Abstract: When viewed as a war story, the COVID-19 narrative framed in corporate media urges citizens to be on a constant “war footing” and yet reveals symptoms of a much deeper and more widespread pathology whose roots can be clearly identified in the context of the emergence of corporate personhood. Contemporary life itself reveals the rise of a new technocratic corporate order and the ways in which its managers plan to govern the new medicalized global society through (a) ongoing events of shock and awe, (b) the identification of official enemies (human, non-human and conceptual), (c) the sustained imposition of threat-perception and incitement of fear, (d) the use of mantras and smear campaigns against dissident views, (e) the fascist enforcement of a rigid official reality, (f) the incubation of intergroup thinking (“us” vs. “them”), (g) the imposition of confusion and uncertainty, (h) the repetition of key phrases and terms, and (i) the offer of salvation (or associated incentives) by the state. This article analyzes the leading narrative as a concoction of the technocratic mind and offers a recipe for readers to follow in their efforts to be more aware of the manipulations unfolding everywhere in the public discourse.
1. Introduction: The Birth of a Monster
A significant part of the problem in correctly assessing illness is accurately identifying its type. Stroke, for example, can look like vertigo or migraine. Heart attack can seem like angina pectoris. Pancreatic cancer can look like prolonged indigestion. Thyroid conditions can look like physical weakness or chronic fatigue, which sometimes may appear to be Lyme disease. Depression can sometimes appear as anxiety, PTSD, or bipolar disorder. Pathological greed can look like Polio, Monkey Pox, Marburg or some other pathogen that “will get attention” (Gates, 2020). A correct diagnosis for physical or mental conditions and injuries can also be hampered by an inability or unwillingness to consider the social, economic, or political milieu within which maladies and disorders emerge in the first place.
Habitual thoughts and behaviors that develop over time, and which are rooted in value systems inculcated by the dominant culture, can play crucial roles in the formation of disease. In cultures where citizens are socialized, for example, to pursue material gain in place of personal wellbeing or the preservation of basic rights, as well as bow to political demands without question, disease emerges. Chemical adulterations of the natural environment, manipulations of genetic code, widespread synthetic pollution, toxic military-industrial waste are all seen as tolerable externalities that enrich centers of power at the expense of human health. The perceived promise of material gain turns many heads away from the vampiric activities of big business, a psychosocial pathology that scarcely attracts the attention it deserves. When affliction or genocide by business practice achieves acceptable levels of common currency, we must try, nevertheless, to isolate and name the type of business that prevails as well as the systems and techniques of communication that serve to conceal its practices with propaganda.
If we consider how society and, thus, human health are swayed by these larger forces, we can begin to identify more easily the influence that corporate business practices have had on human flourishing. A brief return to history can help throw light on the current social world, overshadowed as it is by disingenuous pathological emphasis on ‘public health’, hygiene and, now, vaccine mandates masking much larger transnational finance and government-corporate business activities.
1.1 Legal Fictions and Corporate Persons
Efforts to identify and understand these practices will naturally turn one’s attention toward law. After all, in times of controlled societal demolition, dispossession and brazen thievery, we naturally wonder whether such moral sins are legal. Free trade and commerce operate within well-established sets of legal principles and boundaries until, that is, they are purposely collapsed in the interest of new ideologies and systems of practice. The legal foundations of this current pathological business practice, however, were laid long ago when, by some strange twist of fate, a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1819 set a disturbing precedent to turn a corporate charter from a government-granted privilege into a contract that cannot be altered by government. In the case of Dartmouth College v. Woodward, the key decision clarified the relative power of the corporation over the citizenry. Thus, the legal fiction of corporate personhood was conceived and born while the concept of its rights was incrementally reified by court decisions in subsequent cases (i.e. Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad (1886); First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, (1978); Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, (2010)).
These legal precedents, and others since, which have given greater shape to the monstrous forces of predatory business practices at work today, enjoin us to consider questions about corporate personhood scarcely ever entertained in the public discourse. What kind of person is it, for example, and what kind of power does the corporate person wield over natural citizens born of human mothers? With no corporeal body to imprison for wrongdoing, no mind to illuminate with truth, nor soul to enchant, how do corporations behave and communicate with the public today in a global business environment largely freed from regulatory constraints?
