Bourgeois Gentleman-Pigeon (top photo)
Hi folks, this is another one of those insights which is wonky, largely unwelcome, but very important all the same – which is to say – I’m sorry and you’re welcome in advance!
Before I go any further I should say – I truly hate the line “Let me talk to your boss!” especially when it is said with indignation. I’m a retail veteran, so the only time I ever say that myself, is when that appeal can solve the problem of the worker in front of me.
This is the exact opposite of the normal approach – where a customer begins from a position of firm emotional determination that they should always have their own way, whether it is rational (or possible under the laws of physics) or not, and are prepared to throw any necessary tantrum, to achieve this pre-determined ‘virtuous’ outcome.
All the same – the indignation raised by the phrase is totally appropriate for my point today. Even the idea that there is a second, much less often invoked use, contributes.
I know for sure that I’m not the only one who had this strange experience. You start talking to someone who seems nice, reasonably responsible, intelligent and interested in the world. You offer them a few original ideas, things that you’ve noticed from time and experience, and they respond with a common editorial position which you have already seen reflected in the columns of many shameless integrity-free propagandists who are somehow still allowed to pretend to be serious journalists, even though their writings are consistently designed to manipulate public opinion, in a way which serves the interests of proven multinational monopolists and warmongers.*
What do you do? Do you say “You are very simply wrong, because you aren’t taking in accurate information, or being adequately skeptical about how the pieces of that story fit together?” Of course not, why would they believe that? They have hundreds of beautifully well-written lies to point to – and you have only your brain and integrity.
You might try challenging their reasoning on a specific point, say, with a presentation of a carefully sourced and cited truth which is self-evidently stronger than the lies you are dismayed to hear them repeat. You might even move them a bit, on that one point.
But speaking as an articulate guy who is curious as can be, and skeptical on principle, even of my own favourite assumptions, (to an extent which borders on outright masochism) I have to report, no matter what sort of appeal you make, you are very unlikely to make any greater a dent than this. Certainly won’t shift their paradigm.
Being mister curious, I have to wonder – why is that? Especially when we hear someone saying they truly care about a certain moral stance, but then using language and repeating deceptions which in every way work against that righteous position.
On the level of logic and words, I want to go directly to the problem of their information sources. Why are so many press people lying so obviously, and yet being believed?
But while there are definitely ebbs and flows in this, the media has actually always been full of imperialist bullshit, I mean ALWAYS. And I say this as a history keener who spent many hours in the microfilm stacks at the reference library as a kid, reading through war reports from newspapers which are now more than a hundred years old.
Go check it out for yourself – the Spanish American war was a project of the incredibly powerful Hearst newspapers. They literally turned a fatal technical malfunction with a brand new type of ship’s boiler (which history now recognizes as a shit design) into an overt and deliberate act of war – and in the process the United States transitioned from a constitutional republic into an empire, without even acknowledging the fact, or allowing any questions about the costs (moral especially) which this new regime would impose on all.
“Remember the Maine” was a wildly popular recruiting slogan. All those dead patriots needed to be avenged! Only, if they were thinking clearly, they would have gone after the boilermakers, and left all of those rich Spanish possessions overseas alone.
Thankfully, the writing of Mark Twain leaves us a clear and heartfelt record which proves that even at the time, there were many who understood where this would lead, (America becoming the same oppressive thing it was first created to oppose) and saw with simple piercing wisdom, that it would be far better to be sane, than angry.
Which is not to say Twain expected sanity on the part of the public or politicians – he may have been the most tragically realistic writer on both those things up to Vonnegut (Mencken more surgical and precise, but lacking their winning telltale heartbreak).
My point is that dangerous bullshit on the front pages is nothing new. The old left and right both knew skepticism was called for in such things. Reading between the lines, and especially, a careful assessment of whose interests were being represented.
Edward Bernays may be the creepiest twentieth century villain who has largely faded from popular awareness and understanding. Everybody knows his uncle Sigmund Freud, and to this day there are uncountable arguments about all of the things which are wrong with Freud’s many extraordinarily influential theories.
But that chaos of arguments can lead us to forget the most important thing which Freud got absolutely right, and which we absolutely all need to know and think more about.
The funny thing is, like so many of my own themes, this key point was so emotionally unwelcome to so many, that it was the first bit of his teaching the public forgot.
