oil tanker

US Court Orders Kurdish Oil Seized

While the world is distracted with Israeli atrocities in Gaza, the US and Israel are quietly breaking up Iraq. According to Reuters UK, a federal court in Texas has ordered US Marshals to seize a $100 million cargo of Kurdish oil on a tanker off the coast of Galveston, Texas – but only if the tanker enters US territorial waters.

Attorneys for the government of Iraq laid claim to the oil in a lawsuit they filed on July 28. Since May, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has shipped five million-barrel tankers of oil from the Turkish port of Ceyhan in defiance of Iraqi law, which mandates that Baghdad has sole authority over Iraq’s natural resources. One cargo of Kurdish crude was delivered to the United States in May to an unidentified buyer.

Four other tanker loads of Kurdish oil have been delivered to Israel.

The recent inability of the Iraqi government to defend its northern territories from the Islamic State (aka ISIS aka ISIL) has emboldened the KRG to assert control over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. With the complicity of the Turkish government, they have been marketing the oil on their own behalf. Because Kurdistan is land-locked the oil must be shipped via pipeline to Turkey.

Obama’s Contradictory Position on Kurdish Autonomy

This is one rare instance in which the US and Israel appear to be on opposite sides (or do they?). According to the Wall Street Journal, the Obama administration publicly opposes direct oil sales by Kurdistan, fearing this could contribute to the break-up of Iraq.

Yet, repeating a common pattern, the official position contradicts growing evidence that the CIA is training and arming ISIS militants.

Israel, meanwhile, is eager to expand trade with Kurdistan. According to unnamed Israeli officials, they see it as an opportunity to expand Israel’s limited diplomatic network in the Middle East, while simultaneously shoring up the country’s energy security.

photo credit: judy_and_ed via photopin cc

Propaganda

Slavko Martinov 2012

Korean with English subtitles

Film Review

The video below by Slavko Martinov is a sterling example of New Zealand satire. This is utterly classic Kiwi humor, deliberately biting, edgy and over-the-top. In fact, they may have pushed the envelope a bit too far in this one.

The premise of the satire is that the film is a “leaked” propaganda film by The Democratic Republic of Korea (North Korea).

Reminiscent of the Yes Men and their impersonation of corporate criminals, this satiric depiction of pro-corporate propaganda in western society is so uncanny that New Zealand’s South Korean community still believe the filmmakers are North Korean spies.

Here Slavko Martinov discusses his motivation for producing this mockumentary and the unexpected reaction it has received:

The Persuaders

PBS Frontline (2005)

Film Review

Unlike The Century of the Self, The Persuaders focuses more on contemporary public relations techniques. This PBS documentary begins by examining growing industry concerns that consumers are becoming “immune” to the unconscious messaging Edward Bernays perfected.

Pseudo-spiritual and Cult Branding

Pseudo-spiritual and cult branding are two of the latest mass marketing techniques. Pseudo-spiritual marketing is designed to convince consumers that brand loyalty will provide identity and meaning in their lives. The stellar success of Starbucks and Nike are given as examples. Starbucks (allegedly) creates meaning in peoples’ lives by offering them a “third place” (not home or work). While Nike offers consumers “transcendence”* through sport.

Inspired by Starbucks’ and Nike’s phenomenal “branding” success, marketing analysts went out and interviewed cult leaders to understand how they won the loyalty of their followers.

Volkswagen, Mac, Harley Davidson, Linux and Saturn are the leading examples of cult brands. By offering a sense of belonging and community, they successfully pitch their brands to consumers longing for the community values which have been lost in contemporary society.

I find this incredibly ironic. First the corporate public relations industry connives to systematically dismantle labor unions and other community groups and institutions. Then they cynically package and market luxury consumer goods to satisfy our unmet needs for civic engagement.

Aiming for “Visceral Appeal”

One of the marketing gurus the film profiles is Frank Luntz, a political consultant renowned for his expertise in using language to promote the “visceral appeal” of political campaigns. His goal is to hit voters at an emotional level that motivates them to act.

Luntz’s credits include helping Newt Gingrich devise the Contract with America to help the Republicans win control of Congress in 1994. Luntz is also responsible for helping Republicans win points on specific issues by reframing them, e.g. by changing “tax cuts” to “tax relief,” “estate tax” to “death tax” and “global warming” to “climate change.”

