Greg Maybury (👉) is a freelance writer based in Australia. His main areas of interest are American history and politics in general, with a special focus on economic, national security, military, and geopolitical affairs. For 6+ years he has regularly contributed to a diverse range of news and opinion sites, including OpEd News, The Greanville Post, Consortium News, Dandelion Salad, Information Clearing House, Global Research, Dissident Voice, OffGuardian, Contra Corner, International Policy Digest, the Hampton Institute, and others.
Nothing appears more surprising to those who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye, than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few; and the implicit submission, with which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers. David Hume, Of the First Principles of Government, 1768.
Brief: The use of propaganda and censorship is more frequently associated with totalitarian, corrupt and/or despotic regimes, not modern democracies in the West. Yet the history of how western governments and their ever-vigilant overlords in the media, financial, and business spheres have controlled the political narrative of the time via these means is a long, storied and ruinous one, going back well before 1914. Along with serving the contemporaneous political objectives of its perpetrators as contrived, such activities often continue to inform our understanding, and cement our interpretation, of history. If as the saying goes, “history repeats itself”, we need look no further than this as to the main reason why. In this wide-ranging ‘safari’ into the propaganda, fake news, myth-making, and disinformation wilderness—The Big Shill—Greg Maybury does indeed look further, and concludes that “It’s the narrative, stupid!”
— Controlling the Proles —
The following yarn may be apocryphal, but either way the ‘moral of the fable’ should serve our narrative well. The story goes like this: sometime during the height of the Cold War a group of American journalists were hosting a visit to the U.S. of some of their Soviet counterparts.
After allowing their visitors to soak up the media zeitgeist stateside, most of the Americans expected their guests to express unbridled envy at the professional liberties they enjoyed in the Land of the Free Press.
That they were indeed impressed was in no doubt. One of the Russian scribes was in fact compelled to express his unabashed ‘admiration’ to his hosts…in particular, for the “far superior quality” of American “propaganda“. Now it’s fair to say his hosts were taken aback by what was at best a backhanded compliment, or maybe an attempt at Russo-Slavic humour that escaped the Americans. After some collegial ‘piss-taking’ about the stereotypes associated with Western “press freedom” versus those of the controlled media in the Soviet system, one of the Americans called on their Russian colleague to explain what he meant. In the fractured English for which Russians are well known, he replied: ‘It’s very simple…In Soviet Union, we don’t believe our propaganda. In America, you believe yours!’
As amusing as this anecdote is, the reality of the Russian journo’s jibe doesn’t simply remain true now; that ‘belief’ has become even more delusional, farcical, and above all, dangerous. One suspects that Russian journos today would think much the same. And in few cases has the “delusional”,“farcical”, and “dangerous” nature of this conviction been more evident than with the West’s continued provocations of Russia, with “Skripalgate” in Old Blighty (see here, and here), and “Russia-Gate” stateside (see here, and here) being prime, though far from the only, exemplars we might point to.
Of course, just recently we were all subjected to the ludicrous dog n’ pony show that was the much-touted London “media freedom” conference, organised under the auspices of the so-called Media Freedom Coalition (MFC), a UK/Canadian ‘initiative’. As the name suggested, this was the establishment’s lip-service effort to be seen to be upholding or ‘defending’ media freedom, and initiating stronger strategies and frameworks for the ‘protection’ of journalists. For my part I can’trecall another recent event that so perfectly embraced the Orwellian playbook, absent any hint of irony or embarrassment from the parties involved.
To illustrate, after noting that ‘the world is becoming a more hostile place’ for journalists, the MFC website then righteously intones: …‘[they face dangers beyond warzones and extremism, including increasing intolerance to independent reporting, populism, rampant corruption, crime, and the breakdown of law and order….’
The cynic might be tempted to add: ‘And that’s just in our Western democracies!’
And who can forget the fatuous “integrity initiative” that preceded it, whose lofty ambitions aimed to ‘defend democracy against disinformation’? This is elite code for limiting—if not eliminating—free speech; this is already happening at a rate of knots, with the powers that be ‘setting up new perimeters’ online and offline. The prevailing efforts by a range of people to make it a crime to criticise Israel or boycott the country is arguably the most egregious example. The attempts by the MSM to designate genuine, independent analysis by alternative media as “fake news” is another one.
