The Age of Propaganda is now. It is happening on your Facebook feed, the news, and in movies. It works because of a peculiar dynamic that is best described in an old Brothers Grimm fable called The Fisherman and his Wife.
The story has three characters: a poor fisherman, his wife, and the fish. The fisherman catches the fish, but as the fish has magical powers and pleads to fisherman to spare his life as he is actually an enchanted prince, the fisherman grants a benevolent act, but what happens next is that the fish grants the fisherman a wish, who then tells his wife, who, being a greedy person, starts making increasingly outrageous demands, and her husband is the go-between for his tyrant wife and the magical fish until the point where the wife now wants the powers of a god, and the fish has had enough, and places the couple in the same miserable hovel as they were before.
It is a fable worth noting well. The wife, who just sat in a hovel, grabs the wishes of her husband and now thinks she has found the answer for everything, not even bothering going to the fish herself. She is a passive instigator who doesn’t know when to hold them or when to fold them because she does not understand what she is given is a gift by proxy, and is, in fact, entitled to nothing. She has no understanding of nuances and what power truly means.
The husband begins as an altruist, but has no backbone to tell his wife to shove off. He could have easily went to the fish and asked t be granted the wish of not having to put up with her anymore. We can debate many points to him, but the bottom line is that he is an active conduit. He does all of the work and takes all of the risks, but when his hard work pays off, he shucks both the responsibility and the opportunity to someone unworthy of the decisions.
The fish is both blessed and cursed. He has incredible powers that can alter the world, but none of those powers can help him return to his true form. He is prey and is at the mercy of a predator fisherman, who, on his own, can do right and good, but when in the power of a more domineering personality, is too passive to put his foot down. Yet, it is the fish who finally realizes his saviour needs saving himself, and resets everything as it was before, with neither the fisherman nor his wife learning or evolving.
That is the reason why we are living in an Age of Propaganda.
The Internet is the fish. It has — through no work of the vast majority of the planet — given an enormous power to everyone with a device. The fisherman is social media — the passive conduits who made it possible for us to communicate to billions of people. It is both a blessing and a curse.
The public is the ungrateful wife with the laundry list of demands and decrees. The Troll Scroll and Facebook are littered with propagandistic decrees of what the entire planet should be doing — villainizing and shaming people who do not abide by these ignorant and unrealistic decrees.
But it spreads beyond the Internet. Take a look at this amateur piece of propaganda.
This psychopathic scribble is advocating citizens become Ed Gein.
No wonder you are in need of “oppressors”: if you had it your way, fisherman’s wife, you’d be slaughtering people who did not agree with you.
It is not oppression when you are prevented from being a serial killer and tyrant.
When people push their luck and try to one-up others to prove they are the most superior in a pecking order, extremist ideology seems normal without those running on the hamster wheel realizing how dysfunctional they have become.
And in order to build fortresses to keep reality out and to try to get as many people to submit to your sophistry, you crank up the propaganda.
But sooner or later, the systems snaps as reality proves there is no escaping it.
Salvador Dali was both a grifter and a genius. He had genuine talent and vision, but pulled all sorts of stunts to gain attention for himself.
He could read people. It was the reason he excelled at carny, but then could whip up a masterpiece with a symphony of optical illusions.
He was a rare breed, and it explains why his works — as surreal and enigmatic as they were — could resonate with a public who usually did not get those kinds of weird forms of art.
Dali skirted a fine line because he was, in essence, a radical centrist: it did not turn up his nose at neither the artistic nor the commercial. The line was drawn in the sand by others, and he, being an artist, understood the world of hypothetical constructs because he created them in his art.
But there is one painting of his that is an accurate representation of the Age of Propaganda: The Average Bureaucrat. A naked man standing in front of a ominous shadow in the middle of the desert, and all he can do with his empty head filled with a couple of useless shells is look down and close his eyes.
His is not question the shadow of the barren conditions. He has committed to memory a few empty shells of scripts, and he need not bother to look anyone directly in the eye.
He is a passive agent, who is, coincidentally, in the same place as the fisherman’s idiot wife at the beginning and the end of the fable. She is nothing when she starts her games, and she is nothing when the fish ends them. She has nothing to show for her having the serendipitous turn of having a husband having an in with a magical fish. She has learned nothing, gained nothing, discovered nothing, and created nothing.
The slumbering bureaucrat is of the same ilk: he does nothing to secure his own fortunes. He is employed to remember a few empty shells, nothing more.
He is also no different than W.H. Auden’s Unknown Citizen: he is an expendable entity with no expertise or passion, and lives an existence that betrays it.
But the average bureaucrat follows the script as those who commit DIY propaganda. The shadows and barren lands are there because those who spew propaganda do not see their scripts have no impact on their fortunes.
You do not look around you. You just keep your head down and spew.
