in a vast program of indoctrination.” [15] (5-6)

“We monitors were only too familiar with the habit of the German Home Service to interrupt its programmes for a special announcement proclaiming yet another victory on land, on sea, or in the air. These triumphal communiqués which marked the progress of the German forces… were introduced by a blare of trumpets… [When] the zealous German editor of an illustrated weekly published a feature about these special announcements which showed the record with the victory fanfares being put on the turntable, Goebbels was furious. … Did he want people to think that a massed band of trumpeters really assembled and burst out in joyous music every time they heard of a victory? Certainly not. He did not want them to think at all. They should surrender themselves to the spell of the medium and be carried away by the elation of the moment without the disillusioning intrusion of reality.” [16] (2-3)

If only Homeland Security had ‘triumphal communiqués’ to distribute to the Washington press gallery, the parallel would be complete. But there is no ‘intrusion of reality’ into the entertainment with which we spend our evenings. Reality television, entertainment news, and dramas casting the men and women of the government and armed services in rosy hues as they save the nation from giant asteroids, giant robots, nuclear dystopia or the covert agents of rogue nations serve as the soporific of those that may not even have the opportunity to fit the traditional news into their busy viewing schedule. Another ancient civilization, Rome, had a simple formula to pacify a populace also: panem et circenses (bread – or was it subsidized corn? – and circuses).

It should be evident by now that the distortions and half-truths contained in the official narratives surrounding the North American terror events described above fall into the category of propaganda. What may not be as evident, however, are the long term consequences upon the psyche of the group or nation subjected to fear of this sort on an ongoing basis.

E. H. Gombrich, charged with the task of monitoring Nazi radio propaganda during World War II, offers this insight:

“I should like to propose that what is characteristic of Nazi propaganda is less the lie than the imposition of a paranoiac pattern on world events… In the sense in which I use it (paranoia) here it is rather the pathological magnification of a reaction to which we are unfortunately only too prone, because it is rooted in the given contrast between me and them. I am, of course, good and right and I work as hard as I can, and if my wishes remain unfulfilled this must be due to them. … forbid any expression of doubt in the paranoiac myth and you will automatically foster the tendency to what psychologists call regression, a back-sliding towards the more primitive habits of mind which Le Bon attributed to the crowd. The language we speak is imbued with myth, and so we return with ease to the animistic reaction of turning abstractions into living entities and classes or nations into mythical beings.” [16] (14, 21)

By personifying an abstraction, such as terror, and then pointing to a group of people in which the abstraction may be said to inhere, a great illusion has been performed, a psychological shell game in which the participant willingly or unwillingly enters the worldview of the propagandist. Misdirection becomes a factor in this transfer when the participant expects the threat to come from without, from a manufactured label or category, from some shadowy other to be pursued over the mountains of Afghanistan and into the wider Middle East – only to discover too late, if at all, that the enemy is within.

When that happens, we have been spirited away from the bright lakeside world of the sun, missed a step, come to inhabit the dreams of the propagandist, and worse – come to believe that the abyss recently opened beneath our feet is necessary, natural, and vital to the new order of things.

The psychological processes by which this mental press-gang operates will be discussed in part two.


[1] FOX News: British Police Probe Car Bomb Plot in London
[2] BBC News: Two Car Bombs Found in West End
[3] The Times UK: Nightclub Bomb Alert Issued Two Weeks Ago
[4] Countdown with Keith Olbermann: Larry Johnson Clip
[5] Regulation: A False Sense of Insecurity
[6] NOW Magazine: No Time for Terror
[7] Secret Document: US Fears Terror ‘Spectacular’ Planned
[8] Yearning for Terror is a GOP Stategy
[9] Wired: Portrait of the Modern Terrorist as an Idiot
[10] Ed Strong: Miami Terror Arrests Manufactured by FBI
[11] Police planted evidence: Terrorists’ arrest in Toronto was a sting operation
[12] AltMuslim: On Spying: Mubin Shaikh & The "Toronto 17"
[13] Garth S. Jowett and Victoria O'Donnell, Propaganda And Persuasion, 4th edition, 2006.
[14] Wikipedia: Propaganda
[15] Leith, James A. (1968) Media and Revolution: Moulding a New Citizenry in France during the Terror. Canada: CBC Publications
[16] Gombrich, E. H. (1970) Myth and Reality in German War-Time Broadcasts. London: University of London, The Athlone Press
"We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force." - Ayn Rand

