We live in an age with the most advanced propaganda machines the world has ever seen. We call them, euphemistically, marketing departments. Public relations. The primary function of these branches, having worked closely with them myself for years, is to get people to purchase without thinking overmuch about what it is they’re buying. The most effective advertising has little to do with the product itself but rather associates a brand with a happy lifestyle. It is public knowledge, in that the public is capable of seeing marketing mechanisms at work, that there is a disconnect between message and purpose. And yet we watch them daily, as a nation. We watch as many of them as the marketers think we can stand without revolting, without being sick to death of them.
We also live in the wake of a Supreme Court decision that grants corporations the power of free speech. We are going to allow, in our national debate, the most widely successful propaganda campaigners into our political arena. This is one large step down the road America has already started upon: we have fought tooth and nail for our freedoms, but we would rather sacrifice them to those already in power than use our votes ourselves. It’s a logical outcome of our faith in the division of labor, an outcome of the long hours brought about by our longstanding work ethic.
The problem with propaganda is that it’s polarizing. These effects exist already in our bipolar government, but the arm of marketers and publicists has always been limited by scrutinized means. A politician has a speech written; he reads it off a teleprompter; he hands a press release to FOX News and CNN and waits to see what they do with it. Corporations are much more savvy. They write a press release, they offer no information other than their press release, they purchase some advertising space, and then they watch their press release and their ads appear simultaneously, side by side, unquestioned by the very arm that’s pushing them out.
Now we’re going to allow these propagandists into the most closely waged war of this country, and I expect an escalation of violent proportions. We slung mud before, but that was when we were too poor to afford farmers’ tools. Watch us march ahead, torch and pitch fork in hand, and the pandemonium screams ever louder around us, amplified in the way only professionals could accomplish. Watch it lead to political turmoil the like of which America has not recently endured, perhaps to a second civil war, caused only by the irresponsible voices of profit-hungry but incorporeal pseudo-individuals.
This is not an instance in which greed, functioning as a primary virtue, will overcome all lesser obstacles. This is not an instance in which self-interest will stop with victory. Self-interest will go further. The corporate powers that be will not stop until they have secured a stable puppet on the thone, not just in the presidency but across all of Washington, and this kind of tyranny the people will not stand. At least, I hope they won’t stand it.