Tag Archives: propaganda

Bilderberg’s ‘post-truth’ world in context: was Turin 2018 ‘a council of war’?

[The Great Western Narrative] divides the world into a hierarchy of “peoples”, with different, even conflicting, virtues and vices. Some humans – westerners – are more rational, more caring, more sensitive, more fully human. And other humans – the rest – are more primitive, more emotional, more violent. In this system of classification, we are the Good Guys and they are the Bad Guys; we are Order, they are Chaos. They need a firm hand from us to control them and stop them doing too much damage to themselves and to our civilised part of the world.

The Great Western Narrative isn’t really new. It is simply a reformulation for a different era of the “white man’s burden”.

The reason the Great Western Narrative persists is because it is useful – to those in power. Humans may be essentially the same in our natures and in our drives, but we are very definitely divided by power and its modern corollary, wealth. A tiny number have it, and the vast majority do not. The Great Western Narrative is there to perpetuate power by legitimising it, by making its unbalanced and unjust distribution seem natural and immutable. 1

— Award-winning British journalist, Jonathan Cook based in Nazareth, Israel.

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Introduction: the ‘post-truth’ world

“The Gulf War did not take place” — Jean Baudrillard

In January 1991, as coalition forces gathered in preparation, French postmodernist Jean Baudrillard penned an essay in which he boldly predicted that the Gulf War (or First Iraq War) would not take place. Within weeks, however, air strikes did herald the beginning of Operation Desert Storm. Undeterred Baudrillard swiftly published a follow-up essay in which he loudly declared that the war on our TV screens was not in reality taking place. Doubling down, he then produced a third and final essay shortly after the conflict had ended in late February in which he proclaimed no less assertively that “the Gulf War did not take place”.

Given this sequence of publications, Baudrillard’s final and now very famous declaration might appear to have been an intellectual face-saving exercise. But the beauty of assuming the role of a celebrated postmodernist is never having to say you’re sorry – or indeed anything half so straightforward as sorry.

I shall attempt to translate his ideas as honestly and concisely as I can.

If historical and political awareness in the modern world is inherently a media construction, and if that construction is a false one, as it plainly is, who can say what truly exists beyond the simulacrum? Given how the real and the fictional are thereby blended together to form a “hyperreality”, void of any distinction between them, and given this new type of representation bears no relationship to reality whatsoever, it then becomes a truth in its own right.

You see what he did there…? A single leap from since we cannot discern a difference between fiction and reality, there is none. But then, within this world of consumerist ideology, presumably he still offers us the choice of whether or not “to buy it”. I do not.

That said, in fairness Baudrillard is addressing an extremely serious issue, though in making a case his obscurantism is as plain as it is provocative.

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Today’s world is awash with screens. The cinema screen, television screens, screens on ipads, ibooks and smart phones, not forgetting the screen directly in front of me. My life, very probably like yours, involves endless interaction with such screens large and small.

The media amplifies this with constant reference to our screens within its own reconstructions of modernity. In dramas the characters are constantly checking their phones and computers. Likewise, most interviewees on our news programmes are interrogated via separate screens. On sports programmes this divorce from reality is even starker with analysis carried out on interactive screens – the pundits propping themselves awkwardly next to a screen and still more comically walking across the studio to find one. Today’s screens within screens are ubiquitous.

There is an unspoken message here. The message that screens are the must-have portals to our information age and, implicit in the same message, that information provided through our screens can be relied upon. Not that all information on screens is equally reliable, of course, but assuredly when screened by trustworthy purveyors of truth it is the go-to source.

Moreover, the screen is presented as a larger window on reality; one enhanced by means of composition, editing and overlaid content. Yet in many respects the screen becomes a window akin to the windows in my house and car, but just highly maneuverable. But naked reality in all cases obviously exists beyond the screen and so the screen is in fact screening us from it. It is intervening. It is directing our attention. It is coercing us.

Not that this situation is as novel as it may seem. Before the screen we had the wireless, before the wireless the printed word, and even before print, there was oratory. All were capable of coercing us and manipulating reality. Propaganda takes many forms, and the propagandist is nearly as old a profession as whoring.

What has altered is the constancy and the intensity of modern propaganda. And in the twenty-first century we become more totally immersed by virtue of having screens all around and at all times. This is Baudrillard’s “hyperreality” again, perhaps.

But Baudrillard’s approach employs the tiresome postmodernist ploy of wanting your cake and eating it: in this instance making his perverse case that the “Gulf war did not take place” whilst at the very same moment declaring the “hyperreality” in which this non-war was witnessed, an ersatz reality. Contradictory points that leave the solid question of ‘what is reality’ deliberately suspended.

In truth, the Gulf War certainly did happen whether or not our news of it was composed of little more than repeated images of ‘surgical bombing’ and related lies that helped to sustain the carnage. The point is to be mindful of when the news on our screens conceals and distorts events, for in that concealment the truth is buried. Firm recognition of this puts a lie to Baudrillard’s postmodern conundrum that “hyperreality” amounts to a truth in its own right. His paradox is a fraud.

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On the brink (again)?

Today American centrists (who only get to call themselves that because plutocratic media control has made Orwellian neoliberal neoconservatism the dominant ideology in the US) are deeply, profoundly concerned that Donald f—ing Trump is insufficiently hawkish.

This would be the same Donald Trump whose administration just facilitated the bombing of Yemen’s new cholera treatment center. The same Donald Trump who has increased US troops in Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria. The same Donald Trump who is openly pursuing regime change in Iran. The same Donald Trump whose administration committed war crimes in Raqqa. The same Donald Trump who has made many dangerous cold war escalations against Russia. The same Donald Trump whose administration has voiced a goal of regime change in Damascus and the intention of remaining in Syria indefinitely. The same Donald Trump whose air strikes are killing far more civilians than the drone king Obama’s did.

Centrist pundits and politicians on both sides of the aisle are saying that this very man is being too soft and cuddly toward North Korea. These would be the same centrist pundits and politicians who loudly cheered both of the times this administration bombed the Syrian government, effectively sending the message that the only way this narcissistic president can win praise by the manufacturers of the mainstream narrative is by rejecting peace and embracing war. Thanks guys. 2

— independent “rogue journalist” Caitlin Johnstone.

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The pressure for war is building again. We feel its sickly intensity in the air, yet it still remains remote and unthreatening like the rumble of distant thunder. Casual talk of war abounds but somehow exceeds our imaginations: speculation about the coming WORLD WAR is bound to be semi-detached. I wouldn’t ordinarily descend to the use of exclamatory capitals but once in a while screaming is the only purposeful thing to do!

Happily most of us have no physical memory of any actual war, although we can and probably do watch it 24/7 on our TV screens which puts us at an extremely safe distance. The fear on TV is attenuated and can be turned off in an instant, and we trust the cameras not to dwell too long on all the bloated rotting corpses. The ‘theatre of war’ is aptly named. On the ground however it becomes a theatre of the most obscene cruelties: “war is hell” is a literal truth.

