Does Using The Word 'Propaganda' Help Corporations?
by Ben Mack    Information Clearing House
Entered into the database on Sunday, November 20th, 2005 @ 01:14:42 MST


Untitled Document

11/16/05 "ICH " -- -- The greatest marketing trick of the 20th century was the positioning of propaganda. Marketing is propaganda. Positioning propaganda as distinct from other forms of marketing is state-of-the-art persuasion.

The definition of Propaganda varies greatly by source. The Catholic Church coined the word "propaganda" in 1622 within the Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide, which was commissioned by Pope Gregory XV. One of Pope Gregory's accountants came to the conclusion that it was more cost effective to teach Catholicism than to invade and force conversion. The accountant had the insight to recognize that a territory could be acquired less expensively by converting people's minds. It might take more time, but if you convert the minds, the bodies will follow. And, converting minds is less expensive than physically enforcing new sovereignty.

The word propaganda has radically changed during the 20th Century. In the Introduction to the re-release of Edward Barnays' Propaganda, Mark Crispin Miller explains, "Prior to World War One, the word propaganda was little-used in English, except by certain social activists, and close observers of the Vatican; and, back then, propaganda tended not to be the damning term we know today."

Many people see propaganda as marketing. Many Americans are waking up from a propaganda-induced coma yelling things like, "They lied! They packaged a lie and they sold it to me." Great. Many of these same folks then rant about the evils of propaganda. Their anger is long overdue. But, bashing propaganda strengthens the control of the world's greatest oppressor, our present form of world government, Corporatocracy.

The division between government and corporations is blurry at best and illusory at worst. Evidence of corporate influence on government continues to mount. Corporate contributions to politicians is regularly reported. The payouts appear to extend beyond campaign contributions: in the '05 Halloween issue of The New Yorker James Surowiecki reported that the average portfolio of a Senator grew twelve percent annually, four-times the growth of money managers described as genius for their performance during the same period. The deepest division between government and corporations is in the minds of consumers holding a distinction between propaganda and marketing.

Statements defining marketing as propaganda are regularly dismissed as "merely semantics." This perspective either ignores the meaning of the word semantics or how marketing works.

Semantic adj: of or relating to the study of meaning and changes of meaning; "semantic analysis" (WordNet (r) 2.0, (c) 2003 Princeton University)

Influencing meaning and changes in meaning is the goal of marketing. Behaviors are changed by altering perceptions. When we see things differently we act differently. Beliefs, attitudes and constructions of categories are the primary levers of shifting perception. Marketing manipulates the meaning of symbols, images and associations. Marketing affects changes in meaning or it's not good marketing. Marketing is applied semantics, either actively changing perceptions or staving-off potential changes.

In business, semantic analysis is often called consumer research, a $100,000,000,000/year business. That expenditure does not include the trillions of dollars required to leverage the insights garnered through consumer research.

The business community is obliterating the distinctions between propaganda and marketing. Paul B. Farrell of Investor's Business Daily warns, "Wall Street's 'Fabulous Brainwashing, Mind-Control, Propaganda & Hype Machine' is in full swing. Call it the 'Brainwashing Machine' for short. And you're the target. They want your money." (Wall Street's 'Brainwashing Machine'; October 31, 2005) Farrell is pointing out that businesses will communicate anything to help the big players make more money. Farrell is calling business communications propaganda.

In America's spreading economy, money makes right. Isn't that the goal of spreading Capitalism? Let the market correct itself. Money will dictate who gets what. Money is the essence that bonds propaganda and marketing. When you influence people, you redirect the flow of money. It is less expensive to market an idea to a population than to take the region by force.

