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[In "Snap Out of It," Mike Ruppert advised readers not to be hypnotized by either the bogus election or its appalling result. The Left is vulnerable to a trance-inducing melody that repeats, and repeats, "you were cheated… cheated… cheated… it isn't fair… no fair... no fair." The danger is that this particular fraud - the pseudo-election of 2004 - will absorb their attention while implying that the rest of American institutions are more or less intact. Those institutions are, of course, rapidly crumbling.
Here Dale Allen Pfeiffer examines the much larger hypnosis, whose captive audience numerically dwarfs the Left wing of the Democratic Party. This is the Puritanical spell that afflicts those tens of millions who regard Bush as some sort of virtuous hero, rather than the "mentally ill empty suit" one reads about in Crossing the Rubicon. Why do they do it? Here are fifteen reasons, a set of techniques used by the image-managers and their elite employers in a successful effort to monopolize the freedom to persuade and to suggest. "The Power of Delusion" is especially rich in sources for further reading. Enjoy. -JAH]
Much madness is divinest Sense-
To a discerning Eye-
Much Sense- the starkest Madness-
'Tis the Majority-
In this, as All, prevail-
Assent-and you are sane-
Demur-you're straightway dangerous---
And handled with a Chain-
-Emily Dickinson (poem 435), c. 1862
The Power of Delusion
Dale Allen Pfeiffer and Elizabeth Anne Pfeiffer
What is going on with the US population? How could anyone vote for George W. Bush? This guy shouldn't be in the White House, he should be in prison. And now, with the fascists vindicated in the White House and in control of the House and the Senate (and soon the Supreme Court), the future is wide open. We will likely see more war, more death, and the complete pillaging of the US economy and our social system (social security, medicare, school budgets). We could see not only the outlawing of abortion, but the criminal prosecution of any woman who obtains an abortion. We could see the reinforcement of the Patriot Act, the scrapping of the Bill of Rights, and the full establishment of a police state. We could see a nuclear attack, ecological devastation, and the impoverishment of the working class.
Is this the future for which approximately half of the US population voted? Are these people brain dead or what?
Contrary to the way we might feel about it, the people who supported Bush are not stupid. Nor are they in favor of the future outlined above. These people truly believe that they are voting for a better, safer world. A world where moral values are enshrined and where terrorism is thwarted by a strong military. A world of continued prosperity which extols the superiority of the American dream. In a word, they are deluded. (For a study on just how deluded Bush supporters are, see The Separate Realities of Bush and Kerry Supporters, Kull, Steven, et al. The PIPA/Knowledge Networks Poll, 10/21/2004.
How can such a large percentage of the US population remain blinded by denial in the face of so much evidence which flatly contradicts their view of reality (and isn't such delusion a feature of psychosis)? When the rest of the world clearly sees and deplores what is happening, how is it that a majority of the US population-which prides itself on freedom of information and informed democracy-has not clue what is really happening? How is this delusion being maintained? Through a few simple techniques.
1. Promote a system of socialization in schools that trains people to respect and obey authorities and not to question the system.
The ideological purpose of school is to inculcate students into a system of obedience which will prepare them for the workplace and turn them into complacent, unquestioning citizens. Teachers are themselves indoctrinated while they are still in college. When I once looked into obtaining a teaching degree at a major teaching university, I was first given a verbal examination to find out how I would handle various situations. The exam concluded that I had a tendency to handle things in a non-authoritarian manner (that is, I tried to teach students to think for themselves and give them a voice in decision making), and I was told I would have to go through a program of behavioral modification before I could undertake a teaching degree.
Students are expected to obey teachers and to ask permission for everything, including attending to their own bodily functions. Free time is severely restricted and any child who shows a tendency to daydream is deemed afflicted with attention deficit disorder and recommended for medication. Creative and individualistic thinking is allowed only within narrow channels. To paraphrase Utah Phillips, our educational system equips us with the tools of the ruling class, but teaches us nothing of the history and the tribulations of the working class.
