Recently by Jack D. Douglas: A Real War Game of HeadlessChicken
"The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans…”
~ Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf, Ch. 6.
"The first casualty when war comes is truth."
~ Sen. Hiram Johnson, 1917.
"…much, if not all, of the major news about Vietnam could have come out at the time. Even the information eventually revealed in the Pentagon Papers was available or could hve been deduced at the time, as I.F. Stone demonstrated, by diligently ploughing through government reports and transcripts of open hearings, and by reading between the lines.”
~ Phillip Knightley, The First Casualty, pg. 422.
The U.S. and British governments and Media Corporations developed an immense Propaganda War of lies and half truths in World War I to deceive their own people and the enemy people of Germany and its allies to make the "Huns" look like baby murderers and everything else evil.. They used the already highly developed mass media advertising industry to create and perpetrate their Propaganda War and they coordinated it with massive shows of "agitation" to create what the Soviets later came to call Agitprop. This Agittprop War of almost a century ago against their own people and the enemy was so powerfully effective that Adolph Hitler studied it intensively for three years, according to his account in Mein Kampf, to develop his massive fascist or Nazi Propaganda War. (He did not call it Agitprop, probably because his Soviet enemies had preempted it, but his information war against the German people was a brilliant melding of propaganda and agitation, as seen in the vast Nuremberg Party gatherings and Albert Speer's thrilling "light cathedrals" glorifying The Party.)
The U.S. government has made immense strides for almost a century now in developing its totally enveloping Agitprop World to deceive its own people and the Global Empire. Many thousands of scientists, psychologists, political scientists and other social scientists, advertising people, broadcast technicians, official statistics experts, sigint secret police, and psyops military officers and technicians work constantly to improve these techniques of mass deceit and to suppress any truth that tends to undermine the Official Agitprop. Very importantly, the mass broadcasting corporations have been completely married to the state and the Republicrat Party at the top through the immense regulatory agencies and the vast Party "legal system" known as administrative law and the court system, almost all of whose higher level members are loyal Party members and are appointed by the Republicrat Party. (Local court judges are often elected with Party help.) And, nearly as importantly, the Big newspapers and giant corporations owning almost all of the middle size news papers and magazines are now completely wedded to either the Republican wing or the Democratic wing of the Party. Few Americans have any idea that they literally live their entire lives within a Party information cocoon. We are not yet under the secret totalitarian observation and control that Truman is in The Truman Show, but the wraparound information cocoon is in place and when the artificial intelligence programs become available for such massive surveillance and control it is entirely possible that some U.S. government will secret decide that "National Security" in a time of war demands it be put in place. This vast Party Agitprop Cocoon has grown at an accelerating rate since World War II. (Much of the apparatus was shelved after WWI until WWII, though the U.S. rapidly developed its global sigint spy networks to keep minute tabs on the movements of Japanese ships and the British did the same to follow the movements of each major German military unit.)
The Korean and Cold Wars were used as the Party justifications for imposing an official national State of Emergency which was then used as the supposed legal basis for building the immense secret police armies and constantly extending the vast Agitprop Cocoon. We have been officially in a state of war now for over a half century, the most important laws of the Constitution have been suspended wholly or in part to allow the Party Leader to rule largely in secret and largely by dictate, and to carry on the Party Agitprop War.
The obvious first casualty in America's Permanent State of War has been truth. Americans now routinely use the term "it's official" to mean that a bit of information is not be be questioned in public, most obviously not in the Big Media. The Truth is mandated by official procedures. If a secret or overt police agent gives official testimony and official documentation of your guilt, you are routinely found guilty by the court. If you maintain that the official documentation is wrong or a lie, that is up to you to prove. It is not up to the official to prove you are guilty. You are guilty by that official procedure establishing official information unless you can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are innocent. Even the most immense official investigations and court trials have led to the official processing and sentencing and execution of a huge number of people for murder whom DNA evidence is revealing to be innocent. The vast majority of official cases get almost no significant attention and are merely routinely found guilty by official documentation and procedure.
