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Manufactured Consent

The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfill this role requires systematic propaganda.

— Edward Herman & Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent, 1988

You gave them permission, were unaware of what you were doing, and had no idea why you did it in the first place. Welcome to the modern era of deception.

Most of us have no control over our actions. This is not an easy fact to accept or innerstand. If we ever accept this uncomfortable and inconvenient truth, we are more likely to fall into patterns of shame, embarrassment, futility, and self-reproach than to experience freedom, enlightenment, or a sense of liberation. Our innate tendency is to look for someone or something to blame, which typically begins with an internalized attack. It’s a perpetual downward spiral of self-defeating behavior. The more easily we succumb to self-criticism and the belief that we are somehow broken or dysfunctional, the less empowered we are in our daily lives, and the more readily we rely and unwittingly depend on the opinions and beliefs of others. It is a lose-lose scenario, and we must be aware of this.

Layers of psychic messaging and mind control mechanisms surround us, having been implemented and maintained throughout history by those seeking to influence opinion, shape cultures, and corral understanding. To stand under means to allow for the suppression, oppression, and subjugation of oneself, primarily through commercial and corporate statutes and man-made laws. It is to defer and abnegate your own authority, your standing, and your position to another. It is the persistent lie and malevolent imposition of political, ideological, philosophical, and psychological manipulation, coercion, and undue influence that shapes your beliefs, thoughts, and behavior in the world.

This all happens without your conscious acceptance or informed consent.

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Normalizing Deception and Insanity

Unless you are fully awake and aware, you are rarely, if ever, acting in accordance with your own genuine intentions, or what you would truly prefer to be, do, and have. It is difficult to be free of the omnipresent pressures of forces that prioritize profit and power over your emotional, spiritual, financial, biological, and psychological well-being. And the more you are integrated into this systemic, overbearing control structure, the less likely you are to be able to escape it.

The construct, this incredible simulacrum and its many magnificent artifices, will devise infinite ways to satisfy your “basic” needs and assuage your general concerns, limiting your perspective to the prize as defined by their parameters rather than your own. You are taught to think, act, and believe in ways that benefit their game rather than your soul or personal mission in this short life. You are trained to become emotional, excited, involved, and engaged in their stories and presentations, which are carefully designed to capture your attention time and again throughout your life, leaving you anxiously awaiting the next hit and rarely, if ever, deviating from their safe and predictable (fake, fabricated, and fictitious) boundaries.

Chomsky continues:

The raw material of news must pass through successive filters, leaving only the cleansed residue fit to print. They fix the premises of discourse and interpretation, and the definition of what is newsworthy in the first place, and they explain the basis and operations of what amount to propaganda campaigns.

You are the “raw material” for the endless streams of mind-shaping media that you consume. Symbols, archetypes, triggers, numbers, patterns, and signals are all designed to engage your well-known human characteristics, your fragile and volatile emotions, impulses, and conscious and unconscious addictions.

Here are some more ugly truths: you’ve never seen an honest news broadcast, a factual treatment of “based on a true story” Hollywood film or series, an unbiased documentary, or read an unfiltered, unrevised book. Never. What is real and true can only be discerned through a variety of extrinsic sources, which are synthesized and purified through the experiential and expressed — or, in exceedingly rare cases, from the still, small voice within.

What is authentic is hidden from us, and we are both the perpetrators and the victims.

Chomsky continues:

The elite domination of the media and marginalization of dissidents that results from the operation of these filters occurs so naturally that media news people, frequently operating with complete integrity and goodwill, are able to convince themselves that they choose and interpret the news “objectively” and on the basis of professional news values. Within the limits of the filter constraints they often are objective; the constraints are so powerful, and are built into the system in such a fundamental way, that alternative bases of news choices are hardly imaginable.

Given the implications of the preceding quote, we can safely extrapolate and infer that these same forces are manifested in many, if not all, key aspects of our society and greater civilization — specifically, and critically, within the institutions where we are educated and thus indoctrinated. Professors, teachers, aides, principals, administrators, and well-meaning parents are all subjected to the same comprehensive framework, which is instilled and acclimated throughout their personal and professional lives by agendas that perpetuate historical, political, ideological, philosophical, and psychological deception.

You don’t know what you don’t know. You believe you are acting in your best interests, based on the most up-to-date and accurate information available, and that those who inform you about what is going on in the world around you are open, honest, transparent, and objective. This has never been true, especially in this era of ubiquitous, massive data and information. You’d think that today we would be able to learn more about everything, more easily and quickly, and with less adulteration, obfuscation, and deception. It is unfortunately just the opposite. Every image, and every story you see and read can be manipulated, if not entirely fabricated and faked. News anchors, paid actors, presidents, and prime ministers who appear on your screens can be impersonated, computer-generated, and artificially constructed out of nothing with extreme precision, not that it is even necessary.

While true artificial intelligence may never be realized, we now have extremely advanced machine learning and limitless datasets to generate and create a diverse range of deceptively convincing stories and character representations. However, those who wish to deceive us have done so for centuries, despite the limitations of media and the devices used to disseminate their fictitious narratives. Literacy, language, and limited access were commonly used in the past, but today the worldwide web of entangled streams of data is easily manipulated, curated, and controlled by corporations and algorithms with far greater power and influence than any world government.

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Stories, Myths, and Cognitive Dissonance

Chomsky continues:

. . . the media do not stop to ponder the bias that is inherent in the priority assigned to government-supplied raw material, or the possibility that the government might be manipulating the news, imposing its own agenda, and deliberately diverting attention from other material.

