February 17, 2013

On Deception - 3: postmodernism, public relations, propaganda
THE conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.
E. Bernays, opening of "Propaganda"
"Dissent is done with. Reason is done with. Intellect is done with. Common sense is done with. Everything the "Enlightenment" taught us is done with. We now live in an age, prescribed by Sigmund Freud's nephew, Edward Bernays, where "a leadership democracy administered by the intelligent minority who know how to regiment and guide the masses" has finally dawned upon humanity."
-- Gilles d'Aymery: Propaganda: Then and now


1. Postmodernism and truth
2. Public relations and truth
3. Propaganda and truth
About ME/CFS


This continues
and dots some i's while giving some useful links.

Postmodernism and truth

Postmodernists tend to be relativists about truth, but not indiscriminately: if their personal interests are involved, they are as absolutist with the truth as most are, which can be explained in the following way:

Suppose you offer me a closed box with walls I cannot see through, and you ask me to shake it, which I do, and while doing so I hear something that seems to be hitting the walls of the box. You ask me whether I know or can guess what's in the box, and you may offer me money to do so, in the form of a bet or a reward if I get it right. Suppose I am willing to accept a reward and guess there is a coin in the box. You open it and show me it is a die.

Now, if I am a postmodernist, and I find the reward enticing, I may argue that "a die" or indeed " a 'die'", when "interpreted" 'correctly', in the "hegemonic  episteme" of this "epoch", is "the equivalent" of "a coin", and therefore you owe me the reward.

If you are not totally spoiled by modern philosophy, linguistics, politics, or public relations, and are a sane person, you'll probably answer me along the lines that I must be hallucinating or that I do not know what I am talking about, and that I must be very eager to get the money if I talk in such a crazy way - and you would be quite right, and almost everyone would agree with you.

If we alter our terms, and call the closed box "reality", and opening it to see what's in it "an experiment", we have a pretty close analogy of the postmodern argument about truth and interpretation - except that many people fall for the deception that "the fact" the experiment discloses is not really "a fact", but - somehow - "an interpretation", that is quite "relative" to someone's "interests".

How postmodernists "know" that - and I am intentionally "quoting" a lot, and using italics, because they do, in order to question aka "problematize" or "critique" things, by which they certainly succeed in making it very ambiguous what they are talking about - they usually do not deign to explain, or explain in such a "fashion" that few if any can follow what they mean.

But in fact you have now gotten the essence of the swindle that is postmodernism: You create a highly convoluted and pretentious language in which you "freely" "quote" any term you want to "problematize"; you ask many questions but offer no answers except by innuendo; and you keep insisting that there are no "facts" because - somehow - "every" "thing" is "a narrative" - as in: 'tale told by an idiot" [1] - with many "interpretations", that all are "relative", to whatever you claim, which in postmodern contexts usually has at least a whiff of sex, Freud, power, and "epistemology" in it.

This phony bullshit - as pure a case of the emperor's clothes as can be conceived - took the academic world by storm from the 1970ies onward, though of course there was a minority - Chomsky, Bloom, Sokal, for example - who did not fall for it, nor pretend they fell for it, for there also was a lot of pretension involved. See also:

It got very popular because it was very pretentious, because it associated itself with fashionable political ideas of the left, such as "emancipation" and "liberation", and because it offered a trendy apparently academic philosophy and style of writing, that came with a few basic fallacies such as begging the question and writing ambiguously so as to win arguments, while it also seemed to assure that everybody was right because nobody could be conceivably wrong if there was no truth, and besides that everybody was equal because there were no true standards of judgment.

2. Public relations and truth

I have been aware of postmodernism since the early 1970ies, when Michel Foucault got well-known in philosophy-land, so to speak, with "Les mots et les choses", and I wanted none of it, because it seemed to me dishonest nonsense and pseudo-philosophy, of which there has been a lot in the 20th Century, mostly because clever cheats could make a lot of money and/or find academic tenure with it.