Such is the sophistication and ubiquity of the narrative control techniques used today—afforded increasingly by ‘computational propaganda’ via automated scripts, hacking, botnets, troll farms, and algorithms and the like, along with the barely veiled censorship and information gatekeeping practised by Google and Facebook and other tech behemoths—it’s become one of the most troubling aspects of the technological cum social media revolution. (See here, here, and here.)
Indeed, as it turns out, it should be “troubling” for any reasonable, rational folks regardless of whether they (ahem) ‘dress to the left’ or ‘dress to the right’. Notably, the MFC conference came and went after organisers saw fit to exclude legitimate Russian news outlets RT and Sputnik, an ideological ‘fashion statement’ thoroughly at odds with the purported premise upon which it was instigated. Moreover, there was little mention of the ‘elephant in the room’ Julian Assange—the person who embodies foremost the disconnect between the practice and the preaching of Western media freedom, to say little of underscoring the irony, self-serving opportunism, and double standards that frequently attend any mainstream debate about what it actually means.
Put bluntly, “media freedom” in the West is increasingly ‘more honoured in the breach than in the observance’, with the London confab all about keeping up appearances to the contrary, an event we might say was conceived of by soulless, demented, establishment shills, ‘…full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’. This surreal spectacle though must have induced cognitive dissonance amongst pundits, and many head-shaking moments for Assange supporters and genuine truth-seekers alike.
As for Wikileaks and Assange himself, it’s worth noting the attitude of the national security state toward him. After accusing Assange of being a “narcissist”, “fraud”, and “a coward”, and labelling WikiLeaks a “hostile intelligence service”, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared he [Assange] was ‘eager to do the bidding of Russia and other American adversaries.’ Either way, his comments can be taken as more or less representative of Beltway opinion. Along with noting that official Washington’s hatred of Assange ‘borders on rabid’, Ted Carpenter offered the following:
‘[Assange] symbolizes a crucial fight over freedom of the press and the ability of journalists to expose government misconduct without fear of prosecution. Unfortunately, a disturbing number of “establishment” journalists in the United States seem willing—indeed, eager—to throw him to the government wolves.’
— Lapdogs for the Government —
This was of course another surreal spectacle, this time courtesy of one of the Deep State’s most dangerous, reviled, and divisive figures, a notable protagonist in the Russia-Gate conspiracy, and America’s most senior diplomat no less. Not only is it difficult to accept that the former CIA Director actually believes what he is saying, well might we ask, “Who can believe Mike Pompeo?”
Here’s someone whose manifest cynicism, hypocrisy, and chutzpah would embarrass the much-derided scribes and Pharisees of Biblical days. We have Pompeo on record recently in a rare moment of honesty admitting—whilst laughing his ample ass off as if he was recalling some “Boy’s Own Adventure” from his misspent youth—that under his watch as CIA Director,‘…We lied, we cheated, we stole…we had entire training courses.’ It may have been one of the few times in his wretched existence that he didn’t speak with a forked tongue.
At all events, his candour aside, we can assume safely that this reactionary, monomaniacal, Christian Zionist ‘end-timer’ passed all the Company’s “training courses” with flying colours. More likely he was Langley’s Facilitator-in-Chief.
According to Matthew Rosenberg of the New York Times, all this didn’t stop Pompeo however from namechecking Wikileaks when it served his own interests. Back in 2016 at the height of the election campaign, he had ‘no compunction…about pointing people toward emails stolen* by Russian hackers from the Democratic National Committee and then posted by WikiLeaks.’
[*Author Note: Rosenberg’s omission of the word “allegedly”—
as in “emails allegedly stolen”—is a dead giveaway on his part, a journalistic Freudian slip,
with his employer being one of those MSM marques leading
the charge with the “Russian Collusion” story. For a more insightful
view of the source of these emails and the skullduggery and faux ideological thuggery that attended Russia-Gate, readers are encouraged to
check this out.]
And this is “The Company” we’re talking about, whose past and present relationship with the media might be summed up in two words: Operation Mockingbird (OpMock). Anyone vaguely familiar with the well-documented Grand Deception that was OpMock, arguably the CIA’s most enduring, insidious, and successful psy-ops gambit, will know what we’re talking about. (See here, here, here, and here.) At its most basic, this operation was all about propaganda and censorship, usually operating in tandem to ensure complete control of the political narrative.
