Techniques of Social Coercion

and the

Applied Psychology of Evolving Consumers

In 2004 a small group of young activist met with their invited guest in a small hall, somewhere in Hungary. The hall holds about 25-30 people, but on this occasion its packed with about 50, mainly young people. They'd come to ask their guest some individual questions about society and activism. In some two hours they asked their guest fourteen questions. This quiet unpublicised meeting was recorded by one of the activists on video and later edited into fourteen segments, each being a question and its answer. So far as I'm aware these fourteen segments are the only record of that meeting, and this blog is a verbatim transcription of the answer given to the tenth question, which was about the veracity or otherwise of movements of dissent when they had no ideology and no science upon which to base themselves.

Their guest answered the question thus -

First of all I think we have to recognise that there never have been movements that were ideologically or scientifically based, they never existed. So the Marxist movements claim to be ideologically and scientifically based, but there was no science and there was no ideology, this was just a mass of authoritarianism. So what was the science or ideology in the Marxist movement for example?

I don't think you can find it. You can find a lot of pretension and there's a whole intellectual tradition of trying to discuss the science and so on, but its just not there. And the ideology basically was mostly 'just follow me'.

That's not much in the way of ideology.

The contemporary movements are I think much sounder in this respect, much more resilient. They don't have false beliefs or non existent ideologies or fake science. They vary so much that you can't really generalise about them but many of them are committed to very serious work on real issues.

Does that make them susceptible to control by centralised power?

Yes.

I mean centralised power is not giving it up easily, they're going to fight back by every means they have, and there are many means. Marginalising people through directing them to consumption is a major means of control, and we shouldn't underestimate how extreme it is.

The United States is the most advanced country in this respect, because its the most free country. I mean its a credit to the American people that they're the most propagandised. The efforts to control them have to be much more extreme because there's so few ways (comparatively) to coerce people, thanks to previous triumphs.

But advertising in the United States, I mean it amazes me when you study how it works, if you're interested. For instance there's a a major field of Applied Psychology which is concerned with 'nagging' by children . . “