Offline tehowe

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Tearing The Veil: Part Two
« Reply #1 on: November 05, 2007, 01:27:11 PM »
Tearing the Veil: Mass Media Misdirection, Manipulation, and Mythology

Part Two: Manipulation – The Marketing of Security Culture

"If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it? The recent practice of propaganda has proved that it is possible, at least up to a certain point and within certain limits."

- Edward Bernays, Propaganda, 2005 ed., p. 71.

In one of the earliest Peanuts comic strips by Charles M Schulz, we see Linus’ sister Lucy berating him about his beloved security blanket:

Lucy: “You and that stupid blanket! You’ll be carrying it around for the rest of your life!”
Linus: “That’s not true! I have tremendous will power! Why, I could give up this blanket right today if I had to!”
Lucy: “All right! Let’s see you give it up today!”
At this point, Lucy snatches Linus’ blanket from his grasp, and the expression on his face is telling as he stands, devastated:
Linus: “Good grief! What have I done?!” [1]

Linus’ security blanket provides him with what is otherwise known as a ‘transitional object’, a term coined by psychoanalyst Donald Winnicot during his study of early childhood [2]. In his view, all infants go through a time during which they begin to realize that their mother is a separate person from them, and that the narcissistic world in which they had lived prior to that point – one in which a sense of constant security was afforded them by her attention – cannot continue indefinitely. The object serves as a temporary proxy for the mother when she is absent, and helps to alleviate the anxiety the child feels during the important developmental period in which the concept of independence is developed.

In his theory of object relations, Winnicot developed the crucial connections that exist between the formation of the infant’s concept of self and the ways in which he or she relates to objects in the environment. Apart from certain exceptions (notably, autism), the child eventually learns that its sense of omnipotence or control of the objects around it was an illusion created by the mother’s responsiveness (an early instance of what in adults is called ‘magical thinking’).

What’s the point of all this? The human need for security is a particularly deep seated one, and that it arises in infancy before the development of a full-grown, conceptual consciousness or even self-awareness. Although an adult’s needs may be consciously expressed in terms of value-judgements, (since those things that promote well being are of value to the individual), many of the processes and motivations around the issue of security still occur at the subconscious level.

The covert, unseen nature of these processes are helpful insofar as they facilitate rapid judgements in critical situations, eg; when one’s security is threatened by direct attack. It’s ironic, then, that this same shortcut to the emotions renders us vulnerable to manipulation by those who know how to play on human fears and desires. This, of course, is the province of the confidence man and the propagandist.

It’s interesting to observe just how closely the history of modern psychology has paralleled the development of propaganda: the interest of both fields is the operation of the subconscious. But while psychology is generally viewed as a benevolent if inexact tool for personal growth and healing, propaganda’s role has been seen to be almost entirely exploitative.

A Survey: Modern Psychology’s Roots in Propaganda

There are deep historical connections between the fields of propaganda and psychology. The work of Gustave Le Bon, arguably one of the earliest pioneers in the field of crowd psychology, was to exert considerable influence on the thought of both Sigmund Freud and Adolf Hitler. [3] One example of Le Bon’s thought will suffice:

“As soon as a new dogma is implanted in the mind of crowds it becomes the source of inspiration whence are evolved its institutions, arts, and mode of existence. The sway it exerts over men’s minds under these circumstances is absolute. Men of action have no thought beyond realising the accepted belief, legislators beyond applying it, while philosophers, artists, and men of letters are solely preoccupied with its expression under various shapes.” [4] (83)

While the idea of the unconscious mind and unconscious (or group) motivations had been known since antiquity, Le Bon and Freud gained much of the credit for popularizing and codifying the idea.