After opining that the MSM is ‘totally infiltrated’ by the CIA and various other agencies, for his part former NSA whistleblower William Binney recently added, ‘When it comes to national security, the media only talk about what the administration wants you to hear, and basically suppress any other statements about what’s going on that the administration does not want [to become] public [knowledge]. The media is basically the lapdogs for the government.’ Even the redoubtable William Casey, Ronald Reagan’s CIA Director back in the day reportedly said something along the following lines: ‘We know our disinformation program is complete when almost everything the American public believes is false.’ Even if he didn’t say it, he probably held the view.
In order to provide a broader and deeper perspective, we should now consider the views of a few others on the subjects at hand, along with some history. In a 2013 piece musing on the modern meaning of the practice, my compatriot John Pilger recalled a time when he met Leni Riefenstahl back in the 70s and asked her about her films that ‘glorified the Nazis’. Using groundbreaking camera and lighting techniques, Riefenstahl produced a documentary that mesmerized Germans; as Pilger noted, her Triumph of the Will ‘cast Adolf Hitler’s spell’. She told the veteran Aussie journalist the “messages” of her films were dependent not on “orders from above”, but on the “submissive void” of the German public.
All in all, Riefenstahl produced arguably for the rest of the world the most compelling historical footage of mass hysteria, blind obedience, nationalistic fervour, and existential menace, all key ingredients in anyone’s totalitarian nightmare. That it also impressed a lot of very powerful, high profile people in the West on both sides of the pond is also axiomatic: These included bankers, financiers, industrialists, and sundry business elites without whose support Hitler might’ve at best ended up a footnote in the historical record after the ill-fated beer-hall putsch. (See here, and here.)
“Triumph” apparently still resonates today it would appear. To the surprise of few one imagines, such was the impact of the film—as casually revealed in the excellent 2018 Alexis Bloom documentary Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes—it elicited no small amount of admiration from one of the most influential propagandists of recent times. (Author’s Note: Readers might wish to check out Russell Crowe’s recent portrayal of Ailes in Stan’s mini-series The Loudest Voice, in my view one the best performances of the man’s career.)
In a recent piece unambiguously titled “Propaganda Is The Root Of All Our Problems”, my other compatriot Caitlin Johnstone also had a few things to say about the subject, echoing Orwell when she observed it was all about “controlling the narrative”. In this she is correct to be sure, though I’d suggest the greater “root” problem is our easy propensity to ignore this reality, pretend it doesn’t or won’t affect us (we’re somehow above it), or reject it as conspiratorial nonsense. Yet as she observes,
‘I write about this stuff for a living, and even I don’t have the time or energy to write…about every single narrative control tool that the US-centralized empire has been implementing into its arsenal. There are too damn many of them emerging too damn fast, because they’re just that damn crucial for maintaining existing power structures.’
Mark Davis is a multi-award winning Australian journalist who was an eye-witness to the entire preparation of the Afghan War Logs, submitted in 2010 to Wikileaks by the whistle-blower Chelsea Manning. Davis had documented the process in a film called ‘Inside Wikileaks’, which showed the Wikileaks editor-in-chief, Julian Assange, working alongside journalists from the New York Times, Guardian & Der Spiegel. At a recent Sydney event entitled ‘Julian Assange & the Alliance against the US Culture of Revenge’, Davis revealed details of the interactions he had never spoken of publicly before.
– The Discreet Use of Censorship and Uniformed Men —
‘It is hardly surprising that those who hold power should seek to control the words and language people use’ said Canadian author John Ralston Saul in his 1993 book Voltaire’s Bastards–the Dictatorship of Reason in the West. Fittingly, in a discussion encompassing amongst other things history, language, power, and dissent, he opined, ‘Determining how individuals communicate is’…an objective which represents for the power elites ‘the best chance’ [they] have to control what people think. In essence, this translates as: The more control ‘we’ have over what the proles think, the more ‘we’ can reduce the inherent risk for elites in democracy.
‘Clumsy men’, Saul went on to say, ‘try to do this through power and fear. Heavy-handed men running heavy-handed systems attempt the same thing through police-enforced censorship. The more sophisticated the elites, the more they concentrate on creating intellectual systems which control expression through the communications structures. These systems require only the discreet use of censorship and uniformed men.’ In other words, along with assuming it is their right to take itin the first place, ‘those who take power will always try to change the established language’, presumably to better facilitate their hold on it and/or legitimise their claim to it.
