By Nicolas Bonnal
The more Western democracy wants to establish democracy in the world, the more it works undemocratically, whether in Tripoli, Brussels or in Washington. Yet it is very hard nowadays to resist its impeccable and humanitarian propaganda. This is why we must seize the origins of this dark strength.
Let’s go back to the twenties of last century: we are facing the fascinating confrontation of western propaganda, bolshevist propaganda, fascist, Ku Klux Klan or Nazi propaganda; and everywhere capitalism trying to sell its products and stuff.
In 1928, Edward Bernays, a parent of Sigmund Freud, publishes a famous book about modern propaganda and advertising, which synthesises the advancements of modern mind control, after a terrible World War and a decennial of technical improvement and modern art of conditioning the masses through radio, movies and press.
Basically Bernays states that days of democracy are over, if they have happened once. Everything is linked to science, manipulation, mind control and invisible wire-pullers when it comes to politics. This is also what had predicted Moses Ostrogorski, a Russian researcher and shrewd observer of American political parties at the end of the nineteenth century. This expression of wire-puller has been popularized later, in front of incomprehensive masses, by famous movie (and book) the Godfather. The masses of consumers, voters or travellers never do what they want; they just do what they are told to do. Read this sentence for instance:
There are invisible rulers who control the destinies of millions. It is not generally realized to what extent the words and actions of our most influential public men are dictated by shrewd persons operating behind the scenes.
Reading again this book has amazed me since it is a work written in a rather cynical, provocative and controversial tone. Bernays could not write such stuff nowadays, for we are maybe in more totalitarian times, which mean more sophisticated, satisfied and blinded times. He could be labelled conspiracy theorist!
Those who are behind the scenes have been dubbed here the manipulators of symbols, the deciders, the technocrats sometimes. Bernays writes in his clerical style: As civilization has become more complex, and as the need for invisible government has been increasingly demonstrated, the technical means have been invented and developed by which opinion may be regimented.
The citizen of tomorrow needs to be standardized as most as possible. This system was established first in America, then in Western Europe then, with the fall of the wall, everywhere else. The last resistant countries, some Moslem nations, have been recently destroyed, pulverized indeed. This is because we must conform:
From some ethical teacher, be it a minister, a favourite essayist, or merely prevailing opinion, we accept a standardized code of social conduct to which we conform most of the time.
This is basically what utters with some imprudence and arrogance Bernays in his book: a good reader of Babbitt, the masterwork of Upton Sinclair denouncing the standardized bourgeois citizen of America, Bernays sees in America the laboratory of the future to create the mixed-up, robotic and standardized citizen of the one world republic!
The extraordinary, growing, and sane standardization of stores, offices, streets, hotels, clothes, and newspapers throughout the United States…
All this stuff basically serves one purpose like in the Bible, when the psalmist and Job are comparing themselves to the bird captured by the fowler: the ensnarement of the mind.
There is consequently a vast and continuous effort going on to capture our minds in the interest of some policy or commodity or idea.
Politicians are mere products like soap and pasta. Even war is a product you can sell with some propaganda salsa. To create a war against Syria is not more complicated than to create a war against Germany a century ago! Writes Bernays:
The manipulators of patriotic opinion made use of the mental clichés and the emotional habits of the public to produce mass reactions against the alleged atrocities, the terror and the tyranny of the enemy.
And Bernays does not believe that universal literacy can create a freer man; on the contrary the well-informed citizen is the more manipulated:
But instead of a mind, universal literacy has given him rubber stamps, rubber stamps inked with advertising slogans, with editorials, with published scientific data, with the trivialities of the tabloids and the platitudes of history, but quite innocent of original thought.
We should now promote a non-reader citizen! Yet he would be a victim of manipulators of images and symbols carried on his cellular phone, that omnipresent companion and transmitter of alienation.
In politics too Bernays sees no reasons to be more romantic:
Ever since then we have agreed, for the sake of simplicity and practicality, that party machines should narrow down the field of choice to two candidates, or at most three or four.
The modern world is such divided between hidden elite of manipulators and a big mass of manipulated (and happy to be so) people, a herd victim of the global mind control:
But clearly it is the intelligent minorities which need to make use of propaganda continuously and systematically. In the active proselytizing minorities in whom selfish interests and public interests coincide lie the progress and development of America.
We do know how cruel and irresponsible these ‘active proselytizing elites’ can be nowadays. In order to be realistic and not only pessimistic, Bernays adds that humanity is a gregarious species and that modern science, this great liberator of our superstitions, has thus described our brain (this was prior to psychoanalysis founded by his uncle):
This assumed that the human mind was merely an individual machine, a system of nerves and nerve centres, reacting with mechanical regularity to stimuli, like a helpless, will-less automaton. It was the special pleader’s function to provide the stimulus which would cause the desired reaction in the individual purchaser.
Thanks to God, to save us from modern science and propaganda, we have the psalms:
Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped.