January 28, 2018

A Summary Of ¨The Century of the Self¨


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. A Summary Of ¨The Century of the Self¨


This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, January 23, 2018.

The present Nederlog is a bit different from the normal crisis logs, as is briefly explained here. There is a normal Nederlog of today: here.

1. Summary

This is a
crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last five years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A.  A Summary Of ¨The Century of the Self¨
Part I.     Happiness Machines
       Part II.   The Engineering of Consent
       Part III. There is a policeman inside our heads. He must be destroyed.
       Part IV.  Eight people sipping wine in Kettering

     On ¨The Century of the Self¨ - 2

This text, from ¨Part I. Happiness Machines¨ onwards, was originally written for my self in November of 2017. It is reproduced below with very few changes, apart from the links, that are all from today (or were in the originals I quote).

It is a sort of summary of the TV documentary by
Adam Curtis, called ¨The Century of the Self¨ that was first published in four parts in 2002. I have seen this documentary meanwhile three times, and I believe the first time was in 2011.

Most of what follows will be clear to intelligent readers, but I think I should make a remark on the sort of summary this is: Very much a personal one, related to my personal interests. This means, among other things, that there may be summaries by others of the same series that may be quite different and still be quite good summaries.

The rest is text from September 2017, with very few changes:

Part I. Happiness Machines

¨This is a series about how the ideas of Sigmund Freud have been used by those in power to control the masses in an age of democracy"(Adam Curtis).

Freud had discovered - he said - primitive sexual and aggressive forces hidden deep inside the mind of everyone, and if these forces were not controlled, the result would be chaos and anarchy.

And this starts after a brief bit about Freud about his nephew Edward Bernays, who started to work for the government office of Public Infornation when the US entered WW I. Bernays went - at 26 - to the Peace Conference at the end of WW I. And when he returned to the USA he ¨decided that if you could use propaganda for war, you could certainly use it for peace. And because ¨propaganda¨ had become a bad word because of the Germans using it¨ he invented instead the term ¨Council of Public Relations¨ for his propagandistic efforts.

And he decided to try to move people´s irrational emotions. And Bernays experimented, and his most important experiment was to get women to smoke, which meant overcoming a current prejudice, which he did by selling cigarettes to them as ¨torches of freedom¨ (with lots of advertisements and public campaigns, connected to the statue of liberty, freedom and independence). And he gave them thus their own penises in terms of Freudian theory - in which Bernays believed - plus the illusion that they were free and independent by smoking and buying cigarettes.

Eddy Bernays saw that if you couldn´t sell things intellectually that you would sell if you made the buyers feel better about it (in any normally irrational but associated way, often by advertisements and further propaganda, on film and in papers and magazines).

Until around 1920, most products were sold as necessities satisfying needs of buyers. And then it was decided, quite explicitly, that America must shift from a needs culture to a desires culture, and that is what happened, because desires are for far more things than are needed, and because desires can be manipulated.

And ¨Bernays was the guy, more than anybody else in the USA¨, says Stuart Ewen, ¨who brought psychological theory to the table (which he also was pushing by pushing Freud in the USA). ¨And the message to ordinary people was: You buy things not because you need them but to express your inner self. And thus the first role ordinary people played was no longer that of citizen but that of consumer¨ (because the large majority accepted this).

And this happened in fact - is my addition - because thus they invested their free money into buying things that were suggested and believed would make them feel themselves well, essentially for bullshit and contrived reasons, indeed as with cigarettes for women. This also was represented as self expression: People were ¨themselves¨ through associating themselves in public as upholders of certain shared standards, all of which they had to buy themselves.

Bernays - says a specialist - was the one who connected the idea of a personal and emotional relation to purchasing a product or service: they bought it because it satisfied their desires (namely: to express themselves as so-and-sos) even though these desires were for bullshit reasons (namely: expressing themselves as so-and-sos through products they bought, rather than what they were, and thought, and believed, and wanted themselves).

And thus also the merchandise and sales departments learned to find out what the human mind
desires of products, and worked on a Freudian basis and with methods designed by psychoanalysts.

Bernays also combined politics with his kind of product propaganda, e.g. by selling president Coolidge as a great friend of many famous actors and actresses. And he succeeded in getting Freud´s books translated, published, become first sensational and then accepted, besides helping uncle Siggi to dollars, which Freud both needed and hid.

