Swimming Against the Stream

Jacques Ellul

Timely Issues

Astrological Clock
The Great Astrological Clock in the Old Town Square of Prague. A great example of late medieval public clock making, complete with bells, calendar, automata figures that move on the hour, horns, and especially the figure of Death as a skeleton with an hourglass draining the sands of time away. All the while tourists gawk like sheep while missing the message of the value of our time on earth.

Well I have been busy on my new YouTube channel The Anadromist with a lot of ideas that I just didn’t have time for here. Especially my thoughts on Time and how to live in it instead of against it. We live in a culture that positively reeks in its hatred of the effects of Time. We want everything to happen now. Instantly without waiting. And the more I have thought about our defective relationship to Time the more central a role I have seen it play it the insane dysfunctions of the 21st Century: the politics, the propaganda, the efficiency of technology, the environment, the waste, the virtual worlds we choose to inhabit, the surrender of our imaginations to the grinding gears of commerce, the imitation worlds we create for tourism, the sense of entitlement, the dullness of work. Not that these things have a simple one answer fits all panacea, rather they are all issues exacerbated by the desire have the convenient instant life, or in other words to live as though Time were an enemy that must be vanquished at all costs.

I started to see our faulty relationship to Time as a problem in the early 90s. I gave a lecture on the subject at Swiss L’Abri in 1993. I have been mulling it over ever since. In many ways this is connected to many of my other ideas about Texture, Beauty, Images and many other subjects. But these thoughts about Time are at the center of my view of the dilemma of life as it is now lived. Feel free to disagree. After you’ve spent time listening to what I have to say.

Now after delaying long enough I’ve decided to get my ideas about Time out there in some form that might be of use to someone else. I have tried to the best of my ability to live by these ideas since I formulated them back in 1993. If you do the math that’s over 25 years of practical outworking. And the one thing I have seen clearly, when you add the effects of Time to life it gets much deeper and richer.

I am not saying that we are allowed to do this at all points. Au contraire. Just in transportation alone it is nearly impossible to live within a human sense of the meaning of time. We are required to move too fast to stay sane. Still one can, for instance, still apply these principles to the planning stages of a journey. To stay longer in places, rather than just passing through. That’s a simple way of incorporating Time into the hustle of the tourism industry. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Anyway there are four video discussions now. And if you are thinking that ideas about Time are probably going to be dreadfully boring, then these talks really are for You. So you can start at the beginning or jump around. The argument builds, but necessarily in a straightforward direction.

(And I’ll keep adding the videos here until the series is finished.)

Well I need to get back to my life in Tbilisi Georgia. Oh and by the way there will soon be a channel on my Georgian life so stick around.

Keep swimming against the stream

Byrne Power

Tbilisi, Georgia

29/8/2019

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Oh yeah…

Hey! People who are contributing to my sites are getting extra content not available online. They are also keeping me alive in Georgia. I must honestly say without the gifts given to me thus far this experiment would have collapsed a while ago. No much keeps me going for a while. So give through PayPal. $10 a month or a one time gift of the equivalent of $50 US. Gets you another 15 hours worth of lectures.

Here’s the Link CLICK ME!!! NOW. Please…


Announcing The Anadromist

      Greetings from Tbilisi Georgia! I would like to announce that I have just started a YouTube channel directly related to the content on this site. This is my response to the polarization and turmoil of the times. I want to do through speaking what I have attempted to do here through writing, to encourage considerate and serious thinking about the times we inhabit rather than than travel down the obvious roads of discourse which have become so scabrous. And so I have launched what is in fact my second YouTube channel called The Anadromist, someone who swims against the stream.

A week ago I uploaded this short invitation, which is a good place to start.. It’s only three minutes long. Give it a watch…

Then once you’ve done that you can go on to the introduction, which is about 15 minutes long. And if you like the concept please do subscribe. I’ve decided to make The Anadromous Life in its different versions a going concern. In my new life in Tbilisi Georgia I find I need to stay connected with the rest of the world. And I also need to see if this will provide some extra resources to keep me afloat down the road. So subscribing to the Anadromist channel is important to me. I have a notion that all of the ideas I’ve been sitting on for years might have some purpose out there in the world. We’ll see. And if you are already following me here it can’t hurt to follow me there as well.

Here’s the introduction where I describe my reasons for starting this venture. I’m not sure how long I can keep it going. But I’m enthused to make these videos and to engage in a conversation with others through YouTube. I have several more episodes already in the can. There shouldn’t be any shortage of topics.

I’ve enjoyed myself coming up with ways to make my ‘talking head’ more interesting. And I have taken my editing skills and put them to work inventing new imagery. Now the big question is how much material can I borrow before I start getting copyright notices?

And don’t worry I will continue writing here and at Gravity From Above. I have several essays that should find their way to the page very soon. Also I will continue using my current channel The Anadromous Life for documenting puppetry, music, dance and other events. So if you want you can join up there too. Watch this one if you haven’t discovered my first channel. This is an extremely short little title piece I made for the site. But click on the channel and explore my content. I don’t do anything to go out of style.

Thanks for being part of this experiment that I’ve been running since 2010. Over 200,000 views have been accumulated over 80,000 individuals have passed through the site. Not bad considering I hardly advertise at all.

If you want to support this work there is PayPal. Or you can just pass the essays along and the videos.

Meanwhile I need to get some sleep here in Tbilisi.

Stay tuned much more is coming.

Byrne Power

Tbilisi, Georgia

12/5/2019

 


21st Century Propaganda: Addendum #3

Untamed Voices

A man rides his horse through flames during the

In my last 21st Century Propaganda essay I mentioned several contemporary figures whom I felt I could trust, whether I completely agreed with them or not. Today we live in times where, to paraphrase Yeats, the center does not hold. There is no public square, as Os Guinness has been espousing. And so while the political and cultural edges eat themselves in Ouroboros fashion I thought I would give you bonafide examples of the kinds of conversations that are happening in what might be a developing public square. And for me (and I’m sure I’m not alone) without this dialogue we will slide into new civil wars, and possibly a New Dark Age. These speakers have very definite positions. I’m sure that Camille Paglia’s praise of drag queens would not find a complimentary echo in Paul Vanderklay’s Christian beliefs. But here is the point, the people featured below show evidence of being people willing to discuss ideas openly and even admit faults in an honest way. I am absolutely sure that Vanderklay and Paglia could have a great discussion, even with their differences. And better this rather outcast assemblage of contradictory voices than lockstep ideologies of the indentitarian right or left. So I present to you a few words to challenge your thinking and fuel your own integrity.

Again I have not tried to make sure I represented every position or ethnicity because I believe that kind of thinking leads us into an authoritarian stalemate. These are just people that I have in some way or another learned to trust, even when we disagree. My suggestion: Find people whom you trust, who are open to dialogue. (Better yet go back and read this whole series.  Or if that’s too much read the last couple of essays.)

You will also notice that several of these videos are over a hour long. And maybe you find that to be a long slog. But consider this, look at the view counts on each lecture. Some are in the hundreds of thousands. And more than one person has commented on the fact that while the mainstream media still hands out sound bites in the belief in the stupidity of the viewer. Evidently there is a hunger for much more. Welcome to the world of solid food. An escape from the fast food sound bites of the legacy media. Save these for later, and trust me, look at how much time you waste, you have time. Especially since most of these don’t really require your visual participation.

The Living

Challenging Thinkers

These are teachers, professors, thinkers who’s work has been, in different ways, grappling this present moment and often directly challenging the assumptions of the monolithic media and educational systems.

Jonathan Haidt is a American social psychologist and professor at New York University. He is author of The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion and The Coddling of the American Mind co-written with Greg Lukianoff. This video is from the Think Forum.

Christina Hoff Sommers is an American author and philosopher. Her books include: Who Stole Feminism? and The War Against Boys. Dave Rubin is a political commentator and talk show host of YouTube’s The Rubin Report. The following video is from the Rubin Report and is entitled Christina Hoff Sommers: Feminism, Free Speech, Gamergate.

Roger Scruton is an English philosopher and writer specializing in art, aesthetics, and political philosophy. Notable books include: The Aesthetics of Music, Sexual Desire, Culture Counts: Faith and Feeling in a World Besieged, Beauty, Where We Are. The lecture below is called The True, the Good and the Beautiful.

Camille Paglia is an American academic, social critic, renegade feminist and professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Her books include: Sexual Personae, The Birds, and Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars. In the following video Camille Paglia discusses her most recent book, Free Women, Free Men Sex, Gender, Feminism.

Os Guinness is an English author, social critic whose history included time at L’Abri in Switzerland and a PhD at Oxford. Now residing in America he is a dedicated observer of the times. Books include: The Dust of Death, The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends on It, A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future and Fool’s Talk. John Anderson is a former Australian Deputy Prime Minister of Australia among other posts. This video was recorded in Australia from Conversations with John Anderson.

Jordan Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. He is also the author of Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief and the bestseller 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. He is an improbably controversial figure and probably as close as anyone to the core of the crisis of the present moment. Samuel Harris is an American neuroscientist, philosopher, author, atheist critic of religion and podcast host. His books include: The End of Faith, The Moral Landscape, Free Will, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion. Although Peterson and Harris take radically different views on the nature of God and belief, both have been called members of the Intellectual Dark Web. This is one of several extremely popular debates they have had on the existence of God. It took place in Vancouver.

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Historians

History is crucial in facing the meaning of this present age. And it is a subject most postmodern folk are entirely deficient in. These are a few prominent historians with valuable insights.

Timothy Garton Ash is British historian, author and commentator. Professor at both Oxford and Stanford Universities. He was present in a special way during the end of Communism in Eastern Europe. His books include: Facts are Subversive, History of the Present, The Magic Lantern, The Polish Revolution: Solidarity, 1980–82 and most recently Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World. This video is related to his book on Free Speech.

Sir Simon Schama is an English historian specializing in art history, Dutch history, Jewish history and French history. He is also a television presenter and now professor at Columbia University in New York City. Schama certainly has is own unique view of history and it is always worth a listen. In this lecture Simon Schama discusses History Lessons.

Ken Burns is an American documentary filmmaker focusing on American history. His documentary series include: The Civil War , Baseball, Jazz, The War, and The Vietnam War. The following video is called An Evening with Ken Burns.

Suzannah Lipscomb is a British historian, academic and television presenter. She specializes in the Tudor period. Her books include: 1536: The Year that Changed Henry VIII, The King is Dead: The Last Will and Testament of Henry VIII, Witchcraft, The Voices of Nîmes: Women, Sex, and Marriage in Reformation Languedoc. This video is from The Conference 2013.

Niall Ferguson is a British historian and television presenter. He specializes in economic and financial history. His books include: The House of Rothschild, Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World, The War of the World: History’s Age of Hatred, The Square and the Tower: Networks, Hierarchies and the Struggle for Global Power. This is video from Conversations with John Anderson.

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Mostly Millennial YouTubers

Thoughty2 (Arran Lomas) Thoughty2 should be pronounced in a northern English accent so that it sounds like 42, which is reference to Douglas Adams answer to the question of the meaning of life in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Arran is an affable, whimsical and sincere commentator on the world as he sees it. This episode is called Why Is Everyone Getting So Offended

Sargon of Akkad (Carl Benjamin) The English Sargon is frankly a controversial figure. He was prominent in Gamergate, and has never been adverse to saying exactly what he is thinking. But Carl will also acknowledge his missteps with alacrity and will challenge all comers to give the reasons for why they say what they say. He rides the line between satire and genuine political philosophy. Scabrously opinionated and fair in equal doses. You’ve been warned. In this video he asks, How do we Parley with Silicon Valley?

