Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Influencing Machine

_The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media_ by Brooke Gladstone, illustrated by Josh Neufeld
NY:  WW Norton, 2011
ISBN 978-0-393-07779-7
(xiv)  The American media are not afraid of the government.  They are afraid of their audiences and advertisers.  The media do not control you.  They pander to you.

(52)  Erstwhile reporter Mark Twain said that concocting amusing lies for money was nothing compared to the "clammy stillness" of the press when confronting such horrors as, say, slavery.  He called it "the lie of silent assertion that there wasn't anything going on in which humane and intelligent people were interested...  Why should we help the nation lie the whole day long and then object to telling one little individual private lie in our own interest to go to bed on?  Just for the refreshment of it, I mean.  And to take the rancid taste out of our mouth."

(62) Commercial Bias:  News needs conflict and momentum.  It needs to be _new_.  
Bad News Bias:  emphasizing bad news is good business.

(63)  Status Quo Bias:  our preference, all other things being equal, for things to _stay the same_.
Andrew Cline's Rhetorica Network offers an incisive breakdown of bias.

(64)  Access Bias:  The problem, of course, is that when journalists are held captive by their sources, they are susceptible to Stockholm syndrome.  They empathize with their jailers.

(65)  Visual Bias:  News that has a visual hook is more likely to be noticed.
Narrative Bias:  Some news stories, science stories for instance, never really end.  _They're all middle.  It's a narrative nightmare.

(69)  Fairness Bias:  Journalists will bend over backward to appear balanced by offering equal to opposing viewpoints, even when they aren't equal.

(95)  Michael Herr:  We all knew that if you stayed too long you became one of those poor bastards who had to have a war on all the time...  I don't know -- it took the war to teach it -- that you were as responsible for everything you _saw_ as you were for everything you _did_

(98)  Adolph Ochs, owner of the NY Times:  It will be my earnest aim that the New York Times give the news... impartially, without fear or favor regardless of party, sect, or interest involved... to invite intelligent discussion from all shades of opinion...  Nor will there be a departure from the general tone... unless it be... to intensify its devotion to the cause of sound money and tariff reform... and its advocacy of the _lowest tax_ consistent with good government and _no more government_ that is absolutely necessary to protect society...

(120)  Most of _biases- are unconscious too.   Shankar Bedantam, _The HIdden Brain_

(146)  Marshall McLuhan:  It is man who is the content of and the message of the media, which are extensions of himself.  Electronic man must know the effects of the world he has made above all things.

Andrew Cline's Rhetorica Network offers an incisive breakdown of bias:
  1. Commercial bias: 
  2. Temporal bias: 
  3. Visual bias: 
  4. Bad news bias: 
  5. Narrative bias: 
  6. Status Quo bias:
  7. Fairness bias: 
  8. Expediency bias: 
  9. Glory bias:

Sunday, February 12, 2017


Propaganda by Edward Bernays
Brooklyn, NY:  Ig PUblishing, 1928, 2005
ISBN-10:  0-9703125-9-8

Introduction by Mark Crispin Miller
(11)  Napoleon was especially incisive on the subject [propaganda], as well as an inspired practitioner…

(19)  Always thinking far ahead, his [Bernays] aim was not to urge the buyer to demand the product now, but to transform the buyer’s very world, so that the product must appear to be desirable as if without the prod of salesmanship.  What is the prevailing custom, and how might that be changed to make this thing or that appear to recommend itself to people?

(21)  “Convictions in a demagogue are a weakness and may prove a very serious injury,” asserted social psychologist Frederick C Venn in 1928.

(22)  Hitler, Goebbels, Mussolini, Father Coughlin, Joe McCarthy, Gerald L K Smith, and many others were fanatical and cycnical at once, neither wholly in control nor totally ecstatic.  Such agitators work within a certain mental borderland, where one can never clearly see conviction as distinct from calculation.  Indeed, that inner murkiness appears itself to be the very source or basis of the mass manipulator’s enigmatic power, and so we cannot comprehend it through schematic dualistic formulas.  (Orwell’s elusive concept of “doublethink” is highly pertinent here.”