For a thorough discussion of the educational system, please read The Underground History of American Education, written by John Taylor Gatto, New York State teacher of the year in 1991. Mr. Gatto subsequently resigned from his teaching position, and dedicated his life to teaching people about the true nature of the educational system and the development of alternatives. You can read his book online or purchase a print copy at http://johntaylorgatto.com/underground/. For a short article by Mr. Gatto on the first six lessons all school children in the US are taught, go to this site http://www.cantrip.org/gatto.html. Another short overview of the US educational system can be found at http://www.hermes-press.com/education_index.htm. For a classic alternative to the US educational system, read Francisco Ferrer's The Origin and the Ideals of the Modern School, http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/anarchist_archives/bright/ferrer/origin.html.
2. Encourage and rely on a social system where anyone who dissents is viewed as deviant.
This factor ties in with the socialization process of the schools mentioned above, and with the religious fundamentalism mentioned below. Once you vocalize your dissatisfaction with the current socioeconomic system, you become an outcast and may even be viewed as a pervert. This ostracism has been observed and commented on by social psychologists in a number of social settings. This mechanism is responsible for the insular quality of most social groups, and breeds the "either you're with us or against us" mentality espoused so recently by George W. Bush. Through this mechanism, the influence of the social pariah is limited. The dissident's only hope is to join a social group which shares his or her views. See Whistleblowers: Broken Lives and Organizational Power by C. Fred Alford (Cornell U. P., 2001).
3. Rely on and encourage family dysfunction, so that people are reacting from their own inner wounds and seeking acceptance and forgiveness.
Coming from a dysfunctional family, a man or a woman is less likely to practice critical thinking and more likely to think in a reactionary manner based on his or her personal emotional wounds and immature psyche. A member of a dysfunctional family generally harbors some feelings of inadequacy and will strive to conform and be a good citizen in order to gain acceptance and to be forgiven for his or her perceived faults or failings. For a powerful study of the relationship between authoritarian parenting and the espousal of punitive and authoritarian policies in adult life, see The Politics of Denial, by Michael Millburn and Sheree Conrad (M.I.T. Press, 1998).
4. Reinforce the atomization of society so that people have fewer opportunities to communicate openly.
The atomization of society is an effect of the commercialization of everyday life and the privatization of the commons, along with the growth of private car ownership. The barn raising, the fall harvest, the sewing circle, the Sunday picnic, and barter have been replaced by freeways, shopping malls and television. The effect of this atomization of society is the limitation of public discussion and social activity. Instead of basing your view of reality on the world you perceive around you and an open discussion of issues, reality largely becomes a construct of the electronic media. Neighbors become nuisances at best, and the community at large is perceived to be a hostile place of drug fiends, rapists and muggers. The friendly stroll is replaced by the harassed drive where you must vie for the road with other aggressive drivers. The friendly barter or community market is replaced with an impersonal commercial outlet where you must compete with other shoppers for overpriced goods which are generally supplied by underpaid workers. See Geography Of Nowhere: The Rise And Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape, by James Howard Kunstler (Free Press, 1994), and Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, by Robert Putnam (Simon and Schuster, 2000).
5. Keep people stressed, afraid and insecure, while reporting that the economy is improving using only data for the upper percentiles of the population.
This factor actually comprises several factors which interact to keep people in a state of confusion, frightened, insecure and wondering where they went wrong.
Though it is instilled in us at public schools that this is a free country where anyone can become a millionaire if she simply puts her mind to it, people find themselves struggling just to stay afloat, working long hours or holding down two or three jobs. The effect is to keep workers stressed, preventing them from thinking clearly and leaving them without the time and inclination to study the important issues and take a critical look at major events. The stressed individual is, instead, inclined to simply accept what is presented to him or her in a few minutes of televised news broadcast or in a glance at the headlines of the daily newspaper.