Of course, the more wars there are, the less time each war features in news coverage anyway. And the more war we see, the more inured we seem to be to the next and the less we feel empowered to stop it anyway. Libya happened years ago, Iraq is just one war after the next, Afghanistan will presumably always be at war, and Yemen, although fresher in our minds, is hardly mentioned by anyone at all most days.

The anti-war movement was marginalised a decade ago and today the war party have stolen into government like thieves in the night. Quite literally they are thieves: pirates and bandits who come up with perfect apologies in hand to back the latest campaign in the newest instalment of the never-ending war.

Although the twin targets highlighted in this year’s Bilderberg agenda – Iran and Russia – offer a somewhat different proposition: the potential for war on a new and previously unimagined scale. Will we buy into this war too? A war that leaps out from the normal confines of the TV newsroom with slavering jaws and spills absolutely viscerally into our safe and comparatively comfortable lives. Hence the semi-detached speculation about the coming WORLD WAR: a prospect too terrifying to face squarely. (Sorry to shout again.)

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Of course, threats of an attack on Iran have risen and fallen like the price of oil ever since the 9/11 attacks that ignited the money-spinning and usefully racist “global war on terror”. Unlike Saudi Arabia, Iran had no involvement whatsoever in those attacks and yet, as notoriously outlined by General Wesley Clark, was cued up behind six other “rogue states”, designated to be the last war in America’s sequence of regime change operations against the dastardly “axis of evil”. In short, the threat of war on Iran has always been real, but suddenly the danger looms larger than ever before.

We see this with Trump’s latest neo-con appointments: John Bolton as National Security Advisor; Mike Pompeo at the State Department; and confirmed torturer “Bloody Gina” Haspel as Head of CIA. The swamp in and around the White House is more fetid than ever. Only under George Bush Jr has it accommodated quite such a nest of warmongering vipers.

Meantime, to judge from his presidency so far, the art of Trump’s deal-making means the ability to always say one thing and do another: capriciousness that is backed up by incendiary if expungeable Twitter-diplomacy. It all adds to the sense that Trump doesn’t have a clue what he’s actually doing – besides looking after his own billionaire-moneyed interests obviously – that he just says stuff of the cuff and afterwards official policy has to be redrafted accordingly. This too is perfectly befitting our age of distraction and amnesia.

Upon reaching international crisis points – and we have entered a phase of history when the world seems to be repeatedly poised on the brink on an approximately bimonthly cycle – Trump’s one saving grace has been his failure to follow through on threats. However, the arrivals of Bolton and Pompeo signal a decisive change. Trump’s madcap commitments to AIPAC, overlooked and widely ignored throughout the election campaign by political commentators and rivals alike, have since been enacted. He has thereby committed the US to tearing up the Iran nuclear deal (Obama’s sole but singular achievement) and has recklessly pushed ahead with relocating the US embassy to the occupied city of Jerusalem. Both initiatives bolster his credentials when it comes to making Israel great again.

In response to Israel’s latest massacre of Gazans, US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, enflamed tensions vetoing the human rights of Palestinians caught in the hail of IDF ‘butterfly bullets’ that explode on impact to maximise injuries. Of course, no-one was in the least surprised by America’s brazen support for Israel’s “right to defend itself” or by Ambassador Haley’s total lack of decorum.

However, renewed sanctions against Iran are certain to damage European business interests. This combined with Trump’s crass decision to move the US embassy may already be opening a rift in transatlantic relations: relations that appear all the more strained following Trump’s tantrums at the G7 summit. But how much of this is political theatre? It is hard to tell. That America’s ‘partners’ remain largely onboard was surely indicated by Netanyahu’s tour of the major European capitals where he was warmly received by all concerned. No surprise there either.

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To quote a little more of Jonathan Cook’s excellent recent article on the “Great Western Narrative”:

Gaza is slowly sinking into the sea, but who cares? Those primitive Palestinians live like cavemen amid the rubble of homes Israel has repeatedly destroyed. Their women are hijabbed and they have too many children. They don’t look like us, they don’t speak like us. Doubtless, they don’t think like us. They cannot be us.

Even those young Palestinian demonstrators, with their faces covered with strange scarves, launching flaming kites and throwing the odd stone, look different. Can we imagine ourselves standing in front of a sniper to protest like that? Of course not. We cannot imagine what it is like to live in one of the most densely populated areas on the planet, in an open-air prison over which another nation serves as jailers, in which the water is becoming as saline as seawater and there is no electricity. So how can we put ourselves in the demonstrators’ shoes, how can we empathise? It is so much easier to imagine being the powerful sniper protecting the “border” and his home.

But al-Najjar undermined all that. A young, pretty woman with a beautiful smile – she could be our daughter. Selflessly tending to the wounded, thinking not of herself but of the welfare of others, we would be proud to have her as our daughter. We can identify with her much better than the sniper. She is a door beckoning us to step through and see the world from a different location, from a different perspective.

Which is why the corporate media has not invested al-Najjar’s death with the emotional, empathetic coverage it would if a pretty young Israeli female medic had been gunned down by a Palestinian. It was that double standard in his own newspaper, the Guardian, that outraged cartoonist Steve Bell last week. As he noted in correspondence with the editor, the paper had barely covered the story of al-Najjar. When he tried to redress the imbalance, his own cartoon highlighting her death – and its oversight – was censored.

The Guardian’s editors argued that his cartoon was anti-semitic. But the truth is that al-Najjar is dangerous. Because once you step through that door, you are unlikely to come back, you are unlikely ever again to believe the Great Western Narrative. 3

Click here to read Jonathan Cook’s full piece entitled “How the Corporate Media Enslave US to a World of Illusions”.

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Bilderberg v. democracy

“There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM, and ITT, and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today.”

— Arthur Jensen, Chairman of the corporation in the film Network (1976) 4

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You will know them by the words they use, and by the words they do not use. Anybody using words like “globalist,” “global capitalism,” or “neoliberal,” or suggesting that anyone voted for Trump or Brexit for any reason other than racism, you can pretty much rest assured that they’re Nazis. Also, anyone writing about “banks” or the “deep state.” Absolutely Nazis. Oh yeah, and the “corporate media,” naturally. Only Putin-Nazis talk like that. Oh, and definitely anyone who hasn’t spent the last two years attacking Trump (as if there has been anything else to focus on), or has implied that “the Russians” aren’t out to destroy us, or that the historical moment we are living through might be just a bit more complex than that … well, you know what they’re really saying. They’re saying, “we need to exterminate the Jews.”

Look, I could go on and on with this, but I don’t think I really need to. Remember, I’m a Nazi thought criminal now. So just go back and read through some of my essays and make note of all the coded Nazi messages, or check with the Anti-Defamation League, or the SPLC, or the corporate media, or … well, just ask the good folks at Google. 5

— Award-winning playwright, novelist, and political satirist, C.J. Hopkins.

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Due to its isolation and concealment it is all-too easy to think that Bilderberg exists inside some kind of a rarefied and hermetically-sealed bubble, when this is about as far from the case as it is possible to be. Rather Bilderberg serves as the hub to a deeply influential network of Atlanticist think tanks and sister organisations. A nexus that brings into contact, on the one hand, corporate heads and willing academics with, on the other, powerbrokers from Nato, the European Commission, heads of intelligence services and national political leaders.