We rely on storytelling and narrative to educate ourselves and others about the world. We need these tools to figure out the whats, whys, hows, and wheres of our lives. Is it better to stay in this country or relocate to another? What will happen in the next ten to twenty years if this policy is implemented, and the economy stagnates? What are the opportunities for career advancement, education, and business ownership in this or that state? Which country is being attacked by what army this week? Why? Who are the “bad guys” in our world, about whom we must speak carefully, and who are the dissidents who should be arrested and tried for daring to threaten our way of life? What causes are important to me to donate to, and do I feel guilty enough to participate?

Selective recognition is the way we maintain our own sense of goodness. Today, we see this process of denial in every aspect of our lives… As Israel began its relentless retaliation last week, an accompanying image of Israeli and American moral cleanliness was put swiftly into action. This is called “manufactured consent” — Noam Chomsky’s term for a system-supported propaganda by which authorities and media agree on a simplified reality, and it becomes the assumptive truth. We’ve seen this erasure of history in the uniform responses by western world leaders, university administrations, heads of foundations, and even book fairs over the past week. President Biden called Hamas’s attack “an act of sheer evil” without acknowledging the decades of colonial repression that make this violence legible. Instead he summoned another history, saying, “This attack has brought to the surface painful memories and the scars left by a millennia of antisemitism and genocide of the Jewish people.” He then assured Israel it could count on the United States’ military support, as though having been through genocide entitled them to commit it.

Selective recognition. How many times have you been caught up in this kind of mind control manipulation in your lifetime?

It is easy — perhaps even perfectly human — to moralize, reflexively react, and engage in impulsive emotional outbursts, especially when the trauma is still fresh and brutal, disgusting, vivid, and violent images are bombarding your senses from every angle, all day, every day. You did not get to choose, critique, or audit their message, but you are undoubtedly being informed, persuaded, influenced, and exposed to it. This is how the media is weaponized against us, and it extends far beyond the simplistic concept of evil. It is implemented with malicious intent on a regular basis, misleading and misinforming thousands, millions, and billions of minds into narrowed and restricted thought processes. The consequences of their manufactured consent will spread farther and wider the more deftly, repeatedly, and inventively they maintain their lies and outsmart and outpace our logic, analysis, and critical thinking.

Years or even decades may pass before someone has the opportunity to thoroughly investigate the facts, the truth, and the genuine, empirical evidence that would have supported the first position that was forcefully pushed and marketed to the general public. By then, however, fresh narratives and stories have been created, bodies have long since been buried, and the ideas, traumas, psychological harm, and retaliation have persisted, spreading in unrelenting waves of new violence, vengeance, and divisive sociopolitics.

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Swing Low, Aim High

Perhaps you now see how pervasive this particular problem is across all facets of contemporary life. Consider the nonsense and lies of recent years, like “trust the science.” Consider “cases,” “modeling,” and all the disinformation used to support a particular, massively false narrative about yet another pandemic that never happened. Because this most recent and spectacular of frauds caused so much unnecessary suffering, loss, death, and widespread social and economic upheaval and destruction, it is difficult not to write about it as much as I have. But I feel compelled to do so because it seems inescapable that something similar to this distortion of reality will occur over and over again.

These reality-shaping events require a significant amount of creative and psychic energy to manifest and unfold. In our time, these powerful creative forces are frequently misused, appropriated, or directed away from us. Our thoughts, intentions, and imaginations are broadly captured and directly applied to maintaining big damn lies and a constant cloak of fear and ignorance across a civilization. We rarely think about the long game, or how minor distortions that persist over decades and generations shape our perceptions and perspectives. We don’t consider the long-term effects of watching brutal, graphic, and gory violence, or abusive, violent, and ritualistic sex acts.

Throughout our lives, we are repeatedly shown concepts, theories, and plausible ideas about the composition and design of our bodies, the world, and reality, which we choose to integrate and adopt. However, as we’ve no doubt discovered, there are numerous demonstrably ridiculous theories and ideas that should have long ago been revisited, revised, redressed, or completely abandoned.

Progress is achieved by exchanging our theories for new ones which go further than the old, until we find one based on a larger number of facts. … Theories are only hypotheses, verified by more or less numerous facts. Those verified by the most facts are the best, but even then they are never final, never to be absolutely believed.

— Claude Bernard

Regrettably, the outcomes are repeatable and unmistakably quantifiable. We have to be willing to question almost everything on offer in today’s world. We also need to step back and consider the bigger picture, ideally acting based on facts, conscience, and thoughtful consideration, regardless of what we believe we may have “learned in school.” Whether by accident, coercion, or choice, we cannot continue to behave based on historical amnesia, which is a malleable element of this realm the powers that be rely on.

This is, of course, easier said than done, as most of us do not have the time, patience, resources, tenacity, or resolve to even try. Most of us already have too much on our plates, busy and worrying about things that never leave our minds, such as our daily lives and basic survival. That is normal, but what is considered normal is not necessarily true or natural. That’s life, but not necessarily your real, unfettered, ideal life. Now, add to that the weights and pressures created by any number and scale of world events. We are not given the opportunity to collect ourselves, consider alternative viewpoints, adequately inform and educate ourselves, or gather like-minded individuals with whom to compare notes and potential solutions.

It’s understandable that trust in our institutions has reached an all-time low. In my opinion, this is either intentional, as a method of casting doubt on the systems that have supported the foundation of our civilization, or it is the regrettable long-term result of decades and generations of unresolved collective trauma. It is most likely a combination of several factors, both conscious and unconscious.

The lifelong challenge of developing self-awareness, self-knowledge, and accepting full responsibility for all aspects of living our best lives is our only true work, and if it helps, our most powerful weapon, and it will always be. This is the only way to “heal the world,” because your reality and the energies you choose to explore and express invariably shape our collective human experience.

You are valuable. You are unique, important, and more powerful than you realize. Remember.

Solvitur ambulando