In Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie”, a stunned Amanda Wingfield enters the second scene repeating an enigmatic question: “Deception? Deception?” Amanda revels in the fantasy world of her genteel girlhood, when she cultivated good looks and witty conversation to entertain numerous gentlemen callers, all of whom went on to become rich and successful, except for her wayward and absent husband. She envisions a gentleman caller entering their forlorn apartment any day now and swooping her painfully shy, disabled daughter, Laura, off to financial security and wedded bliss. As a back-up plan, she sent Laura to typing and shorthand school to acquire her own means of support. Laura’s extreme nervousness caused her to break down the first day of class, and since then she secretly spent class time walking around town alone, to parks and museums, to avoid her mother’s anger. When Amanda encounters evidence of Laura’s dishonesty, she can’t believe her own daughter, whom she has dutifully raised and fed, could deceive her so monstrously.
Deception happens on a societal level when false or misleading narratives are spun in such a way to become widely accepted as the truth. In the US and many other capitalist societies our consciousness is constantly being manipulated by the ruling elites, also known as the ruling class, the super-rich, the big money interests—those relative few who control the vast majority of the earth’s resources. Because they aim to keep their dirty work out of view, they assiduously avoid catchy labels. We don’t even know most of their names, but they play a major role in who gets elected to political office, what consumer trends will take off in the near future, and how we make sense of challenging global phenomena.
The ruling elites can be found in powerful semi-covert networks such as the World Economic Forum, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Trilateral Commission. They include top financiers, as described by Peter Phillips in “Giants: The Global Power Elite”, constantly on the look-out for new investment opportunities to keep increasing the wealth of the 1%. Their well-funded toolkit contains hand-picked scientific experts, global news agencies, pundits on the right and left, entertainment and sports celebrities, and FBI/CIA covert operations, all choreographed by highly sophisticated public relations (PR) professionals.
The ruling elites don’t always agree on everything, as seen in the US with squabbles between Democratic and Republican party leaders and their corporate funders, but a key attribute they share unflinchingly is allegiance to capitalism, free markets, and the absolute right of any individual to use the system to amass obscene amounts of personal wealth.
Why would they deceive us? When you stop and think about it, the only truly rational, sensible and healthy way for human beings to co-exist on this planet would be through cooperation and solidarity, ensuring a dignified life for everyone, resolving disputes peacefully and sharing the earth’s resources equitably and fairly. We’re clearly intelligent enough to figure out how to make that happen. But no, the ruling elites, whose disdain for ordinary people emanates from their own deep-seated fears of losing control, bristle at this notion and spare no expense in making people believe that such a vision is both impossible and undesirable. The ever evolving field of PR offers a resplendent palette of strategies for doing so.
Adam Curtis’ 2002 series “Century of the Self” documents the history of PR, invented by Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays.[i] PR, shrewdly appealing to deep-seated emotions more than intellect, has been utilized and refined over the last 100+ years to dissuade the masses from seriously questioning and rebelling against the grossly unequal wealth and power that the ruling classes cling to. The 1917 Russian revolution was a wake-up call, and elites will spare no expense to ensure the downtrodden aren’t able to seize and hold onto power for universal social uplift.
PR enables the ruling elites to control the way people behave and perceive the world, without needing to use brute force. It has been used for both commercial and political ends–to generate excessive profit for the few and to ensure people elect and accept leaders who will preserve this unequal and unjust status quo. It helps to have an enemy out there that everyone fears: communism, drugs, terrorism, COVID-19…… The more fearful people are, the more willing they are to give up their liberty and agency and seek protection from the increasingly authoritarian state.
The ruling elite reflexively attempt to vilify, co-opt or destroy any social movement that starts to gain traction, as we saw with CIA-backed coups d’état against democratically elected leaders implementing social reforms in Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Chile (1973), Haiti (1991, 2004), Honduras (2009) and Bolivia (2019). These illegal and immoral regime change operations were carried out with impunity, as perpetrators hid behind a carefully constructed façade of “preventing the spread of evil communism” and “defending freedom”.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. vocally rejected the elites’ Freudian notion that the “maladjusted” should blindly conform to society’s unjust norms;
“… I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few and leave millions of God’s children smothering in the airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society.”
Clearly, the charismatic King had to go. He was killed by agents of the elites on April 4, 1968, as has been well documented in the works of William Pepper and the 1999 civil trial that concluded the US Army and Memphis Police Department were complicit in his murder. But ask someone on the street who killed Dr. King, and they’ll most likely say some crazy gunman acting on his own. That is the narrative the ruling elites want us to believe. For those willing to do the careful research, it has been proven false.