As Bilderberg notes in its own Charity Commission report (yes – Bilderberg is a registered charity!):

“[T]he conferences facilitate the development of a network of personal relationships to be formed between individuals of responsibility and influence; relationships which can be leveraged in subsequent interactions at important moments.” 6

‘Leveraged’ is an interesting word isn’t it…?

Arguably the best-connected political lobbying group on the planet, Bilderberg is nowadays also fully interfaced with the leading tech giants, most notably Google, who can (and do) manipulate the flow of information on a global scale by simply adjusting their search algorithms. Meantime this same tech cartel is openly harvesting data on all of us thanks to their hold on what Julian Assange once aptly described as “the worldwide wiretap”. These tech links to Bilderberg have been totally hardwired, giving it a central role in the expanding control grid. Scientia est potentia: knowledge is power.

At the more visible level, Bilderberg are long-established kingmakers as the following list (put together and posted in a previous article) proves beyond a shred of doubt:

Gerald Ford attended Bilderberg 1964, 1966 appointed as US President 1974

Margaret Thatcher attended Bilderberg (at least 1975, 1977, 1986) became Prime Minister 1979

Bill Clinton attended Bilderberg 1991 became US President 1993

Tony Blair attended Bilderberg 1993 became Prime Minister 1997

Paul Martin attended Bilderberg 1996 became Prime Minister of Canada 2003

Stephen Harper attended Bilderberg 2003 became Prime Minister of Canada 2006

Angela Merkel attended Bilderberg 2005 became Chancellor of Germany (Nov) 2005

Emmanuel Macron attended Bilderberg 2014 became French President 2017 7

(Quite how influential Bilderberg is in terms of policymaking, I will come back to nearer the end.)

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Remarkably, this year’s Bilderberg coincided with no less than two parallel transnational meetings. So at the very same moment Henry Kissinger was glad-handing Dominique Anglade, Deputy Premier of Quebec; over the pond in Toronto, Trump was glowering at Justin Trudeau, this year’s host of the G7 summit. Interestingly, Justin is the eldest son of former Canadian PM and Bilderberg attendee Pierre Trudeau. (Pierre assumed office in 1968 just months prior to his invite to Bilderberg.)

Others in attendance at this year’s G7 included heads of state May, Merkel, Macron, Shinzō Abe, recently installed Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and Juncker and Tusk from the EU. Meanwhile in Brussels, an overlapping geopolitical event involved Nato’s defence ministers in a meeting chaired by Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, who later flew to Turin to join the Bilderberg gathering.

Given this unusually heavy schedule for high-powered get-togethers (it may indeed be unprecedented for Bilderberg and G7/8 to be scheduled on the same weekend) it is worth noting that the Bilderberg cohort was prestigious nonetheless, comprising no less than four current Prime Ministers (from Holland, Belgium, Serbia and Estonia); two Deputy Prime Ministers (from Spain and Turkey); Andrea Ecker, the Secretary General, Office Federal President of Austria; and Bernard Cazeneuve, the last Prime Minister of France. More ominously, others in attendance included Bernard Émié, Director General of the French Ministry of the Armed Forces; Ursula von der Leyen, German Minister of Defence; and, Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman of the Munich Security Conference.

As Charlie Skelton writes in his second and final instalment of this year’s somewhat curtailed ‘Bilderblog’ reports:

This year’s Bilderberg summit is a council of war. On the agenda: Russia and Iran. In the conference room: the secretary general of Nato, the German defence minister, and the director of the French foreign intelligence service, DGSE.

They are joined in Turin, Italy, by a slew of academic strategists and military theorists, but for those countries in geopolitical hotspots there is nothing theoretical about these talks. Not when the prime ministers of Estonia and Serbia are discussing Russia, or Turkey’s deputy PM is talking about Iran.

The clearest indication that some sort of US-led conflict is on the cards is the presence of the Pentagon’s top war-gamer, James H Baker. He is an expert in military trends, and no trend is more trendy in the world of battle strategy than artificial intelligence.

Click here to read Skelton’s full report which carries the strapline: “This year’s summit is all about war”.

Note and clarification: In my previous post I accidentally included the name of James H Baker under the heading “familiar faces” mistaking him for the shamelessly hawkish James Baker III who served under Bush Sr as Chief of Staff at the time of the Gulf War and shortly afterwards swivelled through the revolving doors to become a consultant for Enron.

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Russia, meantime, has become the readymade scapegoat for every political mishap and cock up. From Brexit to the election of Trump, Russia, and specifically Vladimir Putin, is accused of plotting it all. On each occasion, albeit with the limited resources of a struggling economy, he somehow manages to fool us anyway.

So let us pause for a moment to remember the tragic death of Arkady Babchenko. It’s okay you can look at the gore because none of it is real:

In fact, it turned out that all news of his death had been greatly exaggerated!

Come to think of it, that blood doesn’t even look real. But in spite all the phoniness our ‘reputable’ media outlets lapped up the whole sorry saga.

Likewise, without a scintilla of credible evidence, the same reporters working for the same media outlets warn of the Kremlin’s diabolic war by social media and of Putin’s unstinting efforts to push the West backwards into a “post-truth” world. Spreading chaos is his preferred mode of attack apparently. Endless repetition of this maddeningly fact-free conspiracy theory (for details read earlier posts here and here) bypasses your rational mind like the advertising jingle it is…

Usefully it also draws the public gaze far away from our own domestic cover-ups and media failings. Western propaganda is denied outright of course – as propaganda always has to be. Likewise our Western ‘intelligence services’ never lie: they are pure as the driven snow! (Please note that I highlighted ‘services’ because if these were run by foreign operatives they would be known instead as ‘agencies’ – names matter.)

Besides the condemnation of alleged Russian ‘meddling’ listen out for the call, as yet sotto voce, to counter enemy lies with lies of our own: for an injection of “persuasive (dis)information” to save the gullible masses from outside manipulation. The following extract is drawn from a research paper published by the RAND Corporation in 2016:

[O]ur fourth suggestion for responding to Russian propaganda: Compete! If Russian propaganda aims to achieve certain effects, it can be countered by preventing or diminishing those effects. Yet, the tools of the Russian propagandists may not be available due to resource constraints or policy, legal, or ethical barriers. Although it may be difficult or impossible to directly refute Russian propaganda, both NATO and the United States have a range of capabilities to inform, influence, and persuade selected target audiences. Increase the flow of persuasive information and start to compete, seeking to generate effects that support U.S. and NATO objectives. 8

[Italicised as in original]

Thus, under the pretext of ‘defending the free world’, we are now in the midst of an absurd information Blitzkrieg. Ostensibly against Russia, the real and ultimate purpose is a clampdown on dissident voices at home; a remorseless attack on free speech in which the key strategy is the filtering out of unwanted, since antithetical, alternative narratives. Any truth in the ‘post-truth world’ must be the truth endorsed by the state authorities and sanctified by the corporate media. Importantly, the internet genie must be forced back inside its bottle and fast. Google and Facebook to the rescue!

