“Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.”— Albert Einstein
“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”— Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Stupidity is the deliberate cultivation of ignorance.”— William Gaddis
“It is, after all, impossible in the modern world to shield everyone from nonsense and stupidity.”— Lawrence M. Krauss
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”— Bertrand Russell
“How easy it is to make people believe a lie, and [how] hard it is to undo that work again!”— Mark Twain
“Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.”— Lord Byron
“The trouble with the world is not that people know too little; it’s that they know so many things that just aren’t so.”— Mark Twain
“Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists in not exceeding the limit.”— Elbert Hubbard
“Those who do not read the news are uninformed. Those who do are misinformed.”— Mark Twain
This post is about fooling the people. The majority are not fools, nor stupid, but mostly believers and go-along-to-get-along’s. They often know pretty much what’s going on. Sadly, most are without power to resist, and will shortly be also without power even to complain or challenge. The rulers-and-wannabes will have their way with us, it seems. Or will they?
Fooling the people implies, I think, regarding the fooled people as fools. As stupid. Deceiving the people may well be a more accurate term, in which the people may be neither fools nor stupid.
US President Abraham Lincoln once said: “You can fool all people some of the time and some people all the time. But you can never fool all people all the time.”
Abe was a great leader, but he didn’t get this one quite right. The reality, at least today, is that “you can fool enough of the people nearly all of the time – enough to get them to do whatever you want”.
You usually don’t need to fool anywhere near “all people”. How many is “enough”? Depends on what you are trying to do, and the availability of easily-persuaded people.
Fooling the people is epidemic today
You can even fool almost all of the world, if you can imagine such a thing. Or if you experienced the recent COVID mess. Not everyone bought into the pandemic story, but enough did to get much of the world locked down for an extended, possibly-never-ending, temporary period.
COVID obedience rates varied in countries from nearly zero to nearly 100%, but probably somewhere around two-thirds overall as near as I can see. That’s globally – at least 5 billion people “on board in some manner” with COVID measures. Surely that is easily “enough” to get almost anything you can nefariously imagine done.
Quite a while back, I wrote a couple of pieces about why people are so agreeable (see here and here). Using the possibly-credible claims of Belgian psychologist and professor Mattias Desmet and his “mass formation psychosis/hypnosis” theory, up to around 70% of a population, aka a “mass formation”, is either a “true believer” (10% to 30%), or a “go-along-to-get-along” supporter (30% to 50%). The rest, roughly 30%, are “resisters” of some kind.
So, “enough” is between 40% and 80% of a population – but only if the population is under some kind of a “mass formation psychosis/hypnosis”. This can conveniently be arranged by a fanatical and/or insane leader – like Hitler and Mao among many other contenders, or via the amazingly effective propaganda machinery and techniques of recent decades. Today, propaganda is the obvious choice. Why? It produced unbelievably great results in COVID times.
Defining “fool” and “stupid” in reality
Calling people “fools” or “stupid” is so common that any underlying serious meaning is too often lost or ignored. It is the underlying meaning that we need to address here, and not the pejorative, blowing-off-steam, meanings.
Just what or who is a fool? From Merriam-Webster:
- a person lacking in judgment or prudence
- one who is victimized or made to appear foolish
- a person lacking in common powers of understanding or reason
- to make a fool of ; to deceive
Might as well do the same for stupid, or stupidity. From Merriam-Webster:
- slow of mind
- given to unintelligent decisions or acts
- acting in an unintelligent or careless manner
- marked by or resulting from unreasoned thinking or acting
Stupid is also a popular pejorative, as among: moron, idiot, imbecile, mindless, lamebrain, and way too many others.
By these definitions, almost anyone who disagrees with you might be considered a fool or stupid. Rulers-and-ruler-wannabes often present this self-serving viewpoint. Lacking in judgment? Unintelligent? Unreasoning? By whose standards?
I see personal and organizational agendas written all over these terms. Enough to render them almost completely useless for practical purposes. Except of course by nefarious rulers-and-wannabes.
The real issues here involve beliefs and trust
If I believe what someone I trust tells me, then I’m not (necessarily) a fool or stupid. Trust is how most groups and organizations function. No trust, no cooperation or support.
Many people may appear to be overly trusting by my assessment, but few are anywhere close to qualifying as a fool or stupid – however I may choose to define and apply these terms.
George Carlin, eminent philosopher or something, offers his view on this subject:
“I have certain rules I live by. My first rule: I don’t believe anything the government tells me.”
Just government? How about anybody with an apparent agenda that does not include your well-being at or very near the top?
People trust others not to “fool them”, except in obvious jest. Not to lie to them, or even to seriously mislead them. This is what trust means in practice.