While the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision “herald[ed] even further corporate takeover of the U.S. political system,” (Chomsky, 2010), a 2013 legislative vote for the so-called Smith-Mundt Modernization Act breached the final barrier against information weaponized and aimed at an unsuspecting public.
Having observed the raw power of propaganda to mould public opinion in support of WW2, legislators had mandated in 1948 that media must communicate honestly with the people. Provisions in the new law (112-239), however, have since made past propaganda campaigns against foreign populations now fully legal for domestic purposes. The 2013 mandate for modernisation permits today not just the communication of propaganda domestically, but provides for the creation of media platforms staffed by communication operatives with official mandates to directly modify and manage public opinion.
1.2 Corporate Talking Heads
With the corporatisation of the Fourth Estate and its incestuous relationship with the Government, the communications mouthed from the corporate person managing “mainstream” media reflect a deeper mental illness. Incongruities in communication and behavior appear in a range of perceptual and psychological dysfunctions. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) describes Dissociative Identity Disorder, for example, as an illness distinguished by the emergence of two distinct identities or states of personality that recurrently take control of thought and behavior. The mental illness reflects an inability to integrate key features of identity, memory, and consciousness. While each personality state may be experienced as if it has a distinct history, self-image, and identity, including a separate name, the corporate media that dominate public life contrive and propagate stories which indicate a troubling pattern of psychopathy. Both their slogans and communications appear to be symptoms of acute pathology.
When CNN identifies itself as “The most trusted name in news,” how can the claim square with its long history of fabricating creative narratives (Massie, 2016)? Does the corporate person, in this case, communicate with an idiosyncratic definition of “trust”? When FOX News says it is “fair and balanced,” how can such a claim be supported by its lockstep support for regime-change wars from Iraq to Syria? While BBC World News claims to “Demand a broader view,” it erases public memory of millions of natural persons who marched against vaccine mandates (Exposé, 2021). With its consistently myopic focus on aiding the political-pharma push for vaccination mandates, what aspect of “broad view” does the BBC corporate person (i.e. network) entertain? When MSNBC says “Lean forward,” is the forward direction toward the consistent manufacture of ‘new amnesic factually dissociated states’? Constant conflicts between corporate news identity (i.e. self-image) and broadcast communication bolster the view that these powerful corporate persons exhibit signs of a collective Dissociative Identity Disorder, fragmented by the fantastist exigencies of serving the corporate state.
Whilst the primary identities carry the individual names of these corporate persons and exhibit in their speech a staid, calm, and rational tone, the alternate identities feature sharply different characteristics. These personalities, which often come forward in broadcast communication by anchors or correspondents, can be described as hostile to empirical reality, obsessively controlling, and self-destructive. The consistency and preservation of the narrative, no matter how scientifically or politically incongruous, is paramount. Of course, corporate news media understand foremost that the principal aim of their mission is maintaining dominance over the market share of public discourse, and communication acts that conflict with verifiable facts about the world emanate from this underlying pathology.
We are unaware, as of this writing, whether the destruction of the original Smith-Mundt Act during the Obama Administration has given greater license to the transnational corporate media to propagate fabrications even more blatantly, but we feel that a qualitative approach to analyzing pathological deceptions after 2014 would be fruitful. As regards deception communicated by corporate persons, Jörg Meibauer has long pursued this line of inquiry in experimental pragmatics:
‘corporation lies’ are very interesting because [we] don’t really know who acts as the liar (the corporation, a spokesperson, some group belonging to the corporation, etc). Who is responsible? How can a corporation lie be detected? What strategies of lying and deceiving are used? What is the relation between lies and corporation bullshit? Why is it allowed to lie to the public? (2014).
The questions Meibauer poses should lead us today to some general observations about public discourse in “democratic” societies.
Corporate persons exhibit a pathological need to control not just human perception but also whole societies themselves. Every aspect of social intercourse must be surveilled and managed. Since human beings are too unstable and unpredictable to be controlled by democratic principles, we “must be brought to heel” (Clinton, 1996) in this age of medico-pharma fascism through green passes and contract tracing apps and related mandates. General public acceptance of these techniques in control over thought and behavior, and the abuses they enable, necessitate a certain form of communication.
2. Manufacturing Consent
The manufacture of consent, described initially by Walter Lippmann (1925 p. 248), refers to an essential process in the maintenance of so-called liberal democracies where public relations (i.e. propaganda) plays an integral role in keeping order and keeping intact society’s myths and “necessary illusions” (Niebuhr, 1932). Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky later expanded Lippmann’s ideas by constructing an analytical framework known as the “Propaganda Model” (1988) which describes how corporate media, think tanks, and other influential forces operate to filter out of the public discourse points of view that might contaminate the residue of information deemed “fit to print” or broadcast.