Unless we can create a mutually exclusive distinction, distinguishing propaganda from marketing is like holding a distinction between drugs and alcohol, it's a semantic distinction. There are billions of dollars to be lost if alcohol is lumped in with drugs, and there are trillions of dollars to be lost if Corporatocracy is held accountable for crimes against humanity. Semantics is the heart of marketing. While semantics is the analyses of change in meaning, marketing is about controlling the change. Meaning is not limited to words, but words are a common way we discuss meaning. Wittgenstein asserts he can only know things for which he has a word:

"The limits of my language are the limits of my mind. All I know is what I have words for."—Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosopher (1889 – 1951)

But, language works the other way, too. Having two words can blind people from seeing that separate labels represent the same idea. Distinguishing drugs and alcohol is an obvious example. A subtle example can be found in mathematics: elliptic curves and modular forms. Having two separate labels so blinded the mathematical community that the original conjecture by Taniyama and Shimura was universally ridiculed by the their professional community, compelling Taniyama to commit suicide. Why is this important? Because, math is supposed to be immune to psychological tricks and politicking. Because, suicide is only a particular of the stakes of this discussion. Genocide is the real stake of this of this game.

Propaganda is the feel-good pill of a fascist agenda. That's what these words mean today: "Religion is the opiate of the masses." Propaganda is what facilitates fascist citizens to believe they're supporting what's good and right. The keystone of manufacturing these beliefs is in controlling meaning. Words become the crux of this control. "The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words." Philip K. Dick, Novelist (1928-1982)

This is a war for reality. Consensus reality is held in place by the masses. The commonly used words and their common meanings have great impact. Monitoring these meanings, and affecting the change of these meanings, is the dynamic implicit in Lippman's phrase, "manufacturing consent."

Who will help us fight propaganda? Corporations. Corporations are not only willing to help us fight propaganda, if we reach a critical mass they'll flame the passions of the fight. As they market the need to fight propaganda, they'll sell us all the equipment we need. As they investigate our fight against propaganda, they monitor and affect its usage.

Bashing propaganda is akin to demonizing street drugs, gerrymandering the mental landscape to favor corporate products. Are street drugs evil, worse than what is for sale at grocery stores? It is difficult to prove that illegal drugs do less harm to society than alcohol and tobacco. So, what is the difference? Illegal drugs are sold by pirates, moneymakers outside of the official control of government and taxation.

Propaganda is employed by governments to garner consensus while advertising is the marketing of corporations, to make money? This is a vacuous distinction. This distinction ignores the impact that corporations have on what we traditionally call a government. Moreover, this distinction ignores that governments are incorporated.

Generally, the American public won't call product advertising propaganda even when the advert lies about itself or a competitive product. The word propaganda is reserved for "political" or "military" communications, and this selective use reinforces a mental distinction between companies and governments, a distinction that is questionable given their intimate relationship and revolving-door staffing.

Propaganda is a tool. Propaganda is a weapon in the war for reality, but holding propaganda as inherently evil is like saying that TNT is evil. TNT and Propaganda are both strong forces. They can be used to construct or destroy. Many times, something needs to be destroyed before something new can be built.

Maintaining a mental distinction between corporations and governments can fabricate a virtual consensus. There are three primary faces of corporations: governments, churches and companies. There are plenty of ancillary faces: non-profits, cities, NPOs among others. One type of corporation can quote the other as if they were distinct institutions, creating an echo chamber where one voice appears as a chorus of consensus, a concert performed by mass media.

Propaganda is the marketing of an engineered reality. Relegating the word "propaganda" to the subset of corporations called government fuels the engine of Corporatocracy.

Edward Bernays' 1928 seminal work entitled Propaganda binds all social endeavors with propaganda, "Whatever of social importance is done today, whether in politics, finance, manufacture, agriculture, charity, education, or other fields, must be done with the help of propaganda. Propaganda is the executive arm of the invisible government."

If propaganda is any intentionally persuasive communication, then all marketing is propaganda. Those who control the media have a great deal to lose if mass media is suddenly perceived as a propaganda mechanism. Their preemptive strike was to label mass media as liberal and opposing big business. Mass media requires sponsorship, usually in the form of advertisements. The only mass media today without corporate or government sponsorships is the occasional website.

This is a political issue. Sustaining a distinction between politics and business requires continual marketing. Like every political issue, today, the preliminary skirmishes will be fought with images and ideas on the battlefield for your mind known as television.