Non-Cerebral Systems as Weaponry

Published in  Issue 27

Our unique personality, character and identity are in a state of constant change. In the sense that we are affected psychologically by anything and everything pulling us a thousand different ways at once, any system of reference can be considered as a weapons system in that it is designed to change one thing into another.

All cultures can be seen therefore as powerful suggestion and persuasion systems whose evolving mythologies structure the sense of reality which gives them their unique character. The non-technological and pre-media systems of the Ancient World were structures no different in essence to those we find today in our complex electronic structure. In the pre-electric world, royalty, military prowess, religious power, mystical cults were rich in many levels of implicit and explicit persuasions just as is a modern TV commercial break or Party Political broadcast.

Though sociologists and psychologists would hardly have a problem with agreeing with such ideas, it is surprising that military intellectuals have taken little notice of them.

Despite Dr. Goebbels’ prototypal efforts in support of Nazi ambitions and, despite George Orwell, the weapons used by the military in the wars of the last fifty years have in essence changed little since 1945. The present war in Iraq, for example, is being fought for the most part with tanks, guns, bombs, and good old-fashioned infantrymen with rifles. The propaganda front has for the most part been half-hearted, fumbled, mishandled, and has had little first-class intelligence applied to it.

In the sense implied here, Muslim aggressive religious zeal, for example, will never survive saturation by Western TV. It may take time, but television will surely break up their aggressive culture. It will smash it in as corrosive a fashion as the spreading railways and the discovery of electricity destroyed the political power of Christianity. The Vietnam campaign is another example where it would have been far more effective to have drenched the population with cheap TV sets after having sold them very good VHF communications.

The soap opera is far better at the pacification of societies than bombs and shells. With Britain alone as an example, populations can be effectively tranquillised by such transmissions without any physical harm being done to them. All such weaponry is designed to line up the population, reduce their expression to cliché and stop the development of discursive intelligence. But above all, the soap opera is designed to stop imagination, or at least to restrict it to the mental equivalent of green blooming pond algae. In this state of self-replicating growth, few differences exist between human beings and everyone is either a Stepford Wife or Husband in a mouse box doing mousy things. [1]

Briefly, the control of image, symbol, and metaphor is the ultimate power symbol in our own day, either induced electronically or in the form of royal courts which were the entertainment and glamour systems of their day.

Perhaps this is the only way to control such large populations as ours which were not seen in the Ancient World. Such masses can only be fed, sustained, and controlled if they can be persuaded to “line up” mentally in certain directions. In doing so they face that catastrophic loss of identity which many writers have observed.

There was a time when each person one met with was as if sculptured from stone. Now they are almost as identical as the cars and soaps they watch. Watch a film or TV programme and there is no way of telling how we have been changed. We have just been subjected to a most intense, organized, subtle, and deeply penetrative piece of consumer propagandistic ideology.

What is the agenda? The agenda is to offer human beings up to the process eaters, for whom dreams are food.

Perhaps the aliens we talk about so much are merely tissues of advertising protein which make us choose one programmatic form over another. The role of a particular finite technology is secondary. What technology does, rather, is to launch a state of mind. In other words, to watch TV we have no need to possess a TV set.

Now playmates, read Norman Rushkoff!  [2]


[1] See my essay, “Imagine.” (Anthologised in this volume.)


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