Tim Pool (Timcast & Subverse) Tim Pool is an American journalist of Korean and European descent who came into prominence by reporting fairly on Occupy Wall Street, which meant he also showed the failings of the movement. Later he was found interviewing the Alt-Right or off in Ukraine during the time of their upheaval. He tries to be scrupulously fair and has spent much of his time critiquing the rather biased mainstream media. He is like a millennial version of Edward R. Murrow (if Murrow played video games). This is from his recent piece entitled: We Are At The Gates Of Civil War… And Nothing Can Stop It

Brave The World (Julia Turansky) Julia was a hardcore atheist anarchist with a heart. She made provocative videos seeking to expose the problems of the state. But after the birth of her child she began to ask deeper questions, eventually becoming a Christian. In this video she explains after 20 Years an Atheist: Why I Turned.

Paul Vanderklay is most assuredly not a millennial. He is a Dutch Reformed pastor living in Sacramento California who has spent quite some time trying to figure out what this moment means for Christians and others. He found YouTube a few years ago and began to ponder online along with others whom he began to interview who also have also been arrested by the crisis of meaning in today’s world. This is one of his shorter videos on Jordan Peterson, Owen Barfield and John Vervaeke.

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And The Dead

Some writers and thinkers could see where we would be before we got there. They emphasized different aspects of the age we have slipped into. Some of them have passed away in the last couple of years.

Tom Wolfe was an insightful essayist and novelist who focused his scrutiny upon the nature and foibles of contemporary life. Whether is analyzing the US space program or Ken Kesey’s cosmic space program he was a sharp critic and well worth listening to, even while ensconced in his trademark luxurious white suits year round. This interview is from CBS’ 60 Minutes.

Nat Hentoff was known as both serious jazz critic and as left wing political commentator. As time passed he adopted views that became harder to classify, linking abortion and euthanasia with the slippery slope down to Nazi ideology. And willing to show the authoritarian leanings of those who claimed to be fighting for various indentitarian factions. He spent many decades writing for the Village Voice, yet was eventually pushed aside for being politically incorrect. The following is a short biographical and political piece on free speech and jazz.

Jacques Ellul is perhaps the most underrated and heretical French thinker of the 20th Century. Former Marxist and a Protestant convert he was a sociologist with a rigorous understanding of the issues presented by technology and propaganda. His writing were almost ignored in France, yet through his books The Technological Society and Propaganda he found his way into a subterranean stream of American thinking. My own debt to Ellul is matched only by C.S. Lewis, Aleksander Solzhenitsyn and Hans Rookmaaker. The following Dutch film is the only full documentary interview on his thinking made during his lifetime. It is called The Betrayal by Technology: A Portrait of Jacques Ellul.

Paul Virilio, who only recently passed away, is another French thinker who contradicts the postmodern worldview with his questions about the nature of speed, art and architecture. Of all the people represented here Virilio was seeing furthest into the future. His ideas if seriously engaged will challenge much that you know. In many ways he was the successor to Jacques Ellul. This is advanced level thinking about the issues of today and tomorrow. The following presentation is called Perspective and the Obligation of Seeing and is part of the European Graduate School Video Lectures

Hans Rookmaaker was a Dutch Reformed Art Historian who fought to restore meaning in art and a deeper understanding of reality. He clearly saw the end result of the meaninglessness of modern materialism. My debt to his thinking is immeasurable. The following audio lecture was one of his last before his untimely death in 1977. It is called What Is Reality? More Rookmaaker can be found at the L’Abri Ideas Library.

Hans_Rookmaaker

Hans Rookmaaker

Well this was supposed to be an easy essay to write… But it ended up being much longer than I thought it would. But you know what? These things are important. And I wanted to leave this 21st Century Propaganda series with a few practical solutions. They can be found by listening to these people. By listening. Disagreeing. Wondering. And getting busy. Time for reality. Time to swim against stream in the Anadromous style.

Byrne Power

Tbilisi, Georgia

16/4/2019

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A personal note:

The Anadromous Life has been running a YouTube channel for several years now. It has accrued some interest, with a few videos receiving many thousands of views. We would like to take this moment to say that we will be starting two more channels in the very near near future. One is entitled The Anadromist and this one will be closest in content to this site. I’ve felt I needed a place to ramble on about the many kinds of topics that I won’t have time for here. The other will be dedicated to my new life in Tbilisi Georgia.
And yes indeed I am now happily living in Tbilisi Georgia. It has been quite the time. I am learning Georgian (Kartuli) and I work for Union of Tbilisi Museums. I have made good friends. Yet things are not quite as I expected, and that includes financially. My Gravity From Above documentary has stalled again. And I am wondering how I will be able to ship my full container to Georgia within the next year. If you wish to help us out with Gravity From Above you can do so through PayPal. You can choose between a a one time gift or you if you wish you can contribute an amount every month for a year. PayPal is probably the most cost efficient way of helping us with Gravity From Above and moving to Georgia. Thanks for helping me stay afloat with this dream. I couldn’t do it without you.

DONATE HERE.

Thanks

Byrne


21st Century Propaganda #9: Can You Trust Anyone?

Damned Kids
Whom can we trust?      (Image The Village of the Damned.)

So here we are. Propaganda has taken over most of our communications. An atrocious incident in New Zealand suddenly escalates the psychic war. The Left shrieks that this is the fault of everyone not aligned with them. The Right digs in pugnaciously. And no doubt there will be more events of a similar kind from different factions in the not too distant future. Interestingly the old school media have completely overlooked the many Christians thus far killed in early 2019 by Muslims in Africa, the Philippines and other locales in their own drumbeats of suppression. Because clearly Africans (280 in Nigeria) and Filipinos are not on the list of people anybody actually cares about. They don’t figure in our propaganda wars. And yes real life massacres and violence are certainly part of this largely mental battleground.

austin_zombies

The Signs Are Everywhere.

There was a January attack on a church in the Philippines by Muslims that killed 20 and injured 80 people. Suddenly that becomes worthy of news because the media largely ignored it. In the wake of the Christchurch Massacre rightish media suddenly brings this incident out to say ‘Why do you spin things only one way?’ But then the numbers get inflated by angry propagandized right wingers. The dates change from a month or so ago to yesterday. And thus the massive propaganda trash fire continues to burn. Then someone in the leftish media says your numbers and dates are wrong. So therefore you are completely false. We saw a similar back and forth about Charlottesville. But truthfully everything is an info shuttlecock in this savage game of propaganda badminton. And this reminds me of what Joseph Goebbels said. “The truth is always stronger than the lie.” essentially all propaganda must be based on facts. Which is how the National Socialists took the assassination of a German by a Polish-Jew in Paris France and blew it up into Kristallnacht, the night in 1938 when the cruel violence of the Nazis against the Jews was fully unleashed. Remember this when you are convulsed by an isolated event and want immediate political action. That is exactly how propagandists ratchet up the tension. An event sparks reaction before the event is even known or understood.

North Carolina SNow 2014

The Current Mediascape.

And so in this moment of heated tension the question then remains where can one go to get information that is at least less tainted by the all consuming maw of Propaganda. This is a much trickier question than it at first seems. One thing that is clear is that all of the mainstream sources are fairly difficult to trust now. One is completely immersed in Propaganda in the guise of news as one listens to CNN, the Washington Post, even respected sources like the BBC, NPR and New York Times all in their turns have fallen ill to varying degrees of this contemporary sickness. Gone are the Walter Cronkites and the Edward R. Murrows who while not being purely objective bystanders did their level best to give a middle-of-the-road perspective on the news of the day. Interestingly both worked for CBS News. And while CBS is not what it used to be it still seems to be fairly reliable when contrasted to the disinformation sideshows that the Washington Post and CNN have become.

3_BEYOND-THE-BLACK-RAINBOW-_-52212

What to Believe?     (Image from Beyond the Black Rainbow)

And other sources? The New Yorker, MSNBC, Vice, the Huffington Post, Time, Newsweek, The Daily Beast and on and on. Pretty much it’s a pox on all of their houses when it comes to really trying to serve all of the public. I mean Russia Today and Al Jazeera seem to be in the same league as they are. The biases drain out from under them like contaminated water from a defrosting refrigerator. For instance, when a writer compares Trump to Hitler you know you are in the presence of seriously distorted Propaganda, with no concern for history or truth. And when these same media pretend that there is only one point of view? Welcome to the Propaganda wars. And you may notice that all of these sources are slanted, in some cases heavily, to the Left. That’s not an accident.

Is the Right any better. I’m certainly not shilling for Fox News, yet there are times when due to their obvious biases they are less affected by certain forms of hysteria infecting the other media. Having said that I also would not trust them any farther than I could spit. Even more so with Breitbart News. Or the New York Post. And the Wall Street Journal must always stay in the realm of economic propaganda. While occasionally doing bizarre things like accusing Youtuber Pewdiepie of being a neo-Nazi. Only to eventually have to retract it much later. And curiously the right wing sources are much less name brand recognizable than those tilting left. And thus those on the obvious Right sling their propaganda mud with alacrity.

A Rope tied to the Left Hand

And if the Center Does Not Hold?

But the center is not holding. The Left has drifted continually into extreme territory until they are casually redefining the nature of male and female, what makes a country, and the meaning of democracy. What a few years ago would have been taken as obvious by most folks, that men and women are different biologically, that a country has borders, that a legal vote reflects the will of the populace, have all been dragged severely in the last few years to the synth drumbeats of so much propaganda. People have even forgotten what they used to believe. And I mean five years ago. And the vanguard of these new ideas, media figures and university students, will often act with complete shock and hurt that anybody still believes such shameful hateful ideas as biological sex, the nation state or elections, such as the Brexit Referendum or Trump’s victory, that go against the will of some of the people. And so these areas have, like a California wildfire, become a burnt over zone. All that’s left it seems is rage.

Man on Roof Wild Fire

California on Fire.

Meanwhile the illusion in the antique media is that the rather minuscule Alt-Right, whom, without fact checking, they conflate with Neo-Nazis and the KKK, are taking over. And so they take a figure like Canadian professor Jordan Peterson and vilify him as some sort of ‘far Right’ extremist because he is saying things which used to be considered liberal leftish opinions not too long ago. The truth is he is center Left. Yet he knows how to speak across the spectrum as many public intellectuals used to do. And when the Left media pundits try to trap him they, like the BBC’s Kathy Newman did last year, blunder into a dialogue they can’t win, because they are only feeding on the surface level frenzy of issues while Peterson actually has a grounding in the much wider and deeper cultural arena of history and science. Now I say this not agreeing with everything Peterson says, yet having a lot more respect for him than I do the majority of opinion makers that decorate the dying mainstream and digital media.

And that is the point. We have to get out of our slanted boxes and listen to people with differing ideas from our own. However I must immediately remind myself of a serious dilemma posed by Jacques Ellul. It is not enough to simply start listening to the ‘enemies propaganda’. In any set of ideas there are honest commentators, historians, journalists, thinkers and then there a multitudes of propagandists, who are usually getting the most ‘Likes’. Ellul points out that caught between two conflicting propagandas one doesn’t come to know the truth. Rather like being caught between two prizefighters one ends up getting slugged senseless. Or worse, simply converting from one form of propagandized belief to another. Which is why I’ve been aghast to see young people who begin to question the intersectional beliefs of third wave feminism then start moving towards a white genocide belief. As though there was nowhere in between. It’s like saying all that there is are Communists and Fascists. So avoid the propagandists!!!

Cannibal Women

Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire

The good news is that through people like Jonathan Haidt, Jordan Peterson, Tim Pool, Joe Rogan, Sam Harris, Paul Vanderklay, Camille Paglia, Christina Hoff Sommers and many others an alternative network (the Intellectual Dark Web or IDW) that does allow real open discussion and disagreement has started to form. One of the best aspects of the insanity of the present moment is that there are some people truly talking again, not only on YouTube, but in lecture halls and seminars. It’s strangely refreshing to here atheist Carl Benjamin (aka Sargon of Akkad) defend Christianity. Or to know that atheist Sam Harris and Jordan B. Peterson, who is some sort of Christian, had a series of epic discussions on the existence of God, where the audience didn’t even want to stop for questions so fascinated were they by the conversions. Gay and straight folks are having the kinds of dialogues they should had for the last 30 years, which allows all questions and challenges on the table. Journalist Tim Pool is attempting to start an alternative news source called Subverse practically alone. And this sort of thing is being completely ignored by what YouTube commentator and occultist Styxhexenhammer666 calls the ‘lame stream media’. And these discussions and videos go on for hours. Where is the soundbite mentality? Well it’s still there on CNN, the BBC, on clickbait Buzzfeed posts. But I do believe people are hungry for the intellectual nutrition that our global commercial networks have denied them to the point of malnourishment.