If someone you trust does indeed “fool you”, aka “deceive you”, they have broken the trust you gave them. Trust betrayed is hard or even impossible to regain. As they say … Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
So much today has to be taken based on some significant degree of trust. We can’t possibly verify even a tiny fraction of what we read or hear. We are asked – and often required – to trust our leaders and their “experts”. Masks. Lockdowns. Distancing. Medical treatments. EVs. Climate. Financial collapse. The must-trust list seems almost endless.
How can we tell whether what we are being told is substantially true, or whether we are being fooled/deceived? Mostly the hard way, unfortunately. We learn from often painful experience. Or maybe we don’t ever learn much at all – because we don’t want to.
Many people believe what they are told regardless of whether the information is true or even sensible (assuming that this is even possible to discover). They believe – trust – the teller, or all too often, they believe whatever reinforces their own opinions and beliefs. They are not being fooled by the teller so much as they are fooling themselves.
We humans, or at least most of us, are basically trusting by nature. Our first instincts are to trust various authority figures and sources. The closer our relationship to these sources, the harder it is to accept that trust has been betrayed. Tribal stuff.
In too many situations, however, we do not have a verifiable degree of trust that we are being told the truth or what is right. Instead, we accept whatever we are told because we must. The alternative can be extreme pain and suffering, which may well not be worth any amount of effort to resist, not to “trust”.
Good thing that Abe Lincoln didn’t live today
Thanks to technology, you don’t need to fool anywhere near all of the people. A sufficient number – enough – will do very nicely, thanks. Again, what is enough? Situation-dependent as always, but way far fewer today than “all”.
Technology has made “fooling the people” so much easier and effective. It is hard to imagine anything that can’t be pitched today as “truth”, “reality”, and “right” in some sense. Fooling the people is now mainstream.
It is so easy today to fool people. Especially people who are not fools or stupid. Us self-described non-fools and non-stupids are especially vulnerable. We think – believe – that we are immune to whatever they throw at us.
To some degree, I have been fooled quite often, despite my serious efforts to stay pure, unfooled, unstupid. But I must admit that the folks out there who are intent on fooling everyone possible are doing a great job. It is very hard to stay ahead of them.
Today, propaganda rules
As Sigmund Freud’s nephew Ed Bernays1 thought and taught, people are so easy to persuade, to deceive. The communications technology available today makes this feasible for almost any leader or group. The only defense so far as I can see is personal vigilance and George Carlin’s non-trust-as-default principles.
1 Edward Louis Bernays (1891−1995) was an American pioneer in the field of public relations and propaganda, and referred to in his obituary as “the father of public relations”. His mother, Anna was Sigmund Freud’s sister, and his father Eli was the brother of Freud’s wife, Martha Bernays.
Of his many books, Crystallizing Public Opinion (1923) and Propaganda (1928) gained special attention as early efforts to define and theorize the field of public relations. Citing works of writers such as Gustave Le Bon, Wilfred Trotter, Walter Lippmann, and Sigmund Freud (his own double uncle), he described the masses as irrational and subject to herd instinct—and he outlined how skilled practitioners could use crowd psychology and psychoanalysis to control them in desired ways. Bernays later synthesized many of these ideas in his postwar book, Public Relations (1945), which outlines the science of managing information released to the public by an organization, in a manner most advantageous to the organization. He does this by first providing an overview of the history of public relations, and then provides insight into its application.
Bernays was named one of the 100 most influential Americans of the twentieth century by Life magazine. Source: Wikipedia.
“Bernays studied the motivation mechanism and functioning of the human mind and discovered key persuasion principles. … When applied, people can readily be convinced to support any idea, product or program … He coined this the ‘opinion molding’ technique.’”
With powerful propaganda nearly everywhere today, how can anyone figure out what to trust and believe? Do I trust what I read or hear? Absolutely not, until I find trusted (at least for the moment) sources that offer credible confirmation.
Trusted sources. These are often the ones that are being most viciously censured. Censure in my view often provides solid proof of validity. Why would anyone bother to censure a source that told an actual lie or even a verifiable untruth, if you can imagine such a thing. Aggressive censure has for me become a primary indicator of where truth lies, or may lie.
The long history of “propaganda”
I have always thought that what we call “propaganda” today originated with Bernays in the 1920’s. Turns out however that the term has a much longer history.
- From the American Historical Association: “The Story of Propaganda”:
“The term ‘propaganda’ apparently first came into common use in Europe as a result of the missionary activities of the Catholic church. In 1622 Pope Gregory XV created in Rome the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. This was a commission of cardinals charged with spreading the faith and regulating church affairs in heathen lands. A College of Propaganda was set up under Pope Urban VIII to train priests for the missions.”