Since the public has been long conceptualised by elites as a “bewildered herd” (Lippmann, 1925 p. 145) abiding by “a naïve faith” (Niebuhr, 1932 p. xv) in human decency and the common good, democracy requires a rational and enlightened class of “cool observers” (Niebuhr, 1932 p. xv) capable of managing the complex structures of democratic society, making key decisions and guarding the levers of power against the “stupidity of the average man” (Niebuhr, 1932 p. xv). For the working class incapable of making informed and rational decisions, policies must be propagated by “emotionally potent oversimplifications” (Niebuhr, 1932 p. xvi) that appeal to the base instincts of populations — the basic desire for safety and security. Thus, baked into the foundational organisation of contemporary democratic societies is the fallacious presupposition that the masses must be propagandized. The alternative, of course, is overt brutality typical of totalitarian regimes.
In order to successfully manufacture public consent to policies such as state-sanctioned atrocities, regime-change wars, extraordinary rendition, torture, warrantless invasions of privacy and other violations of human and democratic rights, a reliable constellation of psychological tools and techniques are necessary. These applications of psychological science leverage and exploit human vulnerabilities in reality-processing and associated behavioural tendencies. The psychological tools used to bound knowledge and manipulate perception and behaviour are typically combined into a predictable and identifiable formula, or a propaganda recipe of sorts, which can be conceptualised as exploiting human vulnerabilities in four broad psychological domains. Since the declaration of the virus that changed the world, the wielding of these psychological tools has fostered dissociative states able to accommodate totalitarian alters within the democratic identities of our governing corporate persons.
Whereas a post-9/11 propaganda recipe was used to garner public support for the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent “War on Terror,” the war on Covid-19 has necessitated various forms of propaganda aimed at garnering support for the dissolution of core democratic institutions and principles, along with the resulting imposition of autocratic state-corporate control, under the persona of a benevolent ruling hand.
In the case of Covid-19 propaganda, assent has been sought for state-overreach in the form of pseudo-medical political interventions, whereby the practice of medicine has been taken out of doctors’ hands and transferred to the state and its giant transnational pharmaceutical supporters. Uncritically compliant doctors have, as a result, been effectively remoulded into dummies unable to speak their conscience but able only to mouth the directions of the power brokers guarding against attacks on the new ventriloquist state. This unprecedented transfer of responsibility and power has enabled radical state intrusion into citizens’ conduct of their private lives and has brought a halt to democratic functioning under the guise of maintaining public health and safety.
The abuses of power being enabled in this context include: shutting down of parliaments and curtailment of open debate on bills and legislation; violating and/or criminalising human rights such as freedom of movement, freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to bodily autonomy, and the right to informed consent; imposition of coerced and experimental mass medical interventions; assumption of unprecedented police and executive powers, including powers to coerce medical treatments; state violence against protesters; granting of hegemonic power and enormous transfer of wealth to corporate actors such as technology and pharmaceutical giants; and legalised discrimination and persecution of marginalised groups.
As the Covid ‘vaccine’ rollout intensified in 2021, the propaganda campaign included a time-honoured cornucopia of fruitful tactics in despotism: front-page calls for the death of unvaccinated people,
whipping up false claims about spread and mortality, berating and chastising, expressing total contempt, celebrating and mocking the deaths of unvaccinated, shaming and blaming the unvaccinated for society’s loss of freedoms, labelling the unvaccinated as ‘terrorists’, ‘domestic terrorists’, and as ‘extremists, misogynists, and racists’, advocating drone strikes against ‘antivaxxers’, encouraging players in new video games to shoot, kill, and relish the deaths of anti-lockdown protestors, and a government commercial reifying the slow death of an anti-lockdown protester. https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=CQq_rJTeu00 (from 11:58)
The key propaganda ingredients and methods used to mystify the masses and elicit their consent to such abuses of power, while inciting an ever deeper descent into societal fragmentation and self-harm, are as follows.
