• Due to a glitch in the old vBulletin software, some users were "banned" when they tried to change their passwords at the end of February. This does not apply after the site was converted to Xenforo. If you were affected by this, please us viua the Contact us link in the footer.

Is propaganda an argument against direct democracy?


theObserver@hotmail.com

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 26, 2007
Messages
2,424
The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.

We are governed, out minds molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society." - Edward Bernays, Propaganda.
So begins the opening paragraphs of Edward Bernays "Propaganda" first published in 1928. It is a fact, asserts Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Feud, that we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons "who understand the mental process and social pattern of the masses". Such persons constitute an invisible government that "pull the wires which control the public mind".

The invisible government of Bernays is not a coordinated group of shadowy figures manipulating governments for their own ends. Rather this invisible government is in open competition with themselves for our time, our attention and our money. The fitness sector for example may compete against the computer gaming sector while both groups are apathetic and mostly unaware of the cotton industry who are nevertheless competing to shape our attitudes and desires to cotton based products.

The group mind Bernays refers to several times throughout his book is strangely mundane and yet powerful. We live in an society with a huge number of social, political, economical, racial and religious groupings all with hundreds of subdivisions each. Each of those groups have their own leaders who influence us. It is through identifying and persuading these interconnecting groups that the masses can be influenced and our desires molded.

This invisible, intertwining structure of groupings and associations is the mechanism by which democracy has organized its group mind and simplified its mass thinking. To deplore the existence of such a mechanism is to ask for a society such as never was and never will be. To admit that it exists, but expect that it shall not be used, is unreasonable.
Is such propaganda not an argument against direct democracy? Direct democracy is a form of democracy in which people decide on policy initiatives directly, as opposed to a representative democracy in which people vote for representatives who then decide policy initiatives.

Modern states contain both political and economic institutions; mediating between the two is the public sphere which includes all organizations and activities capable of generating debate - TV, radio, blogs, pubs, cafes etc. The public sphere is the context in which free speech and open deliberation became a value in it's own right as individuals exercise their civil rights. A healthy public sphere is essential in any democracy, but even more so in a direct democracy: in an ideal state a government is only legitimate when it is in alignment with the majority opinion in the public sphere. But this is exactly where direct democracy becomes undone.

In theory each person makes up their own minds in private, but in practice few of us have the time, or even the incentive, to study abstruse economies or shift through the ethical data involved in every question. So we accept shortcuts by allowing information to be filtered and organized through news channels, professors, governments, journalists etc. All mass movements have surrendered their power to mass media and the unelected experts from the bureaucratic welfare state. As Bernays argues, this is simply how the world is and how it must be.

Representative democracy also suffers from this filtering and management of information but to a lessor degree because political parties have the financial power to deploy propaganda and act as a self-interested layer between Bernays invisible government and the public sphere.

In summary, direct democracy is more susceptible to propaganda.
 


Telemachus

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 8, 2004
Messages
6,565
Website
en.wikipedia.org
Representative democracy also suffers from this filtering and management of information but to a lessor degree because political parties have the financial power to deploy propaganda and act as a self-interested layer between Bernays invisible government and the public sphere.
Is there any evidence to even back this up? The invisible government in our case removed the petition right of direct democracy from the people to seal power in the hands of the insiders and vested groups in charge of the political parties.
 

Dame_Enda

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 14, 2011
Messages
52,267
At least "propaganda" is transparent in its agenda. The same cannot be said of lobbies that meet with politicians behind closed doors and if the Tribunals are to be believed pass more than advice to them.
 

Colin M

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 23, 2012
Messages
5,350
At least "propaganda" is transparent in its agenda. The same cannot be said of lobbies that meet with politicians behind closed doors and if the Tribunals are to be believed pass more than advice to them.
But are these people not formulating propaganda for the masses, behind closed doors?
 