While struggling to stay afloat, the stressed worker is presented with a picture of a healthy and robust economy, where the stock market is bounding and the economy is awash in prosperity. This picture of economic prosperity is not tainted by statistics such as the number of chronically unemployed who have used up their unemployment benefits, or the number of underemployed. This economic picture does not mention that in comparison with the cost of living the wages of the average worker have actually been in decline for the past thirty years, or that CEOs now make up to 500 times what their blue collar employees earn. It does not mention how overvalued the stock market has become, the derivatives bubble, the housing bubble or any of the other bubbles which are preparing to burst with disastrous effect. It avoids discussing how our economy is subsidized by money laundering, or the large scale looting of our economy. Nor does it portray the level of personal debt, or the skyrocketing number of bankruptcies and foreclosures.
In short, the struggling worker is given a picture of the economy from the perspective of a CEO, to go along with the ruling class history which was taught to him and her in school. In trying to reconcile this image of reality with their own struggle to stay afloat, the stressed worker is often left to conclude that he is at fault for failing to take advantage of all the opportunities around him, or that she is simply plagued by bad luck.
On top of this, we are bombarded with sensationalized news stories (murders, rapes, robberies, drive-by shootings) which serve to frighten us and make us more wary of social interaction. And then there are the terrorist alerts issued periodically by the Department of Homeland Security: vague, undefined alerts whose purpose can only be to increase public paranoia.
For an interesting examination of how our economy actually works, check out Catherine Austin Fitts' website, http://www.solari.com. And her overview, Narco-dollars for Beginners, archived at http://www.ratical.com/co-globalize/narcoDollars.html. Michael C. Ruppert also does any excellent job of mapping out the economy in his book, Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil (New Society Publishers, 2004). For an honest look at economic indicators, I recommend http://www.dailyreckoning.com, http://www.dailyreckoning.com, and http://www.prudentbear.com. Also consider Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists (U. of California Press, 2001), by Joel Best.
6. Support reactionary thinking and religious fundamentalism. And encourage the projection of fears and personal faults onto the Other, making him / her / them the enemy.
More than just the opiate of the masses, religion is a control mechanism. All theistic, organized religions tend to subject their believers to authoritarian control. One of the founders of the current fundamentalist movement in the US, Rousas Rushdoony, founder of the Christian Reconstruction Movement, wrote that "Christianity and Democracy are inevitably enemies." (The Independent Republic, R.J. Rushdoony, 1964.) While Rushdoony's ideas for a biblical reworking of the US Constitution and social structure are considered extreme, all of the platforms and goals of the religious right can be traced to his ideas.
The religious right seeks nothing less than a restructuring of society along biblical lines. They seek to supplant secular government with Christian (particularly fundamentalist) denominations. It is their goal to disband the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Tobacco and Firearms, the Surgeon General, Housing and Urban Development, and the Departments of Commerce and Labor. The functions of these various departments would either be undertaken by churches, or-in the case of business regulations, labor laws and environmental protection-would be done away with completely. The tools for achieving this are tax cuts, the downsizing of the federal government, and programs such as George W. Bush's Faith Based Initiative. They seek to abolish progressive taxes such as income taxes, inheritance tax, gift tax, capital gain tax, corporate income tax, payroll tax and property tax, replacing them with flat taxes and a federal sales tax, both of which would unfairly burden the lower classes. The religious right is slowly chipping away at the separation of church and state which was so important to our founding fathers. They are also waging this battle through the psychologically manipulative use of language, framing the way people think about the secular nature of the Constitution by claiming that the separation of church and state is a myth.
For a compendium of information about current church-state issues, see:
http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/church-state/index.shtml. Also, visit the website of Americans United for Separation of Church and State:
For a thorough examination of the history and goals of the religious right, visit the following web site, http://www.4religious-right.info/. Please read through the material they have online, and view or listen to Joan Bokaer's talk on the rise of "Dominionism." Or, if you doubt what I have written here, I suggest you visit the Christian Coalition website and see what they have to say for themselves: http://www.cc.org/.
