The Doors Of Perception: Why Americans Will Believe Almost Anything
We are the most conditioned, programmed beings the world has ever known. Not only are our thoughts and attitudes continually being shaped and molded; our very awareness of the whole design seems like it is being subtly and inexorably erased.
The doors of our perception are carefully and precisely regulated. Who cares, right?
If everybody believes something, it's probably wrong. We call that Conventional Wisdom.
In America, conventional wisdom that has mass acceptance is usually contrived: somebody paid for it. Examples:
Pharmaceuticals restore health
Vaccination brings immunity
The cure for cancer is just around the corner
When a child is sick, he needs immediate antibiotics
When a child has a fever he needs Tylenol
Hospitals are safe and clean.
America has the best health care in the world.
And many many more
This is a list of illusions, that have cost billions and billions to conjure up. Did you ever wonder why you never see the President speaking publicly unless he is reading? Or why most people in this country think generally the same about most of the above issues?
In almost every act of our lives whether in the sphere of politics or business in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires that control the public mind."
Here Comes The Money
Once the possibilities of applying Freudian psychology to mass media were glimpsed, soon had more corporate clients than he could handle. Global corporations fell all over themselves courting the new Image Makers. There were dozens of goods and services and ideas to be sold to a susceptible public. Over the years, these players have had the money to make their images happen. A few examples:
Procter & Gamble
The PlayersThough world-famous within the PR industry, the companies have names we don't know, and for good reason.
The best PR goes unnoticed.
For decades they have created the opinions that most of us were raised with, on virtually any issue which has the remotest commercial value, including:
medicine as a profession
fluoridation of city water
household cleaning products
cancer research and treatment
pollution of the oceans
forests and lumber
images of celebrities, including damage control
crisis and disaster management
genetically modified foods
food additives; processed foods
Bernays learned early on that the most effective way to create credibility for a product or an image was by "independent third-party" endorsement.
For example, if General Motors were to come out and say that global warming is a hoax thought up by some liberal tree-huggers, people would suspect GM's motives, since GM's fortune is made by selling automobiles.
If however some independent research institute with a very credible sounding name like the Global Climate Coalition comes out with a scientific report that says global warming is really a fiction, people begin to get confused and to have doubts about the original issue.
So that's exactly what Bernays did. With a policy inspired by genius, he set up "more institutes and foundations than Rockefeller and Carnegie combined." (Stauber p 45)
Quietly financed by the industries whose products were being evaluated, these "independent" research agencies would churn out "scientific" studies and press materials that could create any image their handlers wanted. Such front groups are given high-sounding names like:
Temperature Research Foundation
International Food Information Council
Center for Produce Quality
Tobacco Institute Research Council
The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition
Air Hygiene Foundation
American Council on Science and Health
Industrial Health Federation
Global Climate Coalition
International Food Information Council
Alliance for Better Foods
Sound pretty legit don't they?
Canned News Releases
As Stauber explains, these organizations and hundreds of others like them are front groups whose sole mission is to advance the image of the global corporations who fund them, like those listed above.
This is accomplished in part by an endless stream of 'press releases' announcing "breakthrough" research to every radio station and newspaper in the country. (Robbins) Many of these canned reports read like straight news, and indeed are purposely molded in the news format.
This saves journalists the trouble of researching the subjects on their own, especially on topics about which they know very little. Entire sections of the release or in the case of video news releases, the whole thing can be just lifted intact, with no editing, given the byline of the reporter or newspaper or TV station - and voilá! Instant news - copy and paste. Written by corporate PR firms.
Does this really happen? Every single day, since the 1920s when the idea of the News Release was first invented by Ivy Lee. (Stauber, p 22) Sometimes as many as half the stories appearing in an issue of the Wall St. Journal are based solely on such PR press releases.. (22)
These types of stories are mixed right in with legitimately researched stories. Unless you have done the research yourself, you won't be able to tell the difference.
The Language Of Spin
As 1920s spin pioneers like Ivy Lee and Edward Bernays gained more experience, they began to formulate rules and guidelines for creating public opinion. They learned quickly that mob psychology must focus on emotion, not facts. Since the mob is incapable of rational thought, motivation must be based not on logic but on presentation. Here are some of the axioms of the new science of PR:
technology is a religion unto itself
if people are incapable of rational thought, real democracy is dangerous
important decisions should be left to experts
when reframing issues, stay away from substance; create images
never state a clearly demonstrable lie
Words are very carefully chosen for their emotional impact. Here's an example. A front group called the International Food Information Council handles the public's natural aversion to genetically modified foods.
