Part ii. [part i. is here: ‘Selling the New Nixon, part i.’]
According to one account, Stanley Kubrick had to fly somewhere and bought a copy of B.F. Skinner’s Beyond Freedom and Dignity at an airport for something to read.
When he finished, he was apoplectic. Skinner believed that we could obtain “proper” social behavior by conditioning, as they’d proven in rats, and not have to mess with all that consciousness and morality and stuff. Kubrick’s reply was A Clockwork Orange, one of the most savagely passionate films about an idea ever made. And a passionate defense of Man as something more than an automaton made of skin. Well, we’re IN A Clockwork Orange, and Frank Luntz is the fellow applying eyedrops while the clamps keep our eyes focused on the projection screen.
Now, I’m not arguing that sleazy argumentation isn’t used as a political weapon. At least as far back as 423 BC (2434 years ago), Athenians knew about it:
Strep. [Father] Go, I entreat you, dearest of men, go and be taught.
Phid. [Son] Why, what shall I learn?
Strep. [Father] They say that among them are both the two causes—the better cause, whichever that is, and the worse: they say that the one of these two causes, the worse, prevails, though it speaks on the unjust side. If, therefore you learn for me this unjust cause, I would not pay any one, not even an obolus of these debts, which I owe at present on your account….
But the manner in which we consciously use it has changed. Propaganda has become a brain science, and sociology a weapon in the political arena. Only problem is that the part of your brain they’re trying to “convince” has nothing to do with “YOU.”
Welcome to that Clockwork Orange that lies Beyond Freedom and Dignity.
Of all the sleazy sophist tricks (the Sophists were the school Aristophanes was so angry at that he stylus’ed the play), the sleaziest one of all was accepting Skinner’s amoral (I didn’t say “imoral” since the whole point is that “morality” is irrelevant) view of Society. Frank Luntz is famous for his “focus group” manipulation of language — euphemisms for various current policy debates are tested on lab rats … er, FOCUS groups, and, in many cases, the rats are given little dials to record their moment-to-moment responses to multimedia material and speeches, as CNN showed during the last Presidential Debate Cycle. (That CNN, always on the cutting edge, as in their “Tea Party” debate.)
The fundamental problem is this: do our informed opinions and rational debate form the basis of our politics, or are we to be “conditioned” through Pavlovian means to provide that “good” society that Karl Rove desires?
You will notice that neither party I mentioned in the previous paragraph has ever been elected to any political office whatsoever. Well, Karl was President of the College Republicans, when he moved to Washington D.C. and embarked on his life of crime. But a LEGAL office?
Listen to what Frank Luntz learned from the laboratory rats’ responses to their Occupy Wall Street language testing:
From Luntz’ website
How Republicans are being taught to talk about Occupy Wall Street
By Chris Moody | The Ticket – Thu, Dec 1, 2011
ORLANDO, Fla. — The Republican Governors Association met this week in Florida to give GOP state executives a chance to rejuvenate, strategize and team-build. But during a plenary session on Wednesday, one question kept coming up: How can Republicans do a better job of talking about Occupy Wall Street?
“I’m so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I’m frightened to death,” said Frank Luntz, a Republican strategist and one of the nation’s foremost experts on crafting the perfect political message. “They’re having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism.”
Luntz offered tips on how Republicans could discuss the grievances of the Occupiers, and help the governors better handle all these new questions from constituents about “income inequality” and “paying your fair share.”
Yahoo News sat in on the session, and counted 10 do’s and don’ts from Luntz covering how Republicans should fight back by changing the way they discuss the movement.
- Don’t say ‘capitalism.’
“I’m trying to get that word removed and we’re replacing it with either ‘economic freedom’ or ‘free market,’ ” Luntz said. “The public . . . still prefers capitalism to socialism, but they think capitalism is immoral. And if we’re seen as defenders of quote, Wall Street, end quote, we’ve got a problem.”
- Don’t say that the government ‘taxes the rich.’ Instead, tell them that the government ‘takes from the rich.’
