Surviving the Propoganda Wars, Social Conditioning in Practice, the Art of Thought Control


In 1975, a US commission was set up to enquire into the ‘governability of democracies’, and it found that there was a bit of a 'crisis in democracy' thanks to the influence of the press/media.  The timing of this commission, less than a year on from the resignation of Richard Nixon after the exposure of the Watergate scandal in the Washington post, cannot be overlooked.  Effectively the conclusion was as Chomsky put it:

The general public must be reduced to its traditional apathy and obedience, and driven from the arena of political debate and action, if democracy is to survive.’ (Chomsky, 1989).   

Or to put it another way, in order to save democracy, we must kill it.  Democracy has become another word that is effectively devoid of meaning.  What they’ve created in its place is a zombie democracy where people are not active, but passive.  The powers that be cannot allow a free press to operate.  The quaint ideas of transparency and accountability are as rare as investigative journalists.  In fact the existence of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists shows you how difficult it is for them to exist that they have to appeal to the public for money.  They recently broke the case of the Luxleaks (an international billion dollar tax dodge operation). Why is that the case?  The media is shaped as a funnel, an ear horn directly into your head for the messages of the powerful and the privileged. It follows what is referred to as the propaganda model.

One of the elements of democracy is that you have active participation of the citizens in politics and civic life. 

Having access to facts, information, truths should be essential to bringing about that active participation.  That is a role for which the media should, but doesn't, play.  Instead in the print media what you get is a vehicle for advertising, outlining your most important role in society, to consume, many sordid details about the vacuous lives of celebrities, the news clowns in this old circus, many opinions aimed at molding the debate, and finally some slanted news coverage with the same intention. The media is not there to report news, it is there to shape it, make it, and indoctrinate people.

The reason why journalists who wish to be investigative feel the need to band together and seek funding from the public is that they know that if they did a national story that reveals truth, it would end its life in the wastebasket on the editors computer, and so goes their career if they preoccupy themselves with that.  The reason why rich tax dodgers buy media is not to inform you, but to help you along with how you think about current affairs.  An investigative journalist is conditioned to not be investigative in certain areas.

The active participation that is allowed in a 21st century liberal democracy is the right to scratch a piece of paper and elect a different professional politician to the seat.  The role of the media and the structure is:

designed to induce conformity to establish doctrine’ (Chomsky, 1989).     

We have all survived a propaganda war which was waged on our hearts and minds in relation to the water charge. 

Weapons were unleashed on us from all directions, such as the blanket bombing of opinions; use to induce us back to being passive passengers in this life, in the hands of the capable professional rulers.  The war really ramped up in scale on the announcement by Minister Alan Kelly of his new deal for Irish water, or Irish Water 2.0.

The doctrine established was that mistakes were made, but that we the people had been listened to, and now we would have to pay a lot less until some distant point in the future.  It was then that all the forces of the establishment went to work, and rallied around the new deal, in order to sell it to the masses.  Social conditioning of this news was paramount.  The propaganda war was unleashed and we were all going to be subjected to it, to be indoctrinated, no matter where we tried to hide.

The apparatus of the establishment rallied around the new deal and all admitted that mistakes had been made but this new deal put the matter to rest.  The aim, remember if for not change.  That’s what the establishment requires.  As a prime example let us look at the opinion of the former Progressive democrat, Liz O’Donnell.  

She wrote her opinion when the establishment was busy rallying around the banner of defending ‘democracy and stability’.   

The protests had gone too far.  The Sinn Fein were acting ‘cynically populist’ and the loony left only offer dissent and instability.  Of course, the article runs with the infamous picture of that lone man throwing that brick (singular) at that garda car (the abiding image of 2014):

‘There is no denying an air of instability, anarchy, even revolution in the body politic of late.’

