Propaganda 201

Column by Mark Davis.

Exclusive to STR

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society.” ~ Edward L. Bernays

Welcome back, come on in. Here is a summary of Propaganda 101 that you may want to review. We were discussing the situation in Syria where what President Eisenhower called in his farewell speech the “military-industrial-complex” elite had obviously decided on “regime change” (you’ve got to love all the euphemisms used by propagandists), and that operation is ongoing. Some public pushback delayed escalation of the war against Assad after the 2013 false-flag attack was revealed as such during the Obama administration. However, after the most recent false-flag attack in Syria, the new president “acted decisively” and “sent a message” with his display of firepower and a willingness to initiate violence before the real full story could surface widely. A significant portion of Trump’s support during the election campaign was due to his promise to focus on domestic policies and forego self-defeating foreign adventures. Alas, same as it ever was. Anyway, I hope that you’re following these events with more open eyes.

Speaking of false flag events, your extra credit homework tonight is to read the original top secret document from the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1962 for Operation Northwoods that was declassified and released to the public in the late 1990s. The military planners suggested to President Kennedy that the US government should assassinate Cuban émigrés, sink boats carrying Cuban refugees on the high seas, hijack planes, blow up a U.S. ship, and orchestrate violent terrorism in U.S. cities in order to “place the United States in the apparent position of suffering defensible grievances from a rash and irresponsible government of Cuba and to develop an international image of a Cuban threat to peace in the Western Hemisphere.” Kennedy instead implemented the CIA alternative: the Bay of Pigs operation that nearly plunged the world into World War III using nuclear weapons. It shows beyond a doubt the types of operations that are being planned and implemented by those in power although few people ever know about them, even when allowed to at a later date. Another example of where the loyalties and incentives that drive media coverage and academia lie.

That was 55 years ago and those same loyalties, perceptions and incentives influence public perceptions today. The only differences are that the methods are increasingly sophisticated and the results are more predictable as knowledge, technology and understanding expand and improve. While the general perception of the purveyors of these manipulations for nefarious agendas has become more benign, they have also been enhanced. So, how did these dubious social conditions come about?

In our last session, I briefly mentioned Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, who got rich on his ability to apply psychoanalysis to the “group mind” and coined the term “engineer consent” in becoming the father of “public relations.” “Public relations” is a nice sounding euphemism for propaganda. Bernays figured out how to manipulate public opinion such that public perceptions would favor, even desire, a specific product or policy, thus manipulating people’s behavior without their even realizing it. Prior to Bernays, advertising, marketing and political campaigning was based on the power of repetition to wear people down and eventually implant a product, brand, politician’s name or policy in their brains, a method that is difficult to miss. Instead of trying to simply develop habits over time, it was possible to change behavior. Bernays’ insights and methods took public relations to another level, making him in high demand by very wealthy men and big corporations for marketing and political purposes.

Bernays wrote a book in 1928 called Propaganda. Yes, he wrote the book on propaganda. The next year he set up shop as the original Mad Man in New York City. Bernays' first big client was the American Tobacco Company (Lucky Strike) who wanted to sell cigarettes to women. Women were a large segment of the population and represented a large pool of potential customers. At the time, it was taboo for women to smoke, as it was looked upon as a sign that a woman was promiscuous. Bernays consulted a Dr. Brill who believed that cigarettes symbolized male power to women. The solution to convincing women to smoke was to equate women smoking with challenging male power. So the most famous public relations campaign in advertising history, known at the “Torches of Freedom” campaign got started in 1929 at the big annual Eastern Parade in New York City down Fifth Avenue.

Of course, the press, always being hungry for a story, ate it up. Free publicity, that today would be considered going viral, spread the message from local to regional to national to international newspapers and magazines. Cigarettes became symbolic “Torches of Freedom” and women started smoking and buying cigarettes in large numbers. The successful group-mind-control project proved that by linking products and policies to emotions, people could be convinced to do irrational things. Women were convinced to take up a nasty habit that many of their family, friends and neighbors thought made them look like a slut, and which had obvious negative health effects, all for a reason that is patently absurd: smoking does not “free” women in any way from anything or anybody. It actually does the opposite, as it enslaves them with an addiction. But the power of suggestion was leveraged in this case to get women to psychologically connect smoking to women’s rights, which made them feel independent. Getting people to feel good or bad about something or someone has a powerful motivating effect on their behavior as it relates to that something or someone.

This event of almost 100 years ago set off a tremendous shift in how the elite sought to manipulate the masses, for intentions good and evil, from using rational arguments based on reason and logic to irrational arguments based on emotional appeals. People whose decision making processes default to feelings rather than thinking are much easier to manipulate. Thus society has been conditioned over this time period to accentuate the emotional and obfuscate the intellectual. I suggest that you look up Mr. Bernays and read his books and articles if you want to do well in this course.