3. Manufacturing Perceptions of an Extreme Threat
Harness and exploit the human tendency to think with emotions (Lerner et al., 2015; Lodge & Taber, 2013) by inducing chronic threat-perception. Exploit fight-flight responses, characterised by fear, anxiety and terror (flight), or anger, rage and hate (fight) · Ingredients – chronically activated fight-flight response; designated official enemies to be feared and hated; promise of state salvation · Method – create illusion of incessant mortal danger; blame official enemies; offer to annihilate enemies to eliminate the threat
3.1 Exploit a traumatic instigating event (e.g. 9/11 or COVID outbreak.)
Information learned in the context of trauma becomes neurologically hardwired, and resistant to change, including from subsequent factual, logical disconfirmation and evidence (Howie & Ressler, 2020; Lisak, 2013).
3.2 Magnify the perception of danger beyond the reality of the threat; suppress information that ameliorates the threat. (e.g. exaggerate the likelihood of terror attacks, or inflate ‘case’ and death counts via misuse of PCR tests, and over-inclusive definitions of COVID death / misclassification of death).
In a state of threat, attention fixates narrowly on the perceived source of danger; threatening information feels more real and is more readily believed; thinking becomes rigid and black-and white, and peripheral, complex, nuanced information, such as analysis and evidence, is tuned out (Cisler et al., 2009; Cisler & Koster, 2010; Cohen, 2017; Constans, 2005).
3.3 Use theatre and dramatisation, to make the danger feel real (e.g. terror warnings, or lockdowns and masks)
A large body of literature demonstrates that human cognition is largely unconsciously emotion-driven. I.e. we are inclined to ‘feel’ rather than reason our way to our opinions (Redlawsk, 2006; Taber & Lodge, 2016). Accordingly, experiential versions of a proposed reality – i.e. enactments and dramatisations – e.g. ‘acting as if’ we are under terrorist attack via nightly TV terror alerts, or acting as if we are infectious agents by wearing masks, fosters greater belief in the official narrative.
3.4 Issue frequent mortality-reminders to keep thoughts of harm and death salient (e.g. frequent TV terror alerts or daily COVID cases and death counts).
Mortality-salience increases ideological conformity – when confronted with death-reminders, people are more inclined to align their opinions on social issues with what they believe to be the majority view (Renkema et al., 2008). Mortality salience also increases ‘system justification, or the tendency to defend the status quo and view existing authorities and institutions as good, right, fair and just (Sterling et al., 2016).
3.5 Frame state power, and abuse of power, as protective
Fear and other flight-related emotions promote authoritarian submission – i.e. subservience to authoritarian policies, including self-subordination – and increased obedience to authority (Bonnano & Jost, 2006; Choma & Hodson, 2017; Passini, 2017). To harness this impulse, escalation of power, and abuses of power (e.g. enhanced state secrecy in the name of national security, or new police powers in the name of disease control), are couched in language of safety and protection (‘anti-terror’ or ‘public health’)
3.6 Designate official enemies to be overcome, and pair them with the threat (e.g. Terrorism with Islamic people or illness and death with the unvaccinated, or disease and infectiousness with all human beings)
With a specific human enemy at which to direct fight and flight-related emotions, angry and aggressive or fearful and defensive impulses can be mobilised against official enemies (Hughes, 2019). E.g. the unvaccinated, like Islamic people in the Global War on Terror, can be framed as legitimate targets of punitive / harsh / violent measures. Similarly, defensive / exclusionary / neutralising measures, such as marginalising minority groups, or excluding the unvaccinated or locking down all citizens as disease carriers, can be deployed.
3.7 Provide recurrent graphic news of the enemy’s victims (E.g. terror attack victims or details of COVID deaths)
Victim-reminders stoke desire for retributive justice. Desire for retributive justice fuels support for human rights violations such as torture, harsh punishment / incarceration, the death penalty and war (Drolet et al, 2016; Lieberman, 2014). E.g. death to the unvaccinated.
3.8 Use colour strategically in media reports to activate desired affective responses to stimuli.
Leading narratives (signs, symbols, and images) constructed around the COVID menace must be infused with appropriate colours. Red triggers emotion and is often associated with passion and love as well as danger, irritation, and rage. Physiologically, exposure to red has been shown to increase the heart rate and engender excitement. Yellow is associated with happiness and energy, and it also evokes feelings of caution and danger.