The democracy that Liz is so desperate to defend could not be seen in the light of of 100,000 people on one demonstration against the water charges, followed by another strong display of protests happening in 93 different locations on a desperately wet dog of a Saturday.  Democracy is the meaningless exercise of selecting someone who works within the established political parties (all of them right-wing) who will go and implement the policy of austerity.  What those policies have given us is a chronically dysfunctional country with poor public services, mass emigration, lower wages, and higher unemployment, along with new stealth taxes like the property tax, and now the water charge.

Liz’s line is that essentially the government had made a mistake and the package announced by Minster Alan Kelly was doing the right thing and fixing the water debacle - once and for all.

The 'Water Conservation Grant' of €100 per house could be interpreted as a bid to get this over the line! We do know that 20% of people who are eligible for that are not even customers of Irish Water. Total cost of €84 million; is that not a cynically popular trick, to pay people money in order to make something more appealing which has proven to be massively unpopular.  Does that not sound like a bribe to you?

Liz said that essentially the government is doing well, and we should leave them in charge, and forget about this new taste for protesting.  Later on in the article she gives the government line on their achievements. Liz felt that: 

‘that most reasonable people will back off the protest and be content that their legitimate concerns have been assuaged by the Government.’

What we have to remember is that after the announcement by Alan Kelly of the new deal on Irish Water there was a stampede of defenders of the current incumbents in power. 

But let’s examine that statement again: ‘most reasonable people will back off’ is the key point.  The night that the water charge new deal was announced, RTE’s Prime Time program asked ‘Was the concessions enough to appease middle Ireland or had they now got a taste for revolt?' In that question you had the mission statement of the plan, extinguish all resistance to paying for water, condition the people so that they accepted their fate, and another stealth tax. 

There were several mentions of ‘the loony left’ in the Independent, Sunday Independent, and The Examiner, opinion pieces.

The Irish Times did its turn also.  We were informed that we had one of the cheapest water systems in Europe, [IT, Q&A: All your Water Questions Answered] but at the same time it was cheap because of the subvention from the Government.  The implication is we have to pay for it one way or the other, and it is a line which ignores the bigger question, that if water is not going to be provided for through general taxation, what is?  That is a debate that you will not see in the media ever.  The bigger civic questions of why policy is made in such a way,  and what is ultimate aim of paying taxation if not for basics like clean drinking water, is what an informed civic debate should be like around such a fundamental of society, but it is absent in the media.  The media is not there for that purpose, it is for social conditioning.

What I witnessed was an organic movement of resistance where people decided that the imposition of this water charge was a step too far, that this marked the point where they could take austerity no more.  It had little or nothing to do with the left.  What it led to was opposition which genuinely had the existing government and powers that be frantically pressing the panic button.  This unleashed the full scale propaganda war.  It did not succeed.  On a freezing cold day in December over 80,000 people turned up to say that the new water deal was unacceptable.  Someone went up to an RTE van and spray painted the word ‘LIES’ on the side, because for many people the role of the state broadcaster the messenger of big brothers newspeak.

The propaganda war rages on, it is waged everyday through all channels.   Yesterday figures for registration for the new water charge were being released as a way of legitimising the process of turning water from a right into a commodity.   A lot of people who are paid monthly would also have seen their pay increase, as there were small reductions in tax.  The strategy from the government is one where people accept these tax decreases so as to accept the new charge on water. The indoctrination of people is taking place individually, whereas the campaign against the water charge saw people act together, in solidarity with their neighbors, friends and colleagues. 

What is required from people in this strategy for survival? That we act together and continue to keep asking the big questions, we continue to refuse the neatly package narrative that they busily spin and flog through the media. We communicate with each other and let each other know of resistance. We continue to spread stories of hope, and we continue to resist. 

If democracy requires the active participation of its people, then we must continue to inform ourselves, and to actively participate in our collective resistance of the world that the markets and politicians are creating for us.    



Noam Chomsky [1989] – Necessary illusions, Through Control in Democratic Societies

Irish Times Q/A: On Water Charges

Irish Independent Liz O’Donnell on the Loony Left

RTE outside broadcast van with LIES written on it