And Lipmann is mentioned, who believed that men were driven by unconscious forces, and that men are fundamentally irrational and formed ¨a bewilderded herd¨ that needed to be led.  And this would be done by manipulating the unconscious feelings of the masses. And Bernays picked this up by writing a series of books in which he argued that he had developed the very techniques Lippman was calling for.

Bernays felt that ¨the masses needed to be led from above¨ his daugher said: ¨it´s enlightened despotism in a sense¨.

Hoover became president in 1928, and was the first president who accepted consumerism as the center of American life. The new ideal was the consuming self, that was happy and docile, was expressing itself throught its consumptions, and thus created a stable society.

Ewen says Bernays ideas turned democracy into a palliative, that amounted to giving people some feel-good medicine. If you can keep stimulating the irrational self, then leadership can continue to do what it wants to do. (It seems: Basically because they made the people believe that things were other than they are.)

Bernays got extremely rich and quite famous, until the stock market crash of 1929. This is treated, as is the rise of Hitler and the fact that Goebbels liked and was influenced by Bernays.

Then Roosevelt´s New Deal. This is presented as pro strong government, pro rationality, and pro democracy. And they rejected Bernays' and Freud´s views of men. And there is the roll of public opinion - rationally collected, with factual questions - and Gallup is commented: ¨The voice of the people is a rational voice and should be heard¨.

In 1939 there was a huge exposition of Bernays' ideas on the World Fair, which combined ¨democracy¨ and capitalism as if neither could exist without the other.

Ewen: It´s not that the people are in charge, it´s that the people´s desires are in charge.

The people are not in charge. The people do not exercise any decision making power. So democracy is reduced from involving an active citizenry to a public of passive consumers.

And the consumers are driven by unconscious desires, and if you can trigger these, you then can also keep doing what you want.

Part II. The Engineering of Consent

This part about Anna Freud and
Edward Bernays, trying to manipulate the masses so that their barbaric impulses - which they have according to Freud - remain controlled. This was much sponsored by American governments.

The Freudians also succeeded into denying the experiences of soldiers: These were not due to their battle-experiences as soldiers, but due to their primitive irrational feelings in their own childhoods.

And Anna Freud insisted (but never tested) that people should conform and only conformers had strong personalities . And the 1946 Mental Health Act was passed, that lead to many more psychiatrists implementung Freud on a mass scale, and a bit later also trying to mislead consumers.

Then Dichter, the neighbour of Freud developed psychoanalysing groups and find out their preferences: focus groups.

Another Freudian idea: The elites were necessary to teach the masses to be democratic citizens. In fact, this was authoritarianism. It was based on two theses: (i) ordinary men are deeply irrational and (ii) they are vulnerable and can be manipulated to being what the manipulator desired them to be. (But: The elites are as irrational if better educated, and have a strong self-interest to remain the elites.)

And the CIA entered. As did Ewen Cameron, the head of psychiatry in the USA. He thought psychiatry should be everywhere: in politics, in parliaments a.s.o. and should direct everything, because they knew, in a rational and scientific way, what was good for people (rather than the people themselves). Cameron also sought to erase memories and habits and erase everything, and put something new there he had created.

But: ¨In fact, Cameron´s experiments were a complete disaster.¨ ¨Almost all the experiments the CIA had funded were equally unsuccessful.¨

John Gillinger, a psychologist that led the CIA´s psychiatric section:
¨We had been chasing a phantom, an illusion. That the human mind was more capable of manipulation from by outside factors than it is. We found out that the human being is an extremely complex thing. There were no simple solutions. But you have to bear in mind that these were very strange times.¨
¨The Hidden Persuaders¨ was an important book by Vance Packard, that criticized psychoanalysis.

And I grant that - as summarized by Curtis - Marcuse, who also had studied psychoanalysis, made all the right criticisms of Anna Freud. He switched the source of evil from inside the individual to society, and considered society - American capitalism in the 1950ies - evil and corrupting and man basically good, but corruptible.