Soon all dissenting voices will be unmasked as ‘Russian bots’ – just ask British Twitter-user Ian Shilling (@Ian56789):

This Sky News interview with ‘UK government priority target’ Twitter-user Ian56 broadcast live in April would be simply hilarious if the connotations were not so sinister. The interrogation begins at 3:15 mins.

As C.J. Hopkins writes in his latest satirical blast:

I could go on and on with this. Have you heard the the one about the Putin-Nazis conspiring with the NRA? How about the one where Emmanuel Macron, in order to protect the French from “fake news,” and division-sowing Putin-Nazi memes, wants the authority to censor the Internet? Or have you read the column in which David Brooks, without a detectable trace of irony, laments the passing of international relationships “based on friendship, shared values, loyalty, and affection” … seriously, he used the word “affection” in reference to the Western alliance, one of the most ruthless, mass-murdering empires in the history of ruthless, mass-murdering empires? Oh,yeah, and I almost forgot … MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow is reporting that the North Korea summit was also orchestrated by Putin!

I’m not sure how much more bizarre things can get. This level of bull goose loony paranoia, media-generated mass hysteria, and mindless conformity would be hysterically funny … if it weren’t so f—king horrifying in terms of what it says about millions of Westerners, who are apparently prepared to believe almost anything the authorities tell them, no matter how nuts. That famous Voltaire quote comes to mind … “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities,” he wrote. Another, more disturbing way of looking at it is, people willing to believe absurdities, to switch off their critical thinking faculties in order to conform to an official narrative as blatantly ridiculous as the Putin-Nazi narrative, are people who have already surrendered their autonomy, who have traded it for the comfort of the herd. Such people cannot be reasoned with, because there isn’t really anyone in there. There is only whatever mindless jabber got injected into their brain that day, the dutiful repetition of which guarantees they remain a “normal” person (who believes what other normal persons believe), and not some sort of “radical” or “extremist.”

These people are the people who worry me … these “normal” people who, completely calmly, as if what they are saying wasn’t batshit crazy, explain how Trump is just like Hitler, and how Putin is trying to take over the world. I sit there and listen and smile at these people, some of whom are friends and colleagues, people who I genuinely like, and who genuinely like me in return, but who, under the right set of circumstances, would stand by and watch me marched into prison, or worse, and not utter a word in protest. 9

Click here and here to read C.J. Hopkins articles in full.

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All of which in a roundabout way brings me back to Bilderberg…

Skelton was, as usual, alone amongst mainstream journalists, and his annual Bilderblog column inches stand as a token gesture. Along with a handful of intrepid reporters – all, besides Skelton, independently funded – he relates how the lockdown had been exceptionally tight this year and that police harassment and intimidation were virtually non-stop from day one. How very differently the mainstream reporters attending G7 were treated: ‘treated’ being the operative word, such are the ample rewards for recycling official press releases. So what journalist in their right mind would choose instead to suffer the indignities of being pushed around and harried outside the main entrance to the Lingotto Hotel in Turin?

Each year the rough treatment meted out to all reporters at Bilderberg is simply the price paid for the not having a genuinely free press. Moreover, Skelton’s denial of access is the direct fault of the self-same media who passed up the opportunity to drill down into Bilderberg two decades ago when it was publicly outed by Jim Tucker courtesy of Channel 4’s Jon Ronson. But why expect the press follow up with demands for closer scrutiny and deeper analysis? Ever since Bilderberg was first convened and for more than three decades prior to Ronson’s limited exposé, the corporate media has been devoted instead to the task of covering up its excessively heavy tracks. The ‘corporate media’ is labelled ‘corporate’ with good reason.

Skelton says that “this year’s Bilderberg summit is a council of war” and he is being characteristically deliberate in his choice of words: the hint at a literal meaning is loud and clear. So oughtn’t this to send a shudder through each of us? Especially once we know – as we should – that leaked minutes from the Bilderberg conference held in Chantilly 2002 in the months prior to the illegal invasion of Iraq reveal how the pretext for a war was discussed at length.

This is what neo-con attendee Richard Perle said during one of the sessions at the meeting:

But the United States (unlike most of its allies) has the ability to take the war against terrorism to the terrorists, and it may be forced to go it alone in exercising this ability. It will be much quicker if we all do it together. Saddam has invaded his neighbours. He possesses chemical weapons. He is feverishly working to become a nuclear power. His ties to terrorist organisations force us to consider the possibility that he will distribute those weapons to terrorists. Can we wait for this to happen? The United States has no choice but to deal with Saddam: the right to self-defence must include the right to preventative action. 10

Words thereafter echoed by Colin Powell during his infamously false testimony to the UN Security Council. If Turin follows this precedent, then we will soon be at war with Iran.

So are we truly living in a “post-truth” world? Yes no doubt. How else could Bilderberg maintain its cloak of invisibility when the press is not just fully aware of its existence, but deeply embedded within its rank and file? And we might reasonably ask what else the ‘free press’ avoids mentioning out of cosiness or habit. This is perhaps the most urgent question. For wherever political power is permitted to operate above scrutiny, democracy atrophies.

Dan Dicks of ‘Press For Truth’ reveals leaked documents from previous meetings going back to 1950s including discussion of Saddam’s WMDs in 2002.

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Additional: Bilderberg the charity gig

According to Bilderberg itself, the conference is working for the “public good” by enabling participants to address “political, economic and social problems.” These are the exact phrases used in the annual report of the Bilderberg Association, the U.K.-registered charity that enables corporate donors like BP and Goldman Sachs to cover conference costs.

What this requires, on the part of an assenting public and press, is a Bilderburgian leap of faith. You have to believe, honestly and sincerely, that the chairman of Goldman Sachs International is at Bilderberg to do “public good.”

It’s as simple as that. If you think it’s ok (perhaps even preferable) that our elected officials should secrete themselves away to discuss global economic and social policy with all these brilliant financiers, media barons and billionaire industrialists, then you have to believe—truly believe—that the CEOs of Royal Dutch Shell, Ryanair and the Titan Cement Company have come to Bilderberg to do “public good.”

You have to believe—say it out loud—that Brian Gilvary, the Chief Financial Officer of BP (the world’s 12th biggest company, by revenue), has come to Bilderberg at the invitation of a director of BP, Sir John Sawers, in order to do “public good.”

You have to believe—give me an amen!—that David Petraeus, the former director of the CIA and now a Wall Street investor, is trying to solve the problems of the world on our behalf. And not on behalf of KKR and his boss, Henry Kravis. He’s in it for the love of fellow man.

And if you believe that Henry Kravis is at Bilderberg to do good, then fine, I’ll see your Kravis and raise you a Kissinger.

And if you’re still happy, then you’ve accepted the technocratic bargain. Let the technocrats reign: Let them quietly get on with running our societies, sorting out our problems, shaping our future, and telling us what’s what in our “post-truth” world, and we can get on with watching Netflix. Because quite frankly, that’s a full-time job. 11

Click here to read Charlie Skelton’s full report in Newsweek.