The Technique of Narrow Casing

The Persuaders concludes by examining “narrow casing,” a campaign technique first developed by John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. Narrow casing is largely credited for Obama’s victory in 2008. It involves data mining the vast amount of information corporations collect on our purchases (mainly via loyalty and credit card records). This data is used to categorize people into demographic groups based on specific issues (health, education, immigration, gun control) that are most likely to appeal to them. This allows campaign teams to beam issue-related advertising to specific groups (via email, direct mail and doorbelling), rather than relying on the more general messaging of mass marketing.

Republican political consultant Karl Rove has been highly successful in using narrow casing around issues such as gun control, immigration and the confederate flag to persuade blue collar white males to vote Republican.

*Transcendence is defined as existence or experience beyond the normal or physical level, as in spiritual transcendence.

 

 

Social-engineering-attack-scdor-hack

The Century of the Self is a four part BBC documentary that delves deeply into the work of Edward Bernays, commonly known as the father of public relations. Parts 3 and 4 explore the glorification of selfish consumption after World War II and how Reagan, Thatcher, Clinton and Blair perfected the “politics of self” to win and hold power.

The Century of the Self

BBC Documentary (2005)

Film Review

Part 3 (There’s a Policeman Inside All Our Heads) and Part 4 (Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering)

Link to Part 1 and 2

The Politics of Self

Following World War II, the CIA hired Sigmund Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays to advise them on controlling the “irrational aggression” of the masses. They were concerned that 49% of US soldiers evacuated from combat had to leave the battlefield for “emotional problems.” Today their condition would be diagnosed as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  In the mid-forties, the psychoanalysts who interviewed them diagnosed that they had unresolved conflicts related to their unconscious aggressive and sexual drives.

Convinced these problems were widespread among the greater population, in 1946 the Truman administration championed the passage of the Mental Health Act. The Act funded new guidance centers throughout the US to assist Americans to control and suppress their dangerous unconscious drives.

Meanwhile the public relations industry hired psychoanalysts to set up focus groups to use advertising more effectively to improve consumer demand for corporate products. These early focus groups employed psychoanalytic techniques to help advertisers improve sales by secretly appealing to unconscious needs and insecurities.

Students Opt for Self-Liberation

The anti-Vietnam War movement of the late sixties quickly morphed into a broader anti-capitalist movement that attacked corporations for corrupting government and brainwashing the public. This movement was strongly influenced by Wilhelm Reich and Herbert Marcuse, who had split with Sigmund and Anna Freud over their belief that unconscious aggressive and sexual drives had to be suppressed and controlled. Reich and Marcuse taught that it was repression itself that distorted unconscious aggressive and sexual drives and made them dangerous.

In 1970 the National Guard massacre of unarmed Kent State students in 1970 split in this anti-capitalist movement. For the most part middle class student supporters shifted their focus to “liberating” themselves rather than organizing for political change.

In addition to widespread experimentation with illicit drugs, this shift led to a surge of self-improvement initiatives and therapies, collectively called the Human Potential Movement.

Values and Lifestyle Marketing

Employing computer technology and psychologists trained in self-improvement techniques, the public relations industry adapted to this new individualism and preoccupation with self-expression with “values and lifestyle marketing.”

One of their main strategies was to blur the line between advertising and journalism by incorporating three key messages into news reporting: selfishness is good, the needs of individuals are more important than the needs of society and that only business can properly satisfy individual needs.

The Politics of Self

This deliberate promotion of selfishness and individualism cut across social classes and was a key factor in persuading blue collar voters to vote for Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher – and programs that significantly hurt their own economic interests.

Ultimately it was Bill Clinton and Tony Blair who perfected this new “politics of self” by incorporating focus groups and lifestyle marketing into their political campaigns. Their advisers convinced them that voters had to be regarded as consumers and that the secret to getting elected was by catering (i.e. pandering) to voters’ unconscious primitive selfish desires. It was a hell of a way to run government and would cause the Democrats to get the boot in 2000 and the Labour Party in 2010.

 

bernays

The Century of the Self is a four-part BBC documentary that delves deeply into the life and work of Sigmund Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays. Bernays was the first to perfect the science of thought control. In the political sphere, he referred to mass psychological manipulation as “engineering consent.” When he used propaganda and psychological manipulation to sell corporate products, he called it “public relations.” Parts 1 and 2 focus on the Freudian theories underpinning the early public relations movement.

