A revisit of dinnerparty-stasi and Old Shock
Dutch version: http://verenoflood.nu/organische-propaganda
The PVV is consistently leading the polls. Throughout all of Europe, we can witness how the trust in the establishment is falling due to the establishment’s hostility towards its own people. Considering the downwards spiral over the past ten to twenty years, it has taken a remarkably long time for this public opinion shift to come about. What makes the culture of denial so strong? On organic propaganda.
Consider the BBC. The current, blatant propaganda is obvious. Feigned confusion over the common thread in Merkel’s summer of terror, or excusing Saudi oppression of women (on women’s day, of all times), are obvious enough now the people have learned to be sceptical. But it is the media-climate that went before these ludicrous spins that warrants our attention if we are to understand how the public mind was shackled. The BBC is an especially striking example herein. The power of BBC propaganda was its organic nature.
It’s remarkable how the BBC, with its strong leftist bias, embarked on a free-market approach to propaganda, and what a contrast this is compared to Stalinist indoctrination. Stalinist, top-down directed propaganda is straightforward and transparent. To work, it will need a naïve population and a ruling religion or ideology it can align itself with. Consider the church-supported monarch of pre-enlightenment Europe. Erdogan’s Islamist-Nationalism. Stalinism; with its poster and its boot. The poster for the new convert; the boot for the new heretic.
The power of organic propaganda lies, as with the free market, in its appeal to personal motivations. In people who want to believe it. After all, to lie convincingly, one must first deceive oneself. This results in a propaganda machine as multi-faceted as the number of people it consists of. Including the people it convinces. It may be the case only one conclusion is accepted, but the opinions and reasoning leading to this conclusion are as diverse as the people it deceives and seeks to deceive. Add to this that the entire machinery wants to believe the presented conviction, and our innate skill to detect lies and truth in body language might override our objective observations. The conviction of the masses convinces the masses of its conviction. Compare this to the hamfisted droning on about the dear leader in the DKPR, and the need for an oppressive boot and external enemies becomes evident. It is as if Stalinism confuses the organic nature of a society with engineered machinery. It tries to play physics with something organic. It sees humans, the cells of the organism that is society, as atoms. State-propaganda could be seen as the attempt to by-pass the evolution of public-opinion, to artificially engineer an organism. A micro-management of the public-mind.
The example of the BBC includes change in gradations. What does the journey towards self-elected, national clergy look like? How can a, on the surface objective, media giant become a propaganda machine against the very people who finance it?
In business, the main purpose will be to make money. What of an organisation that has a set income? The BBC should be lauded for its high production standards; in these terms their conviction certainly was to produce excellence. But what should be expected if there is any political leaning in an organisation, one that doesn’t have the necessity of profit to keep its priorities straight? Perhaps the subjective nature of taste and creativity set a metamorphosis in motion. How did the producer determine who would be the greatest asset to the team? Who would fit in, who should be promoted? Such decisions rely on the personal judgement of the producers. Someone with a similar opinion will just feel a tad easier to work with, might appear just a bit more “sensible”. Would an individual not gain a significant advantage by having “the right” political opinions? If we imagine the most rigid dedication to objectivity, not only in programming, but in internal hiring and promotion as well, political leaning will only shift the balance as far as it plays a subconscious role. But it only needs to play this role enough to shift the organisation a bit further; if it manages this, the result will be a shift in the norm, a shift in the presumed middle ground. The shift should increase exponentially as the same process happens again, the political leaning drifting ever further into the well-known echo-chamber situation. Should we expect otherwise? If you are convinced your position is JUST and the opposition is BACKWARDS, not using your position to further your political cause must feel like a sin. In theory, an organisation can be completely objective despite an internal political conviction, but what is objective about politics? Brexit showed us how the “neutral” perception of the BBC and its audience was no longer the reality of the wider British public.
Particularly invested in the BBC-opinion block is a segment of the British art-world. It is tempting to make allusions to a lack of critical thinking or being ruled be emotion, which could make artists an easy target for propaganda and feel-good politics. But the issue of arts-financing might be a better point to raise. Not the banal point that artists are bought to march along, pencil and flute in hand, towards the delicate promised land of elegance. Consider the aforementioned process, in which moral and political conviction inside an organisation play their parts, even without planning, without deliberation (and how much more if there is). Once there is no internal resistance to a world view, it will then begin the journey towards a moral cause beyond question. Again, with such moral conviction, it must feel like a sin not to use the organisation as a political tool.