Trigger words are repeated all through the text. Now in the case of GM foods, the public is instinctively afraid of these experimental new creations which have suddenly popped up on our grocery shelves which are said to have DNA alterations. The IFIC wants to reassure the public of the safety of GM foods, so it avoids words like:
Instead, good PR for GM foods contains words like:
It's basic Freudian/Tony Robbins word association. The fact that GM foods are not hybrids that have been subjected to the slow and careful scientific methods of real crossbreeding doesn't really matter. This is pseudoscience, not science. Form is everything and substance just a passing myth. (Trevanian)
Who do you think funds the International Food Information Council? Take a wild guess. Right - Monsanto, DuPont, Frito-Lay, Coca Cola, Nutrasweet - those in a position to make fortunes from GM foods. (Stauber p 20)Characteristics Of Good Propaganda
As the science of mass control evolved, PR firms developed further guidelines for effective copy. Here are some of the gems:
dehumanize the attacked party by labeling and name calling
speak in glittering generalities using emotionally positive words
when covering something up, don't use plain English; stall for time; distract
get endorsements from celebrities, churches, sports figures, street people - anyone who has no expertise in the subject at hand
the 'plain folks' ruse: us billionaires are just like you
when minimizing outrage, don't say anything memorable, point out the benefits of what just happened, and avoid moral issues
Keep this list. Start watching for these techniques. Not hard to find - look at today's paper or tonight's TV news. See what they're doing; these guys are good!
There is a very dangerous phenomenon that seems to be occurring in the United States of America; something that I refer to as "the dumbing-down of the American mind," a nearly willful tendency for Americans to forgo reality in favor of believing what they want to believe...
...This link between leadership and learning is not only essential at the community level. It is even more indispensable in world affairs. Ignorance and misinformation can handicap the progress of a city or a company, but they can, if allowed to prevail in foreign policy, handicap this country's security. In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America's leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with their seemingly swift and simple solutions to every world problem.
...There will always be dissident voices heard in the land, expressing opposition without alternatives, finding fault but never favor, perceiving gloom on every side and seeking influence without responsibility. Those voices are inevitable.
But today other voices are heard in the land--voices preaching doctrines wholly unrelated to reality, wholly unsuited to the sixties, doctrines which apparently assume that words will suffice without weapons, that vituperation is as good as victory and that peace is a sign of weakness. At a time when the national debt is steadily being reduced in terms of its burden on our economy, they see that debt as the greatest single threat to our security. At a time when we are steadily reducing the number of Federal employees serving every thousand citizens, they fear those supposed hordes of civil servants far more than the actual hordes of opposing armies.
...Above all, words alone are not enough. The United States is a peaceful nation. And where our strength and determination are clear, our words need merely to convey conviction, not belligerence. If we are strong, our strength will speak for itself. If we are weak, words will be of no help.
...I have spoken of strength largely in terms of the deterrence and resistance of aggression and attack. But, in today's world, freedom can be lost without a shot being fired, by ballots as well as bullets. The success of our leadership is dependent upon respect for our mission in the world as well as our missiles--on a clearer recognition of the virtues of freedom as well as the evils of tyranny.
...Finally, it should be clear by now that a nation can be no stronger abroad than she is at home. Only an America which practices what it preaches about equal rights and social justice will be respected by those whose choice affects our future. Only an America which has fully educated its citizens is fully capable of tackling the complex problems and perceiving the hidden dangers of the world in which we live. And only an America which is growing and prospering economically can sustain the worldwide defenses of freedom, while demonstrating to all concerned the opportunities of our system and society.
...That strength will never be used in pursuit of aggressive ambitions--it will always be used in pursuit of peace. It will never be used to promote provocations--it will always be used to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes.
We in this country, in this generation, are--by destiny rather than choice--the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of "peace on earth, good will toward men." That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: "except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain."
Americans Don't Know They are Eating Genetically Modified Food
Only 43% of people in the US know that some of the food they are purchasing and eating is genetically modified (GM), according to a new survey. Additionally nearly one of four people incorrectly believes that such food is not being sold in the US.
The survey was conducted by the International Food Information Council (IFIC), an industry group funded by food, beverage and agricultural industries.
Currently, the use of genetically modified food is a subject of enormous global controversy. Consumer and environmental groups have demanded that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) follow the lead of the European Union, Japan and other nations by requiring labels on GM foods so consumers know what they are buying. The US government claims that such mandatory food labels are unnecessary because genetically modified food "poses no inherent safety risk".
Conductors of the industry sponsored phone survey never used the term "genetically modified", preferring the nicer sounding "foods produced through biotechnology".
Additionally, "87% of consumers agreed that education through toll-free numbers, brochures, and Web sites would provide better sources of information than food labels," one of the surveyors noted.
'Ben Bagdikian has written the first great media book of the twenty-first century. The New Media Monopoly will provide a roadmap to understanding how we got here and where we need to go to make matters better.' -Robert McChesney, author of Rich Media, Poor Democracy "No book on the media has proved as influential to our understanding of the dangers of corporate consolidation to democracy and the marketplace of ideas; this new edition builds on those works and surpasses them." -Eric Alterman, author of What Liberal Media? Praise for the First Edition of The Media Monopoly: "A groundbreaking work that charts a historical shift in the orientation of the majority of America's communications media-further away from the needs of the individual and closer to those of big business." -Bruce Manuel, Christian Science Monitor Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ben H. Bagdikian is dean emeritus of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley. His other books include Double Vision: Reflections on My Heritage, Life, and Profession. Book DescriptionWhen the first edition of The Media Monopoly was published in 1983, critics called Ben Bagdikian's warnings about the chilling effects of corporate ownership and mass advertising on the nation's news "alarmist." Since then, the number of corporations controlling most of America's daily newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, book publishers, and movie companies has dwindled from fifty to ten to five.