This is Part 2 in a series of adapted excerpts from my new book, The Economics of Revolution. You can read Part 1 here ~ Peak Inequality: The .01% And The Impoverishment Of Society
I: Conditioned Consciousness
II: Enlightened Despotism
III: Totalitarian Minds
IV: Indoctrinated Intelligentsia
V: Free Your Mind ~*~
Becoming aware of the $94.4 trillion in overall wealth, and how just a fraction of that wealth can be used to evolve society for the benefit of all, opens up and expands our consciousness. Now, we will analyze the system of propaganda that conditions and contracts mass consciousness to understand how the .01% gets away with consolidating so much wealth and power.
Even the most independent minded people vastly underestimate how mentally conditioned we all are. In 1929, in response to the growing propaganda system John Dewey said, “We live exposed to the greatest flood of mass suggestion humanity has ever experienced.” Since then, the flood of mass suggestion has grown exponentially.
For two obvious examples, let’s look at television consumption and advertising. The average American watches more than five hours of TV a day, every single day of their life. American children view more than 40,000 ads per year, every single year of their life. Think about that. That’s intensive mental domination administered on a daily basis, from the cradle to the grave.
Ultimately, as Phil Merikle summed it up, “It’s what advertisers have known all along: if we just keep the exposure rate up, people will be influenced.” Repetition, it’s all about repetition. Repetitive messages fill our mental atmosphere. They are like the air we breathe. To paraphrase Philip Lesley in Managing the Human Climate, ‘When a message appears all around you, you tend to accept it and take it for granted. You find yourself surrounded by it and your subconscious mind absorbs the climate of repetitive ideas.’
Repetitive messages form the origins of our thoughts. It’s where our perception, desires and opinions are born. As Marshall McLuhan said, the mass media is an extension of our nervous system. The mainstream media is the software on which our thoughts run; it’s our operating system. Repetitive mainstream propaganda creates a belief system, popular reference points, archetypes, mental patterns, a mindset and groupthink.
Groupthink is a highly infectious disease. You must be ever vigilant to escape the tyranny of groupthink and cultural conditioning. As Walter Lippmann said in Public Opinion, “In the great blooming, buzzing confusion of the outer world, we pick out what our culture has already defined for us, and we tend to perceive that which we have picked out in the form stereotyped for us by our culture.”
To remix a quote from Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground, ‘Leave people alone without mass media and they will be lost and confused. They will not know what to support, what to cling to, what to love and what to hate, what to respect and what to despise.’ As Malcolm X summed it up, “The media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”
The mainstream media creates a false reality, a “pseudo-environment.” People are born and raised inside mass media created illusions. They become isolated and detached from wider reality. As Eduardo Galeano put it, “The majority must resign itself to the consumption of fantasy. Illusions of wealth are sold to the poor, illusions of freedom to the oppressed, dreams of victory to the defeated and of power to the weak.”
As Harold Lasswell said in 1927, “The new antidote to willfulness is propaganda. If the mass will be free of chains of iron, it must accept its chains of silver. If it will not love, honor, and obey, it must not expect to escape seduction.”
Most people live in a mental cage now, they toil on mentally conditioned plantations. As Gore Vidal put it in The Great Unmentionable, “We are like people born in a cage and unable to visualize any world beyond our familiar bars…. That opinion the few create in order to control the many has seen to it that we are kept in permanent ignorance of our actual estate.”
To paraphrase a wise man who once fought against the .01%, ‘The depravity and amount of suffering required for the accumulation of such a staggering magnitude of wealth, in the hands of a few, is kept out of the mass media, and it is not easy to make people understand this.’ Especially when we have an all-encompassing propaganda system.
The most prevalent censorship today is censorship of any thoughts outside of corporate ideology. Information that leads to critical thought on the established power structure is omitted from public consciousness. Any thoughts that veer outside the spectrum of status quo supporting opinion are left out of the debate.
