Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Manipulated Into Illusion....another look at Century of Self

Any thought of manipulation and control of the minds of others is an anathema to me. I believe most people, if they stopped to consider the matter, would feel the same. It's becoming ever clearer that we are not, and have never been, aware that such manipulation has been going on - and for many decades. I wasn't fully aware, other than realising that advertising is a mild form of mind manipulation.

Century of Self opened my eyes. It originated in 2002 as a BBC TV documentary series written and directed by Adam Curtis. The films are also available in DVD format, and used to be available as a set of 4 on-line videos, sadly now taken down at YouTube due to copyright restrictions, though an individual episode or two could still be available there. Unless taken down by the time anyone reads this, there's a set at Information Clearing House.

In 2010, after watching the videos I wrote a long post on their content, with some related astrology. Recently, last week in fact, comments received on posts about the arc of capitalism brought Century of Self back to mind. I decided it's time for a partial re-run as the subject matter of the series is closely related to the issues then discussed.

Series creator, Adam Curtis describes Century of Self: “This series is about how those in power have used Freud’s theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy.”

Episode titles:
#1: Happiness Machines
#2: The Engineering of Consent
#3: There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads: He Must Be Destroyed
#4: Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering

A brief synopsis of Century of Self then, with clips from a review by Paul Shepherd. The link I had to his review is now defunct, I can find no alternative.

Sigmund Freud's theory of the subconscious is explored, how it has been successfully exploited during the 20th century and beyond in areas of consumer manipulation and social control.

Leading roles:
Sigmund Freud, neurologist/psychoanalyst, born in Moravia, Austrian Empire (now part of the Czech Republic).
Anna Freud, Sigmund's daughter.
Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud's nephew, Austrian-born, influential pioneer in the field of public relations.
Wilhelm Reich, Austrian-American psychoanalyst, pioneer of sexual freedom.

Tentacles of their influence have reached out through many decades, on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Focus of attention on "self" and away from "society as a whole" is key.

At centre stage, the starting premise of Sigmund Freud regarding the unconscious: that humans
were motivated more by irrational sexual and violent urges than by rational thoughts, and therefore democracy was not a matter of allowing people to choose for themselves between a range of different policies, rather they had to be guided towards the 'correct' choice by an elite composed of people in command of the theory. People just like Edward Bernays.
Freud's theory was taken up by his daughter Anna, and exploited by his nephew Edward Bernays as a tool of psychological, political and social control, for benefit of Big Business and political elites. The development of marketing techniques, later adapted and modified by Reich's theories was where it all began.
Bernays set to work for major corporations, with one of his most spectacular successes being to help break the taboo against women smoking. He paraded a group of attractive young ladies through New York smoking and bearing the slogan 'March for Freedom'. Anyone criticising the idea of women smoking would now appear to be against freedom, and the numbers of women taking up the habit shot through the roof.

After this success Lehman Brothers and other big New York banks financed the development of department stores, confident that they could use the techniques pioneered by Bernays to persuade people to purchase a range of products that left to themselves they may very well not have bothered with. This period also saw the introduction of the techniques of product placement and psuedo-scientific product endorsement so familiar to us today. All of this dubious activity in the capitalist economy was one of the main factors leading to the bubble which ended in the Wall Street crash of 1929.........
The psychoanalytical theories of Wilhelm Reich also fed into this stream, despite his being a convicted fraudster with some very strange beliefs. Reich argued that the release of orgasmic sexual energy was neccessary for the mental health of the individual and society. After the defeat of the New Left in the political conflicts of the late 1960s and early 70s, Reich's theories gained a mass influence as many former activists turned in on themselves. The thinking now was that perhaps you didn't need to go on demos., hand out leaflets etc., what was required was to change oneself, though not neccessarily in the traditional, transcendental sense. A myriad groups emerged, all promising that they had the correct technique for the re-discovery and re-moulding of the Self.

A blend of techniques arising from the ideas of Freud, Bernays and Reich remains in place, both in business and, more importantly and dangerously, in politics today.

It's hard to understand how such long-term influence has been able to take a hold in a diverse and vast country such as the USA and a small but historically independent one like the UK.

I guess I ought to suggest here that, at the start, there may have been no ulterior motive involved, simply a genuine attempt to construct a better system by those who believed they had superior intellects. Were those people making decisions fit to be the deciders? Is anybody? Eventually a different agenda surfaced, one far removed from the good of society.

