Control the Narrative and You Control the People
Excellent piece (long read) about how “information” relates to “beliefs” and why so much of what we think we “know” is just a narrative that is parroted by people that we (think) we trust. On both sides of the equation, too.
Food for thought – and for those that like to peel back layers both externally as well as internally. You can also read previous articles about “the narrative” here.
Control the Narrative and You Control the People
It is extremely difficult to get where you are going if you don’t know where you presently are. And you can’t know where you are if you don’t know where you have been. Control the narrative and you effectively control the people.
When my son was young (we are talking over 25 years ago when he was around seven years of age) one of the ways I would keep him occupied when on car trips was to place a paper road map (aka a narrative) on his lap and ask him a multitude of questions for the duration of the trip.
The first question when starting a trip was, “Where are we on the map?” Essentially I was asking him to physically and mentally locate us in the present on a two dimensional representation of reality. And unsurprisingly this was initially difficult for my son, since he lives and plays in a three dimensional world. I encountered similar difficulties as a student comprehending plane (two dimensional) geometry. But unlike other students, I quickly understood solid (three dimensional) geometry because it mimicked real life as I perceived it.
Then I would ask “Where are we going?” This was the future, a point in time not yet experienced. Because our perceptual point of view has not yet experienced this (or any) future, the future is infinitely variable. My son had some difficulty with this concept because in his mind the future was set (we’re going to Grandma’s house) but had not yet arrived. While the narrative map represented an infinite number of possible futures, his task was simply to locate one…Grandma’s house.
Then the next obvious question was asked. “How do we get there?” While this was clearly the path to the future, we would discuss the variables in order to discover the best path forward into time. The way the physical narrative map was constructed, heavy thicker lines illustrated high speed limited access highways and smaller thinner lines represented slower alternate routes. This helped my son more easily determine the best path to follow to the future. To keep it interesting I would insist we vary the route if we visited the same future place more than twice.
One of the things I always discussed with my son was the limited nature of the narrative map. It was designed to illustrate roads, highways and cities along with significant features such as mountains, rivers, bridges etc. Its purpose was simple and straight forward, to help one determine the shortest most direct route between two points. Or it could be used to determine the most scenic. Regardless, it was a controlling narrative, one which we gladly accepted because we desired guidance to reach our destination.
The final question was in my opinion the most important. “Why are we going to our destination?” While the answer may appear obvious (I thought we were headed to Grandma’s house) this question always elicited the most dynamic conversations because it opened up for examination decisions and events from the past and how they influenced the present and future.
This process is a very effective method for teaching critical thinking to children, an essential life skill long since deliberately buried in the past by those who do not wish to reward independent critical thinking because it is no longer an asset used to increase productivity and profitability, but a liability to the elite’s established base of power. The hosts are beginning to seriously question the purpose of the leeches; therefore the presence of the leeches must be obscured and denied.
The purpose of propaganda is to set, maintain and alter the controlling narrative. The purpose of the narrative is to establish the boundary of acceptable thought, speech and action within the herd, thereby making the herd self correcting, self policing and self affirming…everything a captured mind needs to be happily sated and sedated.
Sun Tzu once said, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” The controlling elite, who at most may number several thousand, could never and would never engage in actual battle with the billions. And rarely is there ever a need to do so, since manipulative techniques honed over thousands of years work wonderfully to control the population.
What’s poorly understood and rarely discussed in polite company is anchoring bias, the tendency to use initial information to ‘anchor’ subsequent decisions long past the point where the initial anchor still has (assuming it ever had) meaningful input or predictive qualities. This is where the narrative conditioning from birth shows its strength, pushing aside critical thinking, logic and reason while overriding contrary voices. Even those who do not believe the narrative are effectively silenced, or at least dis-empowered, by the (blind) obedience of the herd to the narrative.
Another cognitive fault ruthlessly exploited by those who manipulate is our confirmation bias, the tendency to seek out information that confirms our existing point of view while discounting or dismissing contrary or non-confirming information as immaterial, misinformed or just downright wrong. The growing political divide here in the US is a perfect example of confirmation bias in action. Positions on all sides have hardened to the point where nothing is believed that doesn’t come from ‘trusted’ sources, often controlled or co-opted by the elite on all sides to achieve the desired results, to divide and conquer.
