2019


General27 Apr 2019 07:40 pm


Due to the pervasive nature of mass media no previous culture has been as influenced by PR, propaganda, spin and perceptual management as ours. Our opinions, consumer habits, desires, goals, values and perspectives have never been more a central target of so much time, energy, research and economic resources.

We are monitored, watched, prodded and herded towards specific attitudes and ideologies which serve and benefit powerful alliances. More and more money is funneled into fewer and fewer hands which allows for the message to be honed and refined into a truly narrow focus. This allows for increased consistency of the message and goal. This is not to say that one day all variance will disappear with only one totalitarian message surviving, but rather that the variances that do survive will be relatively small and the shared goals of the remaining voices will become gospel and reality, at least for the vast majority of people.

This is evident in how our political system has evolved (decayed) to the point in which millions of citizens parrot and accept the premise that one has to vote for the lesser evil. Anything or anyone challenging or seriously questioning the status quo is either an idealistic dreamer, or a crazed conspiracist (quite an impressive disinformation campaign by our perceptual managers, I have to admit).

Since perceptual management is vital to the continued survival and success of the power elite, it is important for us to not only accept and identify its existence but try to remain at least partially immune to its influences. This becomes increasingly difficult as our busy lives and our exposure and dependency on their messages through all forms of media and information make it impossible to be as vigilant in maintaining perspective as they are devoted to molding and altering our perception 24/7.

Before talking about the current faux deflective controversy regarding vaccinations, I would like to visit a couple other divisive and confusing controversies that have raged during my lifespan. The two I’d like to recall are the smoking causes cancer and the current global warming debates.

The ill effects of smoking on one’s health became pretty obvious the more the entrenched the habit became in the lives of ordinary citizens. As the craving for and consumption of tobacco products increased so did health issues regarding lungs, heart as well as smokers ability to jog, be active or in many cases even walk without becoming winded or exhausted. 

Many scientists and health care professionals began sounding the alarm that smoking could negatively impact one’s health and quality of life. When the public response remained muted it became apparent that the addictive qualities of cigarettes over rode the health and quality of life concerns. The response of those concerned of the health implications of smoking was to intensify the message and suggest that the health harms of cigarettes could result in death. 

Expanded research seemed to bear this out and much data showed an increased probability of terminal cancers, and heart disease in the future of many smokers. The tobacco industry turned the entire discussion away from the irrefutable evidence regarding negative health impacts of smoking into a debate on whether or not smoking “caused “ cancer. This clever and effective distractive dialogue shifted people’s attention from the obvious health restrictions and impact on one’s personal quality of life at the hands of a habit/addiction into a theoretical, and almost impossible to win debate, on whether smoking or any individual variable could ever truly be said to cause cancer. 

As you know the debate lasted decades and the word games and spin continue even till today. The tobacco industry shows its compassion by offering programs which help people who want to quit smoking do so, while also supporting groups that espouse that smoking is a matter of personal choice and smoking is a right on par with any other freedom.

While the ill effects of air and water pollution were known for centuries the “ecological” movement became a popular political scientific entity in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The corporate industrial spin doctors borrowed from the tobacco industry play book and seized every opportunity to deflect common sense and observable negative impacts of toxic materials and pollution on personal and global health into a debate over whether pollution can prove to be the cause of some abstract global tragedy.

Despite the admission of the harmful effects of various toxins and poisons in our air water and land, the bulk of the political debate has been on whether certain forms of air pollution cause the destruction of the ozone layer, and now whether or not industrial practices “cause” global warming. Whether or not global warming is truly an imminent problem, or even if such a thing exists is still up for debate, in much the same way that evidence regarding smoking’s relationship to cancer was challenged and dismissed decades ago.

The main point of the above discussion is to show how spin and perceptual management were used to obfuscate a discussion away from some basic common sense observations. Just as one can observe that depriving a person of oxygen results in death, one could state that lung capacity, breathing efficiency, etc. are impaired by smoking, or that toxins and poisons in our water, air and land are by definition generally harmful to life.