Dame_Enda

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 14, 2011
Messages
52,267
But are these people not formulating propaganda for the masses, behind closed doors?
Lobbyists prefer to deal with as few people as possible to push through their agenda, and it's a lot harder to convince an electorate than 82 politicians in Dail Eireann.
 

publicrealm

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 11, 2007
Messages
6,023
At least "propaganda" is transparent in its agenda. The same cannot be said of lobbies that meet with politicians behind closed doors and if the Tribunals are to be believed pass more than advice to them.
I do not share the general concern about the lobbyists.

They make their case - the politicians decide - based on realpolitik and in the full knowledge of the vested interest of the lobbyist. If bungs are provided in this day and age then there is no hope for us - but I doubt that it happens now.

I am more concerned about the behind closed doors briefings by the permanent government - the department mandarins (from the HSE etc) and the paid spinners - who have total access to ministers.

What agenda are they pushing?
 

jcdf

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 8, 2005
Messages
3,778
If there is only one highly unified group broadcasting the propaganda then there is a problem. But that is not often the case. On most things there is two or more groups each sending out their own messages often contradicting each other. This often has a cancelling effect negating most of the propaganda.

I to am sceptical direct democracy.
 

Colin M

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 23, 2012
Messages
5,350
Lobbyists prefer to deal with as few people as possible to push through their agenda, and it's a lot harder to convince an electorate than 82 politicians in Dail Eireann.
For example, I am thinking 'The War on Terror' bullcrap of not so long ago was constructed by more than just a few hawkish politicians, who were on our TV screens every day.
 

twokidsmanybruises

Well-known member
Joined
May 9, 2013
Messages
6,870
Any time I hear of Direct Democracy, I instantly think of "The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer" starring Peter Cook.
 
Last edited:

twokidsmanybruises

Well-known member
Joined
May 9, 2013
Messages
6,870
So begins the opening paragraphs of Edward Bernays "Propaganda" first published in 1928. It is a fact, asserts Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Feud, that we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons "who understand the mental process and social pattern of the masses". Such persons constitute an invisible government that "pull the wires which control the public mind".

The invisible government of Bernays is not a coordinated group of shadowy figures manipulating governments for their own ends. Rather this invisible government is in open competition with themselves for our time, our attention and our money. The fitness sector for example may compete against the computer gaming sector while both groups are apathetic and mostly unaware of the cotton industry who are nevertheless competing to shape our attitudes and desires to cotton based products.

The group mind Bernays refers to several times throughout his book is strangely mundane and yet powerful. We live in an society with a huge number of social, political, economical, racial and religious groupings all with hundreds of subdivisions each. Each of those groups have their own leaders who influence us. It is through identifying and persuading these interconnecting groups that the masses can be influenced and our desires molded.



Is such propaganda not an argument against direct democracy? Direct democracy is a form of democracy in which people decide on policy initiatives directly, as opposed to a representative democracy in which people vote for representatives who then decide policy initiatives.

Modern states contain both political and economic institutions; mediating between the two is the public sphere which includes all organizations and activities capable of generating debate - TV, radio, blogs, pubs, cafes etc. The public sphere is the context in which free speech and open deliberation became a value in it's own right as individuals exercise their civil rights. A healthy public sphere is essential in any democracy, but even more so in a direct democracy: in an ideal state a government is only legitimate when it is in alignment with the majority opinion in the public sphere. But this is exactly where direct democracy becomes undone.

In theory each person makes up their own minds in private, but in practice few of us have the time, or even the incentive, to study abstruse economies or shift through the ethical data involved in every question. So we accept shortcuts by allowing information to be filtered and organized through news channels, professors, governments, journalists etc. All mass movements have surrendered their power to mass media and the unelected experts from the bureaucratic welfare state. As Bernays argues, this is simply how the world is and how it must be.

Representative democracy also suffers from this filtering and management of information but to a lessor degree because political parties have the financial power to deploy propaganda and act as a self-interested layer between Bernays invisible government and the public sphere.

In summary, direct democracy is more susceptible to propaganda.


Someone's been watching his Adam Curtis.

Doesn't mean it's wrong.
 
