Propaganda and the Fragility of Hope

In my experience, big events (like THIS one) and powerful social movements (like THAT one, oh you know, back a ways ago) do not appear out of nowhere, but can rather be traced back to what first appears as imperceptible shifts in the narrative ethers and in each of our views of the world around us.

Sure, we may THINK we think with our brains, but reason and logic are just the functional tip of an iceberg of conditioned responses and programmed behaviors that rise up from below and seize sub-conscious control of our thoughts and behaviors.

Let me apply an example.

Even among the devoutly non-political, it is commonly understood that since 2003, the U.S. Military (plus contractors and the intelligence services of multiple countries) has been waging and supporting ongoing genocidal wars against the largely defenseless peoples of many Middle-Eastern countries.

Domestically, since at least the passage of the Patriot Act, almost immediately following 9-11, Americans have been living under a quasi passive-aggressive form of fascism, which has subjected each of us to ever more invasive forms of electronic surveillance and societal control.

Obviously, what happens in the Middle-East will seem very far away for most Americans, such that their daily thoughts will not often turn to contemplation of the role that the America Empire plays on the global stage as the grotesquely militarized enforcement arm largely controlled by a network of elite billionaires, central bankers, multinational corporations and global governance institutions like the UN, WEF, WHO, IMF, WB, BIS, etc.

If you are, like myself, getting a little concerned about the exponential rise in more brutal forms of domestic surveillance and fascism — especially in the wake of the draconian COVID response — then you too might wonder how we could go from 17 years of protracted war to a global lockdown over the course of two weeks’ time unless the course had been carefully set and planned well in advance… by that same network of elites, who wield the economic clout to support all sorts of such coordinated machinations and propaganda campaigns that like a hot knife through butter penetrates all the way down into that least global of places… the everyday human mind?

I often return to a consideration the differences between CERTAINTY and SKEPTICISM… as they stand for both CLOSED and OPEN-MINDED thinking. I may find our largely “pre-cognitive” intuitions IMMENSELY important, but I do not see or hear such things often discussed, not in the media or on social media. As far as I can tell, it’s something of a private obsession, chiefly particular to me.

Anyway, here’s my thinking, for your consideration.

People in tough times tend to BUCKLE, such that certain loosely-held beliefs of theirs, which in less stressful times might remain malleable, start to harden, grow tightly-held and before long become brittle.

Resiliently laughing things off, or sleeping, dreaming, dancing and bouncing back from obstacles becomes harder to do, as a pervasive seriousness sets in that gradually assumes more control over our persona at its emotional roots.

People who feel themselves (or their beliefs) coming under attack, will seek out protection in the consensus of their peers… in “group-think,” in aligning with shared authorities, in holding tighter to conventional dogmas and moral orthodoxies — in being either very “PRO” or “ANTI” one thing or another, one person or another, one party or another, etc., which they imagine will somehow make them appear more stable and mature, instead of more fragile and naive.

Such powerful concerns combine to pull them towards islands of perceived safety, security and normalcy, which in many cases, causes them to:

  1. SIMPLIFY their arguments by rejecting the subtleties of CORRELATION for the domino-effect certitude of CAUSATION.
  2. SUPPRESS their own creative and NOVEL THINKING in favor of more reactive and CONSENSUS THINKING that leads to more knee-jerk judgments, as well as deeper hatred and disgust for those whom they feel can be “safely” excluded from concern by labeling them as different, dangerous, crazy or unclean.
  3. GROWING increasingly armored, impatient and fixated on a perverse need to cover up their own fears, least they spin out of control and lead them to be overcome by closeted fears/desires, which they will be too anxious at that point to deal with or to calmly accept as just another part of themselves.

I have said this before and I will say it again… our BELIEFS are among the MOST superficial parts of us.

What matters in the face of unexpected difficulties is the flexibility of our being, our PHYSICAL CONNECTION to the earth, to the body, to curiosity, to compassion, to EACH OTHER, to caring, to love and concern for the triumphant (and if you like, divine) LIFE FORCE… ALL of which have been subjected to traumatic levels of stress during the CV Lockdown.

God knows people are a worrisome thing, and not everyone’s coping mechanisms are as good as yours… but NO ONE who shares with you common decency and even the slightest bit of class consciousness is truly deserving of your HATRED.

Giving yourself permission to hate unites you with the FASCIST agenda, which I see many people unconsciously doing now… though I’m sure THEY do not see it as such, preferring, of course, to see themselves as justly right, and those OTHERS as misguided and wrong.

As I tried to explain above though, the more fundamental problem here is that people have “stopped down” the aperture on their perspectives and are seeing things far too narrowly and reactively.

Self-deception would never rise to anything more than a comedy routine, if it didn’t in practice work as well as it does at reducing our responses down to the level of the strictly mechanical — which sooner or later turns us into willing servant/slaves to this frightened new technocratic apocalypse.

Ultimately, it is only over our own thoughts, feelings and actions that we retain agency.

As best we can, we must try to reject the “machine,” reject programmed mechanical responses to the world… and just STAY HUMAN!

Mark Petrakis is a long-time theater, event and media producer based in San Francisco. He first broke molds with his Cobra Lounge vaudeville shows of the 90’s, hosted by his alter-ego, Spoonman. Concurrently, he took to tech when the scent was still utopian, building the first official websites for Burning Man, the Residents and multiple other local arts groups of the era. He worked as a consultant to a variety of corps and orgs, including 10 years with the Institute for the Future. He is co-founder of both long-running Anon Salon monthly gatherings and Sea of Dream NYE spectacles. Read other articles by Mark.