Thursday, February 01, 2007

Freud, Bernays, and “The Language of Control.”















Screaming in the streets, corpses piled upon corpses, burning buildings, wide hateful eyes staring down at bloodied and twisted bodies in the gutters. Before striking we make sure the "other" is less numerous than "us", then blow after blow is landed on the "other" who screams incomprehensibly as with each individual act of violence the humanity is drained from it. Guns are fired, punches fall upon the alien human, and the body politic twists and flexes in hatred. The violence then spreads like a dark stain across countries and continents.

All the while the fear grows in Sigmund Freud. He sees us all, he sees our movements, thousands of us, in thousands of places, running across public parks and streets, clubs, knives, guns in our hands. We chase those that we view as different, hunting them. We hunt them with the animal habits that we once thought only applied to our Primate ancestors. Hates consumes us and then, we land the death blow and take the new territory, their territory for our own.

Sigmund Freud did not believe in the benevolence of humanity.

After the first world war Freud retreated to Berchtesgaden (ironically the town was then also the Summer home of Adolf Hitler and later the home of his "eagles nest" where much of his war was planned from), and wrote volumes about how man was an evil, violent animal with animalistic passions that had not been completely restrained by civilisation. He believed that the first world war was, in effect a validation of his most pessimistic nightmares about the true underlying nature of humanity. He believed that governments had released the unconsious animalistic tendencies of our primate species and then found that they could not be controlled. Europe was laid waste, and, Freud believed that the 9,906,000 dead of the first world war (military deaths only) was the direct result of the failure of civilisation and it's leaders to control and manage the dark side of humanity, which psychoanalysis had been preaching about for several years. From Berchtesgaden Freud penned what was to be, for the twentieth century and beyond, his defining work "Civilisation and it's Discontents" which stated that Humanity was, in effect, a rampaging violent emotional beast that had to be controlled through the mechanism of civilisation in order to avoid a repeat of the first world war. This control he argued, was necessary and as a result of the suppression of the individual desire, would cause a perpetual discontent within the individuals that composed society. Thus it would be a necessary sacrifice to suppress the evil beast that he said, resided within all of us. In Freuds view, unhappieness was key to humanities survival, it was either that or extinction.

Across space and earlier in time, a man named Edward Bernays's parents had emigraged from Austria and traversed the Atlantic to settle in America. Bernays himself, though born in Vienna, was brought up in the American capitalistic environment. Bernays was Sigmud Freuds nephew. During the First World War, the war that stripped his uncle of the last vestiges of his faith in humanity, Bernays worked with the US government within the propaganda division of the US forces. It was at the Paris Peace Conference where Bernays first noticed the hysterical reaction of the crowds to President Wilsons visit. Wilson had been portrayed as an emissary of the individual in addition to that of freedom. The French viewed him as an almost messianic character after the regimented march of death that was the First World War. Bernays watched this adulation from afar, with the Presidents entourage and wondered, he wondered if the crowds in peacetime could be controlled as effectively as those that were controlled by Propagandistic manipulation during wartime. Bernays considered the word "Propaganda" to be tainted by it's use by the Germans, and so on returning to the United States, after some thought, he adopted the phrase "Public Relations" in its place. Bernays set up an office in New York and set to work. During this time, Bernays, still on friendly terms with his Uncle Siggy, sent him a box of Havana Cigars, Freud in response sent him a copies of some of his works. This gift was a revelation to Bernays, who then decided to use his Uncle's theories in furthering first his personal fortunes and secondly his thirst for power. Bernays himself would always maintain that he was at heart a democrat and that the use of his Uncle's theories were for the benefit of humanity at large.

Bernays first made an imprint on the fragile membrane of society’s collective unconscious by removing a taboo that was preventing America's tobacco corporations from making, to be frank, double what their collective earnings were at the time.