Big tobacco portrayed smokers as fun loving individuals who wanted to maximize the moment and enjoy life, and anti-smokers as up-tight busy bodies that wanted to control everyone’s life and end their freedoms. Environmentalists were posed by corporate industry as alarmists who were opposed to progress or misguided and paranoid extremists who didn’t understand or appreciate the reality of modern life. 

In the current “debate” and “controversy” over vaccinations the “anti-vaxxers” are portrayed as paranoid, naive, or misinformed nitwits who are unintentionally going to cause the resurrection of the very epidemics that the vaccines have successfully eradicated from society. The anti-vaxxers are deemed either opposed to all medical science or attempting to falsely blame the illness of their child or loved one on vaccines.

In many ways Big Pharma has turned Big Tobacco’s message on its head. Where Big Tobacco claimed that the anti-smoking crowd’s opposition to freedom and free choice was trying to inhibit the joy and quality of life afforded the smoker, the anti-vaccers refusal to get inoculations (freedom of choice) is endangering the health and quality of life of others, potentially leading to death or major disability (through the re-emergence of a disease such as polio).

While the above concerns contain much truth, the framing of the issue is where this “controversy” is being manipulated and spun in a similar fashion. In the cases of tobacco, industry and now Big Pharma the core issue is to protect and maximize profits and all arguments are designed to create controversy and debate in a way that obfuscates the issue. The misdirection and purposeful framing allows them to maximize profits and jeopardize the heath of others while avoiding any meaningful reform or engaging in social responsibility.

The very term “anti-vaxxers” is highly misleading and provocative. It implies that people questioning or challenging any aspect of Big Pharma’s implementation of its vaccination policies and methods is based on a blind and biased opposition to the very existence of vaccines. It purposely polarizes the situation as a black and white decision to vaccinate or not. It tries to make any challenge of their practices on vaccine administration into an attack on vaccines in and of themselves. It is framing the situation in such a manner as to make those who, through experience or data, are uncomfortable with vaccines as being anti-science or reckless alarmist trying to dismantle one of the greatest forms of disease prevention and extinction ever accomplished in the history of medicine.

The majority of people “opposed” to vaccines, are only concerned about the “disputed side-effects’ such as autism, immune system disorders, etc. observed after immunizations especially when administered in early infancy with its recommended schedule. 

The scientists denying any possible tie between vaccines and serious health repercussions sound extremely similar to those scientists who diminished or even denied the data of smoking related problems, and the scientists who claimed that the levels of mercury, arsenic, etc. found in air, water and land were at safe levels.

The number of lives damaged by being exposed to unacceptable levels of mercury and lead, just to give two examples, in paints, pipes, water, air and land during the long debate is quite sobering. We are similarly being assured that the levels of heavy metals such as mercury and aluminum added to our vaccines are no where near approaching a dangerous level. 

It is my understanding that the heavy metals contained in the majority of the standard vaccines are not essential to the efficacy of the vaccines. They are used as “stabilizers” or preservatives in order to increase the shelf-life and therefore the profit margin of Big Pharma. 

The label of ‘anti-vaxxers’ is a spin smokescreen to avoid any serious discussion on how we can maximize the benefits and reduce any potential harms of our vaccination policies and their implementation. Instead we’re being forced into a false debate in which we have to choose between to vaccinate or not to vaccinate. 

The number of articles pertaining to a potential “outbreak” of a once eradicated disease such as measles are appearing more and more frequently in the corporate press. The cases though most likely real are being posed in the most alarmist fashion, with commentary designed to up people’s fear of an epidemic while blaming either tacitly or directly those who refuse to immunize themselves or their children. The call for forced immunizations is growing with stories of parents being arrested and charged with neglect or some violation of a health code for not immunizing their child. 

The dialogue is now shifting towards a debate between freedom of choice versus public health. This feels like just another obfuscation, another way to protect the profits of Big Pharma under the guise of public health similar to the push for our acceptance of a loss of all our freedoms for the safety of the surveillance state in its fight against terrorism both internal and external.