Offering an artist financing to promote a political opinion is ridiculous, that’s what advertisers are for. It would carry with it the obvious risk of public exposure. In reality, artists aren’t even collectively left-leaning. The power is in the role of patron of the arts. Art is still associated with sophistication, elegance and success; it is tasteful status. An association comes into existence between art and the organisation. Art does not need to be made explicitly for the political cause; it is implicitly part of the cause through the platform. The flower of civilisation as weapon; a venomous thorn on the rose, to drown the realm in drowsiness. But sleep can’t shield us from rape and torturous murder.
Through this elegant status, a “correct” opinion is formed. A safe body of thought to join. A body of thought, in which hollow sentiments are applauded. Mediocrity, through the right channels, will be hailed as insightful commentary. No one can exploit such a system of platitudes and banality better than an entertainer. It is their profession to play into people’s perceptions. To win people over. And theirs is a field of work with insane competition. Opinion and bread become one. Let me repeat the point about old shock:
There’s been much noise about the left falsely labeling anyone opposite as nazi, fascist, far-right, xenophobe, “literally” Hitler and presumably the reason dinosaurs went extinct. It is the boring pretense we are living in 1930’s Germany, which is apparently is evident in 1950’s values, which of course hardly exist anymore. A comedy routine which might have been “3edgy5me” in the 1960’s doesn’t really challenge any norm today. If anything, it ENFORCES the norm. The odd thing is when such routines are hailed as if they’re a daring social critique.
I suspect it’s not about challenging anything. And I suspect reaffirming the group-think isn’t all there is too it either. What I suspect makes this mode of comedy appealing, beyond the jokes, is the nostalgia. The wish that there still WAS a cohesive society to rail against. If comedy is a vehicle for social critique, the audience is loaded into a Volkswagen-van and driven all the way back to a fantasy-era.
The problem with that is that the “new” ideals from yore have seeped into so many aspects of life, via an organic propaganda, that they were never adapted to the new resulting realities. Louis CK:
I’m white, which, thank God for that shit boy. That is a huge leg up, are you kidding me? Oh God, I love being white. I really do. Seriously, if you’re not white you’re missing out because this shit is thoroughly good. But, let me be clear by the way, I’m not saying that white people are better. I’m saying that being white is clearly better, I mean who could even argue? If it was an option I would re-up every year
‘Oh yeah, I’ll take white again. I’m enjoying that, I’m gonna stick with white thank you.’
Here’s how great it is to be white; I could get in a time machine, and go to ANY time, and it would be fucking awesome when I get there! That is exclusively a white privilege! Black people can’t fuck with time machines! A black guy in a time machine’s like
‘Hey, anything before 1980, no thank you. I don’t wanna go.’
But I can go to any time! The year two? I don’t even know what was happening then! But I know when I get there
‘Welcome, we have a table right here for you sir.’
‘Thank you, oh it’s lovely here in the year two.’
I can go to any time… In the past, I don’t wanna go to the future and find out what happens to white people, because we’re gonna pay hard for this shit, you know that. (laughs) We’re not just going to fall from number one to two, they’re going to hold us down and fuck us in the ass forever. And we totally deserve it. But for now, WHEEEEEE!
“they’re going to hold us down and fuck us in the ass forever” Well, he managed to be prophetic while dodging each and every chance to be profound. In Rotherham and all throughout the UK mainly white girls have been subjected to long periods of gang-rape and forced child-prostitution. It was enforced with threats to beburned alive, threats to their family and control via heroin. The total number of victims come to a million girls, according to some estimates. Consider the rape-epidemic in Sweden. The attempt to silence the New Years eve mass sexual assault, in Cologne and other cities. These were not prevented because of decades of enforced self-hatred. It went unopposed because the victims were mainly white, and the perpetrators mainly non-white Muslims. It is precisely via entertainment and cultural means that this mindset of denial became so endemic.
You know, if you’re white and you don’t admit that it’s great, you’re an asshole. It is great.
And I’m a man, how many advantages could one person have? I’m a white man! You can’t even hurt my feelings! What can you really call a white man that really digs in?
‘Uh, ruined my day. Boy. Shouldn’t have called me a cracker. Bringing me back to owning land and people. What a drag.’
A reminder that any white person has it great BECAUSE they are white, which is proven because Louis has it easy. Curious is the spin on “cracker”. The slur means your ancestors used to whip and own slaves. This is not as uplifting to some as it appears to be for Louis. This narrative of “blood-guilt”, victimhood and oppression doesn’t appear to have made matters any better in the States. This ignorance of history in general is rife. The Barbary slave trade is only slowly being reinserted into the public over the past year and a half. It might have been a good idea to highlight it was the “evil” West which pressured the Ottomans into ending black slavery, at least officially. Some honesty about how remarkable it is that the West and “whites” pushed for change not always in their own self-interest. Instead, the self-interest of some to end slavery in the United States has been put forward as if it indicates self-interest of the whole. Louis and his ilk extrapolate this miscomprehension unto the whole of history.
