There is something that propagandists manipulate.
These people do it: public relations professionals, military propagandists, marketers, ad men, pundits, hired guns that pretend to be scientists, certain bureaucrats, and others.
They manipulate this thing. They do so for profit or power.
So what is it?
Propagandists manipulate more than public opinion. There is no one public, and it isn't just opinion.
I am speaking of the SUM TOTAL of:
- encouraged and discouraged thoughts and expressions
- fight in the dog (because it isn't the dog in the fight)
- industry practices
- narratives and stories and tropes
- reflexive answers
- remembrance of history
- tolerated biases
- willingness to pursue the greater good
- and implicit versions of those in actions.
All of those affect the things that propagandists want. If one of them can further their objectives, they target it (but not always specifically and usually not all of them).
Is that too broad? I don't think so.
"Culture" is too broad — I don't care what color is in or what actor is popular. I care only about things like:
- how individual people are treated
- which groups are transformed into scapegoat groups1
- what scientific results are known (and looked for)
- where money flows
- what policies are put into place
In other words, only what those with agendas and resources try to manipulate on the large scale.
So I'll call it "the manipulosphere", but that is not all it is.
The manipulosphere is the human response to a specific bit of reality. For example, a pandemic disease.
Or suppose a large asteroid is hurtling toward Earth. Will humans:
- wander around aimlessly?
- perform rituals?
- look, think, and move the asteroid?
Reality is what the ASTEROID does; the manipulosphere is what HUMANS do.
The manipulosphere is also what propagandists try to manipulate. That is not a coincidence.
It can drift or be righted, but this post focuses a bit more on manipulation, so I call it the manipulosphere.
When the manipulosphere matches reality, progress can happen.
For example, when it has a matching sense of urgency and priority, and it fits the facts, then humans can respond correctly.
Otherwise, the pandemic wins.
Got the idea?
Concrete example of progress
In 1985, it was standard to operate on babies without anaesthesia. It was claimed that they did not feel pain. For whatever reasons (not necessarily manipulation in this example), the manipulosphere did not match reality.
When this happened to young Jeffrey Lawson, his mother took action. She wrote letters. Anaesthesia is standard now.
In two years, Jill Lawson changed the profession. Activism does work.
Imagine our tens of millions knowing that activism works.
… [T]he number of studies on the measurement of pain in young children, and on ways of reducing the injury response, began to increase dramatically. Publications on the hormonal and metabolic responses of babies to noxious stimuli began to appear, demonstrating the harmful effects of what previously was considered good practice…. — Citizendium2
Canute and Santayana
Reality only imposes broad guides on the manipulosphere, so extreme divergence between the two is possible.3
As Canute legendarily pointed out, you can't defy natural reality.4 But you can pretend it isn't real for a long time, at the cost of others.
It is victims who have history repeated upon them. The repeaters do just fine.
Now let's talk about how PR works.
I think it's commonly thought that PR looks like this:5
In other words, PR reaches people. But PR reaches people who reach other people:
PR /////////\\\\\\\\\ ///////////////////////// \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\
Who then reach other people. It isn't always TV selling soap.
Cat's paw: noun. A person used to serve the purposes of another.
In fact, those people at the bottom reinforce one another. A drop of manipulation in a sea of ignorance will color the sea.
Some reassure. Others are memetic footsoldiers, defending supply lines to the manipulosphere.
Hmm, I hope this is understandable. It will become clearer. Actually, I mentioned it in passing before.
Are all points of view equally valid?
Changing the manipulosphere is the purpose of PR, so it tends to be good at it. But what about its validity?
The claim that all points of view are equally valid is a social fiction. At best, it enables free speech for the disenfranchised, but that is not its common role.
Science cannot progress if it is not allowed to distinguish hypotheses.
For example, some hypotheses violate Occam's razor. And some violate Samuel's razor (which states that any explanation must fit the facts).
A hypothesis that does not fit facts is not equally valid.
When to state obvious things
When the manipulosphere does not match reality, it is necessary to state obvious things.
When we treat PR tactics as equally valid, we prevent it from matching reality. We become cat's paws.
In a similar vein, some people and organizations are interested in making the manipulosphere match reality better, while others have their own agendas.
It is wrong to say that everybody is trying to make the manipulosphere model reality.
Many are instead interested in profit, emotion, or authority, to name just a few things.
Example: the tobacco industry published peer-reviewed academic work on everything except the critical facts, to drown out the good research. Truth was not their goal.
Some care more about reality; others care less. When we overlook that, we allow our noble goal of egalitarianism to be hijacked. We become cat's paws.
Health cannot progress without science.
And society cannot progress if ideas that kill people are considered equally valid.
Concrete examples of lack of equal validity
Here are some concrete examples:
Denial of the existence, seriousness, and urgency of an AIDS-like multisystem neuroimmune disease that many people have died from, is not equally valid.