Consciousness is full of shit. I don’t mean it is wrong in all things, or nothing but a never-ending stream of comforting self-deception. I can be both of those, but it can also lead us very far astray without going wrong in anything like so obvious a way.
The biggest places our consciousness goes wrong, are in pretending that consciousness (and rationality, its pet) is doing the steering, and in presuming that it is the totality of our mind. Freud showed that a whole lot of what we do in the world is based on other motivations, far below our conscious awareness, which can act upon us very powerfully, for our entire lives, and still never present themselves directly.
The idea that the planning part of us is actually a little bit helpless, and really spends a whole lot of its time making up excuses for decisions already made, for reasons entirely mysterious to its finest rational processes, is outright scary – to consciousness.
But then again, it might also be worth asking ourselves – when was the idea of full rational control over any complex organic system anything other than a delusion?
You sure as heck won’t see it in any workplace. Even tight ships plan for the wonky.
What makes Bernays so evil is that he spent his life helping corporations reach our minds below the level of our conscious judgement – and as much as I appreciate the benefits of compassionate psychotherapy, the damage done by turning Freud’s insights into a whole science of public manipulation (called Public Relations) will probably always remain overwhelmingly greater than any good he did.
Extra tragic – because Freud really was trying to help, not hurt, the public in general.
So – sometimes a thing represents something else, which has deep emotional weight to us – and we might not even know the connection is being made, we just feel the emotional response an expert propagandist wants us to feel, and associate it with their latest idea-product – of course without understanding their real goal – because that (the truth) would break the hypnotic trance they have worked so hard to lay upon us.
On the other hand – as the man famously said – sometimes a cigar is just a cigar!
We have a shorthand phrase for one aspect of this – so called “dog whistle” politics.
The assertion here is that the ‘in’ group all hears a secret message, where outsiders hear more ordinary and non-threatening language, and thus fail to be as alarmed as they really should be about how completely horrible someone else is obviously being.
There definitely is such a thing, but the idea that it is one-sided, or that it can be safely presumed in every case our imagination can find a potential clue for it, is paranoid narcissistic and ridiculous. It also happens to serve the powerful, almost slavishly.
Now let me see if I can tie this collection of weird notions together for you usefully.
A lot of people seek information which flatters their existing emotional needs desires or presumptions, for reasons which their conscious mind does not ever acknowledge, and is usually not even aware of.
Their goal is not at all the same as the goal of someone who is trying to overcome themselves and learn about the actual state of world, rather than endlessly projecting their own selves and ego onto every new vista they encounter. Those folks aren’t seeking and don’t want reality, they strive very hard to create seamless vanity blinkers. Me-coloured glasses.
You can’t argue with them, the way you can with people who are interested in reality, because they simply aren’t (even though they will often insist – and with great emotion – that their own unfounded indignations are all that stands between civilization and barbarism).
I heard a really depressing figure the other day. Twenty years later, roughly seventy percent of Republicans still believe Saddam Hussein was involved in the September Eleventh attacks. He absolutely was not, and that is known for sure (his government was far more hostile to Al Qaida than the US government, just for one example).
On the other hand, so much treasure was wasted, so much blood was spilled, and so many children’s futures blighted by the shocking debt piled up on that insane misadventure, that the idea of a righteous justification is powerfully attractive emotionally, even if it is self deception. I should here note that the main promoters of that mass-murderous lie are now bigwigs at the supposedly ‘progressive’ Atlantic and PBS, just in case you, like most people, didn’t even notice that.
And yes, five years isn’t twenty – but roughly seventy percent of Democrats still believe Donald Trump was elected by Vladimir Putin, instead of obvious working class fury.
The Durham report was as clear as can be on this my friends (no matter how much our emotional selves love to associate one boogeyman with another, and then vent).
Before the public heard a word about “Election interference” (which, we must always remember, has for seventy five years been the chief occupation of the entire CIA – with their black budget in the multiple billions), Barrack Obama was briefed by the CIA, and told that the Democratic party was planning to smear Trump as an agent of Russia, and were cooking up a whole package of lies, so they could amplify natural American racism, and use it for their own political purposes.
The Democratic party repeatedly tried to get the FBI to investigate this “Steele dossier” and the FBI repeatedly refused, saying it was unsubstantiated nonsense. Finally, they wore them down enough that the FBI agreed to look into it – and then right away they turned around and announced, “The FBI is investigating Trump for links to Putin”.
