OPINION: Huxley and Trump’s propaganda machine
In 1949, we read a futuristic novel by Aldous Huxley called “Brave New World.” It presents an appalling picture of society as it descends into a totalitarian, manipulated world controlled through technically advanced propaganda machinery. Huxley was sounding an urgent alarm about the potential of a totalitarian state.
These days much interest in America and the world is focused on the president in Washington, D.C. Increasingly one hears talk about the power of an authoritarian who is not interested in our nation’s fundamental principles. There is concern and alarm about the trashing of our democratic principles. The brilliant system of checks and balances called for in the Constitution is demeaned and endangered.
By mid-May a series of shocking developments occurred culminating in the president’s reckless sharing with Russia of some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets. It was seen as impulsive and reckless and an historic breach of security by a president. Still, there was a circling of the wagons and a vigorous effort to minimize the treasonous break. As in earlier events there was a strong striking back at critics who, in their talking points included Hillary partisans, paid demonstrators, fraudulent voters, Eastern elites and anarchistic hot heads.
Throughout the federal government concern is rapidly growing that those occupying the “People’s House” are reversing years of inter-governmental cooperation, trashing entire highly-regarded agencies, reversing established scientific and medical norms and commercializing and despoiling lands long held in public trust. They are doing all they can to derail all recent moves toward a more just and civil society.
With the help of the Constitutionally protected free press this rolling train-wreck for democracy is being played out in public day by day. But, we’re in a frustrating pickle and it isn’t clear how we are going to get out of it. Anxiously, people are asking How could this highly improbable turn of events come about? Which takes us back to the Huxley’s Brave New World.
Huxley had written the book a couple of years before Hitler’s rapid rise and surging, widespread popularity in Germany. After WWII, Huxley was deeply worried that a total dictatorship could so easily be installed. He worried that it could happen again. He searched for the answers in Hitler’s writings and principles. He examined the basic techniques Hitler had embraced on how to take over a population.
A few points will get the idea across. They have been slightly edited. (The full quotes can be found in “Brave New World Revisited,” Harper & Brothers, U.S., 1958). Hitler’s insights into popular acclaim are not complicated.
· Ordinary people don’t care about any fact outside the circle of their immediate experience and they believe anything you tell them;
· Assemble your followers by the tens of thousands, in vast halls where individuals can lose their personal identity, even their elementary humanity, and be merged with the crowd;
· Ideas should be confined to a few bare necessities. Constant repetition will succeed in imprinting the crowd’s memory.
The heart of the rules is advanced communication. This was underscored when, after World War II at the Nuremberg trials of Hitler’s top-level followers, Albert Speer, Hitler’s Minister for Armaments and one of the dictator’s closest advisors, explained Hitler’s rapid and phenomenal success. He said that this was the first dictatorship which made “complete use of all technical means for domination through radio, film and the loudspeaker. With the apparatus of public communicating in place, 80 million people were deprived of independent thought.” Thus, concluded Speer, it became “possible to subject nearly the entire population to the will of one man.” And that was before twitter, Facebook and the world wide web.
Today’s media is a thousand times more efficient than it was in the 1930s. Under Trump, the communications industry is likely to be unleashed by the Federal Communications Commission freeing broadcasters to gobble up as many broadcasting sources as possible. Virtually nationwide coverage by single companies would be feasible. Today, one owner alone controls over 170.station. If Albert Speer were around he would likely say that such a policy would be very helpful in making us all subject to “the will of one man.”
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