Welcome to the Machine
Propaganda – information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.
Advertising – the act or practice of calling public attention to one’s product, service, need, etc.
There is a serene complexity to the way an analog watch operates. The proper order of each piece is devoid of sentimentality or emotional attachment that would prevent ultimate efficiency and purpose. Every gear works in perfect harmony toward a common goal, creating a symphony of peace and order that accomplishes a single task remarkably well…all without being seen.
This painstakingly crafted sense of purpose is how complex tasks are both accomplished and maintained – tasks like creating and operating a civilization.
“Propaganda is to democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.” – Noam Chomsky
When I was growing up, I was told that I lived in “the land of the free,” and that meant I could be anything I wanted to be. Because I was a child (and was taught to accept authority without petition) I never doubted the truth of these statements, for I saw constant support for them in the form of flags, campaign slogans, modern media outlets, beautiful people, and ugly foreign wars. I held firmly to the idea that being both Catholic and American not only set me apart from the rest of the world, but it made me a better human. That is until I leapt from the nest into the deep end of a masterfully crafted pool of irony.
When I went to college, I fell headlong into my personal desire for distinct individuality through exclusion. I continued to complete the tasks required of me, but I shut myself off to both politics and religion while opening myself to the glory of personally chosen books, music, and video games. For the first time in my life, I was autonomous in regards to my outward influences. It was in this freedom that I began to spend more time in the minds of the philosophers of old (Nietzsche, Emerson, Aristotle, Socrates, etc).
Over the course of a decade (college and beyond), as I began to see the bastardized teachings of these philosophers at the very heart of our civilization (Machiavelli and Nietzsche), one thing became very clear to me: The freedom that I once believed inalienable was only a very small portion of a larger machine, and the belief was vital fuel. I began to see this imperfect watch ticking away at an irregular beat, and we were all nodding our heads to the sweet music of compliance.
“By the skillful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make a people see heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise.” – Adolf Hitler
The American propaganda machine delves deeply into the psyche of its people through the use of mass media in all its forms. One could certainly argue that the existence of a document like the Constitution, and more importantly the First Amendment, encourages “truth” from art forms, but this argument would need to be predicated upon the idea that the American government was the controlling force of the propaganda machine. Alas, it is not.
The American propaganda machine is run by the true American deity: money. Money is what binds and influences this country, and the world at large. Money is the battery for the (im)perfect machine that is modern human civilization. The gears that comprise this machine vary in size and purpose, but they all work toward a single goal: growth. The key to this growth is also its Achille’s Heel: faith. People need to believe in something like the American government in order for the machine to operate efficiently. This is where the veil is pulled firmly down.
Because governments are run by fallible human figureheads, the people are able to see what they either put their faith into or remove their faith from; which of these categories each citizen falls into does not matter. The opinion of the people as to how the government should be run does not matter at all, only the belief in the idea of government matters. This is where the modern media comes in.
Mass media has established an extremely important edict across the globe: That freedom is the ability to make a choice. From a very direct view, this feels a lot like freedom, but it’s not. The freedom of choice is nestled a rung below the freedom of ideals, the freedom to think and act freely without consequence. The American propaganda machine uses the mass media to hide this idea in exchange for one very powerful promise: Safety.
“No matter how big the lie; repeat it enough and the masses will regard it as truth.” – JFK
In 2006, Julian Assange founded WikiLeaks, an online, non-profit that publishes secret information, new leaks, and classified anonymous sources. While hacktivism had certainly been pervasive throughout underground internet communities for quite some time, the public sharing of “state secrets” through WikiLeaks breathed life into the movement and brought it to the forefront of the public eye. This widespread publicity immediately brought to the forefront the sharing of information considered “secret” by many a government, but none came down as fervently as the American propaganda machine.
Assange (and the hacker group Anonymous, in a much more dramatic sense) committed the foulest act that any one group could: They created a chink in the “safety” armor. (Admittedly, the dents in said armor had been growing larger since 2001, but the Machine was continually replenished by rampant consumerism and a vibrant new figurehead for the people to latch onto.) This chink in the armor was created by showing the people a glimpse at how said armor was created. By publishing private conversations between politicians and their lobbyist handlers, news leaks before the stories were “altered,” and classified statistics that would never have been revealed to the public otherwise, Assange and his cohorts effectively revealed a second truth to the American public in reference to their fearless “leaders.” This second truth was offered up in a very honest and open way, free from beautiful reporters and jaded authors, allowing the people reading to make their own judgments.
Without faith, the very lubricant required for the Machine to run, the witch hunt began. Over the course of seven years, FBI raids on hacker houses and various reports of less-than-stellar behavior have peppered news channels and sites in an attempt to dissuade any who would be awakened by such free-thinkers. Unfortunately for the Machine, the idea was planted firmly in the American psyche, and the country has been feeling the death of its progenitor ever since(at the time of this being written, the American government is in “shutdown” mode, also known as panicky PR mode) ever since, but still, the witch hunt continues.
True to its form, the Machine recently released a film detailing the events surrounding the rise of Julian Assange and his current circumstance, titled The Fifth Estate. The teaser trailers and the film in general fly under the banner of support for the political refugee, but Assange was given an advance of the script and has been fighting against it ever since.
In an open letter to the film’s star, Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek: Into Darkness, Sherlock), Assange states:
“You will be used, as a hired gun, to assume the appearance of the truth in order to assassinate it. To present me as someone morally compromised and to place me in a falsified history. To create a work, not of fiction, but of debased truth.”
Despite Assange’s earnest appeal to Cumberbatch (who responded in kind), the movie was released on schedule, and subsequently tanked. The film failed because the material no longer mattered; the Machine had wiped the memory of its people. Given a long enough timeline (in our society’s case, long enough is a few months) and the masses will forget about pretty much anything, falling prey to the greatest weapon the American propaganda machine has at its disposal: distraction.
The faith needed to drive this machine is aggregate, compounding upon use and leading to indoctrination masked as education. There is a beauty to the enormity of such an undertaking, but there is so much control at its core that such beauty is left indiscernible from the manipulation required to keep it running. Every word fed to the masses is carefully crafted and regulated. Every new face carefully molded to fit neatly into the greater good or cast aside for the same.
This is the Machine at its finest, good people. This is the veil pulled gently over your life and secured firmly as truth. There will never be one face to point at in accusation, nor an apology for the lie, there will only ever be the slow turning of gears in an endless march toward self-destruction.
“The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use them.”- Philip K. Dick