Saturday, April 11, 2009

Applied Manipulation

Glenn Greenwald lays out current circumstances quite plainly in his latest, Obama and habeas corpus--then and now:

"The Obama DOJ is now squarely to the Right of an extremely conservative, pro-executive-power, Bush 43-appointed judge on issues of executive power and due-process-less detentions. Leave aside for the moment the issue of whether you believe that the U.S. Government should have the right to abduct people anywhere in the world, ship them to faraway prisons and hold them there indefinitely without charges or any rights at all. The Bush DOJ -- and now the Obama DOJ -- maintain the President does and should have that right, and that's an issue that has been extensively debated. It was, after all, one of the centerpieces of the Bush regime of radicalism, lawlessness and extremism." [emphasis mine]
It would do well for everyone to read the post in it's entirety. Well-inured partisans of all stripes should perhaps to read it more than once. The subject matter of his post directly relates to a statement I made previously.

November 3, 2008--
"Both marquee candidates will continue the War Machine, both think the idea of domestic spying and retroactive immunization of the corporations that aided in the same is just dandy, and lest we forget, both were/are in full favor of robbing you and several more generations of large gobs of money to bailout the International Banks (oops, I mean, Stabilize the Economy), in spite of the loud and unequivocal “No” issued forth from the majority of citizens in this “democracy”. Of course this is only the very abridged, very short summary version to point out for the nth time that the only Change We Can Count On will be the exact opposite of what many people have fooled themselves into believing."

While the statement is correct in points of fact (illustrated by the GG post), the two words that I wrote, "fooled themselves", continues to hold my attention and demand further exploration with regard to Change We Can Believe In being an irrefutably false slogan.

From The Hidden Persuaders, by Vance Packard (1957), Chapter 17: Politics and The Image Builders [all emphasis mine]--
The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology got into this seeming nonrational element in voters' thinking when it reported an experiment with people known to be either strongly pro- or anti-Democratic. [...] There was a clear tendency for them to forget the material that didn't harmonize with their own preconceived notions.

Several political commentators (Reston, Dorothy Thompson, Doris Fleeson are examples) took special note in 1956 of what they felt was the growing role of "personality" in American politics. Dorothy Thompson called it the "cult of personality." Sociologist David Riesman, in noting the same phenomenon, considered it a part of the trend to other-directedness in American Life. Americans, in their growing absorption with consumption, have even become consumers of politics. This has brought an increased emphasis on giving the nod to the best performer [read: Actors--HH]; and in evaluating performance the "sincerity" of the presentation has taken on increased importance. He pointed out, in The Lonely Crowd, "Just as glamour in packaging and advertising of products substitutes for price competition, so glamor in politics, whether as charisma--packaging--of the leader or as the hopped-up treatment of events by mass media, substitutes for the type of self-interest that governed the inner-directed."

Not only do the American people, the depth-probers concluded, want political leaders with personality, but in the Presidency they want a very definite kind of personality. Eugene Burdick, teacher of political theory at the University of California, made a study of the qualities of the perfect president while serving as fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford. (this is the same Eugene Burdick who in 1956 brought out a best-selling novel The Ninth Wave on irrational trends in politics.) Dr. Burdick found that the perfect President doesn't arise out of great issues, but becomes "great" in our minds because of his personality. He becomes "great" to the degree that he becomes a "father image" in our minds. Burdick relates: "Recent polls and psychological studies reveal the extent to which the President has now become what psychologists call a 'father image' in the average American home." Burdick summed up (in This Week) a composite picture of the perfect president: "He is a man who has great warmth, inspires confidence rather than admiration, and is not so proper that he is unbelievable. He must have 'done things' in another field than politics, and he must have a genuine sense of humor. His stand on individual political issues is relatively unimportant...[who wants to have a beer/hang out with the guy?--HH]"


