Propaganda and psychological warfare have been an integral part of authoritarian and imperial governance since the very beginnings of human history despite these concepts being primarily associated with modernity. While the art of psychological warfare may have been rudimentary in the past owing to technological limitations, historically the mastery of this art has often been quite advanced and evinced a profound understanding of human psychology. One of the most overlooked aspects of both historical and contemporary psychological warfare are propaganda initiatives directed at domestic civilian populations. Though this may seem unnecessary or counterintuitive, it is actually the most important facet of psychological warfare as domestic populations have always been the primary threat to authoritarian rule. These domestic populations must be pacified in order to preempt rebellion against tyrannical rule and exploitation. A recurring theme throughout human history are the myriad campaigns that have been executed to restrain, control, and shape the mass psychology of domestic populations in order to better serve the interests of the ruling establishment.
The primary reasons that the mass psychology of domestic populations is targeted include:
- Engineering a Willingness to be Led: cultivating a social dynamic in which populations are blindly and uncritically willing to be led in any desired direction by the leadership.
- Engineering Zealous Adoration of the Leadership: cultivating a near religious adoration of and unwavering loyalty to the leadership. Especially necessary within a context in which the leadership is corrupt, disreputable, criminal, illegitimate, unworthy, and self-interested.
- Engineering Reverence to Authority: cultivating a servile acceptance of authority and a blind obedience to systems of power.
- Engineering Support for Government Agendas: manufacturing consent for imperial, exploitative, or abusive agendas which would normally stoke the ire and inspire the condemnation of the public.
- Engineering Unnatural Malleability: cultivating an unnatural willingness of people to be influenced, swayed, or fundamentally transformed by the leadership. Especially necessary when desired transformations are detrimental to the interests of the people.
- Engineering Unnatural Amenability: cultivating a numb passive acceptance of impositions, abuses, and exploitations or a willingness to cooperate with such abuses.
- Pacifying Populations: maintaining populations in a submissive or subdued state.
- Preempting Discontent, Rebellion, and Reformation: keeping populations sedated, ignorant, and contented in order to preempt rebellion and maintain systems of tyrannical rule, government criminality, and corrupt exploitation.
The historical needs of domestic psychological warfare have led to systems whose intended purpose it is to bind mass psychology to the paradigms of the ruling establishment. These paradigms have varied significantly throughout human history and have involved varying degrees of sophistication. However, what they all share in common is the enslaving effect they have on the psychology of the propagandized and their ability to potentiate the legitimacy and power of the ruling establishment. Throughout much of history, the combination of several key factors has led to these systems of propaganda taking a “pyramidal” form. This “pyramid” takes its form due to the stratification of propaganda from base levels of simple and generic propaganda to higher strata of increasingly advanced propaganda and indoctrination. For the purposes of this discourse, “propaganda pyramids” are defined as the creation of an overarching edifice of societal psychological control which is stratified and involves at the lowest strata simple strategies for the manipulation of the unenlightened masses with increasingly complex and advanced strategies above base levels targeting key social demographics which possess increasing levels of education, intelligence, and/or power.
Perhaps the most well-known historical example of a pyramidal scheme of propaganda is that of Ancient Rome. Imperial Rome had a myriad of tools which it used on domestic populations. These included shock and awe tactics on rebellious populations, the “bread and circuses” tactic, the deification of Roman emperors, the forced acceptance of Roman deities by conquered peoples, the use of imperial symbology and iconography of Roman imperial power, and the use of indoctrination for the military and specialized government institutions. The ”bread and circuses” tactic was especially useful in the creation of the Roman propaganda pyramid. This tactic was initially used to engineer political support for demagogues but was increasingly adopted in order to distract domestic population from taking any interest in politics or interfering with imperial agendas. The metaphorical sedation of the masses and the intentional engineering of society and culture towards dynamics of pathological distraction and contentedness with diversions not merely worked on the immediate generations but fundamentally warped the normative paradigms and changed the core ethics, values, and identity of Rome.