(27)  In fact, the “[Light’s Golden] Jubilee” was but a stroke of propaganda on behalf of General Electric and its National Electric Light Association (NELA), which was the secret means of GE’s stranglehold on America’s electric power.  From 1919 until 1934, NELA carried out the largest peacetime propaganda drive in US history, intended to discourage public ownership of the utilities.  That private capital should wield complete control over the nation’s power supply was a notion evidently not to be debated.

Similarly, in 1953 Bernays helped put across the myth that Guatemala was at risk of communist subversion - a serviceable legend that the propagandist actually believed, as he makes clear in his memoirs.

(38)  Chapter 1:  Organizing Chaos 

(52)  Modern propaganda is a consistent, enduring effort to create or shape events to influence the relations of the public to an enterprise, idea or group.

(57)  Only through the active energy of the intelligent few can the public at large become aware of and act upon new ideas.

(66)  The first recognition of the distinct functions of the public relations counsel arose, perhaps, in the early years of the present century as a result of the insurance scandals coincident with the muckraking of corporate finance in the popular magazines.  The interests thus attacked suddenly realized that they were completely out of touch with the public they were professing to serve, and required expert advice to show them how they could understand the public and interpret themselves to it.

(73)  Trotter and Le Bon concluded that the group mind does not _think_ in the strict sense of the word.  In place of thoughts it has impulses, habits, and emotions.  In making up its mind, its first impulse is usually to follow the example of a trusted leader.  This is one of the most firmly established principles of mass psychology.

(79)  Under the old salesmanship the manufacturer said to the prospective purchaser, “Please buy a piano.”  The new salesmanship has reversed the process and caused the propsective purchaser to say to the manufacturer, “Please sell me a piano.”
NB:  One of the ten rules of the con:  "In the put-up, he picked us out of the crowd with care.”  The con man picks his/her mark with care.

(89)  While the concrete recommendations of the public relations counsel may vary infinitely according to individual circumstances, his general plan of work may be reduced to two types, which I might term _continuous interpretation_ and _dramatization by high-spotting_.  The two may be alternative or may be pursued concurrently.

Continuous interpretation is achieved by trying to control every approach to the public mind in such a manner that the public receives the desired impression, often without being conscious of it.  High-spotting, on the other hand, vividly seizes the attention of the public and fixes it upon some detail or aspect which is typical of the entire enterprise.  When a real estate corporation which is erecting a tall office building makes it ten feet taller than the highest skyscraper in existence, that is dramatization.

(92)  Propaganda, since it goes to basic causes, can very often be most effective through the manner of its introduction.
NB:  Cialdini - influencers:  Sales and motivation consultant Cavett Robert:  "Since 95 percent of the people are imitators and only 5 percent initiators, people are persuaded more by the actions of others than by any proof we can offer."

(98)  Propaganda is potent in meeting unethical or unfair advertising.
NB:  industry sector associations

(103)  These special types of appeal [originality or some other attraction besides price] can be populatized by the manipulation of the principles familiar to the propagandist - the principles of gregariousness, obedience to authority, emulation, and the like.  A minor element can be made to assume economic importance by being established in the public mind as a matter of style.

(109)  The great political problem of our modern democracy is how to induce our leaders to lead.  The dogma that the voice of the people is the voice of God tends to make elected persons the will-less servants of their constituents.

… The voice of the people expresses the mind of the people, and that mind is made up for it by the group leaders in whom it believes and by those persons who understand the manipulation of public opinion.  It is composed of inherited prejudices and symbols and clich├ęs and verbal formulas supplied to them by the leaders.

(111)  Politics was the first big business in America.  Therefore there is a good deal of irony in the fact that business has learned everything that politics has to teach, but that politics has failed to learn very much from business methods of mass distribution of ideas and products.

(119)  The important thing for the statesman of our age is not so much to know how to please the public, but to know how to sway the public.

(127)  Ours must be a leadership democracy administered by the intelligent minority who know how to regiment and guide the masses.

