Subvertising: Countering Mind Control in London

Subvertisers for London

Dog Section Films (2019)

Film Review

“Subvertise” is the millenial term for what baby boomers call “culture jamming.” (See  Culture Jamming: The Grassroots War Against Mind Control) Their aim is to minimize the societal threat from advertising and the commercial culture that has spawned it. The technique has the potential to reach millions of people, using humor to jolt them into questioning the status quo.

The British artists who engage in “subvertising” go much further than merely editing billboard ads. Typically they will replace an entire bus shelter or underground ad with a a professional-looking poster conveying an ironic political message. Examples in the film include

  • Data Misuse is Our Business Model (Facebook, Google)
  • Theresa May Will Follow Donald Trump to the End of the World
  • Suck My Goldman Sachs (David Cameron)
  • Fresh Mucus
  • Sorry We Got Caught (Volkswagen)

They also make fake Royal Navy recruitment ads for suicide bombers and a fake street sign reading “Curfew: Social Cleansing 7-9 pm”

 

What Silicon Valley Has Planned for Public Education

What Silicon Valley Has Planned for Public Education

Alison McDowell (2017

This troubling presentation concerns a well-advanced plan by corporate America to gradually replace public schools with 100% digital education. The attack on American schools is multi-pronged – with anti-public school forces closing schools, laying off teachers and neglecting crumbling infrastructure while stealthily increasing the availability of digital notepads, Chrome books and other digital platforms in existing schools.

Education Reform 2.0 would build on high stakes testing and school closures to replace teachers with digital learning platforms designed to incorporate “cradle to grave” tracking of students’ skill sets and online activity. Increasingly employers would rely on this information to determine suitability for employment.

The institutional backers of this digital revolution include some of the most powerful corporations and foundations in the US. Prominent names include the Gates Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Goldman Sachs, the Institute for the Future (offshoot of Rand Corporation), Amazon, Google, Dell (the company Snowden worked for), and Halliburton.

The US military is also involved and planning and development of 100% digital learning with Army Research and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) assuming responsibility for the “behavior modification” (ie mind control aspects) that reward students for appropriate engagement with the digital platform.

McDowell describes how many schools across the US are already replacing class time with Skype sessions with Halliburton “mentors” and on-line math lessons with carton “peers.”

Proponents of 100% digital learning are working closely with focus groups to “market” this new technology that tracks and mind controls children to skeptical Americans who value their privacy.

At 38 minutes, McDowell shows a promotional film for “tracked online learning.” It explains how high school and adult learners are earning “edu-blocks for a variety of learning experiences (including reading books, volunteer work, watching videos and “teaching” skills to other learners. Also how companies are already using your ledger blocks to evaluate potential employees’ suitability for specific projects or even investing in their university education by paying their tuition. One edu-block enthusiast describes how participating in the online program is enabling her to reduce her student loan debt.

The ledger is designed to keep track of all the YouTube videos you watch and even all the texts you send (and delete).

History as Fiction: How the Ruling Elite Rewrites History

The Living Dead

Directed by Adam Curtis

Part 1 – “On the Desperate Edge of Now”

Film Review

The Living Dead is an early Adam Curtis documentary regarding collective perception control techniques ruling elites use to retain power. It specifically addresses the technique of re-creating national history to ensure that populations selectively recall positive historical eras while suppressing all memory of negative events. Only Parts 1 and 3 are available in full on YouTube (Part 2 “You Have Used Me as a Fish Long Enough” is available but the audio is too distorted to be intelligible). Tomorrow I’ll post Part 3, about Margaret Thatcher channeling Winston Churchill’s messianic vision.

In Part 1, Curtis focuses on the Nuremberg war crimes trials of 1945-46. He maintains these trials were the first major propaganda assault against any historical memory of atrocities and war crimes the US and Britain committed during World War II (see British and American War Crimes During World War II).

In the US, the official determination to re-frame World War II as the “just war” would prove very troubling for individual veterans who had witnessed American atrocities (Kurt Vonnegut writes about it in Slaughterhouse Five and Joseph Heller in Catch 22).

