Monday, February 2, 2009

Maintaining Objectivity

It is the most important and notable aspect of a Propaganda Hacker to maintain as complete an objectivitist approach as humanly possible. If a hacker starts to become subjective in analysis, he is nothing more than a Propagandist in sheep's clothing. Objectivity of mindset when analyzing an article of Propaganda, and objectivity of choice when choosing which article to analyze. The answer to the question, "What type of propaganda do you analyze?" should be, "All types of propaganda." Anything other than this answer and one can be sure that he's slipped knowingly or blindly into the realm of a Propagandist.

A great example of a popular propagandist oft mistaken for a hacker is Alex Jones. Now I am not saying that mr. Jones' material is in any way wrong, or bad, (that would be subjective thought.) I am however pointing to the fact that mr. Jones uses almost all of the techniques of a propagandist to get his message out there. Most people would, at first blush, think Mr. Jones is a propagnda hacker, but in this case they would be incorrect. Just go to prisonplanet.com and listen to one of his radio-casts. He likes to stay on the Vertical Agitation side of the Ellul Index. His work can also be classified as Irrational propaganda, as well as Highly Political. On the Aristotle Rhetoric Index he ranks highly on all three contexts. He likes to stay in the Political context as we can see from the Ellul Index, and most all of his articles are very high in the Forensic or Courtroom context in that his Rhetoric tends to always be investigative, and pointing indirectly and often times directly to guilty party. His use of ceremonial oratory can be seen as mostly censoring.

A true propaganda hacker should try to avoid at any lengths, being labeled as a person of any type of intellectual category. The hacker does not take his views or any of of his political / sociological opinions into account when reviewing and analyzing an article of propaganda. Hackers should always seek to be transparent in the way they categorize a specific article. No opinions should be given in the review, simply factual observations of the technique used. Getting into the realm of opinion is a death sentence for the credibility of a propaganda hacker.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Propaganda Hacker's Manifesto

A propaganda hacker is not a person who has set themselves against propaganda, but instead seeks to understand it through a systematic method and procedure by which they can see past the article of propaganda itself to view the intent and expected outcome of it's creators. A propaganda hacker, in a sense, is someone who attempts to see the future actions of the mass population being propagandized through recognizing past patterns and similarities in technique and reaction by the propagandists. What a propaganda hacker uses their information for is up to them. It can be imagined that this information is of great use to the people or the "mass man", as Edward Bernays likes to call them, leaning toward helping to release humanity of the bonds placed on the mind of it's capitulates. A propaganda hacker is a map-maker who realizes that all communication carries propaganda to someone's benefit and can place the inputs that he receives every day from hundreds of sources into concrete categories in order to further recognize emerging pattens in the system.

Propaganda hackers are truth-seekers and realists. They are not fatalists or conspiracy theorists. They understand the modalities and temporalities of propaganda and simply seek to be free of that propaganda with which they do not want to conform or congeal to. Propaganda hackers must be themselves free of the common ideas and tools used to separate the people through past propaganda techniques such as racism, nationalism, communism, capitalism, and prejudices in all forms. This is not a position, but a truth. For to be truly free of the mind-numbing and stagnating effects of the mass propaganda campaigns of the modern day, the hacker must put down his differences and see the reality that they are only tools to keep the mass man distracted and sedated into a stupor of unorganized and unfocused action on the basis of mass misinformation.

Is a propaganda hacker counter the Propagandist? No. The propaganda hacker realizes that in order to be of any help to his fellow human beings on earth, one of the best tools at his dispense is propaganda itself. If a propagandist were a programmer, a propaganda hacker would be the equivalent of a programmer who focuses on reverse engineering programs made by the former type. However, the hacker's use of propaganda is of a different type altogether. The hacker propagates information that is true, and not skewed, prejudiced or alarmist in any way. Pure objective information that serves only the point of noting observations and letting people come to their own free conclusions from what they are presented. This document and written effort counts as propaganda of that type. A propaganda hacker can even see through and analyze this document to discover the intentions behind it. All in all, the hacker should maintain transparency and consistency in how he analyzes and categorizes incoming propaganda.

