Narratives, Labels and Propaganda
In highly politicized times, it becomes increasingly difficult just to be understood
In the Bush years, I was seen as some sort of naïve punk for being against the Iraq War, TSA security, and the Patriot Act. I was a dreamer (an uneducated kid who had a lot of learnin’ to do, I guess), for believing what was being done in the name of safety was really boxing us into a cage. At the time, this was largely the left-wing voicing these same concerns.
Now, in the Biden years, I’m perceived as some sort of "right-winger" by people who cheer on war with a nuclear power, increasing domestic surveillance, and stripping away basic civil liberties like bodily autonomy in the name of safety. While I’m also perceived as some sort of “commie” for pointing out how the right-wing is quietly advancing much of the same agenda.
Now, I’m not that old. I’m a millennial. But I feel like an old man. The world just ten years ago feels like a bygone era. The world B.C. (before covid) feels like a bygone era.
So… how did we get to where we are today and where are we going?
What’s driving all this?
It seems clear to me now: if you hold true to the principles of civil liberties you will appear to be a strange, bewildering boogeyman to those who go along with whatever is the current prevailing narrative. A narrative crafted to manufacture consent for expanding governmental powers. “Emergency powers” - which will never be lifted - to protect us from age old risks in life, that are branded as being a unique and novel threat.
If you don’t conform neatly into the categories created by the dominant narrative, then you will be perceived as a threat for not wanting the fox to “protect" the hen house.
Those who questioned the existence of WMDs or whether that was justification for an invasion were Saddam-sympathizers. Those who questioned the gas-attacks in Syria were “Assadists”. Now there is an aura of associations around anyone who questions the party-line. You will be placed somewhere in the amorphous realm of the racist, mysognist, transphobic, Russian-misinformation duped, anti-vaxxer, conspiracy theorist, alt-right Trumper, uneducated deplorables. (Increasingly it all seems to get rolled up into one big mush, an impressive feat of propaganda's power.)
As a dissenter you will be completely and utterly misunderstood, and sometimes deliberately misinterpreted, for the sake of keeping the childish ‘Good versus Evil’ narrative humming along. You pose a threat to a stiff and rigid worldview that has been constructed by the propagandists for the purpose of channeling the propagandized’s fear, anger and frustration onto someone external.
The dissenter, although not the only one, is essentially a scapegoat in a time of crisis.
All of this is part of a breakdown in our ability to communicate with one another. Orwell warned us of how language is weaponized by those in power, to be stripped of its meaning, and thereby stripping us of thought.
In times such as these - where information and language is increasingly weaponized - understanding the deeper nature of language is essential. I recommend the writings of Alfred Korzybski. If you can thoroughly understand what Korzybski meant by ‘The Map Is Not The Territory’ you’ll be better equipped than most to detect and cut through linguistic traps. (In essence: language is a realm of abstraction and metaphor. A chair is not a chair. It may be wood cobbled together in a certain fashion and our minds categorize it as “chair”. In the a similar way, a map of a territory is not the territory. It can never contain all the people, animals, living organisms, etc. It is a simplified and selective representation that varies in accuracy and usefulness. You might say someone who believes in an ideology has confused the map for the territory. Remember, you can’t spell belief without lie.)
One of the biggest linguistic traps correlates with how we socialize…
Today there is a hyper-fixation on identity. This is driven mostly by the ‘woke’ left in America, but there is also something of it on the center and the right in its still-forming ‘anti-woke’ backlash. If you haven’t already then chances are you will be deputized with an emotionally-loaded pejorative label of some sort by one or the other camp. If you’re an independent thinker like me you’ll be given labels from both, because both sides struggle with nuance or categorizing arguments in ways anything other from how their echo-chamber prescribes them to.
And it isn’t just pejorative labels you have to shrug off. A healthy indifference to compliments will preserve your sanity. Or don’t you want to be an “ally”? A “pro-science” “hero” who’s “got their head on straight”? You wouldn’t want to lose all that respectability now would you? Then steer clear of those bad thoughts. Don’t associate with those bad people. Don’t even listen to them.
One must be careful with self-prescribed labels too, as they can be limiting, and if you pride yourself too much on a particular label you make yourself vulnerable to the criticism of others.
As for me, I’ve stopped even thinking of myself as having any connection to the “LGBTQIA+ community.” It’s not really a community, but if it was, I’m still not part of it. I’m just a gay man. That’s it. A gay individual with his own way of seeing the world. I don’t speak on behalf of a “community” and would really appreciate it if others wouldn’t claim to speak on behalf of me.
Even more annoying are accusations of being a “self-hating gay” when disagreeing with the party-line. Especially when such accusations seem to come from unhealed people who haven’t realized they need to scold someone with moral indignation to ease their own pain.
The other label I have shed is leftist. I have found it much easier to analyze and make sense of the world without starting from the leftist box. It’s a bit tight in there. Whatever your dearest political label may be, you may want to get out and stretch your legs sometime too. It can be in private. No one has to know. Just try it out, see if it feels roomier.
