When economic and political conditions in your nation-state are declining, you have a couple options: you can either face up to the crisis and make the changes necessary that could make recovery possible, or you go through an extensive messaging campaign to portray decline as advance.
One of the more reliable methods — used extensively by 20th century states — is to attempt to make inferior substitutions appear to be better than original superior product. In this way, you try to portray something like plastics which leak some chemical or another into food as superior to cheap glass or clay containers. Another example would be portraying cheap grain-based diets as healthier than diets high in fat, because the governing system has an easier time producing the former in the quantity desired by the masses.
Similarly, the new ‘digital’ culture, pushed most strongly in the United States, has been portrayed as superior to the old ‘bigoted’ culture in the territory which was destroyed by various misguided social and legal innovations like Civil Rights. You might not be able to walk downtown Baltimore safely at night anymore, but you can chat with people anytime you like on a portable super-telegraph that you can carry around with you.
Instead of owning equity in a home in a neighborhood that you can be reasonably confident will appreciate over time — given a stable legal order that respects property rights — any investment into real property is likely to be either interfered with or expropriated somehow. Either some politically connected buyer will be super-empowered with paper money to devalue your investments, some government agency will move bandits into your neighborhood, or the factory in your town will be shuttered by the EPA for environmental violations and the DOL for improper management practices, which will then depress the value of your real investments.
Modern propaganda is largely an exercise in misdirection — getting people to pay attention to irrelevant things to massage away discontent or nervousness about the stability and long term prospects of the regime. Certain groups of prestigious people, like bankers, are even paid to lie about financial conditions, to make them seem better than they really are.
Accounting structures are, everywhere and always, highly manipulable without extensive legal control and supervision. States have, always and typically, tended to play fast and loose with these structures. It’s the abnormal society that can support a state which mostly keeps accurate books, because usually the temptation is to fool with them to gain some advantage or another.
When faced with a troublesome reality, propagandists will often make simple matters appear to be more complex than they really are. They’ll bring up irrelevant facts & issues, play games with numbers, and otherwise make it difficult to have a straight conversation.
Ultimately, though, narratives don’t really collapse — institutions do. Before Saddam’s government fell, his PR guy was still doing his job up until the last hour of the last day. What the PR guy says is irrelevant compared to whether or not the people propping up the regime believe what the PR guy says.
Blogs of War had a pointer to this. https://medium.com/the-bridge/understand-to-effectively-engage-in-the-war-of-ideas-a2a5f90e97fd Fighting the Narrative: Understand to Effectively Engage in the War of Ideas
This is probably a minor point, but to say “narratives don’t really collapse” isn’t quite right. They certainly do collapse (or maybe I misunderstand the point). Propagandists will usually stick to the narrative regardless of the opposing evidence, and despite every other indicator showing otherwise.
Kind of reminds me of present day feminists. They stick to the narrative of men as oppressors (presumably that narrative pays well), despite men now lagging women on virtually every metric available (and many they lag women by an order of magnitude). Yet still the narrative persists.
I’d say its reality that never collapses.
“The problem with progressivism is that reality doesn’t progress — only narratives do” – Mark Yuray (Social Matter)
Kate Minter says
Stopping by to say thanks for your inspiring writing and for being personally supportive. Change is coming, perhaps both locally and nationally. Is there a presidential candidate neoreaction is backing? Getting on the Perry bus, here.
Mark Citadel says
Any form of Reactionary politics is inherently against democratic politics. The failure of Conservatism to conserve anything is indicative of the fact that democracy as it stands will never yield the desired state of affairs. Reaction has always been an anti-democratic movement.
Kate Minter says
Kate, neoreaction is beyond politics. The ruling class in this country isn’t really elected, and those elected are selected to do the bidding of the ruling class. I came of age in the Reagan days. I was full of hope that finally things were turned in the right direction. I was wrong. No “right wing” or “conservative” politician has done anything to stop the juggernaut that is leftism.
Not the Reagan Revolution. Not Gingrich and the ’94 Republican congress. Not all the referenda against “Gay marriage”. When conservatives win at the polls they are ignored. When leftists win it is taken as a sign of the will of the people. It’s a rigged game.
Kate Minter says
Steve Johnson says
…and if an elected official actually tries to take on the permanent government in any way they lose. Nixon directly tried it. McCarthy nibbled on the edges (his foolishness was thinking that American communism was due men being Soviet agents).
At this point no one even tries to actually win an election and run the USG. It runs itself.
Is Cthulthu equivalent to Leviathan? IOW, the permanent “apparat” which has incorporated “Progressivism” into it’s monstrous parasitic existence? There will be no change until the financial collapse. There does seem to be a divide between the neocon apparat and the welfare apparat jousting for control- will the schizophrenia of “reality is defined in our minds” lead to some backlash within the PC crazies? Will we be lucky enough to have some future “Yeltsin” from preventing the troops from firing on the crowds? White Christian culture pockets can only be ready to break away if that happens; we are such a tiny minority today that our future looks like “fodder for the Circuses”: grim thoughts today.
Mark Citadel says
“You might not be able to walk downtown Baltimore safely at night anymore, but you can chat with people anytime you like on a portable super-telegraph that you can carry around with you.”
This may prove to be a seminal quote. Accurately describes the realities of a decay masked by technological progress. People don’t even realize all that is being lost. The very glue that holds society together is being dissolved and replaced with a .jpeg image of glue.
This is one of our standard themes.