Two of the best books available on the nature of fundamentalism and religion in general, are Edmund D. Cohen's The Mind of the Bible Believer (Prometheus Books, 1988), and The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power, by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad (North Atlentic Books, 1993). The former book is a psychological analysis of the Christian Bible and the mind of the Bible believer. In it, the author builds a strong argument that the New Testament, and indeed the entire Bible, is (among other things) a tool for mind control. This book is essential reading if you want to understand the fundamental Christian mentality. The latter book examines a variety of religions and concludes that religion is a vehicle for establishing authoritarian power over its adherents.
7. Throw any residual dangerous information down the memory hole.
The war in Afghanistan (You mean we've still got troops there?), the prison camp at Guantanamo (We're still holding prisoners there? Haven't they gone to trial?), weapons of mass destruction (I don't remember them saying we had proof positive, much less that they could attack the US). As soon as I get out of work this evening, I've got to take Billy to the dentist, and then pick up Suzy from soccer practice. I guess it's MacDonald's for dinner again tonight.
When people are overworked, left too stressed and fatigued in their off time to engage in critical thinking, and bombarded by media input which actually helps to numb their cognitive faculties, is it any surprise they can't remember what happened yesterday?
8. Rely on the media to underreport serious issues and leave out important details.
Have you heard much about the war in Afghanistan? The Plame investigation? The Congressional investigation into the Bush administration's WMD claims? What about these so-called Iraqi insurgents, where are they all coming from? Have you heard anything about Pakistani ties to Al Qaeda or the 9/11 hijackers? I'll bet you did hear about Saddam Hussein's supposed connection to Al Qaeda, but did you see the subsequent retractions? If you're reading FTW, you probably know about all this - but most of the people around you do not. For a critique of the selectivity and self-censorship of the mainstream media, see the classic study by Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (Pantheon, 1988). For a critique of the selectivity and self-censorship of the "progressive" media, see:
9. Rely on the media to present a frame of reality which places an honest assessment outside of the viewer's comfort zone.
All of the sit coms and TV dramas, all of the commercial music and Hollywood movies either present us with some variation of the American dream, or they paint the world as a dangerous place fraught with peril. Even our evening news is staged so that the anchors appear wholesome, trustworthy pillars of the community commenting on what is socially acceptable and what is morally deplorable. Consume and be happy, we are told, but don't venture out into your own neighborhood. Rarely are we informed of the social costs of our American dream, or the destructive side of mass consumption. When this dark side of the dream does intrude, we feel uncomfortable and powerless. It's a shame, but it's best not to think about it.
10. Count on the complicity and compromises of your opponent, while utilizing these complicities and compromises to present yourself as the honest candidate.
Kerry could not do the right thing and condemn the Iraqi invasion as unlawful, otherwise he would be guilty of war crimes for voting in favor of the war. Therefore, his stance was disingenuous, and people could detect that he was not being honest. Bush, on the other hand, has been saying the same thing all along, and truly believes in what he is doing (and that is the scary thing). The Democrats, in general, give lip service to supporting the working class and then go on to act in behalf of their corporate sponsors. Meanwhile, the Republicans are quite open about their corporate allegiance, while courting the moral concerns of the religious right.
11. Repeated denial of culpability on major issues which could result in criminal charges (i.e. WMD, prisoner torture, 9-11 complicity, the Plame investigation).