(he pauses to explain to his Hungarian audience that the term 'nagging' is when children keep on at their parents to do something which they (the children) want – and then he continues . .)
So there's a field devoted to nagging, and there's a logic behind it. Corporations had been concerned for a long time about the fact that there's a big part of the population which couldn't purchase things, that doesn't have any money.
Children.
So there's a big mass of people who are children who you could somehow, by advertising, coerce into buying things, but they don't have any money, so you can't do it. Well a brilliant thought came to 'someone' that the way to do it is to get them to 'nag' their parents. So now they (the psychologists) have discovered around a dozen different kinds of nagging and so advertising for children is carefully designed and controlled to elicit the kind of nagging that might get the child to get their parents to buy whichever particular goods.
Incidentally the industry do not call them children, they're called?
Evolving Consumers!
So the question is then how to get evolving consumers to torture their parents into buying them something just to shut them up! (he gives examples of his own grandchildren seeing something propagandised on television which makes them believe they've got to have it or life comes to an end! And of course what it costs is of no concern to the children, after all what's money, parents have infinite amounts of it, so they nag.
Well these are techniques of control, and they start from infancy. I sometimes watch television with my grandchildren and from infancy they are deluged with propaganda which is aimed at making them perceive their own identity in terms of the number of goods that they have. There's nothing in your life except the goods that you have.
Actually if you watch American television programs, these have a very destructive effect in much of the world, especially in the third world, but even in Europe, and American television programs, you know, comedies and so on, they give a picture of life, which is designed of course to be like that. Its a picture of life in which nobody works, nobody has a job, nobody has problems, nobody's in jail, nobody's poor, everybody has everything you can imagine, the only problems you have are having problems with your girlfriend or something like that. That's life! And there are plenty of people who are seduced by that vision of life. You get plenty of people from all over the world who say well why can't I live like that, I have to work and I have all of these problems and so on. But they're not in that marvellous country, they don't have any of those things. Its not a picture of reality but it is a seductive picture and it affects children, it affects people around the world – and its a technique of control and its very carefully contrived. A huge amount of effort goes into this.
Are popular movements subjected to this?
Sure they are and they're subjected to enormous propaganda to make you feel your own individual - what are called 'rights' - which usually means right to consumption - is supreme, and nothing else exists. There are plenty of people within the popular movements who are quite often subject to the efforts to destroy any social organisation within the society, like say, schools. Public schools are a social commitment and are based upon the idea of solidarity. Public schools are based on the idea that you're supposed to care whether some child somewhere else can go to school – while you have, driven into your head, day after day, that you're only supposed to care about yourself, its none of your business if that kid across the street doesn't go to school. Its his problem or his parents problem, but you have no reason to pay taxes so someone else can do something - that's the government stealing money from you. That's presented as the government stealing your hard earned money to give away to someone and why should you agree to that. The amount of propaganda behind that is enormous and it affects people all over the place.
And there are other techniques of control. So for example since the 1960's there's now a lot of concern about controlling young people, students, student activism. One of the best ways of controlling people is to drive them into debt. So now, as distinct since the 1960's, when a student comes out of college they're often deeply in debt. Tony Blair knows exactly what he's doing when he's increasing tuition, demanding a tuition increase at British Universities. That's not for economic reasons, I mean he'd get way more than that by making corporations pay taxes instead of fleeing them – but it is a way of coercing students and if students have to pay tuition to get into schools, for one thing it has the obvious class effect, keeps out the poor students, but the other thing for those who do get in they're going to end up with a big debt burden. So suppose you graduate as a lawyer, let's say, and you decide you want to work on public interest law, environmental law or something. But you come out with a huge debt, and the only way to deal with it is to go work for some corporation and become a corporate lawyer, and then you get trapped into that and can't get away from it.
Those are techniques of coercion that constantly work, So sure, everything from that to 'the Iraqis are going to come and kill us' is a way of coercing people. In the United States for example, if you look at the economy for the last twenty-five years, just the internal economy, its a very unusual period in the American economy, in fact unique. Its the first time, aside from major depression , that there has been stagnant real incomes. So for about 90% of the population of the United States, and this is pretty much true in England too, real incomes, the actual money you have to buy things with, is either stagnant or declining. Also work hours are going up, so people work much harder, and they're much more insecure. That's a crucial part of the economy, to make people insecure and there's a name for it in the economics literature. Its called 'Linked Flexibility of Labour' and if you take an economics course they teach you that's a good thing, you should have flexible labour markets. Flexible labour markets is a phrase that means when you go to sleep at night you don't have to have a job the next morning. And that's good for the economy - because if you're insecure you're not going to try to get higher wages and you're not going to join the union and you're not going to do all those terrible things and you're not going to ask for benefits and that's healthy for the economy. And there's a way to say that in academic graduate school prose and there's a way to say it in simple words, but that's what it comes down to.
Well these are all techniques of control.
Are people subject to them?
You can't help it.
Will they break up the social movements?
That depends upon the commitment of the people who are in them. First of all they have to become aware of all these things, which is not so simple, and then you have to be willing to struggle against them – and to create alternatives.
But that's what social struggle is about” Chomsky. N. (2004)

Views: 82

Comment by Dyck Dewid on October 30, 2012 at 11:24am

Don, thanks for your Blog.  Several things come to mind as I read it... and like watching TV or reading a magazine or newspaper I'm a critical reader.  (And my context is one in which "someone is offering something to me for some unknown reason")  That is, my detectors are always scanning for possible disconnects or assumptions, hidden messages, motives, etc..  This habit of mine came from the Cosmos, certainly not from my schooling and not from society.

What I find here is no hard evidence of credibility for any supposed facts stated.  But, that's not bad... it simply makes it a combination of opinion and conjecture... appealing to the peoples susceptibility of wanting to have all undesirable phenomena explained.  That makes for a connection reader and writer. 

Although there is little factually to sink my teeth into here, there are two things I find important underlying both the topic you have chosen and your presentation here...  It is the fact that it is important in life to be awake.  And, if there's an enemy it's within... it's an inner journey. 

