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.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Economic, another brief illustration.

The Influence Game: Firms Reap Seeds of Lobbying

Anyone with any research on the subject of influence-peddling under their belt will see that the article treads in shallow, nay, surface-level waters. However, the shallow must be broken in order to go deep, as it were, so I'll use it.

"WASHINGTON (AP) -- Big companies that spent hundreds of millions lobbying successfully for a tax break enacted in 2004 got a 22,000-percent return on that investment -- proof that for those who can afford it, hiring a lobbyist can pay handsome dividends.

The figures, compiled by professors at the University of Kansas for a study to be released Thursday, offer a rarely seen glimpse of how the lobbying business works, and why -- even as President Barack Obama vows to curb lobbyists' influence -- the industry is booming as never before."
The spoils go to the true bi-partisan pragmatists, hiring former-actors to interface with current actors in service to an agenda/business plan.
"Lobbyists say they're not surprised by the findings, which prove what they tell their clients all the time: You can't afford not to have a seasoned Washington player on your team.

"There's literally no way that you can take an action in Washington by simply coming to town and sitting around on street corners waiting for it to happen -- you really do have to have professional help," said Robert S. Walker, a former Republican congressman whose firm Wexler & Walker Public Policy Associates lobbies heavily on transportation, health care, energy and trade matters. "It would be like going to court without a lawyer."

"...sitting around on street corners..." ought to tell everyone what they need to know (for the umpteenth time) regarding the true effectiveness of street protesting and other such action. I'll ask the question again from yesterday, " can anyone say with a straight face at this point that the Mass of Proles (to say nothing of the individual) has influence of any consequence on any of these things whatsoever?"
"But the data alarm some watchdog groups that worry ordinary Americans who can't afford representation by a well-paid lobbyist will lose out in debates with companies and interest groups who can."
Ah yes, the standard line trotted out, for "balance" of course. Gosh, ya think that might, perhaps, happen someday? I'm sure glad it's not the case now. Hurry everyone! We've got to Hope harder!

And lastly, the reason I decided to spend the time posting this...
"The nonpartisan group recently released a study comparing the amount spent by bailed-out banks on political contributions and lobbying with the amount of money they got from the Wall Street rescue fund, known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The results produced eye-popping rates of return, an overall 258,449 percent for the $114 million they spent on campaign donations and lobbying."

The Economic drives The Political.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Inter-Generational Interim

(Note: Before beginning, it should be noted that while the questions referenced below were asked most recently by EasyCure, but are not at all unusual. They're same ones I'm hearing with increasing frequency from a very wide variety of people, which is why I'm trying to tackle them. The responses are in general and not specifically directed.)

Two questions were asked in the comments of the previous post:

Is there anything that can be done while working within the system, or does the system need to be dismantled?

"The System" is an all-encompassing term which will naturally mean different things to different people, based on their individual knowledge and experience. So, while it's difficult to narrow down an answer that retains some semblance of reasonable simplicity and accuracy while not encompassing several volumes when speaking of The System, it's worth a shot nonetheless.

Two definitions of the word system jump out from Merriam-Webster:

f: a form of social, economic, or political organization or practice <the capitalist system>

5: an organized society or social situation regarded as stultifying or oppressive : establishment 2 —usually used with the

I think that both of the above will do well for our purposes, with one caveat. In regard to the first definition, I would assert that it is economic organization and practice that is the main driver of the social and political spheres (for at least the last couple of centuries). Placing them in a hierarchy, to my mind, would look thus: The Economic drives The Political, both working in tandem (through setup and institutional control of political parties, agencies, mulit-nationals, think-tanks, endowments, trusts, etc.--all functioning together as extensions of the economic arm ) to drive The Social. Of course, one could argue exceptions to this generalization, but that's why they're referred to as exceptions.

But no doubt about it, that motherfucker is oppressive.

Now, to draw nearer to an answer the first thrust of the question having to do with "working within the system", we must first address the latter portion asking if it needs to be dismantled.

