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The Insidious Power of Propaganda
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To study the effects of political propaganda in what used to be called the ‘free world’ there could hardly be a better time than now. We are living through an instance of insidious propaganda that has clean contours. It fills a common need. In a period of large-scale slaughter and other man-made disaster the morally conscious person can do with some clear categories of good and bad, desirable and despicable. Political certainty, in other words. You can even sell wars using ‘moral clarity’ as a sales pitch, as happened with Iraq and Afghanistan.

Good-evil classification is easy enough when we have imprisoned journalists decapitated by jihadis. Those who “will do something about that” are automatically placed in the ‘good guys’ category. But there is a problem of murkiness in this sample. Syria’s Assad has been listed for years at the top of the bad guy list, and yet he appears to be changing into something of an ally of those who are intent now on setting things straight. On top of which, the fact that the radical Islamists out of which ISIS emerged were funded and encouraged by the United States and its Arab allies is not a deep secret, and the fact that none of this mayhem would now exist were it not for the sorcerer’s apprentice effect of the decapitation of the Iraqi state in 2003 has been pretty much agreed on.

The Ukraine sample is more clear-cut. Here we have fighters for democracy and other Western values in Kiev vs a character who is throwing a spanner in the works, who does not respect the sovereignty of neighbors, and whose intransigence does not lessen, no matter what sanctions you throw at him.

The story of the downed plane with 298 dead people is no longer news, and the investigation as to who shot it down? Don’t hold your breath. Last week Dutch viewers of a TV news program were informed about something that had been doing the rounds on internet samizdat: the countries participating in the MH17 investigation have signed a nondisclosure agreement. Any of the participants (which include Kiev) has the right to veto publication of the results without explanation. The truth about the cause of the horrifying fate of the 298 appears to have been already settled by propaganda. That means that although there has been no shred of evidence that the official story of the ‘rebels’ shooting down the plane with Russian involvement, it remains a justification for sanctions against Russia.

After the crisis slogged along for weeks with further bloodshed and bombing devastation, and anxious NATO grumbling about whether Putin’s white trucks with humanitarian relief supplies could possibly amount to a fifth column, interest in the Ukraine crisis has reached another peak in the mainstream media with an alleged Russian invasion to aid the ‘rebels’. On September 1st the NY-Times carried an op-ed article announcing that “Russia and Ukraine are now at war.” Another propaganda product? It certainly looks like it. Foreign volunteers, even French ones, appear to have joined the ‘rebels’ and most of them are likely to be Russian – don’t forget that the fighters of Donetsk and Lugansk have neighbors and relations just across the border. But as the new Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Donetsk National Republic Alexander Zakharchenko answered a foreign reporter at his press conference: if there were Russian military units fighting beside his forces they could already have moved on Kiev. From sparse information one gets the impression that his forces are doing rather well on their own without the Russians. They are also helped along by deserting Kiev troops who lack enthusiasm for killing their Eastern brethren.

Dispassionate editors have hardly any direct means to find out what may be happening on the ground in Donetsk and Lugansk, because they cannot send experienced reporters to where the fighting takes place. The astronomical insurance costs involved cannot be met by their budgets. So we have little more to go on than what we can glean from some internet sites with good track records.

The propaganda line from the State Department and the White House on the MH17 disaster became less emphatic after US intelligence analysts – leaking opinion to reporters – refused to play ball, but it is back in force on the Russian invasion theme, while the good-evil scheme is still maintained and nurtured by sundry American publications. These include some that have a reputation to uphold, like Foreign Policy, or that once were considered relatively liberal-minded beacons, like The New Republic, whose demise as a relatively reliable source of political knowledge we ought to mourn.

It has only been in the last few days that an exceptional article in Foreign Affairs, by the exceptional scholar of geopolitics, John Mearsheimer, is beginning to register. Mearsheimer lays most of the responsibility for the Ukraine crisis where it belongs: Washington and its European allies. “U.S. and European leaders blundered in attempting to turn Ukraine into a Western stronghold on Russia’s border. Now that the consequences have been laid bare, it would be an even greater mistake to continue this misbegotten policy.” It will take time before this analysis reaches and convinces some serious European editors. Another sane voice is Stephen Cohen’s, who ought to be the first author anyone hoping to understand Putin’s Russia should read. But ‘patriotic heretics’, as he calls himself, are now very badly treated in print, with he himself being raked over the coals by the New Republic.

The mark of successful propaganda is the manner in which it creeps up on the unsuspecting reader or TV audience. It does that by means of throwaway remarks, expressing relatively fleeting between-the-lines thinking in reviews of books or films, or articles on practically anything. It is all around us, but take one example from the Harvard Business Review, in which its executive editor, Justin Fox, asks: “Why would Russian President Vladimir Putin push his country into a standoff with the West that is almost certain to hurt its economy?” My question to this author – one with sometimes quite apt economic analysis to his name – “how do you know that Putin is doing the pushing?” Fox quotes Daniel Drezner, and says it may be true that Putin “doesn’t care about the same things the West cares about” and is “perfectly happy to sacrifice economic growth for reputation and nationalist glory.” This kind of drivel is everywhere; it says that when dealing with Putin we are dealing with revanchism, with ambition to re-create the Soviet Union without communism, with macho fantasies, and a politician waylaid by totalitarian ambitions.