I am proposing a community of Propaganda Hackers be started, and a Propaganda Hacker manifesto be forged in order to collectively explore and analyze the effects of the modernized, internet savy propaganda of today's world. I will be putting together a web site for this which includes this blog, as well as many other resources, tools, and exercises for propaganda hacking. I will continue to post to this blog with updated and relevant information while the site is in construction. I ask that you continue to share the information I have posted here, and continue to read past entries if you haven't already, as they are quite relevant to the conversation.

The propaganda hacking site will feature tools that read through, filter, and trend historical and incoming media communications, as well as conversational communications from websites such as twitter. It will feature analysis tools that use some of the methods we've discussed already, and new methods and categorizations I've been working on. It will be a community for propaganda hackers to share and create their ideas, theories, and analysis through a customized system focused on streamlining and standardizing the analytical process. If you have any ideas you'd wish to share for now, please comment.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Technology's Evolution and Effects on Propaganda

"In order to realize the nature of present-day Jingoism, as distinguished from the national war-spirit in earlier times, attention must be given to a complex of new industrial and social conditions which favour the growth of the passion. Foremost among these is the rapid and multifarious intercommunication of ideas rendered possible by modern methods of transport. The mechanical facilities for cheap, quick carriage of persons, goods, and news signify that each average man or woman of to-day is habitually susceptible to the direct influence of a thousand times as many other persons as were their anscestors before the age of steam and electricity."
-John Atkinson Hobson - The Psychology of Jingoism, 1901. p6.

This example of technology's role in the spreading of jingoist propaganda or extreme nationalist propaganda shows how the average person is susceptible to a thousand times as many other persons as their ancestors. Imagine how the propaganda of today spreads through such interactive and immediate technologies such as the internet and social media. This effect observed by Hobson has obviously scaled up in 2009 to equal a large percentage of the amount of people with internet access and "web 2.0" style applications. Chat rooms, message boards, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Digg, the list goes on. One thing that governments seemed to have not predicted with the internet is how much power it gives to the individual to also reach a large audience of people.

In a book published in 2000, entitled "Exploring Mass Media for a Changing World," Ray Eldon Hiebert, Sheila Jean Gibbons, and Sheila Silver explain how long each form of new communication technology takes to get from an "elite communication system" to a "mass communication communication system":
"Books took nearly 400 years from their first appearance as a printed medium in the mid-fifteenth century to go from being an elite to a mass medium in the mid-nineteenth century. Newspapers took about 200 years, from the 1630s to the 1830s. Magazines required about 170 years, from 1700 to the 1870s. Sound recordings were transformed into a mass medium in about 60 years, from the 1880s to the 1940s. Motion pictures made the progression in about 50 years, from the 1870s to the 1920s; radio in about 40 years, from the 1890s to the 1930s; television in about 30 years, from the 1920s to the 1950s. The Internet took only 15 years, from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s."
Decidedly, it's taking less and less time for new forms and sub-forms of communication to take root in a massive way in society. Let's take a look at an example of how communications flow today with the usage of Social Media sites, text messaging, and video & photo sharing. The internet is speculated to include over 200 million independent online radio stations, blogs, podcasts, music or file sharing sites, and peer to peer networks; almost every one of them boasting heavy commenting and communications features among it's users. This points to the ease of flow of communications in today's world, and propaganda cannot spread without the vehicle of communication.

In the "Online Crisis Audit: Analysis of the online response to the crash of US Airways Flight 1549," January 15, 2009, (only fourteen days before this article,) Brendan Hodgson has recorded and reports, (in slideshow format,) on a time-line from the point the first photo of the crash, to the point where a hero was made in online print on day two. This raw slide-show includes screen shots of the pages spreading this story, in a time-line format.

