PUBLIC RELATIONS AND MASS CONFUSION

Many people are working hard to solve the problems facing the world today. However, there is massive confusion. Great numbers of people are voting against their self-interest on issues affecting all aspects of all our lives.

Through the use of the modern science of public relations (PR), people are routinely persuaded to support the interests of the exploitive corporate class. The interests of the owning class and the working class are fundamentally opposed, yet working people routinely elect representatives who support corporate agendas while ignoring their own.

Those who are attempting to “wake people up” are seldom reaching the segments of the population that need to change the way they vote. Although the “voices of the choir” sing ever louder, we continue the environmental and economic slide we are on, while our wars rage throughout the planet.

This site hopes to be a clearinghouse for information concerning how  PR functions and what might be done to reach those who are mesmerized into supporting their exploiters.

AMERICAN PROPAGANDA

Most people in the U.S. believe that we don’t have propaganda here. “That only happens in places like Russia.” However, we live in one of the most heavily propagandized societies in the history of the world.

The media is owned outright by a handful of wealthy individuals with their own agendas and no responsibility to accurately inform citizens.  There is no requirement for any information presented by the media (including “news”) to be true.  And, it turns out; sophisticated psychological techniques are being used to sell political ideologies, as well as consumer goods.

Elite sectors of societies have always been faced with the problem of how to maintain control over people when the minority of the opulent are so severely outnumbered. The privileged need to get common people to support elite agendas, rather than their own interests. Ancient societies held power by a combination of military force and mythology, with god-kings ruling by divine right.

With the hard won gains of people’s rights based on democratic ideals, things became more complex. Official violence was often not a viable option. By the early 20th century, the concept of divine right rule had zero credibility, and democratic sentiments were becoming more widespread. Americans were very aware of elite ambitions for power and concentration of wealth. The privileged classes desperately sought solutions to their waning influence.

The era of psychoanalytically-based spin was born in the early 20th century, spearheaded by students of mass psychology like Edward Bernays (the Father of Spin), who was a nephew of Sigmund Freud. Many others were involved in the pioneering of what came to be called Public Relations (PR). Influential French sociologist Gustave Le Bon studied the “crowds” to develop ways to control them. Discussions were very frank about the need to control the “irrational masses.”

Successful strategies were designed by the newly formed public relations industry, which was able to manipulate people through their desires and deep psychological motivations. The growing electronic mass media allowed for openings into the public mind and the insertion of a predigested reality. An isolationist nation was persuaded to enthusiastically support two world wars, while huge quantities of consumer goods were sold to the public. Media ownership became more concentrated.

During the 1960s and 70s something went wrong. Millions of people began to catch on to the social controls and the dark intentions of the military-industrial complex. A massive social upheaval interfered with the ambitions of the powerful.

The elite backlash was tremendous, but nearly invisible to the public. The PR methods developed in previous decades were intensified. The extreme capitalist owning class decided that in order to maintain their positon of power in our society, they were going to need to change the way people think. A number of well-funded think tanks were launched to study how to shape public perceptions and find ways to control and manipulate public opinion using the tools of psychology and sociology. The mass media was bought up.

Through many highly effective strategies, the owners of the means of public discourse have largely accomplished their goal. Working people now commonly vote against their own self-interests in support of intentionally branded candidates who seem to embody archetypical values that they believe represent their own.

 Now, we have a president-elect who is a billionaire and dedicated to promoting social animosities among subsets of society. He seems sanguine about destroying the remainder of our environmental protections, and unmoved by the notion of social justice. For reasons that cannot be understood without exposing the manipulations of mass media, he is enthusiastically supported by millions of his future victims. They support a demagogue with no personal stake in improving anyone’s life; yet they believe, against all objective evidence, that he is a common man like them.

Media literacy is a necessary component of successful activism. Demonstrating how public opinion is created, and who pays to manipulate it, can help people see through the constant stream of deception. Alerting people to the routine methods employed to deceive can short-circuit the intended manipulation. Understanding the strategic purpose of the mass media means never being surprised when “news” reports don’t match reality. When we follow the money to see who is influencing what gets reported we can publicly expose the tactics and goals of professional manipulators.

It is crucial to educate people about media mass deception, if we hope to gain sufficient support to overcome the corporate-governmental steamroller that we are facing. A small change in public opinion can change the political landscape.

A NEW STRATEGY

It is imperative that groups working for environmental protection and a sane political system incorporate new approaches. The approaches that worked so well in the 60s and 70s are no longer adequate.

The methods used so effectively at that time were studied in great detail by a network of think tanks and other interested organizations. The elite conducted extensive studies to find out why their opposition was successful, and to find “solutions” to stop this interference with their agendas. Their answer was that they needed to change the way Americans think.

Their strategy has been hugely successful. Many sectors of the population that once struggled against corporate agendas now support them, in direct opposition to their own best interests. A key to this success has been the strategies of the public relations industry. With so little citizen understanding of these strategies, our population has been “blindsided,” and continues to be.

The PR industry generally uses advanced communication techniques to manipulate information to sell products or create support for politicians. It utilizes disinformation and psychologically sophisticated deception. Much of the PR relies on access to the mass media.

PR strategies need to be understood by activists, if we are to reverse the corporate takeover of our society. Although the PR industry richly deserves the bad name it has gained, not all of its tactics are reprehensible.

For activists, it would be highly counterproductive to use dishonest tactics. The need is for issues to be made clear. It is essential to maintain integrity in all communications. However, there are some techniques that can be useful to honest activists that do not rely on media access.

