Personal-Propaganda

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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 IndividualEvolution.org’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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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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Most of the visual data that I selected was deliberate, from my collection of photos taken over the last several years for my Internet Radio web site, www.radiocasbah.com, and from the front page of my Facebook feed relating to musicians that I know and the ever-present promotional-propaganda on the Facebook side panel.  The only errant photo was the photo used from Subjectivity, Role, Access, Ethics.  The subject of that paper did not lend itself too readily to the photos that I have since none were ever taken as I interviewed the various musicians I interviewed since 2005.

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(This something that I have considered since working for local network television news.  The readings lately and the other students viewpoint on this have just codified what I have known all along.  Now I just have to find a way to research with this in mind.  Stay tuned.)

Everyone has a bias, and objectivity is an illusion.  If one admits and begins from this assumption, then individually, each of us can step back and analyse those biases to determine each of our qualifications or disqualifications for a particular study.  However, if each of us can scrutinize those biases in depth and lay them out in the research study for all to see, construct study questions in such a way that the bias is minimized (admittedly difficult), allow the study participants to speak for themselves without any interpretational editing after the fact, and minimize the usage of linguistically loaded language that implies inferiority or superiority, then a valuable research study might result.

All of these issues and more are built into what Davidson describes in the table of four-fold perspective on subjectivity in Qualitative Research Design for the Software User.  The subjectivity and role of the researcher are things that cannot be realistically controlled, given our individual environmental and cultural conditioning.  Subjectivity, especially, is something that most individuals take for granted.  Individuals assume that most people in their immediate surroundings are similar to  them, but when behaviour that is counter or alien to what they assumed or expected, the response can be inconsiderate, and sometimes even culturally insensitive.  Role can be controlled to some extent by certain personalities, but it is still subject to the same environment and cultural conditioning.  Admitting these shortcomings as much as possible places more value on an individual as a researcher and on the research he or she is conducting.

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Changing Modes 8 June 2011, Atlanta, GA

Changing Modes 8 June 2011, Atlanta, GA

My driving research interests are more like lifelong passions, as any glance into one of several bookshelves of my library will reveal.  However, those interests are usually distilled into a few topics that contain a myriad of additional subjects.  I am fascinated by sociology in general, but I am especially fascinated by how people react and act in various contexts towards other people whether they are individuals or small groups and vice versa.  This fascination predates my knowledge of Erving Goffman, though Goffman and a handful of others have codified this interest into the myriad of interests that encompass small group propaganda.  That driving research interest has been and will be the subject of several papers, a thesis, and several conference presentations.

Previously, I stated that my driving interests contain a myriad of additional subjects as well. This is especially true of my interest in music, local, independent, and unsigned musical artists.  Here, my two lifelong interests in propaganda and music converged in New York when I attempted to be a big-picture propagandist, what is commonly called a publicist, for a few bands and one open mic night at a New York bar on the Lower East Side.  I succeeded in achieving some publicity in a few local newspapers (which I am pretty proud of), but I realized shortly that I was always mediocre as a publicity propagandist at best.  I have always understood the whys of propaganda better than those who practice it, but the how was always elusive.  When I decided to return to school for a master’s degree, I toyed with the idea of an MBA in Marketing for a quick minute until I looked into the propaganda bookcase and saw nothing but sociologists or practitioners influenced by sociologists. Marketing would have also bored me to tears.

And so I arrived at sociology and I arrive at Music and Propaganda as driving research interest.  I suspect that this driving research interest will be fine-tuned in the near future, but I would like to dig a little deeper into how musical artists, independent of labels (or signed to a label so small there is no advertising propaganda budget), use propaganda to promote themselves to sell “merch,” promote themselves as artists, and promote a series of shows, whether local, regional, national, or international.  It is independent artists that I am interested in,  and so it is small group propaganda that is still the most applicable.