The first communications happened only 10 minutes after the accident when someone shared a photo of the crash on a popular photo sharing site called Flickr. Within ten more minutes the traditional news media organizations had begun reporting using their online RSS (digital syndication) feeds. The US Airways website took about 55 minutes to respond by taking their advertisements down. Within the first hour after the accident, more images, and conversation had flooded through communication lines on some of the most popular social media sites and Google (the dominant, multi-service, multi-faceted and most popular search service). Another eight minutes after US Airways had taken down their advertisements they released their first official statement about the acident. Meanwhile 400 plus articles had shown up on Google search and 20 plus videos on YouTube. Within 2 hours of the actual incident a Twitter user named @usairwaysgirl had re-posted a tweet linking to the website of the US Airways pilot on the flight, (it seems that this information originated from the news media,) and within 2 days he had a huge facebook following and was being called a hero by people online worldwide. His company, perhaps coincidentally, is focused on security and describes itself as a "consulting firm that provides expert solutions to complex problems involving safety, high performance and high reliability."

An observation one can make in this examination is that while Social Media is credited with finding the story, it's the mass media who were able to give it a lasting strength, and then social media ran with the ball. Within the first 18 minutes, Google had already found 30 plus articles and media feeds from the mass media corporations. Another social media site called Twitter was found to have hundreds of snippets of communications, (what they call tweets,) from it's users, within 37 minutes. The presentation does not go into detail about when the "tweeting" started, but does mention that it "move[d] into overdrive" at that time. This shows an emergent pattern illustrated by the flow chart below:

What does this have to do with the way propaganda spreads? Firstly, it shows the viral nature of communications of the internet and the effect it has had on society. Secondly, the presentation gives a glimpse into the lightning speed of the channels through which propaganda flows. Keep in mind here that I am only using US Airways Flight 1549 as an example, and I am not drawing any conclusions that this event was untrue, was reported untruly, or was in any way falseified, neither am I creating any theories about the mass media. Furthermore I am not seeking to place blame for anything, much less trying to credit or discredit Chelsey Sullenberger; the pilot. I am "sticking to the facts" (for those of you who like to use that catch phrase.) The mass media is obviously, however, still a large player at the top of the communication stream and have upgraded their communications tools to give them access to quick propagation within minutes after an event or even a pseudo-event occurs, (will cover pseudo-events in next entry.)

One can draw a conclusion that the mass media corporations still drove the entire blossoming of the conversation as a whole, propagating the message out to those people from social bookmarking sites and micro-blogging sites such as twitter, who virtually camp-out on the media feeds trying to be the first person to link to an article. The people who often see a piece of news after-the-fact and have the least information about an event given to them are the ones who watch it on the afternoon news broadcast on television. The rest of the population of the world gets to see renditions of renditions or copies of original reporting that happened sometimes days earlier through the older methods of propagation through syndication such as newspaper and the age old art of in-person conversation. Many people hear about the event from a friend or co-worker, or overhear it in a public place such as a bar.

Throughout the entire dissemination process, a story's information will be recycled countless times, and usually by the time people are talking about it face to face, some of the facts are skewed and many of the details left out or forgotten. This is not to mention that during this process, there are multiple bloggers (or independent internet writers,) and even other secondary news syndication services that pick the story up and re-post it online to their own audiences, often including the addition of their own opinions as well as many other of their reader's comments. This effect seems to draw out a story for some period of time after the original event it references, in what I envision to be a semi-cyclical pattern that decreases in amplitude at every peak until at one point the mention of the subject is only used in a "historical" sense.
Propaganda can now move at the speed of the internet, giving haste to the implications and techniques of the great Propaganda Hackers and Propagandists of our time. What do you think the results of this are?

