“All that is needed is money and a candidate who can be coached to look sincere; political principles and plans for specific action have come to lose most of their importance. The personality of the candidate, the way he is projected by the advertising experts, are the things that really matter.” A. Huxley
Although this interview’s focus is the US of the 60’s, by now much of it sound familiar all over the world. Here is another excerpt.
WALLACE: Mr. Huxley, in your new essays you state that these various “Enemies of Freedom” are pushing us to a real-life “Brave New World,” and you say that it’s awaiting us just around the corner. First of all, can you detail for us, what life in this Brave New World would you fear so much, or what life might be like?
HUXLEY: Well, to start with, I think this kind of dictatorship of the future, I think will be very unlike the dictatorships which we’ve been familiar with in the immediate past. […] Now, I think what is going to happen in the future is that dictators will find, as the old saying goes, that you can do everything with bayonets except sit on them!
But, if you want to preserve your power indefinitely, you have to get the consent of the ruled, and this they will do partly by drugs as I foresaw in “Brave New World”, partly by these new techniques of propaganda.
They will do it by bypassing the sort of rational side of man and appealing to his subconscious and his deeper emotions, and his physiology even, and so, making him actually love his slavery. I mean, I think, this is the danger that actually people may be, in some ways, happy under the new regime, but that they will be happy in situations where they oughtn’t to be happy.
“[…] This is the dialectic of the OLD and the NEW.
It is those who propose almost every week new terms to grasp what is going on today, post modern society, risk society, post- industrial society, informational society, … they, I think, miss what is really new.
The only way to grasp what is New in the new is to analyze what is going on today through the lenses of what was eternal in the old […]”
Here is an excerpt from a review of Žižek’s book: Violence:
“[…] Žižek’s aim is to look at violence in a different way. Usually, it is linked to a perpetrator, a murderer, terrorist, rioter. Žižek calls this subjective violence, because we can identify the subject. But there are two other kinds of violence that are often hidden because no-one can readily be held responsible for it.
The first is systemic violence and, today, the quintessential example is capitalist speculation. This self-gendering monster that pursues its path disregarding any human or environmental concern is only fed by traders and financiers in the city. And the system itself also generates the solution to the problem of its violence: The same philanthropists who give millions for AIDS or education in tolerance have ruined the lives of thousands through financial speculation and thus created the conditions for the rise of the very intolerance that is being fought. Thus liberals, who frequently feel the lash of Žižek’ pen, don’t know whether to condemn or admire a Bill Gates or George Soros. It’s a trap.
The second type of hidden violence is symbolic. It is implicit in language. For example, when Muslims reacted so violently to the publication of the caricatures of Muhammad in Denmark, it was not because they had seen the cartoons, but because the cartoons became a focus for the humiliations and frustrations that are identified with Western violence. This condensation, it needs to be borne in mind, is a basic fact of language, of constructing and imposing a certain symbolic field, Žižek explains. Just to speak is to do a violence; again, a trap. […]”
“In economics the whole idea that the free market is an efficient system is coming under serious attack. Over the past five years many of the Nobel prices for economics have been awarded for research that shows that markets do not create stability or order. What Adam Smith called the invisible hand, is invisible, because it isn’t actually there, and politicians do have a powerful role to play in controlling the markets.
And a new discipline called behavioral economics is being studying whether people really do behave as the simplified model says they do.
Their studies showed that only two groups in society actually behaved in a rational self-interested way in all experimental situations:
One is the economists themselves, the other is psychopaths.”
Curtis blogs here.
The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom is a 2007 BBC documentary series by English filmmaker Adam Curtis. (See his blog here)
Part 1: F*k You Buddy
Part 2: The Lonely Robot
Part 3: “We Will Force You To Be Free”
An excerpt from Part 1:
[…] “In 1979 Mrs. Thatcher has come to power in Britain. What she promised to create is a society based on the dream of individual freedom. People would be liberated from the arrogant elites and the State bureaucrats (…)*. But Mrs. Thatcher new she would have to find a new way of managing and controlling (…) in a complex society in order to avoid chaos. And to do this, just like the psychiatrists in America, she would turn to systems based on the objective power of numbers. But underlying the new mathematical models would yet again be the very dark and suspicious vision of human beings that the cold war strategists had assumed. This vision will now penetrate to the very heart of the British state.
Thatcher government began in the early ages by selling off many of the state owned interests. But it soon became clear that in the modern world there were large areas of the State which would have to remain under government control. Mrs. Thatcher was determined to free them too from the old forms of management.
To do this she would bring in a system no longer run by ideas of public duty, instead public servants would be encouraged by incentives to follow their self-interests.
It was all in keeping with the idea of the inventors of Public Choice: James Buchanan.
He believed that those politicians and bureaucrats who preached the idea of public duty that were the most dangerous, what he called the zealots. They have to be got rid of them.
Buchanan: […] If our success depends on the goodness of politicians and bureaucrats, then we are in real problem.
It was a dark and pessimistic vision of human motivation, but it was about to become the bases for a new system for managing the British state.
