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Organized Chaos and Confusion as Political Control

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There’s something happening here, but what it is ain’t exactly clear.

– Buffalo Springfield, 1967

It’s not supposed to be clear, now or then.  If you’re confused by the news you’re hearing, you should be.  They want you to be.  They try to make you be.  But you don’t have to be.

Who are “they”?  They are the corporate mainstream media (MSM) that serve as mouthpieces for the power elites, who are connected through an intricate system of institutions and associations, both obvious and shadowy.  They run the show that the media produce for the masses.  To paraphrase the illustrious American propagandist, Edward Bernays: This is the engineering of the consent of the ignorant herd by the intelligent few.

That this has been going on for a long time should be obvious.  That such propaganda is surround-sound today is a fact.  It is total and non-stop.  Even its critics are often seduced as they are horrified.

But I utter the obvious to explore the obscure.  In particular, the ways the elites try to manage the public mind by confusing contradictions, half-truths, multiple and conflicting narratives, and revelations proffered to conceal more fundamental facts.

The basic way people’s thinking is controlled today is by confusing them and creating a perpetual state of mental vertigo.  Muddled and disordered by double-speak, illogical reporting, and a kaleidoscopic merry-go-round of conflicting reports, the average person is reduced to a mental mess.  “To the average man who tries to keep informed,” writes Jacques Ellul in Propaganda, “a world emerges that is astonishingly incoherent, absurd, and irrational, which changes rapidly and constantly for reasons he can’t understand.”

Take Donald Trump.  He is regularly castigated by the media for his endless stream of tweets and contradictory statements.  He is called a moron, mentally imbalanced, and a clown.  But what these critics fail to grasp is that he is beating them at their own game of sowing confusion.  He is our modern mythic Johnny Appleseed, wildly spewing seeds of bedlam to incite and confound.  He is no anomaly.  He has stepped out of our celebrity reality-TV screened world to carry on the media’s task of what Orwell said was a necessary task for the rulers in a totalitarian society: “to dislocate the sense of reality.”

The mainstream media do this daily.  Think of their reporting of some recent news and ask yourself what exactly have they said – Russia-gate, the Iran agreement, the Las Vegas massacre, Catalonia, health insurance, etc. Gibberish piled upon gibberish, that’s what they’ve said.  A salmagundi of contradictory verbiage that leaves a half-way sentient person shaking one’s head in astonishment.  Or leaves one baffled, devoid of any sense of the truth.

While the gross Harvey Weinstein, buddy to Democrat politicians who took large sums from his deep pockets, dominates the MSM’s spotlight, as if his exploits suddenly appeared out of nowhere, the U.S. war against Syria and so many other countries “isn’t happening,” as Harold Pinter put it in his Nobel acceptance speech when he said the systematic crimes of the United States have been disappeared behind “a highly successful act of hypnosis.” The nuclear threats to Russia and China aren’t happening.  It doesn’t matter right now anyway.  We might get back to that next week or next month, if we are finished with Weinstein by then or if Stephen Paddock’s autopsy report isn’t back from Stanford where they are studying his brain tissue to find the cause and manner of his death – you know what deep secrets brain tissue can reveal.  And yes, we will be exploring a question a brilliant reporter asked the Las Vegas authorities: “Do you think Paddock did it because he could?”

In 2003 the Bush administration blatantly lied about Saddam Hussein possessing weapons of mass destruction in order to wage a barbaric and criminal war against Iraq.  Then Obama glided in on the giddy fantasies of liberals, the same people who supported Clinton’s savaging of Serbia in 1999.  He smiled and smiled and spoke articulately about the need for war, drone assassinations, the bailing out of Wall Street and the big banks, the need to confront Russia over his own administration’s engineered Ukrainian coup, and a crackdown on whistleblowers. For decades the media echoed the blatant deceptions of these men.  From slick to obvious to slick went the propaganda.  And then the shock and awe of Mr. Trump’s election.  How to deal with one of their own, one spawned from the entertainment-media-news complex? Trump accused them of creating fake news.  He relentlessly attacked them, as if to say: you hypocrites; you accuse me of what you do.  Then he continued to tweet out his messages meant to confuse and inflame.  He continued to make statements that were then contradicted.  What were the poor media to do except one-up him.  This they have done.

We have now entered a new phase of propaganda where sowing mass confusion on every issue 24/7 is the method of choice.

But therein lies hope if we can grasp the meaning of Oscar Wilde’s paradoxical statement: “When both a speaker and an audience are confused, the speech is profound.”

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Edward Curtin is a writer whose work has appeared widely.  He teaches sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. His website is http://edwardcurtin.com/

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