by Shelley Bluejay Pierce
Shelley’s blog post
June 11, 2008
(Part three in series)
“Tis’ oft the case in human speech,
truth lies betwixt or between
and endless speech doth weave its web,
where motives are rarely seen.
To paint such crafted language
upon the canvas of the mind
can so pervert and adjudicate
that facts themselves are blind.
The muse reveals its tainted source
from the mind where it was wrought
uttering both riddles and rhymes,
manipulation is all that’s sought.
Enamored crowds replace the actor
who laid waste to vows once spoken
where actions have replaced all words
with a stage where their trust lay broken.”
(C) Shelley Bluejay Pierce, June 10, 2008
Most Americans took a deep breath and were grateful when finally, after months and months of incessant political media coverage, we knew who the final Presidential candidates were supposed to be. The onslaught of interviews, political analysts, reports on the Rev. Wright issue and ads declaring that only Hillary Clinton was qualified to pick up the White House phone at 3 AM assaulted us ad nauseum.
I have found myself desiring a new approach to the political campaigns. What would happen if we forced the candidates to take a “temporary” position as President and had them show us, by their actions and not their words, how they would perform as the leader of the USA? What would happen if we took away their fancy speechwriters, their campaign directors and all their media “spin-doctors” so that all that remained was the human being?
This is a frightening thought perhaps, but one that I have found myself returning to over and over again lately. Taking away the Presidential “glamour” and removing their ability to use words as powerful tools to manipulate their way into the oval office might be the only way to evaluate a Presidential candidate. Assessment of the moral character and true leadership abilities of the candidates might be accomplished if we took away their “words.”
“What?” you say, “A professional writer is telling me that they don’t want to hear or read “words!?”
Yes. That is exactly what I am saying.
As a writer, I am captivated by the beauty of well-chosen words that may create a new reality for the reader or listener. There is magic in the placement of each word and a masterpiece hidden between each phrase when the writing comes from a true master’s pen. Whether in poetic verse as in the piece I penned at the beginning of this essay, to the formal constraints required in other styles of writing, there is “magic” in words. As a writer, I can only aspire to create written pieces that would bring honor to the truly great talents I have learned from.
However, what happens when words become the very weapons used against a society as a whole to deceive and manipulate? What becomes of the truth when it is so brilliantly hidden by deceptively written words?
Take these famous words for instance:
“…But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
Who do we credit for this historic utterance? These now famous words were spoken by none other than Hermann Goering during the Nuremberg Trials as he described the mindset of Nazi Germany.
Perhaps the immediate response to having just mentally identified with these words is revulsion at the mere concept that we were able to relate to them on some level. Mentally, we may fight the mere suggestion that our current political climate is having glaring similarities to these concepts. Are we speaking of just the United States in this regard or are we looking at a more global panorama of political behavior? We detest the mere thought that we would ever adhere to any precepts that once guided the Nazi regime to its powerful domination over the people.
When the expression, “spin-doctor” is used in describing the media representatives who are responsible for creating the entire public persona for our Presidential candidates, few people realize where that term heralds from.
Edward L. Bernays, became known as the “Father of Spin” in the 1940’s after taking concepts learned from his uncle, Sigmund Freud, and applying them to the power of mass persuasion. Over many decades, Bernays’ theories were fine-tuned so that applications of his mind-swaying propaganda were used on the American public within the guise of “public relations” and advertising.
The knowledge he gained along the way proved that masses of people could be swayed through messages repeated over and over hundreds of times to literally affect a new way of behaving or thinking. Advertisers and public relations firms heralded this new approach as a true victory and other parts of the world began to follow this new concept. Few Americans realize that it was our own Edward Bernays who became the guiding light for Josef Goebbels, who was Hitler’s minister of propaganda. The very principles behind the success of Edward Bernays, the “Father of Spin,” became the weaponry used against the German people to convince them of the need to purify their race.
“Those who manipulate the unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. In almost every act of our lives whether in the sphere of politics or business in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires that control the public mind.” – Edward L. Bernays
So how are we being manipulated now? Do we feel that as a society we are “more educated” allowing us the freedom to discern truths and break the cycle of the media-created “herd mentality?” Hardly. Do an online search of the phrase, “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction” and see how many times that phrase was used, so effectively in fact, that key advisors inside the White House believed them without question. Just one phrase can become immortalized when meticulously placed in the hands of a media “spin-doctor.”
“Read my lips…no new taxes” ring a bell for you? Or how about, “I did not have sex with that woman…” and even names applied to individuals become an iconic reminder such as “Tricky Dicky” for former President Nixon or “Slick Willy” for former President Bill Clinton. Intelligence is not a determining factor when examining the effects of propaganda upon individual members of a society.
