Archive for September, 2011

Self-Induced Brainwashing

September 29, 2011

I read a fair bit about propaganda, frequently talk about it and have occasionally written on the subject. I have always avoided using the term “brainwashing” and “mind control”. I tend to typically associate these terms with Maoist use of deprivation and psychological bombardment to break an individual’s will, followed by indoctrination. Alternatively, “brainwashing” using psycho-active drugs was practiced by the KGB and tested by the CIA during the Cold War. This is where I am reconsidering using the term brainwashing, but not by a state apparatus. Rather, is self-induced brainwashing occurring in the United States?
In Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”, the author described a dystopia where “soma” was used as a psycho-active drug that, along with relentless propaganda, helped facilitate conformity. Given the magnitude at which psycho-active drugs are prescribed in American society, I cannot help but wonder if we now have our “soma”, too. Earlier this year, using statistics from 2005-2008, the Department of Health and Human Services reported that about 30% of women over the age of 45 were on either anti-depressants or anxiolytics and about 15% of men; see their report “Health, United States, 2010”. (I added their numbers together in the HHS report, assuming that few were simultaneously taking both. Even if I have erred and am a few percent out, the numbers are still breathtaking.) Given all that has happened since 2008, I can only imagine that usage of such psycho-active drugs is even more common.
The numbers for the anxiolytics, overwhelmingly benzodiazepines such as clonazepam and alprazalam, got my attention. Roughly 10% of the population over 65 are on such drugs. That is potentially a lot of benzodiazepines being swallowed by a demographic that will be way more likely to spend time in front of the television, and being propagandized.
When the KGB was abusing psychiatry on dissidents, a drug they were using during brainwashing was temazepam. A sedating, hypnotic benzodiazepine that facilitated compliance and even vegetation, now prescribed under the brand name Restoril here in the United States. Given that the heavily prescribed clonazepam (Klonopin) and alprazolam (Xanax) are so similar, are chemically dependent individuals complicit in their own self-induced KGB-style brainwashing? Does use of these drugs make individuals more susceptible to propaganda? “We report, you decide.” But what if you have rendered yourself incapable of judgment?

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Cry Baby Cain

September 28, 2011

So Herman Cain is complaining about being questioned about the Federal Reserve. Boo hoo.
A big reason a great many people have reservations about him is because he was past President of the Kansas City Fed. The Federal Reserve has become synonymous with crony crapitalism and is ripe for a full audit, if anyone doubts this then just look at the findings of the partial audit stemming from the financial meltdown. Consequently, given his past employment and recent events, it is inevitable that he’d face questions on the Fed. If he ever comes to where I live, I’d be questioning him on it, too.
Does he expect Mitt Romney to not be questioned on “Romneycare”? Rick Perry not to be pressed on alleged cronyism? This is their Achilles’ heel, association with the Fed Reserve and his support for TARP is his. Herman Cain should be calling for a full audit rather than crying about people questioning him.  Or is he just another one of the GOP’s crony crapitalists?

Benzodiazepines and the Conrad Murray Trial

September 28, 2011

The trial of the physician charged with the involuntary manslaughter of Michael Jackson, Dr Conrad Murray, has just started. The whole tragic story of Michael Jackson’s chemical dependency, his addictions, will undoubtedly be aired by the defendant’s lawyers. Expect wall-to-wall television coverage. But out of this tragedy there may just be one silver lining, potential dangers of prescription drugs will be aired nightly. Much of the trial will undoubtedly focus on propofol, but on the day Michael Jackson died he also took multiple doses of the benzodiazepines diazepam (Valium), midazolam and lorazepam (Ativan) as sedatives.  Other such valium analogs that are widely used as prescription drugs are the benzodiazepines clonazapam (Klonopin), alprazolam (Xanax) and temazepam (Restoril) . Benzodiazepines are some of the most widely prescribed anxiolytics, or anti-anxiety drugs, in the United States. I do not doubt that they have legitimate uses. But I also do not doubt that they are grossly over-prescribed. They are highly addictive, can have debilitating side effects and be extremely dangerous as part of a cocktail, be it with other drugs or alcohol. Raising public awareness of their potential danger can only be for the public good, and spare us additional victims. Ironically, expect the ads for psycho-active drugs to keep airing during commercial breaks.

My 7-year-old understands “blowback” – so why can’t Rudy Giuliani or Rick Santorum?