The Trump tweeting phenomena is an example of how social media has allowed professional opinion makers to take Bernays’ techniques and strategies to new levels. Elections used to be in the public mind every couple of years for some people and every four years for most people, but today the election media cycle is every day; it never ends. Super repetition theory utilizing clever mind games result in most people not really having a chance to resist these manipulations. And, of course, tin foil hats really don’t work. Anyway, what surprises most new students is how easily and effectively just a few men are able to significantly influence public opinion. Let’s look more closely at a current operation, unfolding for at least the past two years and likely coming to a head in the near future: civil war.

I don’t mean “The South is Gonna Rise Again” Civil War, but the use of violence being increasingly considered as a viable, acceptable “tool” by the modern day clueless crop of young radicals who see themselves as warriors in the desperate fight against any and all perceived righteous indignations. The radical or alt-left (to use a popular prefix prop) that has a stranglehold on the establishment power structure and employs almost exclusively those of similar political beliefs, have gone from preaching tolerance for diverse views (when in the minority) to using violence to stomp out views they do not agree with (while in the majority). All in the name of the greater good, which is always the battle cry of tyrants. These world beaters are, however, clever manipulators with zealous determination. The silly little story-lines that the media repeatedly uses allow us to see a few dots that we can try to connect and maybe even discover some patterns.

The recent managed riots at UC-Berkeley are a great example of what I’m talking about. You may remember a few months back when Milo Yiannopoulos, who is blatantly both gay and conservative – which proved to be a powerful combination to fuel his rise in popularity as a political pundit, was to speak at the campus. However, some hired thugs who call themselves Antifa (short for anti-fascist) showed up and started bullying peaceful people coming to the event, including actual students, and destroying property. And note that the campus police and the local police were told to stand down by their superiors; a decision made pretty high up, I would think. So, here we have a group acting like fascists while purporting to be fighting fascism. One might call that irrational behavior.

Antifa is a group of anti-fascist fascists posing as grass-roots revolutionaries in an effort to draw in potential members excited by the opportunity to commit acts of destruction and violence without threat of arrest. Follow the money and you will find an interesting trail there, but that is a topic for next class. I want to finish up the Berkeley Battles and need to first remind you of some largely ignored campaigning tactics used in the recent heated presidential contest.

An undercover video revealed in October 2016 that the DNC hired thugs to stir up trouble at Trump rallies in an effort to support their campaign narrative that Trump supporters were violent right-wingers, which was failing apart due to an obvious lack of evidence. Trump rallies were being attended by peaceful, polite and orderly people, so this deplorable tactic failed to incite the desired violent response. It was telling how the old-media reported like a chorus about “the violence at Trump rallies” when the roll-out of this meme first occurred and then silenced the big reveal video that busted the whole operation open. But by the next day, the old-media had engineered the story to be “Trump says DNC hired agitators to disrupt rallies!” and went on to criticize his use of Twitter and how Clinton responded, should respond and how this affected both campaigns and the race and on and on, but nothing about the actual facts surrounding the RICO-worthy political terrorism initiated by the DNC and Clinton campaign. The thing is, it clearly reveals a tactic the alt-left have used, will use and do use: hired agitators using violence to provoke a violent response in collusion with old-media and political establishment hacks.

The alt-left is trying to set up the alt-right by inciting violence that will be dutifully reported by the old-media’s ancient propaganda machine as completely and wholly the responsibility of the alt-right. Setting up conservatives with violent provocations at rallies and publicizing the violent response could still work if some poor guy gets hit in the head with a stick or a brick and losses his temper; or if their objective, a real-life alt-right fanatic looking for a commie troll to sacrifice, actually does show up and do something stupid. Even if no one on the right goes for the bait, the left can hire more crisis actors to play the role. The police that have been ordered to stand down whenever violence by alt-left thugs occurs will be told to come down hard on any right-wing first-responders. The old-media will play it up to no end. This completely staged event will be reported as fact by the old-media and elevated to nothing short of enlightenment as to the real violent nature of the right-wing. The silver lining is that the new-media will then have an opportunity to bury the old-media once and for all as the real purveyors of “fake news” and the establishment boot-lickers they are.

There are two things to consider here as far as influencing public opinion goes: 1) free speech allows for open debate and a search for the truth and 2) just because you get to speak, it does not mean that what you say is true, but people still give it more weight because of the conviction of those speaking. People naturally feel it is a fair proposition to let all speak on an issue and also see that when someone wishes to keep others from speaking against them, it reveals a weak position that cannot withstand the scrutiny of debate. These tendencies result in the people trying to shut down a debate generally being seen as bullies suppressing the truth while those seeking to speak out against the bullies as victims to be supported. This dynamic has flipped upside-down over the past 50 years.

The radical left has gone from a small, militant cadre on college campuses challenging the relatively right-wing establishment in the 1960s to being in control of the establishment today; they won the war, but are losing the peace. The argument for a managerial state controlled by expert social engineers is the essence of fascism and cannot withstand the scrutiny of debate, and they know it deep down. The alt-left establishment now uses a combination of institutional control and faux storm troopers to eliminate vocal opposition to their self-defeating schemes. This fomenting of conflict and social chaos is truly playing with fire, but it reveals the cause of the alt-left’s desperation: a fear of intellectual debate. In the end, I believe the truth will triumph and liberty will reign over the land, but the road sure looks bumpy between here and there.