Luke Rudkowski of ‘WeAreChange’ speaking with journalist Charlie Skelton about Turin 2018

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1 From an article entitled “How the Corporate Media Enslave US to a World of Illusions” written by Jonathan Cook, published in Counterpunch on June 15, 2018. https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/06/15/how-the-corporate-media-enslave-us-to-a-world-of-illusions/ 

2 From an article entitled “Centrists are very concerned that Donald F—ing Trump isn’t Hawkish enough” written by Caitlin Johnstone, published on June 13, 2018. https://caitlinjohnstone.com/2018/06/13/centrists-are-very-concerned-that-donald-fucking-trump-isnt-hawkish-enough/ 

3 From an article entitled “How the Corporate Media Enslave US to a World of Illusions” written by Jonathan Cook, published in Counterpunch on June 15, 2018. https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/06/15/how-the-corporate-media-enslave-us-to-a-world-of-illusions/ 

4 Excerpt from Chairman of Communications Corporation of America (CCA) Arthur Jensen’s (Ned Beatty) “corporate cosmology” soliloquy to news anchor Howard Beale (Peter Finch):

“You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won’t have it! Is that clear? You think you’ve merely stopped a business deal. That is not the case! The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back! It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity! It is ecological balance! You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today! And YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and YOU… WILL… ATONE! Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale? You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM, and ITT, and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today. What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state, Karl Marx? They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories, minimax solutions, and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments, just like we do. We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Beale. It has been since man crawled out of the slime. And our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that… perfect world… in which there’s no war or famine, oppression or brutality. One vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock. All necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused. And I have chosen you, Mr. Beale, to preach this evangel.”

5 From an article entitled “Then They Came for the Globalists” written by CJ Hopkins, published in Counterpunch on March 23, 2018. https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/03/23/then-they-came-for-the-globalists/

6 From The Bilderberg Association (Charity Registration Number 272706) Annual Report and Financial Statements, “Activities, Specific Objectives and Relevant Policies”, p 3, published March 31, 2016. http://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk/Accounts/Ends06/0000272706_AC_20160331_E_C.PDF

7 All dates published by wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Bilderberg_participants#United_Kingdom

8 From a paper entitled “The Russian ‘Firehose of Falsehood’ Propaganda Model” written by Christopher Paul and Miriam Matthews, p 10. https://www.rand.org/pubs/perspectives/PE198.html

9 From an article entitled “Awaiting the Putin-Nazi Apocalypse” written by CJ Hopkins, published in Counterpunch on June 15, 2018. https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/06/15/awaiting-the-putin-nazi-apocalypse/

10 From the official minutes to the Bilderberg meeting at Chantilly from May 30 – June 2, 2002, Ch 1”The Consequences of the War against Terrorism”, p 16. https://info.publicintelligence.net/bilderberg/BilderbergConferenceReport2002.pdf

11 From an article entitled “Bilderberg 2018: Welcome to the Super Bowl of Corporate Lobbying” written by Charlie Skelton, published in Newsweek on June 8, 2018. http://www.newsweek.com/bilderberg-2018-welcome-super-bowl-corporate-lobbying-opinion-966871

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Filed under analysis & opinion, Charlie Skelton, Israel, Italy, Palestine, Russia

the unreal thing

The following article is Chapter Eight of a book entitled Finishing The Rat Race which I am posting chapter by chapter throughout this year. Since blog posts are stacked in a reverse time sequence (always with the latest at the top), I have decided that the best approach is to post the chapters in reverse order.

All previously uploaded chapters are available (in sequence) by following the link above or from category link in the main menu, where you will also find a brief introductory article about the book itself and why I started writing it.

*

Advertising is the rattling stick inside a swill bucket”

George Orwell

*

“Take a card, any card, it’s your choice… but don’t let me see what it is.” The magician fans the cards flamboyantly. We know it’s a trick of course. “Three of Clubs,” he tells us. We shake our heads dismissively – after all, we’re part of the act. The magician seems momentarily perplexed. “Do you have anything in your jacket pocket?” he asks as if desperately trying to turn our attention away from his apparent failure. We feel inside and find a sealed envelope. It’s the one we’d signed earlier in the performance. “Is the seal broken?” he asks, knowingly. “Open it – what’s inside?” We scratch our heads and quietly applaud. Somehow the magician has diverted our attention just long enough to construct the illusion of an altered reality. In truth his method was to “force” the card, and so his illusion relied on the simple fact that we really hadn’t a free choice at any stage. But we applaud because we admire his harmless deception. It amuses us to be deceived once in a while.

*

I saw an advert the other day. It read “Say No to No” which is the kind of quasi-Zen mumbo-jumbo that advertising executives get paid a small fortune to write. What was the effect of that advertisement? Well, it had suddenly interrupted my original train of thought. I’d probably been looking for the cigarette lighter or wondering how the living room table was so heaped up in junk again, but now I was reading on about how negativity gets in the way of progress. And which company, I kept wondering as I’d read down, would attach themselves to such a manifestly new age positive-thinking banner? I read on and came to examples of human achievements that left to the nay-sayers could never have happened:

“Yes, continents have been found…”, it read.

Found? By Columbus in 1492, presumably, and then Australia by James Cook. And no human had set eyes on them before? Obviously this is a rhetorical question. I read on…

“Yes, men have played golf on the moon…”

American men to be more precise. And it was indeed an incredible and truly awesome achievement – not the golf, but the travelling to the moon. When it comes to golf, there are obviously far superior facilities a lot closer to home. I read on…

“Yes, straw is being turned into biofuel to power cars…”

Well, hardly in the same league as exploration to such distant lands, but finally some inkling to where they were leading me…

I studied the picture more carefully. The words “Say no to no” are in thick capitals near the top of a blackboard already filled with images of progress and science – molecular structures, conical sections, a diagram showing a spherical co-ordinate system, graphs, line drawings of electron orbits and DNA, of animals and a ship and of course the ubiquitous pie-chart. A girl, her long straw-blond hair tied back into a pony-tail, and wearing a bright red tank top, has her back turned toward to us. She is reaching high, almost on tip-toe, into the black and white and adding the upward flourish of a spiral. Perhaps I was looking at one of those recruitment adverts for teaching, yet something told me otherwise…

And there it was – I’d found it at last – deliberately placed outside the main frame of the picture; a small, emblematic containment for all that progress: a remote, red and yellow scollop shell. The message was far from loud, but that was the point. And once spotted it was very clear, yet it had been intentionally delivered at a subliminal level – out of picture, unobtrusive, easily missed. Its instruction surreptitious and beyond the margins. Why? Because they wanted me to attach the ideas of positivity and progress to the symbol of a multinational oil corporation just as surely as Pavlov’s dogs associated lunch with the ringing of their owner’s bell. They wanted me to feel good things the next time I saw the scollop and to never even think about why.1

*

Advertising is simply another act of illusion and as with the performing stage magician, the audience is well aware that they are being tricked. But in advertising the illusion runs deeper, so that aside from the obvious aim of persuading us to buy Coke instead of Pepsi or whatever, it very often constructs a host of other frauds. Take again the advert mentioned above as an example, with the girl reaching up on tip-toe. Here nothing is accidental, with all parts and relationships operating together to reinforce our idea of progress as a constant striving toward a better world, whilst in the background, it only quietly dismisses any “nay-sayers” who disagree. Like many predators, advertisers work by stealth, often, as here, offering glimpses of Utopia, or of wonderful and perpetual advancement, to draw us on and in. The carrot on a stick swinging endlessly before the eyes of the befuddled donkey.

