This was my senior research paper in high school. I'm sure it's got problematic stuff in it. Because of context, though we still needed to cite 1984 and/or Brave New World in text, they were not to appear in the Bibliography. So they aren't there. After this paragraph, everything is exactly what I turned in, minus the cover page. I'll probably talk about whatever problematic stuff I put in it as a later post, unless someone wants to do it for me first, but I wanted this up so I could point to it, since there seems to be some discussion of the book going on with other bloggers I follow/talk to.
General Trigger Warning because I don't remember what all is in here but I discuss a lot of things.
You are not as free as you might think. Within the rule of law, you have the right to do whatever you want to. You have the right to vote however you want to. What you are short on, however, is the ability to choose for yourself what it is that you want without being manipulated. Every day, you are bombarded with messages, both stated and sneaky, trying to make you think and feel a certain way. Manipulation works as well as it does because pain and fear drive people, because people tend to believe what they hear, especially if it is repeated, and because everyone wants to be as happy as possible with as little work as possible.
Manipulation Through Fear
We live in a world of fear, with danger around every corner. Children are taught not to talk to strangers because people they do not know could be evil people who want to take them away from Mommy and Daddy to hurt them. A mother who allows a nine year old son to ride the New York subway alone is viewed as irresponsible (Skenazy). To be unafraid is to be a daredevil lunatic, and in her case, a bad enough mother to make national TV over the incident. Parents are now afraid, but it is not only parents. It is everyone, and the government wants it this way so that doing anything besides accepting the restrictions imposed to protect us from our fears is unpatriotic. It is letting the terrorists win if we do not do everything in our power to catch them and stop them.
However, a program that would truly protect us fully is impractical. Anyone could be a terrorist in theory, and we cannot prevent an attack that can come from anyone to hit anywhere. Trying would only bankrupt us even more than we already have been. The advantages, therefore, must lie with the other side. That was our assumption (Fallows). In reality, we have a much stronger position than any member of the government would have us believe. To admit that the physical damage of an attack is impossible to prevent but the true damage would come from our reaction, which we can control, would reject the politics of fear.
Rejecting fear as a tool may be a nice campaign idea, but it is not a way to effectively control a population. Former President Richard Nixon admits to it. “People react to fear, not love,” he says. “They don't teach that in Sunday School, but it's true” (qtd in Altheide). With a reaction to fear that will make people do whatever they can to feel safe, but little or none to the advice of a figure using love, fear is the tool of choice. Who takes the advice of their parents without having something to fear should they not? Taxes, on the other hand, get done on time because people are scared of the IRS. Fear works.
Because fear works, so does propaganda. If the media is afraid of what could happen for promoting anything but the government line, and people are afraid because the government line is scary, then everyone will listen to the government in order to be kept safe. By keeping debates off the subjects that could make people less afraid, taking advantage of the human wish to think the best about themselves, and keeping the media in line, propagandists can spread any message they choose (Shah). Terror is the way to do it, leading to the question: Are the terrorists truly the enemy, or simply the scapegoat with which to make the herd afraid enough to listen?
It is not as if Al-Qaeda -Scared as soon as you read the name? If the media did its job well, you are- can do enough damage on its own to destroy America. According to Killcullen, the threat of Al-Qaeda comes now mainly from our reaction to them. Much like the threat of European anarchists, who only killed perhaps 2,000 including the Archduke Ferdinand, the real destruction comes from the government response (Fallows). In the case of the anarchists, the response was World War Two. In the case of Al-Qaeda, the reaction is the “War on Terror,” which can never end because it is against an idea, not a nation. It also allows for an attack on any nation home to terrorists and unwilling to eradicate them. Because we define who terrorists are, this provides a blank check to go to war as often as deemed necessary by the government and for as long as is beneficial. Our media, to the benefit of our leaders, created spectacle around the attacks of September 11, making the obvious response the one favored by policy. “Terrorists have long constructed media spectacles of terror to promote their causes, attack their adversaries, and gain worldwide publicity and attention” (Kellner). We did the job for the terrorists with our constant coverage, not even breaking for commercials. The only difference is that the spectacle promotes our goal. This is the difference between good and evil: Good creates fear for the good of whatever side I am on, and people who create fear for any other cause are Evil. The threat is also real, making the fear that Good provides completely logical, whereas Evil makes threats of American Imperialism spreading, which simply cannot be. This is excluding all of our actions in the Middle East for the past 50 years, of course, which were rarely related to the claimed goal of spreading democracy. Using war, fear, and destruction to create regimes that are friendly to us, then having another period of war to curb our own liberties with when they turn unfriendly, is the real goal.