Indeed, the “bread and circuses” tactic was one of the key imperial tactics which was critical in transforming the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire and by extension transforming Rome from the paradigms of a free republic to those of authoritarian rule and obedience to power. This transformation by necessity involved the inculcation of the formerly free empowered citizenry into paradigms of obedience, servility, and pacification as imperial subjects. Only after such paradigm shifts had occurred could the fiercely independent and notoriously freedom-loving Roman citizens be contented in powerless subservience.
Design and Function
The intent underlying the design of any given propaganda pyramid is to enslave the cognition of its intended audience in a holistic manner which encompasses the full spectrum of intelligence and education seen within a society. This entails utilizing propaganda to skillfully shape the collective psychology of each stratum of society and implementing ancillary techniques which further the desired endpoints. While there may be idiosyncrasies associated with any given approach, there are general consistencies owing to the fundamentals of human nature.
The strata of society as it concerns propaganda pyramids are as follows:
- Mindless Masses: constitute the bulk of society and the base level of the pyramid. Are made up of average persons of no great intellect whose primary concerns are economic subsistence and immediate concerns. The general approach is to keep the “mass man” distracted, ignorant, cretinous, apathetic, and obedient. Great efforts are made to keep them apolitical until such time in which it is necessary to rile them up for the purposes of a desired sociopolitical agenda.
- Moral Middle Class: consisting of the middle and upper classes (with the exception of the extremely affluent and the oligarchic class). Are generally kept under control by hypocritical moralizing, carefully designed normative paradigms, and basic propaganda. Due to their economic wellbeing and comfort, this class tends to be averse to instability and radical sociopolitical upheaval. Generally kept in control by hypocritical moralizing and having the middle class conflate their individual interests with that of the corrupt ruling establishment.
- Pawns of the State: consists of the soldiery and all other low level government personnel whose blind obedience is required. This stratum is generally kept under control by brutish dumbing down, institutional cultures, and simple albeit highly aggressive indoctrination.
- Intelligent Citizenry: persons of any socioeconomic status who are of sufficiently high intelligence. Such rarer individuals are targeted with specialized apologetics and advanced propaganda. Oftentimes, educational systems are used to neutralize the potential of such individuals and such individuals who exhibit unfettered critical thinking tend to be the targets of sociopolitical persecution. Failure to keep the highly intelligent under control can lead to organized revolutionary or reform movements.
- Functionaries of the State: higher level functionaries of the state who are generally privy to the inner workings of the state. They are dealt with similarly to pawns of the state with the difference that specialized apologetics and specialized indoctrination are used to keep them under control. This is usually required owing to their generally higher intelligence and their greater knowledge of the actions of the state which allows them to understand how those below them are being cynically manipulated. Nonetheless they themselves are manipulated with advanced propaganda designed to corrupt their perception and their ethical paradigms.
- Technocratic Class: the capstone consisting of the highest-level functionaries of the state which are critical in giving form and function to the wishes of the ruling establishment. Are generally carefully chosen with a special emphasis on selecting for psychopathy. They are kept in line by their amorality, cynicism, and greed. Given their position and financial remuneration this stratum is essentially a junior partner to the ruling elites.
For the purposes of this discourse, anything that is “within” the propaganda pyramid is in the thrall of the systems of deception and under the influence of the will of the ruling establishment whereas anything that is “outside” is free from psychological manipulation. Persons who are outside the propaganda pyramid include anyone who is able to see beyond the attempts at mass manipulation and are able to maintain psychological integrity in spite of propaganda and social pressures to conform to systems of belief and obedience. Also included are the ruling elites themselves who are fully aware of the manipulation of the masses and well-versed in the cynical rhetoric which is used to promote agendas under false pretenses which augment elite wealth and power.
Key to the manipulation of each stratum of the propaganda pyramid is the corruption of perception. The corruption of perception is especially important because accurate perception of reality allows individuals to grasp how the agendas of the ruling elites are not aligned with their own enlightened self-interests. Most often the schemes and manipulations of the ruling establishment are in direct conflict with public interests and correct perception of this inherent clash of interests would force the public to oppose the schemes of their rulers. As such, great efforts are always taken to misrepresent the true nature of the agendas which are being foisted upon the public as well as confuse the public into thoroughly misunderstanding which positions truly protect their interests. As a general principle it is always vitally necessary for the public to fundamentally misunderstand their individual and collective interests as in such a state of ignorance and confusion they are unable to safeguard their interests from the depredations of their rulers.
