"Who controls the past," ran the Party slogan, "controls the future: who controls the present controls the past." And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. "Reality control," they called it: in Newspeak, "doublethink." 1984, George Orwell.
“The thug is aware that loudness convinces sixty persons where reasoning convinces but one.” Mark Twain.
I never noticed before now that ‘memory hole’ is another example of doublespeak. Like the Ministry of Truth, A memory hole is a place to remove memories, not store them. Orwell’s treatment was overkill. Today, it is no longer necessary to remove old memories, they are just marginalized and overgrown by a layer of new lies with time. Time heals all memories.
I notice that the propaganda machine keeps the dialog going a certain way and doesn’t bother with the past at all. Real memory management is self-governing. Orwell should just have said, “The past will disappear by itself. There’s no need to dispense with it. No one will even notice!”
This is called “temporal discounting.” That is where future rewards for today’s actions are considered as less important than immediate rewards, even if the future rewards are greater. Things like combatting climate change fall into this category. If we sacrifice our standard of living now, we will have a livable standard of living in the future. But that means we have to sacrifice now. I don’t like that. So the future benefit is worth less than the current gain.
I suggest that temporal discounting applies to the past we well. We temporally discount things in the past like we temporally discount rewards in the future. We consider things in the past as less important, less real, and less true. Less applicable to today. The past can’t be changed, of course. But the past can be a warning of what we can expect from our own future. But the past is not important, not pertinent. It has no value today.
People don’t learn lessons from history. That’s history’s greatest lesson. And who learns that lesson? Very few. And the very much in power. Or those who despair.
Think of when our parents were told that Stalin’s Soviet Union was the enemy. They were going to infect the world with global communism. Red scare. Russia Bad! Whole countries harvested with the hammer and sickle! Then Stalin was our ally in WWII. Memory control! Russia Good! The past invalidated!
They negotiated with us at Sochi and Bretton Woods. The world was divided up into spheres of influence, as it always is. The Soviets got one third and the US got two thirds. The dollar was recognized as the world’s reserve currency at Bretton Woods, replacing the pound Sterling. Stalin, unlike Trotsky, was not interested in world communist domination. He was content to be a local tyrant. Russia Indifferent! The past invalidated!
Then, when the war was over, we needed a boogie man again. We got the cold war! Red scare again! The Iron Curtain! More memory control! That justified Senator McCarthy’s witch hunt on communists and the 1950’s ‘duck and cover’ hysteria. Korea! Viet Nam! Domino theory! Russia bad! The past invalidated!
But we managed to negotiate with the Soviets through the Cuban missile crisis, several nuclear nonproliferation treaties, and finally the mutual ending of the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union. Time for memory control! Russia Good! The past invalidated!
But now there’s modern Russia, which is not the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union ended in 1990. Russia now is a new country with a democratic republic, a parliament, a prime minister, a president, and a judicial system. Its president currently has a greater that 80% approval rating from the citizens. Yet it is once again treated like the old, failed Soviet system. Change your memory, do-si-do! Russia Bad! The past invalidated!
Each change of history greedily accepted. Each morsel of history scornfully discarded. The past is past. Why pay any attention to it? The past is always invalidated.
And more recently. Bashar al-Assad used poison gas on his citizens. That was supposed to discredit Assad and ignite another Middle Eastern war!
Only he didn’t. And it didn’t. The gassing wasn’t even done by the Assad government. No matter. People don’t really care about facts, present or past, anymore.
Then we were informed that ISIS in Syria are head chopping, Sharia Law forcing, raping Jihadists. That was supposed to support us invading Syria.
Only it didn’t. Yes. ISIS is horrible. Just like Saudi Arabia. We need to fight…one of them. No matter. People don’t really care about facts, present or past, anymore.
Then we were told that ISIS somehow morphed into moderate rebels who are only trying to bring Jeffersonian democracy to Syria and that anti-democratic Syria and Russia keep bombing the last hospital in Aleppo, even though both Russia and Syria are very popular democracies. No matter. People don’t really care about facts, present or past, anymore.
That was supposed to-
Oops! Too late. The battle for Aleppo is nearly over, the city liberated, and its civilian population finally evacuated to shelter and health care. Clean up at the memory discount isle! Russia, um. Bad? The past-what?