September 27, 2011

In the GOP primary debates, with the exception of Ron Paul, it seems to be anathema to discuss how blowback was a major cause of 9/11. This is as much the case in 2011 with the likes of Rick Santorum as it was with Rudy Giuliani in 2007, with their ignoring of both a key finding of the 9/11 Commission and of CIA analysis. Blowback was a predictable response to US foreign policy decisions largely relating to the Middle East, be it support of autocratic regimes in Arab countries, military bases in Saudi Arabia or disregard for the plight of the Palestinians. One would assume that obliviousness to blowback betrays an ignorance that would be unthinkable for a President tasked with making the biggest decisions of state. I doubt that to be truly the case with a great many blowback deniers, the likes of Giuliani and Santorum are clearly smart guys, rather they are simply continuing their pandering as a matter of rote. Anything to appeal to the base to try and win the primary, no matter how outrageously ignorant they sound. But it doesn’t really work with the swing voter does it?
In talking to my 7-year-old about bullying, I asked him how he would respond. He said he would tell the bully to stop. “But what if he doesn’t stop?” “I’d tell my teacher.” “But what if that doesn’t help?” Long pause. “I’d trick him.” At 7 he knows that if you try to fight a bully fair and square, it ain’t going to happen and you will very likely get pummeled. You may deck him, but you’ll likely get jumped soon thereafter. Growing up in darkest Lanarkshire taught me that, but I was super impressed by my sons answer. “I’d trick him”. He is clearly way smarter than I was at the same age!
Is it really so hard for people to understand that people don’t attack us because “we are free” but because we are bullies? That we are letting ourselves be tricked into responding in ways harmful to our national security and ultimately self-destructive? That we are bankrupting ourselves, mortgaging our children’s future, polarizing our society and, by casting the Bill of Right onto its funeral pyre, destroying what makes America truly exceptional? Sure, I supported our response after the violence and fatalities of 9/11. But after we overthrew the Taliban we engaged in a militaristic adventurism that has fuelled further blowback. We let ourselves be tricked. After all, the primary goal of terrorism is not to kill as many people as possible. Rather, it’s to change the political environment in which the terrorists and their supporters are seeking to function. Be it the Stern Gang, IRA/INLA or Al Qaeda. This is not a difficult concept to understand. Look around the world today, and how America is regarded. With all the billions we expend on so-called national security and defense we routinely walk into traps that a 7-year-old can understand.
No blowback denier for me. I do not want a Commander-in-Chief that is a dupe and unable to grasp even the simplest manifestations of blowback, let alone to ultimately have the authority to one day send my son and daughter off to war. I do not want a President that is a blatant panderer that would blithely expend our strength on militaristic adventurism. I will never vote for such a candidate in 2012. I do want a President that recognizes the magnitude of the mess we are in and stops this madness.

Media Distrust

September 16, 2011

An “Ipsos Public Affairs” survey just released reports that those who distrust the media outnumber those that are trusting by a factor of 2:1, the same ratio as for the US Congress. Having long since given up on the likes of CNN, FoxNews and MSNBC, except to occasionally view how they are busy aiding and abetting propaganda, I am left to wonder if the likes of Wolf Blitzer or Bill O’Reilly reported this in their primetime spinfotainment spots?
We have long since not had an effective “Fourth Estate” in the United States. Between segments on celebrity drivel or the latest tragedy we are spoonfed propaganda on, in particular, our foreign entanglements and economic meltdown. Individuals that support the prevailing line from our corporate media are lionized, those that see through the spin are ridiculed. Think on the 2007/2008 collapse. It is a big lie that “nobody saw it coming”. Those that did were ignored or laughed at, particularly by our corporatist media and their cronies in the financial sector and government. The likes of Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson and Timothy Geithner get a free ride by comparison. And what about our foreign affairs? Anyone that has the temerity to address blowback regarding 9/11, Iran or the Arab world can expect a trashing, even though they are merely restating the view expressed by the 9/11 Commission and the CIA!
In discussing “Propaganda in a Democratic Society” in “Brave New World Revisited”, published in 1958, Aldous Huxley had it about right: “Propaganda in favor of action that is consonant with enlightened self-interest appeals to reason by means of logical arguments based upon the best available evidence fully and honestly set forth. Propaganda in favor of action dictated by the impulses that are below self-interest offers false, garbled or incomplete evidence, avoids logical argument and seeks to influence its victims by the mere repetition of catchwords, by the furious denunciation of foreign or domestic scapegoats, and by cunningly associating the lowest passions with the highest ideals, so that atrocities come to be perpetrated in the name of God and the most cynical kind of Realpolitik is treated as a matter of religious principle and patriotic duty.” This is a less sterile version of what I have previously posted relating to the Institute for Propaganda Analysis. But if you spend a few minutes listening to propagandists on the television, radio or internet you will quickly recognize the style.
The real tragedy in all this is that the propagandists are hiding the truth from the public, with dire long-term consequences. American foreign policy in the Middle East is a train wreck, our militaristic adventurism is harming our national security, the national security state is trashing the Bill of Rights, the war on drugs is an abject failure that is enriching organized crime, our healthcare system is delivering Albanian-style life expectancy (its true – see the CIA factbook, they rank 51st and we are 50th!), our manufacturing base has been trashed, energy policies are being set by base emotionalism, pay-to-play crony crapitalism is rampant and Fed policies will very likely lead to a de facto default by dollar debasement. But given how the media is owned and controlled in America, it is no surprise that it has devolved into its current condition.
I do hope that our propagandists are proud of their craft, after all it takes a lot of talent to do what they do and I am sure they are well rewarded. I know I would also have to be well medicated to do what they do, too. That said, I do rest a bit better knowing that I am very likely in the majority when it comes to distrusting the media and look forward to when “The Fourth Estate” returns to its proper role.