“If you talk about raising taxes on the rich,” the public responds favorably, Luntz cautioned. But “if you talk about government taking the money from hardworking Americans, the public says no. Taxing, the public will say yes.”
- Republicans should forget about winning the battle over the ‘middle class.’ Call them ‘hardworking taxpayers.’
“They cannot win if the fight is on hardworking taxpayers. We can say we defend the ‘middle class’ and the public will say, I’m not sure about that. But defending ‘hardworking taxpayers’ and Republicans have the advantage.”
- Don’t talk about ‘jobs.’ Talk about ‘careers.’
“Everyone in this room talks about ‘jobs,'” Luntz said. “Watch this.”
He then asked everyone to raise their hand if they want a “job.” Few hands went up. Then he asked who wants a “career.” Almost every hand was raised.
“So why are we talking about jobs?”
- Don’t say ‘government spending.’ Call it ‘waste.’
“It’s not about ‘government spending.’ It’s about ‘waste.’ That’s what makes people angry.”
- Don’t ever say you’re willing to ‘compromise.’
“If you talk about ‘compromise,’ they’ll say you’re selling out. Your side doesn’t want you to ‘compromise.’ What you use in that to replace it with is ‘cooperation.’ It means the same thing. But cooperation means you stick to your principles but still get the job done. Compromise says that you’re selling out those principles.”
- The three most important words you can say to an Occupier: ‘I get it.’
“First off, here are three words for you all: ‘I get it.’ . . . ‘I get that you’re angry. I get that you’ve seen inequality. I get that you want to fix the system.”Then, he instructed, offer Republican solutions to the problem.
- Out: ‘Entrepreneur.’ In: ‘Job creator.’
Use the phrases “small business owners” and “job creators” instead of “entrepreneurs” and “innovators.”
- Don’t ever ask anyone to ‘sacrifice.’
“There isn’t an American today in November of 2011 who doesn’t think they’ve already sacrificed. If you tell them you want them to ‘sacrifice,’ they’re going to be be pretty angry at you. You talk about how ‘we’re all in this together.’ We either succeed together or we fail together.”
- Always blame Washington.
Tell them, “You shouldn’t be occupying Wall Street, you should be occupying Washington. You should occupy the White House because it’s the policies over the past few years that have created this problem.”
Don’t say ‘bonus!’
Luntz advised that if they give their employees an income boost during the holiday season, they should never refer to it as a “bonus.”
“If you give out a bonus at a time of financial hardship, you’re going to make people angry. It’s ‘pay for performance.'”
Sinking into the toxic ooze?
Thus are Aristophanes’ words fulfilled: “They say that among them are both the two causes—the better cause, whichever that is, and the worse: they say that the one of these two causes, the worse, prevails, though it speaks on the unjust side.”
In hopes of completing the quatrain: If, therefore you learn for me this unjust cause, I would not pay any one, not even an obolus of these debts…
Just in case you wondered:
“The deceased were buried with an obolus, placed in the mouth of the corpse, in order that, once a dead person’s shade reached the underworld of Hades, it would be able to pay Charon for passage across the river Acheron. Those without enough wealth, or whose friends refused to follow proper burial rites, were forced to wander the banks of the Acheron for one hundred years.”
But what we don’t acknowledge is that ALL of those phrases were lab-tested on human guinea pigs to produce the PROPER RESULT.
And, if they are repeated endlessly, they move the “debate” even though the rational mind was never invited to the party. This is pure manipulation of the Reptile Brain (the amygdala) to produce well-behaved rats for the race. But it is NOT democracy, and it is not rational policy debate (the pre-requisite and presumption OF our Constitution), and the attitude is betrayed in the very action:
You are not a fellow citizen; you are not a fellow human being. You are an animal species whose wiring can be manipulated and IS manipulated after scientific testing. To produce the proper social result.
If that’s not “beyond freedom and dignity,” I’d be hard-pressed to figure out what is.
Mañana: Part iii. Conditioning In Action! or What Ailes US.
A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, a survivor of Texas and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog.