This is part 6 in a series.
Telltale Signs of…
If one gives an answer before he hears,
it is his folly and shame.
An intelligent heart acquires knowledge,
and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
The one who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him.
Heda Margolius Kovály, a Communist, saw her husband executed by her own political party. She and her husband had both been in concentration camps under the Nazis prior to Hitler’s fall, and later joined the Communists after being liberated and moving to Czechoslovakia.
The Communists there were vicious people and were jealous for their growing political power and ideals. After WWII, they needed to instill fear in the populace around them in order to exert control of the post-war world. They accomplished this by alleging threats against the nation from dangerous, internal elements, and then put on what is known as the Slánský trial, which was a show trial. Show trials were common with Communist states: justice was never meant to be accomplished, but rather a narrative created. In this particular trial, Heda’s husband was selected to die for things that he—and in fact, no one—had done. Rather, the people needed to be convinced that seditious persons were among them, and fear was injected by executing these supposed criminals after perfunctory, fake trials.
In “Under a Cruel Star: A Life in Prague,” Heda reflected on how willing people were to discard truth in order to seize and maintain power. She wrote,
“It is not hard for a totalitarian regime to keep people ignorant. Once you relinquish your freedom for the sake of “understood necessity,” for Party discipline, for conformity with the regime, for the greatness and glory of the Fatherland, or for any of the substitutes that are so convincingly offered, you cede your claim to the truth. Slowly, drop by drop, your life begins to ooze away just as surely as if you had slashed your wrists; you have voluntarily condemned yourself to helplessness.”
Abandoning truth to create a narrative has never been more popular in America than it is today. Recently, the New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize for its “1619 Project,” which argued that the United States was not founded in 1776, but rather in 1619. The Project claims that the United States were founded on slavery; indeed, they say that the Revolutionary War was fought to protect the country’s right to own slaves. It’s a fictional work and not based in reality, but the lead on the project, Nikole Hannah-Jones, has stated that there is no such thing as truth, but rather there exists merely narratives that achieve the furtherance of one’s goals. She elsewhere has denied that there is any such thing as objectivity.
When truth is abandoned for storytelling, power-grabbing purposes on a broad scale—across the institutions of the society—it is a sign that the nation has become pre-totalitarian. That is, it is soon to have a ruling class for whom mendacity is power, and wherein one’s personal honesty is weakness, perhaps even unto execution.
It is in such eras, however, when truth must be one’s guiding star. While lies bring with them great power, they also suffer the terrible burden of requiring destruction to maintain them, and eventually the ability to destroy peters out. Like a wildfire, they burn through, but when exhausted, it is the truth that regrows in their wake. This then makes truth, and being moored to it, an absolute necessity.
Propaganda and Politicocapitalism
Propaganda suffuses our modern society. The interests of those in crony politicocapitalism (companies which take money from the taxpayer to ensure their existence, and sometimes then use their power to silence taxpayers they do not favor) and the military-industrial complex are promulgated outward via whatever means are available, from algorithm alterations to redefining words. Almost all institutions have succumbed to this, including even our dictionaries. In 2020, Merriam-Webster re-defined the term “sexual preference” overnight during Supreme Court confirmation hearings in order to shape narrative in favor of a desired political outcome. In these ways—changing the meaning of words, crafting careful walls to what we can access online—the data we see is controlled, and thus our perceptions of what is real are shaped by elites who are firmly tied to a permanent political class.
This is the point of propaganda: to shape what people believe is real to the liking of the crafters. About propaganda, WWII survivor Hannah Arendt writes in “The Origins of Totalitarianism,”
“The force possessed by totalitarian propaganda—before the movement has the power to drop the iron curtains to prevent anyone’s disturbing, by the slightest reality, the gruesome quiet of an entirely imaginary world—lies in its ability to shut the masses off from the real world.”
