Elites spend vast fortunes controlling the dominant narrative.
They do this because it’s what works and they have enough money to control it exclusively in their own interests. It’s effective. They make excellent returns on the money they invest in making sure we all think what they want us to think, when they want us to think it. Control over mass thought is very valuable to predatory capitalist exploiters. It increases their incomes and reduces their losses.
We make it easy for them to claim the expense of manipulating thought, throughout the population, as tax deductions offset against their massive incomes. Instead of paying their taxes, they use this money to instead subvert democracy and disproportionately influence government policy, in line with their own aims and objectives. They operate like a thuggish mafia, threatening dissenters with legal action, public smears to their reputations or loss of their positions of power and prestige. Faced with these existential threats, even the most honourably recalcitrant falls into line. Money talks, but it can also gag.
A whole new form of covertly billionaire-funded, policy factory “think tank” has emerged that is more engaged in selling predetermined ideology to politicians and the public than undertaking objective, evidence-based, scholarly research. The American Enterprise Institute, Atlantic Council, Americans for Prosperity and the Heritage Foundations of the world represent the inversion of the progressive faith that social science should shape social policy. Social policy is, instead, being determined by the extremist hard-right ideology of a secretive, self-serving, billionaire donor network, who would rather eschew their duties and responsibilities to society than invest in humanity. If ever there was a population of unabashed, shameless, determined shirkers, it’s these people.
According to one account, it was Hayek who spawned the idea of the think tank as disguised political weapon. Politicians were prisoners of conventional wisdom, in Hayek’s view. Think tanks would have to change how politicians thought, if they wanted to implement what were then considered outlandish free-market ideas. To do that would require an ambitious and somewhat disingenuous public relations campaign. To succeed required some deception about the think tank’s true aims. They needed to be “cagey” and disguise their organization as neutral and nonpartisan.
In other words, they would have to speak and act in bad faith.
Choosing a suitably anodyne name, calling it the Institute of Economic Affairs, the grandfather of libertarian think tanks in London was founded. One of its co-founders, Oliver Smedley, wrote that it was “imperative that we should give no indication in our literature that we are working to educate the public along certain lines which might be interpreted as having a political bias. In other words, if we said openly that we were re-teaching the economics of the free market, it might enable our enemies to question the charitableness of our motives.” To do otherwise was to risk losing their tax-exempt, charitable status.
According to Jane Mayer, in her book “Dark Money”, “The new, hyper-partisan think tanks had impact far beyond Washington. They introduced doubt into areas of settled academic and scientific scholarship, undermined genuinely unbiased experts, and gave politicians a menu of conflicting statistics and arguments from which to choose.” Fear, doubt and uncertainty were promulgated. These think tanks became organisations for the bamboozlement of the masses.
Jane Mayer again: “The hazard was that partisan shills would create “balance” based on fraudulent research and deceive the public about pressing issues in which their sponsors had financial interests.”
“You take corporate money and give it to a neutral-sounding think tank,” which “hires people with pedigrees and academic degrees who put out credible-seeming studies. But they all coincide perfectly with the economic interests of their funders.”
It’s worth examining the psychological profiles of the oligarchs and plutocrats that fund the prevailing narrative. The backgrounds of media moguls and think tank founders is invariably one of (childhood) abuse, isolation from both reality and humanity and a self-serving existential fear of losing their inheritances, so predictably typical of the nouveau riche. These people are obsessively, paranoically fearful of losing it all.
Their first hand experience of precarity and poverty is non-existent, so the loss of everything they possess is feared perhaps even more acutely than by those for whom it is a daily, grinding reality. The elite dress their prejudices and primal fears in seductive, plausible-sounding academic theories, but their positions don’t stand up to rigorous scrutiny, which is why they do everything possible to prevent scrutiny and dissent, by exercising tight control over the boundaries of the Overton window. Controlling the prevailing narrative is the only way to sustain the deception.
They’re so scared to lose their fortunes, I believe, because they lack the confidence to be able to start from rock bottom and make it big again. It all came very easily to the inheritors of unimaginable, monopoly wealth, so they lack the necessary skills to start with nothing and make it into something. They are also probably lucidly aware of the skullduggery, chicanery and sheer dumb luck that helped their ancestors amass their primary fortunes. It’s not something they think they could do again, despite their posturing and bluster about being self-made billionaires, who succeeded through their own brains, grit, hard work and guile. They’re only too aware of how much was handed to them, unearned, on a plate.
The controllers of the dominant narrative make it so through saturation media coverage of their favoured positions, cleverly and deliberately disguised as grass-roots, popular opinion. Ordinary people are thus suckered into supporting causes that go against their own interests. The manipulators act in abject bad faith, concealing their real (selfish) motivations. They’ve accomplished this through highly concentrated media ownership and weaponised “philanthropy”, which has become little more than the unattenuated voice of the plutocracy.