In 1988 Mrs. Thatcher announced the complete reform of the way the national health service was run. The fundamental (…) was to overthrow the power of the medical establishment and replace it with a new efficient system of management. To do this Mrs. Thacher turned to a man who had been one of the nuclear strategist of Rand Corporation at the height of the Cold War. (Alain Enthoven)
[…] Enthoven developed a technique he called system analysis. It was a technique of management that he believed could be applied to any type of human organization. Its aim was to get rid of all the emotional and subjective values that confused and corrupted the system, and replace them by rational, objective methods, mathematically defined targets and incentives.
Enthoven had first tried to apply this system back in the 1960’s when he was still in the military. The secretary of defense Robert McNamara asked him to help transform the way Pentagon was run. Enthoven began to get rid of the idea that Patriotism should be the guiding force of America’s defense and replacing it with a rational system based on numbers.
What replaced patriotism and notions of duty, were mathematically measurable outcomes.
But McNamara’s experiments had ended in disaster when he had tried to run the Vietnam war with rational mathematical way through performance targets and incentive. The most infamous example has been the body count. It has been designed as a rational measure of whether America was winning the war, but in fact troupes simply made it up, even shot civilians to perform (…)* targets. […]
I had bookmarked this 2002 BBC documentary long time ago, then forgot all about it.
After a discussion on democracy which occurred after an earlier post, I was listening to a podcast where this movie was mentioned again. Finally I watched an hour of The Century of The Self and I am heading to see the rest of it. It is so thought provoking that I had to share and recommend it right away. Here are Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and part 4. You can read about all episodes through links on this BBC page.
Bernays was the first person to take Freud‘s ideas to manipulate the masses. He showed American corporations how they could make people want things they didn’t need by systematically linking mass-produced goods to their unconscious desires. He was one of the main architects of the modern techniques of mass-consumer persuasion, using every trick in the book, from celebrity endorsement and outrageous PR stunts, to eroticising the motorcar.
A few excerpts from Part 1:
“Following that (Roosevelt‘s) election, business people start to get together and start to carry on discussions, primarily in private, and they start to talk to each other about the need to sort of carry on ideological warfare against the New Deal, and to reassert the connectedness between the idea of democracy on the one hand and privately owned business on the other. And so under the umbrella of an organization which still exists, which is called “National Association of Manufacturers” and whose membership include all of the major corporations of the United-States, a campaign is launched explicitly designed to create emotional attachments between the public and big business. It’s Bernays’ techniques used in a grand scale, I mean totally.[…]
The campaign set up to show dramatically that it was business, not politicians who had created modern America.”
“He (Bernays) was about to help create a vision of the utopia that free market capitalism would build America if it was unleashed. In 1939 New York hosted the World’s Fair. Edward Bernays was a central adviser, he insisted that the theme be the link between democracy and American business. […]
The World’s Fair was an extraordinary success and captured America’s imagination. The vision it portrayed was of a new form of democracy in which business responded to people’s innermost desires in a way politicians could never do. But it was not a form of democracy that depended on treating people as active citizens as Roosevelt did, but as passive consumers because this, Bernays believed, is the key to control in a mass democracy. […]
But this struggle between the two views of human being as if there were rational or irrational was about to be dramatically affected by events in Europe. […]”
Adam Curtis blogs here.
One thing leading to another, I looked up “Social engineering”, one reads the following: All social engineering techniques are based on specific attributes of human decision-making known as cognitive biases. These biases, sometimes called “bugs in the human hardware,” are exploited in various combinations to create attack techniques …
Our hardware bugs are listed extensively. To name a few:
- Decision-making and behavioral biases: Many of these biases are studied for how they affect belief formation, business decisions, and scientific research.
Bandwagon effect — the tendency to do (or believe) things because many other people do (or believe) the same.
Confirmation bias — the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions.
Déformation professionnelle — the tendency to look at things according to the conventions of one’s own profession, forgetting any broader point of view.
Endowment effect — the fact that people often demand much more to give up an object than they would be willing to pay to acquire it.
Focusing effect — prediction bias occurring when people place too much importance on one aspect of an event; causes error in accurately predicting the utility of a future outcome.
Framing — by using a too narrow approach or description of the situation or issue. Also framing effect — drawing different conclusions based on how data are presented.
Illusion of control — the tendency for human beings to believe they can control or at least influence outcomes that they clearly cannot.
Mere exposure effect — the tendency for people to express undue liking for things merely because they are familiar with them.
Need for closure — the need to reach a verdict in important matters; to have an answer and to escape the feeling of doubt and uncertainty. The personal context (time or social pressure) might increase this bias.
Not Invented Here — the tendency to ignore that a product or solution already exists, because its source is seen as an “enemy” or as “inferior”.
Omission bias — the tendency to judge harmful actions as worse, or less moral, than equally harmful omissions (inactions). …. more
- Biases in probability and belief: Many of these biases are often studied for how they affect business and economic decisions and how they affect experimental research.
Authority bias — the tendency to value an ambiguous stimulus (e.g., an art performance) according to the opinion of someone who is seen as an authority on the topic.
Availability cascade — a self-reinforcing process in which a collective belief gains more and more plausibility through its increasing repetition in public discourse (or “repeat something long enough and it will become true”).