What makes propaganda effective is the manner in which, through its between-the-lines existence, it inserts itself into the brain as tacit knowledge. Our tacit understanding of things is by definition not focused, it helps us understand other things. The assumptions it entails are settled, no longer subject to discussion. Tacit knowledge is out of reach for new evidence or improved logical analysis. Bringing its assumptions back into focused consciousness is a tiresome process generally avoided with a sigh of “let’s move on”. Tacit knowledge is highly personal knowledge. It is obviously shared, since it has been derived from what is out there in the way of certainties adopted by society, but it has been turned into our very own knowledge, and therefore into something we are inclined to defend, if necessary with tooth and nail. Less curious minds feel they have a ‘right’ to its truth.

The propaganda that originates in Washington, and continues to be faithfully followed by institutions like the BBC and the vast majority of the European mainstream media, has made no room for the question whether the inhabitants of Donetsk and Lugansk have perhaps a perfectly good reason to be fighting a Russophobe regime with an anti-Russian language strategy that replaced the one they had voted for, a good enough reason to risk the bombings of their public buildings, hospitals and dwellings.

The propaganda line is one of simple Russian aggression. Putin has been fomenting the unrest in the Russian-speaking part of the Ukraine. Nowhere in the mainstream media have I seen reporting and images of the devastation wrought by Kiev troops, which eyewitnesses have compared to what the world was shown of Gaza. The implied opinions of CNN or BBC are taken at face value, the ‘social media’ quoted by a spokesperson for the State Department are taken at face value. All information that does not accord with this successful propaganda must be neutralized which can be done, for example, by labeling Russia Today as Moscow’s propaganda organ.

This dominant propaganda thrives because of Atlanticism, a European faith that holds that the world will not run properly if the United States is not accepted as its primary political conductor, and Europe should not get in America’s way. There is unsophisticated Atlanticism noticeable in the Netherlands, with voices on the radio expressing anguish about the Russian enemy at the gates, and there is sophisticated Atlanticism among defenders of NATO who can come up with a multitude of historical reasons for why it should continue to exist. The first is too silly for words, and the second can easily be rebutted. But one does not deal that easily with the intellectually most seductive kind of Atlanticism that comes with an appeal to reasonableness.

When an earlier wave of propaganda hit Europe 11 years ago, before the invasion of Iraq, sober scholars and commentators, appealing to reasonableness appeared from behind their desks in an effort to repair what was at that time a European crisis of confidence in the political wisdom of an American government. It was then that the principle of “without America it will not work” became enshrined. This Atlanticist tenet is quite understandable among a political elite that after more than half a century of relative safe comfort inside an alliance suddenly must begin contemplating the earlier taken-for-granted security of their own countries. But there was more to it than that. The invocation of a higher understanding of the Atlantic Alliance and the plea for renewed understandings to reinvigorate it, amounted to a poignant cry of decent friends who could not face the reality of their loss.

The hurt required ointment, and that was delivered in large dollops. Venerable European public intellectuals and highly placed officials sent joint open letters to George W. Bush, with urgent pleas to repair relations and formulas of how this might be achieved. On lower levels, editorial writers entered the action as proponents of reasonableness. Amid expressions of disgust with America’s new foreign policy, many wrote and spoke about the need to heal rifts, build bridges, renew mutual understanding, and so on. In the summer of 2003, the unambiguous opponents of a hasty invasion of Iraq appeared to be softening the sharp edges of their earlier positions. My favorite example, the Oxford historian and prolific commentator Timothy Garten Ash, widely viewed as the voice of reason, churned out articles and books overflowing with transatlantic balm. New possibilities were discovered, new leafs and pages were turned. It had “to come from both sides”, so ran the general tenor of these pleas and instructive editorials. Europe had to change as well! But how, in this context, remained unclear. There is no doubt that Europe should have changed. But in the context of American militarism that discussion ought to have revolved around the function of NATO, and its becoming a European liability, not around meeting the United States half-way. That did not happen and, as has been shown this past month, energies for European opposition to the propaganda in 2003 appear now to have dissipated almost completely.

Garten Ash is back at it again, writing in the Guardian of 1 August 2014, with the contention that “most western Europeans slept through Putin’s anschluss of Crimea”. ‘Anschluss’? Are we sinking to Hitler metaphors? He does not have to try very hard this time, not rising above the cliches of a newspaper editorial espousing the necessity of sanctions; importantly, he does not apologize this time for any possible American role in the crisis. The propaganda of this year is given a free reign, through an Atlanticist faith that was restored to greater strength by the fount of illusions that is the Obama presidency. It is tacit knowledge, requiring no special defense because it is what all reasonable people know to be reasonable.

Atlanticism is an affliction that blinds Europe. It does this so effectively that in every salon where the hot topics of today are discussed the ever present elephant is consistently left out of consideration. What I read in mainstream news and commentary about Ukraine is about Kiev and the ‘separatists’ and especially about Putin’s motives. The reason for this half-picture is clear, I think: Atlanticism demands the overlooking of the American factor in world events, except if that factor can be construed as positive. If that is not possible you avoid it. Another reason is simple ignorance. Not enough concerned and educated Dutch people appear to have traced the rise and influence of America’s neocons, or have an inkling that Samantha Power believes that Putin must be eliminated. They have no idea how the various institutions of American government relate to each other, and how much they lead lives of their own, without effective supervision of any central entity that is capable of developing a feasible foreign policy that makes sense for the United States itself.

