Last time, we took up the issue very much in the news, of "majority rule"... and got sidetracked into the following question.
Some of you have heard me point this out before. But please bear with me. At many of my public talks, I ask audience members if they think their neighbors are subjected to propaganda and nearly everybody raises a hand. Yet, when asked to name the message that has warped their neighbors' perceptions, people offer a strange variety of suggestions, never making a coherent pattern.
Commercial advertising? Most Americans have grown pretty thick skins toward ads. Propaganda favoring religion? Or homosexual rights? These tend only to be mentioned if you angrily hold the opposite view. Interestingly, nobody names as "propaganda" a belief system that THEY hold dear. (See how this works out by taking the "questionaire on ideology" at: http://www.davidbrin.com/questionnaire.html)
In all the years I have asked this question, very seldom has anyone mentioned any of the truly pervasive messages.
Which is what you would expect! The most effective "propaganda" should be messages that you tend not to notice, because you agree with it. Because it has already been effective. And effective on you. (Think. We all like to point away from us at the "masses." But isn't it at least somewhat probable that we are part of the masses, at least in some ways.)
Go through all the movies you've enjoyed - and stirring novels - during the last few decades. Find one in which the hero doesn't bond with the audience in the first ten minutes by confronting some kind of authority figure. Suspicion of authority (SOA) is such a potent, dramatic message, that even anti-modernist rants like the Star Wars series play lip service to it.
(The superficial plot always features underdogs prevailing against garish baddies... even if the underlying story arc pushes the long term failure of democracy and citizenship, extolling the traditional alternative of rule-by-demigods. If you think about it, these two messages are not incompatible! In The Matrix, the "chosen one faces dire peril against tiitanic entities... while the rest of us are clueless, hapless, bleating sheep.)
Think about it. If the director wants you to hate a villain, he will have the bad guy perform some intolerant act early in the film. If it is VERBAL intolerance, he/she might get away with an act of contrition after the climax. But if he kick a dog, he gonna die. Likewise, you will bond with the protagonist in direct proportion to the degree that she or he displays some quirky-but-harmless personal eccentricity.
Is it weird that I point out the existence of Enlightenment Propaganda, when my loyalty to the Enlightenment is supposedly based upon its promotion of individual responsibility, accountability, openness and pragmatism? Aren't those much more mature and sensible reasons to support the modernist agenda?
Well, please recall that we are talking about HUMAN BEINGS, here. Weirdness-& Inconsistency-R-Us. Our complexity is our wealth, even if it combines many aspects of Cave, Castle and Civilization.
Anyway, consider this. Most propaganda is diminished in its effectiveness when you see it AS propaganda. But did that happen to you, just now? Did you become less devoted to tolerance, eccentricity and suspicion of authority, when you saw how relentlessly you have been taught those values in popular media? I doubt it.
Enlightenment propaganda doesn't mind being looked-at. In fact, when you realize that you suckled these messages all your life, from a civilization that at some level WANTS you to be different (an individualist), and tolerant and suspicious of authority, doesn't it make you kind of smile at the irony? Maybe even become a bit more confident in the process, in its prospects for success. And in your neighbors, for sharing the key values?
Well, it oughta.
(A side puzzlement: who ordered this indoctrination campaign into being? Our typical notion of propaganda is to picture it done at the behest of some narrow clique of Illuminati-type conspirators, in some richly-paneled room. But can you actually parse out that scenario, this time? Some plutocrat-gnome telling his pals: "Hey guys. Let's pump up the suspicion of authority messages, this year." ?? It is just too weird.)
No, we have to recognize what forces are operating on our side, before we can properly analyze the weapons being used against us. Both sides of the Culture War engage in propaganda. Only understanding will help us to prevent the re imposition of ancient systems of oppression in our lifetimes.
Next time: back to a discussion of Majority Rule...