This is the Petite Chessboard; for the Grand one, see
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For this reason, Madison Avenue and its analogues call heavily upon the services of applied psychology, probing with it for hidden vulnerabilities in the human mind: the farrago of unvoiced drives and impulses that can be appealed to without engaging the reasoning or critical faculties. This is how advertisers are able to convince people that they need to drink a specific brand of soda, for example, in order to appeal to all those fresh-faced maidens who populate their commercials, or that without a particular vehicle, they will fail to unleash their inner heroes.
Certain formulas have emerged for effecting this, but all of them rely on instilling the notion that the “needs” they are creating are real and intrinsic, and none is effective if obvious to the target market. This is why teachers who analyze marketing techniques with their students have consistently found that, the more certain a given student is that he is uninfluenced by advertising, the more he has actually internalized the advertisers’ message, and the more profoundly he is influenced by it.
But the “advertisers” who sell the people of the United States and its satellites on perpetual pathocracy have tools available to them that conventional advertisers can only envy. They own virtually all of the mass media, and the fraction outside their grip diminishes daily. This enables them not merely to sell a corrupt system of values, but to weave those values into the fabric of a popular culture that appears to be natural and intrinsic, with the effect that it becomes practically impossible for anyone immersed in that culture to perceive its essential artificiality. To do so, in fact, becomes the intellectual and moral equivalent of looking at an incalculably complex tapestry and deliberately ignoring only the threads of a specific color.
There is no way — I will say it again: no way — to escape entirely. No one who lives within the reach of the U.S.’ imperial public-relations machine (which is to say, on earth) can ever be wholly free of its blandishments. We can only defend ourselves by an act of sustained will: We can only adopt what Noam Chomsky has called techniques of “intellectual self-defense”: This is to become conscious of the artificiality of the cultural construct and of the placement, nature and structure of the threads of deceit and manipulation woven into it.
We cannot examine our cultural construct, however, while fully immersed in it; as well might a smoker try to quit while spending his nights in a cigar lounge. Before all else, we must free ourselves of the influence of the most dangerous and infantilizing of electronic addictions: television. So far, TV hasn’t been used directly to spy on us, as in 1984, but its power to fascinate, to mesmerize, to make us exult or feel exaltation, to operate with the precision of neurosurgery upon our strongest emotions and most primal impulses, makes it an instrument of inculturation, indoctrination, and social conditioning that would make George Orwell shudder.
Television is a deadly enemy to the free operation of mind and conscience: It is a mental narcotic that tricks its users into thinking they can just take a little, for old times’ sake, and do themselves no hurt. But once under its influence, they fail to notice the changes in their behavior and the thoughts that motivate it; no longer can they be objective judges of their own condition. This is why I propose a post-New Year’s resolution, that all may approach 2012 with minds unclouded: Shut off the TV, get rid of it, and don’t replace it.
Jettisoning your TV will not, of itself, emerse you from the corrupt artificial culture. But it will change habits of thought and means of obtaining and understanding information about the world that have for too long constrained too many. And if enough people unplug for long enough, there may just be some hope of dispelling the fog of illusion and breaking the spell that the advertisers of pathocracy have laid upon us.