Deceptive propaganda has been employed throughout the world to serve the elites, misrepresenting events in Haiti, Cuba, Israel/Palestine, Rwanda/Democratic Republic of Congo, North Korea, Yugoslavia, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela, to name just a few examples. There are many likely deceptions that merit further investigation, including a few that would be considered taboo to even mention.
At the dawn of the 21st century came the mother of all deceptions—the official story of 9/11, which countless independent researchers have found to be full of well documented flaws and cover-ups. The events of 9/11 initiated the US’ global war on terror, driving up profits of military contractors and the surveillance industry while leading most Americans to willingly accept sharp curtailments of their civil liberties.
Public Health and COVID-19
In 1929, Bernays doubled the US market of tobacco consumers overnight. As it had been previously unacceptable for women to smoke, he arranged for a squadron of fashionable debutantes to lead New York’s highly publicized Easter Parade, defiantly pull out cigarettes, called “torches of freedom” and light up. Smoking was subsequently glamorized in movies and on television. Social movements later forced the disclosure that tobacco companies knew all along about the adverse health impacts of smoking, while continuing to aggressively market their products and rake in huge profits.
Examples of major deceptions by big pharma and the medical establishment include pushing thalidomide to enhance pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy for menopause, and Vioxx for arthritis. All were discontinued only after extensive and often fatal damage was done.
Unbeknownst to many, Cuba has been a shining example of transparency and altruism in local and global health promotion. Because the 1959 Cuban Revolution successfully wrested power from ruling elites and foreign corporations, allowing the Cuban people to refashion a society built on values of cooperation and solidarity with housing, education, jobs, healthcare, and cultural activities guaranteed to everyone, it has been a prime target for elites who deceive people in the US and much of the rest of the world into viewing it as a “brutal, totalitarian state.”
Hospitals in New York and California that lack sufficient medical personnel should ask Cuba for help. Cuba has already sent medical delegations to many countries to help with COVID-19 and is prepared to send more. Two weeks ago, as a group of Cuban doctors in Havana prepared to board a plane to Italy, one was asked if he was afraid. The response: “He who says he is not afraid is superhuman. We are not superhuman. We are revolutionary doctors.”
It’s time for the US to get over its Cuba-phobia, end the economic blockade against it, and show some appreciation for its immense contributions to human health worldwide. Fortunately, amidst the current pandemic, the rest of the world is increasingly opening its eyes to the reality of Cuba’s generous internationalism.
We’ve experienced the “war on communism”, “war on drugs”, and “war on terrorism”, all of which were really a war against the poor perpetrated by ruling elites to distract people from challenging their unjust hegemony. What about the current “war on COVID-19”? Before rushing to accept every aspect of the official narrative conveyed in the corporate media, shouldn’t we also be seeking critical information that is missing from mainstream coverage?
Clearly COVID-19 can be a serious and even fatal disease for a small percentage of those who are infected, and preventive measures are warranted. But is the high level of alarm and panic engendered by daily death tolls, sharply rising curves on graphs, and doomsday predictions really justified?
To put the crisis into a broader perspective, Swiss Propaganda Research, with daily updates in multiple languages from March 14 to the present, provides links to insightful analyses from well-credentialed epidemiologists, physicians and infectious disease specialists who are not being featured in the corporate media.
There are several questions rarely if ever being asked, whose answers would help shed light on the level of danger this pandemic poses. How reliable and consistent are COVID-19 testing methods? To what extent has the weekly per capita number of deaths from all causes in any given region during the past three months differed markedly from this time period in previous years? How many of the COVID-19 deaths are individuals who were at or very near the end of their life already due to extreme old age and terminal illnesses? For example, in my county of 1.1 million there are an average of 140 deaths per week from all causes. We’ve had 7 deaths so far from COVID-19 in the past ten weeks, the most recent a person over 90 in end-of-life hospice care. All people do die eventually.
Not to minimize the tragedy of COVID-19 deaths, but to make sure we don’t focus on them excessively to the exclusion of the much more numerous preventable and tragic deaths from other causes. As John Pilger aptly put it last month,
“A pandemic has been declared, but not for the 24,600 who die every day from unnecessary starvation, and not for 3,000 children who die every day from preventable malaria, and not for the 10,000 people who die every day because they are denied publicly-funded healthcare, and not for the hundreds of Venezuelans and Iranians who die every day because America’s blockade denies them life-saving medicines, and not for the hundreds of mostly children bombed or starved to death every day in Yemen, in a war supplied and kept going, profitably, by America and Britain. Before you panic, consider them.”
