Sunday, December 12, 2004

Not-so-sophisticated Lies

I don't suppose it's a very radical statement to say that the Empire is based in equal measure on force and lies. But what I think we're seeing now is that the force is so overwhelming, the challenges so few, that the lies don't have to be very sophisticated any more. Any sort of whopper - like the "Iraqi WMDs" - will do.

In an email from an acquaintance today, I happened upon this:

"Either the secret services [of the West] have become extremely incompetent, or - having convinced themselves that most of the world is breath-takingly naive - they've resorted to cheap circus tricks, such as the Yuschenko poisoning story, that are simply an insult to logic!"

When I first came to the States, almost 9 years ago, and saw some TV commercials, I understood why the Western propaganda has, on the whole, been more subtle, insidious and effective than Soviet, or Communist in general. The Reds could be pretty persuasive while fighting to get into power; there was a clear incentive for that. But once in power, and for a while, they had no reason to play nice. Most of their agitprop became rather crude and sloppy. That's how so many people knew they were being lied to. But - and here's the key point - they couldn't do much about it as long as the lies were backed by government force. Anyone who dissented would be crushed, sending a message to others that made up in fear what it lacked in elegance.

But American propaganda developed right alongside a commercial advertising industry, one that's operated for decades in a environment of brutal competition for consumers' business. I suspect American advertisers have done some of the most sophisticated research into human psychology in order to develop the most effective marketing techniques.

So why is Imperial propaganda so crude, so ham-fisted and offensively stupid? My theory is, for the same reason the Reds started slacking off once in charge. The Empire is now so powerful that almost no one dares resist it. There is no need for sophistication, when power alone can do the trick - or so the folks running the Empire seem to believe. They've put out some real whoppers out there, fully expecting the world to believe them. And a lot of folks do, really, perhaps unaware that lies of that caliber are even possible, or that their rulers would dare.

Some of the lies used to sell the intervention in Bosnia were extremely sophisticated: "death camps" and "rape camps," claims of "genocide," etc. By the time of the Kosovo intervention, mere four years later, the Empire's best was a rather sloppy "massacre" in Racak. And last year, we got perhaps the most brazen, dumbest lie yet, the "Iraqi WMDs."

In so many books and films both, any sort of nefarious conspiracy is ruined by the act of revealing the truth to "the People" (the near-godlike concept in the pseudoreligion known as Democracy, afflicting much of humanity right now). Life is no movie, though. So many lies - both Racak and the WMDs, for instance - have been exposed and debunked, yet they are widely believed still! "The People" either cannot grasp that their leaders are capable of lying to them, or simply don't care.

I'll let you figure out which is scarier.


Gothamimage said...

Rebecca West was quite a woman!

You sound just like my pals over at

Gothamimage said...

I love your stuff on antiwar. I learn a lot, but since I don't know much, I am not sure what to contest.

But I think you are missing part of the strategy of lies.

Part of it is a play, within a play - it is understood, like Hamlet understood that he was a character, that those telling the lies know that many people are on to thenm

This is a way of "punking" or "bitching" liberal pussies who are afraid to confront, and it also plays in to a general bias in favor of ass kicking in the heartland.

Even people who think Bush is honest, will admit he lied - but only sotto voce and only when they think you are worthy of the truth.

Even Sean Hannity types are not so stupid - they have internalized deception like method actors.

King Claudius, who murdered Hamlet, gave a truly human confession- that was the confession that the warbots give in their minds eye.