The mainstream press does not cover the most vital social, economic and political issues. The more important something is, the less they report on it. If mentioned at all, it’s mentioned in passing, with little, if any, in-depth reporting, discussion and debate on it. It’s censorship by omission and bullshit on repetition.
The Spectrum of Thinkable Thought
The mainstream media limits the debate within a Republican vs. Democrat parameter. If the two dominate political parties, which are both funded and controlled by the .01%, do not focus on an issue, it is omitted from public consciousness.
As Noam Chomsky observed, this is how propaganda and social control posing as freedom and democracy works: “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum…. That gives people the sense that there’s freethinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.”
To paraphrase Alex Carey, the mainstream media creates ‘the spectrum of thinkable thought. They set the terms of debate, to determine the kinds of questions that will dominate public consciousness, people’s thoughts. They set the political agenda in ways that are favorable to corporate interests. The debate is never about the curtailment of the manipulative power of global corporations.’
Imagine how different our current economic conditions would be if the mainstream media kept discussing how a small percentage of the population has $50 trillion in wealth, then they started debating how we could use just a fraction of that wealth to solve problems, create solutions and evolve society. What if they reported the fact that 0.5% of the 1%’s wealth could eliminate poverty?
Imagine if the mainstream media focused coverage on the trillions of dollars in fraudulent activity and theft that got us into this crisis. What if they reported on the $12 trillion in hidden wealth? What if they reported the fact that 70% of the population cannot generate enough income to afford the cost of living without taking on ever-increasing debt?
What if they focused our attention on the Business Roundtable and the 147 interconnected companies that control 50% of the world’s economy and dominate both political parties? What if they reported on all the wealth and resources that those corporations control, then debated how that wealth and those resources could be redeployed to get us onto a sustainable path?
These are just a few of the economic issues that real journalism would make known to the public in a genuine democracy. Pick any issue that affects overall society that you are knowledgeable about and look at how the mainstream media covers that issue, if they even cover it at all.
Speaking of real democracy, imagine in-depth coverage on the corruption of our political process through a system of bribery that makes the mafia look like amateurs.
What if we had real journalism instead of infotainment and talking heads reading teleprompters and reciting .01% talking points? Would the .01% get away with consolidating wealth and power in such extreme and unprecedented fashion?
Once your consciousness expands beyond the narrow parameters set by the two dominate .01% controlled political parties and the mainstream media, and you become aware of the unprecedented wealth that is available, you see how truly corrupt, shortsighted and obsolete our system is. You then realize that our mainstream media system is pure propaganda.
Mainstream media is the most effective weapon of mass oppression humanity has ever known. As William Blum said, “Propaganda is to democracy what violence is to dictatorships.” When it comes to oppression, it’s all cyclical yet evolutionary. Physical force has evolved into mental conditioning. It’s “enlightened despotism.”
In the land of propaganda, tyranny is democracy.
The harsh truth is that we are not freethinking participatory citizens involved in the decision-making processes that guide our lives and determine our fate. We are mentally conditioned to be spectators and servants, reactionary consumers and mindless wage slaves.
In Jacques Ellul’s 1965 analysis of the social mind, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, he summed up the present crisis with stunning insight:
“Propaganda ruins not only democratic ideas but also democratic behavior – the foundation of democracy, the very quality without which it cannot exist…. Propaganda destroys its very foundations. It creates a man who is suited to a totalitarian society….
A man who lives in a democratic society and who is subjected to propaganda is being drained of the democratic content itself – of the style of democratic life, understanding of others… he is a ‘totalitarian man with democratic convictions,’ but those convictions do not change his behavior in the least. Such contradiction is in no way felt by the individual for whom democracy has become a myth and a set of democratic imperatives, merely stimuli that activate conditioned reflexives.
The word democracy, having become a simple incitation, no longer has anything to do with democratic behavior. And the citizen can repeat indefinitely ‘the sacred formulas of democracy’ while acting like a storm trooper.”