Perhaps then, we can be of more help to our children.

Comment by don carlin on November 29, 2012 at 3:20am

Hi Dyck - sorry take so long replying, matters of health had me hospitalised for a while.

So yes sources - the 14 separate small avi's are available for legitimate download by a torrent client here:

http://onebigtorrent.org/torrents/57/Noam-Chomsky-QampA-in-Budapest...

not a large d/l - around 600 Mb - they are each sequentially numbered, followed by a title. The one that is the source for my blog is

10 - Consumerism And Control

hope that helps - cheers

Comment by don carlin on November 29, 2012 at 3:37am

I should add that in his addresses, lectures and Q & A sessions Chomsky doesn't always give chapter and verse regarding his source(s), If he covers the same topic in his books the source is either given or there'll be sufficient information to track it down. 

And of course its always good to have a critical approach to information being offered by whatever medium - but I'm willing to make a very few exceptions to that rule. That includes Chomsky, who has been a constant in my research world for some 25 years and has yet to prove, in this regard, fallible. And also individual independent producers and reporters  like John Pilger.

If I happen not to have my source information to hand, which occasionally occurs, as in that blog post, I do include sufficient information for anyone to find that material for themselves by simple enquiry in a more reputable search engine than the likes of google, such as DuckDuckGo

:-) cheers

Comment by Dyck Dewid on November 29, 2012 at 11:59am

Hi Don, and sorry you needed to have go thru the ordeal in the hospital.  So glad to have you back and wish for you a prompt recovery.  If there's a story about you in this I'd be interested to hear it.

I didn't mean to imply I'm such a fastidious & left brained reader... but I appreciate your efforts to help me clarify myself.  And BTW, I too respect Chomsky and believe him to a pretty broad extent.  My main issue was in drawing such a large conclusion about the Evolving Consumer 'Industry' without mention of any example companies or cases showing this is really taking place under our noses (esp as a hidden-from-view industry).  I'm willing to say however, its likely true.

But, since I don't see myself 'going after' this industry, it is only for stimulation of dialogue and building relationships and constructs.  And I only have so much time in a day with no shortage of demands, interests, and obligations.  So, I'm going to keep it light (for myself)... meaning for my use its enough to tag the new information as "probable" or "dubious" or "not plausible" or whatever... until that tag gets modified over time within me.  In this way I envision my zillions of mental constructs getting built in me.

Comment by don carlin on November 29, 2012 at 10:35pm

Hi Dyck - many thanks your good wishes. Fortunately my hospital thing was relatively minor but left me a little diminished energy wise for a while. And yes there is a hospital story about myself that happened almost eight years ago, encompassing a life threatening condition and life changing surgery which turned into the most beautiful experience of my life and confirmed for me one of my deepest feelings - namely that life is just the most incredible and beautiful journey - but I think, taking note of your hospice involvement, that you know that :-)

As for the Chomsky blog - well I haven't checked for any other sources yet, though its on my to do list. Hopefully I'll be able to add some further veracity in the near future. And your right, verifying material is so important. Too often 'stuff' on the net is just presented with no sources and often when there are sources they themselves amount to a matter of interpretation. I'm reminded of Eustace Mullins book - Secrets of the Federal Reserve, which has some sources but not all are easy to find now without scholarship accreditation  - but it tends to ring true. I came across that about 35 years ago. Then about 3 mths ago finally found some great corroboration for some of it in an out of print book published by a former U.S. Senator in the 1920's (the text is however available on the web) 

Comment by Dyck Dewid on November 30, 2012 at 11:32am

If the details of you're story are too personal to write here I understand, but you've really got me hangin with "the most beautiful experience of my life..."  If talking is better call me 919-623-3624.

Comment by don carlin on December 3, 2012 at 2:33pm

ah Dyck, would that I could - and therein lies the nub of this particular matter. and yes it is personal, but it was also inspirational, to me and I think also to my friends. So - to be short . .