At the top level of the most important issues decided and administered by government, from printing money and training all the young children how to think and act through state education to waging war, the official information and the politicians in control of creating it is inherently deceitful (not merely inherently statistically invalid, which it certainly is, but purposefully biased — that is, in non-statistical terms, distorted by lies.) This is not the least bit surprising to anyone who knows that even the personae — the public "images" — of the politicians creating and running this whole immense System are themselves Big Lies. Tricky Dick is now infamous for his Big Lies about himself and his policies. But all of our top Leaders since roughly WWII have been Tricks upon the public in the same way, though to varying degrees along different dimensions.
This crucial fact about our System was made by George Orwell, who learned it by his experience with the British variant on the fascist state, shortly after WWII. The finest insider expose I know of the Big Lies about their public selves of our American Leaders was written by Meg Greenfield in the last year of her life as she waited to die from cancer. She was totally immersed in American political life at the top in Washington for forty years as a political journalist and most of that time as editor of the editorial pages of the vast Washington Post and columnist with Newsweek. She revealed the awful truths about the total deceitfulness of American political life only between the lines during the half century she wrote about politics (the first period being with The Reporter in the 1950's when I started reading her work and decoding it). She knew she would be totally banished from the System if she openly said what she thought. So she wrote Between the Lines and In Code for intelligent people with enough experience to be able to decode it truthfully. In her last year she got out her secret diaries and wrote openly about the terrible pall of total deceit that had been built by The Party around the System. In her brilliant book published after her death, Washington, she says explicitly that no one can understand this System unless they see it stripped bare of the Lies as Orwell did half a century ago. And she shows in detail that at the center of this vast System of Agitprop [a term she did not use but would probably have loved] is the Big Lies about the Political Personae — the images of their lying, pseudo-selves they project on the public through the Media. As she said, when she started studying them from the inside in the early 1960's there was a "two track" life, the "real self" and the "image" which they switched back and forth in projecting, the real in private and the lies in public. But by the end of her life in the late 1990's there were only the lies. The real had almost been totally eaten away by the lies and they came to think of themselves in terms of the lies they had created. Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, the Bushes and Obama are what you see and nothing more — all lies — and you get what you see, lies. (She did not draw that stark conclusion, but that is the obvious implication of her brilliant analysis and I think she would accept it if she were with us today. She died before Clinton, Bush 2 and Obama hit the national scene at the top, but they are more extreme than what she saw.)
Since these empty self Lies are at the center of the whole System and create and administer it, it is not the least bit surprising that the whole vast, global System of Official Information long ago became a System of Official Propaganda (a felicitous term used as the title of a book by my friends David Altheide and John Johnson, though I do not think they would yet agree with my more sweeping conclusions about The Party Agitprop System). I myself first became aware of the vast system of official mistakes and lies by doing meticulous studies of official information on suicide and crime and then extended that to official information on inflation, unemployment, and on and on. I came over the decades to realize that the statistically invalid and biased definitions were more and more lies, especially about information of major importance to the Party Leaders. Suicide statistics are invalid and biased largely by mistakes and by local lies of coroners and (less so) medical examiners (who are not elected by the local populations). But the official information about wars and economics and politics are overwhelmingly lies. Even the number of ships in the U.S. Navy, which you might think would be impossible to lie about, is a lie because much of what the Navy does is done by pseudo-private ships under contract to the Navy. The same is true even of the number of "troops" in Iraq and so on. Hard Numbers are now normally lies when it involves something important to The Party Leaders. The official U.S. National Debt is only about one sixth to one tenth the real accrued deficits of the U.S. government — which is quite a whopping Big Lie. There is a lot of unofficial analysis of such Official Lies today, though generally done in the meek, sotto voce tones of supplicants found in all fascist states rather than the blatant terms of lies.
