Unpleasant Facts, further reading. Or if you must part 2

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So I did a bit more reading into Aldous Huxley and some of his further writings this afternoon. What I dug up was a short book he wrote 30 plus years after Brave New World called Brave New World Revisited.  BNWR is Huxley’s updated view of what he thought and wrote about in BNW. I am not claiming he is a visionary but one has to think hard about what his current events where that he drew upon and what our current events are currently. If you don’t agree then just the psychology of it all is a bit mind boggling.

In Chapter 4 of Huxley’s BNRW titled Propaganda in a Democratic Society he writes:

Unfortunately it now looks as though, owing to recent changes in our circumstances, this infinitely precious fair chance were being, little by little, taken away from us. And this, of course, is not the whole story. These blind impersonal forces are not the only enemies of individual liberty and democratic institutions. There are also forces of another, less ab­stract character, forces that can be deliberately used by power-seeking individuals whose aim is to establish partial or complete control over their fellows.

I find that a pretty powerful and foresighted statement having been written in 1958. It applies as much today as it did then. Considering some of today’s events happening in this country.

This following paragraph again from Chapter 4. Huxley talks about propaganda and its uses:

There are two kinds of propaganda — rational propa­ganda in favor of action that is consonant with the enlightened self-interest of those who make it and those to whom it is addressed, and non-rational propa­ganda that is not consonant with anybody’s enlight­ened self-interest, but is dictated by, and appeals to, passion. Where the actions of individuals are con­cerned there are motives more exalted than enlight­ened self-interest, but where collective action has to be taken in the fields of politics and economics, enlight­ened self-interest is probably the highest of effective motives. If politicians and their constituents always acted to promote their own or their country’s long-range self-interest, this world would be an earthly paradise.

We know this doesn’t happen anywhere let alone in our country, but some would attempt to make us believe it is a paradise.

Huxley on and quoting Jefferson on the subject of the press and its abuses:

Jefferson, ( note:Thomas Jefferson) it is true, was a realist as well as an optimist. He knew by bitter expe­rience that the freedom of the press can be shamefully abused. “Nothing,” he declared, “can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper.” And yet, he insisted (and we can only agree with him), ” within the pale of truth, the press is a noble institution, equally the friend of science and civil liberty.” Mass commu­nication, in a word, is neither good nor bad; it is simply a force and, like any other force, it can be used either well or ill. Used in one way, the press, the radio and the cinema are indispensable to the survival of democracy. Used in another way, they are among the most powerful weapons in the dictator’s armory.

It is my opinion that our main stream media (and yes I have railed against them in the past) is falling into the non-rational category of propaganda. Take the so called gun debate and all the stories produced and printed.

Huxley continues:

In the field of mass communications as in almost every other field of enterprise, technological progress has hurt the Little Man and helped the Big Man. As lately as fifty years ago, every democratic country could boast of a great number of small journals and local newspapers. Thousands of country editors expressed thousands of independent opinions. Somewhere or other almost anybody could get almost anything printed. Today the press is still legally free; but most of the little papers have disappeared. The cost of wood-pulp, of modern printing machinery and of syndicated news is too high for the Little Man. In the totalitarian East there is political censorship, and the media of mass communication are controlled by the State. In the democratic West there is economic censorship and the media of mass communication are controlled by members of the Power Elite. Censorship by rising costs and the concentration of communication power in the hands of a few big concerns is less objectionable than State ownership and government propaganda; but certainly it is not something of which a Jeffersonian democrat could possibly approve.

Don’t believe it? The Journal News, a Gannett owned paper that at first blush you would think was a locally owned newspaper. But later revealed to have an agenda.

Huxley continues:

In regard to propaganda the early advocates of uni­versal literacy and a free press envisaged only two possibilities: the propaganda might be true, or it might be false. They did not foresee what in fact has happened, above all in our Western capitalist democra­cies — the development of a vast mass communications industry, concerned in the main neither with the true nor the false, but with the unreal, the more or less totally irrelevant. In a word, they failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.

was Huxley talking about the 24×7 news channels such as CNN, MSNBC, FOX 25 years before their existence? Maybe

Chapter 5, Propaganda Under a Dictatorship:

 At his trial after the Second World War, Hitler’s Min­ister for Armaments, Albert Speer, delivered a long speech in which, with remarkable acuteness, he described the Nazi tyranny and analyzed its methods. “Hitler’s dictatorship,” he said, “differed in one funda­mental point from all its predecessors in history. It was the first dictatorship in the present period of mod­ern technical development, a dictatorship which made complete use of all technical means for the domination of its own country.

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Since Hitler’s day the armory of technical devices at the disposal of the would-be dictator has been con­siderably enlarged. As well as the radio, the loud­speaker, the moving picture camera and the rotary press, the contemporary propagandist can make use of television to broadcast the image as well as the voice of his client, and can record both image and voice on spools of magnetic tape. Thanks to technological prog­ress, Big Brother can now be almost as omnipresent as God. Nor is it only on the technical front that the hand of the would-be dictator has been strengthened. Since Hitler’s day a great deal of work has been car­ried out in those fields of applied psychology and neu­rology which are the special province of the propagandist, the indoctrinator and the brainwasher. In the past these specialists in the art of changing people’s minds were empiricists. By a method of trial and error they had worked out a number of techniques and proce­dures, which they used very effectively without, how­ever, knowing precisely why they were effective. Today the art of mind-control is in the process of becoming a science. The practitioners of this science know what they are doing and why. They are guided in their work by theories and hypotheses solidly established on a massive foundation of experimental evidence.

   Hitler made his strongest appeal to those members of the lower middle classes who had been ruined by the inflation of 1923, and then ruined all over again by the depression of 1929 and the following years. “The masses” of whom he speaks were these bewildered, frustrated and chronically anxious millions. To make them more masslike, more homogeneously subhuman, he assembled them, by the thousands and the tens of thousands, in vast halls and arenas, where individuals could lose their personal identity, even their ele­mentary humanity, and be merged with the crowd. A man or woman makes direct contact with society in two ways: as a member of some familial, professional or religious group, or as a member of a crowd. Groups are capable of being as moral and intelligent as the individuals who form them; a crowd is chaotic, has no purpose of its own and is capable of anything except intelligent action and realistic thinking. Assembled in a crowd, people lose their powers of reasoning and their capacity for moral choice. Their suggestibility is increased to the point where they cease to have any judgment or will of their own. They become very ex­citable, they lose all sense of individual or collective responsibility, they are subject to sudden accesses of rage, enthusiasm and panic. In a word, a man in a crowd behaves as though he had swallowed a large dose of some powerful intoxicant. He is a victim of what I have called “herd-poisoning.” Like alcohol, herd-poison is an active, extraverted drug. The crowd-intoxicated individual escapes from responsibility, in­telligence and morality into a kind of frantic, animal mindlessness.

Looking at the last election and the power center of the Blue states vs. Red, the Occupy Movement, and the use of MoveOn.org along with ACORN one could wonder if the current use of the media is not really just an updated version of what is being described in the above paragraphs?

To be continued…………

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2 thoughts on “Unpleasant Facts, further reading. Or if you must part 2

    • I remember reading years ago that there was a second BNW book, but never pursued hunting it down. It is more of a paper than a book. Thanks for the original letter you posted on your blog, it got me thinking. I love the psychology of government and human nature and the ability to manipulate it.

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