Propaganda reduces everything to comic book simplicity. This has no room for subtleties, such as what will await the people under the government in Kiev as demands of the IMF are followed up. Think of Greece. It has no room for even the not-so-subtle frequently expressed desire by Putin that there ought to be diplomacy with an eye to achieving a kind of federal arrangement whereby East and West Ukraine remain within the same country, but have a significant amount of self government (something that may no longer be acceptable to the Easterners as Kiev goes on bombing them). Comic book imagery does not allow for the bad guys having good and reasonable ideas. And so the primary wish of Putin, the fundamental reason for his involvement in this crisis at all, that the Ukraine will not become part of NATO, cannot be part of the pictures. The rather obvious and only acceptable condition, and one predictably insisted on by any Russian president who wants to stay in power, is a nonaligned neutral Ukraine.

The instigators of the Ukraine crisis work from desks in Washington. They have designed a shift in American attitudes toward Russia with a decision to turn it into (their language) “a pariah state”. Leading up to the February coup they helped anti-Russian, and rightwing forces hijack a protest movement demanding more democracy. The notion that the Kiev controlled population have been given more democracy is of course ludicrous.

There are serious writers on Russia who have become morally indignant and angry with developments in Russian life in recent years under Putin. This is a different subject from the Ukraine crisis, but their influence helps inform lots of propaganda. Ben Judah, who wrote the abovementioned NY Times oped is a good example. I think I understand their indignation, and I sympathize with them to some extent. I’m familiar with this phenomenon as I’ve seen it often enough among journalists writing about China or even Japan. In the case of China and Russia their indignation is prompted by an accumulation of things that in their eyes have gone entirely wrong because of measures by the authorities that appear to be regressive and diverging from what they were supposed to be doing in consonance with liberal ideas. This indignation can overwhelm everything else. It becomes a mist through which these authors cannot discern how powerholders try to cope with dire situations. In the case of Russia there appears to have been little attention recently to the fact that when Putin inherited a Russia to rule, he inherited a state that was no longer functioning as one, and that demanded first of all a reconcentration of power at the center. Russia was economically ruined under Yeltsin, helped by numerous Western predatory interests and misguided market fundamentalists from Harvard. After abolishing communism, they were seduced to try an instantaneous switch to American style capitalism, while there were no institutions whatsoever to underpin such a thing. They privatized the huge state-owned industries without having a private sector; something you cannot quickly create out of nothing, as is vividly shown by Japanese history. So what they got was kleptocratic capitalism, with stolen state assets, which gave birth to the notorious oligarchs. It as good as destroyed the relatively stable Russian middle class, and made Russian life expectancy plummet.

Of course Putin wants to curtail foreign NGOs. They can do lots of damage by destabilizing his government. Foreign-funded think tanks do not exist for thinking, but for peddling policies in line with the beliefs of the funders that they, not wanting to learn from recent experience, dogmatically assume are good for anyone at any time. It is a subject that at best very tangentially belongs to the current Ukraine story, but it has prepared the intellectual soil for the prevailing propaganda.

Does what I have said make me a Putin fan? I do not know him, and know not enough about him. When I try to remedy this with recent literature, I cannot avoid the impression that I have to wade through a great deal of vilification, and in the mainstream media I see no serious attempt to figure out what Putin may be trying to achieve, except for the nonsense about re-establishing a Russian empire. There has been no evidence at all of imperialist ambitions or the fact that he had his sights set on the Crimea before the coup, and before the NATO ambitions of the Russophobes who came out on top, endangered the Russian naval base there.

Does what I have said make me anti-American? Being accorded that label is almost inevitable, I suppose. I think that the United States is living through a seemingly endless tragedy. And I am deeply sympathetic to those concerned Americans, among them many of my friends, who must wrestle with this.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Media, Russia, Ukraine 
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  1. Don Nash says: • Website

    American foreign policy is “comic book simplicity.” With a side of murderous duplicity.

    • Replies: @Neutral
  2. It’s amazing how “not in the mainstream media” works.

  3. Kiza says:

    The point: “the Eastern Ukrainians are winning therefore the Russian Army must have invaded” is almost brilliant in its simplicity. How could the enemy be winning against our legions of mercenaries unless they are using some nefarious method?

    Unfortunately for the US, just like the US propaganda, the Russian method of winning is also brilliantly simple: it is called Moral and Motivation. Whilst the US, British, Canadian, and Australian military advisers are advising the Ukrainian “Army” from their air-conditioned Kiev Hotel rooms, whilst sampling the bustiest and bummiest prostitutes in Europe, the Russian advisers are sweating and dying on the front lines fighting with rebels side-by-side. Notwithstanding that the rebels are fighting for their own homes and families, which the Kiev Junta and its Western mercenaries are killing indiscriminately with their daily bombardment.

    The US will send bombers and cruise missiles on a country for a single American (especially Jewish) life, but Russia has been patient whilst the Western legions have massacred close to 2,000 civilians of Russian ethnicity in Eastern Ukraine. How do Western elites turn this completely around and convince domestic succers and wage-slaves that Russia is an aggressor when helping defend its own ethnics is beyond me. Which dictatorship would not dream of a population such as this?

