Monday, February 15, 2016

Pro-anything-but-life (On Scalia, propaganda, hypocrisy, and the anonymosity of the Internet Age) or Life is Like a Box of Cigars

Ben Franklin's famous rebellion propaganda
The anti-abortion movement started at the same time as so many other movements began in America - that tumultuous period known as The Sixties. It wasn't about "saving babies." It was a propaganda tactic used by the religious right to gain voters, like so many of the other wedge issues used to divide-and-conquer our society. The Sixties saw more social progress than perhaps any other time in American history. That frightened people who didn't have the mental makeup to accept change.

This country was partly founded by religious nutjobs who used to burn people at the stake or drown them because they thought they were witches. The "Pilgrims" had religious views that were so crazy they felt the need to flee the most religiously tolerant country in the world - Holland - because people there didn't like that they were trying to shove their religious nonsense down their throats. And why were they living in Holland though they were English? Because the English didn't want their insanity there, either.

They don't teach us that in American schools. They glorify the "Pilgrims" and put on Thanksgiving plays about them. They should be putting on The Crucible instead. The "Pilgrims" are just another piece of patriotic propaganda that we are fed from childhood, like Christopher Columbus discovering America or Benjamin Franklin discovering electricity. Put another way, these stories are simply advertising for a product, that product being America(TM).

Propaganda. That was the name of U2's fanclub in the nineties. It was intentionally ironic, chosen to mock rock music as a product and the marketing of music. Advertising in the nineties seems like nothing compared to now. Today we are drowning in propaganda, or marketing, as it is called. A whole generation has been brainwashed from birth into thinking excessive advertising is normal, that two year long presidential campaigns are acceptable, that brand loyalty somehow makes you cool. Everything is reduced to a slogan, and nothing has any meaning. So-called musicians aren't artists. They're just products to sell.

Propaganda goes back to the dawn of human history. The ancient Greeks - the first democrats - used propaganda in organized games, theater, religious festivals, courts of law, and other aspects of social life to present their viewpoints and try to persuade others to agree with them. The Romans were masters of propaganda. All those statues of emperors you see in museums? They weren't made with anything else in mind. Rome's enemies were caricatured as barbarians with no respect for law or morality. (Sound familiar?) However, propaganda was an honorable concept to them and others in ancient times. Its use as a dishonest and subversive means of persuasion is more modern.

Not ironically, the use of the word "propaganda" came into common use by way of Christianity. In 1622 Pope Gregory XV created the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, a commission of cardinals tasked with spreading Christianity and regulating Church affairs in non-Christian lands. Later, the College of Propaganda was established by Pope Urban VIII to train priests for missionary work. These things happened after the Protestant schism, of course, after the glory days of the Church's power, when the church had to convince people to convert through ideas rather than force.

With technological progress came wider access to the tools of propaganda. The printing press allowed not only for books to be printed but also pamphlets. As printing became cheaper, so too, did the ease of disseminating propaganda. The internet is the printing press on steroids. What it has done is akin to Pontius Pilate's actions against Christ: it has killed Truth. Persuaded by the propaganda of the Pharisees, who are comparable to a modern religious-oriented political party, Pilate famously said "What is Truth?" with all the contempt of one who can't be bothered with difficult decisions or thought.

What is Truth?

It's a question that has dominated human thought since we started writing things down, and probably before that, too. The ancient Greeks wrote extensively about it, especially Plato, who wrote about how his country was crumbling before his eyes, how endless wars, excessive individualism, contempt for intellectualism, and the devolution of religion as a community into "personal relationships" with the gods were killing his country. And, as we know, he was right. Athens fell, and Greece has mostly been ruled by other empires since (one could argue the EU is now controlling it.)

What Truth isn't is propaganda.

I don't like anything about Scalia's views, and think he will go down in history as one of the most damaging figures to the security and welfare of the United States, perhaps contributing significantly to its eventual downfall. Citizens United has taken control of the country out of the hands of the people (even putting some of it in the control of foreign governments - especially the Chinese - by way of American subsidiaries of foreign companies.) But at least he had an intellectual reasoning for his way of judicial decision-making. He was influenced by his Christian ideology, no doubt, but ideology did not make his decisions for him - his interpretation of the law did. He was well-respected even by his opponents on the court; he was clearly loved by family and friends.

Seconds after his death was announced (and we knew it was big news because the networks interrupted their programming to break it, like they used to when news was news rather than entertainment), assholes on the left were saying "good riddance," and those on the right were immediately worried that they will have trouble continuing to force their ideology on the rest of us without Scalia on the bench. There will be no nationwide mourning - most Americans don't give a shit. Indeed, most Americans don't even know who Justice Scalia is. (Or ANY Supreme Court justice. But they can name all the Kardashians!)

It is absolutely disgusting that this man from New Jersey, born to Italian immigrants (L'orrore! The horror!), married to Maureen for 56 years, father of nine children, including a son who became a priest, was never seen as human being by these people. 

That is our country now, a country that has no respect for human life, where if you call yourself "pro-life," you're also usually pro-war, pro-gun, pro-death penalty, pro-prisons, and anti-spending on programs that would make people's lives better, all things opposite pro-life. This is a country that doesn't care that 30,000 Americans die of gunshot wounds each year, or that we spend half a trillion dollars on military weapons, which is fifty percent of our national budget, but throws a fit about one percent of our budget going towards food and medicines for poor countries. I just don't get it. Does high fructose corn syrup destroy the chemicals in our brains that cause empathy?