Each stratum of the propaganda pyramid tends to be assured of the superiority of their opinions despite these opinions having been artificially engineered into their psychology. Each stratum also tends to view the opinions of the strata underneath them (receiving simpler propaganda) as being inferior in reasoning although the substance of the opinions in each stratum tends to be nearly identical. These inter-strata conflicts in reasoning and opinion assists in creating communication barriers between different demographics and sabotages political discourse.
Because each stratum is psychologically engineered and their opinions manufactured, another observable phenomena exhibited by all the strata of the pyramid are immature defense mechanisms as it concerns the defense of propaganda. Immature defense mechanisms are a series of dysfunctional, illogical, and counterproductive defense strategies exhibited by individuals when their ego, identity, or the integrity of their psychological constitution is perceived as being threatened. A meaningful discussion of psychological defense mechanisms is beyond the scope of this discourse, however it is important to note that even well-adjusted persons are liable to resort to immature defense mechanisms when it comes to the defense of embedded propaganda within their psychology. This is in great part owed to the manner in which the propaganda is embedded into the psychology of audiences which includes emotional manipulation and irrationality.
By far the most prominent immature defense mechanism as it concerns the defense of propaganda is rationalization. This involves superficially logical reasoning which is in truth the a priori defense of presuppositions and preexisting conclusions in a pseudo-logical manner which is integrally flawed and is unwilling to accept alternative conclusions. In essence the individual uses pseudo-logic as a metaphorical sword and shield to defend an indefensible position. This is incredible beneficial to the defense of propaganda as the propagandized will perform magnificent logical contortions and be incredibly creative in inventing novel apologetics for the defense of propaganda opinions that have been seeded into their psychology. While audiences may be taught a few simple defenses for embedded propaganda, the great majority of the defense of propaganda relies on irrational contortions in thinking to fiercely defend the propaganda from the pressures of logic or contradictory evidence.
There are generalized approaches to each stratum of the propaganda pyramid which overlap somewhat but which are by necessity specialized. This is due to the variability in intelligence and psychological parameters of audiences which determine the susceptibility of individuals to any given psychological warfare approach. Some individuals may be highly susceptible to certain techniques whereas others be partially or wholly immune to those techniques. As such, the production of propaganda and psychological warfare output must always be holistic and attempt to psychologically capture the full spectrum of its intended audience.
As far as the general strategic approach to the propaganda pyramid, these can be generalized (from the lowest stratum to the capstone) as:
- Diversions and Distractions: keeping the mindless masses in a dumbed down and ignorant state and preoccupied with economic subsistence or with puerile cheap entertainment. Weaponized entertainment directed at the Mindless Masses is often designed to degrade the intellect and debase the ethics of the audience. Can often be supplemented with substance addiction and other ancillary strategies to keep the oppressed multitudes in a pacified state.
- Simple Lies for Simple Minds: very simplistic rhetoric for the masses which is kept at cartoonish levels of simplicity. The sheer force of repetition is usually sufficient to embed the propaganda into the mind of the cretinous masses. The rhetoric usually has an aura of “truthiness” but is invariably highly fallacious and involves gross distortions and inverted mis-portrayal of reality.
- Complex Deceptions for Discerning Minds: refined and advanced apologetics for intelligent citizens who cannot be readily fooled or propagandized by simple rhetoric and basic techniques. Advanced propaganda is highly effective against intelligent and logical persons and quite often this demographic is far more irreversibly propagandized as a consequence.
- Indoctrination and Holistic Psychological Engineering: low level pawns and tools of the state are subjected to simplistic albeit intense propaganda and indoctrination which aims to radically shape their psychology. Involves world view engineering, perceptual indoctrination, identity engineering, and psycholinguistic techniques.
