Intentional Propaganda

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(Below are three responses to my previous essay.  My responses are in italics.)

N.’s Response:


I just read your paper with great interest.  You make a number of important points.  However, you say repeatedly that not every group needs to follow all of the 10 steps [required according to] to be successful.  However, you never give any support for that opinion.  You may be right about that, but I wish that you would give specific details showing which steps can be omitted and why?  You indicate that various movements have been successful in the past without using all these principles.  But I believe those so-called successes have only been partially successful.  The reason for that may be that they have not followed all of the points B. has used.




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“Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.” -Assata Shakur.

While I am certainly not qualified to compose a proper tribute to Sandra Bland, I am qualified as a social psychologist to analyze some elements of #BlackLivesMatter in relation to Individual Evolution1. In order for either to impact societal change, it will be necessary for both to be revolutionary. In this case, revolution implies change. Whether it is gradual or immediate depends upon the need and the circumstances. Political minorities have been programmed into subservience for centuries via a political majority fueled by institutionalized racism utilizing propaganda promoting the idea that if they do what they are taught, what they are told, and what is demanded of them, they will receive fair treatment, equality, and integration with that political majority. In other words, if they play nice, institutionalized racism will eventually disappear. That has not happened, and it will never happen unless it is demanded as forcefully as possible and racism is deinstitutionalized. For most people, recent events contradict the myth of a peaceful transition. For some, Individual Evolution does not need to proceed according to a formula that progresses from a bureaucratic vision to an evolutionary power (the Head of logical thought through the Heart of desire to the Hand of action). And while individual evolution continues to evolve through a series of conference call classes anyone interested is welcome to attend, I will argue that it doesn’t necessarily need to follow this method to be successful.

A friend asked me to write this, even after I explained that I am not worthy to write a tribute to Sandra Bland, the woman who was recently murdered by a Texas police officer and made to appear as though she hanged herself in her jail cell. I know I am not worthy because Sandra Bland should not have been murdered. I know I am not worthy because the families of every person of colour, men and women that have left us too, too soon, before and after Michael Brown in recent months and, frankly, in the last few hundred years of murder in the employ of institutionalized slavery and racism, understand what is at stake better than I do. People of colour have died and continue to die needlessly, sacrificed to the bloodlust of a white patriarchy that doesn’t care, a white patriarchy that lashes out in fear and hatred with the knowledge that their control, their enslavement of everyone not like them, their reign, will end soon. Those that have been awake for centuries are still awake, and they have awakened the rest of us, though frankly we all should have been wide awake and alert for decades if not centuries, leaving institutionalized slavery, with all its permutations, in a weakened blob at the bottom of the dustbin of history.

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For your listening pleasure, here is my radio interview from last night.  This is something I had not thought about doing until the opportunity was presented to me by the producers of Radio Islam who found my content here.  For those of you who are curious, I am open to other opportunities to discuss cultural conditioning/propaganda, sexism, racism and everything that the intersection of all of those subjects entail and more. I am about halfway into the show. If you have time to listen, I would love to know what you think. 

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While propaganda in the form of unintentional influence and the language of sexism has been independently researched, a review of literature reveals no such studies that link these two topics.   In this paper, I link these two subjects to study the hypothesis that the language of sexism, embedded within media, unintentionally influences individuals and small groups.  Through participatory action research methodology, participants will take part in a series of focus groups analyzing sexist language within media contexts. Findings will indicate how media sexism influences individuals and small groups, what that influence means to the health of their local community, and what action should be taken to alleviate negative consequences.


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Pretty much my views with a few explanatory elements removed, like the biases of everyone from the Ownership/management to News Director all the way down to News photographer with the Reporters, writers, anchors, and writers in between. Believe what you want but believe you are being manipulated every second by news media everywhere.

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Courtesy of Skindicate Suspensions

Courtesy of Skindicate Suspensions

While on one level the entire continuum of experiencing body suspension immediately incorporates’s (IE) heart, head, and hand, the wholeness of it also profoundly and radically transcends individual evolution and becomes an individual revolution, as I like to call it.  It incorporates IE’s scientific method of inquiry, reaches beyond its body, mind, and spirit, and grasps through centuries to an ancient universal personal quest.  Such exploration can only happen with subsequent suspensions and their reflections.  This is infinitely more about exploring spirituality, exploring zones of safety and personal comfort, and transforming personal space.  It is also about eclipsing the logic of the mundane.  It is about, what Baba Ram Dass aptly manifested not so long ago: being here now.

When I decide to actively approach a challenge, it isn’t analyzed as much as it is pondered as a spiritual challenge to enhance practice and even emotional fitness, rather than a physical one.  This same mindset was tapped into when I decided to overcome my fear of public speaking and join a college speech team, when I decided to learn tango dancing, and even when I decided to pursue masters and doctorate degrees. That same font of spiritual power was consulted when I decided to body suspend several months ago and when I actually suspended a few weekends ago at Skindicate’s DisgraceGiving in Atlanta.  I plan to access that spiritual energy often because it needs replenishment often to increase its ability to transcend the mundane obstacles that I am faced with daily.