Also, according to Curtis there was a development of Freudianism in the USA like so:

(i) Freud was popularized by his nephew Edward Bernays
(ii) who said men needed to be controlled and manipulated because they were bad and violent, which
(iii) he also translated to Propaganda aka Public Relations: He sold things by stimulating men´s unconscious desires, while
(iv) Freudianism got widely accepted and popularized.
(v) Freud died in 1939 in London but his daughter Anna took the lead over, and concentrated on psychoanalysing children and on ego psychology, and
(vi) she too insisted men were bad, but could be controlled by learning to conform: only conformed individuals have strong and good personalities, and this can be taught.
(vii) This got quite popular in the 40ies and 50ies, and led to
(viii) strong and well-funded psychiatric experiments, mostly secret, in the 1950ies till 70ies, but in the end
(ix) almost everything completely collapsed because it was based on wholly false assumptions.

And there is a good part of a speech by Martin Luther King, who spoke about being proud to be maladjusted: To racism, to discrimination, to segregation, to poverty in a society of plenitude, and to war.

Part III: There is a policeman inside our heads. He must be destroyed.

This part is about the following:

(i) About the battle between Reich en
Anna Freud, won by the latter,
(ii) about Reich´s madness and his partial therapeutical return through his pupil Fritz Perls in Esalen;
(iii) about Werner Erhard and EST who pretended there is nothing beyond the layers that may be peeled off (but EST was very popular in the 70ies); and
(iv) about ¨the self-actualizers¨, who were at first difficult to get with age, sex, income divisions, but which soon also were classified by SRI as falling into definable groups, and then there also were computers that could produce the things they wanted, and so they too were bought, once known and classified. And thus the eighties mostly went...

I thought this was interesting, but it also was less well developed.

Part IV: Eight people sipping wine in Kettering

This is about "leftish politics" - Clinton and Blair - took over the techniques of selling products to the desires of people that were created, manipulated and controlled by propaganda (about what they were and wanted, and what society was like, and how one ought to live, think, want and do) but forgot - so Curtis says, at least - these techniques were designed to control people.

This starts with Bernays; the rise of gigantic systems of ¨public relations¨ that sought out what people wanted; and with their main tool: focus groups. And these were also used by Clinton to win his second presidency: He adapted his message to please the voters that made a difference.

This ends with Bernays, who could not believe that the masses could be left to themselves: they needed to be manipulated, because they were driven by primitive and dangerous drives, as uncle Siggi also held, and he also never believed in real democracy, but only in a manipulated society, with people reduced to consumers who were given what they wanted or were controlled. (Stuart Ewen) ¨It is not that the people are in charge, but that the people desire that they are in charge.  The people are not in charge. The people exercise no decision making power in this environment. So democracy is reduced from something that assumes an active citizenry that now is interpreted as meaning that the public are passive consumers. What the public is delivered are essentially doggy treats.¨

There is now the dominant Freud-inspired view of man as an irrational being driven by dark and primitive forces, and this view has been supported by the big corporations, especially because their manipulations, that are based on psychological researches inspired by psychoanalysis, produce ideal consumers. (Incidentally: This is again enormously improved with internet.)

We, like our politicians, have become the slaves of our desires. We have forgotten that we can be more than that, that there are other sides to human nature.

Robert Reich: Fundamentally, here we have two different views of human nature and of democracy. You have the view that people are irrational, that they are bundles of unconscious emotions, that comes directly out of Freud, and businesses are very able to respond to that. That´s what they have honed their skills to, that is what marketing is really all about. What are the pictures, the music, the symbols, the images that will appeal to these unconscious impulses. Politics must be more than that. Politics and leadership are about engaging the public in a rational discussion and deliberation about what is best and treating people with respect in terms of their rational abilities to debate the question of what is best.

On "The Century of the Self" - 2

This continues the above section, but uses the overview of "The Century of the Self" that is OK:

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, changed our perception of the mind and its workings. The documentary explores the various ways that governments and corporations have used Freud's theories. Freud and his nephew Edward Bernays, who was the first to use psychological techniques in public relations, are discussed in part one. His daughter Anna Freud, a pioneer of child psychology, is mentioned in part two. Wilhelm Reich, an opponent of Freud's theories, is discussed in part three.

To many in politics and business, the triumph of the self is the ultimate expression of democracy, where power has finally moved to the people. Certainly, the people may feel they are in charge, but are they really? The Century of the Self tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society. How was the all-consuming self created, by whom, and in whose interests?