That is the most accurate description of the modern propagandized “citizen” that I’ve ever come across. Ellul went on to explain the inherent danger of our two-party system and the general apathy Americans have toward politics:
“The conflicting propaganda of opposing parties is essentially what leads to political abstention. But this is not the abstention of the free spirit which asserts itself; it is the result of resignation, the external symptom of a series of inhibitions. Such a man has not decided to abstain; under diverse pressures, subjected to shocks and distortions, he can no longer (even if he wanted to) perform a political act. What is even more serious is that this inhibition not only is political, but also progressively takes over the whole of his being and leads to a general attitude of surrender….
At the same time, this crystallization closes his mind to all new ideas. The individual now has a set of prejudices and beliefs…. His entire personality now revolves around those elements. Every new idea will therefore be troublesome to his entire being.”
In Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, Guy DeBord summed up the primary function of the mainstream media, “For what is communicated are orders; and with perfect harmony, those who give them are also those who tell us what they think of them.”
For a deeper understanding, let’s return to Ellul:
“Governmental propaganda suggests that public opinion demand this or that decision; it provokes the will of the people, who spontaneously say nothing. But, once evoked, formed, and crystallized on a point, that will becomes the people’s will.
The government really acts on its own, it just gives the impression of obeying public opinion, after having first built that public opinion. The point is to make the masses demand of the government what the government has already decided to do.”
They “amputate the argument” and replace it with “engineered consensus.” As Robert Lynd wrote in Democracy In Reverse, “They operate actually to confirm the citizen’s false sense of security in totaling up ‘what the majority think’… The false sense of the public’s being ‘boss’ that they encourage operates to narcotize public awareness of the seriousness of problems and of the drastic social changes many contemporary situations require.”
James Madison also realized this when he wrote, “The larger a country, the less easy for its real opinion to be ascertained, and the less difficult to be counterfeited.” That was written in 1791, when the US population was only about five million people. Bertrand Russell also hit at the root in Free Thought and Official Propaganda, when he said, “it is much easier than it used to be to spread misinformation, and, owing to democracy, the spread of misinformation is more important than in former times to the holders of power.”
Once the mainstream media has created the impression that public opinion is in favor of something, people are much more inclined to support that opinion themselves. In 1935, Malcolm Willey explained, “An individual may be moved to action through repetition, as, for example, in advertising; but his action is made more certain if he is made to realize that thousands, even millions, of others are thinking and feeling as he himself does. Herein lies the importance of the contemporary communication network; it not only carries its symbols to the individual, it also impresses upon him a sense of numbers.”
As social psychologist Gabriel Tarde wrote in 1901, “Newspapers have transformed… the conversations of individuals, even those who do not read papers but who, talking to those who do, are forced to follow the groove of their borrowed thoughts. One pen suffices to set off a million tongues.”
In summation, as the .01% knows very well, if you have enough wealth to own mainstream media companies, you can limit and focus debate in terms that are favorable to your interests, and you can repetitiously condition the masses with messages and opinions that support your objectives.
In Taking the Risk Out of Democracy, Alex Carey summed it up in one sentence: “That this simple regime of thought-control should prove to have been so triumphant, with so little public resistance, must be put down to its persistent, repetitive orchestration.”
What the old masters used to do with whips, they now do with paychecks. The .01% conditions the population through the mainstream media and they use their wealth to coerce, bribe and indoctrinate the administrative class into propagating their ideology. An indoctrinated intelligentsia has been produced like products off an assembly line. In The Genesis of the Technocratic Elite, Zoran Vidakovic breaks down how the assembly line of indoctrination works:
“Selection, education, and specific indoctrination of technical and administrative cadres are carried out first in metropolitan educational and research factories and their branches in dependent societies, under the wing of the superficially independent foundations which sustain the international projects of ‘technical aid,’ and then within the personnel policy of the transnational corporations that raise people from the local environments to responsible managerial and technical functions in their internationally located branches, or that in other ways subordinate and direct the ‘modernized’ industrial entrepreneurs, agrarian ‘reformers,’ functionaries, and leading intellectuals from the ministries and banks, universities, and public information, cultural, and scientific institutions.
