There is a passage in C. S. Lewis’ novel That Hideous Strength (published in 1945) that foreshadows the media manipulation going on today. I’ll begin with some background from my post Genealogies of Straw?
The narrator in C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy novel tells us about one of the central characters Mark Studdock. He is a young academic, a sociologist, and a member of the Progressive Element at Bracton College. He is an ambitious, self-centered and shallow intellectual who has come into the service of the National Institute of Coordinated Sciences (NICE). He believes NICE will serve the best interest of humanity through progress at any cost. Once he stopped hemming and hawing about joining the organization he is welcomed into the inner circle. But he soon finds that he has committed himself to a which plans to re-do humanity by force so that only the best humans (in NICE’s view) remain. He is made aware that the tentacles of the organization are growing.
Before the passage I quote below we learn that Mark is pressured to write newspaper articles that conceal what N.I.C.E. is up to. At one point he questions Miss Hardcastle, the sadistic leader of the N.I.C.E.’s corrupt police force, about which newspaper – “Left or Right” –is going to print the “rot” he is being asked to write. Miss Hardcastle answers.
“Both, honey, both,” said Miss Hardcastle. “Don’t you understand anything? Isn’t it absolutely essential to keep a fierce Left and a fierce Right, both on their toes and terrified of each other? That’s how we get things done. Any opposition to the N.I.C.E. is represented as a Left racket in the Right papers and a Right racket in the Left papers. If it’s properly done, you get each side outbidding the other in support of us – to refute enemy slanders. Of course we’re non-political. The real power always is.”
“I don’t believe you can do that,” said Mark. “Not with the papers that are read by educated people.”
“That shows you are still in the nursery, lovey,” said Miss Hardcastle. “Haven’t you realized that it’s the other way around?”
“How do you mean?”
“Why you fool, it’s the educated reader who can be gulled. All our difficulty comes with others. When did you meet a workman who believes the papers? He takes for granted that they’re all propaganda and skips the leading articles. He buys his paper for the football results and the little paragraphs about girls falling out of windows and corpses found in the Mayfair flats. He is our problem. We have to recondition him. But the educated public, the people who read the high-brow weeklies, don’t need reconditioning. They’re all right already. They’ll believe anything.”
Mark, the academic sociologist, balks at such an inference. And Hardcastle responds “…Don’t you see that the educated reader can’t stop reading the high-brow weeklies whatever they do? He can’t. He’s been conditioned.”
Anyone who spends time reading and watching the media, and I presume a large portion of the population here in the U.S does, is susceptible to its manipulation. Is this news to anyone? TV commercials and internet popup adverts are created to manipulate the viewer and reader to go after what is being offered, or to at least carry a jingle and a phone number and an image around in their head. Subliminal manipulation is used constantly to sway thinking.
Similar manipulative influence is used by Progressive Element’s TV news/political opinion programs and on its news and opinion websites where news is swapped for narrative. The talking heads of these shows and websites hope to affix their narrative in the minds of the viewer and reader with an endless repetition of lies, innuendos, slander, and charged words: “Racist!” Sexist!” “Homophobe!” “Islamophobe!” “Nazi!”. These words are intended to produce hate for the ‘enemies’ of the Progressive Element’s agenda. It induces an effect on the viewer and reader not unlike those who take part in INGSOC’s Two Minutes Hate as described in George Orwell’s 1984 (published in 1949).
The Progressive Element’s desired outcome-based control of others using terror and ideological fiction is characteristic of totalitarianism. This manifestation of political evil is not new nor Progressive. It is characteristic of what came before as expressed by Hannah Arendt in her 1951 Origins of Totalitarianism. Arendt, a German-born American political scientist and philosopher wrote about the horrific events of her own day: the totalitarian regimes of Soviet Stalinism and the rise of Nazi Germany that brought about the annihilation of millions. Referring to the citizenry who allowed such horrors, Arendt found a “mixture of gullibility and cynicism… is prevalent in all ranks of totalitarian movements”. And, so was lying. Here are three quotes coming out of Hannah Arendt’s understanding of the forces at work during those times to de-legitimize truth and to de-humanize the hearer:
Why the constant, often blatant lying? For one thing, it functioned as a means of fully dominating subordinates, who would have to cast aside all their integrity to repeat outrageous falsehoods and would then be bound to the leader by shame and complicity.
In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and nothing was true… The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness.
The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth and truth be defamed as a lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world—and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end—is being destroyed.
