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Posts Tagged ‘propaganda’

Some Quick Thoughts on the Mainstream Media Coverage of Venezuela

January 22, 2019 15 comments

One of the most popular talking points spouted by CONservative losers in response to any talk about implementing more socialistic policies in USA goes something like this.. “but, but look at Venezuela”. Of course, the majority of idiots.. older white people.. still appear to blindly accept this bullshit in spite of the fact that most countries in western and eastern Europe have continued to successfully implement pretty socialistic policies since end of WW2. But this post is not about the ability of older idiots, and those living in flyover states, to delude themselves. Poking fun at the behavior of brain-damaged people does get repetitive after some time. Instead, I am going to focus on the narrative of ‘western’ mainstream media about situation in Venezuela.

Just so that you know, I am going to skip a whole lot of relevant history about why things went the way they have in that country. And yes.. it all starts with commercial oil exploration almost a century ago and how the revenues from that sector enriched the small white elite and american oil corporations at the expense of everybody else. There is also a history of extensive american meddling in the politics of that country. I could go on.. but my point is that there are many good reasons why people like Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro came to lead that country after many decades of very high income inequality with distinct racial overtones. Now let us get back to the main topic of this post- which concerns how western mainstream media portrays that country.

You might have noticed a slew of sensational “news” stories, which seem to appear every week over past five years, which seem to promise their gullible readers of some development in that country, which in the near future, will inevitable cause its “socialist” government to collapse. They have been telling their readers and viewers that almost everyone in that country is starving, most medicines are in short supply, millions are fleeing that country etc for the past few years and yet the government in that country continues to exist and a decent majority keep voting them back into power. So what is going on? Some of you might say that this is because the government in question enforces its diktat by extreme force. Oddly enough, most “opposition” leaders in that country are still alive and continue to protest on behalf of interests of american corporations.

What makes all of this so peculiar is that the western MSM have been writing the same “news” stories of great hardship, popular uprisings and inevitable collapse for about five years now.. and nothing has changed. So what is going on? Well.. I am old enough to remember seeing this sort of thing in the past. Some of you might remember how the same western mainstream media outlets were publishing tons of articles about Cuba was going to inevitably collapse in the 1990s. Do you emember how the North Koreans were going to rise up against their government in the 1990s? Or what about all those articles from last five years about how all senior officials under Kim Jong-un were going to overthrow him? And how DPRK could not make H-bombs and ICBMs.

Or what about all those photoshoots of abandoned town and factories in Russia from late 1990s and early 2000s which used to accompany articles predicting the imminent fragmentation and demise of that country? Who can forget all those articles in serious MSM outlets which have been predicting the collapse of Chinese economy since 1992 (earliest I remember) or how the The Communist Party of China was going to fall apart. And what about all those “serious journalists” who told their gullible readers that Iraq had WMDs and how “we” would win that war or the other one in Afghanistan. How have all these predictions by “experienced”, “credentialed” and “superior western presstitutes.. I mean journalists from “free” countries.. worked out?

Not well at all. In fact, during the period when the western MSM was doing all this “reporting” and making those predictions- things have been going from bad to worse in their own countries. It is USA, not Russia, that is now filled with abandoned factories and stranded ex-industrial towns. China, far from imploding, has become the largest economy (in real terms) and manufacturing superpower of the world. The Communist Party of China is still in firm control of that country and its economy. Cuba and DPRK are still around and the later has developed H-Bombs and ICBMs. Kim Jong-un is now seen as a tough, intelligent and competent leader. Iraq did not have WMDs and USA was unsuccessful in occupying Iraq and Afghanistan- though they had to spend a few trillion dollars to learn that lesson. And oh.. Trump was elected in the 2016 presidential election.

Meanwhile people in USA increasingly depend on cyber-begging platforms such as GoFundMe and its clones to pay their medical bills and even afford certain medical procedures. Most are poorly paid or have insecure jobs and live paycheck to paycheck, being unable to spend a few hundred dollars without going into debt. Monopolies, Oligopolies, Private Equity and other “legal” entities of late capitalism are busy destroying whatever is left of their livelihoods and financial security . And yet.. the public discourse centers around such important topics such as whether men who identify as woman are really women, whether losers who wear that wretched red cap are really racist and whether that orange-haired buffoon colluded with “Russia” and “Putin”.

What do you think? Comments?