Just like this average Troll Scroll spewer.
Blasey Ford may also be wondering why did the Democratic party and the mainstream media drop her like a hot potato the second she failed to slay Brett Kavanaugh from becoming a Supreme Court judge. She was the Left’s pawn who was supposed ride the momentum of #MeToo and take down a chosen pawn on the Right. It was a bungled chess move that bad propaganda could not fix because the Left are still playing chess and not Go.
And Go is a game where shaming and virtue-signalling do not work because the pawns do not have titles or paper crowns.
2018 marks fifty years since the release of the Monkee’s movie Head. When I taught Ideas in TV and Film as a college professor in the early 2000s, it was one of the films my students were required to watch right after they did their mid-term exam on creating a story bible for their television show after watching two episodes, one from each season.
It is probably one of the few early morning exams where the entire class is singing from the top of their lungs and banging the desks as they dance in their seats while writing a test.
But Head did not get that kind of reaction, even though the songs in it are fantastic.
Some students became very sad after watching it.
It was a deceptively surrealistic film, and I do not agree it was a “psychedelic” film: it was a brutal coded dossier on why these four young men had imploded into obscurity as they were at the top of the world.
The black box in the movie was the box used in real life: the Monkees’ were troublesome and high, and it was easier to place them in a containment unit so they could alter their minds until a light flashed by the name of the ones who were needed to perform on the set.
Watching the re-runs betrayed just how stoned they were at the time.
And Head explained it all to the audiences. They were all alike (“About even” as the young woman at the beginning of the film says after kissing each one of them).
But there is another scene worth mentioning.
The dandruff scene.
As Mickey Dolenz and Tom Bego recounted in the autobiography I’m a Believer, the scene where the Monkees are dandruff in Big Victor’s hair (the Victor being Victor Mature), and despite the fact that dandruff just lies there on your head, they must be directed on how to portray dandruff.
I would go farther than that. They need guidance for their passivity, and despite the outward appearance of being four individuals (the cute one, the funny one, the smart one, and the dumb one), they are all just dandruff, no different than any other flake of dry skin that has little going for it.
And they are in a ersatz ad advising people how to get rid of them.
The scene plays on a very interesting latent fear: that you can be propped at the top of the pecking order — but only under tight control and micromanagement — and all while you are under the spotlight, those who control the script and the strings are having you perform and advocate your own demise in public.
You are not any safer or more special at the top than you are at the bottom.
Or, as alchemists say, As Above, So Below.
That hints that success is more random than some pretence of divine decree or biological superiority.
And that people are more or less alike, even if they have tattoos, money, or a strong political ideology.
It is the reason propaganda was so effective when journalists were in complete control of the narrative.
And now that they are not, the amateur propaganda that has exploded is not doin what it is supposed to do: control people.
It may incite them as it provides no insight, but the loud-mouth trolls are making noise with no results.
It is an overload.
The fish that once granted wishes is now starting to have none of it, and in the sea of hatred and fear, the waters are about to get calm once again.
Far from a revolution, we are the on the eve of an evolution.
The rage is cancelling each other out. It is common and nothing special, with everyone’s propaganda about even.
The commonness of propaganda is having interesting consequences for all of the socioeconomic castes, and while in the last twenty years, there has been one new category added: super-rich.
But it is interesting that we have no new kinds of matrices that supplanted this ancient one of rich, middle class, and poor. The poor want to have a middle class lifestyle and have other people pay for it and do the work, scheming and plotting for “basic income” or champagne socialism to do it for them. The rich can laugh it off and even up and leave. They are futurists, not pining for a defunct failure of a system that is a relic of the past.
The fisherman’s wife makes demands of others. She wants things delivered to her doorstep via app. She is the passive tyrant with big fantasies, but zero vision or morals.
And whatever wish of hers is granted, it is never good enough.
Her greatest weakness is ingratitude. She presses her luck beyond what she actually has stored up: her greedy and petty nature sabotage her, while her husband’s spinelessness and cowardice sabotages his wish which he had no respect for and gave to her, and as her nature did not change, he very well knew all his efforts to keep them afloat were met with the same ingratitude.
Her bad behaviour is repeatedly enabled and reinforced. She learns by rote and stimulus-response with no concept of the future. What pops into her head is what matters, and she has no end of demands. Even if the fish were to grant her god-like powers, she would demand something more.
Hers is a game that is rigged for everyone else to lose and for her to be sole beneficiary without having to sacrifice a single thing.
She can make empty threats all she wants, but as she is a passive agent with no experience or expertise in anything, there is nothing she can — or will do.
For all the rage puking about a resistance and revolution, we see none. We see mobs of fisherman’s wives marching in the street or bullying politicians in restaurants, and that is not revolution: that is lunacy that merely shows that these are people unwilling to do anything on their own that requires thought or work. Anyone can stand in the rain holding a placard or spew bullshit on the Troll Scroll.
