Everyone knows ads are propaganda, but what happens when you have an ad for propaganda? While you sip your first Guinness and try to figure out why China's government can only ever shut down once, you can ponder this ad:
The only reason you haven't spit nitrogen bubbles on your screen is I haven't shown you the other half of this outstandingly accurate abomination. You should get yourself a towel and another drink.
Intelligent people like to tell each other that they aren't liberal or conservative but independent; that Fox and MSNBC are biased and can't be trusted, that partisanship, "special interests" and "lobbyists" have destroyed America; in essence, that they are not ideologues but practical, reasonable people who just want the system to do what's right. Then you ask them what exactly "right" is, and the yelling starts.
Intelligent people, like racists, are fluent in describing themselves in opposition to what they are not, but ask them to define themselves by what they are, tell you what they do believe in, and they're lost. They have opinions on issues, sure, but ask for an overarching ideology and their face botoxes. Overarching ideology? Only people with manifestos have ideologies, not having an ideology is the whole point of being independent, the only thing they deal in is "facts" or "reality", and gun to head if they believe in anything it's "science." Not physics or chemistry, but evolution. You know, whatever ideologues hate.
I phrase it this way not to insult a group, but to show you how very easy it is to brand identify a group, because when a group becomes a demo it loses most of its freedom of action and becomes baa baa black sheep. Do you want to see the consequence? Turn on CNN.
"The government shut down just shows that our government doesn't function correctly!" That's one interpretation, the other is that when a car starts to smoke, you pull over and fix it, you don't keep going till it explodes, though I recognize the explosion makes for better TV. What you're seeing is the ordinary back room realigning of interests and powers, but this time trying desperately to hide from a voyeuristic media that caters to a demographic, i.e. you, that believes that never more than three at a time colorful but poorly understood #issues will eventually get us to Mars. "We shouldn't go to Mars." You got your wish. Off topic, speaking of Mars, here's an interesting thought: if things proceed as per y=mx+b, then the entire human race of the future interstellar diaspora will all be Chinese. Huh. What do you know, Star Trek was way off.
Americans, by which I mean a populace propagandized to the Left or Right or Middle, cynically believe that "wanting to get re-elected" or arrogance or ideology is what's to blame, as if 500+ career Machiavellians are too stupid to know what an underemployed theater grad knows. "They should just do the right thing!" Who will let them? You?
The shut down was the inevitable consequence of a government not permitted to compromise, smothered by the oppressive gaze of a kamikaze media that will kill itself and your country just to get a headline today. I'm starting to wonder if the reason it is always pretty white girls who get kidnapped is that the media is the one kidnapping them. And you blamed Bear Stearns for being too focused on short term profits? CNN's time horizon is your next micturition. The media demands partisanship, conflict, opposing sides, but despite having 24 hours to fill will never, ever explain the interplay between complex issues, preferring to feature them in segments while hyping them to a crisis. Imagine trying to have sex always on camera, and always with a goat, and always with some know-it-all screaming at you, "get hard now! NOW! 8 seconds left! NOW! What's wrong with you?!" Jesus, can I take a minute and do this privately? "Transparency!"
If Senator X "makes a concession" the relevant media will proclaim him a loser and a coward, they don't want representatives, they want cage fighters. There's no reward for compromise and there's no safe place to attempt it, either. This is 100% your fault, "I can't believe how stupid these people are!" It's great how you can't find employment but have time to micromanage the U.S. Senate. #outrage
If you want to know what political career disaster looks like, have an infinitely leggy ex-sorority girl in flesh toned Manolos sitting behind a glass table in perfect lighting announce to 50% of America that you were beat by an old woman from California or an old man from Ohio. "Ha ha, what a cuckold! Back to you, Kent." You blame Congress? They are the ones who "don't get it"? When a representative democracy gets crippled by what amounts to a 3x3 magic square, it's not that they can't figure out the solution, the solution is easy, the answer is 15 and the five is a gimme, we just need someone to dare allow himself to be filmed putting the 1 on the left or the right or the center so we can finish the other 13 numbers and go bomb Syria. "Wait, what? I don't understand." Yes, that's my point exactly.