What I mostly missed was the arisal of modern "public relations" and "marketing", that issued from the preparatory work of Edward Bernays, but only got into full stride, where it could manipulate literally billions, with the social spreading of TV in the 1960ies and 1970ies.

It is in some ways very similar to postmodernism, which was created later, though it can be traced back to existentialism and the later Wittgenstein, in that it relies on techniques of propaganda to get power over ideas and values, and does not use appeals to facts, truths, or rationality to communicate or convince, but it is considerably more insiduous in being intentionally contrived to persuade people by playing on their desires, fears, and ignorance while pretending to "inform" them.

The only truth that matters to public relations is which schemes of deception are most profitable, but that is an issue that is closely and empirically studied, by marketing firms and departments, that try to establish what emotions and desires people connect with commodities, and how these emotions and desires can be manipulated and used.

What gets communicated by "public relations" about a commodity is usually only very partially factual, and mostly emotional: how buying that commodity would make a person feel and be looked upon and judged by others, again not because this may be factually so, but because the belief this is so sets up the desires and feelings that help sell the most of that kind of commodity.

Public relations consist mostly of lies and intentional deceptions, though indeed it may also communicate truths if that helps bring in more profits or more credibility of the propaganda it spreads.

The five main reasons that it works are:

  1. Public relations is made to deceive, made to look other than what it really is: Material meant to deceive, mislead, misrepresent or emotionalize.
  2. The public in majority is neither rational nor informed about what they can be propagandized about.
  3. The public is easily deceived by emotional manipulations, promises and wishful thinking.
  4. In "democratic societies" propaganda tends to be covered and protected by free speech laws
  5. Since it often works, and then pays for its costs, there is a lot of money for it, that can buy the best professional confidence tricksters.

3. Propaganda and truth

Both postmodernism and public relations are species of intentionally deceptive persuasion and propaganda, that disguises what they really are: phony philosophy designed to be always right and defeat any opposition by sophisms and appeals to the emotions, and phony information designed to trick people in associating values, feelings and desires with products, persons, parties, or firms.

Their shared essence is lying for profit through disguise, dishonesty, falsifications, deceptions, misrepresentations, fallacious arguments, spurious correlations, and plain lies.

But it should be noted that not all propaganda is reprehensible, notably not if it is at least implicitly honest about what it really is - an attempt to make one think or feel something specific about some subject - while it also is probably not easy to undeceive most people about the propaganda they have been deceived by, except by appeals to their values, feelings and desires.

Here is a link to a useful if perhaps a bit simple site about propaganda:

This contains in its Conclusion this useful bit:

Ask yourself these questions when you are confronted with anything that you suspect is propaganda. By asking these questions you will be less likely to be wrongfully convinced if you take personal responsibility to fight propaganda and false information.

  • What is the message?
  • Who does this benefit?
  • Is the information based upon fact or opinion?
  • Who or what is the source of the information?
  • What biases does the source represent?
  • What techniques are used to impart the message?
  • Am I simply dismissing this as propaganda or is it the truth?

And here is a link to a piece of propaganda that, by its manner and style, clearly shows it is intended to be propaganda, unlike nearly all "public relations" that looks like "information" and is "public relations" precisely because it disguises its intent, source, beneficaries, factual status and/or bias.

It is by The Young Turks (TYT), and is directed against banks and bank managers:

It so happens that I like its message, which is one reason to link it, but it is also a good example of what may be fairly called "honest propaganda": It does not
disguise its intent (curb the power of bank managers), source (TYT ), beneficiaries (people who are not bank managers), or bias (anti bank managers), while its factual status can be easily checked on the internet.

The general counsel in these and many similar matters has been formulated long ago:

"Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your common sense."
-- Buddha
[1] To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
-- Shakespeare, Macbeth 5.5

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to facilitate search machines) which is a disease I have since 1.1.1979:
1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)

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