For Oliver Boyd-Barrett, ‘democratic theory presupposes a public communications infrastructure that facilitates the free and open exchange of ideas.’ Yet for the author of the just-published RussiaGate and Propaganda: Disinformation in the Age of Social Media,‘No such infrastructure exists.’ The mainstream media he says, is ‘owned and controlled by a small number of large, multi-media and multi-industrial conglomerates’ that lie at the very heart of US oligopoly capitalism and much of whose advertising revenue and content is furnished from other conglomerates:
‘The inability of mainstream media to sustain an information environment that can encompass histories, perspectives and vocabularies that are free of the shackles of US plutocratic self-regard is also well documented.’
Now the word “inability” suggests the MSM view themselves as having some responsibility for maintaining such an egalitarian news and information milieu. They don’t of course, and in truth, probably never really have! A better word would be “unwilling”, or even “refusal”. The MSM all but epitomise the “plutocratic self-regard” that is characteristic of “oligopoly capitalism”. In reality, the MSM collectively functions as advertising, public relations/lobbying entities for Big Corp, in addition to acting as its Praetorian bodyguard, protecting their secrets, crimes, and lies from exposure. Like all other companies, they are beholden to their shareholders (profits before truth), most of whom it can safely be assumed are no strangers to “self-regard”, and could care less about “histories, perspectives and vocabularies” that run counter to their own interests.
It was Aussie social scientist Alex Carey who pioneered the study of nationalism, corporatism, and moreso for our purposes herein, the management (read: manipulation) of public opinion, though all three have important links. For Carey, the following conclusion was inescapable:
‘It is arguable that the success of business propaganda in persuading us, for so long, that we are free from propaganda is one of the most significant propaganda achievements of the twentieth century.’
This former farmer from Western Australia became one of the world’s acknowledged experts on propaganda and the manipulation of the truth. Prior to embarking on his academic career, Carey was a successful sheep grazier. By most accounts, he was a first-class judge of the animal from which he made his early living, leaving one to ponder if this expertise gave him a unique insight into his main area of research!
In any event, Carey eventually sold the family farm and travelled to the U.K. to study psychology, apparently a long-time ambition. From the late fifties until his death in 1988, he was a senior lecturer in psychology and industrial relations at the Sydney-based University of New South Wales, and his research was lauded by such luminaries as Noam Chomsky and John Pilger, both of whom have had a thing or three to say over the years about The Big Shill. In fact such was his admiration, Pilger described him as “a second Orwell” in his prophecies, which in anyone’s lingo is a big call.
Carey unfortunately, died in 1988, interestingly the year that his more famous contemporaries Edward Herman and co-author Chomsky’s book Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media was published, the authors notably dedicating their book to him. Though much of his work remained unpublished at the time of his death, a book of Carey’s essays—Taking the Risk Out of Democracy: Corporate Propaganda Versus Freedom and Liberty—was published posthumously in 1997. It remains a seminal work. In fact, for anyone with an interest in how public opinion is moulded and our perceptions are managed and manipulated, in whose interests they are done so and to what end, it is as essential reading as any of the work of other more famous names. This tome came complete with a foreword by Chomsky, so enamoured was the latter of Carey’s work.
For Carey’s part, the three “most significant developments” in the political economy of the twentieth century were:
a) the growth of democracy;
b) the growth of corporate power; and
c) the growth of propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.
Carey’s main focus was on the following:
a) advertising and publicity devoted to the creation of artificial wants;
b) the public relations and propaganda industry whose principal goal is the diversion to meaningless pursuits and control of the public mind; and
c) the degree to which academia and the professions are under assault from private power determined to narrow the spectrum of thinkable (sic) thought.
For Carey, it is an axiom of conventional wisdom that the use of propaganda as a means of social and ideological control is ‘distinctive’ of totalitarian regimes. Yet as he stresses: the most minimal exercise of common sense would suggest a different view: that propaganda is likely to play at least as important a part in democratic societies (where the existing distribution of power and privilege is vulnerable to quite limited changes in popular opinion) as in authoritarian societies (where it is not).’ In this context,‘conventional wisdom” becomes conventional ignorance; as for “common sense”, maybe not so much.