Persistent structural racism that is regularly swept under the rug simmers beneath surface of pandemic reporting. African Americans, already overly impacted by poverty and poor health outcomes, are disproportionately succumbing to COVID-19 in Louisiana, Michigan, Chicago and New York. African soccer players have expressed outrage at the suggestion of using Africa as a testing ground for COVID-19 remedies and vaccines. Some, still psychically scarred by the 40-year post-WWII Tuskegee experiment that left hundreds of black men in Alabama uninformed and untreated for syphilis, are skeptical of government health information. Former Tuskegee mayor Lucenia Dunn commented on local reactions to pandemic reporting, “We have a general distrust in this community… The attitude is, ‘I’m going to rebel against this. You people have been telling us lies for years. Why should I believe you now?’”
The level of hardship people experience during the nearly ubiquitous stay-at-home orders is vastly different. Elites continue to live in abundant luxury. Others employed in essential sectors or working from home are strained but coping reasonably well for now, while masses of the poor around the world see an already dismal future worsen with dwindling means of basic sustenance. Think about it. Who is counting deaths by starvation? Deaths triggered by impacts of extreme fear, isolation, anxiety and desperation?
Authorities living in comfortable circumstances with uninterrupted incomes tell us to just stay home. But what about those whose homes are not happy places? Whose homes are physically decrepit and overcrowded? Those with no home, sleeping on the streets? Those whose homes are an emotional nightmare? How many children are being abused behind closed doors with no way of escaping or finding a supportive adult to rescue them?
While countless peoples’ livelihoods and businesses disintegrate, big pharma and the high-tech sector are booming while they aim to be viewed as our saviors in this crisis. Multi-billionaire Bill Gates, a self-appointed, unelected, non-credentialed spokesperson for the COVID-19 pandemic, insists that the only solution is developing a vaccine and administering it to every person on the globe, generating astronomical profits to the manufacturer. He alleges there’s no cure for COVID-19, when in fact the human immune system cures the vast majority of those infected (for free!). Reputable public health experts who suggest promoting herd immunity among the majority of people while protecting the vulnerable as a more effective way to defeat the virus are ignored or ridiculed.
Humans are social beings whose survival depends on close physical contact with family and community. People cherish the hard won right to gather in public spaces for educational, recreational and political purposes. Even if one believes in the necessity of imposing prolonged draconian measures of physical separation, it’s still astounding to see entire populations give up their right to freedom of assembly from one day to the next, without a peep of discussion on the implications. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden warns that COVID-19 is dangerous but temporary, while the destruction of fundamental rights is deadly and permanent.
Is it possible all the high-end PR firms are standing idly by, passively watching the COVID-19 saga unfold? Or have some been hired to manage the flow of information, feature experts who exaggerate the lethality of the virus, dispense proposals for ever more restrictive lockdowns, titrate the level of alarm and sensationalism that permeates the media, mask social control as voluntary, altruistic obedience to the new norms, and reinforce the idealistic yet deceptive concept “we’re all in it together”?
If we were truly “all in it together” our leaders would listen to people who are suffering from many avoidable afflictions. They would promote integrated strategies to reduce the number of preventable, premature deaths worldwide from all causes. They would prioritize eradicating poverty and despair, improving living standards, hygiene infrastructure and health care for everyone over preserving the inordinate wealth of the few.
Naomi Klein asks,
“In times of crisis, seemingly impossible ideas suddenly become possible. But whose ideas? Sensible, fair ones, designed to keep as many people as possible safe, secure, and healthy? Or predatory ideas, designed to further enrich the already unimaginable wealthy, while leaving the most vulnerable further exposed?”
Deception? Deception? Would those who have the power to shape the dominant narratives we are fed incessantly in the corporate media actually deceive us?
How many of us are deluded and deceived Amanda Wingfields, clinging to the hope of the proverbial “gentleman caller”—in the guise of a bold new president, a gallant billionaire philanthropist, a miracle vaccine—solving all our problems and sweeping us off to a fantasy world where those who work hard and follow the rules might have the opportunity–if they’re lucky–to enjoy democracy, freedom and good health?
No matter what the future brings, don’t forget to exercise your intellect—carefully evaluating information, and assert your humanity–reaching out to other human beings in solidarity any way you can.
[i] “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of…in almost every act of our daily 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 which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.”
– Edward Bernays (Nephew of Sigmund Freud) from “Propaganda” (1928)
Read also: Edward Bernays, the Father of American Propaganda by Gary Kohls, TRANSCEND Media Service, 5 Dec 2016
Marilyn Langlois is a member of TRANSCEND USA West Coast. She is a volunteer community organizer and international solidarity activist based in Richmond, California. A co-founder of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, member of Haiti Action Committee and Board member of Task Force on the Americas, she is retired from previous employment as a teacher, secretary, administrator, mediator and community advocate.
Tags: COVID-19, Capitalism, Control, Coronavirus, Economics, Edward Bernays, Elites, Fake News, Fake Report, Journalism, Manipulation, Media, Mind Control, Pandemic, Power, Propaganda, Psychology, Science, Sigmund Freud, Solutions
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 13 Apr 2020.