This domestic operation is purposely causing social chaos by increasing uncertainty about the future in the minds of more people. Civil institutions based on a monopoly on the use of violence will always fall prey to never-ending mission creep with each tiny state intervention justified with good intentions yet wreaking havoc and distorting social cohesion and productivity until those institutions collapse. We are right now near the end of the dysfunctional stage with social collapse coming soon. Authoritarian systems must escalate violence in order to compel obedience or, they believe, the basis of their credibility to rule is undermined. We are certainly witnessing interesting, if not historical times.

On a final note, Ann Coulter, who is a more respected and established right-wing political pundit than Milo, was asked to speak at Berkeley this week and the establishment threw up every roadblock they could. However, Ms. Coulter deftly maneuvered through them by agreeing to all of their ridiculous demands designed to be rejected until the UC-Berkeley administrators finally had to use their own rabble rousers as the reason they couldn’t allow her to speak. This theatrical performance was woefully unconvincing, yet the alt-left establishment doubled down and stuck to their guns, to which Ms. Coulter stated that she would speak anyway on or near the campus. Unfortunately, one of the groups that invited her then capitulated to the anti-free speech operatives and abandoned her.

The next few months are going to reveal quite a show, folks. Try to keep focused on the big picture and don't get caught up in the sleights of hand, of which there will be many. We’ll talk about it next time, class dismissed.

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Mark Davis's picture
Columns on STR: 65

Mark Davis is a husband, father and real estate analyst/investor enjoying the freedoms we still have in Longwood, Florida.


Jim Davies's picture

Nice job, Mark.
'society has been conditioned over this time period to accentuate the emotional and obfuscate the intellectual" - yes. And that's why the "road sure looks bumpy" that leads to the triumph of liberty. For that to happen, reason must prevail over emotion.
Might you agree that the present, prevalent irrationality is not universal? - it clearly applies rather widely, but not I suggest to everyone. Accordingly, the anarchist advocate can appeal to the few who do retain the ability to think, and they in turn can do likewise when convinced.
The ability to reason is what most distinguishes humans from other animals, so the main - perhaps the only? - challenge we have is to revive it.

Mark Davis's picture

Thanks, Jim. I've long been a proponent of the "remnant" that must survive every cycle of social upheaval to start a rebirth of liberty in our culture. The large number of people acting irrationally these days makes the percentage of people acting this way appear universal, but the amount of publicity they get distorts the perception of their true numbers. I agree that we must shine a light on this barbaric/animal-like behavior in order to show it up for what it is. 

chris.baden's picture

Glad I'm not the only one that see these events unfold and can't help but think they are wholly fabricated by big money political operatives who have influence in the highest levels of the academic bureaucracy. A worrisome condition when the traditional liberal establishment abandons its values and behaves like the counter group they allege they are so against.

Mark Davis's picture

More people are waking up as the "fake news" accusations getting thrown around alerts people to be more skeptical of what they read, see and hear; you are certainly not alone. The glaring consistant feature of hypocrisy in the actions of liberals/post-modernists/Marxists/progressive (alt-left), in spite of their apparent need to point out anything that resembles irony, is totally ignored as if they are completely blind to it.
When grown people resort to violent temper tantrums in lieu of using reason and discussion to formulate an agreeable resolution to perceived differences in the matter, it reveals that 1) they realize that they do not have a valid argument and must resort to an emotional appeal to in a desparate effort to win the argument or 2) they do not realize that they do not have a valid argument and have only considered the matter in an emotional manner. The zealots that shun logic as irrelavent, or even a way for the male patriarchy to oppress women, are of the latter group and much more difficult to reason with because they are on a Mission From God.

Douglas Herman's picture

Imagine Mark:

If Edward Bernays wasn't born, hadn't written his brilliant book about the Truth of propaganda, would Joseph Goebbels have been inspired?

"The best propaganda is that which, as it were, works invisibly, penetrates the whole of life without the public having any knowledge of the propagandistic initiative."

Could have been spoken by either man. And remains true today. More so even.

Mark Davis's picture

I'd bet my bottom dollar that Goebbels was a proud admirer of Bernays. Goebbels certainly used Bernays' marketing strategies, methods and techniques in his propaganda campaigns; that were very effective, it should be noted. Thus the scope of the danger that is increasing due to the electronic cyber-grid encompassing the lives of more and more people everyday; the search and find capabilities of surveilance systems have gone from very limited to nearly universal (in population centers) within the past 20 years. The rate of increase in these capabilities is also increasing. Fortunately, liberty is a formidable force in the world as it resides in the hearts of many.

Glock27's picture

The saddest discovery for me is not the conscious deceit of national factions, collectives, but the deceit within family, people you are suppose to trust--brother against brother, father against son and etc.