Despite how some of his fans hail him as a contemporary George Carlin, Louis CK might just be out to make his audience laugh. He excels at his trade. It could be that it simply doesn’t occur to him to challenge the new norm in his quest for laughs. His comparison of Trump to Hitler certainly is comedy gold. It is hilarious, because cowardly comedians who fail to challenge the norm is exactly the hole Trump filled.
It is tempting to cross the pond in a Yellow Submarine, but the next example has old shock without the nostalgia. People familiar with Stewart Lee will know he went through a phase of not having any funny material. Not having real jokes is the point. Jokes are beneath him. There’s an odour of cigarettes, stale beer and sweat surrounding jokes. The joke-comedian classes smell. By accident or design, this was a great way to attract an audience desperate for validation. An audience desperate for their safe, political opinions to be considered brave, progressive and pushing the boundaries.
Lee’s idiom is a Chomskyist hatred for America and his own nation. Instead of hiding behind a persona that does the hating for him, he skilfully uses his persona to sketch scenarios where the last vestiges of disgust; defecation, genitalia and anuses, are associated with anything American or national. So strong is his desire for a nationalist, bigoted own society to rail against, that he isn’t going to wait for actual bigotry. He doesn’t need nostalgia for a time when national pride was strong. The own nation and culture are evil in and of themselves, it seems. This is reflected in the almost sadistic delight he takes verbally defecating on anything English or American. He does this through performance rather than content, as is his trademark. He does this via his cat, Jeremy Corbyn, as well, which came dangerously close to being humorous content.
Stewart Lee is immensely skilled at rebelling against the powerless. He even enticed Christianity, a belief so openly mocked its hide should be a shell at this point, to try and invoke blasphemy laws on a show he co-wrote. But the glaringly obvious point must be made: where is the solidarity with those under the life-long threat of murder? Why lampoon the idea of anti-Islam comedy? Why try to suggest Tim Minchin’s song about suicide bombers is all the counter-balance one would expect for the diatribes aimed at anything Western? Why comment on the world, if you choose to ignore it?
Which brings us to Dara O’Briain. There’s not much to say. His point that we wouldn’t know what to laugh at, because (at the time) people would not have known much about Islam falls flat when we remember his taking down of homeopathy. I had no idea what that kind of bullshit homeopaths claimed, but the very jokes he used explained enough to be funny. Which brand of bullshit has led to more suffering? Most people seem to assume he is merely (rationally) afraid of Islamic violence. Why not simply admit it, as Jimmy Carr so cleverly worked into comedy? Consider how O’Briain worked his reaction into his routine. To treat Islam equally is not done, and it certainly won’t help a BBC career.
From Louis’ and Dara’s comedy for the masses to Stewart’s act for the snob, all the way to the art-consumer. The norm, the opinion-block, is enforced again and again when the public relaxes, when people lower their guard. People who don’t think about it, people without the time or means for reflection, lazy people and stupid people, consumed regurgitated opinions. The correct opinion became absolute. Always ready as an axe to chop down dissent in social situations. The wrong remark could result in sleepless nights. People placed themselves under the reign of a diner-party-Stasi.
This reign is weakening. The reality has been too far removed, for too long, from the mandatory opinions. The comedian making a jibe at UKIP, is too clearly out to score easy applause. The inability to imagine someone might disagree is nothing less than hubris. It has cost the regressives the necessary ingredient of their propaganda: they no longer believe their own lie. And powerful as their propaganda may have been (and still is) compared to Stalinist propaganda, the metamorphosis from sandal to boot crashes in the face of freedom of speech, such as remains. And a precious thing it is. Because after the poster the boot will come. Dutch police have knocked on doors about anti-migrant posts, Brits have been locked up over tweets, or been given community service for facebook-posts.
Considering the severity of such examples, despite everything, I expected more noise from the BBC. Until recently I was naive enough to believe the BBC could still save itself; to recognise their excellent documentaries on art and nature deserve better than to be political-venom. As of yet, Brits are forced to finance hostile propaganda, and receive nothing in return but entertainment Soma.
 True in one sense; a person is the smallest particle of a society. Islamic states appear eager to test further dividing these society-atoms, but it has not yet resulted in a comparable social atomic-theory (though explosions should not be ruled out.)