Notice how Aleppo has suddenly dropped into the memory hole? We no longer hear about Russians bombing kittens?
Now all the rage is about fake news! Talk about the pot and the kettle.
Under the Soviet Union everyone knew that the government was lying to them. Nobody believed a word they heard from official channels. Now we’ve got ‘Pravda on the Potomac,’ The Washington Post. Yet Americans tend to believe what they read and hear. It’s current. It’s scary. It’s unconsciously affirming of temporal discounts, both past and future, no matter how contradictory they may be. And it appeals to us viscerally.
One wonders if the New York Times would publish the Pentagon Papers today. Would Ellsberg have to petition for asylum in Russia like Snowdon? Or would he end up in a military prison like Manning?
News is now a morality tale: An urban legend which we accept immediately without proof because it connects with some latent emotion that is stronger than logic. It tells a story of good guys, bad guys, daring and dastardly deeds, how bad they are, how right we are, and how wronged we are. To use the current jargon: News is fake.
The old Soviet propaganda was about how great the state was. And how many traitors were executed and how many tractors and communities were exceeding their quotas and how they were bringing the Soviet Socialist paradise to other worlds. What BS! Everyone knew it was propaganda. Everyone knew how poor they were and how inept the State was. A no brainer. No-one believed a bit of it. But everyone still had to live, regardless of what the State was doing.
Now, US propaganda uses a different psychology. By tying propaganda to psychology, propaganda becomes programming. A whirlwind rehearsal. The world hates you! And they hate you because of what great gifts you have! The gifts of freedom, which you bought with sacrifice and hard labor because of your exceptional spirit! Just watch a John Wayne movie! American Exceptionalism! And the rest of the world envies and hates you for it. And we never notice how our freedoms are evaporating while we celebrate them.
We, here in Washington, are your vanguards of freedom, protecting you from the (fill-in-the-blank) hordes: (Mexican, Muslim, Russian, Communist, Chinese, Hippy, Black, Cheese doodles. You choose.) Pick a topic and turn it into a morality tale. It becomes a fantasy story. A personal quest for spiritual realization and deliverance. The hero’s quest. It’s a freedom app!
Julian Assange? He’s a rapist! Rape is terrible. I hate rape. Rapists are monsters. Assange must be creepy. Just look at him! He looks like a rapist. And he’s confined to one building. What’s he afraid of if he’s innocent? He was framed, you say? That’s just blaming the victim! You’re defending him! What about the women he raped? You’re no better than him! And more proof that he is a smarmy guy and obviously guilty!
Never mind that the correct term is ‘alleged rapist’ and that the man deserves due process of law and a fair trial and is innocent until proven guilty. He must certainly be tried before a fair court. And, if convicted, deserves punishment. And, if found not guilty, deserves to regain his place in society without prejudice. Yet in the court of public opinion, he has already been found guilty, no trial necessary. Off with his rights!
And now, Vladimir Putin has hacked our election process and single handedly ensured that Donald Trump has become the 45th president of the United States. Since no evidence has been provided, isn’t this another conspiracy theory? Or is a conspiracy theory, by definition, something which disagrees with our Government’s sanctioned narrative? How convenient.
Hey, out there! All you guys and gals that shout that everything you disagree with is a conspiracy theory! Here’s a ‘theory’ that says ‘Vladimir Putin’ entered into a ‘conspiracy’ with ‘other people’ to ‘overturn the democratic processes of the United States!’ And there’s ‘no proof!’ Isn’t this a ‘conspiracy theory?’ Bring in the Memory Hole!
And, of course, the world’s governments are in on the party, too. Ours, as well. Take the CIA. That same organization that's been overthrowing foreign governments since the 1953 overthrow of the democracy in Iran to be replaced by a medieval Shah?
The same guys who smuggled cocaine into Los Angeles and made secret deals to sell weapons to 1980's Iran?
The same happy boys who made several hundred assassination attempts against Fidel Castro and suggested to President Kennedy that they kill American citizens and blame Cuba to justify an invasion?