I'm not saying the shutdown isn't a real problem, only that if the news came out only in weekly format, this particular shutdown wouldn't have happened. Or, said differently, if there was a government shut down at a time when the news came out only weekly, it would mean we were getting a new flag.
All of what is now being subverted by the media has been detailed in The Process Of Government, you should read it. But you won't, it has too many characters, and this is accurate no matter how you define characters. Come on, at least read Chapter XX, it's online. Jesus, here. "Umm, It's pretty boring." I know, I know, you want to know how the news relates to you, and boy oh boy do I have the news network for you.
"But that book was written in 1908. Based on what I've seen on Downton Abbey, things were a lot different then."
Well, yes, obviously, there had just been a massive leap forward in technology and industrialization, a booming economy fueling a wealth gap, temporarily course corrected by a financial panic "precipitated" by the failure of two overspeculating brokerage houses. There were also, simultaneously, great advances in progressive causes like worker's rights and food quality, all on the background of decreasing importance of religion among educated whites in favor of science. Not physics or chemistry, but evolution. Tabloids were incomprehensibly popular, partisan media the norm. A loosening of conventional morality manifested as bored promiscuity, female bisexuality, and a flood of new porn the likes of which never existed before.
"That does sound different. And awesome. What did their Millennial kids inherit, what did they experience over their adult lives, say 1929-1945?"
I totally don't know, Boardwalk Empire only goes up to 1924 and Mad Men starts 1960.
The problem with blaming the shutdown on Congressional partisans is that the partisans on either side know exactly what they want. When there are specific things you want, compromise is usually possible.
The public in the middle, however, don't understand politics, only emotions given to them by TV, and so their beliefs are cobbled together in real time, improvised, as they get "more information." One trending topic at a time, each vacuum sealed to prevent cross contamination. They don't look at things historically, culturally, humanistically, or even selfishly, there exists no system for interpreting "the facts." Compromise becomes impossible, as a simple example, when a "moderate" "thinks" there should be more restrictions on guns, they want gun owners to give up something they want very much-- in exchange for nothing. "But it's the right thing to do!" And the yelling starts, in HD.
Worse, they proudly announce their lack of ideology by branding themselves as Independents-- capital I, a thing, a demo. He willingly lessens his independence to become part of a group.
The "independent" demo actually has all the textbook characteristics of a group most susceptible to propaganda, more correctly "pre-propaganda", and by textbook I mean literally Propaganda.
They consider themselves leaderless. They can have representatives, they can have "evangelists" but they have to believe that their conclusions are all their own, through individual reflection and objective consideration. Interestingly, and on purpose, they believe their brains can handle such an analysis, any analysis. This isn't arrogance. They are told, by universities and the media, that their mind is prepared to do this heavy lifting as long as they are given just the right facts, filtered from the "noise." "Where can we get the right facts, in a world of liars?" Good question, maybe the news?
Commonly, independents have a single personal issue, say gun rights or abortion, but no personal experience with other issues, and lacking any subjective starting point, they therefore believe that ONLY objectivity will give them the truth. The less life experience they have the better; the less they've seen of the world, the fewer people they've argued with (in person, where it is real and has real consequences like punches), the less frequently their water balloon worldview is tested by people with pins, the more they will cling to the premise that "facts" are what's important. In this way the one personal issue serves as a reference point which the propaganda exploits: "hey, gun advocates, did you know you like low corporate taxes?" I do? "Yes, because the people you hate are for raising them." Consequently, raising corporate taxes is felt like an attack on the Second Amendment. "Liberals! Taking away our rights!"
But sometimes the complexity of issues is just overwhelming, once in a while reality creeps in, and issues are discovered to be massively complicated, and anyway he has no power to do anything.