The system does not "need to be dismantled". It is currently in the process of being dismantled, by design, right before our very eyes. This takedown has been in process for quite some time. If you disagree with this statement, then what, pray tell, do you think the controlling elements of this system are doing with their constant talk and promotion of New World Orders (which, by the way, I noticed yesterday in glancing at the teevee at work, that CNN has already in some spots, and in great Orwellian fashion, changed over to "New World Promise"), international currencies, global frameworks, rejecting "protectionism" in favor of the Free Trade rubric, the necessities of "regional governance" and other supra-national/international economic/political entities? Do you really think that it's simple stupidity/ignorance/naivete/greed that leads these power blocs to uniformly persist in their increasingly draconian restrictions of individual freedom, centralization of power, and their general "we need a bigger hammer" approach in all spheres of our existence? And lastly, throughout all of this, how can anyone say with a straight face at this point that the Mass of Proles (to say nothing of the individual) has influence of any consequence on any of these things whatsoever?

You are working within The System now, at this very moment, whether you like it or not. You were captured by it the moment you were born into this world. Your very survival depends on it (The Economic, remember?). The System as it has been, your shaped belief in it, your very reality, is being dismantled one piece at a time. The real question is, "Will you, as an individual*, continue to stand by and watch in a state of learned helplessness as a more restrictive and pervasive 2.0 version of The System (the blending of the communist and capitalist--privatized profits and socialized losses being one small but manifestly rampant and obvious example--with the technological/scientific control overlay) is constructed on the rubble of the old?"

*the many references to "the individual" above should not be taken in any way as some sort of evangelism toward the recently popularized Rand-ian narrative of "Going Galt". The cold hyper-individualism of the Rand philosophy is every bit as dangerous and counter-productive as any collectivist system, as both of these lure the individual (as well as the mass) to rigid and ultimately harmful extremes.

And so we go into the next question....

Is it enough to vote out every incumbent for the foreseeable future, or is full on revolution the only thing that will save us?

The first portion of this question is framed as though voting out every incumbent were a realistic possibility, and also seems to be based on the assumption that if indeed such a thing were possible, that the replacement would be better by default. (If it were possible to replace all incumbents with non-acting ham sandwiches I might be inclined to agree, but unfortunately for all of us, this is not the case.)

What is the biggest "factor" in modern electoral politics? What is the one commonality of every "election"? What is the one thing that is endlessly hyped; that crucial thing that makes candidates "electable"?

You know the answer to this as well as I do, and thus we find ourselves face to face once again with The Economic driving all things in The System, which compels me not to even get into discussions revolving around "Electing More and Better X".

As far as the last portion of the question, let's touch on the use of the words "full on revolution." It's another one of those statements that is very common, but is bound to mean many different things to many people. Also, in an effort to not drag out what has become a lengthy post, the reader might refer back to the above diatribe addressing the dismantling issue--the idea is the same. There is already a "full on revolution" happening, and it has been at work for some time. That fact that it has been working through very slow and consistent incremental methods (up to 2001, when it began speeding up noticeably and continues like a snowball rushing downhill) does not make it any less a "full on revolution."

I think the best way to finish these thoughts is to hit up Jaques Ellul once again. From (1964) The Technological Society, Chapter 6: A Look at the Future:

"A question no one ever asks when being confronted with the wonders of the future concerns the interim period.


When we reflect on the serious although relatively minor problems that were invoked by the industrial exploitation of coal and electricity, when we reflect that after 150 years these problems are still not satisfactorily resolved, we are entitled to ask whether there are any solutions to the infinitely more complex "hows" of the next forty years. In fact, there is one and only one means to their solution, a worldwide totalitarian dictatorship which will allow technique in its full scope and at the same time resolve the concomitant difficulties. It is not difficult to understand why the scientists and worshipers of technology prefer not to dwell on this solution, but rather to leap nimbly across the dull and uninteresting intermediary period and land squarely in the golden age. We might indeed ask ourselves if we will succeed in getting through the transition period at all, or if the blood and the suffering required are not perhaps too high a price to pay for the golden age." [take special note here, and think anew on the constant calls for "necessary sacrifice" that emanate from the "elected" godheads--HH]


These two questions serve as brief illustrations of how we've been systematically taught to think in specific directions. However, it has become exceedingly apparent that the answers and directions we're given in our thought rituals are essentially horseshit. What will we do? Furthermore, what will YOU do?

This will become more clear when I/you/we begin asking better questions, the one's that we're taught/herded into avoiding, about both ourselves and the world around us. The countless victims of the Interim Periods require it.