- Specialized Indoctrination and Self-Interest Recruitment: advanced propaganda and indoctrination for specialized or high-level pawns of the state usually combined with generous pay which assists in placating the conscience of such personnel. Such individuals are often extremely willing to engage in egregious self-deception, denial, and rationalization as their comfortable socioeconomic status is dependent on their employment and acknowledgement of objective realities produces distressing cognitive dissonance.
- Selective Recruitment: careful screening and selection process for high-level personnel who are chosen specifically based on amoral psychopathy and an absence of ethics and humanitarian sensibilities. Such candidates are often extremely ambitious and motivated and are therefore ruthless in performing their given functions as this ensures their rise within the ranks of power. Such personnel are fully cooperative participants in the agendas of the ruling establishment despite knowing full well the extent of the harm to the public and the detrimental ramifications for the greater society.
These general strategies are the most prominent strategies in the ascending complexity of the propaganda pyramid. These strategies correlate with their respective social stratum as it concerns propaganda, however this relationship is not a perfect one. Any individual can succumb to diversions and distractions techniques regardless of their intelligence, education, or socioeconomic status. However, such techniques generally are more effective against individuals of lower intelligence and the lower socioeconomic demographics in general. Conversely, a factor such as intelligence is not monopolized by the higher socioeconomic classes, therefore complex deceptions and advanced apologetics are necessary for all highly intelligent individuals who do not respond to other forms of propaganda or pacification. Furthermore, any given individual over the course of their life may experience significant changes as it concerns their propaganda categorization and significant changes in their individual susceptibility to psychological warfare techniques.
It is also necessary to understand the propaganda pyramid in terms of the categorization of the strategies and techniques of psychological warfare. These fall roughly into several major categories which include (in ascending order) primitive, standard, advanced, and specialized propaganda. This categorization will reiterate previously mentioned techniques. These techniques are the most prominent in each category but are not intended to be an exhaustive list of the tactics, techniques, and strategies of psychological warfare.
- Ignorance and Unintelligence: promoting and encouraging contentedness with ignorance and suppressing the intelligence capacities of the masses.
- Infantilization: bringing down the masses to an emotionally primitive and childish psychological and behavioral functioning. The masses are treated as children and are inculcated into dynamics of subservience to state paternalism.
- Diversions and Distractions: promoting and cultivating a culture of addiction to entertainment and obsessive preoccupation with idle distractions. May include substance abuse, gambling, miscellaneous addictions, futile hobbies, and inane mass entertainment.
- Simple Lies for Simple Minds: using simple and wholly fallacious propaganda mantras that are forced into the collective consciousness by the sheer force of repetition.
- Fear and Terror: alarming and terrorizing the masses in order to drive them towards desired psychological endpoints or collective actions.
- Preoccupation with Subsistence: keeping the masses in a distressed economic position in which their limited recourses preclude them from focusing on anything other than their immediate needs and concerns. Consequent to domestic economic warfare.
- Social Cannibalism: utilizing social engineering to engineer a culture of jealousy, victimization, social sabotage, and predation of the members of one’s own community. These dynamics are remarkably effective in creating an environment in which the community undermines fellow citizens who have the capacity of bettering themselves or their community. Highly effective in neutralizing prosocial instincts and engineering an environment in which mass mobilization is not possible.
The general theme of primitive techniques is to keep the audience in a primitive state of psychological functioning. This includes keeping them at a bestial, childish, or cretinous state in which they cannot fathom the greater issues at play which are affecting them personally, their communities, or their world.
- Engineering Normative Paradigms: utilizing social engineering to engineer the normative paradigms of a peoples. These artificial normative paradigms serve to promote state power and the agendas of the ruling establishment.
- World View Engineering: using psychological warfare to engineer the citizenry’s perception of themselves, their nation, and the world. This pernicious skewed worldview is extensively used to further the interests of the state and the ruling establishment.
- Engineered Irrationality: cultivating irrationality that appears to the propagandized as being rational and internally consistent. Audiences with subverted logical sensibilities can then be led to any opinion regardless of how outrageous or extreme it may be.