The purpose of this propaganda barrage, as Sharon Bader has noted, has been to convince as many people as possible that it is in their interests to relinquish their own power as workers, consumers, and citizens, and ‘forego their democratic right to restrain and regulate business activity. As a result the political agenda is now…confined to policies aimed at furthering business interests.’ An extreme example of this view playing itself right under our noses and over decades was the cruel fiction of the “trickle-down effect” (TDE)—aka the ‘rising tide that would lift all boats’—of Reaganomics. One of several mantras that defined Reagan’s overarching political shtick, the TDE was by any measure, decidedly more a torrent than a trickle, and said “torrent” was going up not down.
This reality as we now know was not in Reagan’s glossy economic brochure to be sure, and it may have been because the Gipper confused his prepositions and verbs. Yet as the GFC of 2008 amply demonstrated, it culminated in a free-for-all, dog-eats-bitch, anything goes, everyman for himself form of cannibal (or anarcho) capitalism—an updated, much-improved version of the no-holds-barred mercenary mercantilism much reminiscent of the era of the Gilded Age and the Robber Barons who ‘infested’ it, only one that doesn’t just eat its young, it consumes itself!
— Making the World Safe for Plutocracy —
In the increasingly dysfunctional political economy we inhabit then, whether it’s widgets or wars or anything in between, few people realise the degree to which our opinions, perceptions, emotions and views are shaped and manipulated by propaganda (and its similarly ‘evil twin’ censorship,) its most adept practitioners, and those elite, institutional, political, and corporate entities that seek out their expertise.
It is now just over a hundred years since the practice of propaganda took a giant leap forward, then in the service of persuading palpably reluctant Americans that the war raging in Europe at the time was their war as well. This was at a time when Americans had just voted their then-president Woodrow Wilson back into office for a second term, a victory largely achieved on the back of the promise he’d “keep us out of the War.” Americans were very much in what was one of their most isolationist phases, and so Wilson’s promise resonated with them.
But over time they were convinced of the need to become involved by a distinctly different appeal to their political sensibilities. This “appeal”also dampened the isolationist mood, one which it has to be said was generally not embraced by the political, banking, and business elites of the time, most of whom stood to lose big-time if the Germans won, and/or who were already profiting or benefitting handsomely from the business of war.
Now for a president who “kept us out of the war”, this wasn’t going to be an easy ‘pitch’. In order to sell the war, the president established the Committee on Public Information (aka the Creel Committee) for the purposes of publicising the rationale for the war and from there, garnering support for it from the general public.
Enter Edward (“More Doctors Smoke Camels”) Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, who’s generally considered to be the father of modern public relations. In his film Rule from the Shadows: The Psychology of Power, Aaron Hawkins says Bernays was influenced by people such as Gustave le Bon, Walter Lippman, and Wilfred Trotter, as much, if not moreso, than his famous uncle. Either way, Bernays ‘combined their perspectives and synthesised them into an applied science’, which he then ‘branded’ “public relations”.
For its part the Creel committee struggled with its brief from the off; but Bernays worked with them to persuade Americans their involvement in the war was justified—indeed necessary—and to that end he devised the brilliantly inane slogan, “making the world safe for democracy” Thus was born arguably the first great propaganda catch-phrases of the modern era, and certainly one of the most portentous. The following sums up Bernays’sunabashed mindset:
‘The conscious, intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.’
The rest is history (sort of), with Americans becoming more willing to not just support the war effort but encouraged to view the Germans and their allies as evil brutes threatening democracy and freedom and the beloved, much sought after American way of life, however that might’ve been viewed then. From a geopolitical and historical perspective, it was an asinine premise of course, but nonetheless an extraordinary example of how a few well-chosen words tapped into the collective psyche of a country that was decidedly opposed to any U.S involvement in the war and turned that mindset completely on its head. ‘[S]aving the world for democracy’ (or some ‘cover version’ thereof) has since become America’s positioning statement, ‘patriotic’ rallying cry, and the “Get out of Jail Free” card for both its war and its white-collar criminal clique.