Hitchhiker

Be Careful of Who You Pick Up.

How then to detect a person with ideas worth taking seriously from any stripe? First of all, do they acknowledge the messiness of every interpretation including their own? Can they see why a person would believe something other than what they believe? Do they respect opinions radically different from their own? Do they have a real sense of history? Do they point out when they get their facts wrong? Are they humble about their knowledge? Do they believe in truth? Of any kind? Do they know that others outside of their belief structure can also understand truth? Do they agonize over the state of humanity with compassion and not accusation? These kinds of questions to me all point to the kind of person you can learn from no matter what their belief. Nobody can be perfect in these things. But do they have these as some sort of goal? If so the you are in the presence of someone who lives in this world, and not a fictional propaganda echo chamber. If you are arguing with them when you read, listen or watch them you are at least arguing with someone living in the same world that you live in. And while you might see things differently and have come to different conclusions they are different conclusions about the same reality.

Deep Thoughts

Time for Reflection Not Reaction.

Now I can’t tell you whom you should trust. But I can tell you some of the people I have been listening to myself. They come from various perspectives. Some of them I radically disagree with. But they are honest in their opinions and worth wrestling with if you are a thinking human being. In other words this is not a list for the immature, whether they be 12 years old or 75.

So take this for what it’s worth. In a future addendum to this series I will add clips of YouTube vlogs, speeches and interviews. As of this writing all of these people are living and still contributing to the discussion. There are many more I could add, but this will be a good starting place. And YouTube searches would be the best introduction. I have not tried to represent every possible ethnicity or viewpoint, because my feeling is that that sort of empty gesture is part of the problem not the cure. This is what I found helpful for myself. You will certainly find others.

Besides the living, the dead having even far more to say to us. But I have rambled on too long for now.

bosch hell

Bosch Understood What Happens When You Move With Entropy, Not Against It.

And so this will be the official end of this series of essays. If you been following my main thrust you’ll see that my view is that the primary issue confronting humanity in this time of chaos does not come from any specific political issue or ideology. Rather it can be seen this way; while fewer people have died in wars in the 21st Century as died in the last century by this same point, most folks today are far more fearful of and confused by where we are now than they were then. Why? Propaganda. We live in it as it invades our consciousness from every orifice of technology. And yet there is hope if we can start to enter the conversation with real creativity and with real people.

I will give the late Canadian media critic Marshall McLuhan the last word.

“Jacques Ellul observes in Propaganda: ‘When dialogue begins, propaganda ends.’ His theme, that propaganda is not this or that ideology but rather the action and coexistence of all media at once, explains why propaganda is environmental and invisible. The total life of any culture tends to be ‘propaganda’, for this reason. It blankets perception and suppresses awareness, making the counter environments created by the artist indispensable to survival and freedom.”

Foggy Woods

Finding Our Way in the Fog

And finally just a few names of living people that I trust in different ways. These folks have ideas worth hearing even if you or I disagree with them.

Camille Paglia – American Art Historian, Lesbian, First Wave Feminist, Atheist (Center Left maybe)

Christina Hoff Sommers – American Historian, Philosopher, ‘Factual’ Feminist, Author, YouTuber (Center Left)

David Thomson – British Film Critic, Author of many books and essays (Center Left)

Jonathan Haidt – American University Professor, Social Psychologist, Author (Center Left)

Jonathan Pie – Scabrous British Satirist, Socialist (real name Tom Walker) YouTuber (Left)

Jordan B. Peterson – Canadian University Professor, Clinical Psychologist, Jungian, Author (Centrist)

Julia Turansky – Canadian Anarcho-Christian, YouTuber (Channel Brave The World) , Mother

Ken Burns – American Documentarian, Author, TV Producer (Center Left)

Ken Myers – American Radio and Podcast host Mars Hill Audio (Center Right)

Niall Ferguson – British Historian, Television presenter, Author (Center Right)

Os Guinness – British Author, Christian, Lecturer (Center Right)

Paul Vanderklay – American Dutch Reformed Pastor, YouTuber (Center)

Robert D. Kaplan – American Historian and Journalist, Machiavellian, Author (Centrist)

Roger Scruton – British Philosopher, Television Presenter, Conservative Commentator, Art Historian (Center Right)

Simon Schama – British American Historian, University Professor, Television Presenter (Center Left)

Slavoj Zizek – Slovenian Marxist Postmodern Philosopher, Author, Television Host (Left)

Stanley Crouch – American Jazz Historian, African American Social Commentator, Novelist (Center)

Suzannah Lipscomb – British Historian, Television presenter, Author (Center)

Tim Pool – American Journalist, YouTuber Trying to Create an Honest News Source (Center Left)

Timothy Garton Ash – British University Professor, Historian, Journalist and Author (Center Left)

Timothy Keller – American Presbyterian Pastor, Author (Center Right)

…..

The addendum will come very soon.

Thanks for reading this and pondering these things with me.

….

Byrne Power

Tbilisi, Georgia

24/3/2019

….

Hey I really could use some help with what I am doing here in Tbilisi. My Gravity From Above project has stalled and my resources have become limited. Anything you choose to contribute can be done through PayPal. Click this.

And if this essay was of value pass it along.

 

21st Century Propaganda: Addendum #1


21st Century Propaganda #8: Infection and Diagnosis

Hate, hunger, and pride make better levers of propaganda than do love or impartiality.

Jacques Ellul – Propaganda

Pontypool

An Infection of Words spread through the Media in the Canadian ‘zombie’ film  Pontypool.

So then Propaganda surrounds us. (The series starts here.) What can we do to at least find a reasonable way of weighing the details of life surrounding us in this virtual bubble? There are two answers lodged in one question here. First: What practical steps can we take to make sure we are as little effected by the all consuming maw of illusory communications as is humanly possible? Second: Are there any ways of identifying voices we can trust from the various perspectives of this fictional panorama? No easy task. We shall deal with this in our concluding essay next time. Let’s tackle the practical issue first.

The main principle is this. We are all infected by today’s Propaganda. As Jacques Ellul points out intelligence is no defense. The very people who think themselves most up to date are often the most heavily propagandized. So the question then is not how to avoid propaganda, but how to recognize the depths of our own infection. In a way our situation is quite similar to the only Canadian postapocalyptic film I have ever seen: Pontypool. Which has the end of the world coming through an infection of words. And this is brilliant for being a direct correlation to propaganda and for it taking place in Canada one of the most politically correct hot spots on earth, complete with legislation to back it up. In Pontypool the radio station at the core of the film is also a source of this lethal infection. All communications media spread the infection. Conversations also spread it. And this verbal virus effects people by driving them completely murderous. It’s a excellent analogy, if a bit too extreme to help us to understand our own level of propaganda infection.

Knee Jerk test

Allow me to suggest a better indicator: The Knee Jerk Reaction.

Obviously the concept of the Knee Jerk Reaction is related to the reflex test where a physician taps a specific spot on your knee to see if your leg moves involuntarily. But there is a big difference between this physical test and our propaganda test. When your knee jerks that’s a very good thing. It means your reflexes are working correctly. But emotionally the knee jerk reaction means something exactly the opposite. It means when you hear certain words, concepts and names you react instantly, and usually it’s not very pleasant. That’s the Knee Jerk Reaction. And that’s a serious problem.

Now we all have them, Knee Jerk Reactions. Someone is talking about something and as soon as a word or possible thought passes through the air you are immediately disturbed. So you hear words like Trump, or abortion, or gay, or taxes, or war, or trans, or Clinton, or Macron, or Merkel, or Putin, or Obama, or Thatcher, or Reagan, or Republican, or Democrat, or feminism, or Muslim, or Christian, or atheist, or God, or witchcraft, or Satan, or Marvel, or DC, or Star Wars, or Harvard, or Yale, or Texas, or Russia, or China, or Africa, or blackface, or liberal, or equality, or free speech, or nationalist, or socialist, or vegan, or McDonald’s, or Starbucks, or T-Series or anything else that instantly changes your mood and there, my friends, lies your propagandized soul exposed for the world to see. And to the degree you find yourself at a loss of control in your anger, hatred, disgust, or fear that is the degree to which you can reckon yourself fully propagandized by something. And we all have these Knee Jerk Reactions. Don’t bother to deny it. Because that too will be a sign of the same.

Let’s Look For Your Jerking Knees. (Click to Expand)

 

 

Did You Figure Out What Causes You To Lose Your Mind?

Now I’m not saying there aren’t reasons for reactions. Oh there are… Except, once said, we have to then come straight to this point: How can we trust the sources of our news and information. When I first started to understand the depth of our envelopment in Propaganda we weren’t yet living in THIS world. Yes each news outlet had its viewpoint, but we hadn’t been bogged down in endless conspiracy theories yet. There was no Internet to spread the immediate reactions. If a pastor in Florida burned copies of the Koran in Florida no one even knew about it, let alone died in Palestine. And so I would say to folks then when I read Time Magazine or watch CBS News I know that something has happened, but I don’t necessarily trust that media’s interpretation of the facts. I came to understand this early because I was in a primary Jesus People group when I was young. Reporters from national news services occasionally wrote stories on us and I was always impressed by how little they really understood of what they had seen. Their stories were usually skewed by the reporters bias. Good reporters I learned sought to be fair, acknowledging their own biases, and working to put them aside. Not only are very few reporters today that good, but the idea of putting aside your biases today is nearly a lost art. (I say nearly, but fortunately not totally.) But today’s reporters proudly display their political biases and completely skew their news accordingly. Then again in these late postmodern times truth is seen as a relic of dead Western Civilization. Resulting in a new phenomenon, not merely changing the narrative, in which the word ‘narrative’ equals the word ‘spin’, but removing the veracity of the event at all. Fake News

Now when I see news I wonder if the event even happened? Is it Fake News? And even that phrase ‘Fake News’ is a hotly contested neologism. The Left claims that all Fake News is Right slanted. The Right claims the same about the Left. But I think its use points out the exact reality we find ourselves in. Not only is it the interpretation that is at stake but now the actual reality is in question. So what to do? How do we avoid being dragged into these propaganda wars within our own minds? And across the fiction of news as it has devolved in this hysterical age? We will talk about sources in our last essay. But for now let’s work on developing our powers of observation.

So a sudden story erupts. It’s not a hurricane in Florida, an Earthquake in Chile, but rather it’s one of those many events that have gripped us one after another for years now. There is a photo. A short video. A protest somewhere. A march. Suddenly it’s politically hot. Everyone’s talking about it. People pass stories, interpretations, memes on social media. You are meant to feel stupid if you don’t agree with the dominant and instant media interpretation. It’s ‘trans bathrooms’, ‘Grab ’em by the pussy.’ Charlottesville, Jefferson, Portland, Berkeley, it’s the MAGA hat kid with his ‘smirk’, it’s Jussie Smollett and his ‘noose’, it’s comments at the Academy Awards, or by a rising political star. What do you do?

How an Online Propaganda Mob Forms

First of all, Back the hell up! Do not form a opinion on the first day or three. Because, as we have seen, what actually happened isn’t even known yet. When the Covington Catholic boys incident was at last known everyone had to apologize. Because full videos from the day, uploaded on the day, were completely ignored by folks who interpret these events for us on television. And the event that supposedly got everyone so worked up… never happened! And yet there are still folks who will swear they ‘know what they saw’ without ever having watched the full video. And that, my friends, is the most egregious effect of Propaganda upon us. It can change the reality of what we see into what we wish to see.

Edinburgh Bookstore

These are called Books. They slow you down. Allow you to think before you react. Read them.