I really don't know how we got here, but I think it has to do with marketing, how advertisers fell in love with Freud's nephew Edward Bernays and his application of psychoanalytical Freudian principles to propaganda (did you know the reason we eat bacon and eggs for breakfast was a result of Bernays' work with the bacon industry?), how they began to manipulate group mentality and micro-target to appeal to our individual interests, which has succeeded in dividing us more than ever. Take music, for example. Most people don't listen to country AND hip hop. They listen to country OR hip hop. Before Soundscan ruined music, Ray Charles made a country album, Aretha Franklin sang Eleanor Rigby and Bridge Over Trouble Water, the Rolling Stones played R&B, and CCR sang I Heard It Through the Grapevine and Proud Mary. Now, for the most part, if you're black you play black music and if you're white you play white music and you get your token crossovers like Darius Rucker or Maclemore and that's that. (I don't even care if I misspelled Maclemore. Crap is crap, whether it is spelled crap or crappe.)

This divide-and-conquer marketing mentality has put us in bubbles, where we socialize with like-minded people and never come into contact with those of differing viewpoints, which gives rise to stereotypes, such as "liberals" are dirty hippies, unwashed and uneducated. (Despite decades of studies that show the higher your education level, the more liberal you are.) Those who differ from us are no longer human. Politicians got wind of the divide-and-conquer methods years ago. I worked at one of the leading political polling firms in the world. The micro-targeting methods are fascinating but frightening.

Meanwhile, young people who weren't born during the prosperity and peace of the Clinton years, who've grown up in the Advertising Age, where now is now and there isn't anything else, have flocked to the propaganda of Bernie Sanders, who not only would be an ineffective president, as he is not respected in the world or at home, but were he to win, he would ensure an even stronger Republican majority in Congress. And with Scalia having passed, we would have no Supreme Court for the duration of his term, as Republican contempt for democracy would deny any appointment by the Jewish Socialist(TM), just as they will do for the next year with any Obama appointment.

This is absolutely disgusting, and it reeks of fascism. The lack of compromise is a result of years of propaganda, where voters just vote but after that don't matter. Today's Republicans especially view the people as incapable of governing themselves, that they need to be guided from above by [mostly men] much smarter than they are. That was Bernays. "Enlightened despotism," his daughter called it.

The ideologues have so succeeded in convincing their followers of the evilness of Barack Hussein Obama that these people cannot see how wrong it is to halt the democratic process because they don't like the (black) president. They cannot comprehend it. They cannot even THINK about it, as their brains no longer have the capacity for thought after years of brainwashing. That's what propaganda does.

We've reduced our opponents to barbarians without morals, just as the Romans did 2000 years ago. The difference is our barbarians are our neighbors.

This isn't about Democrats and Republicans, people. This is about the health of our nation. We are very sick, as the disease of ideology has ripped our insides apart. The problem with our country is not Barack Obama or Donald Trump or any one particular person despite what you have been told. It is with ideology, the blind belief in one way is the only way. And it's the only way because of our bubbles. We never leave them, so we think the way we live is the only way. It's all we know. You grow up white, live in your sterilized suburb, have enough food to eat, get a job in a cubicle, drive your SUV everywhere, and work 40 hours+ a week because everyone around you does. You think that is hard work because everyone around you says it is and if a person is poor they are lazy and don't work hard enough. You grow up black, live in a black neighborhood, think you are underrepresented in society because everyone in your world is black, have this conception that equality is fifty-fifty (even if you are only 12% of the country), think the world is out to get you because the people around you say it is. You grow up farmer, think "cityfolk" look down on you, make fun of their $4 coffee drinks, think country life is superior because that's all you know. You grow up in the city, think that country people are hicks, think they live in Flyover Country, think they cling to religion and guns because they aren't smart enough to know better. You grow up Christian, hate other religions, hate atheists, think they are clueless because only you are right, because that's what you were told as a kid and that's what you know. You grow up Muslim, think that is the truth, but you're only Muslim because your parents are, because you or your ancestors are from the Middle East, because somewhere down the line your ancestors converted to Islam, many by force of armies.

What is Truth? All of it is truth. And none of it. All of us make up humanity, not one group or the other, and certainly not one individual or the other. When we lose our sense of community and commonality, society falls apart. That's when civilizations crumble.

While we need many medicines to cure the ills of our country, the best medicine is compromise. But that medicine doesn't seem to be available. So we will continue our way to dusty death, another empire fallen, because the people are too lazy to care, to unwilling to try, to scared to move, and too brainwashed by propaganda.

So what's your choice? Are you going to fall victim to propaganda? Do you buy things because you've seen ads for them? Do you vote for a particular candidate because you've watched political speeches? Are you smart enough to discern the difference between propaganda and real ideas?

Most likely not. Of course, you won't know that YOU are the problem. It's always someone else who's stupid, not you, right? That's why propaganda exists - because it's easy to dupe people into following a trend. It's why Apple products are popular, why women started smoking, why Americans discarded public transportation for cars, why Nazism and Communism rose to power, and why we eat bacon and eggs for breakfast.

By the way, the Republican god Ronald Reagan appointed three justices (and moved Rehnquist to Chief Justice) - Scalia, O'Connor, and Kennedy. While Scalia was definitively conservative, the other two were moderates who didn't succumb to ideology over jurisprudence. Now, Republicans only accept ideologue candidates, because it's about power and institutionalizing their ideology. It's total contempt for our democracy, and subversively fascist. Disgusting.

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