The resulting disconnect between official accounts and their lived experiences often resulted in intense feelings of apprehension, hopelessness, isolation and fear of impending disaster. (It sure did in my father.)

The film features an excerpt from a secret film the US army made about a program designed to help veterans “forget” their troubling memories.

The Propaganda Function of Torture

language of empire

The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the American Media

by Lila Rajiva (2005 Monthly Review Press

Book Review

The Language of Empire is an examination of the Abu Ghraib scandal, from the perspective that the US military’s use of torture was primarily an instrument of terror (i.e. a military tactic intended to cause intimidation). In addition to outlining what actually happened at Abu Ghraib, Rajiva also chronicles the Senate Armed Services Committee investigation triggered when the scandal first broke in April 2004. However the book mainly focuses on the media coverage of Abu Ghraib and what it tells us about the highly sophisticated psychological strategies employed by Pentagon and Wall Street propagandists.

The Language of Empire begins with a detailed catalog of the different forms of torture employed against prisoners (who were for the most part civilian non-combatants) at Abu Ghraib, with particular emphasis on the rape of female prisoners (only reported by the Christian Science Monitor) and the sodomizing of Iraqi teenagers, both largely ignored by the mainstream media.

The third chapter is devoted to the Senate investigation. The investigation, in Rajiva’s view, was a whitewash allowing the Republican majority to scapegoat a few “bad apples.”  There should have been a thorough investigation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who had clearly mandated the use of torture in interrogations. Rajiva is also critical of Senate Democrats, who focused entirely on the legal paper trail and the Pentagon’s failure to keep Congress informed, rather than a diseased Pentagon culture that enabled the US to adopt torture as official policy.

Rumsfeld’s Corporatization of the Pentagon

Rajiva is extremely critical of Rumsfeld’s wholesale “corporatization” of defense and his consolidation of all Middle East intelligence and propaganda functions under the Pentagon. Of most significance, obviously, was contracting with private companies to provide military and intelligence functions. In addition to introducing the secrecy (and deniability) of the corporate boardroom into military operations, it simultaneously transferred major policy decisions from military professionals to civilians.

Torture as Psyops*

Although she deals briefly with the cultural use of forced nakedness, sexuality and homosexual role play, compounded by the global distribution of photos of Muslim men humiliated in this way, most of the book deals with the intended psyops function of Abu Ghraib coverage on the American public.

Rajiva explores two broad themes here. The first relates to deliberately orchestrating fear and confusion in the American public to increase their susceptibility to ideological propaganda. The second relates to the deliberate use of fragmented, highly emotive images and scenarios in the absence of historical or logical context.

According to Rajiva, in most Americans normal social interaction has been replaced with incoherent economic and biological drives reinforced by continual advertising messages to consume. Layered on top of this (in white males) are Invented “culture wars,” consisting of imagined threats from liberals, women, minorities and Islam.

All this is very effective in distracting the public from the real conflict, which is between corporate interests and the real needs of people and their communities. In addition to making them exquisitely vulnerable to manipulation by the Pentagon and corporate media, it deliberately encourages Americans to project their inner anxieties on frightening outsiders (i.e. Muslims).

Rajiva gives numerous examples in which the US media deliberately misrepresents Arab society as inherently violent, tribal and uncivilized. At the same time Islamic insurgents are made to appear as monstrous as possible by 1) exaggerating their alleged religious fundamentalism and negating their rational motivation (poverty and US occupation and atrocities) for their terrorist activities and 2) defining them as evil by nature, with subhuman descriptors (animals, insects, slime, etc).

She also describes a trick of logic played by government/media propagandists, whereby the US killing of thousands of civilians is “rational” because it’s (supposedly) accidental. In contrast acts of violence by militants are portrayed as “irrational” because they occur in response to genuine grievances.

*Psyops are tactics intended to manipulate one’s opponents or enemies, such as the dissemination of propaganda or the use of psychological warfare.