So back off! Have courage. Don’t share your opinions, your conclusions, your accusations, your anything! about these things on social media. Don’t pass on articles proving ‘the point’. Don’t assume you know. Because you know what? You probably know nothing. And how can you? The event is still unfolding. There are those who still don’t understand what the presence of Antifa meant at Charlottesville. Why? The mainstream media omitted them from their narrative. Yes it was absolutely frightening to see the presence of this new White Nationalist movement. But it was just as blood curdling to see honest to God Communists there as well. And the authorities let them come together. So what actually did happen? And will you over react to what I just written? And yes, I fully realize these things are molten hot.

ChanaSue Lang

Learn to talk, even to disagree.

So my advice: STOP. Stop passing on your pet Propaganda on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. That doesn’t mean stop thinking. Au contraire! It means start thinking and stop that jerking knee. Reacting is what the goal of all Propaganda is. Stop with the pointed jokes against (fill in the blank). Stop spreading pro/anti gun, PETA, Christian, LGBTQ+, Atheist, Trans, etc. Propaganda. Dehumanization and real hatred are the only things spread that way. Stop with commentary on things that happened this morning that quite literally you can’t know anything about yet. Stop getting newsfeed alerts on your phone. Stand back from it all and get your breath and mind working again. Stop fantasizing about doomsday and revenge scenarios. Learn to read again, not merely to skim. Read books. Make no phone zones. Try to understand history in order to understand the current hysteria. Find trustworthy sources. Don’t listen to movie stars, sports stars, television stars about politics. What they say about the craft of acting is valuable. What they think about current politics is usually just Knee Jerk Propaganda.

Matilda Lost

Get Together with Real Humans in Real Time. Play Physical Games.

And finally get back to reality. Have people over for dinner. (I’m extremely serious about this.) Remember all those people you hate so much, who believe that tripe that you would never swallow, they are humans too. And if you sat down to dinner with them you would find that out. Unless you are so propagandized that all you can see is the shallow symbols of opposition. Very few conservative folk are actually that dreaded Far Right ogre you imagine. Most Left leaning souls are not the mindless SJW’s. But you may indeed meet those with whom you disagree. Then talk. Have a real conversation. Perhaps the most salient quote from Jacques Ellul is this Discussion ends Propaganda.” Don’t be afraid. Just do it. Even with the most polarized people you encounter, if you can, if you dare. For it is only by learning to do so that we can avert the true disaster of a new American Civil War.

Fortunately there a few signs of hope.

In our conclusion we’ll examine the possibility of trustworthy sources. And examine the hope embedded in this moment.

Come back soon.

Byrne Power

Tbilisi, Georgia

9/3/2019

Finally you can support us out here on the edge. And it will truly be appreciated. Use this PayPal link. I can access it from anywhere. Even here in Tbilisi Georgia.

Thanks! CLICK ME.

Oh and if you haven’t read the rest of this series you can start here.

https://theanadromist.wordpress.com/2017/04/12/21st-century-propaganda-1/

And for more practical advice on finding reality again try this essay.

https://theanadromist.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/salvaging-reality/

 


21st Century Propaganda #7: Christian Propaganda

Her+name+is+chrischan+pronounced+christian+really+shes+the+personification+

I’m sold. SOLD being the operative word here. This imitation anime/manga style message completely eviscerates the gospel message.

So let me put this card on the table. I am a Christian. And then let me put this one down. Nothing disturbs me more than Christian propaganda. What do I mean? As Jacques Ellul points out in the quote below, Christianity, which claims to be truth, after being put through mass media propaganda, ends up merely as an ideology. And as such “It serves everybody as an ideology with the greatest of ease, and tends to be a hoax.” And it is this hoax that many believe to be the truth. And it is this hoax that those who have rejected Christianity tend to believe defines it. But I am not here to defend the message of Christianity.

It is ironic that Christians invented the term propaganda, through the Roman Catholic Curia, to define the means of spreading the gospel. Something more like missionary work. Originally it meant something much closer to propagation. And propagation is the natural spreading or multiplication of an idea. Propaganda is definitely not natural. Now I can hear some people saying ‘Well missionary work certainly isn’t natural.’ But I would disagree. When Jesus says in the Gospel of Mark (chapter16 verse 15) “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” He certainly doesn’t mean doing so by impersonal and all surrounding means. He isn’t imagining mass evangelistic rallies in 80,000 seat sports colosseums, “Christian” Movies, pop music, comic books, video games, television channels, websites, social media, etc.

christian-posters-18

A Truth made stupid and sentimental.

(And if you are wondering why I’m lumping all of these mass media together and calling it propaganda I suspect you haven’t read the entirety of this series which started several years back, where, following Jacques Ellul’s definition of Propaganda, we pointed out that much being disseminated by mass means is by default already propaganda. Go ahead. Stop. Go back. Catch up. Then come back when you can. I’ll wait. Click this to begin.)

A brief outline of Christianity and the developing system of Propaganda might go something like this. At the dawn of Christianity Jesus and his disciples had no access to propaganda techniques. Jesus emphasized personal human communication and consciously rejected the means of power. Christianity was seen as a powerless sect of Judaism by the Roman Empire. Yet the message spread as the absolute counterpoint to Roman propaganda, which was developed through the minting of money with Caesar’s image, the gladiatorial games and most of all through the unconquerable power of the legions. There were periods of violent persecution. And this persecution not only didn’t stamp out the sect, it caused the sect to grow. But there came a day when the Emperor Constantine legitimized Christianity, even converting to it himself and eventually in it’s closing days Christianity was made the official religion of the Empire. And this is the moment when things began to change. The Roman government turned the Christian faith on its head by using persecution and censorship created forms of propaganda to convert the decadent Empire in its waning days. Christianity survived, but Rome was already too far gone it fell. But the damage was done. Christianity was aligned with power now, which perverted the message of Jesus in many ways, though as long as the scriptures were there it couldn’t completely distort the humbler message contained in the Bible.

Caravaggio SupperatEmmaus

Caravaggio’s Supper At Emmaus. Baroque Era paintings were specifically commissioned as Catholic Propaganda.  But they never stinted on the quality of the art nor the depth of the message.

But distortion did occur whether through Crusades (a Christian imitation of Islamic Jihads), the selling of indulgences (which provoked Martin Luther and helped spawn the Reformation) or worst of all the Inquisition (in which power was grafted so deeply onto the Christian vine that it nearly killed it). All of these were also accompanied by successive waves of propaganda. But this propaganda, though fierce at times was much less total than propaganda had become by the mid-20th Century. After two world wars and the rise of totalitarianism and the propagandas used to combat the fascist and communist the world of the 1950s and 1960s saw Christian propaganda grow stagnant and completely ineffective. It is at this point that Jacques Ellul’s book Propaganda was published. Ellul too was a Christian. But he certainly didn’t spare his fellow believers. He knew what was coming. Allow me to quote at length from his book on the subject.

Jesus-at-the-United-Nations

No Comment. Late 1960’s.

Obviously, church members are caught in the net of propaganda and react pretty much like everyone else….

Because Christians are flooded with various propagandas, they absolutely cannot see what they might do that would be effective and at the same time be an expression of their Christianity. Therefore, with different motivations and often with scruples, they limit themselves to one or another course presented to them by propaganda. They too take the panorama of the various propagandas for living political reality, and do not see where they can insert their Christianity in that fictitious panorama….

At the same time, because of its psychological effects, propaganda makes the propagation of Christianity increasingly difficult. The psychological structures built by propaganda are not propitious to Christian beliefs. This also applies on the social plane. For propaganda faces the church with the following dilemma:

Either not to make propaganda — but then, while the churches slowly and carefully win a man to Christianity, the mass media quickly mobilizes the masses, and churchmen gain the impression of being ‘out of step’, on the fringes of history, without the power to change a thing.

Or to make propaganda — this dilemma is surely one of the most cruel with which the churches are faced at present. For it seems that people manipulated by propaganda become increasingly impervious to spiritual realities, less and less suited for the autonomy of a Christian life….

I already have stressed the total character of propaganda. Christians often claim they can separate material devices from propaganda techniques — i.e., break the system. For example, they think they can use press and radio without using the psychological principles or techniques that these media demand. Or that they can use these media without having to appeal to conditioned reflexes, myths, and so on. Or that they can use them from time to time, with care and discretion.

The only answer one can give to these timid souls is that such restraint would lead to a total lack of effectiveness. If a church wants to use propaganda in order to be effective, just as all the others, it must use the entire system with all its resources; it cannot pick what it likes, for such distinctions would destroy the very effectiveness for which the church would make propaganda in the first place. Propaganda is a total system that one must accept or reject in its entirety.

If the church accepts it, two important consequences follow. First of all, Christianity disseminated by such means is not Christianity. We have already seen the effect of propaganda on ideology. In fact, what happens as soon as the church avails itself of propaganda is a reduction of Christianity to the level of all other ideologies and secular religions.

“Christianity ceases to be an overwhelming power and spiritual adventure and becomes institutionalized in all its expressions and compromised in all its actions. It serves everybody as an ideology with the greatest of ease, and tends to be a hoax. In such times there are innumerable sweetenings and adaptations, which denature Christianity by adjusting it to the milieu.”

And obviously Ellul’s words can be applied across the religious and political spectrum, which is the point of his book Propaganda.

Jesus Knocks

The White-bread Jesus is still knocking.

Now I as a Christian first read these words around 1982. I had been deeply troubled by developments in culture at that time. These developments included the rise of a Christian music industry (known as CCM – Contemporary Christian Music, though I felt it really stood for Commercial Christian Music) a rising Christian movie and television industry, and most troubling of all a kind of conservative political movement that equated Christianity with then current right wing political issues. And I’m not saying there isn’t an overlap, but it’s also clear that at that time there was also overlap with the liberal spectrum as well, which was why many Christians voted for Jimmy Carter for president in 1976. Since that time the lines have been drawn much sharper. And that is a direct result of rising propagandas from that time. Today’s polarizations are the direct ancestors of the propagandas of the 80s, both left and right.

TheLateGreatPlanetEarth

A Christian Propaganda ‘Classic’.

If one was to be transported back to America in 1970 one would find confused weak churches unable to really understand what was going on the steaming hothouse of the Sixties. Conservatives and fundamentalists not only had little voice propagandistically, they didn’t crave that kind of voice. They were reading Hal Lindsey’s The Late, Great Planet Earth and digging in for the coming Antichrist. They just assumed it was all over. But the Jesus People, a now forgotten movement, sometimes erroneously called Jesus Freaks, were beginning to reap a bounty of new but less conventional converts from the cultural debris of the Hippie Movement in California. And they made underground Christian newspapers, Christian T-Shirts with slogans like ‘Christ, He’s the Real Thing’ complete with imitation Coca-Cola logo, bumperstickers, and most importantly Jesus Music.

 

 

Now there was about five years when this new Christian music had a fresh feeling to it. But by the end of the Seventies the music had been contained by the very newly dominant CCM industry. That combined with the new political consciousness, a product of a wing of the Charismatic Movement, created the new Christian propaganda which haunts us to this day.

 

 

And so whether in the highly repetitious music of 21st Century Hillsong churches, the more sophisticated pop music of so many imitative Christian bands, manipulative movies like God’s Not Dead, the theatrical megachurches, prosperity teachings, the dumbing down of so many Christians in favor of a feel good message.

 

 

Also there was a justifiably nervous attitude towards the developments in the secular world. And so many Christians backed away from engagement with that world, with the full support of the powers that be. And so a separate propaganda sphere was created. Christian girls could read Christian romance novels usually stuck somewhere between old school Harlequin novels and Little House On The Prairie. Although by the early 21st Century it was just as likely they would be encouraged to read Young Adult sub-Tolkien or CS Lewis Christian Fantasy novels that, while slowly growing in quality since the 70s, encouraged the newer generations to avoid reality and maturity in favor of a Christian version of the current regnant era of delayed adolescence. (By the way I think Lewis and Tolkien are both turning in the graves over this development.)

Christian Fantasy 101

Christian young adult fantasy novels, another cottage industry, tending towards the juvenilization of the faith.

