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Propaganda’s Long Shadow

Hierarchal societies, like the one we live in, rely on orthodoxy and their in-place control mechanisms. In order to preserve the class divisions built within them, the ruling elite must be vigilant about lower class discontent, lest its authority be tested. To this end, the lower class is educated to believe that, regardless of its poor station, it is heaven on earth compared to what its lot would be elsewhere.

This type of control is necessarily imperfect. At any time there will be information available that belies the heavenly one. This could lead to trouble if an unskeptical population did not work in the interest of authority by providing a counterbalance. Contradictory information gradually runs aground in a self-correcting environment.

A gun is particularly effective at controlling someone, but it has a drawback. It is immediately recognized as a tool of repression and that could lead to longterm repercussions. Far better is a tool that is used with such finesse that the target becomes unaware of the repression, so no worry about the longterm. Talking of course about propaganda.

Propaganda has a shadow, hypocrisy. The presence of the second is a natural occurrence of the first. If it can be imagined without its shadow, propaganda alone would not make one boiling angry. That emotion is owed to the often deadly tandem.

Here’s some examples of propaganda/hypocrisy at work in capitalist, imperialist America:

Patriotism, standing up for your country — or what amounts to the same, rooting for the home team — is the default position. It is the position one would be expected to take in the absence of compelling factors in an opposite direction. The reason for its default position is that our country — or our team — becomes an extension of ourselves. When we cheer it, we cheer ourselves. It’s quite natural but also meaningless.

While the question of meaning is of little consequence for the sports team rooter, this is certainly not the case for building national patriotic spirit. The state must thoroughly imbue itself with meaning precisely because even though we are psychologically predisposed to support the state (because it is us), the meaninglessness of it would proscribe unquestioned support.

To this end, a magnificent construct is created, that of, for the long and short of it, a country on the side of the angels. We decimated the redskin, subjugated the brownskin, enslaved the blackskin, persecuted the yellowskin, and target the oliveskin.

Ours is a land of opportunity.

The ruling elite possess vast fortunes.
All are equals under the law.

The poor are sick and hungry.
Blessed are the meek.

Security, eavesdropping, surveillance up/privacy down.
The land of the free.

White collar crime dwarfs blue collar crime.
We are a nation of laws.

We imprison one-quarter of the world’s prisoners.
Insure domestic tranquility.

Four in ten of those incarcerated are Black.
Justice is blind.

We spread democracy throughout the world.
We don’t target innocents.

Corporate profits up/wages down.
Protecting the American way of life.

And about this American way of life where consumerism meets the corporate Gods:

You are a loyal and valued customer.
We don’t have to offer you our best price.

Your privacy is very important to us.
Since its complete lack.

Your call is very important to us.
If saying so builds our image.

In order to serve you better.
We’ve insulated ourselves from your contact.

Please take a brief survey at the end of this call.
So we can target you better.

We’re working to earn your trust.
Show us it’s working

So long as people sell their labor to producers, they will be subject to exploitation. So long as young men and women believe that the US is a force for good in the world, capitalist imperialist war will remain a fixture. So long as young men and women believe they are fighting for freedom and democracy, they will rally to the cry. And so long as they are treated as heroes, others wait to take their place.

So why doesn’t the USG drop the pretense for its serial aggression and lay it on the line for the rabid flag wavers that would support it anyway? Why all the hypocrisy about fighting for freedom and democracy?

A good answer is that an aggressive state will never willingly surrender its most effective weapons. In this case the target is the home population and the weapon is propaganda.

Political hypocrisy

How seriously should we take politicians who say they vote their own conscience? Let’s take a set of 100 comprised of 50 red and 50 blue each asked to consider a 50/50 proposition. Without a bias, the chance of three reds going the same way is ⅛, or 1 out of 8, derived by the multiplication sequence, ½ x ½ x ½. Stretched out to all 50 going the same way, the odds are about 1,125 trillion to 1 against.

Same with the blue, so 1,125 trillion to 1 there also. This is not completely fair, with politicians, because there is an inherent bias present in the red/blue makeup. They were free to choose color. They’re also free to say they vote their conscience but with near unanimity the reds match and the blues match. The numbers don’t leave much room for conscience to be a factor, so it can be safely ignored.

What can be safely inferred is that politicians are good at their job. They work for the party. That’s foremost. Next are the campaign contributors they represent. That’s second. And then comes the voters at large, important when reelection is being considered. (Note: With single-term limits, even this elementary concession to voters could be dispensed with). Ambition, and not conscience, accounts for what is observable.

And now, because one of our final freedoms is the choice of attitude with which we can regard things, great and small:

Please listen carefully as our phone menu choices have changed.
There is no known record of a phone menu ever having been changed.

All representatives are busy.
Whaddaya think? We’re sitting on our asses here?

Ask your doctor.
If you run into him. Better yet, ask your doctor if he thinks you’re gullible enough to believe our claims. If he says you are…

We give 110% for you.
And eat our entire lunch without finishing it.

This is not a sales call.
Bend over.

 

More articles by:

James Rothenberg can be reached at: jrothenberg3@gmail.com.

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