  4. Herr Wolferen,

    Thank you for being nearly a lone flicker of light in the darkness on the issue of Ukraine. While I usually subscribe to Occam’s razor, but when it comes to the dual issues of Ukraine and MH17, that would seem to be the wrong approach. As an American living abroad in Germany, I’m shocked by the complete lack of objectivity or journalism. These stores of a Russian invasion being bandied about with literally zero evidence to support them are one of the most cynical and blatantly obvious cons I have ever seen tried to be passed off on a people.

    It is yet another example of Obama “leading from behind”, only this time, the people taking Obama along for the ride are the entrenched left wing bureaucracy in the U.S. State Department and other executive agencies. They, of course, are being driven by the left wing ideology which views Putin and Russia writ large as an easy target for their aggressively gay/trans/social Marxism promoting agenda. Putin’s Russia has become, amazingly, probably one of the last few hopes for Western conservative values and the progressives absolutely despise him for now bowing to their demands like the rest of the West. The Russian law banning homosexual propaganda being promoted to children has been described as a “gay holocaust”. As Jim Goad has pointed out, these people can’t target real abuses in the Muslim world or Africa, because that would either be “Islamophobic” or “Racist”, so Russia makes a nice white target.

    Anyway, I stand in awe of the propaganda machine that America and the Europe have become. It is said that you often become what you hate, and the only neo-soviet entity is the USA. If still in existence, the STASI would have wet dreams about the capabilities of the NSA, and we’ve entered a new era of turning in your neighbors for thought crimes or donating to the wrong causes. Only it’s not the government (yet) that is cashing these chips in, its private companies and individuals firing people for free expression of thought. But yeah, Putin is the problem. :/

    • Replies: @VladM
  5. I myself, recently watching comic book-inspired films in which enemies are simply totally evil entities, made me think that this childish and foolish misunderstanding, with the enormous popularity of these movies, has affected even those U.S. opinion-makers who ought to know better, driving stupid good-vs.-evil analogies that don’t correspond to the real world, except to cause real-world dire consequences.

    But the underlying paradigm and political theory, which drives the Samantha Powers and their chiefs to want to assassinate Putin and order “regime change” in Russia (as well as elsewhere more successfully if with consequences of blowback), is that the United States now has, by virtue of 2001, the necessity and consequently the right to order the world unilaterally, by force, for its own protection. This is the underlying principle Karel makes, echoing the assumption almost universal in American politicians that America is the “essential nation,” the “exception” to which the rules that must govern other nations cannot apply. To protect and guarantee American security (but one might well ask, for whom in America, exactly?) is an end that can justify virtually any means used in the attempt to do so. The imperative is that there can never be allowed any power anywhere in the world that could ever successfully defy American power. Kerry’s famous statement then on departing the Kiev, a place most Americans hardly knew existed, that there is no place on earth so remote that what happens there is not essential to America’s interests. Thus, the crux becomes, everywhere, “by any means.” This necessarily involves the complete subsuming of the value of any morality which might question those means – subversion, bribery, coups and ultimately war against resistance. Those who then believe in Europe, “without America it can’t work” consequently must, with such an overload of cognitive dissonance involved in the face of American policy that clearly brings neither security nor democracy, certainly not within Europe and arguably not for America either, are forced into the sleepwalking fabulism of ignoring that rogue elephant in their living room while nodding at the at the notion that its freedom to crush innocents, collateral damage to its misguided policy (at least for its victims), is the same as freedom generally.

    As observed, though, propaganda is essential to manufacturing the assent required for at least a perceived public opinion. Thus both self deception and deceit of the public. That this is become as strident as it has, is an indicator that we are in that period of a precursor to war, this time by its level, a very big war.

    • Replies: @VladM
  6. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    The Jeffrey Sachs’ free market shock therapy that was imposed on the Russian People is not an example of misguided noble intentions:it was over-the-top violent economic warfare against the Russian People on behalf of evil Oligarchs that caused a genocidal collapse of the Russian Population.

    Bill Clinton is a War Criminal and so is Barack Obama.

  7. Jim says:

    The formation of public opinion is a truly amazing thing. Propaganda techniques have been so refined that it is very easy for the media to shape public opinion in almost any way. I remember my astonishment many years ago in the lead up to the Iraqi War that polls consistently showed that 70% of the American people believed that the hijackers were Iraqi although none of them were which was a fact readily available since their identities were on the internet.

    It was remarkable to see how the US government and media worked to create this belief. I was utterly amazed by the total cynicism of the supposedly independent US media which could easily have informed the public of the truth but made not the slightest effort to do so. This revealed to me that the US media is not to be trusted at all.

  8. the elite comprise a predatory/parasitic sub-species that uses propaganda to extract money from homo sapiens.

    Homo sapiens had a survival strategy of using its big brain to conceive and implement complex plans, such as how to hunt/trap prey animals, etc. 200K years ago (or whatever) small tribes of homo sapiens would come up with these complex plans to feed themselves, protect themselves, raid other tribes, whatever. These complex plans were ideas formulated by the leaders, usually, and then the ideas were transmitted to the rest of the tribe (we are going to drive the antelope into this brush corral and then shut the gate, whatever, etc). This process required homo sapiens to hear, internalize these ideas and then re-transmit them to the other members of the tribe whenever necessary (shut the gate now, dammit! , etc).

    Thus, homo sapiens evolved to become a species resembling an ant-like species of primates. Bees and ants use a somewhat similar strategy. They communicate ideas to each other. However, the ideas transmitted by humans were more complex and flexible, which they could do by virtue of the big brain. And tribes adopted a common set of ideology in order to bond.