Holocaust denial is not either. HIV denial is not either.
This is not rocket science.
False egalitarianism and the manipulosphere make all of those seem non-obvious to some people, but that is manufactured doubt. This isn't undergraduate philosophy, where you can desultorily question your own existence.
Removing knowledge is not equally valid.
This is not philosophy; it is a medical emergency
The answer to "Why are people suffering and dying?" is not "What do we really mean by truth anyway?"
It is biomedical research on root causes that fit facts; rigorous, massive, and with a sense of urgency that overrides and overruns all excuses.
Massiveness cannot be merely by historical standards, because that is meaningless. (Here: I will treble your salary, because it was zero.) It also cannot be by less serious or less prevalent comparand diseases.
We are near zero; to assume otherwise is to be manipulated. Too many of us are content with miniscule scraps. A few good studies would not be massive for even a minor disease.
The manipulosphere influences US. In our tens of millions, our OWN priorities do not always match reality.
This is not a playground for false earnesty. That is another way of changing the manipulosphere. "I negotiated you down to your lowest price; now I will offer to split the difference. Back off from reality for me; I promise to think about slowing down the murder sometime maybe."
This isn't a fashion game. The existence, seriousness, and urgency of a disease that many people have died from was never a legitimate debate. Too many of our own people are the cat's paws of their own destruction.
What I believe
I believe that many of the things people think, somebody wanted people to think. This thing — this whole thing — is being manipulated all the time, sometimes innocuously and sometimes not. It's so normal we don't stop to think about it. We don't even have a word for it.
The somebody can be a person 100 years ago, or one today. A history book or an ad campaign. Or an organized attack on perceptions and incentives of a serious disease.
And like the air we breathe, when this manipulosphere is filled with poison, we suffer and die. It is no more abstract than pushing a button to obliterate a village.
When you are sick with a serious misopathized disease, the manipulosphere controls your life. Even if you are an extremely mild sufferer, because you, too, will likely get sicker.
Concentration of power
The big trouble comes when in some domain, power over the manipulosphere is aligned against reality. Interests can manipulate what everybody thinks and does about that topic.
If it's manipulating what people think about a brand of soap, that's one thing. If it's what people think about a disease, that's another.
Trust in authority affects whether people recognize the problem.
People vary in how much they trust authorities. Some assume that diseases are always approached rationally and never politically (despite billions of dollars at stake and ample evidence of politics). Others muse that everything on Earth is manufactured by a shadow government (or something).
At both ends of this spectrum, the feeling is that it doesn't matter — it isn't happening or what can you do?
Those are convenient beliefs.
In the middle are careful people who pay attention where others can't be bothered. The politics of misopathized diseases is an example.
And when these level-headed people have followed the near-total control of the manipulosphere concerning that small domain by the propagandists, farther from objective reality than most people would believe unless they experienced it too, and how it has been manipulated in a systematic pattern of coordinated acts, with suffering and death as the result, they know how serious this matter is.
It is an irony that Canute, who reproached his courtiers rationally, ruled Denmark, where Karina Hansen is incarcerated because she is sick. But it will not stop with Danes.
Too many of us don't understand
Too many of our own tens of millions assume the manipulosphere matches reality better than it does.6
Too many think the gap is this wide:
That's intolerably wide, but the gap is wider. Here is a gross understatement of how much wider it is:
Too many of our own people don't understand how serious the disease is, how serious the politics is, or both.
They are unwittingly cat's paws and there is a screaming need for our own people to get educated and get on board.
When the manipulosphere matches reality, progress can happen, otherwise the pandemic wins.
Why the manipulosphere matters
The manipulosphere matters because it controls our lives.
It also influences how we in our tens of millions respond to the crisis.
Now here is what we do about it.
When large communities stopped tolerating the status quo (and not a minute before), they succeeded.
Winning is better than losing.
We need rigorous, massive, urgent science on root causes that fit facts. We need real medicine and we need human rights. These things will not happen without a movement.
That is why I believe freeing our OWN minds from a manipulosphere that does not match reality is a critical part of the task before us.
For the love of Blog, please pay attention to events. Subscribing to Co-Cure is a good start.
Let's forget epistemology and the inductive nature of science and all that stuff for the duration of this post and step back a bit. We are talking about politics, not philosophy.
Getting how to do science right is critical but does not affect these points.
Sometimes you gotta say what you gotta say.
When his lackeys praised his powers, he went to the seashore and commanded the tide not to rise. There are different interpretations.
Did you know that public relations (PR) used to be called propaganda? They changed the name for PR purposes in the 1900s when it became a profession.
Please remember that misopathy is not any sufferer's fault, in the same way that racism and genocide are not the fault of their victims.