Last post we discussed people’s tendency to reject facts and evidence, if they conflict with their cherished beliefs. Sometimes of course, it isn’t a case of treasured beliefs, but simply a mind virus they have been programmed with. And the dangers of getting infected with these mind viruses increase literally every month.
The amount of programming you receive daily is expanding exponentially. And forums that used to attempt to remain impartial, like newspapers and news programs, today enthusiastically embrace a new role. Many of the people in these mediums now see themselves as a self-anointed class of elite beings – whose job is to mold public opinion for the good of the masses.
People wanting to do this is nothing new. It’s been happening probably as long as humans have walked the earth. But the platforms they have today and the technology they are promoted with, has reached a mind-numbing dimension.
Most authoritarians, despots and dictators readily rely on the tactics of Machiavelli and The Believer since forever. But at least we know they are authoritarians, despots and dictators.
Advertising executives and marketers have been harnessing propaganda for mass persuasion adroitly since the days when Walter Lippmann first wrote Public Opinion. Then Edward Bernays made it an art form, seeing himself and other advertising creatives as “invisible governors,” who, “harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.“
Even though what they were doing was highly manipulative, at least they were just using their techniques to sell shampoos, breakfast cereals or pianos. (Some of it harmful for sure, like cigarettes.) A new generation of marketers has continued this track, using the new tools of social media and mobile apps to get us to reach for our credit cards. But again, they’re just selling us fad diets, video games and eBooks.
Today however, we have powerful personalities who are not political leaders and they’re not selling us consumer products. They are intent on creating a meme-plex (a collection of related memes, a/k/a mind viruses) to influence societal behavior. Cable TV hosts like Sean Hannity, Don Lemon, and Tucker Carlson have the platform and the technology to mold public opinion, and they have seized the opportunity with a vengeance. Only they are explicitly dedicated to being visible governors – who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world. (They are certainly not the only ones. There are multitudes of people attempting this today, but few as effectively as these three.)
We could debate the motives of people who do this. Are they calculating and conniving, or simply idealists who believe they are on this planet to save people with their superior intellect and ideas? In actuality, their intent or motivation doesn’t really matter. What matters are the results. In this case, how you respond to people who want to program you with any set of beliefs.
These are the questions you may want to consider:
So how are you doing on all this?