    That all worked great as long as the tribal unit was small and homogeneous.

    However, modern human society is no longer small and homogeneous. These days, the elite (corporations, CEOs, plutocrats, politicians, etc) have effectively become a sort of separate species, one that exploits mankind’s innate ability to ingest, internalize and re-transmit ideas.

    The elite use propaganda that exploits this innate ability. That propaganda/ideology is evolved to allow the elite to control the populace, to control government, to exploit homo sapiens.

    The elite have molded and evolved the culture so that it is propaganda that has effectively domesticated the western nations. The more educated, the more domesticated. Education is propaganda.

  9. Neutral says:
    @Don Nash

    American foreign policy is “comic book simplicity.”

    Even simpler: America is a comic book.

  10. quercus says:

    Someone I know once quipped that “Americans are the most propagandized people on the planet”. Undoubtedly, many of those same Americans would react with fury and shock to be thought of that way, after all, this is the nation which has enshrined in its laws “freedom of the press”. Those few lines of the first amendment, I believe, have played an important part in the ease with which citizens of this country accept propaganda, and I must add that from my observations the more educated the person, the more completely he or she accepts the propaganda. Perhaps as a college dropout, I am naive to believe that one of the important aspects of a truly fine education is the ability to be critical of what you read and hear. Isn’t that the basis in fact for discovery and innovation — the ability to denounce perceived wisdom or knowledge ? Again, from my observations of those with graduate degrees, our universities seem to be producing unthinking automatons, individuals who possess a great deal of ‘accepted’ knowledge, but little of what I would call true intelligence, which I will admit is difficult to define, but I can say for certain these people don’t have it, although they believe they do.

    I am truly amused by, and at the risk of being unkind contemptuous of, the people who read the New York Times and Washington Post and believe themselves to be well informed. They are intellectually lazy and challenged. They decry the small number of newspapers, but claim there is nothing useful to be found on the internet, and assure themselves most of what can be found on the web is not useful or is biased. I suppose it is easier to read their newspapers than to surf the ‘net and use whatever intellect they possess to thresh out the wheat from the chaff in the great choice of information out there on the web.

    Truly, I find more clear thought and reason amongst the ill educated than I do among many university graduates. The ill educated seem to have avoided the propaganda but perhaps it’s because the poor schools which they attend have essentially written them off as unimportant and hence time is not wasted on suitably propagandizing them.

    I would end with thanks to for being one of great choices of alternative views or information on the web.

  11. Priss Factor [AKA "Andrea Ostrov Letania"] says:

    Most European elites consider themselves to be ‘enlightened’ and ‘progressive’, and they simply had no respect for stupid ‘cowboy’ George W. Bush and the crass style of nouveau riche Neocons.

    Maybe if someone like Bush Jr were still in power, Europeans would have been more reluctant to go along with ‘Atlanticism’ in Ukraine. Who, whom.

    But Europeans have been wildly enthusiastic about Obama, and that brought the Euro elites and American elites closer together. Obama symbolizes all the ‘progressive’ status symbols that the European elites prize: blessing of the majority of Jews, support of homo agenda, multi-racialism, cosmopolitanism, elitism, rhetoric about ‘social justice’ while doing the bidding of upper class, and etc.

    Paradoxically, American influence over Europe increased because Obama’s approach was less aggressive than Bush and Neocons’.
    Europe knows it is America’s bitch but wants to serve a ‘nice pimp’ than a ‘pushy pimp’.
    Obama’s ‘nice pimp’ strategy did the trick.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  12. Another great analysis of the main stream media.

    It will change nothing.

    It never does.

  13. Art M says:

    The art of propaganda is telling you what you want to hear after you’ve been told what you want to hear. This nation eats it’s weight in anti-depressants, yet we sit in front of a box for a quarter to a third of our lives, and the box is programmed to tell us that we should be dissatisfied with ourselves. Yes, propaganda has power because it works! And there’s nothing you can do about it. Nyah nyah nyah.

    • Replies: @rod1963
  14. “I think that the United States is living through a seemingly endless tragedy”

    Certainly my nation is living a tragedy, and speaking of propaganda, disinformation initiated at the highest level conceals a criminality that is deep, ingrained and hideous:

    Putin, even if the smears on his character were true, would seem like an angel by comparison

    • Replies: @Patrick_UK
  15. rod1963 says:
    @Art M

    Yes you can.

    First turn off the TV. This goes doubly if you have children. This will interrupt the cradle to grave agit-prop from Madison Avenue and Hollywood. Some of the most pernicious PC/MC garbage for kids comes out of the Disney channel.

    Secondly ignore the large metro papers like the NYT, BG and LAT. They are fish wrappers run by a ethnic group that hates us and wants us crushed. Steve Sailer has made a hobby horse out skewering the race baiters and maniacs at the NYT but for the rest of us there is no upside to reading the fish wrapper of note. Let them continue to shrink to oblivion.

    Stay off the social media. This is a hangout for idiots and navel gazers. Not to mention that all your personal info is resold to marketers.

    For a simple exercise try this:

    No internet or TV for a week. Try it and see how you react to it. For many it is almost impossible since they go into withdraw. It’s a test to see how badly your nervous system has been overworked by the corporations and the government.