In early 1956 Nation's Business, which is published by the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, happily heralded the new, businessman's approach to politics. It proclaimed: "Both parties will merchandise their candidate and issues by the same methods that business has developed to sell goods. These include scientific selection of appeals [to emotion, ego, etc.--HH]; planned repetition.... No flag-waving faithfuls will parade in the streets. Instead corps of volunteers will ring doorbells and telephones.... Radio spot announcements and ads will repeat phrases with a planned intensity. Billboards will push slogans of proven power.... Candidates need, in addition to rich voice and good diction, to be able to look 'sincerely' at the TV camera...."
Indeed. Now, in order to ensure we do not labor under any illusions as to the nature of those "same methods that business has developed to sell goods", let's let the purveyor's speak for themselves.

Ibid, Chapter 3: So Ad Men become Depth Men--
"As early as 1941, Dr. Dichter [considered to be one of the fathers of Motivational Research] was exhorting ad agencies to recognize themselves for what they actually were--"one of the most advanced laboratories in psychology." He said the successful ad agency "manipulates human motivations and desires and develops a need for goods with which the public has at one time been unfamiliar--perhaps even undesirous of purchasing." The following year Advertising Agency carried an ad man's statement that psychology not only holds promise for understanding people but "ultimately for controlling their behavior."
As an illustration of the truth in these sentiments consider the following (keeping in mind Democrat, Republican, Being Green, USA!, etc., as brand concepts along with consideration of your own childhood and adult "education"):

Ibid, Chapter 15: Psycho-Seduction of Children (again, all emphasis and linking mine)--
"A firm specializing in supplying "education" material to schoolteachers in the form of wall charts, board cutouts, teachers' manuals made this appeal to merchants and advertisers: "Eager minds can be molded to want your products! In the grade schools throughout America are nearly 23 million young girls and boys. These children eat food, wear out clothes, use soap. They are consumers today and will be buyers tomorrow. Here is a vast market for your products. Sell these children on your brand name and they will insist that their parents buy no other. Many farsighted advertisers are cashing in today...and building for molding eager minds" through Project Education Material supplied to teachers. It added reassuringly: "all carrying sugar-coated messages designed to create acceptance and demand for products...." In commenting on this appeal Clyde Miller, in his The Process of Persuasion explained the problem of conditioning the reflexes of children by saying, "It takes time, yes, but if you expect to be in business for any length of time, think of what it can mean to your firm in profits [and control-see Dichter statement--HH] if you can condition a million or ten million children who will grow up into adults trained to buy your product as soldiers are trained to advance when they hear the trigger words 'forward march.'"


When at the beginning of the decade television was in its infancy, an ad appeared in a trade journal alerting manufacturers to the extraordinary ability of TV to etch messages on young brains. "Where else on earth," the ad exclaimed, "is brand consciousness fixed so firmly in the mind of four-year-old tots?"...What is it worth to a manufacturer [or, say, a government captured by business--HH] who can close in on this juvenile audience and continue to sell it [on the many various aformentioned brands--HH] under controlled conditions year after year, right up to its attainment of adulthood and full-fledged buyer [voter--HH] status? It CAN be done. Interested?" (While the author was preparing this chapter he heard his own eight-year-old daughter happily singing the cigarette jingle: "Don't miss the fun of smoking!")

Over 40 years later, this HAS been done, and to great effect.

Have you been made a fool of (manipulated), or have you been fooling yourself (allowing the manipulation despite some level of awareness)? Only you as an individual can answer. Arriving at both honest and specifically defined answers to that question, as well as the path traveled to get there, is an inherently individual, private, and often painful struggle. The point is, time spent truly focused on this question becomes more of a necessity with each passing day as The Empire and consequent real-life conditions therein continue to deteriorate no matter who you vote for or what your "politics".

However you may have answered that question previously, now that a glimpse of the applied techniques of manipulation (that we were born into) has been shown, will you continue to go forth claiming the former in the face of persistent fact or will you recognize the existence of the latter (to whatever degree) and seek to change it?

All of our lives depend on these answers.