Propaganda Provides an Excuse, Rather than Manufacturing Consent: 2

January 18, 2019 11 comments

In the previous part of this series, I said that the unspoken assumption underlying any belief in propaganda “working”, namely that human beings as a species are basically good, is wrong. Even a moderately objective look at history, or the world around you, easily demonstrates that most human beings have no moral compass, are incapable of reason, are deeply obsessed with their inevitable mortality and have a strong predilection for self-destruction. This assessment remains valid regardless of historical era, ethnicity, race, religion or any other division used by people to define their identity. In other words, the majority of human beings are, and have always been, pathetic and delusional creatures who usually lack the courage to act on their impulses.

And this where propaganda enters the picture. It provides an excuse or official sanction to act on their desires and impulses. But is there any real-life difference between how societies react to odious behavior with or without an “official” excuse or approval? Well.. let me illustrate with an example. A white american guy who enters a room (or two) and kills twenty primary-school aged children in USA is a horrible and despicable mass murderer- but if the same guy performed that particular act in some poor middle-eastern country, he is almost always portrayed as an upright soldier just doing his duty or perhaps suffering from “PTSD”. Events such as the My Lai Massacre or more recent ones in Afghanistan are more common than most believe.

Here is another example. What is the real difference between any top-level Nazi regime officials tried at Nuremberg show trials (after WW2) and people such as Curtis LeMay, Henry Kissinger, William Westmoreland, Bush 41, Bush43, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld- to name a few. In my opinion, the most importance difference between top Nazi era officials and their post-WW2 american equivalents is that the former wore far better looking uniforms. But why stop here? Ever wonder how the world would have reacted if Nazi Germany had won WW2? Here is a clue.. look at how the world has reacted to post-WW2 USA. My point is that we should not pretend that post-WW2 (or even pre-WW2) USA exists on a different “moral plane” than Nazi-era Germany, pre-1945 Japan, pre-WW2 UK and France or other 19th century colonial powers.

Still not convinced? Ask ten random people in USA what they think of China. Chances are most of them will say something about totalitarianism, hyper-capitalism, air pollution, alleged oppression of minorities, internet censorship and other assorted bullshit which they desperately want to believe. Oddly enough, almost none of them allow their minds to think about the history of their “own” country in an objective manner. Because, let us face it, USA was built by stealing land from its original inhabitants who were then conveniently genocided, its initial wealth was built, first using race-based slavery and then exploiting poor immigrants from other countries. But it gets better.. its global position in the 20th century was largely due it being not ravaged by WW1 and WW2. And in spite of claiming great military superiority, it has not won a single war since WW2.

In contrast to that, China was able to reach its current position as the largest global economy (in real terms) of the early 21st century without stealing land from other people, without slavery and in spite of having to start from scratch in aftermath of partial Japanese occupation (pre-1945) which was preceded by the century of humiliation by white colonial powers. Moreover, the bulk of that development occurred within the previous forty years. By any objective criteria, China and its people have achieved in 40-50 years what the USA took overt two centuries- and have done so with far fewer negative externalities. They have also achieved that outcome with far less social and economic inequality when compared to USA for most of its history.

My point is that most people believe whatever they want to believe, and most are incapable of objective thinking and reason. Let me further explain that concept with three more (long-form) examples. They are as follows: 1] Rise and fall of Nazism and personality cult of Hitler in 1933-1945 era Germany. 2] Rise and fall of american public support for the Vietnam War and 3] The rise and ongoing fall of neoliberal worldview in the ‘west’. As some might remember, I have written a few posts about the first issue in past, such as: how high unemployment was linked to rise of Nazi party in Germany and similarities between those who joined the Nazi party and contemporary careerists. I have also written a few post about neoliberalism and will therefore start by focusing on the american misadventure in Vietnam, which ended in a humiliating defeat.

Let me begin this part by asking you a few simple questions. Why did barely 20% of Americans think that sending troops to Vietnam was a mistake as late as mid-1966? Why did approval for that war drop so quickly between 1967 and 1969? But perhaps, most curiously, why did almost 30% of americans think that the war was not a mistake as late as 1972-1973? The first question is probably the easiest to answer. Most people will support incredibly bad and dangerous ideas as long as they don’t have skin in the game and think they can get away with it. As late as 1966, the number of young american men drafted in that war was barely about 200,000 and most did not experience any significant risk during their tour of duty. Furthermore, their adversaries were asian- a group largely seen as subhuman by white americans.

So what caused this shift in public attitudes? While the conventional narrative ‘Tet Offensive’ did a lot of damage to public image of american forces in Vietnam, it was (in retrospective) just one of the many factors which caused that shift. A far bigger reason was the rapid increase in number of young men drafted for that war after 1966. Some of you might wonder as why the Korean war (1950-1953), whose final casualty figures were pretty close to the one on Vietnam, did not result in a similar shift in public attitudes. Well.. there are two reasons. Firstly, it was just five years after WW2 and the numbers looked small in comparison. Secondly, the part of that war which involved heavy fighting was much shorter (if far more intense) than in Vietnam. Short intense wars have always been far easier to justify than long drawn-out conflicts.