The Century of the Self

BBC Documentary (2005)

Film Review

Part 1 (Happiness Machines) and Part 2 (Engineering of Consent)

The Transformation from Citizen to Consumer

The twentieth century is frequently referred to as the selfish century. This documentary lays the blame for this at the feet of Sigmund Freud and his nephew Edward Bernays.

Prior to World War I politicians and businesses used facts and information to win votes or to persuade people to buy their products. When Woodrow Wilson hired him to run his Committee for Public Information to produce pro-World War I propaganda, Bernays incorporated Sigmund Freud’s theory that human behavior was based on unconscious instinctual drives. By appealing to these unconscious and irrational feelings, he succeeded in selling World War I to a profoundly isolationist American public

 As well as his pivotal role in engineering corporate and government propaganda, Bernays was also responsible for popularizing Sigmund Freud’s work by emphasizing its sexual content.

 The Shift from a Needs to a Desire Based Culture

Curious whether similar techniques would also work in peace time, Bernays hired himself out to corporations to help them improve their sale of consumer products. His goal was to shift US society from a needs culture, where people only bought what they needed, to a desire culture, where they purchased products to make them feel better. Aware that the word propaganda had an extremely negative connotation, Bernays coined the term “public relations.”

Bernay’s stunning success gave birth to 1920s “consumptionism” and was largely responsible for the economic bubble that resulted in the 1929 crash. Already by 1927, social critics were concerned that Americans were no longer citizens but consumers. Confident of their ability to engineer consumer demand, banks funded national expansion of department store chains and hired Bernays to persuade ordinary people to borrow money to buy shares in the stock market.

Driven to record levels by borrowed money, the stock market collapsed.

During the Great Depression, Bernays shifted gears to focus more on influencing public political views. Neither Freud nor Bernays believed in the equality of man. Frightened by the rise of fascism in Europe, both believed that democracy was a fundamentally unsafe form of government (due to human beings’ dangerous unconscious drives).

Both believed that people must be controlled – that mass democracy could only work if popular consent was engineered. Bernays was also convinced that the best way to control people in a mass democracy was to render them passive consumers – by triggering a continuous irrational desire to consume and satisfying it with consumer goods.

Roosevelt Tries to Rein in Business

Unlike Freud and Bernays, Franklin Roosevelt believed that people were capable of knowing what they wanted and relied on the new science of public opinion polling (pioneered by George Gallup) to ascertain what people were thinking. His response to the Great Depression was to grant himself extensive executive power and subject business to central economic planning, which they hated.

In 1936, the National Association of Manufacturers hired Bernays to initiate an ideological campaign against the New Deal (and the rise of unionism as Alex Carey mentions in Taking the Risk Out of Democracy.

When World War II ended, the CIA hired Bernays to advise them on how to control the “irrational aggression” of the masses. In his CIA role, Bernays devised a campaign for the Eisenhower administration to convince the American public they were under imminent threat from Soviet Communism.

As part of this campaign, Bernays mobilized public and congressional support for the 1954 coup against Guatemala’s democratically elected president Jacobo Arbenz. Bernays also worked for the United Fruit Company, which was concerned about Arbenz’s plans for land reform, i.e. breaking up their extensive Guatemalan banana plantations.

The First Focus Groups

Meanwhile the public relations industry hired psychoanalysts to set up focus groups to use advertising more effectively to improve consumer demand for corporate products. These early focus groups employed psychoanalytic techniques to help advertisers improve sales by secretly appealing to unconscious needs and insecurities.

photo credit: Saint Iscariot via photopin cc

Originally posted in Veterans Today

 

taking the risk

This is the first in a series of posts about “engineering consent,” a form of brainwashing and thought control perfected in the 20th century. Its purpose is to allow the elites who control western democracies to maintain political power without resorting to brute force.


Taking the Risk Out of Democracy: Corporate Propaganda versus Freedom and Liberty

By Alex Carey (1995 University of New South Wales Press)

Book Review

Taking the Risk Out of Democracy: Corporate Propaganda versus Freedom and Liberty is a collection of essays written by Australian psychologist Alex Carey prior to his death in 1988. The essays were posthumously edited and assembled into a book by Andrew Lohey. Carey’s book details the 100 year history of the deliberate manipulation of popular consciousness by the corporate elite.