3.9 Define human and civil rights and freedoms as exacerbating the threat
When citizens’ rights and freedoms are paired with the threat (e.g. citizens’ legal rights paired with terror threats, or human rights such as freedom of movement paired with disease-spread), the fight-flight response can be mobilised against those freedoms and rights also (e.g. repressive ‘anti-terror’ laws winding back legal protections or ‘public health’ orders winding back freedom of movement and free speech)
3.10 Institute mission creep – Boil the Frog
As habituation builds, intensify and entrench the rollback of rights and freedoms, and escalate and expand abuses of power. E.g. from ‘ease the pressure on our hospitals’ to ‘flatten the curve’ to ‘zero COVID’, and from voluntary vaccines to vaccine passports to mandatory vaccination.
One novel aspect of the Covid-19 propaganda campaign is seen in the extent to which the source of the danger has been defined as every single human being. By defining all healthy human beings as deadly disease vectors, the fight-flight response has been deployed against all citizens, making every person a propaganda target. As a result, citizens have been enlisted in policing and punishing each other, adding an extra layer of division and fear between members of populations. While this obviously exerts a corrosive influence on population resistance against elite abuses of power, it also sheds light on who the official enemy is deemed to be in this particular propaganda campaign: everyday citizens, and every single human being.
4. Tribal Identification – Inciting Primal, Reflexive, Group-based Us-versus-them Impulses
Group-based identification, intergroup competition and outgroup discrimination are ubiquitous features of human psychology (Brown & Gaertner, 2008). Intergroup animosity intensifies dramatically as a survival instinct under threat. Under mortal threat, intergroup animosity can rapidly escalate to a fight-to-the death mentality (Jonas & Fritsche, 2013; Liedner et al., 2013; Onraet & van Hiel, 2013; Rinker & Lawler, 2018) .
· Ingredients – ingroups and outgroups; intergroup animosity; psychological ammunition to wield between groups
· Method – create social groupings framed as fighting on opposite sides of the threat; turn them against each other; unleash group-based antipathy on dissenters
4.1 Create social groupings and use us-versus-them rhetorical frames to foster ingroup-outgroup rivalry and group-based animosity. E.g. the West versus Islamic terrorists; vaccinated versus unvaccinated; pro-lockdown socialists versus the right. Etc.
This promotes: (a) Conformity in thought and action (including ‘reality-sharing’ whereby people tune their reality-perception to that of their ingroup and away from that of their outgroups) (Echterhoff, 2010; Jost et al., 2008); and (b) Divide and conquer tactics, from stoking bickering between citizens to mobilising support for state-sanctioned punishment and harm against outgroup members. E.g. war, or persecution of refugees or the unvaccinated.
4.2 Create the perception that the majority of people hold the official view and frame dissenters as minority / fringe / ‘other’.
This encourages reality-turning towards the official narrative and away from dissenting narratives. In addition, empathy is significantly reduced towards outgroup members (e.g. Richins et al., 2018), and human rights violations against outgroups are more readily tolerated (Tarrant et al., 2012), which serves to mobilise support for persecution of dissenters.
4.3 Provide convenient ready-made smears for use against outgroups and dissenters (e.g. ‘Islamic terrorist’ ‘/ ‘COVID denier’ ‘conspiracy theorist’ ‘anti-vaxxer’)
Derogating outgroup members is a core feature of intergroup psychology – outgroup members are perceived as inferior and defective in a wide range of ways, even when randomly assigned based on T-shirts or eye colour (Brown & Gaertner, 2008). Smears are, therefore, readily adopted and deployed along group lines, turning citizens into propaganda multipliers, and stoking divide and conquer tactics and discouraging dissent.
4.4 Make public examples of dissenters via ostracism and persecution
Ostracism is one of the most aversive experiences for human beings. It activates the same brain centres as physical pain (Eisenberger et al., 2005). Accordingly, ostracism is used in propaganda as a deterrence against dissent and opposition. In this way it fosters passive bystanding, which is the key social bedrock of atrocity (Hortensius & Gelder, 2018; Staub, 2014). It also drives self-protective retreat into the safety of conformist groups.
An aspect of Covid-19 propaganda that is perhaps unprecedented with respect to group-based psychology was the imposition of prolonged isolation, and disconnection from social groups. This serves not only to prevent potential spontaneous group-based reality-sharing away from official narratives, but also to impose upon populations a state of chronic social deprivation. This deprivation is likely to exacerbate the desire for social connection and group belonging, potentially fuelling susceptibility to group-based psychology and tribal identification, with all the propaganda vulnerabilities that entails.