With fear defining the wartime attitude and wartime infinitely extendable, pushing through legislation that supposedly trades liberty for security is always possible. The Patriot Act, for example, passed during the shock-based fear after the attacks of September 11, 2001, takes away many levels of privacy. By framing the Patriot Act as an attack upon the agents of terror, the Bush Administration successfully played upon the politics of fear. It finds a target that we are afraid of, assumes that further attacks will come from it, makes an attack upon it, and kills dissent as against what we need. Fear will call you unpatriotic for being against the safety reforms that take away from out liberties (Altheide). Being unpatriotic is equivalent to being one of the terrorists is Bush's with or against philosophy, so no one wants to be the one to stand up and say that the curbing of liberty is wrong in all circumstances, or that perhaps trading liberty for security is not worth the cost.
An extreme case of trading liberty for security shows up in George Orwell's 1984, commonly used as a warning of what communism can look like whenever a “socialist” reform is proposed. Communism is totalitarian, and therefore socialism must be too. This makes anything good for the workers, from rights for unions to universal healthcare, attackable with references to 1984. This is yet another use of fear to destroy rational thought and make everyone hold the official sanctioned opinion. Referencing 1984 and communism to turn people against a reform that has socialist tendencies is in fact more like the manipulation in 1984 than allowing many of these reforms would be. Calling the option that we are not currently using evil simply because it is not exactly the same and preventing a true understanding is the exact method of all three world powers, all using nearly the same philosophies
to control their populaces. In fact, the warning of a 1984-type world is most appropriate when understanding of the opposing view is prevented, when surveillance is increased, or when liberties are curtailed. Providing healthcare to people who need it is not the thing to attack with a reference to the world of Winston, though it has been used along with the death-panel panic.
Opponents to reforms and proponents of security bills are not alone in using fear as a tactic. Despite campaign rejections of the politics of fear, President Obama has used fear for his agenda too. The difference? He pushes healthcare instead of war. Fear is still the tool because fear is known to work. There are three main things for the middle class American to fear as far as his arguments go: “They (Fear No. 1) lose their job or income, then (Fear No. 2) fall seriously ill and then (Fear No. 3) receive the health care they need, but lose valued assets” (Saunders). I would expect something as useful as universal healthcare to be passable without the use of fear to manage opinion, but seemingly even this requires control through terror.
Changing the thoughts of the people to the thoughts of those in charge may seem like a difficult task. However, people who are afraid are not thinking rationally. Rational thought is the enemy of those who wish to control public opinion, and therefore killing it with fear is a the method of choice for government agencies needing to garner votes for a change they hope to make.
Manipulation Through Repetition and the Tendency to Trust
Our codes of right and wrong may seem obvious, but what would happen if the rules repeated so often in youth were drastically different from the ones we hear today? Hear something enough times, or be forced to take it as a given in order for a conversation to make sense, and eventually you will accept it as true. Daily relationships could not function if people could not believe what they were told, so the default assumption is that we are being told the truth. By taking advantage of this trust, and by making sure that the intended message can be recalled effortlessly through repetition, opinions of entire populations can change in time frames shorter than we might like to believe.