Freud, in his turn, exhibited influence upon the members of the British Psychoanalytic movement including Wilfred Trotter, Ernest Jones, and Wilfred Bion, [3] who would go on to found the groundbreaking Tavistock Clinic. Initially a private venture, the Clinic was transformed in the crucible of wartime experience within the Directorate of Army Psychology and, aided by a grant from the Rockefeller foundation, became the Tavistock Institute after the war. The Institute was, in its early years, run by a tightly knit group of members who would go on to hold high office and influence in such organizations as the World Federation for Mental Health, the World Health Organization, and the British National Health Institute. It would become a focal point in Britain for the study of psychodynamics and psychoanalysis, enjoying associations with a broad range of experts in the developing field, including Carl Jung and Melanie Klein.

The Institute’s particular specialty was the study of social psychology. Its wartime role had been to assist in the selection of leadership candidates for the British Army, and this interest was carried forward in its work on the study of social (especially corporate) cultures and networks.

“Experience during World War II had shown that psychoanalytic object relations theory could unify the psychological and social fields in a way that no other could. This was the reason for making psychoanalytic training an essential ingredient of the capabilities required to fulfill the post-war mission of the Institute. It soon led to entirely new concepts: those of Bion (I96I) concerning basic unconscious assumptions in group life, which he linked to Melanie Klein's (1948) views on the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions; and Jaques's (I953) theory on the use of social structure as a defense against anxiety.” [5]

This study of social networks culminated in a theory of ‘social ecology’ and organizational change. In the conclusion of Eric Trist’s summary of Tavistock history, it is stated (in somewhat opaque terms) that:

“The socio-ecological approach is linked to the socio-technical because of the critical importance of self-regulating organizations for turbulence reduction. It is further linked to the socio-psychological approach because of the need to reduce stress and prevent regression. Primitive levels of behavior can only too easily appear in face of higher levels of uncertainty. This is one of the greatest dangers facing the world as the present century draws to its close.” [5] (Emphasis added)

In other words, having some understanding of how the dynamics of a group creates order or disorder is valuable in the understanding of a group’s behavior. Uncertainty leads to anxiety, regression, and a primitive level of functioning. The answer to the threat of organizational turbulence is “the building of inter-organizational networks that can address 'meta-problems' at the 'domain' level” to “improve social coherence and to envision more desirable futures.” In other words, a self-regulating network of psychological think-tanks.

Freud’s influence was also evident in the thought of his nephew, Edward L Bernays, who helped found the field of Public Relations. In Bernays’ view, manipulation of public opinion in a democracy was necessary due to the irrational and dangerous effects of crowd psychology when left unchecked. However, Bernays was not above offering his services to promote commercial interests, as demonstrated in his essay “The Engineering of Consent”, in which the subject is defined as “the art of manipulation of people; the masses, consumers, businesses, citizens or the government, to make them want things that they do not need by linking those products and ideas to their unconscious desires.” [6]

In the words of one commentator, "Bernays liked to think of himself as a kind of psychoanalyst to troubled corporations." [7]

Snatching the Blanket: Generating Loss and Aggression

There are few unconscious desires stronger than the desire to maintain security in one’s life. This goes deeper than any conventional notion of alarms, fences, and locks. The fundamental issue is one of personal identity.

One of the great successes of developmental psychology has been to show how the self is developed in relation to objects and situations in the external world. The beloved teddy bear, blanket, or other comfort object demonstrates the power of this identification.

“In a later stage of the development the child no longer needs the transitional object. He is able to make a distinction between ‘me’ and ‘not-me’, and keeping inside and outside apart and yet interrelated. This development leads to the use of illusion, symbols and objects later on in life.” [2]

Sadly, this crucial human connection – identification, empathy between internal and external aspects of the self – may be manipulated, attacked at its root by a process known as emotional priming. And one of the most effective, primal emotions for this purpose is fear. Fear, in the words of Frank Herbert, is the mind killer. When reason is brought to bear, manipulation may be identified and stopped. Introspection and reflection offer insight into the dynamics between one’s personal thoughts, emotions, and events in the external world. But the presence of mind required for reflection of this sort becomes increasingly difficult in an environment filled with anxiety.

