Day 415: Introduction to the Bewildered Herd and Coercive Control
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This post is a continuation from:
Day 414: Freud, Sidman and the Bewildered Herd
Which is also part of a larger series that can be accessed here.
For the purpose of context suggest reading the previous posts within this series, if you haven’t already.
I read an article today that is a transcribed interview with Noam Chomsky from June 2009 on the topic of Democracy and Education (source) which is not only very important to read and consider in a self-investigative manner, but it also coincides in many ways with yesterday’s post specifically in relation to the bewildered herd and coercive control; so it was quite apropos to come across today. Here I will share pertinent sections from the article and in the following post I will draw from both this article as well as the passage from yesterday’s post to condense while simultaneously expand on the points that have been expressed thus far - especially in relation to the bewildered herd, coercive control, neurosis, paranoia and of course, consciousness:
“Falcone: Do you think that there's a connection to the American students' idea that they can bring about social change through quick protests then when you give lectures and people ask you well, what can I do? And then you tell the audience, well, I go to developing sectors of the world and they don't ask what to do. They tell me what they're doing.
Chomsky: And it's a long-term thing. You don't do it in a minute. Also, it takes a, Bolivia which is maybe the most inspiring democracy in the world today, the most repressed, that's not the way it's described here, but just think what happened. The most repressed part of the population is the indigenous population here. Most of them were exterminated, so the question doesn't come up. But in Bolivia they are majority and, you know, forever the country's been run by small Europeanized elites, mostly white Europeanized elites. Well, you know, they now, in 2005 they were organized enough to enter into the political arena and elect someone from their own ranks on programs that they had advocated and he follows. Okay. That's democracy - but it didn't happen on Election Day – they were organizing and struggling about it for years.
Actually, five years before, they succeeded in throwing out the World Bank and DeKalb, the American corporations and the French corporations who were trying to privatize water. In an academic economic seminar you can probably prove a theorem saying, you know, it works better if it's privatized. And, of course, there's a small flip note: a lot of the population can't pay for it. Well, you know, you can't have perfection. But they wanted to be able to drink water, so they threw out the World Bank and the corporation and they prevented the privatization of water - not so simple. A lot of people were killed and so on. And it's a long continuing struggle. I mean, Election Day was just one day in the midst of an ongoing struggle and if the government is not doing what you want, you know, you throw them out, you do it in some other way. Well, that requires, you know, a memory; it requires, you know, you have to know what struggle is.
Here, one of the great successes of American sort of ruling institutions in ideology is that it's kind of disaggregated people. They're atomized, you know, and there's very little memory. So, every time a group of students gets involved in a protest, it's from the beginning. You know, there's no memory of how you did it before. Nobody remembers how to, you know, organize or put out leaflets, where do you go and so on. Oh yeah, and if you think about the, so take the New Deal, which made real achievements, but you know, one of the reasons was that there was a core part of it that did have this kind of institutional memory. We're not supposed to talk about it. But the fact is that the Communist part, whatever you think about it, was always there. They were there if there was a civil rights struggle, an imperial struggle also, you know, a lot of rotten things - but they were there and there was somebody around who remembered how to run a mimeograph machine and knew how to get organized to do things. I mean, that's why these Communist cells, for example, tended often to take over movements. They, maybe not the small minority, but they kind of knew what they were doing.
And that's lacking here and so, it's a part of the social doctrinal policy which is sort of directed to destroying this. The attack on unions is a case in point. You don't want unions because they do have this kind of memory. They're democratizing forces. They bring people together and so on. So, break them up; break everything up and, you know, start everything from fresh. That's why a lot of the activism in the United States comes from churches because they're there, you know, and somebody remembers everything the last time.
And so, it's been a real success - one of the great business successes in the United States - to break down organization, to separate people too: it's part of consumerism. If you can drive people toward individual consumption, that's the highest goal in life. And furthermore, drive them into debt so they're trapped. You don't have to worry about a democracy function because people are trapped and they're alone. Like maybe 70 percent of the population thought the war was fundamentally wrong and immoral, but then you don't have any idea how to do anything about it. I mean, this shows up in pretty striking ways. For example, I don't remember the exact figures, but a pretty substantial part of the population, you know, like maybe a third or some more think that the Bush administration had some responsibility for 9/11. That's a pretty striking fact. I mean, here is a big part of the population thinking the government is a gang of mass murderers who are trying to kill Americans. And do they do anything about it? I mean, does it even occur to them to do anything about it? You know, like do they even march on Washington and storm the White House and take the guys out?