Lila Rajiva is a journalist and author residing in Baltimore. She has degrees in economics and English from India, as well as a Master’s degree from JohnsHopkinsUniversity, where she did doctoral work in international relations and political philosophy. She has taught at the University of Maryland, BaltimoreCounty. She blogs at http://mindbodypolitic.com/

 

None But Ourselves Can Free Our Minds

protest

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds – Bob Marley, “Redemption Song”

Bob Marley tells us to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery, and it appears people are finally taking his advice. Throughout the industrial world, young people especially are refusing to be sucked in by the constant individualistic pro-consumption messaging. It turns out this ideological strait jacket (see Public Relations, Disinformation and Social Control) we all wear to some extent is incredibly superficial. Given the right circumstances, it totally unravels. The corporate elite is fully aware of the global awakening that is undermining their ability to control us ideologically. In my view, this explains their growing reliance on the military and militarized police to suppress dissent.

Why Now?

One of the most valuable lessons I learned from emigrating to New Zealand concerns my own indoctrination with American individualist, exceptionalist ideology. When people are exposed to different cultures, ethnicities and philosophies – through education, travel or community engagement – it doesn’t take long to realize that all the pro-capitalist jingoism that’s been rammed down our throats is nothing but a pack of lies.

Intense personal crisis can also lead people to reject their basic ideological programming. A continuing economic crisis leaving millions struggling with joblessness, homeless, depression, suicide ideation and marital breakdown has been a major force leading people to reject the pro-corporate ideology that’s been drummed into them.

Civic engagement and community building activities that Susan Clark and Woden Teachout write about in Slow Democracy: Rediscovering Community and Bringing Decision Making Back Home can have a similar effect. In Sacred Economics, Charles Eisenstein writes of a profound inner emptiness that can never be satisfied – an emptiness stemming from the breakdown of social networks human beings have relied on for most of our 250,000 year existence. People respond to pro-consumption messaging in a desperate attempt to fill this void.

The global relocalization movement Clark and Teachout refer to directly addresses this emptiness by working to rebuild neighborhood and community networks. Here in New Plymouth, it has been totally awe inspiring to watch the natural high people experience from engaging in group effort for the first time. In case after case, the biological reward for collaborative effort far exceeds the fleeting pleasure of purchasing yet another consumer product, no matter how expensive or glamorous.

New Plymouth’s Relocalization Movement

Here in New Plymouth, a loosely knit Community Circle of 50 or so “active citizens” has taken up the challenge of rebuilding our neighborhood and community networks and civic organizations. Working through a variety of local groups, our projects range from organizing neighborhood barbecues and street parties, to simple street reclaiming projects (to reduce car traffic) to assisting specific neighborhoods in building Superhoods by setting up food, tool-sharing and cooperative childcare schemes and neighborhood crisis management plans (for emergencies such as earthquake, tsunami, floods, and flu epidemics) preparedness.

The Superhood neighborhood rebuild on Pendarves Street received financial support from New Plymouth District Council (thanks to a government grant NPDC and stakeholder groups applied for to increase walking and cycle). In another Superhood, like-minded neighbors actively recruit friends and acquaintances to purchase empty homes as they go up for sale.

Below an Australian example of neighbors working together to build a Superhood:

photo credit: danny.hammontree via photopin cc

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read an ebook week

In celebration of read an ebook week, there are special offers on all my ebooks (in all formats) this week: they are free.

This includes my new novel A Rebel Comes of Age and my memoir The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee

Offer ends Sat. Mar 8.

Public Relations, Disinformation and Social Control

bernaysEdward Bernays

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds – Bob Marley, “Redemption Song”

Public relations is the polite term for the systematic dissemination of propaganda and disinformation by corporations and the corporate-controlled state. The crude psychological manipulation in most advertising, which appeals to deep insecurities, is ridiculously obvious. TV viewers are told constantly that they’re lonely and sexually frustrated, as well as too old, too ugly and too fat, to pressure them to buy products they neither want nor need.

People are less likely to recognize that all mass media (e.g. movies, TV programming, newspapers, magazines, etc) employs subtle psychological messaging that shapes shape the way we view ourselves, other people and the world at large.

To be effective, any movement seeking lasting political change must address the ideological strait jacket all of us wear to some extent. The good new is that the pro-capitalist indoctrination we’re meant to live by is surprisingly superficial. Under the right circumstances, it can totally unravel. At this very moment young people throughout the industrialized world are waking up and refusing to be taken in by it.