Last edited:

Dame_Enda

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 14, 2011
Messages
52,267
For example, I am thinking 'The War on Terror' bullcrap of not so long ago was constructed by more than just a few hawkish politicians, who were on our TV screens every day.
It was the policy of the President and his neocon cronies. It wasn't forced on them.
 

Dame_Enda

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 14, 2011
Messages
52,267
He appointed known neocons like Paul Wolfowitz to his Cabinet before 911. Join the dots.
 

Libero

Well-known member
Joined
May 22, 2004
Messages
3,000
Is such propaganda not an argument against direct democracy?
Yes and no.

Yes, because it's easier to pull off a propaganda campaign in the lifetime of a direct democracy initiative compared to the longer time period that is a term of parliament. Put simply, the longer it's in the spotlight, the more propaganda tends to wilt.

No, because parliamentary representative politics is, in large modern societies, a game for the careerists and professional advisers who are experts in spin, news management and all the dark arts of modern political propaganda. They don't have a monopoly on political bullsh1t but they are the pros. A polity based on direct democracy is less of a playground for them.

More generally, propaganda tends to be practiced because it works. So long as people are susceptible to it, it will be practiced, no matter the political system. Non democracies tend to have more propaganda than anywhere else. And often propaganda is in a good cause, e.g. Normal Rockwell's brilliant artwork promoting War Bonds.

If P.iesters are interested in the subject, a new exhibition on Propaganda has just opened in the British Library. Highly recommended. It opens with a clip from this video...
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rq2aCuYSB_c">[video=youtube;Rq2aCuYSB_c]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rq2aCuYSB_c[/video]
 

Colin M

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 23, 2012
Messages
5,350
He appointed known neocons like Paul Wolfowitz to his Cabinet before 911. Join the dots.
I think the likes of the Saudis - and others who could quietly benefit from oil money - were even more important than Wolfowitz and others in 'the frontline'.
 

farnaby

Well-known member
Joined
May 15, 2006
Messages
1,961
Depends on the level of decision-making. Direct democracy can work at a small-scale, local level where interests are relatively transparent and debate about issues relatively unmediated.

I'm skeptical about direct democracy on a larger scale, though willing to be proven wrong.

My preference would be for national representative democracy split along 'functional' rather than geographical lines. I want to vote for the best representative to reform the health service; another who is best placed to develop our economic strategy; another to manage the purse strings etc. and these do not have to be from the same party. Indeed it would be a breath of fresh air if they were not.
 

theObserver@hotmail.com

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 26, 2007
Messages
2,424
Someone's been reaching his Adam Curtis.

Doesn't mean it's wrong.
Ah so that's the chaps name. I saw and was impressed with his Century of the Self documentary a few years ago. But since then, I've read most of the notable people Curtis covered and have come to disagree with his conclusions.
 

theObserver@hotmail.com

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 26, 2007
Messages
2,424
Lobbyists prefer to deal with as few people as possible to push through their agenda, and it's a lot harder to convince an electorate than 82 politicians in Dail Eireann.
Is it though? Any electorate will boil down to just a handful of positions with each position having it's own trusted leaders who can influence their followers. These leaders can be newspapers, experts in a certain field, television personalities etc. They are the people and the organizations that Bernays targeted to influence what he called the 'group mind'.
 

Colin M

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 23, 2012
Messages
5,350
Is it though? Any electorate will boil down to just a handful of positions with each position having it's own trusted leaders who can influence their followers. These leaders can be newspapers, experts in a certain field, television personalities etc. They are the people and the organizations that Bernays targeted to influence what he called the 'group mind'.
The 'divide and conquer' element is a big element too. Typical debate on TV has a 'liberal' (i.e: shill for the dominant centre-left party) 'face off' with a 'conservative' (shill for the dominant centre-right party), both there to fuel the biases of the viewer.
 

goosebump

Well-known member
Joined
May 23, 2008
Messages
4,953
The fact that someone like Declan Ganley came within a hair's breadth of buying a seat in the European Parliament should be all the argument anyone needs as to whether or not direct democracy is a good idea.
 

New Threads

Popular Threads

Most Replies

Top