Rolling along nicely, thank you very much, working in my chosen ways and doing my thing and as ever enjoying life and my beautiful friends,

It started with a kind of sore throat. Then I noticed that my 'adams apple' looked a little larger. An infection of some sort. A visit to the Doctor elicited a prescription, antibiotics.

2 weeks later I went back and this time he showed more concern. Booked in for a check up at local hospital, 3 weeks hence. There was a lump now, and it was getting larger and more uncomfortable. 

3 days before the appointment I collapsed, ambulance, hospital, admittance. Over a five day period there were   tests, results, cancer,a clinician meeting by involved doctors, consultants etc, treatment agreed - operating theater and then waking up back on the ward. Bit groggy, but 24 hours later I'm back, compos mentis, but my throat is feeling sore. The surgeon, a truly lovely guy, explained he-they had removed larynx and trachea - and also that out of control growth. Completely and cleanly. He opined that they'd 'got all of it'. That's good, but I have no voice. There's a plastic or rubber implant in my throat, keeping a hole open, made by the surgeon for a later fitting of device by which I can learn to talk again, Probably your familiar with those devices. So recuperation, food (ugh) eventually exercise, starting with 10 yard walks and progressing to up and down four flights of stairs 10 times on the trot, 3 times a day. At speed.. Like I worked at getting better and recovering.

But here's the kicker

Before the operation I'd reconciled myself to my possible death. That wasn't too difficult because I've believed for a long time that death is our last great journey and, if we're fortunate, the last great human experience of our life.

But I didn't die.

Instead I was wrapped with love and care and as we got to know each other, in genuine affection by the nurses, my surgeon and of course, by my friends. Long night time hours chatting (writing) with the on duty doctor and nurses (my sleep patterns have always been outside 'the norm' because of my chosen ways of being) for some six weeks.

and this whole episode became the most intense and very beautiful period of my entire life - and that's really saying something because there have been many. That was seven years ago. The speaking thing didn't happen, couldn't be fitted, so only my closest understand what passes for speech now :-) but that's okay because it forced me back to one of my first loves, language and the ability to express via the written word.- which I do now and 'with a vengeance' :-)

And on top of that my fiends, of whom I am truly blessed, did what they've always done. They wrap me constantly with their love, even more so than before

In this journey I found four major things.

That being the subject of giving is a beautiful and mind blowing experience.

And three - yes three - soul mates.

Even before I was wheeled into that operating theater I knew I was in the middle of an experience which, if I survived, would change my life. Two weeks after the operation I began to realise I was experiencing something so beautiful that I've never been able to find the words by which to express it.

Now, seven years later, I've had no reason to change my mind about that and my subsequent life

:-)

Comment by don carlin on December 3, 2012 at 2:37pm

lol - fiends is good - but read friends :-)

Comment by Dyck Dewid on December 4, 2012 at 1:37am

Wow Don.   a story indeed.    And such beauty.  Thank you.... makes me sense we might be soul mates.

There's some synergy here you don't know about yet... some or many intersections of our lives.  One seems it might be around the topic of generosity.  I'd like to enlist your help on the forum to embellish and open up my topic (This weeks Cafe Conversation)  The Generosity Project.  Your perspective and insights will help a lot.  I get the idea you have some depth of experience in this area, like you mentioning the receiving end of giving,  And most others don't seem to know much about that, at least experientially.

It's getting too late and my wife is calling me.  So, lets continue this (but do look over the new Vital Conversations thread... maybe even listen to the Podcast if you have some time (I told two stories to illustrate different forms of generosity and their unexpected results).  Later my friend.

Comment by don carlin on December 4, 2012 at 3:20pm

Thanks for the invite Dyck (a brilliant promise within that new thread I think) My access time is slightly intermittent for a few days but your new topic is at the top of my priorities, c u in there soonest yes - you should perhaps also take into consideration that there are two ends to my candle

"Huh!" exclaimed the polar bear, "that's all we need, global warming AND candles?"

There's a caustic streak about me which is centred almost exclusively on the 1%.:-)

"kicks a passing gas guzzling limousine"

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