The talking head’s mocking and sneering of the ‘enemy’ is echoed in social media by the viewers of Sixty Minutes Hate. Internalized totalitarianism, often disguised as a push for social justice, demands control of the conversation, of people’s thoughts, of people’s behavior and of people’s property. With terror-mongering (e.g., “The world will end in 12 years if we don’t do something about climate change”; “Democracy will end if we don’t wrest control of it from those in power”) and with endless repetition one’s understanding of reality is swapped for the socially constructed reality. Shadow banning on social media sites is meant to keep opinions opposed to the Progressive Element’s agenda out of sight and mind.
“Apart from the massacres, deaths and famines for which communism was responsible, the worst thing about the system was the official lying: that is to say the lying in which everyone was forced to take part, by repetition, assent or failure to contradict. I came to the conclusion that the purpose of propaganda in communist countries was not to persuade, much less to inform, but to humiliate and emasculate.”
Big tech uses societal manipulation. Machine Learning Fairness algorithms are used by Google to put Google’s thumb on the scale of searches in order to skew search outcomes toward the social justice their narrative demands. Enter “Men can” and “Women can” into the Google home page and see what immediately shows up. Men are portrayed negatively or neutral and even as being able to have babies. Women are shown as compassionate and as powerful corporate and civic leaders – positively. One can imagine what Google’s Machine Learning Fairness algorithm does to skew political and cultural (the LGBTQ in particular) searches.
No matter where you lie on the political spectrum you will want to listen to the video and read the research of Dr. Robert Epstein, Why Google Poses a Serious Threat to Democracy, and How to End That Threat. Beyond newspapers, you and I are being manipulated by the princes of the power of the air – Big Tech. Dr. Epstein stated at the senate community hearing that Google’s manipulation affected a range of a minimum of 2.6 million to 10.4 million votes in favor of Hillary Clinton.
Liberal Professor Warns: Google Manipulating Voters ‘on a Massive Scale’
You can be sure that what comes out of Hollywood is societal manipulation. The entertainment you watch is manipulated. You are taking in pagan and Progressive notions of life meant to shape your world view. One example: 7 Moments That Made ‘Frozen’ the Most Progressive Disney Movie Ever
Because of the incessant and ubiquitous manipulation impelling one to follow the course of this world, because , the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:1-3) to produce hatred, vindictiveness, greed and a lust for power, a follower of Christ must set their mind on things above (Col. 3:1-2) to gain their bearings in this world. One way to deal with the manipulative narrative is to do what Jesus did to Peter when Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him. Jesus rebuked Peter: Get behind me Satan! You’re trying to trip me up! You’re not looking at things like God does! You’re looking at things like a mere mortal!” Jesus put his Father’s words in front of him and put man’s manipulative narrative – avoid pain, suffering and death – behind him.
The father of lies has been around since the Garden of Eden. He lies and he wants you to be a party to his lies. The Evil One is behind manipulative narratives as Jesus makes clear when he denounces the Judeans and their narrative, one of evoking their Abrahamic lineage as proof of the rightness of their narrative.
“You are from your father – the devil! And you’re eager to get on with what he wants. He was a murderer from the beginning, and he’s never remained in the truth, because there is no truth in him, because he is a liar – in fact, he’s the father of lies!” (Jn 8:44)
The teachers of the law and the religious leaders in Jesus’ day wanted to control the narrative of what the law said, how it was to be applied, and of who had say-so with regard to the law. They clearly had expectations of a Messiah who would overthrow the Romans and of a man as not as repulsive as John the Baptist and of a man not as conciliatory as Jesus. Truth showed up one day in the marketplace and revealed their manipulative narrative (Matt. 11;15-17) regarding John the Baptist and of himself:
“If you’ve got ears, then listen!
“What picture shall I give you for this generation? Asked Jesus. “It’s like a bunch of children sitting in the town square, and singing songs to each other. This is how it goes:
‘You didn’t dance when we played the flute;
You didn’t cry when we sang the dirge!’
The narrative of the teachers of the law and the religious leaders clearly had its expectations. And when those expectations were not met the crowd would have Jesus crucified. The same deference to popularized and propagandized narratives with expectations based on ideological fiction is true now. And the same totalitarian impulse, like in Stalin’s and Hitler’s time and, today, within the Progressive Element, desires that you be in the thrall of their narrative, to dance to its music and to sing its songs. And in servitude to Big Brother’s narrative you will soon hear “‘You dance when we say dance! You sing when we say sing! Or, else! for totalitarianism and the evil behind it are never satisfied. Both seek to control outcomes with lies and manipulation and then with force.