Christian boys could what? Listen to Christian commercial white-boy pop rap? Buy guns? Or more likely simply join the ranks of forgotten men everywhere. But one thing everyone could do was to express themselves with Xtian slogans on T-shirts, posters, tattoos.

CCM Encyclopedia

This massive tome contains over 1000 pages of CCM entries. One could easily whittle these imitative musical entries down to 200 pages and still gag on the excess.

Meanwhile Christian cable channels, YouTubery, radio stations and above all websites allowed the faithful to be completely surrounded in a sweet propaganda bubble. People sang and swayed in megachurches and little dying denominational churches. The cutesy imagery from Vacation Bible School classes for the youth only reinforced the cuddly Christian message. And as I’ve pointed out before the gospel of Christ became the gospel of Fun. Meanwhile the overall positivity was giving way to Christian accommodations with ‘tolerance’ in its new totalizing definition in several quarters. And those who didn’t understand the shift were left in confusion supping on the tepid remains of late 20th Century Christian propaganda.

gods-not-dead-3

Is this light? Sadly I think NOT.

God Quotes Poster Half White

It’s interesting how somewhere in the early 21st Century Christians stopped talking about Christ so much.

Now I know not all Christianity is like this. I know this better than many of you. And there have been those who have questioned these developments through the years. A few are only just now beginning to question these things. They are questioning the hoax that sadly too often the faith has become. But that’s not my subject here. What I have wanted to point out is simply that those who in some measure believe as I do are no more immune to the scourge of propaganda than anyone else.

But it does lead me to a serious question: What can any of us do to live in a time like ours when the locusts of propaganda infest our deepest hopes and dreams. Well there must be more to say.

Come back soon for some possible partial answers.

Byrne Power

Tbilisi, Georgia

2/9/2019

Please support us at PayPal. It would really help us out.


21st Century Propaganda #6: The Synth Drumbeats of War

Propaganda proceeds by psychological manipulations, character modifications, by creation of stereotypes useful when the time comes – The two great routes that this sub-propaganda takes are the conditioned reflex and the myth.                             Jacques Ellul – Propaganda

Anon

The eerie Guy Fawkes mask, Propaganda symbol of hacker vigilantes Anonymous, were an early sign of this new world we have moved into with such ferocity.

Back in the early 90’s, before most people were converted to anything called the Internet, just after the Soviet Union finally collapsed, I noticed that a very high percentage of Americans hardly even noticed the end of the Cold War. And except for new European tourist possibilities the reality of an end to this monumental ideological struggle barely impinged upon the waking consciousness of the majority of US citizens. There were no bells ringing. People did not dance in the streets. In 1989 we did watch on television as Berliners danced on the Wall, but after the 1991 coup in Soviet Russia, which spelled the end of the very real Cold War epoch, people generally hunkered down and went about their business. Why? (And what about China, Cuba and North Korea?)

 

I quickly came to realize that most folks in North America had already found a new enemy and a new war to fight: What we now call the Culture Wars. Interestingly enough, at the time, the mainstream pundits in newspapers and on television even disparaged the term as Conservative Propaganda. I seriously doubt many folks do anymore. If the last election proves anything, it certainly reveals the radically divergent viewpoints that have festered since then.

Aids Harring

One of the early Act Up Propaganda Posters by Keith Haring that would help foster the Culture Wars. A Pro-Life Poster would have had the same effect.

Back in the early 1990’s a thought came to me as I walked through Soho in New York City one afternoon. I realized that we had entered a new troubling realm. That, as we had increasingly come under the influence of Propaganda as our window to the world, we had become more divided than ever. More ominously it was inevitable that, following Jacques Ellul’s logic, in the future PROPAGANDA, in a very real sense, WOULD BE THE WAR. In other words that war would be take place in and for our minds first and foremost. This warfare might lead eventually to real war, but long before that there would be mental and emotional battles causing deep psychic damage amongst vast swathes of the populace. Sadly that is exactly where we are today. We are in the midst of the Propaganda War. And it is vicious, ugly and irrational on all sides. It is chaotic, noisy, infesting the mind with arguments and hatreds, with deprecations and scorn, with fear and neurosis. The chaos of the mosaic wall of cultural noise has become deafening and is transforming itself into something lethal. And we are all wrapped up in it.

Zero Tolerance

And whatever happened to the classic definition of Tolerance?

And apart from all of the obvious clutter, and in even more insidious ways, it has become far too commonplace for each of us to give into the fire hydrant flow of Propaganda blasting from today’s polarized ‘news’ sites straight into the open mouth of social media. It is a gusher so intense that people simply react without even a pretense of concern for something as obvious as facts, fairness or logic. And I do mean all of us (no one is excluded here). I feel it within myself. Folks are hysterical about politics these days. It reminds me of nothing less than Weimar Germany. The dark fluctuations between extreme Left and Right. People jump straightway from event to demonization without a second’s notice. The filters for deliberation seem to have vanished altogether. The time it takes to process anything seems to take as long as it takes to type this sentence down and make a snarky comment.

Fake news

And so is this… In this time of accusation.

But here is the truth. All of these people we demonize are still human beings: Trump is a human being, though he often acts as a caricature. Neo-Nazis are still human beings, repugnant as their ideologies are. Social Justice Warriors are still human beings, though they seem to have gone out of their way to insist that any traditional notion of humanity is obsolete. Black Lives Matter are human beings even though the perpetually play the victim role while snarling at those who don’t understand. Muslim terrorists are still human beings no matter how many lives fall under their rage. Antifa are human beings though they openly evoke a serious variation on Communist ideology and perpetrate hatred on those who they say are haters. (And what does the word hate mean anymore? When if you merely dislike a Marvel movie you can be considered a Marvel ‘hater’.) Everyone you disagree with and find to be useless and vile are still human beings, and deserve to be treated with humanity and compassion no matter who they are and what they believe. But as Jacques Ellul said in his book Propaganda: ‘Hate, hunger, and pride make better levers of propaganda than do love or impartiality.’

 

I have been monitoring these things much more seriously in the last year and the words Civil War have started to appear more and more on both Left and Right wing sources. Wait a minute let me stop and say that again. Civil War… Do you have any idea what that means? Can you see the piles of corpses and smoking ruins? Do you realize what the body count was from the last Civil War? Does your political correctness or mockery demand we feed Moloch with our children? Or adults? Our future? In order to create the world you imagine?

Anonymous Rebels

What is the distance between protest and war?

And the Middle which held things together has become scarce indeed. As the generations of World War 2 remembering souls shuffle off the stage forever, that is folks who dealt with actual Fascists and Communists, we have replaced them with American citizens with no real grasp of history. Even the most educated among us are quite thin in historical understanding. To call Trump a Fascist is to have no understanding of what Fascism truly is. This is not to praise Trump. Populism and Fascism are two very different things. This is obviously a low point in American history. There are indeed elements on the extreme Right that are metastasizing. Does it need to be repeated over and over that not everyone who is right wing or voted for Trump can be tarred with the vitriol spewing from the Left and their general lock on the media. There is bile enough on both sides to go around. And most of it is spread by means of social media in one form or another. I don’t even trust my good friends when they give in to the heat of this Propaganda moment.

 

One of the scariest experiences I had in the last year occurred when I watch one of the presidential debates through YouTube. Now all of the media live-streaming this ‘event’ had comment columns, which whizzed by insanely, making the notion of commentary a ersatz farce merely due to the blinding speed of it before one could actually attempt to read the messages scrawled on what essentially has become the bathroom walls of our culture. That same speed-induced vertigo is evidenced when an author or YouTuber conducts a LIVE Feed. You see the well meaning host trying valiantly to catch up even to reading the hundreds or thousands of comments. Comment is reduced to hand waving or Sharpie scrawls.

 

But the dire nature of the problem smashes you in the face with a sledge hammer when you take a moment to read the comments on a political forum. It’s strange we live in times where the mantra has for far too long been ‘Be positive!’ And it is my observation that this childish slogan has produced its exact contrary opposite. It has created a violent beast. And that is America 2017. A frightened ill-informed populace of citizens who no longer have the character to weigh issues, to delay judgement until the facts are in, to measure events against history. And I mean the leaders as well as the voters. It’s as if the Cold War, World War 2, the Civil War, and American Revolution had never occurred. One sees people carrying torches in emulation of Triumph of the Will, or another group insanely chanting ‘Shame! Shame! Shame! Shame!’ rather than allow a centrist speaker to talk, one sees lesbians castigated for refusing to consider romance with trans ‘women’, light skinned black folk sidelined for the color of their skin by darker hued more politically charged comrades, and that word (!) ‘Comrade’ is coming back into Left wing fashion, as if the bodies of 100 million people hadn’t already been slaughtered to the cause of perfect identical equality. And I mentioned earlier the rise of antisemitism on both the Right and the Left. All in all we are seeing the forces dehumanization everywhere… and that is should freeze the blood of anyone truly conversant in history or actual politics. (But how can you see people as human beings if most of your contacts are made online?)

Expand this to full page. Then watch the comment scroll here if you dare.

And the comments? They scrolled by like the droolings of hell. From Alt-Right Kekistani mockery to Left wing crybullies. To read them as an outsider, as someone who lives in the real world, was to peek into the pathological heart of America and our 21st Century heart of darkness. There was no entrance of human language into this maelstrom of political psychosis. To write anything was to indulge in the fantasy of that the Internet has allowed one’s words to speak meaningfully into this chaos of visual and aural noise. The only thing one could say is to paraphrase Jeremiah, later quoted in the book of Revelation, where we are instructed concerning the nightmare city of Babylon to “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins or contract any of her plagues.” Come out of cyberspace! Retain your humanity. Stop living in this virtual lie. Flee the political Propaganda boiling on all sides and shared by your ‘friends’. Remember your human neighbors, left and right. Use the computer with great skepticism, but live offline. Because if we don’t then the vitriol of minds poisoned in this Propaganda War will spill, as it already has, onto the streets. If you stare into your palms long enough you will see this. And it will rivet you to the spot. And you will have no answer but more Propaganda. Come! Live out here with those of us that strive to retain the physical world. Those who attempt the difficult task of caring for humanity, even those we completely disagree with.

Red Pill

A Right wing ‘Meme’ against the SJW’s and Normies.

(But wait Byrne! I hear a possible Christian friend saying. I know you’re a Christian. Doesn’t Christ have the answer? Oh yeah. I forgot. Much as I hate to say it, we Christians, likewise, have simply colluded in this whole process just like anyone else. Don’t believe me? Come back next time… Well on second thought… maybe you shouldn’t. It’s not going to be pretty.)

(Now I have to get off line again. I’ve already spent too much time typing away in the virtual dark.)

Byrne Power
Haines, Alaska
9/19/2017

 


21st Century Propaganda: Addendum #1

Social Media and Horizontal Propaganda: A Lecture

Socail Media Propaganda

A little Social Media Propaganda for you.

Following on from the last 21st Century Propaganda essay, ‘Propaganda and Social Media’, I wanted to add a lecture that I gave at L’Abri Fellowship in Huémoz, Switzerland, back in February of 2016: Social Media and Horizontal Propaganda. This is a video version of a lecture that did NOT have visuals with it. But included in this video is a full array of propaganda posters.

If you live online I hope this raises questions for you. It’s about an hour and a half. So maybe download it and listen to it later. And do please let me know what you think.

 

Byrne Power

Haines, Alaska

9/7/2017

 


21st Century Propaganda #5: Propaganda and Social Media

Again I want to emphasize that the study of propaganda must be conducted within the context of a technological society. Propaganda is called upon to solve problems created by technology, to play on maladjustments, and to integrate the individual into a technological world. – Jacques Ellul

Prop as prop

In the spirit of Anti-Propaganda Propaganda, a sarcastic ‘meme’ featuring the late Gene Wilder from Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory having essentially the same effect as a bumper sticker saying ‘Bumper stickers are stupid.’