I have done a couple studies as to what the direct results of this are over time and have found that the matrix of interconnected subjects and relationships between subjects as displayed and represented by the mass media, are mirrored, imperfectly, but very closely, by the matrix of interconnected subjects and relationships between subjects in every day conversation of a society exposed to that media. I will cover this in more depth in a later article, but on another blog I have also posted up a start to this specific conversation for anlaysis.

As always, feel free to leave a comment, I am interested in what both Propagandists and Propaganda Hackers have to say about this and the rest of my work. Keep analysing and always ask yourself questions. Please also keep the subjective comments to yourself.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Propaganda Analysis Primer: Part 2

This entry continues yesterday's entry: Beginning the Analysis: A Primer. So far we have covered the Ellul Index and the AR (Aristotelian Rhetoric) Index, for a more information about them see the last entry. In this entry we're going to talk about other forms of measuring using some of the categorization methods and propaganda techniques of Orwell, Bernays (a propagandist like aristotle), and other compiled categories. We'll discuss Ellul's definition of pre-propaganda and learn how to percieve it as it's coming in. I'll also be giving you an example of the analysis process using a U.S propaganda piece from 1950, (Height of McCarthyism movement,) released by Coronet Films about "Communism".

Let's talk first about Ellul's view on what is Pre-propaganda and the effects and usage of pre-propaganda and "myth". Ellul writes that no direct propaganda can be effective without pre-propaganda, which creates images, ambiguities and stereotypes apparently without any particular purpose. Pre-propaganda's initial objective is to prepare a person for a specific action. Ellul goes on to say, "It proceeds by psychological manipulations, by character modifications, by the createion of feelings or stereotypes useful when the time comes." Often propagandists use the technique of "myth" in their pre-propaganda campaigns. In his 1964 book, The Technological Society, Ellul explains "myth" as, "an all-encompassing, activating image: a sort of vision of desirable objectives that have lost their material, practical character and have become strongly coloured, overwhelming, all-encompassing, and which displace from the conscious all that is not related to it. Such an image pushes man to action precisely because it includes all that he feels is good, just, and true." Ellul goes on to say that eventually the myth will take possession of a mind, consecrating his life to it. Ellul says, "that effect can be created only by slow, patient work by all the methods of propaganda, not by any immediate propaganda operation."

The myths that I have found, including Ellul's myths are: Youth, the Hero, Progress, Science, Happiness, the Proletariat, the Furher (the leader or guide), and Society. Each of these myths can be seen in almost every "society" that we find ourselves as human beings in today. How many commercials are concecrated to the look of youth as equal to the look of beauty? How many times have there been movies and comics, and books about heros, (and superheroes,)? Did you know that Superman says you can Slap a Jap? How many times does the newspaper mention progress of this and progress of that as a society? Notice that things mostly stay the same for you from day-to-day life? Let's not even begin on the rest, because Pre-propaganda is a system that functions so naturally, if you really take the time to look within yourself, you'll see and remember the examples and images, stereotypes and ambiguities placed into your mind by pre-propaganda. Perhaps the most unnerving thing about these myths is the fact that they are Integrative, Sociological, Horizontal, and Irrational placing all myths at the extreme of virtual imperceptivity in the Ellul Index. As an exercise, try to look for and uncover conversations, commercials, and advertisements that play off of the myths implanted in your mind. It's not all too difficult, usually all one needs to do is bring up a conversation with a friend about the current war.