  16. Kiza says:

    I find your comment most insightful. Similarly, I created an Index of Brainwashed Nations, for those countries that I am familiar with. Yes, the US is an undisputed leader on this index by a comfortable margin. The next is Japan (a deadly combination of in-built deference to authority and regime prone to heavy use of propaganda). Then come Canada and Australia in their eternal tie for the third place in the world. Only after comes Europe, even UK, due to an in-built skepticism of the Europeans, even the British. Simply, the Europeans have seen it all in their long history of political manipulation and a long (but dying) tradition of independent intellectual (a la Mr van Wolferen) and skepticism towards authority. In summary, the more the national elite is prone to utilize propaganda and the lower the in-built resistance of the population, the higher is the nation on the Brainwashed Index. It may surprise you that east-Europeans are very low on this index, mainly due to their recent experience.

    I would beg to disagree that nothing changes. In a philosophical sense, propaganda is very similar to disease. As our bodies constantly struggle to fend off bacteria and viruses, so our minds eternally struggle to sift through the bits of information that our brains are showered with to make sense of the world. As our body can die when overwhelmed by foreign organisms, so our brain dies when it accepts propaganda. Thus, healthy skepticism is an antibiotic for our minds. The more minds are immunized with skepticism, the more healthy is the society. Following through with this analogy (lol), websites such as,,,, and so on are hospitals for the mind. The proliferance of these websites is solid proof that something does change.

  17. “…the box is programmed to tell us that we should be dissatisfied with ourselves. Yes, propaganda has power because it works! And there’s nothing you can do about it.”

    Tune out, turn off, drop in

  18. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    People usually don’t question something unless it affects them directly negatively or adversely. Believing in NYT and / or MSM is part of the baptization to social acceptance ,progress through the adolescence ,part of gradually fitting into a certain mold that is highly desired . Unless one was Serbian or Iraqi,or Iraninan ,chances are he or she would not even pay attention to what he or she read from NYT ‘s foreign policy .
    NYT / Beltway punditry is part of the American worldview that has been constructed in US
    We start participating into this world view from early age and we internalize it by the time we start having conversation on domestic or international events . Lies that are social or political in nature are also political and social in effects ,and are not mathematics that could be accounted for or explained by reasoning or by previous set of knowledge base .

  19. TomB says:

    I do not for an instant deny that there has been a cartoonish, propagandistic campaign waged against Putin and Russia especially since the onset of this Ukrainian business.

    On the other hand I don’t see how anyone can deny that on the other side of this issue, especially since the onset of this Ukrainian business, there has been a studied refusal to consider what are at the very least the deeply problematic aspects of what Putin has been doing.

    Perhaps not to the same degree as the other side, but still, in a cartoonish and propagandistic manner.

    Even putting aside the clear, brutish if not worse aspects of how Putin has handled his domestic critics—with obviously virtuous journalists being suspiciously murdered even—and even putting aside how he handled Chechnya and Georgia, the aggrandizement by force of the Crimea can in no principled way be described as other than extremely troubling and problematic.

    Because of this of course Putin’s defenders/apologists have chosen the more principle-free manner of argumentation, talking—with a good deal of admitted validity—about the Crimea’s historic relationship with Russia and the clear huge importance of the Crimea to Russia’s navy and etc., etc.

    But that’s still avoiding the simply huge principle problem, with the principle of standing against the violent aggrandizement of territory being an absolute mainstay of the post WWII understanding that served Europe (and lots of the rest of the world) so well for more than half a century now.

    Now, certainly it might be argued that no such ideation is absolute and not every violation of it should mean war or even should be deemed objectionable.

    But that’s not what’s been seen. No elaboration on the principle *keeping* it a principle. Just instead a pretending that it should be ignored here for entirely unstated reasons other than those rather vague and broad ones about history and naval importance.

    Moreover, I say this as one who is very much opposed at the attempts to demonize Putin and Russia and get us cross-wise with same because of my view of the simply huge importance to us to see Russia in the future if not become part of “the West,” at least lean West and inculcate Western values to the greatest extent possible. And thus what I see as the neo-connish attempts to get us to swords’ points with Putin and Russia are about as bad as possible.

    But what Putin has done especially with the Crimea *is* serious and *is* problematic and must be confronted and resolved in some way. Even if that is to get Russia to “compensate” Ukraine in some way and essentially deem its taking as a unique, sui generis thing that should not be regarded as setting any precedent and etc.

    Like I said, in the aftermath of WWII it was essentially and wisely concluded that what was tried after WWI in terms of establishing stability and avoiding war—Wilson’s so-called “self-determination”—had been an absolute and utter disaster. And thus the wide and wise consensus was reached that the best way to avoid war was to say that what countries did inside their own borders was basically their business, and that it was territorial integrity that kept the peace. And pretty clearly and in the main that has worked in avoiding any further world wars, and indeed any really huge conflagrations.

    To just dismiss what happened in the Crimea then—and what Putin might be trying to do in Eastern Ukraine—is in my mind an exercise in frivolity.

    It isn’t the end of the world. It doesn’t justify us going to war with Putin or Russia. But it is not something to be ignored and left standing to form the precedent for further such actions by anyone and the destruction of what might even be viewed as the central plinth of the true world order since WWII.

    The history of which being not all that bad at all considering what came before.