As was covered in the first installment of this series, we are living in a time when fear has entered the popular culture like never before. It seems as though the tectonic plates of culture are shifting, unseen, beneath our feet. Thrown off guard by the aftershocks of September 11th, 2001, we’re left with the distinct impression that whole populations are casting around for some new belief, some new object to attach to. We are as bewildered as Linus without his blanket.

In their book “In the Wake of 9/11: The Psychology of Terror”, Thomas Pyszczynski, Sheldon Solomon and Jeff Greenberg developed work dating back to the 1980s at the University of Kansas on a set of ideas called Terror Management Theory, or TMT. The ideas of Pyszczynski et al. were influenced by the work of one Ernest Becker, who held that a primary motivation of the human psyche is the denial of death [8]. This denial manifests in the child as a clinging need for and focus on the mother, and in the adult as identification with one’s culture and its symbols of power. When children become increasingly aware of their parent’s mortality and their own,

“their security base must broaden to something bigger than their parents: something large enough to provide protection from these bigger threats … the child consequently shifts the basis of his or her psychological security from maintaining a sense of value in the eyes of the parents to maintaining a sense of value in the eyes of the culture at large and its deistic and secular representatives.” [9] 26-27

Pyszczynski, Solomon, and Greenberg explain the role of culture as an insulating layer of associations and metaphors by which people understand the world around themselves and give it meaning. Culture becomes imbued with such significance that it takes on a nearly metaphysical role:

“At the most fundamental level, cultures allow people to control the ever-present potential terror of death by convincing them they are beings of enduring significance living in a meaningful reality. That is the core proposition of TMT. And the core implication of TMT is that to maintain psychological equanimity throughout their lives, people must sustain 1. faith in a culturally derived worldview that imbues reality with order, stability, meaning, and permanence; and 2. belief that one is a significant contributor to this meaningful reality. … in this way, we live as valued participants in a culturally based symbolic vision, rather than as vulnerable animals fated only for death and decay” [9] 16-17

As they develop this line of reasoning, the authors argue that either a direct threat to the security of one’s own person (such as a gun in the ribs) or a threat to one’s beliefs and worldview (as in, say, a debate about one’s philosophical or religious beliefs) will have the same result, an increase in anxiety. They identify the mechanism in both cases as being mortality salience, or the confrontation with the fact of one’s own impermanence and impending death. While in the first case the threat is a direct one, prompting a response of fear and a desire for ‘fight or flight’, the threat in the second case is indirect. However, the effect is the same and “threatens to unleash the overwhelming terror normally mitigated by the secure possession of one’s existing beliefs” [9] 29

The most interesting part of Terror Management Theory, however, is its explanation of the dual aspects of the processes which serve to keep the knowledge and fear of death away from conscious awareness. These processes have a conscious and a subconscious component and operate in tandem to ensure we are able to make it through our days without having to cope with continuous thoughts of mortality and insecurity. Rather than simply suppressing knowledge of death, there is a wide body of evidence now to support the central idea of Terror Management Theory – that people retain their sense of stability and security by a) actively, consciously denying, dissembling, or ignoring in regards to unpleasant information and b) subconsciously bolstering their worldview to compensate for a perceived threat by artificially inflating self-esteem.

Laurie Manwell, PhD candidate in Nueroscience at Guelph University, neatly sums up the action of the conscious processes. In this case, the example given is the threat of being confronted by information implying that the collapse of the twin towers was caused by the American government, a position dissonant with the widely-held expectation that a centralist state provides security:

“Thus, considering that increasing evidence points to the fact that most people only become defensive or aggressive when they believe that they are under some form of attack (Berkowitz and Alioto, 1973; Berkowitz et al., 1986; Cohen and Nisbett, 1994; Baumeister et al., 1996; Baumeister, 1997; Bushman and Baumeister, 1998; Baumeister, et al., 2000), it is quite understandable that many people first question the legitimacy of the threat before questioning the legitimacy of the evidence when discussing the events of 9/11”. [10]