The essential effect of this great factory for the almost assembly line production of dependent and emasculated ‘technocratic elites’ is that the material position, status, and professional success of the members of these groups imperatively depends on their conformity to the ideology of dependence and the interiorization of the intellectual, political, and ideological characteristics of this social type programmed in metropolitan laboratories for the technological, social, and cultural transformation of ‘developing countries.’…
The ideology of total repression unites with the ideology of technological and cultural dependency and assimilation; in this union repression gains strength as the condition of the entire dependent economic growth, technological progress, and ‘modernization of society,’ as a circle of insurmountable dependency on the import of prefabricated knowledge and technical and consumerist models is closed up by the ambitions of the protagonists of authoritarian rule.”
As you can see, you don’t need a conspiracy theory to understand this system of indoctrination and mental conditioning; you just need to have a basic understanding of social psychology and behaviorism. We live in a Skinner box. It’s classic “behavioral modification” (b-mod) within a “token economy.” The .01% incentivizes and rewards certain behavior, and they punish or withdraw basic necessities for other behavior.
It’s behaviorism 101. Give people a paycheck to have certain opinions and do certain things. You can see it everywhere, in almost all professions, not just the media. If you think a certain way, if you do certain things, you will be awarded with a paycheck. If you don’t, you lose your paycheck. Or, to paraphrase Thomas Paine in Rights of Man, ‘Those who do not participate in this enacting do not get fed.’
As W.E.H. Lecky once said, ‘The simple fact of applying certain penalties to the profession of particular opinions, and rewards to the profession of opposite opinions, while it will make many hypocrites, it will also make many converts.’
If you propagate the message of the .01% and uphold the status quo, you can become rich and famous. That’s what shortsighted ego-driven careerists do. They are the ultimate pawns of empire. They enrich themselves by riding the coattails of conquerors.
The bottom line is the bottom line; you either bow down and play by their rules or you lose access to basic necessities. It’s the root of modern monetary and mental enslavement.
When you expose mental conditioning processes, the false reality and illusions that people are trapped in, the propagandized mind will instinctively dismiss or attack you. When it comes to the reactionary propagandized mind, their impulsive, instinctive dismissal further demonstrates how well they have been indoctrinated and conditioned. People will bite your hand when you try to remove the mental leash from their neck.
As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explained in The Evolving Self, “To prevent its annihilation, the ego forces us to be constantly on the watch for anything that might threaten the symbols on which it relies for identity. Our view of the world becomes polarized into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ – things that support the image, and those that threaten it.” This is also how the third Mayan veil works. In this case, our media created cultural programming; it distorts reality to make it congruent with conditioned views.
Anything that deviates from the conditioned norm is ridiculed and instantly, instinctively dismissed before critical thinking skills are activated. The repetitious conditioning process leads to an amputation of critical thinking faculties. That which people are not familiar with becomes evil and damaging to their mental construct, to their conditioned thought patterns and their fabricated self-image.
We tend to look for anything that confirms our pre-existing beliefs while ignoring anything that goes against them. This is how confirmation bias works, to paraphrase Bertrand Russell: ‘If people are offered a fact which goes against their conditioning or cultural programming, they will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, they are offered something which goes in accordance to their conditioning, they will accept it, even on the slightest evidence.’
Carl Sagan referred to this as being in a state of bamboozlement: “One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”
Until you see the walls, you can’t break free. As Aldous Huxley put it in Brave New World Revisited, “The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that they are a victim. To them, the walls of their prison are invisible, and they believe they are free.” When it comes to the current mental conditioning process, it’s hard to break free when you are repetitively told you are free.
Having been bred within this all-pervasive propaganda system, I understand the disbelief people feel. When our conditioned belief system is called into question and comes crashing down, it is a hard pill to swallow. No one wants to believe that they have been manipulated or taken advantage of. This will stir up an instinctive dismissal, a powerful emotional response. We are creatures of habit, and it is much easier, over the short-term, to just stay on a path of denial and ignorance. Hear no evil. See no evil.