In the 1920's men, had effectively imposed a unspoken ban on women smoking, it was a male province and as far as the populace were concerned would stay that way. The corporations wanted women to smoke, and Bernays wanted to help them. So, in conference with the American Tobacco companies, Bernays asked permission to consult a psychiatrist in order to find out what cigarettes represented to women, so he could provide them with a reason for smoking. What cigarettes represented to women, according to the psychiatrist he consulted (for a very large fee) he was told, was the male penis. That year, at a parade in New York, Bernays, in what must be considered one of the first, and indeed most effective, public relations stunts hired a group of women. These women, at a given time, were to light up cigarettes. Meanwhile, Bernays had alerted the press that a group of suffragettes had, in a gesture of "freedom" lit up these cigarettes in protest of women being treated differently. The press went mad, the next day the women made headlines and Bernays was there to supply the phrase "Torches of Freedom" to the pictures in the press. What Bernays had done, was to take the fight against women’s oppression, and used the iconic image of the cigarette as a symbol that was only the province of men (the penis) and appear to wrest it from the hands of the patriarchy. Women smoking, were women that were individuals, that were free of the constraints that male dominated society put on them. The message said, you are free, you are equal, and you demonstrate this by acquiring your own symbolic penis, the cigarette. Soon enough women equalled men in their smoking habits, and Bernays was viewed somewhat as a miracle worker.

Bernays continued to exploit the buying public by associating the previously functional products with unrelated emotions. You do not buy this because you “need it” you buy it because it makes you feel good. Thus in a second, America’s fears of over production vanished as emotion took over utility and the practicality of products was replaced by the need to be happy which was reinforced by Freudian advertising. The products of course did not provide happiness but did provide the chase, which never ended, as product after products was consumed in an unconscious race for happiness. He had in fact invented the era of “consuptionism” which was later re-branded as they say today as “consumerism”.

Bernays, always the tireless self publicist began to write books promoting his ideas. He did this as many prominent political thinkers in America, had been terrified at the implications of the first world war. And as the popularity of Freud soared these political thinkers began to look at the masses much as he did. The masses were animalistic and the ruling elite needed a method to control them in order to prevent a second suicide attempt by humanity at large. Bernays wrote books like “propaganda” in order to argue that he had developed the techniques that would prevent such a thing from ever happening again. His theory was to actively encourage the association of products that constantly changed and updated themselves with emotions like love and happiness, comfort and contentment so that the worker, would in effect become the consumer, and the newly created “consumer” would be so busy pursuing products that they thought would sate them and grant their emotional desires that they would, in effect, avoid their bestial nature in the illusionary chase of happiness through products. The populous would also be so distracted that they would let the elite, who knew what was best for them, get on with the business of ruling. His policies were adopted, at home and abroad. Bernays was a self described democrat who was in fact, entirely undemocratic.

Joseph Goebels rated Bernays’s “Propaganda” as one of the most important and influential books he had ever read. So, in effect, whilst trying to avoid another “War to end all Wars” Bernay’s, the Jew, inadvertently contributed to, and facilitated it. Goebels gained much of his insight into the manipulation of populaces from Bernays, and in turn Freud. Freud meanwhile had been pessimistically watching the rise of the Nazi’s and shortly after the anschlaus or annexation of Austria had fled this new nightmare of the 20th century and moved along with his daughter Anna to England, where on the outbreak of the Second world war in 1939, he died of cancer of the Jaw an old, broken and despairing man.

And so, after the Horrors of the mechanistic death machine of the second world war. The “consumer machine” went into overdrive for beneath the smiling faces on the billboards of fifties America were drooling, violent beasts that could only be controlled by the endless pursuit of products as a symbolic replacement for happiness. Which may have been the greatest subversion of the American Experiments Constitution which guaranteed it’s citizens the right of the “pursuit of happiness”.

Many years later, Sayyid Qutb, a young intellectual Muslim gained a position as a teacher in the Ciaro Ministry of Public Information, from 1948 to 1950 Qutb was sent on a scholarship to the United States to examine the United States educational system. What he found, almost caused him to despair, and was to have grave ramifications all the way into the 21st century.

Qutb saw in the fabric of United States society something which he thought was a grave threat. That threat was the almost universal manifestation of the individual over the group. People, as a result of the consumerist society that was effectively invented by Bernays, focused solely on themselves and their own desires, and not as Qutb thought was healthy, the group, the city, the state, the nation. He saw a country of selfish people endlessly pursuing, as Bernays had ordained, personal happiness through everything from automobiles to haircuts. This he viewed as the beginnings of a failing society, as the cult of individualism was the origin of societal discontent as people were no longer concerned for the group as a whole, but only for themselves. Qutb viewed the race riots, increasing sexual freedom, triviality, the lessening of restrictions on divorce all as symptoms of a diseased and dying society that viewed through the precepts of Islam, would eventually cause its downfall. Qutb when he returned home saw elements of this corrupt and diseased Western Capitalist society infecting his own people of Egypt (which at that point was on a governmental level embracing Western values, and American money). In this germ of cultural infection, Qutb saw the end of Islam, and the destruction of Egypt. He vowed to fight this to the last. This fanatical (from the latin Fanum, Temple, or Chapel in latin, denoting a specifically religious fervour) Weltanschauung or world view culminated in Qutbs attempted assassination of Gamal Abdul Nasser an assassination that was intended to bring about the introduction of Sharia law and the triumph of the group over the individual. The attempt failed and Qutb was executed for his part in the plot.

