He who controls the medium controls the message. He who controls the message controls the masses.
The notion of mob mentality is nothing new. Perhaps the best example is mustering armies for war. Soldiers become indoctrinated into not only hating their enemies but more importantly fearing them.
And while on the battlefield it becomes kill or be killed, to get men and women onto the battlefield, and with the acceptance of the public, there also has to be the fear that if you don't kill the enemy they will come after everything and everyone you love. So it now becomes noble. And if you can vest it with a "holy" purpose (and religious fervour), all the better.
But I'm getting into the "big lie" and "total war" later. I just wanted to briefly discuss one of the most powerful tools of the Neoconservative movement: Controlling the masses.
Leo Strauss considered this to be essential for success. He referred to us as the "ignorant masses", Friedrich Von Hayek called us "the wandering herd". To Goebbels we were simply "the masses".
But none of their theories were really ground breaking. In fact, many originated with a man by the name of Gustave Le Bon (in photo), a French social psychologist, sociologist and author of A Study of the Popular Mind.
Joseph Goebbels used his book religiously and Mussolini kept a copy of it beside his bed.
Le Bon discusses how varied individuals in a crowd are, and yet when they have a common goal or purpose, they become a single entity.
Hence crowd mentality is based on the intellect of the lowest members, and the real genius is in reducing the intellectuals to that lowest level. In that way, you are then superior to them all.
"... there is in no sort a summing-up of or an average struck between its elements. What really takes place is a combination followed by the creation of new characteristics, just as in chemistry certain elements, when brought into contact ... combine to form a new body possessing properties quite different from those of the bodies that have served to form it.
It is precisely these general qualities of character, governed by forces of which we are unconscious, and possessed by the majority of the normal individuals of a race in much the same degree—it is precisely these qualities, I say, that in crowds become common property. In the collective mind the intellectual aptitudes of the individuals, and in consequence their individuality, are weakened. The heterogeneous is swamped by the homogeneous, and the unconscious qualities obtain the upper hand.
This very fact that crowds possess in common ordinary qualities explains why they can never accomplish acts demanding a high degree of intelligence. The decisions affecting matters of general interest come to by an assembly of men of distinction, but specialists in different walks of life, are not sensibly superior to the decisions that would be adopted by a gathering of imbeciles. The truth is, they can only bring to bear in common on the work in hand those mediocre qualities which are the birthright of every average individual. In crowds it is stupidity and not mother-wit that is accumulated. (1) (all emphasis mine)
Goebbels understood that. Mussolini understood that. And Guy Giorno understands that.
"He Who Controls the Message, Controls the Masses"
In 2000, Ryerson Press published a lengthy article about former Ontario Premier Mike Harris and his unprecedented control of the media:
TV newsmakers need vivid images to illustrate their stories. Harris's Tories, easily the most communications-savvy provincial government this country has ever seen, are delighted to oblige — on their terms. They dodge negative coverage at every chance and will go to ridiculous lengths — giving preferential treatment to friendly reporters, shutting out critical ones and staging elaborate, unrelated events — to avoid it. Because they know the demands of getting on the news are a lot like the demands of the Miss Universe pageant: you've gotta be sexy, you've gotta have charm and you've better have something interesting (but not too complicated) to say.A message that is not too complicated with the right images to sell it to the "ignorant masses".
With expectations so superficial, many television journalists are losing the incentive and initiative to go out and chase stories beyond the pre-packaged photo ops offered up by government communications staff. Even if they want to go beyond these prefab items, with shrinking political reporting staff and dwindling resources, they can only pursue one or two stories a day. Government PR people know this and are prepared to make it easy for journalists to get their precious pictures, provided the coverage doesn't end up being too hard on them. The result is political coverage that serves no purpose other than promoting a government that's already very good at promoting itself. (2) (all emphasis mine)
And the man behind this unprecedented control was Guy Giorno.
Governing for the Camera
That Stephen Harper has become the king of the photo-op is no longer debatable, but I think a good example of how he governs for the camera, is the handling of the Haiti crisis, which also leans toward the deception category.
Journalist Mia Rabsan wrote a column for the Winnipeg Free Press: Stop the photo op already, in which she says:
At the time Rabsan, like most Canadians, allowed the photos to tell the story. However, what we learned later, was that the whole thing was fabricated for political gain. The ships in the photo with MacKay did not have the much needed medical supplies, food and water that Harper assured us had been loaded. In fact they arrived almost empty.
Late last night we got a photo from the prime minister's office of Stephen Harper on the telephone, presumably with UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, discussing the situation in Haiti. Today Defence Minister Peter Mackay is posing in Halifax as the HMCS Athabaskan and HMCS Halifax leave for Haiti. At about the same time, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife, Laureen, were staging a photo op making a donation to the Canadian Red Cross.
Enough already. Stop posing for photo ops and just get on with the business of helping Haiti. Canadians want to know the ships are on their way and what we're
sending so we know Canada is doing what it can to help. A photo op of a minister can do little but delay the voyage.
The Canadian response to Haiti thus far has been prompt and thorough. Let's stop the photo ops and just keep the aid flowing. (3)
OTTAWA — When HMCS Athabaskan and HMCS Halifax were ordered to sail on a humanitarian mission to Haiti on Jan. 13, they worked through the night, passing boxes hand to hand, loading stores aboard the ships — everything they would need for the humanitarian mission.And two months after Rabsan wrote her story, the promised funds had not been delivered. Not one single penny. We might ask ourselves how that could be. We saw Stephen Harper handing over a cheque.
But sailors didn’t take aboard much in the way of relief aid — food packages, medical supplies or shelters — for distribution to Haitians. During the voyage, some sailors wondered if the ships might have been better off staying in port a little longer — say 12 hours — to take on more relief supplies, food aid and medical equipment before sailing for Haiti. (4)
I called the agency yesterday with questions about the Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund. You probably remember this. It’s where the Canadian government promises to match funds Canadians donate to Haiti to help with, among other things, “early recovery” and reconstruction. I had heard from a contact who does relief work in Haiti that no one who has applied for money from this fund had heard back from CIDA. Seemed a little strange. It’s been two months since the quake and one month since the donation window closed on February 12.You see it wasn't about handling the Haiti crisis, but the appearance of handling the Haiti crisis. And the man behind this unprecedented media control is Guy Giorno. (6)
... I asked how much of the money raised through the Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund has been spent. CIDA’s response included a paragraph about where Canada has spent money that doesn’t come from the Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund, before adding the line: “Funds from the Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund will be disbursed in the near future.” (5)
Chapter Twenty-Four Continued: Higher Learning
1. A Study of the Popular Mind, By: Gutave Le Bon, Book One: The Mind of Crowds
2. How Mike Harris and his minions manipulate TV news, Ryerson Press, Summer 2000
3. Stop the photo op already By: Mia Rabson, Winnipeg Free Press, January 14, 2010
4. Chronicle Herald
5. CIDA’s Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund: millions raised, nothing spent.
by Michael Petrou, Macleans, March 10, 2010
6. Ex-aide to Mike Harris to run PM's office: The aide embroiled in 'NAFTA-gate' is out; to be replaced by former Harris chief of staff, By: Richard Brennan and Susan Delacourt, Toronto Star, May 22, 2008