Friday, February 19, 2010

Creating A Culture Of Fear...

Whether you trust our government or not, whether you believe everything you hear in the press, whether or not you are suspicious that there are greater workings at hand beyond the obvious, there is one thing that most of us can agree on: government is in the business of controlling thought.

There are examples both in the extreme and the mundane as to this fact. Press releases and control over the media are commonplace today. Talking points memos are dispersed throughout political parties to create thought recognition of words and concepts in the public mind. Or you can read your history on covert intelligence programs like MKULTRA and COINTELPRO, conceived to experiment with overt mind control programs and the methods to monitor thought and communication of the public at large.

But the new method of control is to instill fear. Think of a deer in headlights: what happens? It freezes, incapable of thought, focused solely on the one and only thing its mind can value at that point, the lethal danger bearing down on it. If you were able to ask that animal about anything else: where are you going to get food today, where is your family, what other predators are nearby? The deer would simply be repeating "headlights" over and over again, unable to move beyond the danger.

With thoughtful beings such as humans, of course, you have to be more subtle. You have to feature creep your way into a culture of paralyzing fear that allows your government to do absolutely distasteful things: delude civil liberties, encroach on your economic freedoms, move ever closer to the fascist government a select number of leaders has yearned for for so long.

So today, I saw this on my way downtown on the Chicago CTA:

We've taken a lost bag and turned it, by implication, into a suitcase bomb? C'mon, Dept. of Homeland Security (who was responsible for the notice), you can do better than that. In Chicago, we've experienced no terrorist threat at all. No one is dying here. There's little to no danger. But we're all supposed to focus on this ethereal threat of the red handbag of death.

Am I overreacting? Perhaps. But as you begin going through your days from now on, pay attention to how many people are warning you of how many dangers in your life, and then begin to think about how much danger you've actually physically encountered. Fear is a powerful motivating factor, as the saying goes. But what are they trying to motivate you to do?

Or not do?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Importance of Words....

Part of the game in shaping public opinion hinges on controlling thought. We all think in the language of words, so shaping what words are incorporated into our thought process can go an unbelievably long way in shaping opinion. One case in point is the use of the word "piracy" to describe copyright infringement with regard to movies, music, television, and books.

It goes something like this:

1. Those who represent rights holders spit the word piracy at you over and over and over and over and over again for years.

2. As a result, those on both sides of the debate, whether they intend to or not, begin to use the word "piracy" when describing infringement, either vocally or in thought.

3. Our mind inherently associates piracy with, well, what true piracy is: theft, murder, rape, pillage. Hence, those without the necessary background and forethought tend to allow that association to influence their thought and opinions.

Two things that are instructive in examination:

First, whilst true piracy (as in, on the high seas) has little to nothing to do with monopolies, the very coining of the term for use in this alternative fashion is credited to the Stationer's Company, a British corporation that was granted a monopoly on publication. The use of the term "piracy" to describe those that violated their charter was first used in 1603, when the threat of true piracy was very real indeed. This is a clear attempt to link through words in the minds of the general public two unrelated problems, thereby damning the lesser of the issues by linking it to one that creates true fear and anger.

Second, given that historical context, the ridiculousness continues today. One of the sites I use to look up new stories regarding copyright infringement and media legal stories is If you search that site for the term "music piracy", you get a nice spread of stories covering both true piracy and copyright infringement. For instance, when I ran that term today, the stories that came back were:

1. Police Arrest Several In File-Sharing Swoop (copyright infringement)
2. If you cry, they want to kill you (Somalian Piracy)
3. Grandma Endures Wrongful ISP Piracy Suspension (copyright infringement)
4. EU mission alone cannot solve piracy problem, says admiral (True Piracy)

There is no conceivable reason why stories 1 & 3 should be anywhere near stories 2 & 4, either in our words and thoughts (as designed by those trying to shape public opinion), or in a search return (an unintended consequence of that shaping). To link the two is silly.

But to try and use such psychological trickery to shape the minds of the masses rather than deal with the problem proactively and honestly? That's just downright evil....