So, we're run by a bunch of mass murderers who want to kill us all. Let's go onto the next television program. You know, that's, I mean, this sense of a kind of infancy: I can't do anything; it's all out there; I'm just a victim,. It is a pretty striking victory of the strongly anti-democratic forces that essentially run things. And the anti-democratic commitments are very explicit. They're not hidden among the liberals too. Actually, the country was founded that way, after all. You know, Madison's view was essentially that the most powerful force in the country ought to be the Senate, not the Legislative branch because it is sometimes said that the Senate and not the House because the Senate piece of it is composed of the wealth of the nation, the most responsible group of men, those who have respect for property and so on. So, they're the ones who really ought to be in charge. In fact, if you take a look at the framing of the Constitution, you know, it's basically the powers, the executive who was supposed to be like an administrator. And the House of Representatives, which is more responsive to the population, was marginalized. They're the danger. But the Senate is the solid core of, you know, the wealthy and the responsible. And, you know, there have been battles about this throughout American history and over time things have surely changed, but the basic thesis is pretty well predominant in liberal intellectual circles as well.
I mean, probably the most striking case and the most important one is the leading public intellectual of the 20thh century in the United States, Walter Lippmann, who was, you know, the kind of archetypal wise man. He also, was a progressive, you know, a Wilson, Roosevelt, progressive. He wrote an order called progressive essays on democracy. And they're very explicit. He's writing from the kind of liberal progressive end of the spectrum. He says the population has to be kept out of the political arena. They're too stupid and ignorant. They're what he called ignorant and meddlesome outsiders. That's the population. Democracy will function only if it's in the hands of the responsible men, people like me, you know, whatever he writes about this is always part of it. And we have to be protected from the trampling and the roar of the bewildered herd and how do we do this? Well, he was the one who invented the phrase "manufacturer of consent." He said we can't do it by force, you know, too many, too much freedom.
So, we have to manufacture consent, the public relations industry which developed at approximately the same time - the 1920s - its leading figure was another liberal progressive, Edward Bernays, and he said that the real function of the public relations industry is engineering of consent which is necessary to make sure that the intelligent minority runs things and not the mass of people out there. They have to be spectators, not participants, kind of not unlike the Bolivian peasants who want to be participants, not spectators. And, you know, this is the liberal end, you know. If you go over to the right, of course, it may be more extreme. I'm not sure even. But these are dominant concepts and you can understand them. That's what you'd expect an elite opinion to believe and be committed to and certainly those who concentrate power in their hands, like let's say corporate executives and so on. So, it's a natural ideology. It goes back to the founding of the country. The population may not like it and they do struggle against it and you get progress coming out of this conflict.
But so, for example, take just the extension of the franchise, that's important, you know, the franchise back in the early days of the republic was extremely limited. White propertied males, you know, pretty much. That's still substantially true, but not anywhere near like it was then. So, women were allowed to right to the vote, incidentally, a year after it was permitted in Afghanistan. So, it's not exactly a magnificent breakthrough, but yeah, it finally happened. Maybe the Afghans can teach us something about democracy. It has happened, but the effort to try to beat it back is constant and understandable. So, there's a constant tension about it. You can see it in today's meetings in the Senate.
So, the big domestic issue is healthcare. It has been for decades. The healthcare system is a catastrophe. There is a Senate committee, Max Baucus' committee, dealing with it, the finance committee. There was a pretty dramatic incident a couple of weeks ago. But the large majority of the population wants a single-payer plan and has for decades. But that's kind of like off the agenda because the insurance industry is opposed and the pharmaceutical industry is opposed and so on. And the way the liberal press has described this, like the New York Times, is well kind of an interesting idea, but politically impossible. It lacks political support - meaning just the majority of the population. But that's not political support.
So, there was a hearing and I think every witness was coming either from the drug companies or the insurance companies or someone. But there were doctors and nurses in the audience. And some of them stood up in the audience and said something about the, why isn't anyone testifying for a single-payer plan which doctors want, nurses want, the public wants and so on. But first, they were just ridiculed by the senators. But then the chair called the police and dragged them out. This happens to have been filmed on C-Span. So, people can see it if they want. I don't think it was reported, at least I didn't see any report on it. But it's a pretty striking example of the way democracy functions in reality. And the principal position of, you know, liberals of the Lippmann variety would be yeah, that's what it should be. The ignorant meddlesome outsiders have no right to be heard. We have to be protected from them. They can be spectators, like they can sit in the Senate chamber, but they can't be participants. They cannot testify in favor of what the majority of the populations wants because the people that matter, like the financial institutions and the pharmaceutical corporations, they don't want it.”
To be continued…