I get it, you don’t like the guy. I don’t either. Thing is, there’s plenty which is wrong with him, without having to invent fairy tales. What makes Trump so challenging to the established corruption on both Democratic and Republican teams, is that he arrived without an effectively connected team, or a coherent strategy, but ready from day one to enjoy all of the same worst dirty tricks they enjoy themselves – so much, that from their panic, and their clear and open boasting, one has to conclude they ALL think corruption is their right. But not his – because he isn’t in the club! His worst sin against the establishment was calling attention to their long established and disgusting ethical standards. And with all these charges, they still they won’t challenge him where he’s weakest – because the corrupt team of idiots going after him have no intention of ever giving up any of those completely immoral perks themselves! (Ask Pelosi about her stock trades – just plain wow)
Did anybody else actually watch the testimony in Trump’s second impeachment? We’ve got Court TV now (free, with an antenna) and I was curious about the details (I read the whole Iran Contra report too), so I stuck my head into several hours of it. But the more I watched, the more I shook my head in amused disbelief.
They tried to impeach Trump for – threatening – to manipulate Ukrainian politics.
Biden boasted so many times about personally intervening to have a Ukrainian prosecutor fired, that it was almost as if he was on a book tour for it (same sort of shameless immorality he displayed when he did the media rounds boasting that killing Libya as a functional nation state was “good value for the money” and “the way we should do this sort of thing in future”).
And yes – the Ukrainian prosecutor who Biden successfully pressured the Ukrainian government to fire, really was about to bring a whole slate of corruption charges against the corrupt oligarch owner of the company which paid Hunter about a million bucks a year, to “Consult”.
There is no dog-whistle involved here, folks. Reality is what it is, and not ever the story which our subconscious emotions would prefer it to be. (Sorry).
Which takes me to the final place where all this stuff fits together, and messes us up (especially our potential for inter-tribal cooperation).
The creepiest result of all of this – seeking information which comforts our emotional biases, rather than that which challenges and educates us – and translating the things that our opponents say, so they always mean something hateful, but never applying that same worst-possible-case trick to the people on our side (even when they are obviously lying) – is that a huge number of well meaning people on the left, the right, and in the ‘free thinking’ middle, are now talking and acting in ways which no longer even reference their very own most precious (conscious) lifelong principles.
The second thought, the pause for reflection, the fairness extended equally, even that much eroded ancient standby – due process and the rule of law.
And while I’m on it – no, the point of law is not to enforce a system of power relations, book-not-people folks think crazy stuff like that, not actual working class leftists. Shovel some shit and bag some groceries for awhile, those hallucinations will go away in no time, I promise.
The point of the rule of law is an idea that you may plan and direct your long term efforts to setting your foot somewhere that you have not yet been, sometime in the future. Goals really do count (you think we waste food – try contemplating our waste of potential sometime – truly incalculable).
Now – when it comes to the state of modern law in many supposedly (or at least self-proclaimed) “free” nations – and twenty first century law in particular – the corruptions and unprincipled compromises really are staggering. But corruption, class power and inept mismanagement are all separate subjects. My point is that law is a tool all citizens need. Mob rule isn’t ever better (and you can read almost any period of history you want, to find your own evidence for that).
So here’s the key question. Do we even want to be our own boss anymore?
Are we feeling strong and confident and well informed enough that we can say we always try to consider things without personal bias, and judge without panic or fear?
Or are we so frightened about all of the fast changes around us, that we NEED a comforting story, and so what if the middle east is ruined, or Ukraine devastated for the sake of the same murderous energy hegemony games at the heart of every colonialist war for the last century?
I know – I can hear the protest now. “But the right doesn’t care about the environment.”
Okay so, sorry to do this, but the bombing of the Nordstream pipeline, when it was known to be full of gas, mind you, was not only the single worst disaster-release of greenhouse gasses in all of human history, it was all on it’s own, twice as bad as the next most serious leak – a nightmare which lasted for years on end. Yeah – no one in history ever took a more environmentally damaging decision than sweet scranton Joe. (Again, so sorry, I know delusion is softer).
Reality or emotion, people, honestly – snap the heck out of it, will ya? (Can ya?)