Jim Guido

General18 Mar 2019 06:28 pm

I recently started binge watching episodes of Mad Men. Since I was born in 1955 the show naturally speaks to my early childhood, and more directly to the world of my parents. While my family was relatively poor there still are significant similarities between my parents world and that portrayed in the adults in Mad Men. 

One of the most glaring characteristics of the era is the fact that adults often had at least one of their hands occupied with beverage or cigarette. My parents and their tribe did not drink hard alcohol as much as the Madison Avenue types, so other than in evening social gatherings the glass of liquor was replaced by cups of coffee. 

My mom in particular spent the bulk of her waking hours smoking cigarettes (between two and three packs a day) and drinking coffee, a pot or two a day is my recollection. Most of my parents friends and relatives also smoked and drank with great regularity. While the confines of many jobs, such as factory work, kept a lid on both smoking and the drinking of coffee (and a few years later carbonated beverages) free hands usually were occupied by one or the other.

Though my mom was surely addicted to nicotine and dependent on caffeine, she was equally dependent on the oral habits of both activities. My mom stated and even looked lost, “naked”,  and lonely without a cigarette or cup of coffee in her hand. I can recall many occasions where my mom would go through an entire cigarette without even taking a single puff. 

She would be sitting on the couch deep in conversation with a friend with her hand poised above the ash tray occasionally flicking away a long ash and never once taking a drag. When the cigarette burned to its completion she would instantly replace the old cigarette in her hand with a new one, and continue talking. 

My mother, and many of her contemporaries, only seemed to feel complete and secure with a cigarette in hand. Sure cigarettes were chemically addictive and people began to be aware of the oral addiction of beverage and cigarette alike, but no one seemed to focus on the hands being occupied habit.

Cigarettes were the adult version of the toddlers stuffed toy or “security’ blanket, whose softness they found comforting, but also the object became part of their body image. A toddler often felt incomplete and vulnerable without their “softy’ in their hands or being cradled in their arms.

Looking back at my early childhood it now seems pretty obvious to me that the majority of adults and parents I knew used cigarettes, coffee and alcohol as hand held transitional object companions that had them feel complete. Without such objects in their hand they felt alone, empty, vulnerable and experienced a sense of loss. A hand without a cigarette mourned the emptiness similar to a widow misses the physical presence of their spouse in bed and around the house after they die.

I think the same sense of being incomplete, of an empty hand being experienced as a deep loss,  and the missing of an integral body part is now being replaced by the smartphone. Screen addiction is becoming accepted as an official diagnosis. Like cigarettes there seems to be a recognized habit addiction, but I do feel we are yet to fully realize that its not just a habit, but smartphones are becoming central to many people’s body image. Without their smartphone, they aren’t just disconnected from the virtual social world and missing the habit of having it in their hand, but it’s more than their hand being empty, it is experienced as missing a vital part of their body. 

Just as a young toddler’s identity and body image is made complete by their transitional object, so to are an increasing number of youngsters, teens, and adults feeling incomplete and physically deformed without their smartphone safely in their hand. The belief that the smartphone screen addiction is mainly about staying socially connected, or is just a habit of the hand, is missing a very important element of the smartphone. Smartphones are being experienced as an integral part of the body, where an empty hand is felt as an incomplete body.

It is not unusual for toddlers to give their stuffed toys a name, imbuing them with a personality and speaking to them as if they are a companion. While this is considered to be a generally healthy and natural stage of development it does become problematic when a toddler isolates and walls themselves off from the community of others and communicates almost exclusively with their stuffed toy.  

With smartphones, being our companion is less of an act of imagination that the stuffed toy. Smartphones can now speak to us with a human voice, they can inform and educate us, and even tell us stories. As the technology improves they will be able to converse and entertain us in an increasingly sophisticated and seductive way. Most toddlers eventually find the real world of others to be more rewarding than the pretend world of stuffed toys and inanimate objects, I’m not so sure if the same realization will be made to those addicted to smartphones.

Jim Guido