Being shut off from the real world—having one’s moorings to reality violently thrown loose—is a growing threat. Take for example the 1619 Project, which is historiography rather than history. While claiming to have laudable goals, it is in fact a threat to reality. It seeks to instill an inner revulsion at a past it knows is false in order to create a future that the authors desire, but it is not truth. It is propaganda in spite of its Pulitzer, and it is now being taught at thousands of schools as “fact.” Those who learn its lies have had their understanding of reality itself stolen from them; their perceptions of the world are crafted by malevolent liars. Yet with the prestige of a Pulitzer in hand, the lie is much harder to dislodge. Still a lie it is, and so forever it must be fought by those who love truth.
While the 1619 Project is a concrete example of storytelling to shape reality, there are more cryptic signs of the spread of cancerous falsity. Recently, a political science PhD examined how social justice terminology had been cropping up. Using an academic hub where papers, journals, science articles, etc., can all be searched by their keywords, he looked at term frequency to assess cultural narrative. Below are some of his results:
Do you think that racism suddenly exploded in an epidemic? Police brutality? Any of the other things on the graphs? That’s unlikely, especially as progressives have taken over culture. Rather, what is being seen is narrative-shaping effects, much as the New York Times did with the 1619 Project. The object of this campaign in propaganda is to shift one’s ability to discern what is real versus what is not.
And it does not end with whiteness or diversity. Long ago, heterosexuality was considered the “norm.” Those boundaries were pushed until there was no “normal,” but merely one’s own fancy at the moment: proclivities were claimed to be based on genetics. From there the push was the difference between biological sex and gender, with one being what one is and the other being what one feels. The situation has shifted even further now, with sexuality being called a social construct in addition to gender.
Recently, one of the most prominent lawyers with the ACLU proclaimed that there is no such thing as biological reality at all! A sex scientist, meanwhile, said that heterosexual relationships are even bad for our species. These are violent attempts to slash free our tetherings to reality so that we are set adrift in a sea of meaninglessness and subjectivity. They are propaganda that work when they assault viewers with enough frequency and consistency.
The point of all these assertions, even the bizarre ones such as claiming that there is no such thing as male or female, are much like Satan’s initial lies: they are meant to change how you understand the world around you at a very fundamental level.
So what does this mean? Corporate media and institutions are framing the world’s understanding of reality through a very new lens that used to be confined only to some radical academics. This can also happen on the “conservative” side (which has conserved very little, if conservatives are taking any note). Conservatives have their own media sources which confirm to them the facts about the world. In America, 75% of adults use Facebook and almost a quarter use Twitter, all which shape beliefs via algorithms that are never seen by the user.
In effect, we are being taught to take as reality whatever “feels” correct to us. Arendt wrote of such pre-totalitarian people,
They do not believe in anything visible, in the reality of their own experience; they do not trust their eyes and ears but only their imaginations, which may be caught by anything that is at once universal and consistent with itself. What convinces masses are not facts, and not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system of which they are presumably part.
This consistency is something of a parlor trick that can be explained in terms of logic and reasoning. Logic is the fundamental rules that we apply to reasoning to “reason from A to B.” It’s the fundamental parameters that we apply to working through a problem. But if our logic is flawed, our reasoning will never bring us to the correct answer, no matter how good the reasoning seems. Simply put, reasoning is a system and logic is the rules applied to that system. Flawed logic means that the answer is never right, even if the reasoning is 100% (internally) consistent. Basically, it’s possible to have something make perfect sense but to be totally wrong.
By not questioning the veracity of the information we’re being fed, what we end up with is a narrative that makes sense, but is not at all grounded in reality.
A friend last year told me to read only “traditional news sources, such as the New York Times, which are “typically held to higher journalistic standards.” Elsewhere someone posted an article telling people that they must “cultivate prestige media” in order to “avoid fake news.”