Which brings us to the most peculiar of the three questions. Why did upto a third of the american public believe that the Vietnam war was not a mistake, as late as 1973? Wasn’t it pretty obvious that the war had been a costly failure by then? In my opinion, this comes down to their complete unwillingness and inability to think in anything approaching a rational manner. As I wrote in a previous series, WW1 and WW2 got rid of a lot of reactionary and CONservative men in Europe and Japan- but the late entry of USA in both wars as well as fairly low casualties in the theaters they were deployed did not get rid of most idiots. In other words, USA has (and had) far more living reactionary and CONservative idiots than Europe and many other countries.

The point I am trying to make is that propaganda does not really change minds or worldviews. It merely provides “official” external validation and cover for bad, stupid and disastrous ideas. This also means that any ideology which assumes that most human beings are intrinsically good or thoughtful is fundamentally flawed. Similarly, arguing or debating racists and other types of assorted assholes in good faith is a total waste of your time. Only death or the fear of certain death has, historically, demonstrated the ability to change terms of discourse about fundamental differences in opinion. Nazism lost popular appeal only after most of its supporters got killed in, or in the immediate aftermath of, WW2. The same is true for all those other odious pre-1945 ideas about racial superiority and colonialism in the ‘west’.

In the next part, I will write about how the majority of people will often support other amazingly bad and disastrous ideas if they feel they can get away with doing so.

What do you think? Comments?

Propaganda Provides an Excuse, Rather than Manufacturing Consent: 1

December 18, 2018 6 comments

Some years ago, I was watching (or rewatching) a YouTube video which was trying to tout the efficacy of government and corporate propaganda. Maybe it was something by Adam Curtis or a derivative work which used excerpts from The Century of Self. In any case, the precise identity of that clip has virtually no relevance to the topic of this series- for reasons which will soon become obvious. While I usually find such bullshit quite entertaining, if only for the apparent conviction of belief displayed by those who are into such stuff- this was different. Perhaps I was just feeling extra misanthropic that particular evening, or maybe it was the alcohol (likely both).. but an interesting idea came to my mind. What if propaganda provides an official-sounding excuse for people to act out their most depraved beliefs, rather than put it in their mind in the first place.

As regular readers of this blog know, my opinions about human beings as a species have never been especially high– to put it mildly. You can, therefore, see this series as an extension of my opinions on that subject. Anyway.. let us get back to the topic of this series by asking ourselves a simple question. What is the one central but unspoken assumption which has to be true for any propaganda to “work”? And remember that this unspoken assumption underlies every single explanation for the efficacy of propaganda- from Noam Chomsky and his ‘Manufacturing Consent’ to the pseudoscience.. I mean psychology crap spouted by any random loser slaving way at a marketing firm. Could it about linguistics, ‘neuroscience’ or some other clever sounding bullshit?
Think harder.. because once I reveal it many of you might say that it was obvious.

Are you ready.. here it goes.. All conventional explanations for the efficacy of propaganda are based around the assumption that human beings as a species are naturally good, kind, decent, altruistic, humane etc. Even the class of explanations which assume that humans are imperfect creatures make the implicit and unspoken assumption that they are basically good. As I will explain you later, there is a reason why even the most fucked-up human being firmly believes that he or she is a ‘good’ person. At this point, some might wonder whether I see human beings as ‘risen apes’ or ‘fallen angels’. Surprise.. I don’t see them as either. In my opinion, comparing human beings to apes is rather insulting to the later. So how do I see human beings as a species?

To be quite blunt.. human beings as a species are incapable of anything approaching objective thought, let alone reason. They are also fundamentally incapable of being kind, decent, altruistic or anything else which they want to believe about themselves. Instead.. they are an incredibly greedy, short-sighted, narcissistic and delusional species with an obsession for trying to dominate others and an all-consuming fear of their inevitable mortality. Human beings as a species not only lack a ‘moral compass’ of any kind, but are actually incapable of creating anything along those lines. Perhaps more importantly, this is the case irrespective of their “culture”, ethnicity, race, “IQ” or sex. And they also have a predilection for self-destruction. The fact that humans beings have not made themselves extinct after invention of nuclear weapons is a minor miracle.