Pyszczynski et al. demonstrated the action of the subconscious process by citing a study (Roseblatt et al, 1989) in which 22 Municipal Court judges were asked to complete a set of questionnaires and standard personality assessments. Half of the judges had a ‘Mortality Attitudes Personality Survey’, designed to remind the judges of their own mortality, while the control group had surveys unrelated to mortality. After completing the surveys, both groups of judges were given a case study about a prostitute and asked to set a bond – the judges who had been recently reminded of the possibility of death set bond at levels almost 10 times higher than the control set of judges, which led to the conclusion that:

“the effects of thoughts of mortality on human judgement and behavoir are greatest when they are accessible but no longer in focal consciousness or working memory” [9] 56

Another experiment was conducted to ‘prime the subconscious’ with death-related words by flashing them on a screen at a subliminal rate, hidden amongst neutral ‘masking words’. It was found that the presence of the death-related words increased the tendency to defensiveness in a followup test, whereas control words had no effect. The authors concluded that “subtle reminders of mortality produce more vigorous worldview defence than more sustained (and therefore presumably more conscious or salient) mortality salience inductions” [9] 68

These ‘inductions’ included, but were not limited to: prejudice, aggression, even the exaggeration of trivial differences. One lone positive result of these tests was the discovery that some individuals would express the desire for greater meaning and value in their lives, but in most subjects they had the result of intensifying patriotism and nationalistic sentiment, the desire to suppress dissent, and the intensification of bigotry.

None of the test subjects were aware of the extent to which they were being manipulated.

Manufacturing a Market for Security

Let’s return briefly to the thought of Edward L. Bernays. Freud’s nephew, master marketer, public relations maven, expert on the ‘engineering of consent’. From his early masterwork, “Propaganda”. Chapter 1, Paragraph 1:

"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." [11] (9)

And from an interview in 1990, shortly before Bernay’s death:

More: (Sorry, this doesn't fit as a forum post.)

"We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force." - Ayn Rand

Offline tehowe

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Tearing The Veil: Part Three
« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2007, 01:30:28 PM »
Tearing the Veil: Mass Media Misdirection, Manipulation, and Mythology

Part Three: Mythology – The Key to Hacking Counterfeit Culture

“I found that [symbols] are an integral part of the unconscious, and can be observed everywhere. They form a bridge between the ways in which we consciously express our thoughts and a more primitive, more colourful and pictorial form of expression. It is this form, as well, that appeals directly to feeling and emotion… Because, in our civilized life, we have stripped so many ideas of their emotional energy, we do not really respond to them any more... Something more is needed to bring them home to us effectively enough to make us change our attitude and our behavior.” [Emphasis added]

- Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols, pps. 32-33

In the first two installments of this article [1], the intention was to explore the reasons and means by which ideas are propagated through the mass media to persuasive effect in what is commonly referred to as the ‘war on terror’. The thought of early masters of public relations and propaganda, aspects of contemporary and wartime psychology, and investigations into the ultimate beneficiaries of these ideological campaigns were woven into the service of an argument which may be most easily summarized as follows: the feelings of both attraction to the familiar, and antipathy to the unfamiliar, are readily manipulated since these feelings strike close to the root of what it means to be secure.

Like the good cop playing off of the threat of the bad cop in some cinematic interrogation, or the stage magician that directs the attention with banal chatter on the one hand – only to spring some surprise upon the darkened theatre from within the other – real proficiency in persuasion depends upon immersion in the familiar before shocking the mind by offering it something to which it is unaccustomed. It is at this point at which we are prepared to be amazed, and we're open to the show, waiting for the resolution of the third act. The stage sets the scene, and offers the familiar frame within which we interpret the events that unfold. We suspend our disbelief and we are entertained as, from underneath a white kerchief, a single white dove slips into view – a winking secret, an understanding shared between the performer and the audience.

What power, then, the masters of stagecraft have over our perception: as we sit in the theatre, we are unaware of the walls to our right and left unless we make the conscious effort to turn and look. The ornate murals and chandeliers go unnoticed also, if we are in one of the reliquaries of the stage. In the more mundane movie house or cineplex, the stickiness of the floors and the muted trill of a phone may barely enter our attention. All that matters, for the moment, is on the stage or screen – and the collective experience of viewing the spectacle is itself mesmerizing, for that which lies outside the glow of the limelight also lies outside of our shared experience.