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Summary.  The authors present a reformulation of social influence theory as a taxonomy, decision tree, and glossary sorted through the basis of “Four Fundamental Interpersonal Influence Distinctions,” cognitive processing (conscious/unconscious), perceived intentionality, relative social status, and direction of change. (p. 715). The authors suggest that this reformulation suggests several directions for further research by asking as many questions as it answers.  Of particular personal interest in this summary is the perceived intentionality, specifically Unintentional Influence (imitation/antiimitation) that breaks down into indirect conformity, anticonformity, identification, disinhibitory contagion, and residual influence types.

Questions/Problems.  The authors explain that there are two areas where issues arise when distinguishing Social Influence from other topics in social psychology.  In fact, in most social psychology textbooks, social psychology IS social influence.  So the authors propose a definition that is more specific rather than broad to distinguish from sweeping generalities that do nothing more than using a concept to define a concept without really explaining anything.  That is the challenge of this new model of approaching the topic.  The authors also recognize another challenge:  distinguishing among concepts within a traditional sphere of social influence. There is no agreement among scholars regarding concepts, hence the basic reasoning for the authors’ new model.

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(Work with me here.  I am formulating ideas for a thesis on unintentional propaganda and this is part of an assignment so it may not be immediately understandable.  Big things, good things, are coming.)

Hypothesis:  Individuals of multiple ages, social classes and genders within a specific ethnic group internalize general frameworks (“interpretive schemata” or “logics of action”) from the culture in which they are embedded and socialized.

Based upon social value framing theory and recent literature on schematic, internal cultural frameworks by Stolte and Fender, subjects emotionally identify with a person whose thoughts, feelings, and actions fit a particular frame than with a person whose thoughts, feelings, and actions fit an alternative frame.

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The current concept map encompasses almost the entire history of Propaganda from the beginning of recorded time to the present day and the current study of propaganda in small groups.  However, because this is such a vast subject, the map has missed many areas, including the Greek and roman “origins” as well as several others.  I will cover as much as I am able to here and add these topics to an updated map at a later date.

Propaganda, in spite of its Catholic Church origin, existed long before the word was created by them and coopted by everyone else.  With the Greek use of sculpture, painting, and oratory, propaganda vehicles have existed since the very beginning to influence public opinion.  With the Greek as well as later Roman empires, Graffiti was also pervasive within the city-state limits to influence public opinion propaganda from the small group propaganda and a personal perspective.  Graffiti is still pervasive everywhere in the world on a local level with the same local powers attempting to legislate its illegality and paint over it.  Small group graffiti propagandists use walls where they find them, utilizing another temporary canvas to reach their audience.  It is interesting to not that the graffiti propaganda of the roman era still survives today. Can you see the relationship that graffiti-propaganda has to the early and later incarnations of advertising-propaganda posters that inundate our daily lives?

The writing of history, whether it be religious or government-patriotic, is primarily written by victors and is nothing more than propaganda.  Take a look at your American history books that trumpet the history of pure white patriarchal landowners and slave owners who are painted as pure and patriotic and coincidentally fail to mention their slave owning, their patronizing of women, their exclusion of people of colour and women from the right to vote for more than a hundred years.  This is just the surface, but patriotic propaganda helps the medicine go down more easily, and if repeated oft enough, it becomes “fact” that is not questions, and when repeated as “fact” the mere pawns of our society, local school teachers, parents, “journalists”, and other local “leaders” repeat the party line as unintentional propaganda, leaving the harsh criticism to scholars who study history at such depth and to opposition leaders who are imbued with their own propaganda that they believe is “fact” as well.

The media, except for the time when attempts to create “legitimacy and objectivity” in their institution, have always been biased towards the powers that be that own and control them and the individual biases of the reporting staff.  A deeper look at the American Revolutionary War, reveals, several fine examples of newspapers, broadsheets, and posters utilizing political and wartime propaganda to paint the rebellious colonists as put upon and sainted.  This is the history that has been handed down to us for better or for worse and most of us believe it as “fact”.  Get beyond the idea of right and wrong and one begins to see propaganda everywhere.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does depend upon your perspective of what is done with the propaganda in question.  Fast forward almost a few hundred years to Edward Bernays writing of Crystallizing Public Opinion in 1923 and Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels’s use of that very text on the German population, and one realizes very quickly that it doesn’t matter which side your on.  Propaganda is used in a myriad of ways to benefit the power in question.  In the case of the Nazi’s, it didn’t matter that Bernays was a Jew.  The information was too valuable to dismiss. The bottom line, then, and now, was, that as long as there was an element of perceived truth in the propaganda itself and it was repeated often enough, it was effective.