Take for instance, how the left insists on a rigid definition of ‘capitalism’ that is presumed to be our current economic system. Yes, I get what they mean by this. The major owners of capital have the most power. But consider how they straw man the libertarians argument for capitalism, which they define differently. Capitalism is supposed to have bankruptcy written into it. This is not the system we have. More accurately we have a form of corporate socialism whereby most of the major corporations are subsidized or have been bailed out by government money. Meaning, when the left says that libertarians want unregulated corporate power that would lead us right back to the economic situation we have currently, they’re ignoring how inseparable big government and big corporations are. Since many libertarians have a philosophy of decentralization, how many would you suppose really support central government or corporate powers? A monopoly wouldn’t exist in a libertarian practice.
Libertarians and progressives have historically shared an interest in preserving civil liberties and opposing corporate power. Ralph Nader discovered much overlap such as this by opening up dialogue through the Left-Right Alliance. Yet people get so hung up on the messy political labels that they never slow down and realize they have grievances about the exact same thing (the corruption is “crony capitalism” to the right, and “corporate welfare” to the left).
Instead, signaling your allegiance to your in-group appears to be increasingly more valued than open discussion with someone of an out-group. (See the social media reaction to Jimmy Dore interviewing a Boogaloo Boy for a clear example of this). We’ve segregated ourselves from each other through identity politics. This is what labels do, they divide. It’s what any good language does, differentiate one thing from another. But the more labels we create - the more fixated on them we become - the more divided we get. And the less we remember how much we have in common. It’s time we stop dividing and start putting the puzzle back together again.
Let me suggest an alternative model for identity politics as it currently is. Identity politics is, at best, a failed attempt at understanding the enemy. It may define enemies, and make enemies, but it doesn’t help people to know their enemy.
If you’re not in the 0.01% of wealthy global elites, the world is not changing in your interest right now. The people who control the media, the lobbyists, an increasing amount of farmland and real estate, and influence over public education. Those who control big tech, and try to control the flow of information, they want you to be begging for, to welcome with open arms, their plans to impoverish and control the rest of us. These people are pathological. They have a need to control others. They don’t think like you and me.
And that is the model I’d like to suggest: one of pathology. The Psychopathocracy has been around as long as civilization. The most ruthless, cunning, manipulative people rose to the this system long ago. They dominate, conquer and enslave. They know how to use the military, the political class, the priest class, and the financial system (based on usury) to prop themselves up. Though eugenics is a more recent term, they have long sought to perpetuate their bloodline with rulers like them. They have trans-national allegiance and many of the powerful elite are quite concerned about “overpopulation”.
You’ve much more in common with your neighbor across the political spectrum than those who come from money.
The other big factor today that is changing the way we perceive ourselves is technology and social media. More than ever people have their faces in front of a screen. Modern technology has made it easier than ever to propagandize and socialize the public.
Philosopher Hans-Georg Moeller, in ‘You and Your Profile: Identity After Authenticity’, has argued that we are moving away from an era of authenticity, and into an era of profilicity (that is to say, an era in which we are defined by our profiles, as in social media profiles or social credit profiles). Perhaps the most remarkable thing is he seems to think that this shift is - while partly confusing for humankind - an overall good thing. (It may not come as a surprise he also teaches at The University of Macau in communist China).
As the Chinese model for a social credit score system is rolled out over the world, one can imagine what this will do to the human psyche. It has been said before that Americans have been trained to constantly view themselves as if they were watching their own life like a movie. Perhaps in the age of profilicity we’ll be trained to constantly keep our mind’s eye on our ego as if it were being rated by internet commenters. Just take a break from reading this and imagine that for a moment.
It’s a rather soul-crushing thought experiment isn’t it? Completely awe-inspiring in its mundane wretchedness. A masterpiece in social engineering to make us all competitive, petty, but largely compliant narcissists.
I do not subscribe to any religious dogmas, but it is hard for me not to see this transformation as spiritual warfare. An assault on the human spirit.
The rapid technological advances we have made are not inherently bad. But the flaws within the human brain that tolerate this hierarchical social structures, that place control over such technologies that have such tremendous power to socialize a society to the preference of a manipulative elite that makes up such a tiny portion of the population… that is what is so dangerous. We need an awakening among the masses, to how our culture, and our individual behavior, is being molded by powerful people who do not have our best interest at heart.
Whether or not such an awakening will happen, behaving as if it can is the only shot we’ve got at overcoming the mass hypnosis and pharmaceutical sedation. Hope is the engine of survival. Not blind hope. Keep your eyes open to what’s going on in the world of course. To be informed is to be armed. But keep hope as a defense. Dwelling on suffering or succumbing to fear is the goal of the propaganda. When you’re in fear mode you’re cut off from your high cognitive functioning, and can easily made bad decisions. I’m speaking from experience.
As has been more succinctly expressed by Suspicious0bservers:
Eyes open. No fear.