Thursday, February 9, 2017

I've Got News For You: Fake News Is Nothing New.

"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits 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.”
~ Edward Bernays, Propaganda, c. 1928

“We are governed, our minds molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of… It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.” ~ ibid.

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In addition to Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence, one of the big stories of 2016 revolved around Fake News. People are alarmed by how quickly erroneous stories pass through the masses via social media like Facebook. Yesterday over lunch I read an interesting article about how much of the fake news is designed to feed pre-existing fears.  The article cited how even Octavian, who went on to become the first Caesar, used "fake news" to defeat Antony and Cleopatra. (Interesting.)

This is Throwback Thursday, so I pulled this post from 2008 because there's another word for fake news, a word that went out of vogue due to its association with certain people who ultimately mastered it.

Propaganda

I have finally obtained my own copy of Edward Bernays' ground breaking manual on mass manipulation. The irony is that the word propaganda was a good word back then. When this book was written, the liberal elite liked the idea of controlling the masses without having to resort to guns.

Unfortunately for the mind-shapers and benders, a not so nice guy across the seas liked these ideas so much that our first mental association when we say the word Propaganda these days is Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda who made the famous statement “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

Quite naturally, after the war American proponents of values shapers and manipulators could no longer call what they did propaganda. Thus was born the public relations industry. Today, it is PR that rules the world. No elected official in high office could exist without spin-masters at his or her right hand. Spin…. organizing today’s massive quantities of information into a tool for massaging minds, controlling perceptions, creating a pseudo-harmony that enables our complex society to function as a somewhat cohesive whole.

Heaven forbid, however, that people should read between the lines and think for themselves. What’s really going on here? What’s really happening in America today? How much of what is really happening do we see in the papers… and how much is spin?

This is a theme that I will undoubtedly return to…

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We tell ourselves that we are more informed because we have the power of the World Wide Web at our fingertips, but are we? Do we use the Internet to become a more informed public? Or are we simply more gullible?

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Open your eyes.

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