  20. Dave says:

    Excellent article!
    Prior to MH17 with all of its obvious & hasty lies blaming Putin, my opinion of TV news was a 10% approval, but now it’s down to zero…
    The net & its writers who actually care about the truth (instead of the big salaried, pretty teleprompter readers regurgitating the government script) will be the only thing that saves us from falling into a tyranny.

  21. War for Blair Mountain [AKA "Bill Blizzard and his Men"] says:

    It’s only problematic to someone who doesn’t think that the Russian People including the ones that live in Georgia and Ukraine have a right to protect themselves from being murdered by the Irish skank Samantha Powers and the mulato midget Susan Powers.

    The Democratic Party is waging a murderous proxy war in the Ukraine against the Russian Ukrainians. The teenage population of Western Ukraine apparently doesn’t show much enthusiasm for murdering the Russian Ukranianian Civilian population. As a consequence, Western Ukranian Teenagers are going awol after they are conscripted by Samantha Power’s and Susan Rices’s hired gangster mafiaosa hit men. The Crimea belongs to the Russian People..lock stock and barrel not to the billionaire Oligarch parasites who want to gang rape Russia for a second time.

    • Replies: @Bill Jones
  22. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    And why not counterpropaganda?

    Why not throw Kosovo in the face of anyone shedding crock tears at the fate of Crimea. Unlike the Crimean Anshlus (sp? lol) there was plenty of NATO and Clinton bombing going on in Serbia and the bombing didn’t stop until Serbia’s gov’t agreed for their country give up one of its provinces that has been theirs ever since Serbia was a country and a nation? Does anyone remember Clinton sending cruise missiles into Belgrade’s TV studios (later branded ‘a military target’) pulverizing and/or incinerating makeup artists, camera guys and the weather girl?

    When propaganda decries the criminal influx of weapons into Ukraine’s anti-gov’t insurgents, do we have ANYTHING to say about our open support of Syria’s rebels that includes weapons, propaganda and training?

    And, talking about sovereignty, do we have ANYTHING to say about our national debate whether to bomb Syria, just because IT FEELS RIGHT and our past and recent humanistic bombing of Libya? Or we can go back in time and remember the Clinton/Albright blackmailing Haiti with “you either change your gov’t to one of our liking NOW or… our bombers are in the air already”?

    And what was Iraq again? Yes… the ‘decapitation strikes’, the shocks and awes… no body seemed to care about sovereignty when that happened. Then… later on it was just an “oooops… I guess we got it wrong, let’s go find someone else to bomb.”

    Well… whatever.

    • Replies: @VladM
    , @Pete
  23. I did not know “that Samantha Power believes that Putin must be eliminated.”

    That is important. I know the subject reasonably well, but I don’t know the separate positions of each of the individual Obama officials.

    This one needs to be emphasized, so that people do know about it. Everyone who is bringing this agenda to the Ukraine issues, using Ukraine to further this agenda, ought to be called out for turning cause and effect backward in their arguments.

  24. VladM says:

    Thank you – as ex pat myself (from Russia living in the States) I share your feelings 100%. I myself was feeling that either I am going insane or world around me goes in that direction. – Nobody was asking questions, everything delivered by TV was taking for granted. I felt that I am back to USSR, this time along Atlantic pond. An acid test came with MH 17: the screaming “rebels did this!” started figuratively speaking before last piece of the tragic plane hit the ground. Then followed the stories that rebels looting the passengers belongings – but the agitprop (being ex Soviet – propaganda is a long term, agitprop is a short term and therefore has to be really vicious to cause immediate knee jerk reaction) failed miserably with story about the cell phone of a dead passenger and a rebel who used it – the relatives of the person contacted the phone company – no calls were made and phone was returned along with the rest of belongings. This is really a sick trick, I just cannot understand the people who are capable of such. For Christ sake, people died have at least some respect. None. Everything goes. But in long term – again because I have Soviet experience – the truth will prevail, one way or another it goes free.

  25. @TomB

    “Even putting aside the clear, brutish if not worse aspects of how Putin has handled his domestic critics—with obviously virtuous journalists being suspiciously murdered even”

    So, not like Michael Hastings then.

    Edward Bernais’ little book “Propaganda” published in 1928 sums it up perfectly in the first three sentences:
    “THE conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.
    We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.”

  26. @War for Blair Mountain

    I believe the mulatto midget is Susan Rice, not Powers.

  27. VladM says:
    @Fran Macadam

    The rule of politics campaigning – make the message very simple, very clear – as I wrote in reply to another participant – the rule of thumb of agitprop, if possible make the message which touches subconscious, knee jerk nerves. I offer you a simple example – the one from neurophysiology – touch the person very very lightly but so s/he cannot see that you have done that. The person most probably will scratch the spot. Ask – why did you do that? Listen to explanation – have fun.
    But seriously – hence the intrigue of all that Good vs Evil movies. Let me throw in some piece from Vladimir Lenin, yes the very icon of communism: “The most important for us (as a propaganda tool for communists – VM) is art of MOVIES”. Mind you – written I think around 1920. He was a genius, unfortunately for mankind on a dark side – spoke fluently seven languages (learned on his own), knew math, physics (he said that there is little chance to get to the “bottom” of an atom), played piano, etc etc. He also in between wrote a note – “the more priests we execute the better”. I am not sure if the book is translated – one Russian writer went through Lenin’s 67 (!!!) volumes of everything and compiled “My small Leniniana” to reveal what a monster he was.
    Back to today – nothing is new under the moon. Today’s America’s neocons or shall we call them libercon? -come from ultra left, trotskism, trotskism in turn came out from earlier XIX cent American “Manifest destiny” and so on. History repeats itself up to a sick idiot Rasmussen put in chair of NATO secretary.

