America’s Propaganda Machine: The Cultivation of Fear

Recently, I have given up on CNN and any other news medium. I have also unsubscribed from my NY Times source. I am tired of the fear mongering and hearing pundits decry injustice in America without providing solutions that unite the country. So here are some thoughts on my view of the propaganda machine that seeks to stir fear inside of us and dictate what I should believe. Let me preface, this is not a Republican/Democrat rant given that both are guilty of manufacturing consent.

Whether its FOX or CNN, the Washington Post or the New York Times, or even the hegemonic forces of corporations and lobbyists on Capitol Hill, the message is clear: Let the people who are supposed to run the show do so without any interference from the mass of the population, who have no business in the public arena. There is a conscious effort in our media that is committed to belief that they must control attitudes and opinions, because the people are otherwise too dangerous.

Take Karl Rove, Bush’s manager, for example. Rove’s goal, he says, is “to shape perceptions of Mr. Bush as a wartime leader and to prepare for the re-election campaign that will start soon as the war ends.” So that the Republicans can push through their domestic agenda. That means tax cuts – they say for the economy, but they mean for the rich – and other programs that are designed to benefit an extremely small sector of the ultra-wealthy and privileged and that will have the effect of harming the mass population.

And the way to achieve that – since people aren’t going to accept it otherwise – is to make people afraid. If people are frightened that their security is threatened, they will gravitate toward the strong leaders. This is what we saw in the justification for the invasion of Iraq. The constant themes used to stir American hysteria were: (1) Iraq was an imminent threat, (2) Iraq was behind September 11, and (3) Iraq is planning new atrocities. Keep in mind, at the time, no other country believed any of this. No other country viewed Iraq as a threat to its security. Kuwait and Iran which were both invaded by Iraq, didn’t regard Iraq as a threat to its security. It’s ridiculous. But the American polls sky-rocketed due to the media’s control over American minds and we took the bait. We demonized an entire country that has the weakest economy and the weakest military force in the region. Its military expenditures are less than half those of Kuwait, which has 10% of Iraq’s population. I wouldn’t say that America is more susceptible to propaganda; we’re more susceptible to fear. Whether its crime, immigration, drugs, you pick – our fears are off the spectrum. The last time America was threatened was during the War of 1812. Since then, America has just conquered others.

The 20th century has seen a bourgeoning propaganda machine that has used language to shape attitudes and opinions and to induce conformity and subordination. The first coordinated propaganda ministry, the Ministry of Information was set up in Britain during the First World War. Its “task,” as they put it, was “to direct the thought of most of the world.” What the ministry was particularly concerned with was the mind of America, and, more specifically, the thinking of American intellectuals. Britain needed U.S. backing for the WWII, and the ministry’s planners thought if they could convince American intellectuals of the nobility of the British war effort, then these intellectuals would succeed in driving the basically pacifist population of the United States – which wanted nothing to do with the European wars, rightly – into a fit of hysteria that would get them to join the war. The Wilson administration reacted by setting up the first propaganda agency here, the Committee on Public Information. This is already Orwellian, of course.

The British plan worked to perfection and within a few months, it turned a pacifist population into raving anti-German fanatics. America was driven into hysteria. It reached the point that the Boston Symphony Orchestra wouldn’t play Bach.

What I find astonishing is how the propaganda machine has its roots in democratic societies. If you can control people by force, it’s not so important to control what they think and feel. But if you lose the capacity to control people by force, it becomes necessary to control attitudes and opinions. Today it’s not so much the government that exercises control, but corporations. Now private tyrannies – corporate systems – play the role of controlling opinions and attitudes. So what now?  I’m trading CNN for the sitcom “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

Written @ Starbucks on 1/10/15 in Los Gatos CA

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