Liar, Liar, World on Fire

the wicker bams

Propaganda, noun

  1. information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.

“he was charged with distributing enemy propaganda.”

The above image is a form of propaganda. I made it to express my political point of view. Unlike most propaganda I am being explicit and I am not attempting to mislead you; this is my opinion, my bias.

The last few years have seen the US and UK propagandised on an industrial scale by many and varied sources. If you pay attention to mainstream media or social media or alternative media and have any sense of perspective you will have noticed this. Not the kind of propaganda that tells you what it is and, generally, the kind that is deliberately misleading. Common-sense rational debates don’t give us the self-righteous thrill polarised shouting matches do, so we get more of those too. If someone threw their poo at me I wouldn’t have anything to do with them, but online and in politics hurling that poo back and getting everybody covered in shit seems to be more popular than ever. Now that we’re carrying the internet around in our pockets and living ever more online it has also become seemingly inescapable.

Terms like “post-truth” and “fake news” are unimpressive glib attempts to obfuscate and minimize our increasing bombardment by claims and counter-claims and other claims from and about people we have nothing to do with in our everyday lives, that are in some sense tearing apart our very sense of reality. It hardly seems surprising that the public at large are less and less able to distinguish what is: flawed personal perspective, from what is probably less flawed consensus best guess, from what is unintentionally misleading, from what is deliberately misleading. The institutions and people we have relied upon to produce facts, reasonably debate topics to form some kind of consensus, educate and protect us have all been undermined.

Government officials lie with little consequence. So does the media, pharmaceutical companies, food producers, manufacturers etc. Smearing and trolling create and destroy reputations and decide policy, rather than the opinions and needs of actual people. Expertise means nothing without money behind it. The very structures we rely upon to go about our daily lives with any consensus on how things are and what may or may not be happening can no longer be trusted. Everything is suspect and anyone claiming to know the truth a conspiracy theorist. Bribes are taken, goal posts are moved, lies are told, and now many have so little trust in any authority on any subject that they are going back to first premises on all issues – their own personal experience, and that of those around them.

Truth, noun

  1. a fact or belief that is accepted as true.

“the emergence of scientific truths”

This is the realm of the artist, so in some ways it’s great. We should take our own personal perspective more seriously. However, without a great deal of introspection and self awareness it’s a recipe for insanity. Bereft of critical thought while at the same time taking themselves far too seriously, we now have the kind of solipsist thinking on the rise that has people claiming the world is flat because that’s what they see and all images from space must be fake, because they personally haven’t been there and there is a conspiracy to cover it up. That’s a bit like me going to a life drawing class and claiming my drawing is the only real drawing, everyone else is lying and the model ceased to exist as soon as they left the room.

Paranoia is inevitable when we are no longer able to establish a consensus reality within which to function as social beings. This takes acts of trust, but when we know we have been lied to this becomes harder and atomises us, so instead of seeking out others and trying to form some sense of accord, we isolate and tribalise ourselves. Loneliness is now considered epidemic in the UK, with very real physical and psychological consequences. We are more connected than ever, but we trust each other and our institutions less than ever; is that such a surprise when we are being propagandised 24 hours a day 7 days a week?

This is not what a civilised society looks like. This is what social vandalism and psychological warfare looks like. All news outlets/story manufactures have bias, just as individuals do, but the concerted attempt to control social narratives and the media cycle so powerful story manufactures can almost continually hog our valuable time and attention to deliberately mislead us, goes far beyond the realms of simple bias. It is an attempt to manufacture social reality and social consensus on a daily basis, to impose a fake reality upon us that suits the interests of those in power.

The truth is we create “truth”. No one can know “real reality”, only have a more or less well informed opinion or be a more or less believable story teller; “truth” is a provisional agreement. We should be very careful who we agree with and why.

Fake, noun

  1. a thing that is not genuine; a forgery or sham.

“fakes of Old Masters”

While the narrative of our lives is dominated by whatever the media and other powerful story manufactures spew into our heads, we are left with alarm bells ringing deep within. We are not in control of our own story. That is a deeply invasive feeling of violation. We are also atomised by paranoia, we find other people more Other than we otherwise might, with the emphasis placed on our differences rather than commonalities, and on conflict rather than cooperation. We are made to feel isolated and powerless by the very social institutions that should be uniting and empowering us.

This is why the slogan “Take Back Control” has had such appeal to many in the UK; we know, consciously or not, that our lives are being controlled by invasive propaganda machines dictating the narratives of unfulfilled, lonely existences, and attempting to deny us personal sovereignty. This is a fake world created in the interests of a wealthy few, who attempt to keep the rest of us imprisoned in our own heads via rhetoric and shiny phone screens. But we can change this. We can really take back control of what matters most: our personal narrative.

Create a place for people to live like human beings, instead of slaves to some bullshit concept of progress that is driving us all mad.

– Hunter S. Thompson

If you actually want to take back control you just need to do two things: curate your life and be with real people in the real world.

What do I mean by curating your life? Invite in positive influences and cut out negative ones wherever possible; value your time and attention and what you give them to. This may sound simple, but it takes a lot more self-discipline than you might think. I don’t watch TV, I hardly read papers or magazines or listen to the radio, and since cutting my use of social media down to almost nothing I have found peace of mind I have never had before. I don’t care about celebrities, I care about my family and my friends and my environment. I’m not chowing down on fear candy any more, or buying into the fake shithole reality a tiny minority are trying to sell; I have my own story. We all do. What’s yours?

Philosophy can only save us if it is the philosophy of Socrates: ruthlessly criticising the ruling class, and corrupting the youth by teaching them to question the society they were brought into. Existential Comics

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