Yet in a pre-totalitarian system, it is just these sources which necessarily must be questioned if one wants to Live Not by Lies. There is, after all, little more “prestigious” than the American Civil Liberties Union, yet this institution outright denies that there is any difference or discernability between a penis and a vagina. It is selling a Big Lie, and it wants you, out of peer-pressure and propaganda, to buy the entire thing and Live by Lies. The ACLU has also stated that freedom of speech should not extend to matters of gender; this should be a chilling assertion to anyone who cares about liberty or avoiding bloodshed.
Yet it is not just here that we see pre-totalitarianism. Following the mess at the Capitol, matters have accelerated to an alarming degree, with institutions calling for the assembling of an American Stasi.
Meanwhile, “prestige” media has been claiming that there were “a few, isolated incidents of violence” in the 2020 riots that cost between $1-2 billion in damage, that anti-war, veteran candidate Tulsi Gabbard is a “known Russian asset,” and that any conservative voter with a darker skin tone is actually a closeted white. This is all entirely propaganda, and backend algorithms enhance its effectiveness. By controlling what information one sees, these institutions move what is real into the realm of imagination, where it becomes un-real despite its tangible existence.
As was discussed above, controlling the narrative is paramount because seeing a glimpse of the real world for even an instant can shatter the fake foundations on which the internally-consistent reasoning is built. To that end, Big Tech and various institutions have been launching an assault on our access to information. With shadow-bans (wherein one can post online but the information is hidden to other users, making one feel alone and irrational) and algorithms not doing the trick, we’ve seen sterner measures: terminating servers, banning accounts, and deleting entire groups.
More nefariously, prestige and legacy institutions have been calling for wholesale purges of any dissident material. Congresswoman AOC called for the government to give “media literacy courses” to its citizens, and to “rein in” media from reporting on whatever they wish to, while forming a government body to determine truth and bring about reconciliation. Apparently, government and “prestige media” should determine what information one has access to.
Perhaps the biggest question is why people are willing to go to such extremes in suppressing voices that are not their own. In a world that claims that there is no objective truth, one’s only way to orient the ship of one’s life is to create one’s own story—a useful fiction. Given no fundamental or persistent truths, a persistent narrative is the next best thing, and people are searching for a way to create that narrative while managing emergent anxieties in this digital, drug-laden age. The primary methods are through pleasure and sensuality, and anything that puts a break in the facade is to be removed, much as one might seek to eradicate termites.
We are moving forward into the end-stage of American society as we know it at breakneck speed, and what once seemed impossible here—totalitarianism—may be right around the corner.
As Dr. Silvester Krčméry who survived a totalitarian regime wrote in “This Saved Us: How to Survive Brainwashing,”
We live, contented and safe, with the idea that in a civilized country, in the mostly cultured and democratic environment of our times, such a coercive regime is impossible. We forget that in unstable countries, a certain political structure can lead to indoctrination and terror, where individual elements and stages of brainwashing are already implemented. This, at first, is quite inconspicuous. However, often in a very short time, it can develop into a full undemocratic totalitarian system.
In order to combat this living in the misty surroundings of pseudo-reality, where firm ground is never to be found, one needs to look beyond the reasoning being expressed to the foundational claims of that reasoning. If the premise of a narrative is flawed, the understanding you gain from it will never be correct.
As the opening passages of scripture attest, a story can seem absolutely correct until extra information is gathered. We must seek out knowledge and information. We must get to know people at a personal level and hear what they have to say. We must not fear examining claims, even when institutions tell me that the claims are dangerous or that we can’t trust our own minds, because the truth never fears examination. Moreover, we must pay attention to when news sources are telling us how to feel, as that is when stories are being created which have no connection to reality; rather, those stories are based on the intangible—how we feel, rather than what actually is.
When people tell you that you cannot hold a certain belief, you must understand that they are really telling you that they themselves cannot abide you holding that belief. And when someone cannot tolerate an outside argument, it is a sign that they do not possess their beliefs—their beliefs possess them.
Pursue truth. Remain unyieldly anchored to reality.