The task is to consciously counter conditioned consciousness. The most difficult and important prerequisite to freedom is the ability to see past all of your culturally programmed biases. It takes great personal inner-strength and determination to achieve this. You will inevitably have to face many facts that will go against your programmed, conditioned beliefs. If you can endure this, you will experience true freedom.
As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi put it in The Evolving Self, “In order to gain control of consciousness, we must learn how to moderate the biases built into the machinery of the brain. We allow a whole series of illusions to stand between ourselves and reality…. These distortions are comforting, yet they need to be seen through for the self to be truly liberated… to come ever closer to getting a glimpse of the universal order, and of our part in it.”
Even if a person is strong enough to have an awareness of their conditioning, it is another level to confront and transcend it. As Nietzsche said in Twilight of the Idols, “Even the most courageous among us only rarely has the courage for that which he really knows.”
Noam Chomsky makes the ease in which you can free your mind clear, and stresses the importance of doing so:
“To take apart the system of illusions and deception which functions to prevent understanding of contemporary reality is not a task that requires extraordinary skill or understanding. It requires the kind of normal skepticism and willingness to apply one’s analytical skills that almost all people have and that they can exercise….
As long as some specialized class is in position of authority, it is going to set policy in the special interests that it serves, but the conditions of survival, let alone justice, require rational social planning in the interests of the community as a whole, and by now that means the global community.
The question is whether privileged elite should dominate mass communication and should use this power as they tell us they must – namely to impose necessary illusions, to manipulate and deceive…. In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than values to be treasured; they may well be essential to survival.”
Most of us are aware that our economic and political systems are overrun with corruption and that society is on a disastrous path. However, many of us feel powerless to change things. It is stunning to hear so many people say that they can’t do anything about it. Far too many people think that we can’t create change; that is the primary reason why we don’t. Why do you think that we can’t change the world? How did you come to that conclusion? Who taught you to believe that?
These beliefs are only a result of our conditioning; it’s a propaganda-induced delusion. We have become so propagandized that many of us do not realize the significant position that we are in. We are a critical mass of people who have the power to evolve society and change the course of history.
The overwhelming majority of people feel powerless to create political change. If they would just realize that they are the overwhelming majority, they would no longer feel this way. As Ellul said, “Only when he realizes his delusion will he experience the beginning of genuine freedom – in the act of realization itself – be it only from the effort to stand back and look squarely at the phenomenon and reduce it to raw fact.”
As Malcolm X said, “I say and I say it again, you’ve been had. You’ve been took. You’ve been hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray, run amok.” We live in the richest and most technologically advanced society in the history of civilization. There is no reason for poverty to exist. People should not have to struggle and be buried in debt to get basic necessities and live a healthy life. We’ve been hoodwinked, bamboozled and led astray, as the .01% runs amok.
Transcend Conditioned Consciousness
Time comes and times go…
Thanks to the Internet, people are now freeing their minds from conditioning. The Internet is to our generation what pamphlets were to our forefathers’ during the first American Revolution. People are using the Internet to find out all the vital information that the mainstream media is not letting people know about. As a result, we now have a critical mass of informed and outraged citizens.
As William Adams Brown said, “We are developing a social conscience, and situations which would have been accepted a generation ago as a matter of course are felt as an intolerable scandal.” John Dewey continues, “Liberty in the concrete signifies release from the impact of particular oppressive forces; emancipation from something once taken as a normal part of human life but now experienced as bondage…. Today, it signifies liberation from material insecurity and from the coercions and repressions that prevent multitudes from participation in the vast cultural resources that are at hand.”
The inevitable demise of the .01% was summed up by George Orwell when he said, “For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realize that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance.”
As Thomas Jefferson once said, “Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.”
People are throwing off their mental shackles and realizing their potential. We are now transcending conditioned consciousness and expanding our awareness on a scale unprecedented in human history.
An empowering consciousness is evolving.