We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up
Sunday, April 19, 2015
Chaos And Propaganda: Washington’s “Reality-Based Order”
In this piece Todhunter touches on what I regard as the great secret of the US Empire's success: the manufacture of illusions. The latter has had considerable success with not only the American population but (as I've more recently become aware) also with people throughout much of the world. Because WWII left much of the industrialized world in shambles while leaving the US's industry intact along with a powerful military, American power and influence came to be felt throughout the world. What I think has been under appreciated is the profound role that cultural propaganda played in the post-war ascendance of the US Empire. It appears to me that much of this culture of illusions was spread mostly by relatively cheap Hollywood movies that were broadcast via TV stations in foreign countries, shown in cinemas, and reinforced by well designed propaganda campaigns waged through formal propaganda organs of Voice of America and other radio stations funded by the CIA.
Political as well as the broader technology of cultural propaganda has been a major tool in the arsenal of the American ruling class after it was first used so successfully during WWI to transform the strong opposition of an American public against involvement in the European war into one of active support. A key figure in this effort was Edward Bernays who was hired by President Wilson for precisely that purpose. Behind Wilson stood the real managers of the US nation: the bankers of Wall Street.
Major US banks, particularly the J. P. Morgan bank, had lent enormous amounts of money (see "Business considerations" at this link) to England and France to finance military expenditures in their war with Germany and Austria-Hungary which began in 1914. In fact, the "House of Morgan" was designated by both England and France as their agent in selling war bonds to American investors amounting to half a billion dollars in addition to the direct loans by the banks. Thus, the ruling US capitalist class, which had already concentrated their ownership over every important economic enterprise, had a lot of money invested (several billion dollars) in their bet on England and France winning the war. By 1917 the war did not look good for these countries; thus the US ruling class led by major banks decided that the US would have to enter the war to insure that the Allies would win, and their debts repaid. However, there was one major problem: public opinion in the US was very much against participating in the war, and something had to be done to change that.
That "something" was a major publicity campaign. J. Pierpont Morgan and Company were not merely a leading bank in the US, they had major holdings in nearly every sector of the US economy. Collectively, all these holdings comprised what was called the "House of Morgan". Also, major industrial corporations such as Bethlehem Steel saw the potential for huge profits if the US entered the war. Thus, the US ruling class led by financial and industrial corporations initiated a publicity campaign to get the American public on board with their interests.
The campaign went into high gear building on the sensationalism of the 1915 sinking of the Lusitania, a British luxury passenger ship, by German U-Boats because it was known by the Germans to be carrying munitions to Europe, but for some strange reason (sarcasm) it was unknown to US passengers. Obviously, it was known to the British and must have been known to US authorities. This was another successful false-flag event used to engage the American people in support of a war.
Anyway, to make a long story short, the ruling class learned from this success the tremendous value of what they referred to euphemistically as "public relations" founded by Edward Bernays. The latter developed into a major industry which has greatly expanded ever since then to what it is now: a very sophisticated and coordinated method used by the directorate of the ruling class to not only induce Americans to buy their products but to shape US and world public opinion and values to conform to their interests using every institutional means: education, media, and entertainment.