At all events it was by any measure, a stroke of manipulative genius on Bernays’s part; by appealing to people’s basic fears and desires, he could engineer consent and mould opinion on a mass scale, leaving everyone with the delusion they’d arrived at the decision on their lonesome. It goes without saying it changed the course of history in more ways than one. That the U.S. is to this day still using a not dissimilar meme to justify its “foreign entanglements” is testament to both its utility and durability. The reality as we now know was markedly different of course. They have almost always been about power, empire, control, hegemony, resources, wealth, opportunity, profit, dispossession, keeping existing capitalist structures intact and well-defended, and crushing dissent and opposition.
It is instructive to note that the template for ‘manufacturing consent’ for war had already been forged by the British. For twenty years prior to the outbreak of the war in 1914, the then stewards of the British Empire had been diligently preparing the ground for what they viewed as a preordained clash with their rivals for empire the Germans. To begin with, contrary to the opinion of the general populace over one hundred years later, it was not the much touted German aggression and militarism, nor their undoubted imperial ambitions, which precipitated its outbreak. And neither did the Europeans ‘sleepwalk’ into this conflagration. The stewards of the British Empire were not about to let the Teutonic upstarts chow down on their imperial lunch as it were, and set about unilaterally and preemptively crushing Germany and with it any ambitions it had for creating its own imperial domain in competition with the Empire upon which Ol’ Sol never set.
The “Great War” is worth noting here for other reasons. As documented so by Jim Macgregor and Gerry Docherty in their two books covering the period from 1890-1920, we learn much about propaganda, which attest to its extraordinary power, in particular its power to distort reality en masse in enduring andsubversive ways. In reality, the only thing “great” about World War One was firstly the degree to which the masses fighting for Britain were conned into believing this war was necessary, and secondly, the way the official narrative of the war was sustained for posterity via propaganda and censorship. “Great” maybe, but not in a good way!
In these seminal tomes—World War One Hidden History: The Secret Origins of the First World War and its follow-up Prolonging the Agony: How the Anglo-American Establishment Deliberately Extended WWI by Three-And-A-Half Years—Macgregor and Docherty provide a masterclass for us all of the power of propaganda in the service of firstly inciting, then deliberately sustaining a major war. The horrendous carnage and destruction that resulted from it was of course unprecedented, the global effects of which linger on now well over one hundred years later. Such was the enduring power of the propaganda that today most people would have great difficulty in accepting the following; this is a short summary of historical realities revealed by Macgregor and Docherty that are at complete odds with the official narrative, the political discourse, and the school textbooks:
It was Great Britain (supported by France and Russia) and not Germany who was the principal aggressor in the events and actions that let to the outbreak of war;
The British had for twenty years prior to 1914 viewed Germany as its most dangerous economic and imperial rival, and fully anticipated that a war was inevitable;
In the U.K. and the U.S., various factions worked feverishly to ensure the war went on for as long as possible, and scuttled peacemaking efforts from the off;
key truths about this most consequential of geopolitical conflicts have been concealed for well over one hundred years, with no sign the official record will change;
very powerful forces (incl. a future US president) amongst U.S. political, media, and economic elites conspired to eventually convince an otherwise unwilling populace in America that U.S. entry onto the war was necessary;
those same forces and many similar groups in the U.K. and Europe engaged in everything from war profiteering, destruction/forging of war records, false-flag ops, treason, conspiracy to wage aggressive war, and direct efforts to prolong the war by any means necessary, many of which will shock.
But peace was not on the agenda. When, by 1916, the military failures were so embarrassing and costly, some key players in the British government were willing to talk about peace. This could not be tolerated. The potential peacemakers had to be thrown under the bus. The unelected European leaders had one common bond. They would fight Germany until she was crushed.
Prolonging the Agony details how this secret cabal organised to this end the change of government without a single vote being cast. David Lloyd George was promoted to prime minister in Britain and Georges Clemenceau made prime minister in France. A new government, an inner-elite war cabinet thrust the Secret Elite leader, Alfred Milner into power at the very inner-core of the decision-makers in British politics. Democracy? They had no truck with democracy. The voting public had no say, thereby underscoring that indelible dictum: If voting made any difference, they’d make it illegal. The men entrusted with the task would keep going till the end and their place-men were backed by the media and the money-power, in Britain, France and America.
