Monday, November 7, 2011
As The Cookie Crumbles: The Capacity for Mendacity
A lot of folks will remember a song, or at least the sentiment, that "it's a sin to tell a lie."
It's not lying, per se--or, at least not ALL lying--which the world's 'great' religions forbid.
It's one special kind of lying, at least in the 10 Commandments...
"Thou shalt NOT bear false witness against thy neighbor."
Says nothing about denying you're banging your sister-in-law, or the pool-boy, or lying on your tax returns.
It does prohibit SLANDER, however; That's the "bear false witness against a neighbor" part...lies about others.
Which makes sense, as a social condition.
Nobody can prevent or prohibit most lies.
But lies about others are a danger to social cohesion.
So we deplore liars. Don't want anything to do widdem. Check the "Personals?" Folks don't want liars calling 'em. NO LIARS NEED APPLY!
So why does the "Big Lie" --the "Jewish problem," WMD in Iraq, Hope&Change, indeed, kapitalism in general--work?
The "Big Lie" propaganda mechanism is based on the central insight that despite our ostensible socialization to tell truth, everybody DOES lie, sometimes. And that they mostly are reluctant to be caught at it, so they only lie about little shit, lies they can walk away from, trivial shit--age, weight, spouse?--which is what everybody lies about.
Goebbels (reading Bernays, 1928) reasoned--rightly, as it turned out--that folks who are socialized with contempt and disdain for lying--no matter that they themselves lie--would be inclined to BELIEVE--or, not at lezst to immediately disbelieve--truly enormous lies on the grounds that the people hearing the the BIG LIES would believe that those telling the lies would have the same hesitation about lying that prohibited THEM from egregious untruth-telling. The bigger the lie, the greater the shame and opprobrium upon discovery.
The "lie," its perpetual repetition and by 'credible' speakers, are the keys to the success of the method--and NEVER doubt its success. The tenacious "Brand loyalty" to "St. Barry, the Capitulator," is one of its indisputable products.
At present, we are in the grips of the propagandistic 'perfect storm' for Big Lies. There are, first, interests and powers which will not and do not scruple to tell them, and employ many, many adepts--Frank Luntz, and/or Grover Norquist--to create them. So there's the message.
Second, we've recently been present at the indisputable "maturation" of the culture of celebrity. The capacity to BE known--which is what a celebrity does--has become the warrant for 'credibility." Being known for being known, alone, is enough to imbue the dreariest, slobbering banalities with the authority of the Mass. The mega-hyper-multi-plex of screens screams to be filled. They don't call it "dead air" for nothing. That's the 'credible voice.
Finally, there is the wonder of the 24-hour news-cycle, 24/7/365, endlessly, on the cabloids and/or the Netz. Repetition. I wouldn't recommend this, I believe it cause your brain to curdle; but people who HAVE watched CNN/MSNBC/Fox/HNN'ETC for 24 or 48 hours report nearly endless repetitions of the same stories, the same themes, the same narratives. If I were a propagandist specializing in the Big Lie, and the technology existed to support it, I'd PAY somebody to build the Internet.
No, really. But I betcha you've heard all this a thousand times, huh, Hippies? We'll compare notes when I see ya at the beach...