Thursday, June 6, 2013

Imperialism & Propaganda



1.

- Let's say I'm writing about world politics. I point out that the U.S. is transforming the structure of its economy, starting wars, and undermining governments around the world. Wealth is being concentrated in the hands of those with the most ability to influence the government in their interests. The economic policies and wars and undermining of governments are in their interest. They make more money, use the money to consolidate their hold on the government, and make even more money. It's not implausible, right?
- No.
- I write that those with money use their money to influence the government, use their money to influence the news media to scare people, and of course not report the connection between concentration of wealth and the politics of wars and undermining governments.
- It's a theory.
- Let's say I talk about Israel as an agent of the U.S. in its economic policies and wars. The fit with theory is perfect. But what if, when you look at the victims of Israel, their actions also fit into a similar pattern?
- Concentration of wealth, invasive military action, propaganda.
- Let's say for the sake of clarity that I decide to pretend the victims of our ally are not playing the same game.
- Why? What's confusing about having more than one player in a game?
- The U.S. uses the claim there are other players as justification for its wars and invasions and even its secrecy and control of the news media.
- If you leave out the information you're doing propaganda. People might notice.
- Win some, lose some.


2.

-  What people notice depends on what they do with what they hear. Some are satisfied with probabilities, statistics. Other rely on models.
- What's the difference?
- Let's say you want to know the truth about politics. Big Money wants this, government does that. There is a relation. We call that relation a model, when we use our knowledge of the relation to make a change in the world. If we want better education, we ask: What does the money class want?  And if it doesn't want better education, what do we do about it?
- And statistics?
- Finds that the government education policies are also related to price of oil, weather patterns, military spending.
- I'm not interested in the price of oil.
- So you reject statistical knowledge in favor of a model because you are following a path you're interested in. Models are relations you use to make a change in your life. Statistics suggest you might might get better education if you reduced the price of oil, but you can't reduce the price of oil. You are interested in the relations that you have experience with.
- Statistics are a large collection of impersonal models? 
- You could put it that way. Personal models are relations experienced in your past you can use to make a change in the world.
- Propaganda makes use of probabilities. Impersonal models.
- Propaganda makes use of impersonal models, chosen for personal reasons: a group of people finds it in their interest to make the rest of the world think one way.
- Propaganda relies for its success on our not acting on personal reasons, but statistical ones. The repeated statements of propaganda influence us to accept their model rather than another, equally impersonal one.
- Right.
- So we resist propaganda by acting on our own experience?
- Right again.
- But I don't have any experience of how Big Money affects government.
- You have heard both that the U.S. Government is imperialist, and it's Israeli ally is imperialist. Let's say you accept this description of the world.
- Ok.
- There's a probability that both statements are correct. The only way you'll notice that the enemy of our ally also is imperialist is if you imagine yourself having to act in the situation the ally finds itself in.
- Make use of an imagined personal model.
- Propaganda takes advantage of the habit of accepting impersonal information, whether true or not.
- How can a true statement be propaganda?
- "When people in the world wish our utter destruction, we must protect ourselves." A model of a probable relation: when threatened, it's best to defend. To know whether to apply the model, we have to look carefully at how many and what sort of people want to destroy us, what sort of defense would be best.
- And if people are not in the habit of applying personal models, they don't ask those questions.
- And don't notice, for example, how while defending itself from terrorists the country's wealth is being transferred to the rich.