Another type of pseudo-prepropaganda as discovered by Orwell cover the use of techniques that collapse certain ideas or entire concepts and scenes into one word, or a simple phrase that is constantly thrown in the ear of the people of a society. This phrase or word usually has another meaning before the propagandist skews or spins it to change the meaning slightly. The word spreads through the people like wildfire and they use this word, themselves, with much regularity, to a point where everyone has forgotten the original meaning of the word. The word may even be re-written in the new releases of the dictionaries of the time. An example of today would be the word "terrorist." which will not be covered, but here's a link to a blog entry about this. Orwell calls this technique "DoubleSpeak". He even actually created a quarterly release detailing the use of DoubleSpeak. A good example of DoubleSpeak are the words "downsizing" and "layoff". These create a communication bypass in rationalization. There is now actually a dictionary of American DoubleSpeak created by Paul Wasserman which covers quite a large use of DoubleSpeak. Wasserman explains each word or term used and it's original meaning, sometimes citing examples of how it's used otherwise. He defines doublespeak as meaning "distortions and obfuscations and marketplace flim-flam." Doublespeak is not only used by the government controlled media, but almost all forms of commercial media. Here's an example of doublespeak excerpted from his dictionary: "Backward Country: This is not politically correct, and is a term banned in many educational publications, with developing country used in its place. The World Bank uses the acronym LICUS (low-income countries under stress) and the British government refers to those at the bottom of the heap as 'fragile.'" In the systematic analysis of an article of propaganda, it is important for the hacker to look out for and take note of the use of doublespeak and the original meaning of the doublespeak being used. This will point to clues about the original meaning behind vertical propaganda as well as horizontal.

At this point, it is highly recommended that you pick up a copy of Propaganda by Edward L. Bernays, written in 1928. Bernays is one of the pioneer propagandists of the 20th century and has proven all of his methods work and work well. He is the person responsible for the connecting his uncle Freud's work in psychology to the marketing world, along with the help of Anna Freud, his cousin. Together, they shaped the minds and habits of Americans in a lasting way. They literally created things such as "The American Dream", life styles, the entire practice and study of Public Relations, and many of the nuances and subtle persuasive tactics used today by governments around the world. Anna Freud was Mother of the Freudian psychoanalytic movement and when asked what her reason was for creating psychoanalytic splinter groups, she responded that nothing was as important as the movement, with the implication that even the truth was regarded as secondary to the movement. This is a tell tale sign of a propagandist. A hacker seeks to reveal the truth rather than obscure it. A good example and view of the lifestyles system from present day can be seen here.

It is important to realize the targeting techniques that go into a propagandists work, in order to be able to tell who the propagandist is targeting with their message. Some example targets that are widely used are: the working class, the intellectual, and the sportist (fans of modern sports [irrespective of different sports in different countries]) along with many other overlaping categorizations of targets. When a hacker knows the target, it is much easier to then extract other information about the intentions of an article of propaganda.

In order to tone and sharpen one's analytical abilities, one must first use some examples of how to use this system of propaganda analysis. An example I've chosen is a simple start.

Communism


Here's how I would rate it on both indexes, plus other extended info:
Ellul Index: PAHR
AR Index: P8-F10-C3
Notes: Irrational Undertones, Forensic placing guilt (hypocritical)
Tags: nationalism, counterpropaganda
DoubleSpeak words: freedom
Myths Used: American Way, Hero, Progress (American), The Proletariat

Notice the use of the question mark symbolism in the movie? Notice the use of facts to provide rational logic, the hypocricy of talking about the communist propaganda methods when this itself is a mind-molding propaganda campaign. Notice the finger pointing, notice how it seems like they're talking about the America of today in it's War on Terror "outright military aggression to extend their power."

I will be including more examples in later posts, as well as more methods for analyzing and categorizing propaganda so that you and other propaganda hackers can easily share information and ideas about discoveries you've made in the field. Please feel free to give your comment or example in the comments sections below.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Beginning the Analysis: A Primer

To begin a conversation on technical analysis is key in hacking propaganda. Graphs, counters, and excersizes are the propaganda hacker's best friends. Using today's technology it is even possible to get statistics on propaganda without having to read or view any of the direct propaganda being thrown out on the daily news streams. Most of all, for us to create a standard of categorization and analysis will enable us to show the intentions behind a piece without trying to counter it using propaganda ourselves. The biggest problem for a propaganda hacker is that there's no current way to provide information about a piece of propaganda without making one's own propaganda to counteract it. If this counteraction is to a piece of propaganda deep rooted in what Ellul calls "pre-propaganda" then it's almost impossible to counteract.