— Propaganda Always Wins —
But just as the pioneering adherents back in the day might never have dreamt how sophisticated and all-encompassing the practice of propaganda would become, nor would the citizenry at large have anticipated the extent to which the industry has facilitated an entrenched, rapacious plutocracy at the expense of our economic opportunity, our financial security, our physical environment, and increasingly, our basic democratic rights and freedoms. We now live in the Age of the Big Shill—cocooned in a submissive void no less—an era where nothing can be taken on face value yet where time and attention constraints (to name just a few) force us to do so; [where] few people in public life can be taken at their word; where unchallenged perceptions become accepted reality; where ‘open-book’ history is now, in some cases, incontrovertible not-negotiable, upon pain of imprisonment fact; where education is about uniformity, function, form and conformity, all in the service of imposed neo-liberal ideologies embracing then prioritising individual—albeit dubious—freedoms.
More broadly, it’s the “Roger Ailes” of this world—acting on behalf of the power elites who after all are their paymasters, in Ailes’ case, the unlovable propaganda magnate Rupert Murdoch—who create the intellectual systems which control expression through the communications structures, whilst ensuring…these systems require only ‘the discreet use of censorship and uniformed men’.’They are the shapers and moulders of the discourse that passes for the accepted lingua franca of the increasingly globalised, interconnected political economy of the planet. Throughout this process they‘will always try to change the established language.’
And we can no longer rely on our elected representatives to honestly represent us and our interests. Whether this decision making is taking place inside or outside the legislative process, these processes are well and truly in the grip of the banks and financial institutions and transnational organisations. In whose interests are they going to be more concerned with? We saw this all just after the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) when the very people who brought the system to the brink, made billions off the dodge for their banks and millions for themselves, bankrupted hundreds of thousands of American families, were called upon by the U.S. government to fix up the mess, and to all intents given a blank cheque and the all-important “get out of Jail Free” card to so do.
That the U.S. is at even greater risk now of economic implosion is something few serious pundits would dispute, and a testament to the effectiveness of the snow-job perpetrated upon Americans regarding the causes, the impact, and the implications of the 2008 meltdown going forward. In most cases, one accepts almost by definition such disconnects (read: hidden agendas) are the rule rather than the exception, hence the multi-billion foundation—and global reach and impact—of the propaganda business. This in itself is a key reason as to why organisations place so much importance on this aspect of managing their affairs. At the very least, once corporations saw how the psychology of persuasion could be leveraged to manipulate consumers and politicians saw the same with the citizenry and even its own workers, the growth of the industry was assured.
As Riefenstahl noted during her chinwag with Pilger, when asked if those embracing the “submissive void” included the liberal, educated bourgeoisie? “Everyone,” she said. By way of underscoring her point, she added enigmatically:‘Propaganda always wins…if you allow it’.
© Greg Maybury, August 19, 2019.
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For further viewing: Julian Assange is one of the most influential figures to emerge this century. Four Corners (ABC TV Australia’s flagship current affairs program) investigates the prosecution of Julian Assange in key interviews with those at the heart of WikiLeaks and those who have sought to bring him to US justice. These insider accounts give powerful insights into how these momentous events have unfolded.
Below is John Pilger’s response via Twitter to this Four Corners program. After watching it, I can only agree. Nonetheless, it is still a striking example of how the power elites in Australia exert editorial influence over our publicly funded broadcaster. There was a time when the ABC could be relied on to provide Australians with intelligent, insightful, genuinely independent reportage on the Big Issues. That train departed from the station a long time ago.
‘ABC Australia has broadcast a Trump regime-grovelling, dishonest “investigation” into Julian #Assange. The exec producer is Sally Neighbour who last year re-tweeted, “Assange is Putins [sic] bitch.” Students note the depth to which Vichy journalism has descended.’ — John Pilger (@johnpilger) July 23, 2019
© Greg Maybury
August 19, 2019 (Revised/Updated).
David Berman R.I.P. 1967-2019
A Personal Tribute — To An American Artist with Integrity, Soul and Heart to match his Talent, by Greg Maybury (Posted on FB 12 August 2019)
Some of my Facebook followers may recall me name-checking recently (see below) a singer/songwriter named David Berman, who back in the late 1990s-2000s recorded under the handle (the) Silver Jews. I posted this in the context of drawing attention to my essay herein, published around the same time.