We are, then, encapsulated by the Party Agitprop System. If we are highly experienced and have not been swept away with power lust by joining the Party and the System, we can see the general outlines of the Big Brother System of Lies Orwell first showed us (much as an astronomer shows us we are not the center of the Universe about which everything turns but a tiny planet in an immense galaxy of many billions of stars and perhaps an infinite number of galaxies). Anyone who does not see that Big Truth cannot possibly see the myriad smaller truths about the System. But, once you do see the Big Truth, how do you determine the myriad lesser truths?
You absolutely do not determine the truth by asking officials and believing what they tell you. That is the standard operating procedure of almost all American journalists and that is why almost all of America's Big News about the important issues to officials is lies. When you live inside a Party Agitprop System you have to always do investigative social research and creative interviewing (the names of two books I did about these strategies of truth seeking). Since you can rarely use the ideal methods of deep immersion in the things you want to determine the truth about, you have to become a investigative guesstimator. You will probably rarely get the whole truth about what is going on and, if you do, you will not know it until it is too late to do you much good. You must adopt an attitude of suspicion, just as any good detective does (and I think the gut-level sense of this truth is one reason people in the past century have become so obsessed with the detective story). Officials can rarely do effective Agitprop out of whole cloth, especially since there remain some small media outside of their control and they know that a loss of "credibility" will undo the whole System. So they only tell big lies when they know they cannot get caught. Bush 2, for example, told colossal whoppers about Hussein, al-Queda, etc., because he knew Americans know nothing about them and had been primed to believe all kinds of Big Lies about them (such as that bin Laden is trying to destroy freedom in America, Lies exposed by the Michael Scheur of the CIA al-Queda desk in his Anonymous book Imperial Hubris). Most of the time they have to "be in the ball park" or even reveal some small truths to support their bigger Lies. The System is also so immense and needs more truthful information to be able to control it that they often cannot prevent other officials in the System from "spilling the beans" that reveal their own "bean counting" is a "pack of lies" supported by little truths. This was what I.F. Stone realized in the early days of The System and he showed how to use all the information available in highly suspicious and analytical ways to ferret out partial truths — guesstimate the truth.
Very importantly, always think analytically and creatively, using your knowledge of how human nature works, what people do in such situations, what the history of such things is, what the officials are trying to lie about in this situation for what purpose, what might have happened (look at the full gamut of possibilities and weigh them), and so on.
Obviously, the more experience and knowledge one has about the issues, the more effective one has become at analyzing official information and spotting the lies and wheedling out the bits of truth hidden in the lies, and the more wisdom one has accumulated over a lifetime, the more effective the analysis will become. Young people are at a tremendous disadvantage and are easily taken in by the Lies du jour coming at them from all the Media at the same time. More intelligent people learn to defend themselves by "Just Saying No," at least sotto voce, and getting on with their lives as best they can. Over the decades vast networks of underground communications develop so that the more knowledgeable and wise can help those who do not yet have those assets. People learn by watching who is right in their analyses whom to trust. Officials, for example, never predict recessions or admit Bubbles or predict Bubble Crashes. Most security analysts use their "up-beat lies" to lure the "suckers" in at the top of markets. But there are some honest people outside the System, even a few economists like Robert Schiller, author of Irrational Exuberance, who tell the truth as best they can: they do analayze Bubbles and try to predict when they will fizz or Crash. They have good records, especially in spotting autocatalytic (self-reinforcing) Bubbles, the classic kind. Pay attention. If you don't have a powerful memory, keep diaries about official statements to check them against outcomes. When Bush proclaims with absolute certainty that the U.S. must invade Iraq because of the imminent danger of his attacking us with WMD's, then softens this to "Someday," then admits there are none but switches to a series of new justifications for "Staying the Course," this fact of Lies will jump out at you from your diaries and you will be much wiser the next time.