Edward Bernays (AKA “The Father of Spin”) was proud of his career, and left a lot of information about his campaigns in the public sector. Many in the PR industry strongly resented his openness.

Bernays began his career in the early 20th Century. When he opened his “Council on Public Relations,” he charged $1000/hr. He worked with US presidents and industry leaders, and was highly successful in shaping public opinion. His book Propaganda is still studied by public relations students. The book demonstrates Bernays’ techniques for swaying the public mind.

The efforts to understand “target” audiences by the PR industry are extensive. Methods range from telephone surveys to psychological evaluations. PR professionals strive to know which symbols, phrases, images, sounds, colors, etc. will have what impacts on their target audience.

They need to know the preferences and triggers of the people that they wish to communicate with. What statements or images will create an opening to be heard; and conversely, what will classify them as the “other,” and make persuasion impossible?

Activists tend not to consider these factors, believing that if the truth is spoken, people will hear it and be transformed. Yet, when a person is invested in a worldview, facts that contradict it are met with hostility. Providing facts that undermine someone’s paradigm may cause that individual to become more stubborn in defense of his/her views.

If an activist who dresses in an alternative fashion, with many tattoos, facial piercings and wildly dyed hair, is trying to influence conservative voters about an issue, the activist will immediately be labeled negatively, removing any credibility from his/her message. This same person could achieve the desired effect with certain alternative populations.

Given this inherent rigidity in much of humanity, how can we communicate with people about the life-and-death issues that are currently endangering us all? Here, some ideas can be borrowed from the PR industry.

Activists can make the attempt to understand the people they wish to reach. Try to understand their worldviews, and frame information so that it supports what they already believe, instead of challenging their opinions. In a conservative neighborhood, dress in a conservative manner.

Avoid “wedge issues,” where strong emotional disagreement is certain to emerge. Wedge issues may indeed be very important issues in their own right, but, they are issues that cannot be settled by any type of facts or data. They are issues that are based on deeply seated religious and cultural beliefs and attitudes. These attitudes often define the line between “progressive” vs “conservative” viewpoints. Polarization along these lines is amplified by the mass media.

We will not likely be able to change people’s minds on their core opinions. However, we have much in common, even with racist, sexist bigots. We are all facing “the perfect storm,” with an utterly corrupt political system, a rapidly escalating danger of nuclear war, runaway climate change, a tragic cancer epidemic due to our toxic environment, massive overpopulation and a potential economic collapse. The upcoming catastrophe may be unparalleled in human experience. We are all in the jaws of the lion. We urgently need more voters to understand the critical implications of our predicament.

So, when alerting potentially reactionary people about our situation, avoid discussion of wedge issues; for example, the merits of gay marriage (especially if you are gay). Be prepared to hear bigoted viewpoints that will arouse your anger, without taking the bait.

Ask questions to learn what their views are before launching into your message. Take some time to respectfully discover what information they might be open to hearing. If possible, find activists from the culture you are attempting to influence, to make the personal contacts.

Marches, protests, and demonstrations are useful for strengthening support and building a sense of unity among people who already understand the issues. It is very empowering to march with thousands of like-minded individuals. Information can be shared and a movement can grow.

Demonstrations do little to win over those with opposing views. It is a simple matter to spin the demonstration in the media to look like a threat to America. Especially the extreme right wing media, like Fox “News,” tends to cast environmental or political demonstrations as evidence of a vast anti-American conspiracy.

It is unlikely that many people will change their minds about the issues by being confronted by activists at demonstrations. A better place to talk to these people would be at a church picnic.

There are a huge number of organizations that provide opportunities for knowledgeable individuals to meet and communicate with those who are on “the other side.” If you are a member of the Lions club and talk to other members, you are far more credible since you are in their tribe. Edward Bernays, in his book Propaganda, lists dozens of organizations which operatives can join and influence.

An important principle is to influence leaders first. If the pastor of a church believes something and communicates it to his/her congregation, a large percentage of the members will take the pastor’s lead on the issue. “Belief in” something is not so much based on logic as it is dependent on what your “tribe” believes. A strong value in most human communities is maintaining a strong belief in their core group’s belief systems. To believe otherwise is disloyal.

It is also crucial to develop communication skills. A book that is exceptionally helpful is Difficult Conversations. It teaches how to truly listen and understand how another person feels, and how to say what you need to express in a way that can actually be heard by the other person.

A powerful strategy for activists, nationwide, would be to communicate with people in their communities, by either joining their organizations, or working with members of organizations they are already part of. Training programs could be developed. Evaluations could be made to determine which individuals are the best fit for which organizations, so that they would fit in seamlessly and become accepted parts of the groups.

We live in dire times. We need to use sophisticated strategies to help disinformed voters understand that “we” have been persuaded to support political candidates who work in direct opposition to our interests; and to the interests of The United States of America, and the special features of this nation that make it different from Russia, China and other despotic nations. We need to help people understand that the climate crisis and the chemical toxification of our air, water and food are very real problems, and are killing people as we speak.

The problem is clear: millions of people have been persuaded to vote for politicians who support corporate domination of our country. We need to help those people see through the charade so that they can vote in an intelligent manner. We must evolve outreach strategies to reclaim our nation for the good of the people, rather than the agendas of the elite. For ourselves and future generations, we must communicate.

Drake Chamberlin 740-448-7328 drake.chamberlin@gmail.com