Bush vigorously maintains that he has made no mistakes during his years in office. Meanwhile, his administration continually sidesteps on major issues where they are culpable, lying to Congress and the public about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, denying that they encouraged the torture of prisoners, denying that they had any foreknowledge of or involvement in 9/11, refusing to release important records of Cheney's energy task force - the list goes on and on. The repetition serves to drill what they are saying into the public consciousness, even when it is an outright lie. Part of this robotic repetition of patent falsehoods is based on Bush's personal pathology, and part is based on an incredibly cynical practice of strategic opinion management by his handlers, chiefly Karl Rove. For the former, see for instance The Bush Dyslexicon: The Sayings of George W. Bush (W.W. Norton, 2002) by Mark Crispin Miller, excerpted at: http://www.alternet.org/story/10988; also, Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President (Regan Books, 2004), by Justin A. Frank. For the latter, see Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential (Wiley, 2003), by James Moore.
12. Appeal to emotions using keywords and images; subconscious suggestion through staged media events.
How many times have we seen Bush speaking with a gathering of police, firemen, or military personnel in the background? The implication is that he has their full support. How many times during the campaign did we see Bush dressed casually, leaning on the platform, chewing the fat with common folks? How many times has he linked the words pride, American and freedom? How many times has he linked the words terrorist and evil?
13. Control the terms of conversation and debate using verbal framing. neurolinguistic programming (NLP).
The terrorists have declared a war on freedom while our imperialistic efforts are a War on Terrorism. The invasion of Iraq is a mission to free the Iraqis from dictatorship and bring democracy to the region. Ditto Afghanistan. There is no Iraqi resistance, it is a terrorist insurgency. The legislation which trimmed the Bill of Rights was the Patriot Act. The effort to limit our freedom, crush diversity, and oppress women and minorities is a desire for moral values. Right?
For more on framing and how it is used in politics, see
http://www.rockridgeinstitute.org/perspectives/simple_framing. See also the work of George Lakoff, including Moral Politics : How Liberals and Conservatives Think (Chicago, 2002), and Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate--The Essential Guide for Progressives (Chelsea Green, 2004). Anyone interested in this issue should also read George Orwell's great essay of 1946, "Politics and the English Language," found online in its entirety at various sites, e.g.: http://www.resort.com/~prime8/Orwell/patee.html.
15. Focus on minor, sensationalized issues which favor your candidate.
This year it was gay marriage. While polls show that the majority of Americans could care less whether a gay couple gets married or not, the religious right galvanized their followers around this issue. With the divorce rate as high as it is, what does that say about the sanctity of marriage? I suspect the religious right was worried that gay couples would have a lower divorce rate than heterosexual couples. Common decency makes it obvious that consenting adults ought to marry whom they choose - but to spell that out is to legitimize the artificial frenzy that moved this issue to the center of an entire election.
We have reviewed some of the major factors behind Bush's popular support. As Mike Ruppert says, while documenting voting irregularities is important, it is an exercise for historians. If we are to have any hope of changing the direction in which this country is heading, then we have to understand why so many people supported Bush against their own economic, ethical, social and spiritual interests. Analyzing the factors enumerated above, we must develop new strategies for breaking through delusion and denial so that we can help bring people to their senses before our Constitution is completely supplanted by Christian Fascism.
In addition to the sources mentioned above, I urge everyone to read the following books and web pages. In order to preserve our freedom, we need to learn how government, industry and the media influence the way we think.
Brainwashing America, Norman D. Livergood. http://www.hermes-press.com/brainwash1.htm. An excellent web page from an excellent web site.
Television and the Hive Mind, Mack White. http://www.mackwhite.com/tv.html
Stepford Citizen Syndrome: Top Ten Signs Your Neighbor is Brainwashed, Maureen Farrell. http://www.democraticunderground.com/articles/02/09/05_stepford.html
PR! A Social History of Spin, Stuart Ewan, Basic Books.
The Father of Spin: Edward L. Bernays and the Birth of Public Relations, Larry Tye, Owl Books. http://www.prwatch.org/prwissues/1999Q2/bernays.html
Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq, Sheldon Rampton & John Stauber, Jeremy P. Tarcher (publisher).
Toxic Sludge Is Good for You!: Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry, John Stauber & Sheldon Rampton, Common Courage Press
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