Propaganda and the Shadow

Anybody can fall under the influence of brainwashing and propaganda. The best antidote to this fact is knowing it. The people who are the most convinced they can never be duped are the most easily duped.

Propaganda is successful only when it speaks to what we really want to hear but don’t dare confess it to ourselves. Propaganda doesn’t invent. It discovers.

Propaganda speaks to what Karl Jung called “the Shadow.” The Shadow consists of the dark, mean impulses and thoughts we push into our unconscious because to accept then would damage our sense of self. To process these dark impulses, we can channel them into socially legitimate pursuits. We can become surgeons, police officers, soldiers, or teachers. We can sublimate them into works of art. We can express them during confession or in therapy.

Every individual has these dark impulses. And every culture has them on a collective level. In order to do propaganda work successfully, you need to find these painful pressure points in the people you address it to. Sometimes, propagandists fail because they confuse their own pain points or their own shadow with somebody else’s.

Here’s an example of such failed propaganda. Russian propagandists have spent years trying to promote the following narrative in Ukraine: “Ukrainians! The West is trying to sow seeds of discord between brotherly Slavic nations by pitting us against each other. They do that to weaken us and keep us subjected!” This narrative failed completely because the fear of Western domination is part of the Russian Shadow but is completely absent in Ukraine.

Or take an example that’s closer to home, the BLM. It’s successful because it speaks to the people’s sense of discomfort around African Americans. People rightfully perceive this discomfort as shameful. It’s their Shadow. The BLM narrative helps them ease this discomfort by projecting it onto an imaginary evildoer: the racist police or the imaginary white supremacists. The BLM is the barrier between themselves and the nasty, dark feelings they intuit in themselves but can’t bear to acknowledge.

This is why the White Fragility book was so popular among white people. It helped them feel less alone with their darkest impulses. It was cathartic because finally what they were hiding from themselves could come out into the open. For those whose Shadow doesn’t contain racist feelings (but contains other equally dark impulses because everybody has a Shadow), this whole phenomenon was confusing.

Once you know your Shadow, you can figure out which kinds of propaganda are likely to have an effect on you and build up resistance to its seductive lure. The first step is always to say, “I’m human and hence susceptible to influence.” There’s nothing shameful in that.

Distraction Tactics

I’m not going to write about the recent WEF because it’s completely unimportant. It’s like those $2,000-per-plate charitable dinners “to end hunger” where useless rich people get together to feel important. I don’t know what the WEF was in the past but this last one, if you look at the participants and the topics discussed, it’s 100% a charitable gala.

The idea that people who have the capacity and the desire to have an impact on world affairs would get together in the open at a highly watched event and lay out their plans for everybody to hear is a strange one, indeed.

Please avoid whoever seriously discusses the recent WEF and do the same for the people talking about the “new COVID laws in Brazil.” Those people are either simple-minded folks with the attention span of an amoeba or manipulative bastards.

More about the Ukrainian Student

The Ukrainian student is 19. Our age difference is such that if I’d given birth to her, I wouldn’t even have been a young mother. Yet I talk to her with complete ease and don’t get bored. I love young people but talking to them outside of class is understandably not very entertaining for me. She has fantastic conversation skills, unheard of on somebody this age.

I’m so happy she’s here.

A Real Exchange

The Ukrainian exchange student is so cool. In the African-American history class, somebody tried to pull the “white guilt” trick on her, asking dramatically, “Do you, people in Ukraine, even know that we had slavery here in America?”

“Do you, people in America, even know we had slavery in Ukraine?” she retorted at once. “Slavery existed worldwide, so it’s not all about you.”

A week later, somebody tried to get at her from another side. “Can you begin to imagine how terrorized black people in America feel when they see reports of police brutality?” the person asked pompously.

“I spent most of last year running to the nearest bomb shelter,” she responded. “Can you begin to imagine how that feels?”

I have a feeling this is the first taste of real diversity people in the class are experiencing.

Emotional Bureaucrats

Please observe how soppy, meaningless emotionalism is used to hide a demand for budget cuts:

This is exactly what we saw in that bureaucratic document I’ve been quoting today. “Care”, “feelings”, “community”, “needs”.

Look what they do. They frustrate all real human relationships. Colleagues are terrified of being together because of micro aggressions and #MeToo. People don’t know how to get close to anybody who doesn’t have the exact same “identity.” Children are bad for the environment, and anything beyond a “situationship” is just too onerous.

And when we get starved for actual care, feelings and community, they offer to provide them at the price of a low, easy payment in budget cuts, firings, and austerity.

Markets in the Classroom

And here is the absolute pièce de résistance of the “pre-canned feelings” document:

We must lay the groundwork for a deeper and wider change in culture—one in which eventually all folks (faculty in particular) realize that their work in the classroom has some ‘economic’/fiscal/financial aspect/consequence.

After which “we will leave the meeting with a sense of” bla-bla.

The textbook definition of neoliberalism, by the way, is “markets in everything.” What does that mean? See above for the perfect example.