The words that were placed upon paper more than 200 years ago and are known as the “Declaration of Independence” were aided by the word crafting skills of Thomas Jefferson. Those gathering of words remain as an inspiration and a guiding light for the USA but are they “real?” Were the “truths we hold self-evident” factual descriptors of this society or were they simply “pretty words?”
Thomas Jefferson is famous for having said:
“I know of no safe depository of the ultimate power of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise that control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not take it from them, but to inform their discretion.”
Lets return to the notion of placing each Presidential candidate in office for a temporary and demonstrative session of real-world dealings with the issues facing this country today. Without the glare and incessant yammerings of the press, no lights and make-up to make the candidate more physically appealing to the public eye and with no media spin-doctors placing each gloriously crafted word in the candidates’ mouth prior to speaking, where would that candidate end up in the public opinion polls? Would their actions finally speak louder than words?
How many times has a citizen of the United States participated via television or radio in the new President taking their “Oaths of Office?” This oath, or affirmation of office was established in the United States Constitution and is a mandatory step taken by each President before taking office. The wording originates as described in Article II, Section 1, Clause 8 and reads as follows:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States….”
Preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States? How many times has this promise been broken by Presidents of this Nation? We see the new President with their hand placed upon a bible, lifting their hand in the air and before a witness and all of the crowds gathered, they make their oath to faithfully keep their promised word…or oath. Really? Do they truly mean what they speak or is it merely a procedural requirement before jumping in behind the desk in the oval office of the White House to lead a country?
Members of Congress must also take an oath of office, as do members of the military:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”
John Milton describes in, “On Christian Doctrine,” an oath as being, “that whereby we call God to witness the truth of what we say, with a curse upon ourselves . . . should it prove false.”
Doubtful that many people would take an “oath” if the truest context were thought to be anything less than “optional.” Our society seems to have lost all value for truth, keeping our promises and upholding the honor of our moral character by living up to what ever we have pledged our vow or oath to. Such was the case of a recent television broadcast where several political analysts were discussing the political campaigns of Obama, Clinton and McCain. The host of this show stated, “Well, these are nothing more than political campaign promises so we know they aren’t being held accountable for these….”
I about fell off my chair as I heard these words so casually pour out of this media hosts’ mouth but my greater horror was that not one of the guests argued with her! Each of the political commentators agreed and went on with their rapid-fire speech about how each candidate was running their campaign or how much money had been spent thus far on the campaign trail.
I was appalled but not surprised. We are totally accustomed to this and have become blinded to truth. Are we truly ready for a society based on truth? Perhaps the citizens of the United States are to assume that these campaign “promises” are merely suggested aspirations and are not to be taken for anything more than a series of well-crafted words that appeal to our emotions.
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” – Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany
The very “truths we hold self-evident” are sorely missing from our concepts of leadership in this country. If our actions in public are displayed one way, yet our words display an entirely different belief system, why are those who have taken oaths allowed to do this with impunity? Sadly, I believe that this perpetual cycle stems from our basic brainwashing as a culture. We simply have come to believe that what we say in words is not important.
The most perplexing part in all of this comes when one examines the beliefs held even in the minds of the “spin-doctors” themselves. Perfectly crafted words that are combined with the artful use of propaganda-styled repetitions suddenly convince even the creator of these words that they are truth! Words create psychological and emotional connections that in the end may powerfully influence how we think and act. Somewhere along the line, even those fabricating the illusions of truth for the public also buy into their own elaborate manuscript!
“If the word has the potency to revive and make us free, it has also the power to blind, imprison and destroy.” – Robert Ellison
The immeasurable beauty and power of words, when placed with care into the listener or readers’ mind and heart may be a work of art. With callous and reckless disregard for the impact those words may bring upon an entire civilization, there may well be no greater weapon of total destruction. As we ask for truth and accountability in our leaders we must also examine our own willingness to submit, in blind faith, to the destructive habit of apathy. When a society as a whole becomes blind to the value of an oath, a promise, or to accountability from each of us individually, we cannot expect the society in whole to survive.
Perhaps it is indeed time for truth. No matter how deeply we may long for it, are we certain that our gluttony as a society addicted to the sensational, glamorized realm of the “spin-doctors” is over? We ask for freedom, equality and “the pursuit of happiness” but sadly, have we forgotten how to live that way without it being spoon-fed to us by someone we perceive as an authority figure?
“In the beginning was the word,” but, now what?
(C) Shelley Bluejay Pierce, June 10, 2008