But then, on other occasions, they will take a different tack, and get out a proper stick. They’ll make us uneasy about our looks, or our lack of social status, before offering a quick fix for these problems so frequently of their own devising. There are many ways to ring our bells: both carrots and sticks are equally effective.

And then everyone says this: “Adverts don’t work on me.” So these companies spend literally billions of pounds and dollars on refining their illusions, posting them up all across our cities and towns, filling our airwaves with their jingles and sound-bites, not to mention the ever-widening device of corporate sponsorship, and yet still this remains as our self-deluding armour against such unending and ever more sophisticated assaults. I’ll bet you could find more people who’d say David Copperfield can really fly than would actually admit to being significantly influenced by advertising.

*

There probably never was a time when advertising was just that: a way to make products and services more widely or publicly known about. In such a time, adverts would have just showed pictures of the product and a simple description of its uses and/or advantages. “This is the night mail crossing the border…” – that sort of thing.

Though, of course, here immediately is a bad example, because the famous post office film is not only reminding us of what a jolly useful and efficient service our mail delivery is, but how wonderfully hard the GPO work whilst the rest of us are asleep. So on this different level Auden’s famous homage is a feel good thing, encouraging us to connect our good feelings to the postal service; it is an early example of public relations although still harmless enough in its quiet way.

But audiences get wise, or so we like to imagine, and so today’s advertisers have had to up the ante too. Gone are the days of telling you how to have “whiter whites” or advising everyone (with only a hint of surrealism) to “go to work on an egg”. Nowadays you’re far more likely to choose to eat a certain chewy stick because “it’s a bit of an animal” (without even noticing the entirely subliminal reference to your feelings about being carnivorous) or drink a can of soft drink because “image is nothing” (which presumes a ridiculous double-think on the part of the targeted purchaser). And where once a famous Irish beverage was just “good for you”, now it’s better because it comes “to those who wait”. Here you’re asked to make an investment in the form of time; an investment that is intended to add personal value to the brand.

Adverts are loaded with these and other sorts of psychological devices – cunningly latent messages or else entertaining ways of forging brand loyalty. They prey on the fact that we are emotional beings. They use tricks to bypass our rational centres, intending to hard-wire the image of their products to our feelings of well-being, happiness, contentment, success, or more simply, the image we have of ourselves. They use special words. LOVE for instance. Just see how many adverts say “you’ll love it”, “kids love it”, “dogs love it”, “we love it”, and so on and so on…. one I saw recently for condoms said simply “love sex” – talk about a double whammy!

Advertisers also like to scare us. When they are not showing us washing lines drying over the Fields of Elysium, or happy pals sharing time with packets of corn snacks, or elegant cars effortlessly gliding down open highways; they are constructing worlds of sinister dangers. Germs on every surface, and even in “those hard to reach places”. Threats from every direction, from falling trees to falling interest rates. I once saw an TV advert that showed a man desperately running from a massive and menacing fracture. It was a crack that seemed to be ripping through the very fabric of space and time, an existential terror relentlessly chasing after him through some post-apocalyptic nightmare. After a minute or so the threat abated and a solution was offered. Get your windscreen checked, it calmly advised.

And the government get in on this too. Watch out, watch out, there a thief about! Just say no to drugs! Sex is fun, but take precautions and don’t die of ignorance! In these ways, they ramp up fears of the real dangers we face, whilst also inculcating a sense of trust in the powers that be. The world is a perilous and unjust place, they say (which is true); fortunately, we are here to help you. Trust us to guide you. Obey our instructions. To protect you and your loved ones. To help you to realise your dreams. Together, we will make the world a fairer place. The constant PR refrains: “Believe”, “Belong”, “Trust”, and more recently, “Hope and Change”. O, ring out those bells!

*

Right now, there’s something refreshingly honest about smoking. Those of us who refuse or are unable to quit are left under absolutely no illusions about our little cancer sticks. We know perfectly well that each drag is bringing the grave that little bit closer. And it’s certainly not cool to smoke. Our clothes stink, our breath stinks, and stinking, we huddle outdoors, rain or shine, cluttering up the office doorways with our toxic fumes and heaps of fag-ends. But it wasn’t always so. Smoking had its golden age. A time when cigarettes were an accoutrement to style and when sharing a fag with a dame was nearly as great as sex.2 During this period, the tobacco industry invested a small fortune in maintaining their myth. They paid to lobby politicians, they made funds available for favourable medical research, and perhaps most significantly of all, they hired the best PR man in the business.

It can be fun to speculate on who were the most influential figures in history. Who would we wish to include? Great statesmen, formidable warriors, innovators, engineers, scientists and artists, when lists are polled for, the public generally take their pick from these, chucking in the odd saint or celebrity just for good measure. They choose between Churchill, Washington, Alexander the Great, Thomas Edison, and Albert Einstein, and if the criteria are widened to include villains as well as heroes, plump for Adolf Hitler, Mao Tse Tong, and Joseph Stalin. A selection, if you like, of the stars of the show. But what about people whose work involves them behind the scenes? What of those whose greater skill was to remain invisible or simply unnoticed? Edward Bernays was just such a man.

*

To say that Bernays was a great PR man is to do him a considerable disservice, for Bernays, who happened to also be a nephew of no lesser light than Sigmund Freud, is nowadays regarded as the father of modern PR. He wrote the book. Rather candidly he entitled it simply Propaganda – the word deriving from the Latin for “propagation” was less sullied back in 1928. In the opening chapter Bernays lays out the situation as he sees it:

“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.”

But Bernays is not warning us here, far from it. This is merely the way the world works, spinning along in a fashion that Bernays regards are both inevitable and to a great extent desirable. Better an orderly world of unseen manipulation than a world of ungovernable chaos. And it’s this point which he makes perfectly explicit in the very next paragraph:

“We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.”3

We should perhaps not be surprised to learn then that Bernays’ book was one that didn’t make it onto the bonfires of the Third Reich. Instead, Joseph Goebbels publicly praised Bernays’ work as especially influential, saying that it had formed the blueprint for his own Nazi propaganda machine. Certainly, it is a very practical guide. It delves into a great many areas and asks important questions. One of the most significant questions it asks goes as follows:

“If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it?”4

And the answer, as Bernays went on to prove with his amazing success in promoting everything from bacon and eggs to soap powder and political candidates, was HELL YES!

Working for the American Tobacco Company, Bernays had even piggy-backed a ride on the women’s rights movement. Offering encouragement to the fairer sex, for whom smoking in public was still very much a taboo, to keep on lighting their “Torches of Freedom.” Not that any similar strategy could work today obviously… well, not unless those torches were organically-grown by fair-trade tobacco farmers and rolled in chlorine-free paper supplied by sustainable forests, or whatever.