But the crowning cognitive coup occurs when our ego rises up to defend our (desperate) belief that while others may be manipulated, conditioned or controlled, I/we are not. Partly because we engage in dozens of small, nearly meaningless decisions on a daily basis and partly because it appears we are “alone” in our mind (we aren’t, the ego resides there and mostly crowds us out) the appearance of control over our life is cemented into our psyche as obvious and irrefutable.
Of course I’m a free soul and in control of my thinking process, therefore the beliefs and opinions that result from my thinking are also free from external influences. I am my own (wo)man.
“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The sad part is the vast majority (but not all) will read the above quote and nod in solemn agreement, then declare themselves the exception to the rule. Or they will be triggered, the ego rising up in righteous indignation in order to close down the path towards self reflection and inner awareness. Never underestimate the amount of energy and effort we will expend in order to believe what we want to believe.
The narratives, whether baseline (i.e. money, American exceptionalism, freedom, justice and the American way, America the shinning beacon of global democracy and goodness, manifest destiny, world’s policeman etc.) or steering (Russian boogie-men, Trump the terrible, terrorism/personal safety, left/right political divisions, social justice issues etc.) give us a common (to our group) belief to grasp.
And make no mistake about it, much of what we think we know is actually little more than belief deeply implanted via narratives. While many might argue otherwise, try this little thought experiment for 48 hours and see if my supposition doesn’t hold water. For the next two days turn on your inner thought and voice recorder, meaning consciously increase self-awareness of what you’re saying and thinking in real time, then attempt to banish the word believe/belief from your vocabulary.
I suspect you’ll be surprised, maybe even shocked, to discover how often you use the word believe or belief when expressing what you consider to be established facts or carefully considered opinion, but which is actually belief often derived from regurgitated narrative promoted by the mainstream media as well as friends, family and co-workers.
I find myself occasionally defaulting to the word ‘believe’ if I’m not diligent in my self-monitoring. That’s what a lifetime of conditioning does to us, especially when we remain immersed within the narrative matrix. One cannot escape and one cannot hide. The best we can hope for is an increased awareness and recognition of the sometimes obvious, sometimes subtle, traces littered throughout our mind.
By forcing ourselves to consciously acknowledge when and where we use the word believe/belief during normal everyday conversations (and inner contemplation) and then struggling to find and use an adequate alternative word or phrase, suddenly we our compelled to question what it is we’re actually saying and thinking. Each time it happens a cognitive reassessment in real time occurs in order to continue the conversation.
Most people quickly give up, then banish the entire exercise from their mind less they are forced to grapple with their own cognitive dissonance. When challenged in person to try the experiment, I’ve actually heard people tell me, “Oh, you know what I mean” after stumbling over their use of the word ‘believe’. To which I reply, “No, I don’t. Do you simply believe what you just said was true or do you know it to be an actual provable fact?”
Others default to attesting a greater assurance of their knowledge, substituting ‘know’ for ‘believe’ in an effort to cover their own confusion and cognitive dissonance. One of the controlling narratives is to sound like you know what you’re saying/doing, relying upon social graces to avoid being directly challenged. Strong statements are considered a sign of intelligence and leadership, while reflection and contemplation is considered weak and passive.
Challenging someone is not how one wins friends and influences people. In fact I’m fairly certain Tony Robbins recommends not putting people on the spot by compelling them to demonstrate their own cognitive dissonance.
A more permanent benefit from this little experiment comes from the growing self awareness we gain when we recognize much of what we think we know is little more than strategically placed memes and narratives. When I write how we should question everything, I’m not just speaking about what others (so-called authorities in particular) are telling us, but also what we already consider accepted fact and truth. By forcing ourselves to purge the word believe/belief from our speech and thought, hopefully for more than just 48 hours, we compel ourselves to reconsider exactly what it is we are saying to others and to ourselves.