People have often reacted in a utopian manner as new technologies burst onto the scene. The automobile promised the endless joys of travel, and without having to feed a horse! We now know that the car and the highway are not anything resembling unmixed blessings. Traffic, commuting nightmares, highway fatalities, pollution, the entire social fabric of many communities being completely enveloped by the spaces created for the automobile. It would be easy to argue (and to win) that the car is one the greatest devil’s bargains of history. As Paul Virilio has pointed out: When you invent the ship, you also invent the shipwreck; when you invent the plane you also invent the plane crash; and when you invent electricity, you invent electrocution… Every technology carries its own negativity, which is invented at the same time as technical progress.

And thus the utopian hopes of the internet as being a mode of open communication and knowledge, have now given way to the realities of commercial control, spam, invasion of privacy, trolling, endless payments, and most sinisterly, the constant monitoring of our activity below the horizon of our intended purposes. Visit a clothing website and then see an ad for the same product you just searched for on your Facebook page. Pay for an item in another country and have your bank shut down your card through their fraud detection services. (Both of these things have happened to me.)

social-media-should-not-be-censored

Again more Propaganda disguised as Educational choice. Make a ‘Choice’.

Not many years ago people were naïvely and insanely lauding the glories of social media as though there could be no problems attached with same. I’m imagining the reader will already be aware many instances of issues related to cyberbullying, texting nightmares, even Facebook depression, when you see your friends supposedly wonderful lives of headlines and captions and realize that your own life isn’t like that. Recently I have been made more aware of the neurotic result of connecting one’s Facebook notifications to your smartphone, as it has negatively impacted at least one friendship. But I’d like to discuss the growing dilemma of social media as perhaps the best platform for spreading Propaganda that has ever existed.

social-media-should-be-censored1

And if you Vote for this what does it say about you? Perhaps that you are a lab rat pressing a lever to obtain the food of imaginary Choice.

A word before I proceed: Jacques Ellul discusses two directions of Propaganda, the Vertical, what is often top down messaging, and the Horizontal, what we pass along to each other. Vertical Propaganda is what we are more familiar with; government statements, corporate slogans, public health warnings, political campaigns, etc. But I would say in these times Horizontal Propaganda is what has the biggest effect upon us. Horizontal Propaganda effects us much like the old illustration of crabs in a bucket. No one crab is allowed to crawl out because the other crabs hold the individual down when it tries to escape. Likewise how easy it is to live within the walls of one’s favored ideology without being allowed to raise serious questions about those same ideological presuppositions.

Smartphone

Do these Branded Icons make you free?

Now you may not notice this issue much if all of your ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ are in the same air bubble you are. That is you don’t see the ‘meme wars’, because to you all of those snide jokey little images with words imbedded in them are just humorous little moments crushing the opposition. Just press ‘Like’ and LOL along with the flow of friends all the while feeling superior to the idiots out there who voted for ‘them’, or ‘him’, or ‘her’. Or maybe suddenly you’ve discovered a cause? Here are a few causes that suddenly seemed to overshadow the humanity of various friends of mine: PETA, Gun Rights, Gun Control, Pro-Life, Gay Marriage, etc. etc. ad nauseum. Personally I’ve got to tell you this: If anything starts to infest my Facebook page I immediately ‘unfollow’ you. I keep you around as distant background noise, but until I see evidence of genuine human sharing I don’t need the clever little film with the ironic music tearing down yet one more political figure. And I feel exactly the same way about online game invitations, quizzes and surveys (really these are just clickbait sites for monitoring your cookies), product recommendations, jokey sites (often more clickbait with motives other than spreading humor) etc. and again I repeat ad nauseum.

christian-posters-23

If this verse from the Bible is true, then what shall the creator of this poorly made, badly conceived, out of context ‘meme’ reap from God?

These ‘shares’ eats into our human time as we swat away the technological flies. And then there is that most egregious symbol, the changing of your profile avatar image to coincide with some recent political event. Suddenly your photo is rainbow tinted or painted with the French flag or an anti-abortion campaign. And here’s what I know… These people usually have little direct connection to these things, they are merely ‘virtue signaling’. In the French case I’m pretty sure I had far, far more direct connections to Paris or France than 99.9% of all of the folks that posted French flags after the terrorist bombings. And does anyone even think about France anymore? (I do). Or are we now just thinking about Trump and Charlottesville, Virgina? Or have we moved on to hurricane victims? Or maybe Muslims in Myanmar? Or wherever we are when you finally read this?

Awesome Muslims

Above or below. Choose your narrative. (Read Slant.)

muslim woman

These two images give us a good idea of what the ‘meme wars’ have been like. You pick your image based on temperament rather than research and verification.

In the wake of the Charlottesville fracas I’ve been astounded at how quickly people have simply reacted. And immediate unfiltered thoughtless reaction is the key to this new ‘public’ life of ours. The idea of trying to understand the event seems to be an impossibility. For too many people there can only be one version of the event. And yet I’m pretty sure that if we sat down together as human beings I could show anyone enough raw feeds, without interpretation of the event, to convince you that this was not a simple narrative. And yet the frightening thing is that to ask any questions at all about the dominant interpretation of the event is to instantly invite a witch hunt of, again, immediate reaction without the benefit of research or meditation. We create precisely what we fear because we push those with differing opinions away into extremes. I am convinced that many folks today are considering white nationalists ideas who would never have done so if the extreme left hadn’t been allowed to dominate the interpretation with their own version of identity politics.

Think Different

Just make sure you stay connected technologically. It’s fantastic how many untruths can be contained in one slogan.

The sad thing is this: I had a friend, not too close, but with whom I once had meaningful real world conversations years back. This person mentioned something in a post that seemed to invite reflection and comment. I commented in a mildly questioning manner of the dominant ideology. I was ‘unfriended’ instantly. Since then I have learned that it is not important to post political topics at the expense of human friendship. This doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions. I do. I most certainly do. I can also guarantee that they do not tick off neatly on the right or left side of the page. I have tried to be thoughtful. (And sometimes I am so tempted to reply to some ill considered idea posted somewhere and add to the Propaganda morass, but my convictions won’t let me.) It could be argued that my friend was not a good friend and, well, good riddance. Or it could be said that she was in the grip of ideological Propaganda as many others are in these days. Should I reject them out of hand? Or should I attempt to show them in some insignificant way what it means to be human. I choose the latter. But I am under no illusion about these folks. They are under the spell of something intractable, fearsome and unforgiving. Yet I still believe in compassion, courage and forgiveness.

So where are we now? That will be the subject of my next essay. Come back again. You probably won’t want to know what I need to say. Nevertheless, like a car crash on the side of the highway, you will have to look and ponder.

Byrne Power

Haines, Alaska

9/12/2017

 


21st Century Propaganda #4: Us Versus Them

Antifa

Classic Us vs. Them Propaganda.

If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? –
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn from The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956

Besides being the all-encircling communication finding us alone in the mass and giving us essentially what we want, nay need, to hear, while moving us into its own direction, Propaganda must always contain an Us vs. Them. This is a salient feature. That is there must always be an enemy of some sort to define ourselves against. So if you are a vegan it is the meat industry. If you are an anarchist you have the state. If you are a feminist you have the patriarchy. If you are a right wing Christian you have the liberal government. Etc. Etc. Now the complexities here go far beyond one Us versus one Them. At any given point America can be suspicious of Russia, China or the Islamic Jihadists. And calling someone else a Nazi or a Fascist is always useful in dehumanizing the opposition. It’s always been interesting to me that the insult Communist doesn’t have the same transgressive weight, though it should. The Communist death toll of the Soviet Union and China alone is perhaps upwards much higher than 50 million, not including war deaths. Yet again that strangely silent condemnation too is a result of the Us and Them of Propaganda.

fightwithenemy

Soviet Russian Propaganda encouraging citizens to Fight the Enemy.

It is commonplace now to admit that we have arrived at a time of extreme polarities. And likewise it is commonplace to blame Them for doing this to Us, when we ourselves, whomever we are, have a big stake in the proceedings. And the new 21st Century forces of Propaganda have upped the ante through the internet and social media. The new Propaganda infests our thinking in a way Orwell couldn’t have imagined. People live lives peaceably for the most part. Then a news event from thousands of miles away will suddenly call out to us, will rattle the organs of comment, or dissent. Within a couple of hours the spin will be at tornado strength. Memes and articles will be shared, wrong word, ‘share’ sounds far too friendly, disseminated, yes much better, disseminated on a multitude of social media accounts. And yet most of this, except for those few people actually touched by the event physically, is just pixels on a screen. They come and go everyday. We get little rest. Our nerves are frayed. And yet we know without a doubt who the enemy is. It is one of those clusters of digital information. Because in daily life we don’t actually see the other as the demon we encounter online. But Propaganda creates the force behind the paranoia of Us and Them.

 

PropagandaNaziStabsBible

Curiously this Nazi Propaganda is used by a Christian site to drum up fear against today’s secular enemies. Propaganda is often turned back on the propagandist.

Now obviously if you go back into history a Them have always existed for an Us. It’s hard to avoid. It’s not just the other race, it used to be the people in the next valley who made terrible cheese. The Romans had the Barbarians and the Christians. The Medieval Church had the Moslems and the Heretics. Islam had the Infidels. Enlightenment Progressives had the Superstitious and the Ignorant. The Communist had the Bourgeois Capitalists. The Nazis had the Jews. The Americans had the Soviets. The Chinese had the Americans, then the Russians. The Jews have the Arabs. The Fundamentalists have the Secular Government. The New Atheists have the Religious. The Alt-Right has the SJWs. Antifa has the Alt-Right. And it goes on forever. And the situation is completely inflamed. Though fewer people are dying in wars and diseases than at any point in recent history. The level of complete fear in the early 21st Century is off the charts.

GoT Propaganda is Coming

Is it a warning about Propaganda or is it cynical Propaganda itself?

How did we get here?

It was during the prelude to World War 2 that the propaganda machines revved up with an excruciating din. Nazi Germany set the bar high with a total encirclement of the German people. But Soviet Russia was not too far behind in the winner take all sweepstakes. America was still fairly provincial at this point. Purposely living behind its oceanic moat. There was however a fair amount of New Deal FDR propaganda during this era. Then the war came. And not only did the countries of the world have to get on the ground to fight but with the technologies of radio, newspapers, even comic books, the propaganda war had to be engaged as well. Even cigarettes were rebranded and sent into war. Ever heard of Lucky Strike Green? And so war propaganda encircled the people of many countries, especially the United States.

Lucky Strike Green

Cigarettes as War Propaganda.

When the war was over you’d think the propaganda war would have ended too. But the war, as in all wars, did not end neatly. And so began the Cold War, which was first and foremost a propaganda war. It was as though someone lost the key that had accelerated the Propaganda Machine. Whether it be the Gulags or the McCarthy anti-communist hearings, propaganda remained at fever pitch, dividing Us from Them. The space race, the nuclear arms race, proxy wars, continued the east/west war. In America the fearful conservative forces were so strong that for many years no one would dare openly identify as left leaning. But the tactics had been too ham handed, too transparent. And then everything changed.

I Married a Communist

Even the movies in the 50’s had to be against Communism during what is now being called ‘The Red Scare’.Yet even that phrase ‘The Red Scare’ is left wing propaganda in opposition to the right wing propaganda of the times.

By the late Sixties a generation of youth no longer afraid of the American propaganda arose. And they rebelled. Now on the left this was seen as a glorious moment of liberation. Finally people could say and do whatever they wanted. By the time of Watergate and Nixon’s resignation there was a sense of leftish superiority that spread throughout the media. New ideologies came to overturn not only the enforced Americanism but soon it would call into question much of the bedrock of Western Civilization. It is almost impossible to imagine something like Lord Kenneth Clarke’s Civilization being produced on PBS or the BBC today. Second wave Feminism, Queer Theory, Deconstruction, Identity Politics would eventually call into question the very soul of all that had been a part of European and Western history. And the new propaganda would prove to be just as encircling as any other. Unless you happened to be a member of one of those institutions still connected with the historic past, and especially if you were a conservative Protestant Christian.