Bernays was the great promoter, perhaps the greatest, and he was keen to promote his own product, modern advertising, or as he called it propaganda, above all else. For Bernays, just as for his acolyte Joseph Goebbels, the future was propaganda:

“Propaganda will never die out. Intelligent men must realize that propaganda is the modern instrument by which they can fight for productive ends and help to bring order out of chaos.”5

*

Following Bernays, advertising no longer stops at breakfast cereals, toothpaste and petrochemical companies, having extended its parasitic tendrils throughout all areas of life, so that image becomes everything. Newspapers and magazines are glossier than ever. They radiate forth into the empty void of secular consumerist existence, visions of earthly fulfilment that can be bought (at preferential interest rates) – holidays, home improvements, house moves (especially abroad), fast cars, and millionaire lifestyles.

They tell us what is right to think about: beauty, health, fashion and that oh-so elusive of attributes, style. They tell us “how to get on”. They tell us what’s worth worrying about. DO worry about your wrinkles. DO worry about your waistline. DO worry about your split-ends. DO WORRY – because you’re worth it! Just as importantly we get to learn what is worth thinking about: success, fame and glamour, which when multiplied together make celebrity. Celebrity: from the Latin celebrare meaning to celebrate, or to honour. So whereas the ancients believed that the fixed and eternal heavenly stars were gods, we instead are sold a parallel myth revolving around “the stars of today”.

But newspapers and magazines are nothing, for their influence pales into insignificance when set in comparison to that flickering blue screen in the corner of the living room. It is our gateway to another world, a parallel dimension, where we are welcomed back each day by our virtual friends. It is a fire to warm us. A shadow-play of mesmerising potency. And here, the ever-tantalising jam of tomorrow has finally slopped over from its earlier containment within commercial breaks, to become what is now a mainstay for entire broadcasting schedules. Carrots and sticks for us to nod along to, 24/7, and three hundred and sixty-five days of the year.

It’s not even that all television is bad. Some is excellent. I would cite as an exemplar the consistently superior content of BBC wildlife documentaries, which far exceed any comparable alternative whether offered by books, radio, or at the cinema. Here is television at the very pinnacle of its achievement.

A great deal on television is produced just to amuse us, or amaze us, and occasionally, actually to inform us, and much of this merits credit too, but I do not feel it necessary to waste time pushing an open door. We all know that television can sometimes be marvellous. But we also know that most of it is junk. Junk that, with the influx of multiple digital channels, is spread ever more thinly and widely. In a modern world television certainly has its place, but we will do well never to forget its unprecedented powers:

“Right now there is an entire generation that never knew anything that didn’t come out of this tube. This tube is the gospel, the ultimate revelation. This tube can make or break president’s hopes… This tube is the most awesome God-damn force in the whole godless world, and woe is us if ever it falls in the hands of the wrong people…

And when the twelfth largest company in the world controls the most awesome God-damned propaganda force in the whole godless world, who knows what shit will be peddled for truth on this network. So you listen to me – Listen to me – Television is not the truth. Television’s a god-damned amusement park…

We’re in the boredom killing business… But you people sit there day after day, night after night, all ages, colours, creeds – We’re all you know – You’re beginning to believe the illusions we’re spinning here. You’re beginning to think that the tube is reality and that your own lives are unreal. You’ll do whatever the tube tells you. You’ll dress like the tube, you’ll eat like the tube, you’ll raise your children like the tube. You even think like the tube. This is mass madness. You maniacs! In God’s name, you people are the real thing – we are the illusion.”

Of course, if you’ve seen the film Network, from which this extraordinary rant is taken, then you’ll also be aware that these are the words of a madman!6

At the top of the chapter I quoted Orwell’s no-nonsense assessment of advertising, and advertising is indeed as he describes it: the rattling stick eliciting the same Pavlovian response in the pigs, as advertising executives wish to implant in our human minds. Their main intent to push their client’s products by making us salivate with desire. This was no different in Orwell’s time. Whilst advertising’s still more ugly parent, propaganda, has always aimed to change minds more fundamentally. It treats ideas as products and sells them to us. But the techniques in both advertising and propaganda have come a long way since Orwell’s time.

This power to propagandise has grown in large part because of television. The blue screen softly flickering away in the corner of every living room having opened up a possibility for thousands of ‘messages’ each day to be implanted and reinforced over and over. Unconsciously absorbed instructions to think in preformed patterns being precisely what Aldous Huxley thought would be needed if ever the seething and disorderly masses of any ordinary human population might be replaced by the zombie castes of his futuristic vision Brave New World. “Sixty-two thousand four hundred repetitions make one truth”, he wrote.7

Which is a joke, but like so much in Huxley’s work, a joke with very serious intent. Huxley’s vision of a future dystopia being subtler in ways to Orwell’s own masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four, not least because the mechanisms of mind control are wholly insidious. Huxley showing how you don’t have to beat people into submission in order to make them submit. Yet even Huxley never envisaged a propaganda system as pervasive and powerful as television has eventually turned out to be.

*

Advertising involves “the art of deception” and it has never been more artful than it is today… sly, crafty, cunning, scheming, devious, sneaky, and totally calculating. However, it is increasingly artful in that other sense too: being achieved with ever greater creative skill. Indeed, the top commercials now cost more than many feature films, and, aside from paying small fortunes for celebrity endorsement, the makers of our grandest and most epic commercials take extraordinary pains to get the details right.

Engineered to push the buttons of a meticulously studied segment of the population, niche marketing techniques ensure precise targeting with optimum impact. Every image, sound and edit honed, because time is money when you’re condensing your ‘message’ into thirty seconds. It is perhaps not surprising therefore that these commercial ‘haikus’ as regarded by some as the works of art of our own times. A view Andy Warhol (himself a former ‘commercial artist’) espoused and helped promote – though mostly he made his fortune espousing and promoting his own brand: a brand called Andy Warhol.

Warhol wrote that:

“The most beautiful thing in Tokyo is McDonald’s. The most beautiful thing in Stockholm is McDonald’s. The most beautiful thing in Florence is McDonald’s. Peking and Moscow don’t have anything beautiful yet.”8

Russian composer Igor Stravinsky is credited with a far better joke, having once remarked that “lesser artists borrow, but great artists steal”. As with Warhol’s quip, it fits its author well. Stravinsky here downplaying his unrivalled talent for pastiche, whereas Warhol could never resist hiding his gift for nihilism in plain sight.

But actually, advertising isn’t art at all, of course. Do I need to continue? It is a bloodless imitation that neither borrows nor steals, to go back to Stravinsky’s aphorism, but directly counterfeits. Feigning beauty and faking truth is all it knows, with a passing interest in the first in so far as it is saleable, and a pathological aversion to the second, since truth is its mortal enemy.

For if selling us what we least require and never thought we desired is advertising’s everyday achievement (and it is), then pushing products and ideas that will in reality make our lives more miserable or do us harm is its finest accomplishment. And the real thing? Like the stage magician, this is what the admen assiduously divert your attention away from.

Which brings me a story. A real story. Something that happened as I was driving to work one dark, dank February morning. A small thing but one that briefly thrilled and delighted me.

It was at the end of Corporation Street, fittingly enough I thought, where someone had summoned the courage to take direct action. Across the glowing portrait of a diligently air-brushed model were the words: “She’s not real. You are beautiful.”