Learn to watch intently for tips of the ice-bergs of reality. When officials proclaim that "everything is coming up roses," but you are running faster and faster to keep up with inflation and you have bright friends who have not gotten a worthwhile job since the crash of the Great Bubble, and you know you will never be able to afford to buy a house at these prices, and people all around you are going into debt and cashing out the equity in their houses to stay afloat, you know they're lying. Learn to watch for even smaller tips that are crucial. When they tell you the U.S. soldiers are treating Iraqis kindly and the Iraqis love them, then you see tv-news video of U.S. Special Ops tying up and putting sacks over the heads of Iraqis in front of their families and tossing them in the back of trucks, you know they are lying. When four star generals tell you on live tv that the "terrorists" are done for and then they have to duck for cover in the heart of a big city in Iraq, you know…Be alert, watch, think, look around the corners, consider the alternative possibilities and Lies, remember, and don't let them take you in.
Do not go off the deep end. When you start to see through the Lies it is easy to jump to the conclusion that there are vast conspiracies of all kinds out to get you and everyone else. Paranoia in a vast fascist System of secret police armies is justified and necessary up to a point, but all things must be balanced. The System armies of secret police and Special Ops Death Squads have limited resources and they probably are not interested in you at all as long as you stay below the Big Media radar. If you become an enemy of the state in the big media, they will try to destroy you by character assassination, charges of being a paranoid "conspiratorialist,' and all the rest. But they have bigger fish to fry than the vast majority of us. The same was true in Nazi Germany where the Gestapo had immensely more limited resources than our gigantic System does, so most people lived out the System and eventually were able to live in the sunshine once again. The Gestapo was so distant that They Thought They Were Free (an excellent book about that). They were not. As in America today, the System was a total wrap around System that largely cut you off from reality out there, but people who did not become public enemies of the party had wriggle room. You do to as long as you are not on that secret Black List that changes with the Threat List. Stay off it. You can't beat the System. The System will Implode some day. Don't attack them. Wait. They will think you are a "nut case," just as they will think I am if they take note of me, because I am not going to attack them or call for revolution or any such thing. I knew the Soviets would crash (but expected it later than it came) and I know this System will crash (but not when). Wait. Do not go off the deep end. Enjoy your family and friends and your Taoist or Zen garden or your petunias or roses.
Be judicious and hopeful. This is one of the hardest things to do. When people realize they are being lied to by a whole gigantic system they often "Freak Out" and begin thinking the world is coming to an end — or should do so. I get letters from honest and anguished young people saying just that. It's heart-breaking and I understand the despair. I went through many years of growing "feeling down" and sometimes downright "depressed" as America spiraled downward into this vast vortex of lies. It is a great catastrophe for mankind that the cradle of modern democracy is being destroyed from the top down by its leaders. But you have to survive, live for a better day, make a living, provide for your family, and be of good cheer as much as you can in the realm of your family and friends. We are not the first people to suffer such catastrophes and ours are nothing much yet compared to what happened to the Germans, Italians, Russians and many other people caught in the backwash of their evil fascist and communist Systems. If you survive and retain your sanity, rather than jumping out the window as one fine journalist in Vietnam began to dread he was going to do when he realized that the U.S. military and government were carrying out an immense terror in Vietnam and telling total lies about it all, you can start over and help to rebuild a better world. Maybe it will not be as bad as I fear it will. Maybe I am all wrong and America will soar onward and upward forever on Obama's bright balloon of happiness and some day you can exult with him "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!" I certainly know I could be wrong about all of this. I am not filled with hubris and I do pray I'm wrong. If you feel yourself about to jump out the window, remember I and all these other investigative thinkers might be all wrong. Maybe America is still a land of the free and a home of the brave, not a land of immense bureaucracies of secret police and Special Ops Death Squads roaming the world.
Dream a happy dream of deliverance. Life is worth living if you keep your balance and surround yourself with loving family and friends. That was true in Nuremberg under the Nazis and in Moscow under the communists. If you can learn to meditate on the good things in your life and let the evil things you can do nothing about float off into the darkness, you will survive and live a fulfilling life.
Do not deny the realities, but learn to live in spite of them and learn to avoid their worst effects. Above all, be of good cheer in spite of the awful truths out there. Guesstimating the truth is a first step to learning to live well in spite of it.
Jack D. Douglas [send him mail] is a retired professor of sociology from the University of California at San Diego. He has published widely on all major aspects of human beings, most notably The Myth of the Welfare State.