While this assessment might sound unpleasant, it is based in reality. Read enough about history and you will be hard pressed to identify who was the lesser fuckup and delusional asshole in any interaction. If that is too much work, just look at the world around you with critical eyes. Think about all the people you have worked for, worked with, had sex with or are related to and then as yourself.. “Is this what passes for average humans?”. I am not saying that every single person is a delusional sadistic fuckup. Indeed we can all think of a few people (based on our personal experience) who are clearly not, but most of them are.. well.. sad fuckups. And that is why I use the expression ‘human beings as a species’ as opposed to ‘all humans’. In other words, not everyone- just the majority. But the majority, nonetheless.

Now you know why it was so easy to find tons of people willing to burn alleged witches in 16th-17th century Europe or why persecuting and lynching Jews was a popular pastime during the Great Plague epidemic of 1347-1351. That is also why mass human sacrifice was an important part of Aztec Culture or why the very ‘christian’ Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors went about killing and enslaving millions of people in south and central america. This is also how tens of millions died due to famine during British Rule of India or how many tens of millions of white men killed each other during WW1 and WW2. Did I mention the ethnic genocides which occurred in the last century such as the Armenian Genocide, the Ukrainian Famine of the 1930s, the Holocaust, all the millions who died in China between 1959-1961. Oh and that is separate from the millions killed during Japanese occupation of (parts of) China during the 1937-1945 timespan.

And this is just a tiny sliver of what you can find when you read enough history. Now tell me something.. do you think that human beings as a species have to be “brainwashed” to do evil and stupid things? Do you still think human beings really require a bunch of manipulators to get them to kill each other for no good reason? Or perhaps ‘propaganda’ just gives people a public excuse to act out their most depraved desires and pretend that it was not their idea. The far more straightforward (if unpleasant) explanation is that ‘propaganda’ simply provides most people a way to externalize responsibility for their shitty and stupid behavior. That way, they can do horrendous stuff but then also be able to pretend that they are good persons. It is all about enjoying the morbid deed but externalizing the responsibility of said deed.

In the next part, I will use a series of examples to show you that ‘propaganda’ is really about telling people that is OK be pathetic, depraved and murderous assholes. And remember that old white people who watch Fox News did not become sad racist losers after starting to watch that channel. Newsflash.. they were always racist losers. Fox News simply provided external validation for the beliefs which they always held but were too cowardly to display in public until some fuckface or bimbo on Fox News told them that it was OK to do so.

What do you think? Comments?

Propaganda and Advertising have Poor Real-Life Efficacy: 1

December 2, 2017 4 comments

The title of this post might, at first glance, seem almost counter-intuitive to whatever most of you desire to believe about the efficacy of advertising and propaganda. After all, why would all those super rich and therefore allegedly “smart” people spend tens of billions on advertising if it was largely futile? Or why would various governments spend even more money and devote a lot of personnel to create and disseminate propaganda. Surely, even semi-competent people would not spend that much money and effort on something of negligible efficacy. Or would they?

Let us start by talking about all the disastrous, expensive and ultimately ruinous wars initiated by “great leaders” and “highly trained generals” throughout human history, such as WW1 and WW2 and the present. Or think about all the giant multi-national corporations (Xerox, Kodak, Motorola, Blockbuster etc) that have failed because their leadership kept on making bad and ultimately disastrous decisions. My point is that there is no evidence that all those supposedly “smart” leaders of large corporations and nations (and their underlings) are even reasonably good at their jobs- in spite of being paid a lot of money and wielding much power.

If all that evidence doesn’t satisfy you, ponder a bit about how a mediocre reality TV star such as Trump won the republican nomination by steamrolling 16 “professional” life-long politicians and then defeated the darling of the neoliberal establishment, aka HRC, in the 2016 presidential general election. My point is that people who are supposed to be “elite” are, for all practical purposes, incompetent posers who just happened to get a lucky break or hit a lucky streak in their past. Their choices and decisions should not, therefore, be interpreted as evidence of deep thought, competence or efficacy.

But what about all those books you have read touting the amazing effectiveness of propaganda and adverting? What about all those documentaries made by Adam Curtis? What about all those books written by Noam Chomsky, especially this one? Surely, all these supposedly brilliant left-leaning “intellectuals” must have some wondrous insight into the power of propaganda and advertising that is not obvious to “non-experts”. Or maybe they want to pretend to believe in something which can explain their own impotence while simultaneously making a decent amount of money and fame?

To make a very long story a bit shorter, I shall now talk about a few examples of what are often considered to be best examples of success for propaganda and advertising to show you that the real reason why most people appear to go along with that crap is very different from what you are willing to accept.