David Berman was the son of the notorious PR guru Richard Berman (hence the connection to the themes of my essay), from whom he was perennially estranged. Serendipitously, on this past weekend, I’d read in the June issue of MOJO magazine that he’d returned to music-making, and had even recorded a new LP. It appeared he’d exorcised his demons and was back in the saddle.
And just two days after that, courtesy of an excellent piece from Matthew Lynch of Vanity Fair (below), I have just discovered that Berman is now sadly dead, just after recording his new LP, the first in many years. Here is an update on the man and the circumstances surrounding his untimely and tragic death at age 52. (It would appear to be suicide. Below is the copy of what I originally posted on August 2 on Facebook.)
G’Day Folks, (Originally posted on Facebook “Greg Maybury”, Aug 2, 2019)
Whilst researching for this essay, I came across the following story. Although it has significant relevance to the themes explored in my essay, for reasons of length mainly I left it on the cutting room floor as it were. In view of his death, I believe this ‘outtake’—the music industry term for something recorded but not released—might be of interest to those who like great music.
OUTTAKE: ‘I have what for many people are eclectic tastes, with one example a band called the Silver Jews. I discovered the “Jews” about twenty years back, and have been enjoying their music off and on since. Whilst idly backgrounding what had become of them, I recently discovered that the band’s creative luminary David Berman, had quit his daytime job as it were. (Given that the ‘band’ was essentially him in any event, he sadly hasn’t released any new music since that time.)
How’s this connected to the subject at hand? Glad you asked.
On the day he announced he was pulling the pin on his music career, the songwriter/singer revealed his decision was in part due to the fact he was the son of notorious K-Streeter, the right-wing public relations, lobbyist cum uber-shill Richard Berman, whom even 60 Minutes dubbed “Dr Evil”. (This description is interesting in and of itself; as a ‘high-value’ corporate media marque, 60M is hardly a bastion of righteous integrity in its own portrayal of political reality or in general, its fearless promulgation of the truth in the public interest.)
In any event, the two men reportedly have had little contact since about 2006. Such was his distaste for his father’s political bent, the son demanded Richard—upon pain of severing their relationship — curtail his lobbying and public relations activities. These included masterminding campaigns opposing minimum wage- and gun-control legislation, along with union-busting, and generally fighting against other liberal, progressive causes or actively promoting or defending not-so-liberal ones.
As you might do when you run and own an established, highly lucrative business, love the filthy lucre, and aren’t overly handicapped by moral or ethical concerns as to how you get your grubby hands on it or who you have to rub shoulders with in the process, the elder Berman refused, hence the estrangement. In his announcement, David called his father ‘evil’, a ‘scoundrel’, a ‘human molester’, an ‘exploiter’, ‘a world-historical motherfucking son of a bitch’, and ended his post with the parting shot, ‘I am the son of a demon come to make good the damage.’
Now in anyone’s lingo, them’s fightin’ words as they say. Fortunately for Berman the musician, it’s a good thing he had other talents as it is difficult to imagine him carving out a career in his father’s profession. Clearly though, whether it’s Richard Berman or any of his ilk, his son’s comments surely reflect a wider opprobrium in which these baneful, amoral bottom feeders in the political, corporate, government and institutional public relations (propaganda) swamp are held, albeit one in this case attended by a large dose of Oedipal animus.
More broadly, it’s the Roger Ailes and Richard Bermans of this world—acting on behalf of the power elites who after all are their paymasters—who create the intellectual systems which control expression through the communications structures, whilst ensuring…these systems require only ‘the discreet use of censorship and uniformed men.’ This more or less describes the heart and mechanism of The Big Shill. They are amongst the shapers and molders of the discourse that passes for the lingua franca of the increasingly globalized, interconnected political economy of the planet.
Putting it mildly, David Berman was onto something for sure. His father’s raison d’être and that of others of his trade is “controlling the narrative”—the objective of which is reducing the risk of democracy—the main game in town. In the process, they ‘will always try to change the established language.’ They are doing it now as we speak…..”
G’Day Greg Maybury. This is one of your best essay-history lessons yet.
Nobody writing investigative insights is better at composing text, including active and accurate links, video and photographs than you, right now. This piece is not only deeply insightful, but cutting edge using new tools only recently available because of the web. Your work deserves wide recognition and exposure… Thank You!