5. Moral Disengagement – Placing Harm-doing Outside the Usual Moral Frame
This draws on the human tendency to experience blind spots to one’s own ingroup’s or society’s wrongdoing and atrocity (Bandura, 2015; Cohen, 2015). Moral disengagement is facilitated both by threat-perception (e.g. Kouchaki & Desai, 2011) and intergroup processes (Passini, 2017).
· Ingredients – sanitising language; system justification and ingroup glorification; dehumanisation and demonization of victims
· Method – Place harm-doing outside the boundaries of citizens’ usual moral frame; elicit passive by-standing and active participation
5.1 Use sanitising / minimising language to depict state-sanctioned harm and violence in bland, normalised terms (‘national security’ / ‘public health’)
By using sanitising language, harm is rhetorically cleansed (e.g. Poole, 2006) and fails to emotionally and morally register – i.e. moral engagement is suppressed and indifference invoked (Passini, 2017). This is the reverse of the extreme emotionality that is deliberately invoked with respect to perception of the designated threats.
5.2 Suppress and censor information regarding state-sanctioned harm and its victims
Out of sight out of mind. Further suppresses moral engagement.
5.3 Repeatedly assert the righteousness of the perpetrating authorities in broad, sweeping terms
This invokes ‘system-justification’, or the well-documented tendency to justify and defend the status quo and to see one’s own social / political / economic systems and institutions as being, good, right, fair and just (Torn et al., 2014). Fear and destabilisation exacerbates the need for certainty, structure and belonging (Jost, 2018), and therefore promotes system justification, such that system-justifying blind spots are readily invoked under conditions of threat (Nam et al., 2017; Wakslak et al., 2011).
5.4 Frame harm-doing as glorified, heroic (‘Responsibility to protect’ or ‘Protecting the vulnerable’; ads depicting the slow death of protesters as just desserts kindly facilitated by good doctors and nurses.)
Harm is sugar-coated and swallowed without recognition. This draws on the tendency towards ingroup glorification and glorification of the status quo, in which ‘we’ are heroes and ‘they’ are vermin (Leidner & Kardos, 2015). At an individual level it functions to hijack altruistic impulses and redirect them into harmful acts.
5.5 Engage in projective attack – accuse outgroups of doing what the state is doing (accuse war victims of aggression; attack evidence that contradicts propaganda narratives as ‘disinformation’)
This provides a ready-made denial / erasure of state-sanctioned harm – inciting projection and reflexive finger pointing.
5.6 Dehumanise victims (e.g. as ‘collateral damage’ or ‘adverse events’).
Dehumanised others are perceived as less deserving of human rights and therefore can be abused without significant moral compunction. Dehumanisation is a routine feature of intergroup processes (Waytz & Schroeder, 2014), and hence can readily be mobilised against those who have been ‘othered’ by propaganda. E.g. outgroup members are typically perceived as possessing fewer uniquely human attributes and emotions, and as suffering less emotional and physical pain when harmed or bereaved or brutalised (Richins et al., 2018; Riva & Andrighetto, 2012; Xu et al., 2009).
5.7 Demonise victims (e.g. Islamic people or the unvaccinated – as dangerous / depraved / crazy / diseased).
Outgroup members are not only readily dehumanised, but readily demonised, particularly under threat (Jackson, 2007; Leidner et al., 2015). In the case of demonization, harm is recognised and acknowledged, but it is perceived as virtuous and the moral / justified course of action. Once victims have been demonised, glorifying harm-doing is a psychologically simple task.
6. Bombardment and Bamboozling – Exploiting the Human Tendency to Take Cognitive Shortcuts
In order to entrench and consolidate the official narrative, techniques that leverage cognitive heuristics – or efficiency-oriented shortcuts in information processing – are leveraged. This serves to hardwire and ‘bake-in’ the propaganda narratives.
· Ingredients – two-word mantras; repetition; confusion
· Method – repeat two word mantras ad infinitum amongst an ever-changing kaleidoscopic cacophony of confusion
6.1 Deploy two-word mantras – pairing and tagging
The mind tends to store evaluative information is such a way that objects are simplistically tagged good or bad, with positive or negative associations (Lodge & Taber, 2013). This is exploited in propaganda by pairing and tagging targets with a simple concept or term. E.g. ‘deadly virus’ ‘lethal variant’ ‘COVID denier’ ‘COVIDiot’, or ‘selfish’ ‘dangerous’ unvaccinated and ‘safe’, ‘effective’ vaccines.