The same group that uses the NSA's huge data processing centers and spying devices to mess with other governments' business, including hacking Angela Merkel's cell phone, our ally? Now they are giving us 'secret' proof that Russia hacked our elections and we're supposed to be outraged? We’re supposed to believe them? Sounds like a conspiracy theory to me. Memory control! The past invalidated! And also, several security experts who work with data like these say the DNC’s emails were leaked, not hacked. Also here.
The criminal activity on the part of our (sic) country does not justify the criminal activity of others. I am not suggesting that. Nor am I saying that other countries are innocent of subterfuge, propaganda, and manipulation. Of course they are. Remember Jonathan Pollard? The violation of a sovereign country is wrong and against international law, whoever commits it. But let’s be clear. Every nation does it and the CIA has done worse than just influence other governments. They’ve overthrown governments and advocated killing US citizens to justify wars. Let’s not express mock horror at a paper cut from others while we are dying of a self-inflicted, sucking chest wound.
If that’s not enough, editor of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Udo Ulfkotte, asserts that he and other journalists were coerced or bribed into writing pro-western, anti-Russian propaganda by the CIA.
Do we reject these claims? Do we label them ‘conspiracy theories’ and just let them fall into the memory hole? Or do we ‘Question More’ as the motto of Russia Today tells us to do?
So as far is this scandal is concerned, the rigging of American elections, why don't we just go back to paper ballots? It's kind of hard to hack them. And as far as political entities influencing the electorate, hell, anybody can say anything they want any time they want. That’s not against any law. Think for yourselves, people. We have only ourselves to blame for whom we elect.
Every assertion should be responded to the same way: Prove it! Every secret report should be met with scrutiny: Where’s the evidence? Every charge of propaganda should be charged back: What about your propaganda? Every script compared to history to see if there are patterns or contradictions: Has this happened before? Every knee jerk reaction to news flavored urban legends treated with suspicion: What’s your agenda? Every response from ourselves should be brutally interrogated: What is my bias? I am my greatest critic.
Propaganda has many tools: The Big Lie, Including the Reaction as Part of the Story, Asserting Allegations as Facts, Sensationalism, Cherry Picking, Marginalizing Opposition, among others. All under the rubric of Misinformation. She was my high school civics teacher, bless her black heart.
I’d like to focus on just one paragon of propaganda for now: The Tyranny of the Adjective. They say that Justice is blind. Well, she should be hearing impaired, as well. I’ve seen democratically elected presidents referred to as the ‘Autocrat Headchopper Badguy.’ His title is ‘President Headchopper Badguy,’ if you please. ‘Autocrat’ is a judgement, not a title. Putting it in just plants in our minds what I call a Precon: A predigested conclusion. We are subtly being conditioned into accepting the adjective as conclusion. The eagle vomits up predigested food into our mouths. Swallow? Those can be scattered all through articles.
Or ‘America hating So-and-so.’ America hating? Another judgement presented with no examples. Another Precon. Another piece of force fed fish. If they want us to believe that so-in-so is America hating, present evidence. Let us decide if it is noteworthy or not. But they feed it to us as part of the narrative, instead. A subtext. A carrier wave of subconscious information. A way into our thoughts through a narrow passage between the rest of the text. Like a tunnel under the walls of a castle. While the army assaults the walls and turrets, the invisible enemy worms its way under our defenses. We have no defenses against it.
Wherever we see a derogatory adjective or descriptor, just remove it. Just look at the assertions and not the allegations. Seek evidence. Spit up the vomit. Then see how true the article rings.
By automatically accepting what someone says without questioning the language they use to say it, whether an anonymous blogger or a dubious mainstream news service, we open our minds to memory management far more sophisticated than Orwell ever imagined. Our thoughts become a wasteland of Precons.
Take this article. Have I employed any of the techniques I decry? Probably. Am I pushing biased propaganda? Undoubtedly. ‘Dubious mainstream news service’ falls under the Tyranny of the Adjective rubric. See how I slipped that it? I should let you decide whether any news service, mainstream or alternative, is dubious or reliable. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of propagandizing. We do it to ourselves, we do it to each other. We are the propagandists. We all have a subtext of emotional context running beneath our intellectual strata. We all talk in Precons. We are the propagandists.
The first words we need to scrutinize are our own. Prove it! The more we tell lies, the more we believe lies.