Similar to a quality lie, a good narrative contains just enough truth (or at least what is generally accepted as truth) to pass a superficial smell test. Meaning it is plausible enough not to stink any worse than any other narrative being passed around as truth. Repeat a lie, and a narrative, enough times with enough conviction and it eventually becomes accepted truth.
Case in point…Russia, Russia, Russia! No actual proof has yet to be presented, just plenty of insinuation, innuendo and repetition. I’m most certainly not a fan of Trump, who is an ego driven bullying narcissist. But nether am I a fan of deliberate coordinated smear campaigns by so-called impartial arbiters and their puppet masters. The point here is that both sides are promoting a narrative that suits their agenda. Anyone falling for either one is reduced to being expendable cannon fodder in the eyes of those who set and control the narrative.
When reading or hearing words such as conditioning, programming, control and propaganda, we tend to bristle with indignation because those terms infer a lack of control over ourselves, especially our inner thoughts, desires and demons. This is precisely the leverage used against us when others wish to influence or sway (now aren’t those terms softer and easier to swallow) our opinion (aka belief) and move the group’s hive mind one way or another.
Our insistence that all our thoughts, ideas and opinions are organic in nature is purely an egotistic response since minimally applied reasoning and logic quickly informs us we know little more than what we are told/taught from birth. The secret to the sauce is the implied and declared assurance everything we are told is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help the narrative Gods.
We are conditioned (there’s that damn word again) from birth to assume the trusted giver of hard information (the newspaper informs us two people were arrested last night for breaking and entering the local convenience store) is also the trusted purveyor of soft information (the Russians hacked the 2016 election and will do it again in 2018). We assume we can trust both pieces of information because it is easier for us to do so than to challenge it. No critical thinking need be applied when trust is freely given.
I used the word “soft” because while you and I can easily prove to ourselves two people were actually arrested last night (notice I don’t need to prove they are guilty or innocent, only that they were arrested) I cannot easily prove the Russians hacked the 2016 elections. In order to accept the “soft” information I must trust the “news” or “authority” provider and assume they have the proof, or at least a credible source for the proof.
But in fact far too often the credible source(s) for the proof are professional liars, mostly agents and spawns of the so-called “intelligence” services, whose primary job is to cheat, steal and lie to everyone and anyone in the name of national security and our “safety”. And we certainly all know how pure and virtuous the intelligence services are because…wait for it…the narrative tells us so.
Even a superficial inspection of the history of these so-called “intelligence” services turns up dozens of instances where their information was not only wrong, by intentionally wrong, usually for political reasons. The same can be said about the national news media, who regularly and deliberately bury, ignore, alter or cover-up information vital to our understanding of the world and nation we live in.
This is not to say we actually believe everything these sources tell us, nor the entity “reporting” the information. As I have written elsewhere, the average person is an information buffet consumer, picking and choosing what we see, hear, feel and want to believe to suit our own inner narrative.
And in what might be described by some as a rational response, but which I would describe as lazy or even cowardly, we go along to get along. One conveniently fails to ask exactly what it is we are going along with…mostly because we really don’t want to know.
Well, that would be the narrative, now wouldn’t it? Tell me another lie so I can believe it to be the truth.
Here’s the rub. Whether or not we actually believe the narrative is immaterial, at least for the purposes of the narrative. If the existence of the narrative changes or influences our behavior, then those who promote the narrative have accomplished their task. Compliance is all that’s needed…not actual belief. To be perfectly frank, more often than not we choose to believe simply because it helps us cope better with our own cognitive dissonance.
Given the choice between living a life of constant awareness while employing critical thinking and verifying sources and information OR passively accepting the government, corporate and mainstream media narratives and memes so we can pursue our own self interest and pleasures…well, the choice is obvious for the vast majority.
Ultimately we are not controlled, but in fact allow ourselves to be controlled. We gladly welcome and/or passively accept the promoted narratives and memes, thereby allowing us to remain comfortably numb within our own cognitive cover. Either that or we come face to face with the inconvenient truth we’re all desperate to deny, that the socioeconomic system is not faulty or poorly managed, but in fact purposely designed to enslave and exploit.
It’s not a bug, but a feature. And we aren’t the cat, but the mouse.
We now return you to your already scheduled programming already in progress.