“In its origins ‘propaganda’ is an ancient and honorable word. Religious activities which were associated with propaganda commanded the respectful attention of mankind. It was in later times that the word came to have a selfish, dishonest, or subversive association.”
“Throughout the Middle Ages and in the later historic periods down to modern times, there has been propaganda. No people has been without it. The conflict between kings and Parliament in England was a historic struggle in which propaganda was involved. Propaganda was one of the weapons used in the movement for American independence, and it was used also in the French Revolution. The pens of Voltaire and Rousseau inflamed opposition to Bourbon rule in France, and during the revolution Danton and his fellows crystallized attitudes against the French king just as [John] Adams and Tom Paine had roused and organized opinion in the American Revolution.”
“World War I dramatized the power and triumphs of propaganda. And both fascism and communism in the postwar years were the centers of intense revolutionary propaganda. After capturing office, both fascists and communists sought to extend their power beyond their own national borders through the use of propaganda.”
“In our modern day, the inventive genius of man perfected a machinery of communication which, while speeding up and extending the influence of information and ideas, gave the propagandists a quick and efficient system for the spread of their appeals. This technical equipment can be used in the interests of peace and- international good will. Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo preferred to seize upon this magnificent nervous system for selfish ends and inhumane purposes, and thus enlarged the role of propaganda in today’s world. While the United Nations were slow at first to use the speedy and efficient devices of communication for propaganda purposes, they are now returning blow for blow.”
So, it seems that propaganda is actually a particular method of communicating and promoting an agenda or point of view. Communication with a political purpose, in most cases. I find it hard to believe that this means of persuasion has not been used throughout civilized history, and even tribal pre-history, but just not mechanized as today.
Propaganda weaponized with “misleading information”
- Arlin Cuncic writing in VeryWellMind addresses the use of propaganda for various nefarious purposes, if you can image anyone nasty enough to do such a thing: “How Does Propaganda Work?”
“Propaganda is a type of communication that often involves sharing biased or misleading information to promote a particular agenda or point of view. Propaganda is used to influence people’s opinions or control their behavior through various tactics such as name-calling, bandwagoning, or inciting fear.”
“People use propaganda to promote a particular agenda or point of view. The goals of propaganda can vary, but commonly include:
- Shaping people’s opinions so they think a particular way
- Convincing people to support a specific cause or political candidate
- Encouraging people to behave in a certain way
Mass media is often used by propagandists to sway societies or large groups of people to think a certain way. One example of propaganda in media is the film ‘Triumph of the Will.’”
“This 1935 film was made to promote the Nazi regime and to encourage people to support Adolf Hitler using fragments of truth combined with certain images chosen to influence social memory. It is considered to be one of the most effective propaganda films ever made.”
“People can use a variety of techniques to spread propaganda. Here are some of the most common:
- Appealing to emotions
- Scare tactics
- Manipulating Information
- Using false statistics
- Making unrealistic promises
- Using symbols
- Plain folks
- Card stacking
- Glittering generalities
- Snob appeal
- Loaded language
- Weasel words
But propaganda “weaponized”? One definition is “… to adapt for use as a weapon of war”, but a more accurate definition for today would seem to be “… to make it possible to use something to attack a person or group”. “Attack” is the keyword here. It doesn’t necessarily imply “war”, although almost everything these days seems to be called a “war” of some kind. Propaganda used to attack a person or group is “weaponized”.
Propaganda – words, images, slogans, and the like – has surely been used to attack one’s enemies since people were invented. So, what is new today? It is of course modern communications and computing technology and techniques that have made propaganda exponentially more powerful, effective, and global.
This post, about fooling enough of the people enough of the time, concludes that the majority are not fools, nor stupid, but mostly go-along-to-get-along. The art of persuasion – propaganda – has become a primary and hugely effective tool. It does not fool people so much as to make them believe and actively support an agenda. Almost any kind of agenda, driven by almost any kind of person or group.
Agendas themselves can be bad, good, or anything in-between, and for almost any kind of purpose. Many supporters adopt an agenda because it reinforces their own beliefs and hopes, almost regardless of its “objective truth” (which can rarely be demonstrated convincingly in any case). Supporters are mostly not fooled, but solidly onboard.
How to resist powerful propaganda is a huge challenge in many cases. Agenda promoters often have enormous political power and resources. Non-compliance is one approach, but it can be very risky personally and too often leads to painful consequences. It is only for the truly courageous and dedicated.
