Propaganda in the Service of Mammon
Everybody is quite aware of the propaganda prevalent in the world today. Lies by omission and commission are used in conjunction with imagery to push certain lines and agendas. What perhaps isn’t so fully realised is how propaganda works and feeds. And to get a fully understanding one should read Propaganda by Edward Bernays.
In it Bernays explains where propaganda came from, what its uses are and how to employ it effectively. He gives us some remarkable insights. For example, he provides a prescient summary of how the modern Cathedral works when he says, ‘Our invisible governors are, in many cases, unaware of the identity of their fellow members in the inner cabinet.’ When he talks about how effective propaganda can be, he ominously uses the women’s suffrage movement as an example, saying, ‘If the suffrage campaign did nothing more, it showed the possibilities of propaganda to achieve certain ends.’ And those ‘certain ends’ continue today. But he reveals his true motivation later in the book with the following statement: ‘Social progress is simply the progressive education and enlightenment of the public mind in regard to its immediate and distant social problems.’ Propaganda is a psychological tool that could have been used for the better; unfortunately it has easily been utilised as a weapon.
One of the more interesting aspects of the book is how propaganda has been fully realised within the business setting, even though it was originally used by governments during war time. To effectively persuade consumers, businesses must understand the common sentiments (or what are felt to be common sentiments) of society in terms of likes and dislikes. So a general swell of support is amplified by businesses in their advertising which then affects consumers. See my post in how it relates to movies and advertising. Bernays was extremely influential and his teachings have only become accelerated as politics and business use propaganda in ever more audacious ways. The fact that people in power switch between business and politics clearly shows how the two intertwine. But more than the world of 1984 where governments rule over us, we have to be more wary of the ways in which business influences are decisions, choices and beliefs.
I work for a media company, and recently we were sent around a info deck from J. Walter Thompson Intelligence, a group that follows consumer trends. So if you ever wondered why it seems like advertising companies all seem to push similar vibes, agendas and politics at roughly the same time, this is one of the reasons. I’ve pulled some screenshots from the deck for some brief discussions.
Obviously you can see from the intro that there is will be one of the most pozzed documents your eyes will ever see.
This is definitely a trend I noticed. Accelerationism is in full force. Women don’t want feminist stories any more. They want the next thing! It’s not all about women, it’s about breaking down gender barriers completely and exploring every aspect of sexuality and identification. Interesting that there are so, so many slides directly related to feminism, and the only ones related to masculinity are how to dim it down. For example…
I honestly don’t know about ‘legions’ of men wearing makeup, but that certainly sounds like propaganda to me. Notice how beauty products are ‘transformative’? Everything has to be changed, but only via buying stuff. Apparently makeup has always been to conceal ‘perceived flaws’, but if you are using your face as a canvas, then you are still hiding yourself!
The only time where race is real is when you can make people pay for it, or when it isn’t white people being interested in it. Make no mistake, they will draw every last cent out of your genes and DNA.
Do I really need to discuss much about the idea behind ‘artificial nature’? Bread and circuses, my friends. In fact, as Bernays notes:
It was the amusement business — first the circus and the medicine show, then the theater — which taught the rudiments of advertising to industry and commerce.
No one seems to question why there is such a rise in mental health like anxiety and depression. Just saying, it might have something to do with materialism? A complete lack of meaning that can only me temporarily filled by consumerism? The two-faced nature of selling psychological health is sickening.
As if you didn’t already know, plus-size is so hot right now. This is so audacious I can’t even tell if that is a deliberate pun in the last paragraph…. Either way accepting who you are is the talk of the weak, and chasing an ideal has been the driving force behind our culture. Sure, the ‘ideal’ pushed by consumerism is false, but combating consumption with more consumption feels self-defeating. A pity the notion of finding yourself has been perverted for propaganda purposes. To blithely state the the average size has increased and not even blink is worrisome. No, we don’t need to accommodate all shapes and forms, we need to try and reduce our clothing size.
Wow, two awful demographics in one, who would have thought we could sink so low?
And here we have the full force of propaganda in a nutshell. Let’s take a recent Australian example: gay marriage. A huge array of Australian companies have come out in support of gay marriage, urging the government to ‘make the right choice’. This is of course a branding exercise, and if you are seen to oppose such an obviously progressive stance — like Coopers Brewery apparently were — then consumers will ‘vote with their wallet’. You have to be making a political statement in the Current Year if you want to have any chance of gathering an audience.
The fundamentals of propaganda are deeply rooted in psychology — Bernays was a distant cousin of Freud. He notes that:
These special types of appeal can be popularized by the manipulation of the principles familiar to the propagandist — the principles of gregariousness, obedience to authority, emulation, and the like.
Manipulation is the key word. The propagandist can manipulate via emulation in that we humans have a tendency to copy what others are doing. I mean in this in the most basic sense in that we tend to even copy the gestures and body language of those we talk to. We also have a tendency to appeal to authority. Even if we profess to not believe in religion, there is always a Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs. And of course, we want to be seen to be happy and agreeable, so it is best to go along with whatever seems to be positive. Using these basics of the human psyche businesses can use imagery, words and a whole range of weapons to shift opinions and sway the masses.
Again, this is nothing we didn’t know already, but it just shows the pathology of having no standards. Atomised consumerism is death by a thousand cuts, or in this case, by a thousand subscription services. By the way, there was no slide on single men.
‘Consumers are looking for comfort and reassurance in divided times…’ So let’s continue enforcing that bubble! We’ve all noticed the crackdown against the ‘AltRight’ (I use that term to cover everything not progressive) whether it is actual Twitter bannings or endless opinion pieces giving normie readers the juicy gossip about what goes on in the Dark Web. Expect brands to continue to make themselves sterile.
What can I say, it’s a disgusting mindset. Blasphemies against the Church, insinuated underage vibes… This is degeneracy with full advertiser backing.
Aside from the heresy invoked here, I find it quite an interesting and provocative statement. Is Christianity and the West providing enough female autonomy? Or have we just failed to express to women the power that they do have? I wouldn’t say that last paragraph is wrong, but all that means is that we should have done something to fix the situation a long time ago to avoid women falling into covens.
That’s just a snapshot of what brands will be looking doing in the near future (if they aren’t doing it already). Politics feeds business which then feeds the public. It is a feedback system that is near impossible to break apart. Most people can’t see it and to them propaganda is just a thing for war time and politics. You, however, can see it all around you, and there is nothing you can do. The only option is to retreat, to block it out and work on more important things, to banish materialism from you life. You must go beyond what is presented to you. As Bernard says:
Truth is mighty and must prevail, and if any body of men believe that they have discovered a valuable truth, it is not merely their privilege but their duty to disseminate that truth.
If only lies were not propagated as truths.