Hindsight bias — sometimes called the “I-knew-it-all-along” effect, the inclination to see past events as being predictable.
Observer-expectancy effect — when a researcher expects a given result and therefore unconsciously manipulates an experiment or misinterprets data in order to find it.
Overconfidence effect — excessive confidence in one’s own answers to questions. For example, for certain types of question, answers that people rate as “99% certain” turn out to be wrong 40% of the time.
Rosy retrospection — the tendency to rate past events more positively than they had actually rated them when the event occurred … more
Actor-observer bias — the tendency for explanations of other individuals’ behaviors to overemphasize the influence of their personality and underemphasize the influence of their situation. However, this is coupled with the opposite tendency for the self in that explanations for our own behaviors overemphasize the influence of our situation and underemphasize the influence of our own personality.
Herd instinct — Common tendency to adopt the opinions and follow the behaviors of the majority to feel safer and to avoid conflict.
Illusion of asymmetric insight — people perceive their knowledge of their peers to surpass their peers’ knowledge of them.
Ingroup bias — the tendency for people to give preferential treatment to others they perceive to be members of their own groups.
Just-world phenomenon — the tendency for people to believe that the world is “just” and therefore people “get what they deserve.”
Money illusion – an irrational notion that the arbitrary values of currency, fiat or otherwise, have an actual immutable value.
Notational bias — a form of cultural bias in which a notation induces the appearance of a nonexistent natural law.
Outgroup homogeneity bias — individuals see members of their own group as being relatively more varied than members of other groups. … more
An excerpt from Pamuk‘s talk:
[…] I think there is one essential distinction, perhaps in my part of the world is more important … There are two kinds of people, especially in writing, printing, journalism, media and so forth and so on.
One, who can – in his or her life – consistently manages to side away, by … in a very continuous and in fact rather dignified way, not to say the unsayable while maneuvering, and in a nice way … and there are … I have so many good friends, which I respect – who maneuver like that around the bounds of unsayable taboos. And there are people, I like them better but they … most of the time in trouble or say … I have this feeling that sooner or later they will break a jar or a … or a mirror or a glass, sooner or later find themselves, because perhaps one they are not very caution, because one perhaps they are really angry, because perhaps one they fancy themselves freer than really they are. Say something. I am not here referring to myself. But essentially these people push the limits imposed on freedom of speech, not that they are brave but then – there is a screw loose in their mind … I mean it […] hear more
Planet of Slums
Excerpt from The Guardian, Shantytown Apocalypse:
“[…] The majority of the world’s population live in poverty, oppressed, dispossessed and starving. But you knew that already. The great interest – indeed the morbid fascination – of Davis’s book is that it seeks to identify exactly how and why the majority of the world’s population is currently living in poverty, oppressed, dispossessed and starving; the poor may always be with us, but times change. […]
“For the first time the urban population of the earth will outnumber the rural”; there will soon be more people living in cities than in the country.
And this is bad news, because the cities that Davis examines and describes are not the rich, vibrant cultural centres beloved of Sunday-supplement dandies and middle-class flâneurs, but vast “peri-urban” developments, horizontal spreads of unplanned squats and shantytowns, unsightly dumps of humans and waste, where child labour is the norm, child prostitution is commonplace, gangs and paramilitaries rule and there is no access to clean water or sanitation, let alone to education or democratic institutions. […] He estimates that there are already some 200,000 such slums worldwide and argues that the slum is becoming the blueprint for cities of the future, which, “rather than being made out of glass and steel as envisioned by earlier generations of urbanists, are instead largely constructed out of crude brick, straw, recycled plastic, cement blocks and scrap wood.”
According to Davis, this is largely due to the “neoliberal restructuring of Third World urban economies that has occurred since the late 1970s” – which is to say it’s the fault of the World Bank and IMF, and also “middle-class hegemony”, “petty landlordism”, “soft imperialism”, “elite homeowners” and NGOs which, he claims, are “captive to the agenda of the international donors, and grassroots groups similarly dependent upon the international NGOs”.
[…] Davis is the author of a number of strange and brilliant books about cities and their discontents, most notably a great, surging trilogy of books about Los Angeles – City of Quartz (1990), Ecology of Fear (1998) and Magical Urbanism (2001) […]” Read the article
Thanks to Throw Away Your Telescreen here is the Canadian journalist and author Naomi Klein addressing the American Sociological Association, in a meeting themed “Is Another World Possible” … an informed and inspiring talk (~36mins) … video here, script and audio here
Do we lack ideas or resources? Are we short of cash or political will? Or do we lack the strength of our convictions? (“Do you want to tackle climat change as much as Dick Cheney wants Kazakestan’s oil, do you?” …) When do elites make justice? Why this idea of our intellectual failure?
Very interesting answers from Klein, the author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Desaster Capitalism, a book described by John le Carre as: Impassioned, hugely informative, wonderfully controversial, and scary as hell.
… breaking the charity models … the bold evolution of the market logic and much more.
Watch it here: Is Another World Possible?
and advance praise by Arundhati Roy, Seymour Hersh, Howard Zinn etc.