Qutb was succeeded in his position in what was now viewed as the Islamist movement by his disciple, Ayman Muhammad Rabaie al-Zawahiri who then joined and eventually became head of the Muslim Brotherhood. He fought in Afghanistan with Osama Bin Laden, who was also increasingly influenced by al-Zawahiri’s thinking, and thus in turn by Qutb’s. The rest, as they say, is the history of Islams reactionary fight against the western cult of the individual, pioneered by Edward Bernays.

Bin Laden and al-Zawahari however were not the only ones who found that Bernays’s cult of the individual could end up being the death of society. Leo Strauss a German born political philosopher also saw the apparent gradual disintegration of society. He as a Jew had watched the terror of the Second World War from America and later watched in the 1960’s a society which was rife with civil conflict. White middle class terrorist groups had been founded, like the Symbionese Liberation Army and the Weathermen, meanwhile down south, the Ku Klux Klan were engaged in a murderous struggle to continue segregation, both with black people and civil rights campaigners. In California Black people had begun to form groups like the Black Panthers to promote civil rights and civil defense, primarily from the police. Violence and riots on the streets were everywhere, and Strauss saw this as a result of the erosion of the group concept of the nation and the accentuation of the individual (whether or not he connected this with Bernays is debateable). And thus Strauss began to formulate the system of thought that would eventually mutate into Neo-conservatism as we know it today.

For Strauss Politics and Philosophy were one, and he began to advocate the thought that liberalism led to relativism which in turn he insisted, eventually became one of two types of nihilism. The first of these types was “brutal nihilism” which he associated with the rise and acts of Nazi Germany. The second type was “gentle nihilism” of the types associated now with most western democracies. He thought this “gentle nihilism” involved the accentuation of the self and a kind of mindless hedonistic random individual wandering. This in turn eroded and would eventually lead to the destruction of society as the individual lost any association he or she may have had with the larger body politic of the nation. Then Strauss began to advocate what is termed the “Noble lie”. The Noble Lie involved uniting the population, and distracting them from their individual concerns with the mythic presentation of the nation in order to create and maintain a cogent, united civil society and give people meaning in their lives, meaning externalized to the other citizens of the nation, and not just restricted to the satisfaction of individual desires. The nation in this case Strauss insisted, should be America. America presented as the only great force for good in the world, a nation that should be presented to its citizens as one that eternally fought against injustice and oppression the world over, gradually transforming the world into its own mirror image, perfect and contented. This advocation of the myth that America as in effect, the worlds global policeman for good, was not for the benefits of the citizens of the world at large, but to unite the citizens of the united states itself. Paul Wolfowitz and William Crystol, two of Strauss’s students went on to become prominent Republican Neo-Conservatives and co-authors (among others) of the “Project for the New American Century” which, among other things manufactured this uniting vision of America as a force for good by advocating the toppling of Dictator du Jour Saddam Hussein.

Bernays has allot to answer for.

And so, as we dance through the threads of countries histories and individual personal lives I am led to the seemingly unavoidable conclusion that those who seek to save society through the controlling of it, eventually cause what they despise. A macrocosmic example of the principle that the more driven the effort to impose order, the faster the birth and exponential growth of chaos that is engendered within that ordered structure.

The only protection I see from it is arming yourself with the information that underlies the strategies of these people, you yourselves can choose to mutate into that seed of chaos. My own avoidance techniques have involved everything from Magickal practice, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Linguistic study, drugs, the techniques of Wilhelm Reich, Aleister Crowley and Robert Anton Wilson, plus many others. Once you realize the methods of control, and notice their uses on you, you become free to use precisely those methods, and many others (some mentioned above) to avoid being manipulated, maneuvered and controlled.

Good Luck.

All the above Key names and phrases can be researched, so please, don’t take my word for it, do your own research, and form your own conclusions.