6.2 Repeat, repeat, repeat
Integral to the process of propagandising is the art of repetition. The Minister of Propaganda during the Nazi usurpation of Weimar Republic noted that one law of propaganda is to “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth.” Mental representations that are processed fluently are perceived as more real and accurate than representations that are more effortful. Repetition promotes fluent processing, which in turn causes information that has been repeated over and over, such as two-word mantras, to be experienced as true and real. It’s a primary approach for liars to create “the illusion of truth” (Stafford, 2016) Fazio et al. (2015) tested out the theory of repetition and its effects on the perception of truth and decision-making and discovered that participants demonstrated knowledge neglect, or the failure to rely on their stored knowledge, in the face of fluent processing experiences (i.e. repetition).
When people are confused by socio-political information they are more inclined to switch off, outsource reality-perception to authorities, and trust authorities to sort things out (Shepherd & Kay, 2012). E.g. framing interventionist war in terms of confusing local sectarianism, or bamboozling with ‘science’. Given the extremely specialised subject-matter expertise that is required to understand and critically evaluate the science on Covid-19 and Covid-19 vaccines (immunology, microbiology and biochemistry) the deployment of confusion has been a particularly powerful and central feature of the Covid-19 propaganda campaign.
Endlessly recycle and refresh this recipe with slight variations on the theme – for instance new virus variants, or new danger-enactments, or new two-word mantras, and so-on. Continue until a new propaganda threat is required, at which time drop the enemy of the day immediately, and switch.
E.g. from Terrorism to Russian interference in 2016 to COVID-19 in 2020.
7.1 Effects: Uncritical Conformity
We have described a concoction for the propagation of a new necessary illusion, namely the key myths supporting the manufactured Genesis story of COVID-19, born in a Chinese wet market in Wuhan in 2019 (Latham & Wilson, 2020) the claimed mortal threat to population centres around the world, the declared necessity of lockdowns of undetermined duration, the acceptance and use of an inappropriate diagnostic instrument (RT-PCR) for the threat (CDC, 2021), and the asserted efficacy of a corporate pharmaceutical intervention proven empirically to be both hazardous as well as, in some cases, lethal (VAERS, 2021; gov.UK, 2021).
7.2 Solomon Asch
We recall the work of Solomon Asch who devised a set of experiments presented as “vision tests” in order to determine how likely subjects would conform to a control group of individuals working for Asch but pretending to choose two equal lines from a sample of four that were clearly unequal in length. Asch claimed to be presenting a test of visual perception but was, instead, attempting to determine the extent to which test subjects would dismiss their own powers of visual acuity and give clearly false answers to the test in order to conform to the majority view of the ingroup. Why did participants in the experimental group betray their senses and acquiesce to the inaccurate observations communicated by members of the control group? Asch conducted interviews after the experiment to understand the reasoning behind the responses and found that participants feared being perceived as ‘peculiar’ or ‘odd’. Ridicule and the fear of rejection from the group were also common responses. People conform largely for two principal reasons: because (a) they falsely believe the majority is better informed (informational influence) than the individual and (b) the lure of social cohesion is often too great, and so they act in ways to fit in with the group (normative influence).
The upshot for members of the COVID experimental group (the majority of the global population) is that significant numbers of people throughout the world, having been conditioned to obey authority figures unquestioningly and to repeat the received wisdom handed down through mainstream media channels, will voluntarily follow the engineered majority and discipline anyone who questions or acts contrary to a perceived authority. Mantras such as “the science is settled”, “we have a consensus”, vaccines are “safe and effective” will be echoed by obedient members of the ingroup to effect total societal adherence to the narrative despite empirical evidence that reveals to the observant participant rampant fraud and deception.
7.3 In summary, cardinal signs that a psychological propaganda recipe is at play include:
- A traumatic or shocking instigating event
- Designation of an official enemy
- Chronic imposition of threat-perception and incitement of fear and rage
- Deployment of two-word mantras and smears
- Enforcement of a rigid official reality
- Suppression, censorship and smearing of dissent
- Encouragement of an intergroup, us versus them mentality
- Imposition of confusion and uncertainty
- Repetition of key phrases and terms
- Offer of salvation (or associated incentives) by the state
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