Along these lines, The Century of the Self asks deeper questions about the roots and methods of consumerism and commodification and their implications. It also questions the modern way people see themselves, the attitudes to fashion, and superficiality.

The business and political worlds use psychological techniques to read, create and fulfill the desires of the public, and to make their products and speeches as pleasing as possible to consumers and voters. Curtis questions the intentions and origins of this relatively new approach to engaging the public.

Where once the political process was about engaging people's rational, conscious minds, as well as facilitating their needs as a group, Stuart Ewen, a historian of public relations, argues that politicians now appeal to primitive impulses that have little bearing on issues outside the narrow self-interests of a consumer society.

The words of Paul Mazur, a leading Wall Street banker working for Lehman Brothers in 1927, are cited: "We must shift America from a needs- to a desires-culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. [...] Man's desires must overshadow his needs."

In part four the main subjects are Philip Gould, a political strategist, and Matthew Freud, a PR consultant and the great-grandson of Sigmund Freud. In the 1990s, they were instrumental to bringing the Democratic Party in the US and New Labour in the United Kingdom back into power through use of the focus group, originally invented by psychoanalysts employed by US corporations to allow consumers to express their feelings and needs, just as patients do in psychotherapy.

Curtis ends by saying that, "Although we feel we are free, in reality, we—like the politicians—have become the slaves of our own desires," and compares Britain and America to 'Democracity', an exhibit at the 1939 New York World's Fair created by Edward Bernays.  

And this is the beginning of the item consumerism on Wikipedia:

Consumerism is a social and economic order and ideology that encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts. With the industrial revolution, but particularly in the 20th century, mass production led to an economic crisis: there was overproduction – the supply of goods would grow beyond consumer demand, and so manufacturers turned to planned obsolescence and advertising to increase consumer spending. Early criticism of consumerism was in the works of Thorstein Veblen in 1899, which examined the middle class emerging at the turn of the 20th century, which came to fruition by the end of the 20th century through the process of globalization.

In economics, "consumerism" may refer to economic policies which emphasise consumption. In an abstract sense, it is the consideration that the free choice of consumers should strongly orient the choice by manufacturers of what is produced and how, and therefore orient the economic organization of a society (compare producerism, especially in the British sense of the term). In this sense, consumerism expresses the idea not of "one man, one voice", but of "one dollar, one voice", which may or may not reflect the contribution of people to society.

This is the beginning of the item commodification:

Commodification is the transformation of goods, services, ideas and people into commodities, or objects of trade. A commodity at its most basic, according to Arjun Appadurai, is "any thing intended for exchange," or any object of economic value. People are commodified—turned into objects—when working, by selling their labour on the market to an employer. One of its forms is slavery. Others are, the trading with animals and body parts through formalised or informalised organ transplant.

Commodification is often criticised on the grounds that some things ought not to be treated as commodities—for example education, data, information and knowledge in the digital age.

In fact, I also looked at the lemmas "fashion" and "superficiality", but these were respectively not good and very bad.

As to commodification: It is - of course - especially about making people into commodities, and indeed they are made commodities in one sense by having to work (which millionaires and their children all can completely avoid).

But in fact much more is involved, namely making the people into consumers who spend their free money on commodities that satisfy their illusory and deluded  desires, that they acquired by viewing and reading propaganda, advertisements, and intentionally misleading lies and misrepresentations of things and properties. And the lies and propaganda that they are misled with is based on extensive market research, focus groups, personal interviews etc. which is mostly intended to find out what the people want unconsciously, in terms of their desires, rather than their needs. (And when these desires are found out, products are associated with these desires, just like Bernays - completely arbitrarily - associated smoking cigarettes with freedom and independence, and with the illusion that smoking meant one is free and independent.)

And the fundamental objection to that is that all of this is based on very intentional and very extensive lying and misrepresentations and radical and falsified simplifications of things, of people, of selfs, of groups, of groupthinking, of values, of society and of reality.

And it is a fact that nearly all things that are sold, these days at least, have some propaganda and advertisements associated with them, while some things - that are especially popular or especially profitable - have a lot of
propaganda and advertisements associated with them (and that all propaganda and all advertisements are based ion lying or on deceiving: if these are not straight lies they are at least deceptive about some of the real qualities and costs of the things advertised).


[1]I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!). 

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