In today's political debate, key phrases, get used again and again in order to hammer the message in. In healthcare reform, the mere suggestion of a new bill sparks outcries: “Government bureaucrats will choose your doctor and prescribe your treatments” (Hertzberg). Both sides used key words that sounded good to pull opinion in their favor- Democrats using the “public option” and “universal coverage” to improve the the image of the reforms, preferring to gloss over bureaucratic inability to make anything cheaper, while Republican cite imaginary “death panels” and repeat “your doctor, your plan” against reforms that offer an additional option for what “your plan” could be (Hertzberg.) Neither side is unbiased, and both use their key terms to try to sway opinion.
Historically, repeating slogans has been shown effective in bringing the young to the side of the better slogan-writers, typically in the pay of either the richest person or the one with the largest army. Nazi Germany's Hitler Youth joined for the parades and the marching, but quickly swallowed the whole philosophy and began to turn in their parents. The deadly success of indoctrinating the Hitler Youth lends credence to the young heroes of 1984, turning in their parents for any sign of unorthodoxy. Bringing the children into the Spies at the age of five, teaching them to listen at keyholes, and feeding them the thoughts of the Party creates a human incapable of thinking anything other than pure Party doctrine and with no reasoning against turning family in (Orwell.) With a doctrine repeated infinitely from an age when children are often unaware of the possibility of lying and therefore completely trusting, the government chooses what the people think before they have the language skills to argue. By the time these skills are acquired (if ever- the point of 1984's Newspeak is that this never happens), thoughts against the official doctrine are impossible. In Huxley's Brave New World, this repetition begins even earlier and makes rebellion similarly unlikely. Conditioning begins in the test tube at the same time that life does, with associations made between cold and discomfort for those who will live in the heat. It then continues by putting books with pain for low-caste workers who do not need to read, and ice cream with death to desensitize. As soon as verbal skills are acquired, hypnopaedia, moral education in sleep, begins (Huxley.) By forming associations that circumvent rational thought and feeding lines that become familiar and can be regurgitated whole, the mind is filled with the ideas of the ruling class without anyone needing to think about these ideas. The familiarity is intentional- people are more comfortable with what they know (“Rhetoric.”) By making sure people hear the same ideas over and over again, knowledge and comfort are enforced both in the distopias of fiction and in modern politics. Then only the inevitable acceptance is required, with little to no rational thought.
The lack of thought needed for swallowing these ideas is purposeful. According to Noam Chomsky, “a principle familiar to propagandists is that the doctrine to be instilled in the target audience should not be articulated... The proper procedure is to drill them home by constantly presupposing them, so that they become the very condition for discourse” (qtd in Shah.) This too is used to great effect in Orwell's 1984 in the use of Newspeak. The assumptions needed for communication include Big Brother being good and all foreigners being bad. To say, “Ingsoc is ungood” would be possible, but it implies the contradiction because good is part of Ingsoc, or English Socialism (Orwell.) Cognitive dissonance is extremely uncomfortable and needs resolution as quickly as is reasonably possible, so the easy way out is not to say or think things which go against the presuppositions used in everyday function.
With following the ideas of the ruling class unavoidable to the properly conditioned, the idea of absolute truth, other than whatever this ruling class thinks, must fall. There lies totalitarianism, which is ideal for those who no longer hold their distinction between what is true and what is not (Elshtain.) In Oceania, this distinction has fallen. History is alterable and has therefore never been altered (Orwell.) The alteration always includes the removal of itself from the timeline of the world, so that everything stated by Big Brother is always correct. There is no such thing as universal truth, and therefore only the accepted truth matters. Have the right people say it and it is true.
Say it the right way, say it often, start it young, and have the right people take up the statements. Eventually, everyone must believe because the human tendency is to trust.
Manipulation and the Pursuit of Happiness
Happiness is a universal desire with the right to pursue it stated in our country's Declaration of Independence, but what if following happiness were just another way of letting someone control you? Religions preach the way to eternal joy, that holy grail of happiness. Few deny the influence of the church in history, and though looking at how the people were made to fall in line may seem trivial, it is worth examining the methods behind any organizations as potent as the church. The typical analogy of carrots (eternal joy in heaven) and sticks (eternal damnation in hell) shows the methodology well enough. It worked and continues to work because of the avoidance of pain and the draw of pleasure.