In my original post I went on to look at natal charts of the Freuds, Bernays and Reich, and came to the conclusion that a common denominator was found: links to Scorpio and Pluto/Neptune: powerful, deep, long-lasting elements, motive hidden from view, dark and often paranoid. Sex, also connected to Pluto/Scorpio was involved too, via the theories of Reich.

If we are in the midst of a decline now it is due to a serious lack of integrity in certain individuals. Astrologically those individuals shared some of the most powerfully dark zodiacal and planetary "flavours".

The truly unconscionable element in all of this, to me, is the notion that any individual(s) should have power to secretly dictate, manipulate minds, in such a way as to benefit one section of society over another section....or for any reason whatever. This hidden manipulation worked in tandem with the growth of capitalism. The public is not to blame for what happened in the past, and what still happens today. The public is, in fact, victim of a near atrocity in my view. We need to take control of our own minds, or others will be ready to do it for us.


mike said...

I cannot argue that each person is constantly bombarded by unsolicited campaigns that support the ideologies that can ultimately oppose that individual. I differ with you, Twilight, that the public is victim of these nefarious assaults to our personal rationalizations.

There are many factors to consider regarding how and why individuals interpret and incorporate variables toward their own value system and their hierarchical position in a group or society. I had the pleasure of taking a Human Values class taught by the renowned Milton Rokeach (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milton_Rokeach). He was exemplary in exploring individual needs regarding group acceptance, safety, perceived worth, dominance, etc.

We each have a responsibility to our unique self, which may or may not require us to constantly assess our personal values, and incorporating those values to believe in our view of self-worth and higher good. True individuals make a stand for their beliefs, whether the group accepts that person's interpretation. There are followers, there are leaders, and there are true individuals that do not conform. The true individual usually pays a price for their perspectives, sometimes only short-term, sometimes long-term.

I believe it was your post regarding drones that you implored a greater call toward awareness and justice. You stated that through blogs and the internet we possibly had a voice. It's that type of action that separates the notion of victim from the individual that chooses to be aware and makes decisions based on their perceived values.

Twilight said...

mike ~~ Bearing in mind benefit of hindsight, and all the advantages of technology we have in 2012, I agree that individuals NOW should be taking the responsibilities you outlined.

As Century of Self shows, the mind manipulation has been an on-going issue. Many people, their parents and grandparents have, like the frog in the pan of water on a stove, gradually "boiled into it" - didn't realise, didn't have our advantages of internet and hindsight . So habit and custom became ingrained.

Not everyone boiled into it - or if they were in danger of doing so a naturally obtuse streak in their makeup saved them (I'll put my hand up to this one), and will not be told "what to do, what to believe, what to buy" etc.

I'm on the side of The People, though, in everything, Mike. And though many have been oblivious to what's been going on for decades, NOW they have to wake up.....and jump out of the pan before it's too late.

Wisewebwoman said...

I saw some of this as extras on the Mad Men DVDs T. Extraordinary analysis.

I honestly believe it is getting worse, actually. The constant bombardment of TV in others' homes frightens me to death, especially the lack of critical thinking that accompanies it. It is all regurgitation.

I posted a piece actually on FB today about this I should blog on it when I get a minute.

Well done post, T!


Twilight said...

Wisewebwoman ~~thanks.

It's a very well done documentary, yes. I'm glad it has been available on the net and to a wider audience.

Volume and quality of advertising on TV is horrendous now. It was never as bad as this in the UK, and there was always a refuge in the BBC. We watch very little apart from movies and a singing talent show or two....and weather forecasts and alerts if there's a tornado around.

Those huge screen TVs must make it seem as though descriptions of home life in Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 - wall to wall TV 24/7/365, are fact rather than fiction!

Anonymous said...

Looks like an interesting show. I think the Internet has become a problem because of gaming. There are tech experts who are creating games specifically to use for crowd control. They are finding that they can get people to do all kinds of things for free just for fun. They don't know the difference between doing it on the computer and doing it to the real people.

Twilight said...

Anonymous ~~~
They don't know the difference between doing it on the computer and doing it to the real people

That is one really, really scary aspect & new to 21st century, side to all of this, Anon!