But let’s not forget that because of the actions of Bernays’ on behalf of George Creel’s U.S. Government sponsored Committee on Public Information, propaganda was introduced in the World War I propaganda posters as something that the Germans were perpetuating but not the U.S. government.  Thus propaganda became a dirty word to the people of the U.S.  While it may be a negative term elsewhere in the world, it remains a dirty word here as something that an enemy does but not “our side”.  After the way, Bernays sincerely attempted to return propaganda to neutral ground but failed each time, possibly because the propaganda was so very effective and the word was newly introduced and foreign during that war.  So what to do. Bernays realized he had to find another phrase to get the job done (though he did write another book, Propaganda, in 1928 that fell on deaf public ears but a very attentive corporate public).  So Bernays created another term for himself:  Public Relations Counsel.

Thus, public relations begat publicity, advertising, marketing, promotions and a host of other euphemisms that mean the same thing, any association, systematic scheme, or concerted movement for the propagation of a particular doctrine or practice, whether deliberate and intentional, or unintentional in the case of the media repeating things as “facts” and school teachers repeating things as “facts” based on the writing of school history books by victors and the dominant culture.  We see this most recently and most prominently in the “teaching” of the fall of the Twin Towers in New York City and the other plane crashes that occurred on the eleventh of September 2001 when not all information has been released to the general public and possibly not even to academic scholars to assess the facts surrounding the incidents.  In fact, in spite of the conspiracy theory association, there may even be some suppressing of information to serve the propaganda agendas of one or several parties.

In the case of small group propaganda which most concerns us here, I am specifically interested in advertising-propaganda, marketing-propaganda, publicity-propaganda and several similar varieties of propaganda, including personal-propaganda.  These propagandas include the intentional, defined as deliberate, premeditated propaganda that has a spokesperson that knows exactly what he is doing in his attempts to sway those around him, as well as the unintentional, where individuals in a group subconsciously influence each others, body modification tastes, as well as musical tastes, for example.

To cite a recent intentional and unintentional propaganda example, I attended the recent Final Four free concert in Centennial Park in downtown Atlanta.  What I witness was a variety of propagandas inundating me everywhere I walked and everywhere I looked.  There were Coke Zero signs, there were people wearing Final Four t-shirts and reinforcing their support with loud raucus discussions in support of their team, and there was even Flo Rida on stage talking about and singing about the wonders of Coke Zero (I was pretty pleased with this reinforcement of Flo Rida as an intentional propagandist.).  The observations that I made on Facebook were similar in that the advertising-propaganda on the side panels were encouraged as “likes” with one’s friends encouraging friends to “like” products and companies by example.

My discussions with two musical artists and one publicity-propagandist yielded some interesting results.  Granting this was my first foray into sociological interviewing, my first interview may have to be rescheduled at a later date for additional in-depth questions because I did not obtain any new information that I did not already have from previous experience in the local unsigned musical community and industry.  However, during the second and third interviews, I was able to dig a little deeper. What I discovered is that the people I interviewed actively practicing intentional propaganda on a small group level do not have any formal education in this area.

In the case of the second musical artist, he is also an active musical fan who has been recording music since his early teens.  Once he realized that he wanted to begin performing and recording for an audience larger than his bedroom, he looked at the bands that he admired and considered successful and studied their promotional-propaganda tactics, asked a lot of questions to determine what would work best for him and read a lot of promotional-propaganda literature to self-teach himself.  In addition, he believes that the more Internet coverage he has the more publicity-propaganda he can obtain for his musical project.  Towards that end, he has a presence on several web sites, including Twitter, Facebook and Bandcamp (a music-hosting and selling web site). Before his last tour, he also deliberately had the van that he would be using for his tour painted with his likeness and his web site name, thus becoming a mobile advertising-propaganda vehicle wherever he traveled.  I discovered that, with at least this musical artist, lack of funds to support a big budget advertising-propaganda campaign, he became very creative with what he could do. He even enlisted local bands with a following on his tour to engage in promotional-propaganda prior to his arrival.

In the case of the professional promotional-propagandist, she learned promotional propaganda in much the same way but from the inside, becoming an intern at a major label, concentrating on radio promotion only, seeing the segmentation that she cited as the reason the industry failed later.  She engaged in promotional propaganda first hand and was given free reign to promote bands however she could, but was forced to stop short when she was informed that the good bands that she loved did not have a lot of money invested in their success as there were in other bands.  Thus the propaganda engagement at the major level was based upon the investment that the label had in the band rather than the talent that the band possessed.  At a smaller label, she was allowed a little freer reign since there was a smaller budget and creativity was emphasized above all.  Now as an Independent Publicity-Propagandist, she selects artists that she likes, facilitating her ability to engage in the necessary promotional-propaganda with as much sincerity as possible.

While this is by no means a complete interpretation of what can and could be an infinite concept map of and interpretation of a propaganda article and thesis, my focus at the moment is on small group propaganda, the intentional and the unintentional that occurs within the musical community between musicians and bands and fans as well as between fans discussing favorite songs and albums in small groups in physical space as well as virtual space.  This study begins here and it never ends as there are infinite aspects of this topic that I will uncover and discuss.

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