(139)  Men who, by the commonly accepted standards, are failures or very moderate successes in our American World (the pedagogues) seek to convince the outstanding successes (the businessmen) that they should give their money to ideals which they do not pursue.  Men who, through a sense of inferiority, despise money, seek to win the good will of men who love money.

(153)  In applied and commercial art, propaganda makes greater opportunities for the artist than ever before.  This arises from the fact that mass production reaches an impasse when it competes on a price basis only.  It must, therefore, in a large number of fields create a field of competition based on aesthetic values.

(161)  There is no means of human communication which may not also be a means of deliberate propaganda, because propaganda is simply the establishing of reciprocal understanding between an individaul and a group.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Concentrated Essence of Strategy and Tactics and the Object of War

_Strategy_ by BH Liddell Hart
NY:  Frederick Praeger, 1968
from pages 347-351

The principles of war, not merely one principle, can be condensed into a single word - “concentration.”  But for truth this needs to be amplified as the “concentration of strength against weakness."  And for any real value it needs to be explained that the concentration of strength against weakness depends on the dispersion of your opponent’s strength, which in turn is produced by a distribution of your own that gives the appearance, and partial effect of dispersion.  Your dispersion, his dispersion, your concentration - such is the sequence, and each is a sequel.  True concentration is the fruit of calculated dispersion.

The Concentrated Essence of Strategy and Tactics
1.  Adjust your end to your means….
2.  Keep your object always in mind, while adapting your plan to circumstances….
3.  Choose the line (or course) of least expectation….
4.  Exploit the line of least resistance….
5.  Take a line of operation which offers alternative objectives.

...There is no more common mistake than to confuse a single line of operation, which is usually wise, with a single objective, which is usualy futile.  (If this maxim applies mainly to strategy, it should be applied where possible to tactics, and does, in effect, form the basis of infiltraton tactics.)

6.  Ensure that both plan and dispositions are flexible - adaptable to circumstances.  Your plan should foresee and provide for a next step in case of success or failure, or partial success - which is the next common case in war.  Your dispositions (or formation) should be such as to allow this exploitation or adaptation in the shortest possible time.

7.  Do not throw your weight into a stroke whilst your opponent is on guard - whilst he is well placed to parry or evade it….
8.  Do not renew an attack along the same line (or in the same form) after it has once failed….

The essential truth underlying these maxims is that, for success, two major problems must be solved - _dislocation_ and _exploitation_.  One precedes and one follows the actual blow - which in comparison is a simple act.  You cannot hit the enemy with effec unless you have first created the opportunity;  you cannot make that effect decisive unless you exploit the second opportunity that comes before he can recover.

The importance of these two problems has never been adequately recognized - a fact which goes far to explaining the common indecisiveness of warfare.  The training of armies is primarily devoted to developing efficiency in the detailed execution of the _attack_.  This concentration on tactical technique tends to obscure the psychological element.  It fosters a cult of soundness, rather than of surprise.  It breeds commanders who are so intent not to do anything wrong, according to "the book,” that they forget the necessity of making the enemy do something wrong.  The result is that their plans have no result.  For, in war, it is by compelling mistakes that the scales are most often turned.

… the unexpected cannot guarantee success.  But it guarantees the best chance of success.

… The military objective is only a means to a political end. Hence the the military objective should be governed by the political objective, subject to the basic condition that policy does not demand what is millitarily - that is, practically - impossible.

…The object of war is a better state of peace - even if only from your point of view.  Hence it is essential to conduct war with constant regard to the peace you desire.  This applies both to aggressor nations who seek expansion and to peaceful nations who only fight for self-preservation - although their views of what is meant by a better state of peace are very different.

… History shows that gaining military victory is not in itself equivalent to gaining the object of policy.  But as most of the thinking about war has been done by men of the military professon there has been a very natural tendency to lose sight of the basic national object, and identify it with the military aim.  In consequence, whenever was has broken out, policy has too often been governed by the military aim - and this has been regarded as an end in itself instead of as merely a means to the end.