That some anonymous stranger had dared to write such a defiant and generous disclaimer touched me. But it didn’t end there. This person, or persons unknown, had systematically defaced all three of the facing billboards, saving the best for last. It was for one of those ‘messages’ that is determined to scare some back into line, whilst making others feel smug with a glow of compliant superiority. It read: “14 households on Primrose Street do not have a TV licence” (or words to that effect).

The threat, though implicit, was hardly veiled. In Britain, more than a hundred thousand people ever year are tried and convicted for not having a TV licence. Some are actually jailed.9 But now this message had a graffiti-ed punchline which again brought home the hidden ‘message’ perpetuated by all of advertising. The spray-canned response read simply: “perhaps they’ve got a life instead.” A genuine choice the admen wouldn’t want you to consider. Not buying into things isn’t an option they can ever promote.

To add my own disclaimer, I in no way wish to encourage and nor do I endorse further acts of criminal damage – that said, here is a different piece of graffiti (or street art – you decide) that I happen to walk past on my way into work. In a less confrontational way, it too has taken advantage of an old billboard space:

the best things in life

Next chapter…

*

Addendum: a modest proposal

We are all living under a persistent and dense smog of propaganda (to give advertising and PR its unadorned and original name). Not only our product preferences and brand loyalties, but our entire Weltanschauung10 fashioned and refashioned thanks to a perpetual barrage of lies. Fun-sized lies. Lies that amuse and entertain. Lies that ingratiate themselves with fake smiles and seductive whispers. And lies that hector and pester us, re-enforcing our old neuroses and generating brand new ones. These lies play over and over ad nauseam.

Ad nauseam, the sickness of advertising, is a man-made pandemic, with modern commercials selling not simply products per se, but “lifestyles”. And think about that for a moment. Off-the-shelf ideals and coffee table opinions that are likewise custom-made. Beliefs to complement your colour-coordinated upholstery, your sensible life insurance policy, your zesty soap and fresh-tasting, stripy toothpaste.

Thanks to television, we inhale this new opium of the people all day long and few (if any) are immune to its intoxication, but then advertising operates at a societal level too – since by disorientating individuals, society as a whole becomes more vulnerable to the predatory needs of corporations. So cuddling up to the box and laughing along to the latest blockbuster commercial on the grounds that “adverts don’t affect me” just makes our own delusion complete.

I might have ended on a lighter note, but instead I’ll hand over to the late Bill Hicks at his acrimonious best (and apologises for his foul and abusive language, but unfortunately here it is fully warranted):

“By the way, if anyone here is in marketing or advertising kill yourselves…”

Bill pauses to absorb any cautious laughter, then quietly continues: “Just a thought… I’m just trying to plant some seeds. Maybe, maybe one day they’ll take root… I don’t know, you try, you do what you can…”

Still scattering handfuls of imaginary seeds, but now sotto voce for suggestive effect: “Kill yourselves…”

Another pause and then completely matter of fact. “Seriously though – if you are – do!”

And now Bill gets properly down to business: “Ahhh – No really – There’s no rationalisation for what you do and you are Satan’s little helpers okay… Kill yourselves. Seriously. You are the ruiners of all things good. Seriously. No, No, this is not a joke… Ha,ha, there’s going to be a joke coming… There’s no fucking joke coming! You are Satan’s spawn filling the world with bile and garbage. You are fucked and you are fucking us – Kill yourselves – It’s the only way to save your fucking soul – kill yourself…”

Then he comes to the crux of the matter: “I know what all you marketing people are thinking right now too: ‘Oh, you know what Bill’s doing. He’s going for that anti-marketing dollar. That’s a good market. He’s smart…’ – Oh Man! I’m not doing that! You fucking evil scumbags! – ‘You know what Bill’s doing now. He’s going for the righteous indignation dollar. That’s a big dollar. Lot of people are feeling that indignation. We’ve done research – huge market! He’s doing a good thing.’ – God damn it! I’m not doing that you scumbags…! Quit putting the dollar sign on every fucking thing on this planet!”

If we are ever to break free from the mind-forged manacles of the advertising industry then we might consider the option of broadcasting Bill Hicks’ rant unabridged during every commercial break on every TV channel on earth for at least a year – the obscenities bleeped out in broadcasts before the watershed!

While we’re about it, we will need a screening prior to every movie (during the commercial slots obviously) as well as key phrases rehashed into jingles and those same sound bites written up in boldface and plastered across every available billboard. Now, if you think this would be altogether too much of an assault on our delicate senses then please remember that is precisely what the dear old advertising industry does day-in and day-out. So wouldn’t it would fun to turn the tables on those in the business of deceit? And not simply to give them a dose of their own snake oil, but to shock us all with repeated jolts of truth instead.

*

Please note that for the purposes of ‘publishing’ here I have taken advantage of the option to incorporate hypertext links and embed videos – in order to distinguish additional commentary from the original text all newly incorporated text has been italised.

*

1 Incidentally, my young nephew had added a few scribbles of his own to this advertisement and it is interesting to note where he directed his pen marks, five places in all: one over each of the girls hands, one on the back of her head and another on her ponytail. And his only scribble that was not on the girl was on top of the scollop. Bullseye!

2 Of course in Hollywood films of a bygone age when censorship was strict, sharing a fag was also used as a metaphor for sex itself.

3 Taken from the opening to Chapter 1 entitled “Organising Chaos” of Propaganda, by Edward Bernays (1928).

4 Ibid. Chapter 4, “The psychology of Public Relations”

5 Ibid. Chapter 11, “The mechanics of propaganda”

6 “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” These are the words of anti-corporate evangelist Howard Beale, taken from the film Network (1976). A satire about a fictional television network called Union Broadcasting System (UBS), with its unscrupulous approach to raising the ratings, Network was written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet. Most memorably, it features an Oscar-winning performance by actor the Peter Finch, playing the part of disaffected news anchor Howard Beale. Beale, having threatened to commit suicide live on air, is given his own show. Billed as “the mad prophet”, he steals the opportunity to angrily preach against what he sees as the corporate takeover of the world, and steadily his show gathers the largest audience on television. The consequences are, of course, inevitable.

7 “One hundred repetitions three nights a week for four years, thought Bernard Marx, who was a specialist on hypnopædia. Sixty-two thousand four hundred repetitions make one truth. Idiots!” From Chapter 3 of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, published in 1932. 

8 Quote taken from Chapter 4 “Beauty” of The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: (From A to B and Back Again), published in 1975. 

9 “According to the most recent figures, about 70 people a year are jailed for TV licence fee offences. But the scale of prosecutions for licence fee evasion is far higher and now accounts for one in nine of all Magistrates Court cases. More than 180,000 people – almost 3,500 a week – appeared before the Magistrates Courts in 2012, accused of watching television without a valid licence in, with 155,000 being convicted and fined.”

From an article entitled ‘Dodging TV licence will not be a crime’ written by Tim Ross, published in The Telegraph on March 7, 2014. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/bbc/10684639/Dodging-TV-licence-will-not-be-a-crime.html

10 Weltanschauung: a particular philosophy or view of life; the world view of an individual or group.

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