And what an appropriate metaphor the stage is, for our fully stage-managed media. Scripted and honed, we are entertained nightly by staged wrestling matches, staged 'reality' television, and staged news, all of which we consume voraciously. One recent example of stagecraft involved a 'spontaneous' White House press conference in which soldiers were prepped with the questions they were to ask:

“'for 45 minutes prior to the President's involvement, the soldiers practiced their answers repeatedly with a Pentagon official who stood where the President would later address the troops and, in her own words, quote, 'drilled them on questions he was likely to ask,' along with what she called their own, quote, 'scripted responses.'” [2]

The article, from the Accuracy in Media site, goes on to state that “staging the news is commonplace”.

In his landmark 1994 book “Media Virus”, author and media analyst Douglas Rushkoff compared the content of such broadcasts, of any broadcast in fact, to a virus:

“Media viruses spread through the datasphere the same way biological ones spread through the body or a community ... The protein shell of a media virus might be an event, invention, technology, system of thought, musical riff, visual image, scientific theory, sex scandal, clothing style or even a pop hero as long as it can catch our attention. Any one of these media virus shells will search out the receptive nooks and crannies in popular culture and stick on anywhere it is noticed. Once attached, the virus injects its more hidden agendas into the datastream in the form of ideological code”[3]

If this is so, and if (as it seems) more than a handful of reasonably intelligent people are aware of this, then why do we pay any attention to the media at all? And what is the nature of the revelatory payload hidden within the sticky shell of the event we witness before us on the stage, on the screen, or in the daily headlines?

Tell Me a Story: The Necessity of Myth

“'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” [4]

This quote, typically attributed to Karl Rove (the ‘senior advisor to Bush’ in Ron Suskind’s New York Times expose of fundamentalist thinking in the White House) neatly summarizes not only the arrogance of power but also a dynamic which any performer understands – the necessary reciprocal relationship between the performer and the audience. It is one of the first relationships that we experience, and is bound up in our nature – the need to relate to each other and to reality through stories. As seminal American author and essayist Reynolds Price put it:

“A need to tell and hear stories is essential to the species Homo Sapiens – second in necessity apparently after nourishment and before love and shelter. Millions survive without love or home, almost none in silence; the opposite of silence leads quickly to narrative, and the sound of story is the dominant sound of our lives, from the small accounts of our day's events to the vast incommunicable constructs of psychopaths.” [5]

Stories are as pervasive and as vital as the air we breathe – they are not merely the media, but the medium in which human consciousness exists. And like fish in a vast ocean, this medium flows around us and through us without any necessary conscious awareness on our part.

Air and water, once viewed as irreducible, may be analyzed in terms of their constituent parts, placed in bell jars, subjected to reactions and tests. Similarly, we may dig beneath the surface of stories and unearth patterns, themes and symbols. It is common knowledge that water reduces, via the process of electrolysis, into the highly reactive elements hydrogen and oxygen. [6] The constituents of stories, of myth and legend – the themes and symbols common to and reflective of the sum of human experience – are no less explosive in the wrong hands. We have already touched upon the place of Gustave Le Bon in the development of public relations theory. In 1896, he wrote:

“The great upheavals which precede changes of civilisations such as the fall of the Roman Empire and the foundation of the Arabian Empire, seem at first sight determined more especially by political transformations, foreign invasion, or the overthrow of dynasties. But a more attentive study of these events shows that behind their apparent causes the real cause is generally seen to be a profound modification in the ideas of the peoples. The true historical upheavals are not those which astonish us by their grandeur and violence. The only important changes whence the renewal of civilisations results, affect ideas, conceptions, and beliefs. The memorable events of history are the visible effects of the invisible changes of human thought.” [7] (7)

In regards to the personal sphere, McLuhan might agree: “Radical changes of identity, happening suddenly and in very brief intervals of time, have proved more deadly and destructive of human values than wars fought with hardware weapons.” [8] (97)

Ideas wrapped in stories change history, and this has been known for much longer than Le Bon's work, though his restatement and expansion of known media theory was felt in the tectonic shifts of the twentieth century. Before the advent of the mass media, the carriers of news were the aoidos, the oral epic poets of ancient Greece and the bards of medieval Europe. Highly trained, these individuals fulfilled what we would regard today as a stunning multiplicity of roles – journalists, entertainers, chroniclers and genealogists; and yet at root their role was to promote social cohesion, for their stories travelled with them and were shaped by their audiences.