- In the Defender – Children’s Health Defense – is a fascinating point of view from 90-year-old Holocaust survivor Vera Sharav: “‘Our Choice Is Clear’: Holocaust Survivor Outlines History of Propaganda in the U.S. and How It Led to Today’s Globalists’ Power Grab”:
“Holocaust survivor and human rights advocate Vera Sharav unpacked how governments and corporations use propaganda to control populations in a recent CHD.TV mini-documentary presentation. In ‘Propaganda & Its Insidious Tactics of Persuasion — Then & Now,’ Sharav told viewers that a sustained propaganda campaign propelled global COVID-19 responses more than any virus, allowing officials to strip civil liberties under the guise of an emergency.”
“Yet with firsthand experience of tyranny under the Nazis, Sharav, now 90, believes people have the power to wake up and resist new threats to freedom through grassroots organizing.”
“’The globalists’ greatest fear is that we will stop believing them’ and come to resist and fight back against their agendas, Sharav said.”
“Sharav traced the weaponization of psychology in consumer marketing and politics back to World War I, and sounded an alarm about increasingly sophisticated tactics of mass persuasion and control being used to herd the population today.”
“Propaganda aimed at influencing public opinion or actions is far from a modern invention. However, according to Sharav, World War I and subsequent commercial advertising brought organized, mass psychological manipulation to an entirely new battlefield — the American mind.”
“’Modern propaganda, both political and commercial, is an Anglo-American invention,’ Sharav said, tracing its origins to President Woodrow Wilson’s administration.”
- Rev. John F. Naugle via the Brownstone Institute and Infowars brought up Thoreau’s insights into dealing with unjust laws and associated propaganda: “The Moral Obligation of Civil Disobedience”:
“My thoughts along these lines were given further substance when Henry David Thoreau’s ‘On the Duty of Civil Disobedience’ was assigned to us in my sophomore year of high school. The moral obligation to disobey unjust laws non-violently and then to accept punishment in the hopes of forcing change was one of the major lessons I took away from my Catholic schooling. The willingness to embrace the consequences of such non-violent direct action was one of the things I admired about the political left, even if I did not count myself one of its members.”
“… Rather than give the obvious response that the obligation to treat patients even in the presence of danger is a just law (and refusing to do so is not civil disobedience) and protesting the confinement to one’s home by not staying home is a classic case of civil disobedience, the authors [of another paper] spend many paragraphs arriving at the precisely wrong answer: ‘only the case of healthcare professionals qualifies as morally justified civil disobedience.’”
“As we approach the holiday of Martin Luther King, Jr. I’d like to suggest that everyone should take the time to read his defense of civil disobedience in ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail,’ which he wrote in response to eight religious leaders who expressed caution and concern against his acts of civil disobedience. The whole thing is worth reading, but in particular I’d like to draw attention to the following four ideas:” [Odd coincidence – I am writing this post on MLK day, 2024]
“We live in turbulent times, and the power of civil disobedience has already been demonstrated by truckers in Canada and farmers in Germany. History is replete with examples of determined minorities who break the power of the elites while ignoring the objection of the moderates who love order over justice.”
“Perhaps we should all go back and read our Augustine, Aquinas, Thoreau, and King. We are all called to the heroism of always choosing to act justly, even in the face of great opposition.”
- Jeffrey Tucker via the DailyReckoning.com and Zero Hedge offers a possible response to all of the propaganda and related mischief, albeit one that requires significant courage: “‘Just Say No!’ – Non-Compliance Is The Answer”:
“Orwell Couldn’t Even Imagine It.
The essential message of all these [COVID-19] edicts: You are pathogenic, a carrier, poisonous, dangerous, and so is everyone else. Every human person is a disease vector. While it’s fine you are out and about, you must always create a little isolation zone around you such that you have no contact with other human beings.”
“It’s so odd that no dystopian novel ever imagined a plot centered on such a stupid and evil concept. Not even in 1984 or The Hunger Games or Equilibrium or Brave New World or Anthem, was it ever imagined that a government would institute a rule that all people in public spaces must stand six feet away in all directions from any other person.”
“That some government would insist on this was too crazy for even the darkest imaginings of the most pessimistic prognosticator. That 200 governments in the world, at roughly the same time, would go there was unimaginable.”
“And yet here we are, years after the supposed emergency, and while governments are not enforcing it, for the most part, many are still pushing the practice as the ideal form of human engagement.”
“Noncompliance Is the Answer.
Coincident with the pandemic restrictions came the triumph of woke ideology, the intense push for EVs, a wild ramp-up in weather paranoia with the discovery that climates change, a rampant gender dysphoria and denial of chromosomal reality, an unprecedented refugee flood that no one in power is willing to mitigate, a continued attack on gas including even stoves and a host of other inane things that are driving rational people to the brink of despair.”
“We long ago gave up the hope that all of this is random and coincidental, any more than it so happened that nearly every government in the world decided to plaster social distancing signs everywhere at the same time.”