Example 1: Propaganda in World War I

The attempts by all belligerent European governments to sell the idea of fighting WW1 to their subjects.. I mean citizens.. is sometimes seen as the first instance of governments deploying mass propaganda on a large and systematic scale. But was it really effective? Or were the other reasons behind the public support for war? Have you ever considered that the real reasons for public support for that war might have something to do with the expectations and mindset of people in that era?

Ok, let me ask you a question. What percentage of the population, including the “elites”, of that era could even imagine a war on such a gigantic scale going on for four years? If you don’t believe me.. read the correspondences of both soldiers and generals who fought in that war. It quickly becomes obvious that even 2-3 years into WW1, most of those involved in the actual fighting and planning believed that some new military tactic, weapons system or strategy would somehow magically translate into a swift and decisive victory.

Furthermore, the general public in European countries had not lived through such a large war on their soil, let alone one that could last more than a few weeks. Perhaps most importantly, the very high number of deaths and casualties in each participating nation, within even the first few months of that war, made it basically impossible for either the people of those nations or their leaders to settle for anything short of “total victory”. It was really about an uncontrollable and escalating cycle of vengeance at a time when contemporary culture was characterized by social darwinist thinking.

I would go so far as to suggest that the total absence of propaganda during that time would have no worthwhile effect on the conduct, length or outcome of that war. The sheer amount of wishful thinking based on past experiences in pre-modern societies based on social darwinism combined with the high number of children per woman and the second stage of the industrial revolution made every single aspect of that war pretty much inevitable. The government support of propaganda and advertising were, at best, avenues for creating patriotic sounding jobs for the sons of rich and connected people who did not want to risk their lives at the front.

Example 2: Militaristic Nationalism in Japan between 1920 and 1946.

Another important, though less commonly discussed, alleged example for success of propaganda concerns the rise of extreme militaristic nationalism between 1920 and 1946. It is, for example, common knowledge, that the Japanese armed forces fought bravely and often to the last man even in seemingly futile battles such those for Iwo Jima and Okhinawa. Then there are all those accounts of Kamikaze plane attacks and Banzai charges. By any measure, the soldiers and other personnel of the Imperial Japanese forces during WW2 were highly driven and ideologically motivated. But was it due to propaganda?

Many conventional historical accounts of 1920s-1930s era Japan strongly suggest, or just outright say, that the government- especially factions controlled by the military establishment put in a lot of effort and resources to inculcate a certain nationalistic ideology among the Japanese people. This extended from simple censorship of media to elaborate mock training of schoolchildren to fight in wars. But how much effect did any of these traditional and non-traditional avenues of propaganda have on the type of nation that Japan became in the late 1930s and really 1940s?

In my opinion- very little and here is why. Understanding the reasons which led to the Japanese people embracing an extreme right-wing nationalistic ideology predicated in their racial superiority requires us to put ourselves in the world as seen by the average Japanese person in the that era. Japan, you see, went from a medieval feudal society to a modern industrialized one within less than 50 years from the beginning of the Meiji period. By the beginning of WW1, and certainly by its end in 1918, its industrial, academic and engineering achievements had surpassed almost every other country but a few (USA, UK, France and Germany).

All these achievements and competencies had, however, not been helped it increase its global prestige, power or access to raw materials. In contrast, even third-rate European powers like Portugal, Netherlands and Belgium had large colonies in Asia and Africa. The treaty of Versailles simply confirmed that Japan, as an Asian country, would never be welcome as an equal in the imperialist white man’s club. At that time, Korea was the only real overseas colonial possession of the Japanese empire- and it was hardly a desirable one.

But it was a much bigger problem than diplomatic slights at the hands of white European nations. Japan had a large population but only a small part of it was arable or inhabitable. One unintentional, but somewhat welcome, consequences of the industrial revolution in Japan was that many millions of newly educated and skilled Japanese started moving to Korea, China and other East-Asian countries to make a living. There they encountered nation after nation of subjugated Asian people living in a pre-industrial era.

It is therefore not surprising that the idea of racial superiority was so readily accepted by Japanese people in that era. They could see that their country was the most developed and powerful country for thousands of miles in any direction. And yet, this did not translate into any material advantage for them. It is therefore not surprising that leaders spouting right-wing militaristic ideas about conquering and exploiting the resources of surrounding countries became popular in Japan. They were just saying out loud what everyone else was thinking.

In the upcoming part of this series, I intend to talk about why Nazi propaganda appeared to be so effective until the final year of WW2, why soviet propaganda appeared to succeed until the early 1970s and why american propaganda appeared to succeed for decades before entering its death spiral after 2008. Here is a hint.. in all three cases, people appeared to go along with the propaganda only as long as the underlying system provided at least part of what it had promised.

What do you think? Comments?