What are the categories of propaganda? Let's take a good look at what propaganda can be categorized into. There have been hundreds of people who have commented on this subject throughout the years and we are going to use some of their findings to create a primer or a base for analyzing propaganda objectively.

The Ellul Index

Jacques Ellul provides us with one of the most complete and knowledgable propaganda categorizations that we know today. In this light, I have created the Ellul Index of which to measure an article / TV show / communication by in order to get a general idea of the intention of the piece or article of propaganda which we are analyzing. Ellul has broken propaganda down into four effective pairs of overlapping categories. An article can be seen as one or the other of the options in each of the pairs, with a total of four options.
The Ellul Index categorizes an article as follows:
  1. Political vs. Sociological
  2. Agitation vs. Integration
  3. Vertical vs. Horizontal
  4. Irrational vs. Rational
Each of these pairs brings to light a different dimension of article being analyzed.

Political vs. Sociological: Political is delivered by a definite body of individuals like pressure groups, governments, parties and administrations for definite goals whereas Socialogical is diffuse. Political focuses more on distinguished and precise methods and goals, often released by the group itself whereas Sociological is more virus-like, spreading diffusely as a climate of opinion and is quite hard to spot because it's almost imperceptible and does not have the appearance of being propaganda at all. Political spreads to it's direct audience with little replication, but Sociological is more of an organized attempt to ballon the propaganda to it's largest possible reach and change an individual's environment thus changing the individual and his core belief system.

Agitation vs. Inegration
: Agitation is more visible than integration, it normally is revolutionary in nature, but can be used by anyone including governments whereas Integration is a propaganda of conformity. Agitation breeds hatred and is much more subversive whereas Integration is more unifying and reinforces the individual's place in their society. There are examples in history that point to what happens when a group does not switch it's Agitation propaganda to Integration propaganda at the right time, and the results are disasterous often leading the society to breakdown from violence.

Vertical vs. Horizontal
: Vertical comes directly from one person or a leader and is aimed at the people like Nazi propaganda whereas Horizontal is made within the masses and allows individuals to condition eachother like the Obama campaign and most political or government propaganda in America. Vertical is created by the leader groups and uses all of the tools and technical means to dominate the masses through calls to spontaneos action contrasted by Horizontal wherein the masses educate eachother through the grouplike connection that exists, only using the leader as an animator or the originator of said propaganda.

Irrational vs. Rational
: Irrational plays on the irrational desires and tendencies of human nature often existing in the subconcious so that rationalization of the message must occur in the individuals conscious mind whereas Rational propaganda is usually targeted at intellectuals using the help of true facts to appear genuine and scientific. Often times, rational and irrational are almost indistinguishable because rational propaganda is met by an unwillingness to look at the numbers and just assume rationality of an article. In rational propaganda the individual finds himself convinced by an emotional feeling rather than by demonstration of facts, thus turning science into scorcery. Many examples of Irrational technique can be found in Edward Bernays' works.

Using Jacques Ellul's categorization of propaganda, along with some of his other analytics like the use of myth (will be covered in a later entry), will allow the propaganda hacker to more fully understand the intention of any article of propaganda. It is important to pick up a copy of his book simply entitled "Propaganda" which you can order from Amazon or look for at your bookstore.

The Aristotelian Rhetoric Index (AR Index)


Aristotle breaks rhetoric down into three divisions that point to the speaker's plot of oratorical attack. The speaker's intentions can be seen through the knowledge of their technique using this index as a startoff point. Each of these contexts or categories have sub-contexts that the speaker can use in order to drive their point into the heart of the people:
  • The Political context: aims to get a public policy accepted and focuses mainly on the future
  • The Forensic/Courtroom context: forensically deals with placing guilt or innocence of a specific party focusing mainly on the past
  • The Ceremonial context: eulogizes or censors some person or party focusing mainly on the present
It is easy to see the overlap of these categories, but one should see them as a list to be checked rather than a selection of one over the other. We will be looking into the categorizations of speakers that Aristotle uses in later entries, but if you are interested in knowing more about what this great propagandist knew about speaking to the people to illicit your intended response, pick up a copy of "Rhetoric" or look for it on your favorite search engine. Often times it's available in full on internet copy. Although an older view of propaganda, it's important to note that modern Propagandists study Aristotle and the other great masters of rhetoric in order to build up their technique.