In raising the generation where everyone gets a prize, those in charge are aware that self-esteem is one factor recognized in why people are happy or unhappy. People want to think well of themselves. A good opinion of their home country does not hurt either. Both of these factors in well-being can be taken advantage of by skilled diplomats, politicians, and propagandists (Shah.) This is how bandwagon-based advertising gets its effectiveness. If all the cool people are buying this cool new car, then I want one too so that I can be cool, right? However, there is a very good chance that the cool people are not buying the car yet when the advertisement comes out. They begin to buy when they know the other cool people are, which they know from the ad that convinces them that this is the case.
In diplomacy, there is also such positiveness. Rather than uniting against a common enemy, which lasts as long as the enemy is common, a goal that both groups share can be established. By respecting others values and the communication of those values, a diplomatic resolution can often be reached (“Rhetoric.”) By keeping in mind that the others are human and want to think the best of their homeland and themselves, how to phrase things in order to meet the goals of diplomacy becomes clearer. Now look at the relationship between a government and the people as a diplomatic one. The ruling group knows how to phrase arguments such that disagreeing would appear to go against basic cultural values, especially if they have previously manipulated those values to meet their goals, as is the case in both China in the Cultural Revolution and Brave New World .
In China's Cultural Revolution, the adults had to either be re-educated, scared into obeying, or taken out of the picture. Youth, however, could have their original values brought into agreement with those the government needed them to have. The already extant obedience to authority, especially elders, which comes from the Confucian tradition of China, needed only the modification of the highest obedience to Mao Zedong and the Communist Party. Just as in the ideas Confucius put in his Analects, the job of the government bureaucrats is to be looking out for the best interests of the people and the job of the people is to obey the leaders. Even though the best interests part was questionable during the Revolution, when people starved in re-education camps, everyone had their little red book, and children were taught that Mao knows better than Mother and Father, the idea that obedience to the authorities who are looking out for the peoples best interest brings happiness kept the masses in line.
In Brave New World, the values are very different from those of China in the Cultural Revolution, but the obedience is the same. Rather than saying that the World Controllers know better than Mother and Father, the idea of parents is simply abolished. Consumption, everyone belonging to everyone, and drug use are hammered in through the endless repetition of hypnopaedia, then used to keep the masses happy and obedient (Huxley.) People who are convinced that consumption will make them happy are pleased to consume all the products of industry, which is needed so the products do not build up forever. With everyone belonging to everyone, sexual desires are quickly given into and met, so there lies a source of physical pleasure and a lack of angst. Should even that fail, there is always the perfect drug, soma. This hallucinogen brings pleasure outside of time for as long as the effects last and has no hangover afterwards. Because everyone wants their happy pills and the government controlls the supply, the chase for happiness forces obedience to the World Controllers whims, always directed towards keeping power.
Pain and its fear, familiarity from repetition, and the desire for joy are all used every day to bring the masses ideas in keeping with those of the people with power. “The object of power is power,” O'Brian reveals while breaking Winston down (Orwell 217.) The object of manipulation is also power: power over peoples actions, thoughts, and feelings. If the ability to manipulate on a massive scale were as refined as it is in 1984 or Brave New World, it would surely be used to the same extent. While this point has not yet been reached, a hard look at history shows that we are closer than we might like to admit. Guard your freedom well, what of it you have left. With the ability to manipulate how you think and feel, there is less freedom left than you might think.
"Rhetoric." DIPLO | Online Courses in Diplomacy | Research on Contemporary Diplomacy | Internet Governance. Web. 15 Apr. 2010.
Hertzberg, Hendrik. "Lies." The New Yorker. The New Yorker, 21 Sept. 2009. Web. 15 Apr. 2010.Skenazy, Lenore. "Is It Just Me: Let's Stop Scaring Our Kids." Readers Digest Oct. 2008. Readers Digest. Web. 19 Apr. 2010.