But when Toronto lost its clout and the premier of the province decided there would now be 25 seats instead of the 47 projected, there were protests, social media rage puking, and temper tantrums galore, but at the end of the day, Ford got his way and the protestors went back to their middle class lives, and most likely won’t be voting in this election, either.
Voter turnout in municipals elections were always dismal, so why have so many seats when so few bother to vote in the first place.
These are the fisherman’s wives all shaking a fist in the air, and yet most cannot be bothered to get off their backsides and mark a ballot, let alone attend city hall meetings and write to their council members or even know their names.
The people who are pretending to be in a resistance movement are not: they merely expect the magic fish to grant them all of their wishes as they dictate how they society should inconvenience itself to suit their fantasy-world.
They have not studied the problems. They have no idea of hard numbers. Most have not even been negatively impacted by the current zeitgeist or ortgeist, yet moan bitterly how things are so unfair.
The loudest of these ilk have a roof over their heads. They have jobs and an education. They have access to healthcare. They have a social safety net.
They have a base for upward mobility, and behave as if they are destitute, making a mockery of political discourse as those who are genuinely dispossessed seem like whiners even as they are being abused by those who proclaim to be one of their number.
It is not the homegrown amateur propaganda we need to worry about: it is the meta-propaganda that managed to bamboozle millions of people that they are revolutionaries whose comfortable middle-class life has shackled them and turn them into passive and brainless slaves.
Chaser News was inspired by my studying journalism and propaganda for years. I had experimented with various ideas, and one that I had no idea at the time would provide insight into the Age of Propaganda: I had presented information in various forms: straight positive information presented positively, positive information presented neutrally, positive information presented negatively, and so on and so worth to include both neutral and negative information so I could compare and contrast responses.
One of the most shocking interactions happened when positive information was presented in a negative way. People responded in a most peculiar fashion: they did not question to narrative or see the fact: they took the negative spin as fact and proceeded to express pity and how much better they were doing.
That was a consistent finding, and no matter how many times I re-ran the experiment or re-jigged it, I got the same response. It was also the biggest response.
I had even stated outright my intent, but it made no difference: if you said how horrible it was to be healthy, beautiful, rich, and powerful, people would pity the person who was all of those things instead of call them out on their ingratitude.
At first, I thought this meant that people were looking to position themselves higher on a pecking order, and many times it was.
But now, there is a shift where you can present people’s own positive traits and blessings in a negative way, and they will believe it is negative.
I have seen this myself to know it be a genuine phenomenon. We can rile up the masses — those fisherman’s wives, average bureaucrats, unknown citizens, and human dandruff — to believe a lie.
They are all one and the same. They see themselves as Che Guevaras wearing Handmaid’s outfits. They cannot decide whether they are victims or heroes.
But do not consider that perhaps they are their own villains.
And how did it get this far?
There was no journalism to bring sensibility and rational calm. They whipped up the frenzy with narrative propaganda, instead of just presenting the facts.
It encouraged intellectual and ideological illiteracy and passivity.
Chaser News explored that slumber the first time around, but it did not confront it. I had no idea what to make of it at the time. The results were too shocking for me at the time.
But now, it is not a shock. It is a mundane reality that I understand well.
When we cling on to a pecking order, it is a sign that we do not understand empiricism or how to effectively compare and contrast two properties. That is not something that is innately obvious.
But it is natural once we understand the difference between reality and perception.
Chaser News is about showing what is reality — and what is perception. It is about taking away the safety nets of passive beliefs one by one. It is about making scripts vanish.
It is news about reality and how lies obscure it.
It is about balance of a different sort.
This is not another partisan garbage bin of opinion, rage puking, or fear-mongering. It is about facts.
Just as A Dangerous Woman Story Studio challenges rules by turning them over until the illusions of rules break, Chaser News is not going to appease or accommodate. It is here to inform you about how to inform yourself in spite of the fisherman’s wife in your head.
Because she’s no friend or help.
Truth, on the other hand, is the greatest friend the world has given us aside from love, bravery, equality, and transformation. We are given the gift to grow and evolve as well as to learn and change.
Nor should you listen to the fisherman in your head — the one who spared a fish, but never bothered to ask what he could not to help him break the confine of being stuck in a body not of his own.
The world is a Tower of Babel where people chatter incessantly, and perspective and needs clash and frequently — we have inter-group battle and then intra-group conflicts, yet we must progress regardless that everyone is wrong and everyone disagrees with everyone else.
The original motto of Chaser News was Know Yourself, Help Yourself, and then Help Others Help Themselves. I still live by that motto. The spirit of it is still here, but like everything else, it has evolved as I have…