Building a System for the Hacker

In order to systematize forming a precise and structured analysis of any piece or article of propaganda, we need a standard method. I am proposing building a system of categorization for this analytical process. The first two categorization techniques in the system are using the aforementioned examples of categorization. The individual pieces of the system comprised as a whole should give an adequate idea, to any person who understands it, of what the intent of an article is.

The system should provide simple categorization symbols to quickly reference the information it encompasses. Using the Ellul Index, we can say for example that an article is: PAVI (Political, Agitation, Vertical, Irrational) on one side of the board and SIHR (Sociological, Integration, Horizontal, Rational) on the other extreme, with about 16 different variations on what the letters can be in their categorical placement. Each letter represents a different setting in each category defined by ellul. Using the Aristotle Rhetoric (AR) index, the piece can be analyzed in a slightly different method where each category has a measurement of amplitude of expression and usage of technique in that category. For an AR index example, using a scale of 1 to 10, we can say that an article context is: P:10 F:5 C:2 meaning that on a scale of 1 to 10, the article ranked 10 on the political context, 5 on the Forensic or Courtroom context, and a 2 on the Ceremonial index representing a percentage based share of space in the article, the highest ranking usually being the main context of the article.

Using this type of system along with many other methods for categorization will allow the propaganda hacker to share within a quick glance, clues as to what the intention behind the curtain of an article might be.

There is obviously more to categorizing propaganda than just Ellul or Aristotle, but this primer serves as a first draft entry into the discussion of Propaganda Hacking. I invite your comments on this post, and whatever else you may have to contribute to the conversation. There are large gaps left from this entry in the full story of analysis of propaganda that I will be filling in with later entries, but feel free to let your ideas fly.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Why Study Propaganda?

Over many hundreds of years, many nationalities, many cultures, races and creeds, propaganda has been used to excersize a measure of control over the people of the world. Not only have an elite few or "controllers" accessed this technology of communication, but every company nowadays that advertises participates in their own form of propaganda. Propaganda technique and methods of persuasion are used pervasively throughout our modern day society through conversation, media, the internet and schools. It would seem impossible that one could exist outside of this unseen phenomenon and viral spreading of ideas. That being stated, it has become important for one to understand the shape, size and intentions of the propagandas of today so that one may choose which ideas to discard as products or propaganda, and which ideas to further propagate thus taking back control of his own habits and evolving as a person. This work has already been started by scholars throughout history such as Chomsky, Ellul, Nietzsche, Orwell, Camus, Canetti, Jaspers and many undeclared propaganda hackers of the last century. It is the goal of this blog to study and utilize these hacking methods, compilations, and techniques to unravel the web of modern day propaganda in an accurate and systematic maner. We seek to provide a primer by which other projects can be formed to truly free Humanity from the iron grip of some of the worst types of propaganda we see today.

It has been a common view to look at propaganda in only a top-down or vertical sense. For example, one may look at the information coming out of Israel or from the Hamas organization about Gaza as propaganda, or one may see an advertisement, or the nightly news, and deem it as such. What the layman does not think to look at the immerse web of horizontal or sociological propaganda that exists in it's many types, forms, and modalities. There are qualitatively and quantitatively more diverse propaganda techniques that get further polished each day by the hundreds of thousands of organizations and propagandists that exist today.