All you heroic ego warriors from the left and right? March one big goose-step forward.
Now – all of you curious looking folks wearing a funny smile, who didn’t just march?
That’s your team folks. Start linking and building. We need you, badly.
Here are a few counterintuitive questions – some took me a long while indeed (and I have no doubt that some of my pals will still firmly buy the official version promoted by killer-propagandists, on many). No grumpiness to you, we all need time to get there.
Is Modi a dangerous right wing strongman, as he is portrayed in the West? Or is he perhaps better understood as the inevitable result of the Congress party’s own multi generational blind worship of personality, increasingly evident policy incompetence, and their obvious sense that they were outright entitled to their gross habits of shameless nepotism and financial corruption?
This one came very slow to me (“racist” is a superb word to use to make any westerner invoke their own racism, to hate someone foreign, on the strength of mere gossip).
What makes it seem a lot more of a “strong maybe” than it used to seem (as opposed to a hard yes or a hard no) is the shameless display of arrogance and abuse of power Canada’s own Liberal party has given Canadians and the world, of late. Disgusting. (and again, so sorry)
With a smug smirk no less slimy than that of W, and that most irritating combination of pig-ignorance and a patronizing manner, Trudeau has repeatedly and utterly betrayed the long diplomatic heritage of his party and the nation both, in a way which may very well never be repaired. The narcissistic bastard cashed-in a hundred and fifty year old national check, just for his own personal benefit. Even his wife got sick of his BS act.
But then here’s where this stuff becomes tricky. What if it’s both? What if Modi really is a racist, but also, he would never have got anyplace in politics, if Congress hadn’t betrayed the Indian people in ways which became impossible to ignore?
Just isn’t so simple as they want us to think it is, is it? Too many wrongs steal rights.
I’m old enough that I can remember when the ANC in South Africa was a genuinely heroic revolutionary movement – and it has been heartbreaking to follow them since. The party has now descended so far into corruption that even taking credit for finally winning a shockingly peaceful revolution, will not keep them in power much longer.
And what about Brexit, which we are told over and over again was basically a bunch of aging grotesque racists and football hooligans, messing up the future of all the sweet young things (so sad, why just think of all the future deadbeat poets, squandered). ;o)
I spent years nodding my head along to that story. And then I started looking at the EU a little more, and what I saw was creepy in the extreme. No sign that they are taking their cue from the citizens – which we would expect from democratic representatives. Rather, they are very clearly creating systems to preserve the power of the powerful.
The Euro was created on a fraud. German banks paid Goldman Sachs to audit the Greek economy, and Goldman falsely reported the ratios of debt, deficit and GDP were within the minima required to join the single currency. They were not and everyone knew it (can’t help thinking they sent Hollywood accountants for this one).
But it suited the power of German banks to bring Greece in – just like it suited those same lying cheating German bankers interests to utterly destroy the future of a generation of young Greeks (and push the national mood hard toward anger), by insisting that the debt which they had known beforehand, had suddenly arisen since, and required vicious emergency intervention to ‘repair’ (the humane word repair here meaning the wholesale destruction of institutions and the generational impoverishment of many millions of ordinary people).
I’m not making this up. But still, I think the single creepiest shock for me was the interview clip where Ursula Van Der Leyden smiles at the camera and explains it will soon be illegal to make any cash purchase in Europe for more than a thousand Euros.
Can anyone show me a single citizen in Europe who had a campaign demanding that the most important thing the government must do was “Stop me from ever again freely spending my own money without unbreakable government surveillance and control!” Was there a campaign I missed, in which thousands of East Germans waved cheery signs demanding – “Bring back the STASI”
So much for individuals ever again being able to defy unfair laws about personal rights and choices, or seek out innovative medical treatments. Will we start paying in chickens, maybe? Brandy?
No – the EU is not a representative democratic assembly. Way more like a club of clueless aristocrats, just before their shameless decadence rises to guillotine level. And all of a sudden the idea of “Lexit” (a leftist rationale in favour of Brexit, which confused me greatly, when I first heard about it) makes all the sense in the world (ah, poor Corbyn, we miss you so).