No doubt this sounds depressing, he's going to start drinking heavily, or become a cynic, or go the Hemingway. So the media=propaganda fosters his regression towards a much desired solution: total alienation. The media explains how things relate to him, and as long as he understands what's going on, he feels empowered. He is given an ideology without even knowing it. Now he doesn't actually have to do anything, indeed, it's way the hell better if he does nothing. All that's required is support, and through his support not only will "the right things" happen but he'll share in the credit.
You'll counter that there are right leaning and left leaning independents, isn't there a difference? but this misses the point: propaganda doesn't try to get you to believe something, but to do something, and in this case it is to do nothing-- it doesn't matter what you choose to believe, as long as your outrage is done from inside your house.
This is the whole gimmick of media, not polar but triangular, right, left, middle, mobilizing an army of assonauts to feel strongly enough about something that they don't do anything.
I already knew that "independent" was a group looking for representation, what I was surprised by is how fast "independent" became a mainstream brand demo. Here is page 2, and 3, of Time Magazine:
The first and most immediate observation is that Al Jazeera assumes its American target demo is stupid, very stupid, because here we have what is most certainly a college graduate who considers herself in need of unbiased, objective, independent news-- yet she is still reading Time Magazine, as her main source of in depth news. Rana Foroohar balanced by Fareed Zakaria, two wrongs can make a right, and "it's somewhere in the middle." She has decided that the problem with her understanding of the world is that she just needs better intel. Yes, she will say intel, it sounds more objective.
In order for the Time reader to have formed the quoted thought two other thoughts had to have occurred already, which in itself is astonishing, here they are: 1. She's figured out that all American news is biased, she's sick of the partisanship, after all, it doesn't brand identify her. 2. She thinks that more objectivity is to be found at Al-Jazeera America.
Why would she think this? Because she's stupid? Actually, yes: the culture you know least about has all the answers, which is also why the Guinness ad hypermale in pre-season Special Olympics has chosen to tattoo gigantic Chinese characters on his arm to explain his ennui to himself. "It's a chinese proverb, 'That what doesn't kill me make me stronger.'" I hope to God a bus tries to make you stronger. Off topic, as a sociological metric, you can track a chinese person's first level of alienation from his culture by his branding himself with English-word tattoos; but you will know that all the chinese has been media powerwashed out of him when the he starts getting Chinese character tattoos. "It's because I'm Chinese," he'd explain, to which you would not dare reply, "yeah, I kinda figured." To which he will then not reply, "I mean, I know I'm genetically Chinese, but I don't really feel Chinese, but this signals that I'm part of a symbolic China more authentic than the actual China of my parents which I feel no real connection to, yet I know I'm supposed to feel the connection, it's not like I can go around pretending I grew up on Waltzing Matilda." To which you will not add, "It's not entirely your fault, you didn't live through a war like your parents and grandparents did, and anyway modern China resembles the U.S. far more than it does symbolic China. Technically, you're alienated from your parents alienation, but neither are you connected to Americana either, the white girls/boys seem out of reach, there's a frivolity you can't really empathize with, jobs other than Law, Medicine, Science are unreal, and you feel like you're always looking at everything from an outside that itself has no firm location." And he'll blink, confused, "truth be told, my only real association to chinese culture is my parents screaming at me that I'm not as good as 'real' Chinese. What can be done?" I don't have an answer for you, the good news is that when you finally find the answer that works for you, your kids will be too old to care.
Al-Jazeera America is trying to call itself "objective", but right in the ad is the brand reveal: she doesn't want objectivity, she wants subjectivity explained to her, she wants to know how the news relates to her. She wants to know: how can I, an organ donor in Sector 3, be part of the global community now that my husband is boring and my kids prefer their individual LCD screens? The media wants her to have an answer, after all, do you know how many Nielsen ratings that family generates, how individualized is the data? It's not the quality of the news at AJA she likes, but how watching it makes her feel smart, unique. She's not going to watch Fox, MSNBC and AJA, right? Only one of those, but AJA brands her as out of the mainstream, unique, open to other opinions. "I like to get my information from different sources." I assume that includes twitter, 140 characters and an appeal to authority and you're good to go at the Starbucks.