Why study propaganda? Studying it allows one to see past it in a sense, to the intentions of it's producers. One begins to unravel the rhetoric and slogans of his era and see the true nature of the influencers of the world and society. One begins to take back responsibility and control over his own attitudes, habits, and prejudices. Randal Marlin on page 22 of his book "Propaganda and the Ethics of Persuasion" proposes a semi-concrete definition of propaganda as such: "The organized attempt through communication to affect belief or action or inculcate attitudes in a large audience in ways that circumvent or suppress an individual's adequately informed, rational, reflective judgment." He goes on to say that the definition does not exclude as propaganda, "those methods of influencing others which anticipate that the propagandees will make use of their own reason and informed judgment to act in some way which the propagandist desires." Propaganda itself is usually used to turn a profit for those propagating the message or idea. To mold public opinion and organize it in such a way as to implant imagery and the formation of ideas in the minds of the people for later use.

Propaganda has been being used since the days of Rhetoric in Plato's Era, but it has grown into something quite different than oratorical rhetoric. Edward L. Bernays in his book entitled "Propaganda: The formation of Mens Attitudes" in 1923 gives us detail and insight as to how his flavor of propaganda has been used in America and Germany over the last century when he says, "There are invisible rulers who control the destinies of millions. It is not generally realized to what extent the words and actions of our most influential public men are dictated by shrewd persons operating behind the scenes." Clearly in Bernays' view of the world, there is the Leader and the Crowd, the Propagandist and the Masses or the (Mass Man). Bernays was the controller of multiple propaganda campaigns for the U.S government and large corporations, affecting major change in the way Americans spend money, think of products, and go about their daily life and habits. He is hailed as the father of the Public Relations Industry and was paid large sums of money from his clients throughout his life. Only through careful study of his technique can one begin to unravel what has happened to the minds and social circles of Americans for the last 80 years. His methods succeded at replacing individual autonomy while turning the Mass into a machine which will react in a quite predictable way to the "pressing of a button." Goebbles, the infamous Minister of Propaganda for Hitler quotes and admires Bernays' work in the field during some of his more famous speeches.

Studying propaganda is the study of the way our minds as a whole are controlled by these "shrewd person" behind the curtain. To understand the form and flow, the patterns and textures of propaganda, one must study the many forms in which it exists currently and has existed in the past. One must draw lines of similarity between events previously experienced by society and todays events, through the lens of propaganda. The curtain must be raised, and the people's minds must be freed from the grips of those behind it if this world is ever to advance beyond this point. Edward Bernays is the type of person who would say and has said the opposite. People like him believe that without the propagandist, the world would fall into chaos and people would not advance humanity as a whole because people are, for the majority, idiots. That being said, there are quite a lot of ignorants and blind followings in the world today. Maybe they do need to be led, but by a real leader, not the Wizard of Oz.

It is in this vein that propaganda hacking finds it's roots, and in this essence that it will evolve. There have been both the Propagandist and the Propaganda Hacker for hundreds of years, but the former never got a proper title. Those who hack the propaganda of today are not people with degrees but people with tools and techniques that they share and discuss in their community. We only seek to understand the systems and methodologies by which our brains are intended to be controlled, and release ourselves from that control. We seek the ability to see as much of the true and vast picture of life as we can, and compile that information into a life free of the mental bars and barriers, and censorship set forth by those who would call themselves our rulers.

This blog is about the very core structures of Propaganda hacking, and is meant to supplement both the history and lessons learned by the major Propagandists as well as the Hackers. This is meant to supply people with a resource and a method within which to contribute and build a clear and concrete method of hacking or breaking down any article of propaganda, from a news article, to a TV show, to the headlines we read on the internet, to every day conversation and rhetoric. We will be using and evolving tools that we have created to perform these tasks and make them available to the common man. We will study and analyze technique throughout the ages of man that have been used and discuss ways to reverse-engineer them. We will build an open standard by which to systematize and automate the analysis of an article of propaganda, using current tools, and past patterns to uncover the intentions behind it's authors, and the effectiveness of it's campaign in our society.

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