I’m not going to waste a lot of time talking about Trump being elected because he mobilized real (and righteous) working class anger. Hillary totally screwed it up with arrogance and entitlement, he grabbed the resentment ball and ran with it, and then, as if to prove that she really was all about power and not service, she spent his whole term in office knowingly promoting racist election disinformation, instead of going after his vast array of real incompetences. And I know – nobody on one team gives the slightest shit at all about what’s true or not, because they just plain hate him, and they really love their own shared fear and hatred. And screw the working class anyhow.
I don’t like him either, and I hate that it sounds as if I am defending him, when I am in fact (still) just pointing out that we are letting the so-called good guys skate on a shit-ton of purest vicious anti-worker evil, while almost everyone is still stuck on the shared enjoyment of shaking their fist in Donald’s direction. The magicians distracting hand.
I’m going to leave you with one last thing to think about. And this one is important.
Did you notice them slipping the word “Malinformation” onto the list of dangerous sins which the great powers ought to be able to smite individuals over, awhile back?
Did you ever stop and think seriously about what that tiny little add-on actually means? They will tell you if you look, (and you will shudder, when it finally hits you).
Malinformation is information which is one hundred percent true and protected speech, but is nevertheless “likely to give comfort to OUR ENEMIES.” That is – the modern digital mega-state now demands the right to be able to ban serious political criticism of itself, in order to “protect” us. (As history buffs already know, any time criticism is effective, it is ALWAYS branded treason by the corrupt and powerful – who fear their profitable and murderous scams will be ruined).
I am pretty sure that every single important speech Malcolm X ever made would qualify to be banned outright forever as Malinformation. Same with the extraordinary world changing work of Martin Luther King (that stand-out Riverside speech, most especially). Abbie Hoffman, Timothy Leary, Noam Chomsky, John Lilly, Howard Zinn, Gregory Bateson, Morris Berman – even jokesters like Tom Robbins and Robert Anton Wilson would soon run afoul of such restrictions. Their most delicious fictions – again, just like the sweet heartbreak of both Twain and Vonnegut – were always made of realities too big or scary for us to view directly.
“Gorgon? – meet Zola.”
A REALLY great legal mind might even be able to use this rule to ban Dwight Eisenhower’s superb and courageous exit speech about the persistent dangers of the military industrial complex to freedom and constitutional rule. On the clear historical presidential record or not.
So – if you still think that people who want to think for themselves are laughable fools, and we should all be forced by faceless bureaucrats, to subscribe to whatever official power-serving state propaganda they favour, for the foreseeable future?
That’s fine, I guess, it is still that free a country, so far (tick, tick, tick), but please stop calling yourself a leftist or a patriot or a progressive or a free-thinker. What you are is so confused that your subconscious fears are steering, and you have thereby been bamboozled into supporting universal shackles for all, instead of universal rights.
You remember them, right? That old ‘rule of law’ middle ground principled place where left and right used to be able to meet and unite, to make genuine social progress for all. (Civil rights were won by church people and idealists bonding together in solidarity – neither faction much minded their metaphysical variance – eyes on the prize).
Please step back and recognize that you are a scared person who can’t think straight right now (for very understandable reasons), and so has to run and ask the boss.
(and then remember how trustworthy that boss was – the last time you needed something).
- Yes Fox – but WaPo, the Atlantic, the Guardian, the New Yorker, Mother Jones and even the New York Times all now suck for the powerful in a completely Foxy way – because in a dread panic over collapsing revenue across the entire industry, they have all adopted the exact same basic model Fox pioneered. Don’t seek an unexciting but reliable consensus middle-ground truth for everyone, concentrate all of your efforts on ‘infotaining’ the heck out of one key demographic, then once you’ve got them, flatter bamboozle and milk them, hard as you can.
And yes, that makes Rachel Maddow a Walter WInchell, to Hillary’s shrill McCarthy. ;o)
It is very hard for people with principles and memories to escape the conclusion that Watergate and the Pentagon papers were extremely rare high water marks of journalism in the interests of citizens, as opposed to the powerful and the state itself. The grossly degraded situation we find ourselves in now – where so called journalists usually just read official press releases uncritically and ask curated (and inevitably self-interested) experts, without ever showing the slightest awareness of context (or even math, for that matter) is way more normal. Back to Hearst-world, reading between the lines of everything you see, and fostering a sense of greater family-ship, instead of blind state obedience.
(Probably the single best thing about overt dictatorship is that you don’t have to waste any of your breath convincing anyone else you meet, who the scariest guy in town is)