Edward Bernays: Father of Public Relations

Thanks to Edward Bernays, known as the father of public relations, an artificial capitalist ideology has emerged that enables the corporate state to use psychological manipulation, rather than brute force, to control us. This competitive, individualistic pro-consumption ideology is totally at odds with biological programming that has hardwired us to be social animals.*

Competitive individualism holds that all human achievement results from superior individual effort, which directly contradicts historical evidence revealing that all major inventions and discoveries stem from cooperation and collaboration. We’re also conditioned to believe that concepts such as class, society and community are nonexistent – that all social problems, such as poverty, joblessness and homelessness stem from individual failings. Because America is the richest, cleanest, fairest country in the world, any problems we experience must be of own doing.

We are simultaneously bombarded with messaging sowing distrust between young and old, between men and women, between different ethnicities and between straight and gay. Messaging that encourages us to blame convenient scapegoats for economic and social problems – Muslims, feminists, welfare queens, Jews and red necks. Instead of the true culprit: a corporate elite that’s robbing us blind.

Our Fabricated Lifestyle

After nearly a hundred years this careful mental programming, reinforced by schools, universities and middle class helping professionals, has facilitated the breakdown of family and social networks. A traditional lifestyle centered around close family and community has been replaced by a fabricated lifestyle based on continual consumption, low wages and debt-slavery, as people work ever longer hours to pay off debt.

With the breakdown of traditional family and social networks, people must purchase services (e.g. child and senior care, meal preparation, mending, simple repairs) friends and neighbors used to provide for free. Social isolation and loneliness have become epidemic as people struggle to survive in the absence of social connections we’re biologically programmed to seek out.

The PR industry plays on our feelings of emptiness and discontent by trying to sell us yet more products. In Sacred Economics, Charles Eisenstein writes of a profound inner emptiness that can never be satisfied – an emptiness born out of the breakdown of social networks human have relied on for most of our 250,000 year existence.

Taking the Risk Out of Democracy

As the late Australian psychological Alex Carey describes in Taking the Risk Out of Democracy, Woodrow Wilson first hired Bernays in 1914 to convince a strongly anti-war American public that they should commit sons and tax dollars for a European war that had no direct impact on their own lives. His success in selling World War I led Bernays to coin the term public relations and set himself up as a public relations counselor. Among others, his clients would include corporate giants like Standard Oil, General Electric, the American Tobacco Company, United Fruit Company, CBS and Proctor and Gamble. As Carey describes, in 1919 the National Association of Manufacturers hired him to (successfully) reverse strong pro-union sentiment when steel workers struck for the right to bargain collectively.

Bernays published his seminal book Propaganda in 1928. During the 1930s he assisted Alcoa Aluminum in persuading American doctors and dentists that the toxic waste sodium fluoride improved dental health. In the mid to late thirties he was deeply influenced by the work of Hitler’s Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. In 1954 Bernays’s propaganda campaign for the United Fruit Company laid the groundwork for the CIA overthrow of Guatemala’s democratically elected government.

 The Rise of Consumerism

The work of Bernays and his successors would also lead to the rise of American consumerism – the transformation of Americans from active involved citizens to passive consumers. As Betty Friedan describes in the Feminist Mystique, the earliest pro-consumption messages were directed towards women. Working class women have always contributed to household income – if not through formal employment, by renting out rooms, taking in laundry or performing children. Moreover working class families tended to share washing machines, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners and other home appliances when they first came on the market. The PR industry had to discourage this trend to promote sales. They did so be creating a feminine mystique that measured a woman’s femininity by her ability to attract a man wealthy enough to provide her with her very own home appliances. And a color TV, hi-fi stereo and new family car every year.

*Within the human brain, complex neural networks reward us with powerful “feel good” substances, such as endorphins and oxytocin. Thanks to these substances and “mirror neurons” (believed to be the biological basis of empathy), human beings have met their basic needs through close knit social networks for most of their 250,000 year history.

To be continued, with signs our ideological programming is starting to break down.

photo credit: Stéfan via photopin cc