One of the existing repositories of this ancient folklore are the stories that we tell our children. In the collections of the Brothers Grimm, for example, the “Children's and Household Tales”, we find the story of Hansel and Gretel. In this story, two children are abandoned in the deep woods by their parents. Encountering a witch with cannibalistic intentions, the brother and sister discover that they must work together if they are to survive. After a period of incarceration, they turn the witch's plan on its head, cooking her in the stove, and attain their freedom (but not before looting the witch’s house of treasure). [9]

Many such 'fairy tales' follow a similar pattern. They are concise, they offer simple themes, and, like a three act play, are structured with a well defined beginning, middle, and end. The reason for this is that they fulfill a specific teaching role:

“Children… live in a world of terror in which the fragile illusion provided by the safety of the family is always at risk… Bruno Bettelheim (1977) suggested that fairy tales provide the opportunity for children to experience evil and terror as a part of life. A child can identify with the characters in a fairy tale and feel reassured that although evil and feelings of terror are an integral part of life they can be controlled.” [10] 33

Here then, we may begin to see some of the symbols of the story and the way they are interwoven to contrast the familiar with the unfamiliar. The theme of abandonment, the symbols of the stranger and the woods, even the bread which the children scatter to leave themselves a trail home – all are recurrent in myth and legend. See: Little Red Riding Hood, the tale of Theseus and the Minotaur, and Snow White for other examples of the symbolism of the forest, the trail home, and the witch – for starters.

Though some of us may be all grown up now, it is still possible to identify with the plight of the children, for adults, too, have quests and obstacles to achieve every day before the journey home. In his book “The Hero With a Thousand Faces”, Joseph Campbell outlined the proposition that world myths of the heroic self share an underlying structure, beginning with the call to adventure:

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” [11] (30)

Through his work in comparative mythology, Campbell sought to abstract away the differences that exist in individuals and the specifics of the cultures in which they live, in order to lay bare the shared aspects of psychology that are common to each and every one of us. These are the themes and symbols that resonate at the deepest level of our psyche.

The Greatest Show on Earth! Our Complicity as Symbol Consumers

What, then, is a symbol? In Carl Jung’s words, “A word or an image is symbolic when it implies something more than its obvious and immediate meaning. It has a wider “unconscious” aspect that is never precisely defined or fully explained.” [12] (4)

The reason that a symbol’s meaning cannot be fully defined in practical terms has to do with the dual structure of the human psyche itself. In broad terms, one may view the mind as being subdivided into two sections with overlapping boundaries – the conscious mind, which is the set of all those experiences presently in the limelight of one’s current awareness, and the unconscious mind, wherein your memories and the sum of your past experiences reside.

But this, too, is a simplification. Your unconscious is not merely a storehouse for forgotten events like some dusty attic of the mind. It also captures things half-seen, things half-heard – nearly everyone has had the experience of being in some crowded, noisy area in which a number of conversations are occurring, only to be alerted to the fact that someone has said something interesting or vital just after they have finished speaking – in which case you are compelled to ask them to repeat it. Your unconscious is a massive filter for experience and a processing powerhouse without which we would be unable to accomplish anything more demanding than the simplest tasks. Jay Ingram, host of the Discovery Channel’s science magazine show Daily Planet, offers this example:

“Think back to when you learned to drive: every single step had to be considered. Put the key in, turn it that way, take off the parking brake, look carefully at the automatic transmission to be sure that you’re about to shift into drive and not reverse or neutral, check both mirrors – have you done everything you should? Ease your foot off the brake – it was endless and harrowing. And that was before you even pulled out into the road! After driving for a few weeks or months, the process was totally different… you no longer paid conscious attention to [the details].” [13] (65)