And so by the late 1970’s the Evangelical Christians, too, had joined the ranks of the propagandized. Not that they lobbied for anything resembling traditional Christianity. With their Christian music, movies and television they again appeared by the mid-80’s to be one more bizarre propaganda bloc. Eventually the left and right in America would be heavily influenced by the Sixties Era radicalism and the 80’s Era conservatism. And so insanely loud did these culture wars become that by the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the end of the Soviet Union, not many Americans actually noticed. They’d actually found a new enemy… each other. I remember walking through New York City with a Russian friend, Sergei, during the 1991 coup that ended the Communist Era. We had many intense discussions about what it meant. Most of the New Yorkers I bumped into during that moment hardly even knew what was going on. The Cold War was already so over. But the roots of today’s polarization were coming along quite fine: Thank you very much.

antiantifa

One cruel turn deserves another?

In the 90’s conspiracy theories became the order of the day. Some unseen force was always responsible for our problems. The Oppressors, the Patriarchy, the Fundamentalists, the Liberals, the Gays, and eventually more and more cryptic names began to appear: the Freemasons, the Bilderberg Group, the Neo-Nazis, and of course the Illuminati. Interestingly enough in a book called The Fifty Greatest Conspiracies of All Time: History’s Biggest Mysteries, Coverups, and Cabals, the authors take great pains to explain in the forward to the book that they wouldn’t give credence to Jewish conspiracy notions, since for some odd reason they felt that somehow they weren’t legitimate, unlike, say, Illuminati or David Ickes reptilian theories. By now those folks have had to eat steaming casseroles of baked crow. Antisemitic notions and conspiracies have since returned with a vengeance infiltrating both the left and the right.

nazi-propaganda-poster Jews

Anyone who thought that antisemitism died after the Holocaust is severely mistaken.

And in the 21st Century Propaganda continued to spew forth as terrorism grew to unbelievable proportions requiring much more propaganda just to manage the chaos. And into this reality void stepped social media…

Come back next time if you dare. I’m bringing this down to your digital doorstep.

Byrne Power
Haines, Alaska
7/9/2017

 

21st Century Propaganda #5: Propaganda and Social Media


21st Century Propaganda #3: Alone In The Mass

Alone in the Mass

The most favorable moment to seize a man and influence him is when he is alone in the mass. It is at this point that propaganda can be most effective. Jacques Ellul

And that is exactly where we all are now. As you read this on some device, right now, you are alone. Alone in the mass of others reading websites, scanning pages and files. You are alone as you watch television, play video games, watch DVDs, listen to music through your ear buds, create content for YouTube to be passively digested, alone with your email, Kindle, sitting in dark movie theatres, listening to radio while driving your car. With very few of these devices are you actually doing something with anyone else.

And don’t let the term social media confuse you. There is not, nor ever has been, a true internet community. Six people playing an online game together are alone in the mass. People typing at each other through a message system are isolated from each other. Even the telephone, which used to sell itself as a way to reach out and touch someone, is a way of retaining the alienation inherent in the technology while using the language of touch and the senses. The notion of interactivity through computers is a phantasm, a pure illusion. True community, social interaction, and touching only take place in the flesh. And one could argue quite convincingly that one of the more recent aspects of inviolable 21st Century Propaganda, is in fact the substitution of real presence for the highly mediated world we now find ourselves inhabiting. Who ‘Likes’ what on Facebook has far more significance than it in any way deserves. And yet we are completely immersed in these virtual signs and symbols. And we accept it all as real because we are alone in the mass. As prescient media theorist Marshall McLuhan said “All media work us over completely. They are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical, and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered. The medium is the massage.” And yes he meant massage, not message. Tenderizing us to receive the Propaganda we addictively need to feel a sense of purpose in this fictional landscape.

Jacques Ellul, in his book Propaganda, points out that It is the emergence of mass media which makes possible the use of propaganda techniques on a societal scale. In other words that world of technology that we often celebrate has also opened the door to the total Propaganda that we now find ourselves drowning in.

Revolutions Paris
The stately old propaganda of the Revolution is plastered over by the Revolutionary propaganda of the moment, ca. April 2016 Paris. My question is this: In what way do the teddy bears and plush toys have to do with this epoch in history? And they most certainly do. There is no more innocence in cuteness.

On some level wherever there is a large power structure there must be a kind of propaganda to connect us to it. The Romans had coins with the image of Caesar, bread and circuses, and the fearsome legions among their propaganda arsenal. The Renaissance Catholic church had stained glass windows, fine arts, and when all else failed, and in complete corruption of their faith, the Inquisition. America has always had its education, its mighty industries, its armed forces and later its television and its senatorial committees. But all of these institutions now seem quite obvious to us. If you tell many of its citizens that “America is the greatest country on earth” they will see through the old school propaganda instantly and roll their eyes back in ironic superiority. And yet these people are swimming in a morass of contemporary Propaganda.

Poison Girl
We have reached such a moment in time that Truth in Advertising can now be used as propaganda against us since we will ironically feel superior and smirk in knowing way.

So then it might seem logical to become the most informed person you can be to ward off the effects of this all encompassing Propaganda. Au contraire. For one thing, there is the problem of being caught between propagandas which I mentioned earlier. But more to the point… Being intelligent, an intellectual, keeping up with issues etc. often has exactly the opposite consequence of making us even more susceptible to propaganda. Ellul writes about the problem this way:

It is only normal that the most educated people (intellectuals) are the first to be reached by such propaganda… All this runs counter to pat notions that only the public swallows propaganda. Naturally, the educated man does not believe in propaganda; he shrugs and is convinced that propaganda has no effect on him. This is, in fact, one of his great weaknesses, and propagandists are well aware that in order to reach someone, one must first convince him that propaganda is ineffectual and not very clever. Because he is convinced of his own superiority, the intellectual is much more vulnerable than anybody else to this maneuver.

One sees this problem endlessly. I referred to it when I mentioned Noam Chomsky earlier. It’s astounding how many musicians, writers, artists, broadcasters, other media figures, are essentially propagandists for their worldview rather than honest communicators. And they speak in such a way as to be mockingly aghast that anyone could possibly have another opinion. And they convey their messages to the masses. One can see whole careers that suddenly turn into campaigns for an ideology, and this is especially sad when it is someone who starts off as an honest artist. Consider Bruce Springsteen’s trajectory from songwriter and artist, capable of such pieces of art as his whole Darkness At The Edge of Town album, which shills for no causes whatsoever, to his becoming a global superstar during his Born In The USA era, the endless remixes of songs give a sense of some loss in authenticity, to his becoming a mouthpiece for various causes as a kind of surrogate for a middle America he no longer represented, to finally cancelling shows in North Carolina as part of a massive skirmish between competing propagandas. I do not discuss the issues (nor will I print comments on these issues since they are not the subject of this essay). I am pointing at the process which turns a singer, artist or any figure from honest communicator into a cog in the propaganda of the moment. It doesn’t matter which issue. (And have no fear I plan on taking a scythe to trim the heads of my fellow Christian propagandists not too far down the road here.)

denirobrucebarack
No comment. The notion of wearing colored ribbons and other signifiers of causes and beliefs is exactly the kind of encirclement that Propaganda specializes in. It doesn’t matter the cause.

The point is this: the rich, the talented, the beautiful (or at least those who have gone under the knife to appear that way) and the famous are mass figures enlisted to provide a propaganda push to every cause. They are the authorities used to convince us to submit. So we line up our celebrities, the Christian football player, Madonna against Trump, this television star, that YouTuber, we want to know that what we believe is better than what they believe. Recently some wag released a series of photos of women on the Right and the Left. By the purely visual standards of beauty alone the Left is deep trouble, at least by the lights of this compiler. Of course they left off practically every film or music star imaginable which would have evened the playing field considerably. But certainly in recent times the Right has stolen some of the Left’s caché in the requisite categories needed to show strength in this appearance obsessed society.

Right Wing vs Left Wing Women
If image has anything to do with it the Right Wing is winning at the moment.

Meanwhile as this propaganda battle continues the rest of us are alone in the mass looking to emulate someone to help give words to our frustration. And it is in this state that we are slugged, worked over, beat up, harangued, pressured, and especially these days, shamed into believing the only thing we should believe in. And here is where it gets nightmarish. It is no longer coming from the top down. It is no longer Orwell’s Big Brother that is the primary source of the propaganda. Nor is it our larger than life media siblings who invade our thoughts most deeply and effectively. Rather it is our ‘friends’ and ‘neighbors’ who now keep us in line through a little system we call ‘social media’.

We’ll look into this soon, but first let’s examine another salient feature of Propaganda: Us versus Them.

Byrne Power

Haines, Alaska

6/1/2017

 

21st Century Propaganda #4: Us Versus Them


21st Century Propaganda #2: A Working Definition Of Propaganda

Propaganda must be total. – Jacques Ellul

Headwork

Propaganda does not aim to elevate man, but to make him serve.

And so after throwing the word propaganda out there we still need a some way of defining it so that the word doesn’t descend into the cruder sense of ‘their lies, our truths’.

As I mentioned earlier I have based much of my thinking on French sociologist Jacques Ellul and particularly his 1961 book Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes.

Propaganda Book

Let’s pull out a few quotes to give you a taste of his thinking here.

Propaganda tries to surround man by all possible routes in the realm of feelings as well as ideas, by playing on his will or on his needs, through his conscious and his unconscious, assailing him in both his private and his public life. It furnishes him with a complete system for explaining the world, and provides immediate incentives to action. We are here in the presence of an organized myth that tries to take hold of the entire person. Through the myth it creates, propaganda imposes a complete range of intuitive knowledge, susceptible of only one interpretation, unique and one-sided, and precluding any divergence. This myth becomes so powerful that it invades every arena of consciousness, leaving no faculty or motivation intact. It stimulates in the individual a feeling of exclusiveness, and produces a biased attitude.

AND

Propaganda must be total. The propagandist must utilize all of the technical means at his disposal — the press, radio, TV, movies, posters, meetings, door-to-door canvassing. Modern propaganda must utilize all of these media. There is no propaganda as long as one makes use, in sporadic fashion and at random, of a newspaper article here, a poster or a radio program there, organizes a few meetings and lectures, writes a few slogans on walls: that is not propaganda.

AND

The aim of modern propaganda is no longer to modify ideas, but to provoke action.

AND

Propaganda does not aim to elevate man, but to make him serve.

That’s enough for now.

Fashion Church

Then again there is a certain kind of postmodern propaganda which is knowing and ironic.  

So Propaganda is an encircling totality. It is the place we live where we gather all our information, our entertainment, our education. We must surround ourselves within it. We speak in propaganda as we share our factoids. We cut ourselves off from those who have a different worldview. Or when we do venture into enemy territory, we look at their propaganda, always an exaggeration of beliefs and meanings, something easily mocked and scorned. And that’s another aspect Ellul points out. There must always be an US versus THEM. And they are always wrong, suspect, stupid, dangerous, or evil. The 2016 election cycle in America became a farcical, unreal, and disturbing battle of Propagandas.

Choose Your God

Paris 2016, a clever museum exhibition becomes postmodern propaganda.

And Propaganda must always be unbending and all encompassing. You can’t give ground to those ideas, otherwise you are starting to become them. So it’s not enough to make up your own mind about abortion, gay marriage, gun rights, transphobia, animal cruelty, feminism, global warming, racism, capital punishment, globalism, immigration and the rest. Once your side adopts a posture you must keep in line with the whole program. Heaven forbid a leftish person would opt out of the proper stance on reproductive rights, while holding the rest of checklist in order. Or that a right wing soul would be favor of gun control while holding most of the other appropriate positions. It’s pretty much all or nothing… Or at least that’s how we are made to feel. If you question one tenet you are in danger of questioning it all.