To be clear, I'm not at all worried Al Jazeera is going to secretly convert this woman into a jihadist or spread misinformation and disinformation. I have no doubt Al Jazeera will be as objective as CNN, after all they took Soledad O'Brien from them to signal that very point.
So when I say AJA is (pre-)propaganda, I don't mean it won't be accurate, I mean that it's purpose is to prepare its demo for a certain way of life. Of course everything I've said applies to any American media-- except that Al Jazeera offers something else the American networks don't or can't. If you want to know what Al Jazeera is really offering, take a look at its aspirational target demo:
Not pictured is a white guy in a suit, because he already has media that's for him, and it's probably Fox, and the above four people hate it. That's powerful branding in America: in opposition to what you hate.
Women and minorities may not seem like an aspirational demo, but it is-- not for actual women and minorities necessarily, but for people suffering from tremendous ennui who want to be part of a struggle, something bigger than themselves.
They feel, without fully comprehending this to be true, that the only reason the American media is so partisan and loud and angry and urgent is because nothing really important is happening. Yes, there's a countdown clock on CNN for Debt Ceiling Armageddon and I guess Kanye West is headed for the asylum but it's all boy who cried wolf blitzer at this point. She heard, like you heard, that the NSA is monitoring us, and you know what? Meh. Though it was interesting when it was on The Good Wife. This isn't to say things are going well, it is to say they are degrading boringly. Like the above woman's marriage.
This is what Al Jazeera promises her, not objectivity, but a connection to history. Our big crisis is... whether or we aren't going to pay our short term debts. You think either of the four people above can get hyped about that? But over in the middle east history is happening, racial equality, women's lib, the right to get an education, riots, ideological clashes-- all that stuff is happening over there. Women are being stoned to death for seeing a penis, gay men, too, if you assume that at some point in some future these things will no longer be true, then you are saying that historical changes are afoot as the old ways are replaced, and by ways I mean men. The #OWS demo wants to see powerful men humbled before the t-shirted, tweeting masses, it allows them the fantasy that it could some day happen here, which it won't because the propaganda worked.
Propaganda doesn't succeed because it is manipulative, it works because people WANT it, NEED it, it gives their life a direction and meaning and guards against change.
Fans of AJA will probably attack me for being biased, but this accusation is silly. The whole point here is that the target demo for AJA is not smart, and I know this because no one smart would watch TV news. If you are watching TV news, then you're not smart, this isn't me saying this, this is TV news predicting this: no one smart would ever ask another person, let alone the news, to explain to them how the news relates to them. TV news thinks you're as stupid as Time Magazine.
If anything, Al-Jazeera isn't the "Islamification" of the west, it is the westernization of the middle east. Al Jazeera reports in English, they have western values, and, most importantly, accept ads-- western style ads, i.e aspirational, not representational. The neocons couldn't have planned this better, someone should check to see if they didn't. Two months of Al Jazeera and this woman will turn to her then deceased husband in a moment of big picture clarity and say, "you know, they're not so different from us, they want the same things we want." Yes. Why do you think that is? Evolution?
The news for Americans, especially Independents, lacks meaning, direction, ideology-- and they miss it, just like economically, they've been left behind. Now the news is artificial drama, just local crime stories blown up nationally, a natural disaster, the occasional Youtube video-- where's the Change, where are the upheavals, where are the riot police? We don't have political riots here, we have high end sit ins near the Broadway Starbucks, and occasionally 20 motorcycles will attack a minivan. "Is 'motorcycle' code?" That's where we are right now, this is what the media has trained you for, detecting racism or hypocrisy or some other character flaw in the speaker as a proxy for the complexities of the issues so you don't have to think. It is under these conditions that you expect John Boehner to "compromise" on something you don't at all understand, and scream for his beheading if he doesn't, all to the thrill of the media. "See! TLP is a right wing zealot!" See, you're stupid. And boy oh boy do I have the news network for you.