And so it is with the dexterity of the pianist, the balance of the bicyclist, and the sudden insights of great mathematicians. In many ways, your unconscious mind is a great undiscovered country lying in twilight, teeming with activity, and you have but one small flashlight – the light of your reasoning consciousness – with which to explore it. Or, like the shifting landmasses of the living alien world in Stanislaw Lem’s science fiction masterpiece ‘Solaris’, we can only see the shapes of our mind’s terrain when they break the surface of the deep unconscious ocean. They remain in our view for but a little while then, having exhausted whatever power keeps them afloat, they sink beneath the waves once more. [14]

We’re familiar, each to one’s own degree of ability, with the way that our conscious mind processes ideas. But does the unconscious mind operate on the same principles? This would not appear to be the case. Rather than categorizing objects based on their specific similarities and differences of type, the unconscious mind deliberates in its own peculiar, associative dream language. Julian Jaynes, the freewheeling intellectual and psychologist responsible for the idea that the evolution of consciousness may have occurred on far shorter time scales than we may like to think, put it this way: “It is by metaphor that language grows… In early times, language and its referents climbed up from the concrete to the abstract on the steps of metaphors, even, we may say, created the abstract on the basis of metaphors.” [15] (49-51) For evidence, Jaynes directs the reader to the pages of any etymological dictionary, or offers a wealth of his own examples: the leaf of a book, the tongues of shoes, the teeth of a comb. Notice that, with the metaphor, we are also relating the unfamiliar to the familiar.

Jung speaks of a similarly associative quality of the unconscious mind in its generation of the dream image. “The unconscious… seems to be guided chiefly by instinctive trends , represented by corresponding thought forms – that is, by the archetypes. A doctor who is asked to describe the course of an illness will use such rational concepts as “infection” or “fever”. The dream is more poetic. It presents the diseased body [in the dream of one patient] as a man’s earthly house, and the fever as the fire that is destroying it.” [12] (67) Further, Jung connects the underlying patterns of archetype to the images produced in dreams, poetry, and art by generating his own unique metaphor: the symbol is the flower, the unconscious archetype its root.

“As a plant produces its flower, so the psyche creates its symbols. Every dream is evidence of this process.” [12] (53)

Symbols, then, are something that may, at least for now and for the purposes of definition, only be glimpsed out of the corner of the mind’s eye. Their full meaning is highly contextual and depends upon an understanding of the individual and the particular ways in which their unconscious mind gives rise to the symbol. However, this is not to denigrate the universal aspect of symbols – and so I feel compelled at this point to introduce you to a metaphor of my own devising. Allow the author to be your temporary guide, and I will take you on a magic carpet ride – to a different kind of stage right here on this page; a circular bullring in Sevilla, jewel of the Andalusian province of Spain.

You are in the top level of the stadium, and beyond the heads of the crowd, you see a maze of narrow, twisting streets full of homes in the Moorish style. In the distance, the sparkling ribbon of the Guadalquivir glistens in the sun. You feel moderately dazed, displaced – could it be the heat? – but you decide that this disconcerting feeling will pass in time.

Suddenly, a trumpet sounds – the matador and his procession file into the arena, followed by El Toro – the bull – an elemental force, a burly, stamping dynamo of power and confusion, moving like the wind from one side of the arena to the other, confused of its whereabouts.

And so the game begins, wrapped in the now-familiar three act structure: the lances third, the flags third, and the death third. In each, the human combatants emerge from their protective barricades and seek to pierce the mass of muscle in the withers of the beast, the place from which the mighty head of the bull gains its power. Weakened and bloodied but unbowed, the bull increasingly seeks a place of refuge in the ring – you, a resident of Sevilla, call it the querencia.


(Sorry this doesn't fit as a forum post: to read the rest see...)

"We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force." - Ayn Rand

Offline fradus

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Re: Tearing the Veil: Parts 1-3
« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2008, 04:35:16 AM »
Just take me here...

simple truths and contrasts painted in primarys :-*
Vote 1 Julian Assange

Offline adissenter2

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Re: Tearing the Veil: Parts 1-3
« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2008, 06:38:15 AM »
nice find...

“'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ! Molon Labe! Come and take them!