According to Carey, the main purpose of corporate social engineering is to persuade the voting public to serve the interests of the privileged class, rather than their own working class needs. This type of propaganda relies heavily on emotionally-laden symbols and a black and white view of society in which people and issues are either good or evil. Owing to virtually unlimited corporate financing, it’s spectacularly effective. Conservative regimes that enacted reactionary social policy (in the US) between 1919-1929, 1946-1956, and 1976-2014 didn’t just happen – they were deliberately engineered by the business lobby and corporate propagandists.

Women and Blacks Win Vote

In the view of the US business elite, a dedicated program of social engineering became essential at the beginning of the 20th century when women and northern blacks acquired the right to vote. In 1880, only 10-15% of the US population was eligible to vote. By 1920, this percentage had increased to 40-50%. The corporate elite couldn’t take the risk that this large crop of new voters would elect candidates keen on regulating corporate activities that posed a threat to public health and welfare.

Edward Bernays, known as the father of public relations, played an instrumental role in advancing the art and science of corporate propaganda. During World War I, he assisted Woodrow Wilson, who ran as an antiwar president, in convincing a fiercely antiwar and isolationist American public to support US intervention in the war between Britain and Germany.

Peacetime Propaganda

After World War I, Bernays worked for the National Association of Manufacturers and other corporate groups with a primary agenda of turning public opinion against unions, immigrants and the corporate regulation enacted by President Teddy Roosevelt between 1901 and 1912.

By combining a vast media campaign with concerted employee indoctrination, Bernays created a wave of anti-union and anti-immigrant hysteria. By convincing Americans that corporate regulation was akin to Bolshevism. In this way, he successfully ushered in the first (1919-1921) of three periods of corporate rule. While post-war Europe enjoyed a wave of radical liberalism resulting in the rise of democratic socialism, the US was caught in the grips of a reactionary agenda that would set the stage for the repressive Red Scare and Palmer Raids (in which politically active immigrants were rounded up and deported).

Labor Paralysis, Korea and Vietnam

The other two periods in which a corporate agenda dominated US domestic and foreign policy occurred between 1946-1950 and 1976-80. Between 1929 and 1946, the Great Depression and World War II dramatically curtailed the effectiveness of corporate propaganda. In the late forties, corporate interest groups roared back with a vengeance. The ideological agenda they broadcast on radio and in print media equated free enterprise with freedom and democracy, patriotism with social harmony and the New Deal with creeping socialism. Liberals who supported corporate regulation were portrayed as communist sympathizers. During this period, the Chamber of Commerce launched the first major publicity campaign warning that communists had infiltrated government, universities and other major institutions.

Thanks to these propaganda efforts, in Republicans took control of Congress for the first time since 1928. In 1947 they enacted the Taft Hartley Act (1947), virtually paralyzing American unions. By blanketing the media with their reactionary agenda, pro-corporate ideologues also laid the ground work for the second Red Scare, aka the McCarthy Era from 1950-1956.

Senator Joseph McCarthy’s House Committee on Unamerican Activities had an even more destructive effect on foreign policy than it did on civil liberties. In addition to pressuring Truman to pursue an unwinnable war in Korea, McCarthy also forced Eisenhower to reverse US policy on Vietnam and China. Under Truman, the US State Department had opposed the French return to Vietnam (i.e. they supported Vietnamese independence). They had also sought to mediate (in 1945) between Mao Tsai Tung and Chiang Kai Shek in the Chinese civil war.

After McCarthy succeeded in stripping the State Department of more than 500 personnel with Asian expertise, the ultraconservative, CIA-linked John Foster Dulles succeeded in throwing US support behind the incompetent and corrupt Chiang Kai Shek and transforming French opposition to Vietnamese independence into a battle to prevent world Communist domination.

The Rise of Pro-Corporate Neocons

The anti-Vietnam War, Nixon’s resignation and public anger over against CIA domestic spying led to a strong anti-business backlash during the late sixties and early seventies. Corporate ideologues fought back with the launch of “treetop” propaganda efforts. As opposed to grassroots media-based propaganda, treetop propaganda focuses on recruiting rich conservatives to fund conservative think tanks to promote conservative “economic education” and lobby Congress to defeat consumer protection and labor rights legislation.

The American Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) (neoconservative think tank founded in 1970), the Heritage Foundation (founded in 1973) and would be instrumental in promoting “economic” ideological beliefs that full employment and clean air and water initiatives are detrimental to the economy because they hurt business. These think tanks also hammered Congress and universities with the notion that the US would collapse under a socialist dictatorship unless corporate regulations were rolled back.