  28. VladM says:

    Hate to break a bad news for you – it is all about how much money opposing sides have. And when the ratio is 10:1 in favor of the wrong side the wrong side wins. Facts became are commodity.

  29. Pete says:

    Great article; a perfect incrimination of the Ignorant Clinton, as well as Albright; “it was worth it to kill several million Iraqi’s.” And, I am sure, the equally ignorant G. Bush, believes that a half million Iraqi lives were a small price (for them), to pay, because, “it was the right thing to do”. (quote, G. Bush).

  30. The Slog says: • Website

    The tangled web as was has become the Worldwide Web in which discernment of Truth is almost impossible.
    A marvellous piece, and a great site.

  31. John W. says:

    In George Will’s latest column he openly compared Putin to Adolf Hitler. We can roll our eyes at yet another example of this trite and overworked accusation. But does anyone ever survive the accusation? With a bigfoot commentator like Will using language like that, I hope Putin has some top notch security.

  32. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Twenty years ago, I read your book “Enigma of Japanese Power”, then gave it to friends that were working with Japan.
    Then I stumbled on this today, in a “this name rings a bell” mode.
    Just “wow” as Steve Jobs is supposed to have said. Fantastic analysis!
    Thank you and please keep up the good work.

  33. dave says:

    The Dutch are so sober minded trusting everything their sober minded media tells them.
    The Dutch look so honest, it is just not possible for them to lie, hide facts, act one sided in the news.

  34. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Priss Factor

    “But Europeans have been wildly enthusiastic about Obama, and that brought the Euro elites and American elites closer together. Obama symbolizes all the ‘progressive’ status symbols that the European elites prize: blessing of the majority of Jews, support of homo agenda, multi-racialism, cosmopolitanism, elitism, rhetoric about ‘social justice’ while doing the bidding of upper class, and etc.”

    To the point indeed, and it is that very enthusiastic reverence that Europeans (notably Germany) are the true danger in instigating a confrontation with Russia. as clearly seen by the ruling elite and corporate press here.
    Germans are purely at home when the “topics” you mention can be a feast of verbal communication.
    Portugal, where I live, portrays a very different Germany, one of “progressive greed.”

  35. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Sir, your incredibly sane remarks in this article are akin to an oasis found in the desert of what passes today for journalism.

  36. gene says:

    The above essay is an effort to show how the lack of information permits the use of “narratives” or propaganda. (Or, comic book history.) That there is a paucity of information available to call upon to discern something akin to truth is a circumstantial proof of the thesis, but, by design, it is not an air tight proof. Propagandists, thus, label attempts to fit together snippets of facts that surface as part of “conspiracy theories,” which have been relegated not to what the words mean, but to the trash bin of nutty people. The forces organized against reason are deep and clever.

    Where governments and media support the comic book story, essays such as this will have little affect other than to put the author on some enemies’ list. I suggest the choir, those who read this, need no preaching. What needs to happen is the creation of a plan, a road map, if you will, of a response. In the middle ages, monasteries became repositories of knowledge. Take the knolwedge and run. Perhaps, a virtual monastary is in order.

    Cult members are “deprogrammed,” but how do reasonable people deprogram the narrative accepted by the vast population of the uninformed? Normal individuals do not conspire to subvert because that is the evil honest people find reprehensible. Libertarians, a U.S. philosophy, are marginalized as by their nature; they are not interested in creating a collective movement to counter the collective movements. Hence, it may be a cycle of history that liars and theives take power, as that is their personal life choice, and freedom and properity are repressed until such time as the burden is so oppressive that the leeches are burned off. They always exist; there is a yang and yin to all.

    Permit me to properly use the term “stupid.” The mass of people are not well educated, intentionally. They are pandered to and provided with propaganda. This is all Orwellian stuff. We are, all in all, a stupid bunch of sheep that thinks a corral is a safe place to be. We breed and buy stuff, so the farmers are happy. We permit hundreds of gang rapes in smal English town by Muslims, rather than seem politically incorrect. As I say, stupid.

    In the end, only critical thinking, a broad education, and personal morality can support a republic. When the individual is lost to propaganda and a rewritten history, drugs, tattoos and so on, he can no longer resist the oligarchy. The American founders often mentioned this. There is Franklin’s comment America is a “republic if you can keep it.” It is pretty much gone, now, and all that remains is the elimination of traditions that reamain as the facades of the oligarchy. The end of the American republic, BTW, should not be cheered by other nations – it portends dangerous events designed by a few, not by a moral people.

    The members of the choir need to focus upon the education of their families and neighbors, the crippling of our “education” system, and the preparation of their community to survive outside the hive. Only a social compact of intelligent individuals can provide a peaceful and propersous world. Looking for a great leader, for some sweeping governmental change, only empowers the enemy, the collective. Chaos is created to empower the central government, so central power should not be even considered as a solution.

    Individual Americans, who can, are following the example of their forefathers and taking their knowledge and money to safe harbor. There is an unseen diaspora taking place, which may be the positive outcome of the collapse of a unique republic. The individuals and companies that move will remember the dangers of oligarchy and addictive drug of debt.

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