Research references:

Wikipedia:
Various biographies

Victor Klemperer:
The Language of the Third Reich

Adam Curtis: Documentaries:
The century of Self
The Power of Nightmares

Edward Bernays:
Propaganda

Sigmund Freud:
Civilisation and its Discontents

Richard Wrangham
and Dale Peterson:
Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence

and various other web pages

Peace and Hope

FatherCrow.

10 Comments:

Blogger Ashley said...

Enjoyed this, fathercrow. In fact, I blogged about your blog...

2:06 PM  
Blogger Atomic said...

Nicely written history on the history of the consumerism meme infecting so much of the world today, America especially. Sweet collection of further reading. I've read half of these, and look forward to reading the other half.

3:41 PM  
Blogger . said...

I assume you're considering the selfish, irresponsible and consumerist parts of Individualism to be bad, but the freedom of speech and expression and the diversity it's bred to be good?

Do you believe in any possibility of re-educating people thus curing the consumerist disease on a large scale, from the bottom up instead of through government?

Personally I see huge potential in the current environmental emergency as a possible catalyst to trigger new grassroots empowerment promoting personal responsibility while re-establishing true Unity among nations and even the entire planet.

What do you think?

6:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks. This is excellent.

Two things:

(1) The Black Panther party emerged primarily for self-defense against - not the KKK - but the most banal of white supremacist gangs: the police.

(2) You seem to have a critique of both the cult of the individual, and the history of totalitarian responses to it. Yet your own strategy for response seems to be about being a faster, smart, stronger, cult member. What about bottom-up strategies for collective liberation? What about strategic alliances across caste and cultural boundaries?

We seek our own liberation. Surely we can aspire to expand the first person plural to include some of those communities who are being plundered and brutalized to power our bewildering array of alternatives.

10:31 PM  
Blogger fathercrow said...

Hey Guys:

Thanks for the kind words, I'm in work, kinda rushed off my feet so I'll see if I can hide from the Corporate Masters long enough to answer some of your questions/points. Sorry about this, but I'm gonna have to lump a bunch of your points together.

First off, anon said

"(1) The Black Panther party emerged primarily for self-defense against - not the KKK - but the most banal of white supremacist gangs: the police."

Thanks for that, point taken, my bad, you're bang on. Still at that time pointy hoods/flat caps much of a difference. Both in the context of racial suppression acted as the rich mans milita.

you also said

"(2) You seem to have a critique of both the cult of the individual, and the history of totalitarian responses to it. Yet your own strategy for response seems to be about being a faster, smart, stronger, cult member. What about bottom-up strategies for collective liberation? What about strategic alliances across caste and cultural boundaries?"

Well, to be honest, I am not a member of any group, as I find that subliminating my own will to a group erodes my own Will. I once was a member of a coven, but was unable to subscribe to the group think. I admire and practice much if not all of what I mentioned above, but as a solitary and not in a group. As for "strategic alliances across caste and cultural boundaries" you have a point, but it's material for a different post.

"." said "I assume you're considering the selfish, irresponsible and consumerist parts of Individualism to be bad"

I'm not madly keen on the good/bad dualism as much of the time it's a very subjective thing. In fact I think Individualism can be separated from consumerism in much the same way that democracy can be seperated from Capitalism. Even though my own world view is pretty much tecno-anarchist.

", but the freedom of speech and expression and the diversity it's bred to be good?"

Ok, subjectivity aside, I think we can both agree that freedom of speech and diversity is good, otherwise I'd probably be writing this on toilet paper in a cell somewhere.

"Do you believe in any possibility of re-educating people thus curing the consumerist disease on a large scale, from the bottom up instead of through government?"

Re-education is a tricky concept, I've read too much of 20th century history to be comfortable with it. I think the "consumerist disease" as you phrase it needs constant reinforcement in order for it to continue. So in my view (at least today, I reserve the right to change my mind) if its not reinforced constantly, the syndrome might just die down. As for Environmental grassroots activity, you may be right. I can't see the current situation going on forever as in a closed system (as capitalism is) eternal expansion is just not possible.

Oh and Ashely, thanks for the link.


Right back to work, sorry if my answers are too brief, or if I missed anyone but its a balance between answering you guys and getting fucking fired.

Peace and Hope.

FatherCrow.