You can see what happens if you look at a subject that is not yet polarized but could conceivably become so one day. Let’s think about pets for a moment. Let’s say you’re talking with someone and they happen to mention that they think that having and feeding pets is a waste of resources and the time and effort would be better put into caring for humans who have so many problems that to distract from that might not be such a good idea. Then that person responds by telling you that you aren’t seeing the whole picture. That dogs and cats, though a cost to raise and a responsibility that perhaps some people don’t have time for, bring much joy into the owners’ lives. And that if you care about human beings then part of the health of being a human in the world is to interact, and closely, with its animal life. Now since that’s just two people discussing a subject that hasn’t yet been given the full propaganda treatment the conversation might go in any number of directions. Although if you listen closely you can already hear subjects creeping into the mix that are from very heavily propagandized terrain.

Cats Against Humanity

Feral cats in Tbilisi Georgia. Certainly an ‘Anti-Pet’ image.

Now suddenly there is a movement that evolves out of the animal rights and ecological systems that begins to seriously question whether a human, just another species of animal after all, has the right to own another. This isn’t far fetched and is already circling our society as I write waiting to land. And so then what happens is we get two sides. Owning pets would obviously then become an individual rights issue with deep traditional roots. And now you have two sides. But how shall we label them.

‘Anti-pet’ obviously isn’t going very far, though that will be what the opposition calls them. So what about ,’pro=human’ or ‘pro-world’, since this will be considered an ecological issue? And maybe ‘pro-care’ or ‘pets rights’ for the other side. Don’t get too hung up on what to use right now. The new brand names just have to be non-negative. And that’s another serious propaganda point, in this age everything has to cloaked in positive language. Then there will be documentaries made. The pro-human folks will show the enormous waste of food resources, the brutality of certain owners, dog fights, cats in the cemeteries of Paris, old folks living on pet food, etc. The pro-care folks will have to counter that our pets love us, they will show psychological studies showing how pets affect humans for the better (no dog attack or cat parasite news whatsoever), interviews will be made with people who say that their only companion is an unselfish pet. You get the idea. There will be websites dedicated to these positions, TV stations, newspapers will array them along side of other ‘obvious’ issues of the day. And then when our two friends meet again to discuss the subject they won’t be able to believe that anyone could be so cruel, regressive, idiotic or whatnot to believe the lies that they have been spoon-fed by their respective media.

IMG_2785

Looking for real discussion at L’Abri in Switzerland.

The difference between a discussion among friends who disagree on some topic and a propagandized discussion perhaps involving the same two people is that in the first there are personal reflections and thoughts. The ideas are unique and quirky. And in the second, the responses completely conditioned by ones of each propaganda web, which will want to keep out anything from another propaganda system. So I can very well imagine two friends discussing the origins of life on earth. One says there must be a creator the other doubts that and they present ideas to each other. What about this? Well what about that? Well you make an interesting point that I’ll have to reconsider. I think I understand why you feel the way you do but I still disagree. Now the same topic among the propagandized. God made the world in seven days and that’s all there is to it. No I’m sorry that’s pure unscientific bullshit. Then how do you explain the fact that there is meaning in the world? There isn’t, everyone just makes their own meaning. And so it goes ad nauseum. They can’t communicate because everything they say provokes a knee-jerk reaction in the other.

PROMO

Mannequins in Paris. Propaganda surrounds us at every turn.

Ellul also points out that listening two different propagandas doesn’t help either. For in getting both sides of an issue what you really get is slugged from both sides and feeling woozy and beaten up in the middle.

Now how did this happen? And I have seen this my whole life. People I have known who once had their own opinions come to ape the media they ingest. I’m talking about people who really should know better. How does it happen? What makes us succumb? And I include myself. For I have certainly caught myself in those very situations as I look at my life.

Jacques Ellul points out one key ingredient. We find ourselves alone in the mass. And that is what mass media, mass communication does to us.

But let’s really dissect what happens. Next week!

Byrne Power
Haines, Alaska
5/29/2017

 

Part Three: Alone in Mass


21st Century Propaganda #1: Pickled In It

 

21st Century Ghost Show

The orchestration of press, radio and television to create a continuous, lasting and total environment renders the influence of propaganda virtually unnoticed precisely because it creates a constant environment.” Propaganda – Jacques Ellul

Things are getting weird out there. Although maybe by ‘out there’ I mean ‘in here’, in that moment when a reader slides eyes across these digital screens and then following that comes a reaction. And yet what happens in this cyber world (Does anyone use the word ‘cyber’ anymore? Or ‘virtual’? Has it all started to seem like actuality now?) has serious ramifications across the real globe. (But is it a globe anymore? Maybe the flatness of our screens has finally created what we mistakenly believed about the ancient people, that they, the ignoramuses!, actually believed the world was flat. But for us it is! This map of contextual geographies is now blindly being accepted for reality. But whose?) So yes, things are getting weird in here, and in turn out there. And people seem to be walking around in a concussed daze. And everyone has their pet theories as to whom is the culprit, which group, what viewpoint, which Weltanschauung, which bunch of absolute evil idiots is responsible for the state of this exhausted mind-numbing gut-wrenching time we live in.

Now if you’ve been following my words at all for the last few years you’ll realize that I rarely touch directly upon what be could construed as political topics. This isn’t an accident. I certainly have opinions on many issues. Some may even be correct on some level. But it is not my wish to add to the chaos of noise emanating from the glow of these screens. I also believe that most what passes for political opinion in these days is not politics in any good sense of the word. If I don’t think all of the hot topic issues of the day aren’t by and large politics then what do I think all of this palaver is? That, my friends, is the what I am intending to write about here, to try to elucidate. If possible, and mostly it is not. What passes for political opinions these days is predominantly Propaganda. And I am not using that phrase in its standard usage, which comes across as “The lies they tell, versus the truths we know.” I have other fish to fry. In fact were going to cook up the whole lot. Let’s make a meal out of them. Not only the lies they tell but also the ‘truths’ we believe, whomever ‘we’ and ‘they’ are. So I warn you if it seems like I’m coming after your beliefs it’s because I am.

American Way of Life

Here’s a photo with double propaganda value. First and most obviously the American Way billboards were the democratic equivalent to the totalitarian propagandas across the seas. But, more seductively, this photo can now make the propaganda of those questioning traditional American values of the past and feeling a sense of superiority over them. Two for one.

Now before I get started with this subject, and so that you don’t suspect that what I’m really trying to do is some clever form inverted propaganda to subvert your ideas while pumping up mine, let me put my own cards on the table so that you know where I stand and you can see when I’m going after my own folk.

First of all I am a Christian. What kind? Neither fundamentalist nor liberal. Hopefully a Christian in line with the historical faith and brain intact. Next… politically? Extremely independent. I can safely say no party represents my thinking. I wouldn’t mind if there were. But I’m not going to put a checklist here of hot topics and where I fit in. But trust me I’m all over the map. Yet even that is a complete oversimplification. If I ever write directly about some pet subject you’ll know. And who knows maybe I’ll spill a few mung beans here and see if they sprout. I generally shy away from any party politics and the demonization of ‘them’. Which of course is the point of this whole series on propaganda.

I’ve lived in Hawaii as a child, in California in the San Francisco Bay Area as a teen, in New York City during my 20s and 30s and finally in Alaska for my 40s and 50s. Plus I’ve spent quality time in Europe from England and France through Switzerland, Poland and all the way to Georgia. And so my view point is shaped by all of these environments. Plus I’ve been researching popular music and film culture since the 70s. I’ve hung out with Jesus people, hippies, punks, vets, pomo-hipsters, conservative Christians, Asians, Europeans, etc. etc. Needless to say I do not have simplistic opinions. I’m not saying that to brag. I’m saying it so that you, the reader, know that I am not going to have an obvious set of dogmas to respond with if you wish to ask questions.

iraq_oil_fields

Often when people think propaganda they are imagining war propaganda, a very specific aspect, instead of the daily dose of Propaganda they need to function everyday.

So let’s get down to business here.

The first thing we have to get is a working definition of Propaganda. As I mentioned above, the standard way people seem to think about propaganda is as the ‘lies they tell versus the truths we know’. I have a CD of the influential Noam Chomsky talking seriously about propaganda, corporate propaganda, big biz manipulation. Somewhat accurate as far as he goes. But he doesn’t go nearly far enough. For instance he doesn’t for one second acknowledge the fact that he too is in danger of making propaganda every bit as encircling as that made by states and corporations. And by NOT making that clear he actually becomes without a doubt a very serious propagandist. In other words there is not one moment when he scrutinizes his own side for Propaganda. Thus he isn’t really exposing propaganda he is talking about ‘us and them’, which is the essence of Propaganda. But not the definition of Propaganda. (To be clear I am capitalizing the word propaganda when I refer to the thing not when I refer to the practice.)

soviet12

A beautiful Soviet soldier. You can be sure her image was used as Communist propaganda. The beautiful are always used to convince us, as are the talented and the intelligent.

Before I attempt that working definition of Propaganda let me give you a few sources for my own thinking. Source ‘A’ Number One is the French thinker Jacques Ellul. Around 1982 I first read his 1965 book Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes (first published in French in 1961 as Propagandes). And frankly even though I was around 27 then I wondered why I hadn’t read his book much earlier. Few experiences in my life have been so illuminating. It was as though someone had simply unblindfolded  me. I had been wondering why so much in our society had been moving the way it did and here was a solid chunk of the answer. We all in our advanced technological society had been pickled in Propaganda for years. So much so that we could hardly distinguish the contours of our prison distracted as we had become. How good is his book? Well let’s put it this way, read from one perspective the book could be seen a propaganda manual. One could easily take the principles he uncovers and become a successful propagandist. But, of course, that is not his aim. His aim is to expose the beast as nakedly as possible. It is not an easy read. But once you wrestle with it you can no longer plead ignorance. The panoply of techniques for adjusting us to our milieu are staggering. And there is no way I can do justice to his work, which remains as valuable today as when it was written, though it requires some historical knowledge to really make it come alive. That was also just as true the day it was published. But I will dip into his ideas freely as I write.

French Historian Jacques Ellul Talking

Jacques Ellul Author of The Technological Society and The Political Illusion.

Other folks who have in one way or another contributed to my thinking on the subject include: C.S. Lewis’s Abolition of Man and a few other scattered essays. Daniel Boorstin’s The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America. The works of French thinker Paul Virilio. Marshall McLuhan’s writings on the nature of media. Anthony Rhodes’ Propaganda, The Art of Persuasion: World War II. Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle. And various works by many other writers, Susan Sontag’s On Photography was helpful, likewise Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida, Kalle Lasn’s Culture Jam, though here as with the whole Adbusters mentality, like Chomsky, we enter upon Propaganda disguised as anti-propaganda. And I have also of course studied the real Propaganda itself. Joseph Goebbels and the  Nazis, Communist propagandas from various eras and countries. (I highly recommend the documentary East Side Story about Communist musicals.) And of course there is American, Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Advertising, Pop Music, Feminist, NRA, LGBTQ, Alt-Right, etc ad nauseum. Everyone makes propaganda these days. The real issue is who doesn’t?

Nazi Girls

When we hear the word ‘propaganda’ we tend to think Nazis and Communists first. And since we aren’t them we put away any thoughts that might implicate us in our own propaganda.

But that still doesn’t answer the question: What is this thing? Propaganda. And then there is another question lurking in what I’ve already said. If everyone is already making it maybe it’s not so bad. Why even bother?

A quick answer to the second question first, which we will return to in more depth later. I do not believe I am alone in feeling the viciousness of the divisions of the present age. More than one soul has pointed out the fact that we all seem to be shouting, nay screaming, at each other in this time of polarization. Whether in scorn or fear people are walking around separated and isolated from those holding divergent opinions. (Or is it that Propaganda has actually isolated all of us from each other?) And it is NOT going to get better in the continuing course of events. Nor through anything that might call itself a Revolution. There are a few, very few, good signs, and they do not at present constitute any remotely optimistic forecast for the future.

Why?

Because as long as we remain pickled in our Propaganda marinade we shall continue our downward slide.

But I haven’t defined this Propaganda thing yet? What am I really talking about?

Well I’ve run out of space… You’ll have to visit again for our next essay, A Working Definition of Propaganda.

Swim Against the Stream

Byrne Power
Haines, Alaska
4/10/2017