Their success in bombarding all sectors of society with these reactionary ideas would pave the way for Ronald Reagan’s election and the rollback of corporate regulation and social safety net programs that occurred during his administration.

During the early 1970s, these conservative think tanks began exporting these reactionary belief systems to British and Australian corporate interest groups. In Britain, American-inspired treetop and grassroots pro-corporate propaganda would lead to Margaret Thatcher’s election in 1979.

***

Below the 1993 documentary based on Noam Chomsky’s book Manufacturing Consent. The title is based on a term coined by Bernays: “engineering consent.” Carey had studied with Chomsky at MIT.

Originally posted at Veterans Today

madness of adam and eve

The Madness of Adam and Even: How Schizophrenia Shaped Humanity

by David Horrobin (2001 Bantam Press)

Book Review

The Madness of Adam and Eve advances a dual hypothesis: 1) that schizophrenia is a whole body disorder, rather than a “brain disease, as promoted by Big Pharma and the psychiatric fraternity and 2) that schizophrenia stems from the same series of genetic mutations that led to the appearance of the human species (homo sapiens) 100,000 years ago.

The specific biochemical “error” Horrobin credits for causing schizophrenia is a defect in the metabolism of arachidonic acid (AA), a fatty acid that facilitates smooth signal transmission between nerve endings. Horobin believes a genetic mutation around 100,000 years ago caused a massive increase in AA production, enabling a giant increase in dendritic connections between neurons. This, in turn, resulted in a sudden explosion in human intellectual capacity, as well as the sudden appearance of art, music and organized religion.

Horribin also maintains that schizophrenia was a relatively mild illness in hunter gatherer societies, owing to a diet rich in the omega 3 fatty acids essential for optiminal brain function. With the major dietary changes that accompanied the agricultural and industrial revolution, schizophrenia has become much more severe. The switch from omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids to saturated animal fat was by far the most significant, as saturated fats can suppress the uptake and utilization of omega 3 fatty acids.

Horrobin’s hypothesis is born out by WHO research revealing that schizophrenia is more severe in the industrialized west, studies showing that schizophrenics improve when given large doses of the omega 3 fatty acid EPA, and the failure of schizophrenics to experience a “niacin blush”* when exposed to megadoses of niacin.

Aimed at a lay audience, The Madness of Adam and Eve doesn’t always distinguish clearly between theory and established fact. While Horribin’s ideas make an important contribution to the understanding of mental illness, his overemphasis on genetic determinism in the origin of mental illness is clearly dated. In 2002, the field of epigenetics** was still in its infancy and there was limited understanding of the role of noxious prenatal influences on gene expression and the development of chronic physical and mental illnesses. Nor was the role of harmful intestinal bacteria and endotoxin-related inflammation recognized in the etiology of autism, schizophrenia and depression.

His portrayal of the intellectual inferiority of Homo neanderthalensis (Neanderthal man) is also obsolete. More recent archeological evidence suggests that Neanderthal man was the intellectual equal of homo sapiens.

*A niacin flush is sudden reddening and burning of the skin caused when niacin promotes conversion of AA to the inflammatory peptide prostaglandin. Several researchers have proposed using a niacin skin test as a research tool in studying schizophrenia.

**Epignetics is the study of hormonal and other prenatal influence that affect the expression of genes as specific protein enzymes.

When Horrobin died in 2003, the British Medical Journal wrote a particularly nasty obituary describing him as “the greatest snake oil salesman of his age.” A decade of research into the beneficial role of omega 3 oil in the treatment of depression (particularly post natal depression, bipolar illness, schizophrenia and premenstrual syndrome) has clearly vindicated him. The supplementation of prescription psychotropics with omega 3 oils is now standard psychiatric practice. 

Research into his theory that schizophrenia is a whole body inflammatory illness, rather than a brain disease, is also advancing. More recent studies focus on inflammation caused by endotoxin-producing by gram negative intestinal bacteria. Thus far schizophrenics’ demonstrated impairment in prostaglandin synthesis has failed to translate into viable treatment options.

There have been numerous studies suggesting a beneficial effect of non steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medication (such as ibuprofen and naprosyn) in the treatment of schizophrenia. Unfortunately NSAIDs, like psychotropics, have numerous serious side effects, including peptic ulcer disease and reduced kidney function.