11:03 AM  
Blogger Aboniks said...

just a line to say thanks for an interesting read. btw, I found you through disinformation.com

9:44 AM  
Blogger .Lee Warren said...

This is . otherwise known as Lee from Under An Alien Sky.

I think I was over-simplifying in my previous comment!

"I'm not madly keen on the good/bad dualism as much of the time it's a very subjective thing."

Yeah, you're right. Good/bad are just too vague and subjective. But I think we'd agree that we must accept varying levels of subjectivity within these kinds of qualitative discussions.

"In fact I think Individualism can be separated from consumerism in much the same way that democracy can be seperated from Capitalism."

By 'seperate', do you mean that they exist independantly of one another?

"Re-education is a tricky concept, I've read too much of 20th century history to be comfortable with it. I think the "consumerist disease" as you phrase it needs constant reinforcement in order for it to continue. So in my view (at least today, I reserve the right to change my mind) if its not reinforced constantly, the syndrome might just die down."

I agree, it's not natural behaviour and will die down (probably not seamlessly, though) if it's not reinforced. I think the 'consumerist disease' among the public is really just apathy and limited knowledge. We just exist within the framework that's provided, learning not to question that framework at a young age (part of the imporatance of formal education). Consumerism is really enforced from the top. But those people at the top have to learn that there are better ways of creating wealth (and I'm all for wealth, but only the clean and just kind). Those people have become so powerful through the current economic model that they might never decide to be more fair. As they are forced to, how much of a fight will they put up? It's clear they're willing to sacrifice the whole world as we can see from the global warming crisis. The Union of Concerned Scientists (http://www.ucsusa.org/) is a whole organisation dedicated to dispelling tha campaign of environmental misinformation waged by US Corporations and Government. I agree that people will forget consumerism if it ceases to be forced on them, but in order for it to stop, lots of people have to reject it first, by providing feasible tweaks to the system that improve it. I guess what I meant was: Do you see any possibility of that happening, especially given the current environmental crisis?

BTW, you have to read Understanding Power by Noam Chomsky, if you haven't yet!

4:45 PM  
Blogger fathercrow said...

Hey Lee:

Just a quick note.

"By 'seperate', do you mean that they exist independantly of one another?"

No, I mean that one can exist without the involvement or hopefully even the existence of the other. Individualism from Consumptionism (I prefer that word to consumerism, it conjours up tuberculosis to me) and Democracy from Capitalism.


"I guess what I meant was: Do you see any possibility of that happening, especially given the current environmental crisis?

BTW, you have to read Understanding Power by Noam Chomsky, if you haven't yet!"

It's a possibility, but the crisis will have to get a whole lot worse and a whole lot more people's lives are going to have to be effected before the kind of change that we would hope for would happen as a result.

Also, I haven't read that specific Chomsky book, but I have read a good few of his, and there's so much to read I think for the moment I've dedicated enough of my time to him. Of the present day American Intellectuals who address this sort of thing that I have read, my preference would be for Howard Zinn, who in addition to a great intellect also has a good sense of humour, something Chomsky seems to be sorely lacking. But I'm sure I'll get around to reading "understanding power" eventually. However for the moment, the pile of books I have lying around my home waiting to be read (and the ones I am reading now) will take a while to get through, later this year perhaps.

Also with regard to the Black Panther comment above, the post has been changed to reflect more accurately the origins of the Black Panther Party.

Peace and Hope

FatherCrow

10:33 AM  
Blogger .Lee Warren said...

Ah, I understand! True Democracy free of Capitalist restrictions would be a beautiful thing... Chomsky talks about how the US has blocked it happening in places like Haiti. Do you know of any examples of true democracy succeeding in the modern world?

"It's a possibility, but the crisis will have to get a whole lot worse and a whole lot more people's lives are going to have to be effected before the kind of change that we would hope for would happen as a result."

That would probably be the most effective cause of change. But I do like to think that as more and more people become aware of the Capitalist design, some of them will find their way into positions of political influence and set about making it a force for good instead of one for greed.

If you're familiar with Chomsky, you might not need to read Understanding Power - It's a collection of various lectures and discussions he's given. 'Definitive Chomsky', as it says on the back.

I will definately check out Howard Zinn, can you recommend a good starting point?

Lee

11:13 AM  
Blogger fathercrow said...

Hey:

Best place to start with Zinn would be "a peoples history of the United States"

Right, must rush.

FatherCrow

9:57 AM  

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