- Emotional Manipulation and Emotional Pseudo-reasoning: the cynical manipulation of the emotions of the masses as well as inculcating audiences into patterns of emotional pseudo-reasoning. Emotional pseudo-reasoning entails the cognitive processes being guided by emotional considerations in a decidedly irrational manner.
- Appeals to Middle Class Morality: manipulating the moral sensibilities of the middle classes. Appeals to the pronounced moral sensibilities of the middle classes is often very effective at getting the “moral middle” to passionately support unethical agendas they do not fully understand.
- Weaponization of Identity: manipulating the collective sense of identity for the purposes of the cynical manipulation of the masses. Often involves binding the masses in a collective identity under the control of the leadership. Includes jingoism, supremacism, weaponized nationalism, politicized xenophobia and racism, etcetera.
- Psychological Intertwining: artificially engineering inappropriate psychological relationships between concepts that are not innately related. Such as intertwining a sense of nationalism with support for the crimes of the state or intertwining propaganda paradigms with the psychological concept of self and personal identity. These inappropriate intertwined relationships make propaganda exceedingly resistant to reform.
- Immature Defense Mechanisms: cultivating immature defense mechanisms such as rationalization, projection, distortion, etcetera, especially to engineer the defense of propaganda against logical analysis.
The general theme of standard techniques is to confuse or subvert facets of cognition and the psychological self in order to facilitate acceptance of propaganda. This is performed by targeting perception, normative paradigms, cognition, critical analysis, the ethical superstructure, etcetera. In so doing, otherwise normal well-adjusted persons will be recruited into believing propaganda and championing the agendas of the ruling establishment. The greatest threats to these strategies are introspection, being emotionally well-adjusted, having flawless moral reasoning, having flawless logical reasoning, having advanced critical thinking skills, and possessing heightened ethical sensibilities which are resistant to corruption or subversion.
- Advanced Apologetics: creating entire ideologies, philosophies, etcetera, which seek to affirm and justify propaganda paradigms. This is especially pronounced in academia and periodicals targeting the intelligentsia.
- Strategic Disinformation: the creation of massive amounts of disinformation which adds false evidence and bulwarks the corrupted logic of propaganda paradigms.
- Strategic Omission: the skillful omission, censorship, and suppression of information which would allow audiences to perform proper logical analyses and arrive at conclusions which are not aligned with the endpoints desired by propaganda campaigns. Strategic omission fundamentally corrupts the logical process and significantly skew assessments and opinions.
- Excessive Exposure: flooding audiences with overwhelming amounts of disinformation which cements the propaganda paradigms and provides of wealth of disinformation which corrupts logical analysis. Especially useful against higher education students and intelligent citizens who are avid readers of news and media.
The general theme of advanced techniques is to subvert logic indirectly by corrupting the information upon which the logical processes rely upon. Logic is only as good as the data and evidence it analyzes and is processed in order to form conclusions. Even if one were to have perfect logical reasoning with flawless inference, if the evidence is egregiously skewed or entirely erroneous, by necessity this will corrupt the conclusions arrived at by logical analysis. Advanced techniques are especially necessary against audiences which are immune to standard techniques and are only swayed by compelling evidence and logic.
- Indoctrination: the drilling of propaganda paradigms into the psychology of individuals and the aggressive engineering of cognition and gross psychology towards desired endpoints.
- Identity Engineering: engineering the core identity of individuals in a manner in which their sense of self is inextricably fused with propaganda or institutional cultures.
- Engineering Institutional Cultures: engineering institutional cultures towards desired endpoints. Doing so hijacks interpersonal dynamics, social instincts, social psychology, etcetera, in a manner conducive to the power structures. Especially useful in inducing peer pressure which coerces individuals into systems of zealous belief, conformity, and obedience.
- Psycholinguistic Propaganda: using special lexicons, propagandistic language, and weaponized terminology which affects perception and cognition. Especially useful due to the interrelationship between language and cognition. The intentional use of weaponized language has profound effects on cognition and can induce or block cognitive processes in any number of ways. The use of weaponized language reinforces the underlying propaganda paradigms of institutions, fundamentally subverts perception and cognition, and artificially forces inappropriate conclusions.
- Advanced World View Engineering: specialized world view engineering that convinces individuals of the righteousness of the government criminal institutions they are employed by and of the “necessity” of their actions. This is especially intended for personnel who are aware of the criminal acts of the state and must be conditioned into viewing criminal actions as their inverse (benevolent, well-intentioned, necessary, etcetera).
- Corrupted Pseudo-realism, Cynicism, and Nihilism: convincing individuals that the world is naturally violent, predatory, and corrupt and that these dynamics are simply the “normal” or “natural” way of things. That the corrupt state of affairs is incorrigible and inescapable and that their contributions to the crimes of the state is acceptable under Machiavellian logic.
The common theme of specialized techniques is to break the psychology and the ethical core of individuals and reengineer the psychological functioning in a manner desired by the state. This can be performed on general audiences but it is especially necessary for personnel who are functionaries of the state or must carry out the criminal acts of the state. Normal individuals (even those who have psychopathic tendencies) are not innately without ethics or humanitarian sensibilities. These techniques are intended to corrupt the intrinsic “utopic drive” of human beings (the innate desire to better oneself, one’s community, and the world) and reengineer it into a “dystopic drive” in which anti-ethics, corruption, and criminality are considered virtuous. Individuals corrupted by such processes are oftentimes extremely difficult to reform unless there is a crisis of conscience in which their allegiance to their own enlightened ethics and to their humanitarian principles is able to supersede the corrupt paradigms which have infected their psychology.
The incredible technological and scientific advancements in 20th and 21st centuries have been mirrored by advancements in the psychological warfare sciences which has seen their sophistication far exceed that of any previous era of human history. Furthermore, mass communication and digital mediums do not merely allow for highly effective short-term psychological warfare campaigns but for the wholesale social engineering of entire peoples and the ability to fundamentally transform the core psychological functioning of civilizations.
The general approach to propaganda pyramids in modernity is far more aggressive and holistic than it has ever been in recorded human history. Strategies such as the dumbing down of the citizenry are currently multifaceted campaigns involving weaponized education, neurotoxicity, weaponized entertainment, and social engineering. While some of the successes of such agendas may be debatable, others such as the introduction of “Common Core” and the scientific dumbing down of school-aged children via education are more readily evident and far more difficult to excuse with mendacious apologetics.
Furthermore, contemporary mass entertainment such as professional sports and video games have been promoted to such a degree that many millions of grown adults are addicted to mindless entertainment in a manner that consumes the scarce leisure time they have available. Indeed, increasingly entertainment is being designed to be as addictive as possible with video game companies hiring addiction specialists to increase the addictiveness of their games and induce children into engaging with the gambling mechanics of their products. Such trends towards more engrossing and addictive entertainment portends a more pacified and apolitical population uninterested in engaging in political developments which are continuously shaping the course of their civilization.
The sum of the different techniques in each stratum of the propaganda pyramid are either citizens who are neutralized from engaging in applied democracy or are captured by the paradigms of the international propaganda apparatus. In the case of the latter, such individuals are unable to grasp the nature of their enlightened self-interests and succumb to the predatory agendas of the ruling establishment. In such cases, individuals are recruited into becoming weapons against their civilizations and their own self-interests.
The holistic control of mass psychology has been a concern for tyrannical and totalitarian systems since the beginnings of human political systems. The mastery or lack thereof determined the success or failure of imperial and authoritarian regimes throughout human history and have been vitally important in anesthetizing populations from perceiving the dynamics of exploitation and servile powerlessness. The contemporary context has merely furthered these historical strategies to new heights of sophistication although the general theory has remained relatively constant.
Throughout human history there have been cycles of psychological enslavement as well as psychological liberation. The cycles of liberation have been furthered by intellectuals and philosophers who have dared to challenge the paradigms of the ruling establishment and the legitimacy of systems of power. The interplay between those who would enslave the minds of the masses and those who would liberate them has defined much of human history. The future of humanity itself will continue to be defined by the struggle between these opposing forces with the destiny of civilizations determined by which one of these triumphs over the other.
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