There are legions of contemptible researchers, operatives, spokespeople, presenters, reporters, writers and journalists who happily, capriciously sell their souls, so that they can enjoy minor opulence and access to power. We see them on television acting as insistent apologists for the contemptible actions of billionaires daily. You know their names and faces well. These people are despicable. They frequently espouse lies they know to be so. As such, they’re just another species of predator.
This is the current status quo, but there is a huge problem with it. What the narrative controllers think they want isn’t rational. In fact, it’s positively insane.
They only want what they want because they’re too remote from real life to experience, first-hand, what their commercial and political activities lead to. They’re insulated from the human immiseration that their pet policies and hobby horses cause. But the cancers, brain damage, mental health deterioration, birth defects, and environmental damage affect us all. Even the oligarchs. It’s still the case that even unlimited money cannot cure some of the consequential ailments that result from unregulated, laissez-faire business activity. Pouring quarts of mercury into waterways at a time is not without rebound. Eventually, it finds its way into your own food and water.
The narrative controllers experience it last, though, when it’s too late to turn back.
The elites are also controlling things from a position of profound ignorance. In other words, the don’t know what they’re doing and are heedless of the consequences. They typically dismiss any and all expert scientific analysis that disagrees with their settled policy choices, irrespective of the weight and reliability of the evidence. This is why we have climate collapse denial.
It’s also a fair bet that most of them have never heard of the exposome, or have any understanding of the connected, symbiotic relationship between man and his environment. Most are stuck in the theologically-derived “conquest and dominion over nature” mindset, which is an anachronistic absurdity, in the real world. You can’t expect to destroy a finite resource that sustains your own life and think you can simply buy your way out of the unavoidable consequences of your acts of despoliation.
The narrative controllers are adept at disguising their naked self-interests with plausible-sounding, seemingly-laudable abstract principles (mostly derived from fictional works of Ayn Rand) but they make their assertions without backing them with solid empirical research and supporting data. The gaping flaw in their grandiloquent philosophy is that if you attempt to construct a society along the lines of their hypercompeitive, ultra-conservative theories, it rapidly descends into extremes of authoritarian violence, destruction, division, distrust, corruption, visceral hatred and misery. Always. The appeal to their peculiar brand of distorted morality results in widespread amorality. It has never been possible to build a functioning society their way. Ever. There hasn’t been a single instance in all of history.
Our plutocrat billionaires, a numerical minority, vastly outnumbered by their opponents, are waging a class war against the rest of us and so far, they’re winning. But, it’s an insane strategy. Sooner or later even their most sycophantic enablers and courtiers stop taking their money. They cease taking orders that result in harm to their own class interests. Once the oligarchs’ money is no good and no longer accepted in return for executing covert, dirty deeds, their class war is lost and they’ll have spent their fortunes waging it.
Their other vulnerability is people boycotting the near monopoly enterprises that buoy up their obscene fortunes. We ultimately stop adding to their fortunes, either because we wake up or we’re so impoverished by their policies, that we lose the wherewithal to remain spending customers. Money is fuel, so cutting off their supply has rapid and devastating results. If this isn’t strategically insane, I don’t know what is.
It’s impossible to draw any other conclusion than those calling the shots have lost their minds. They’re so blinded by their personal psychological damage, the result of their both pampered yet brutalised and loveless, lonely upbringings, in isolation from the warmth of humanity, that they lack a rational grip on reality. They’ve been profoundly traumatised and abused and only know how to cope with it by passing it on. It’s that or absorbing the enormity of the assault that was inflicted upon their infant psyches and emotional stability. Most can’t face that level of self-awareness with honesty. It’s why alcohol and drug abuse is so rampant among the very wealthy.
The elite don’t know how to find purpose and meaning in their lives in any other way than trying to bend all of reality to their bizarre, hallucinated desires. It’s the only genuine struggle and accomplishment they can ever hope to grapple with. They feel entitled to have reality conform to their vision of it. That’s what they’ve been told, their entire lives – that they’re the chosen titans, destined to bestride humanity as heroic conquerors. Imagined meritocracy is a comforting lie they like to tell themselves, in preference to honestly and authentically confronting their own human frailty and vulnerability.
That’s tragic for them, but no reason for the rest of us to indulge and excuse their dysfunction, as pitiable as it may be. We don’t have to comply and obey just to make them feel better.
It’s time to take back the narrative. It’s plainly not in sane hands. In fact, many of the original think tank founders are dead. Only their money and their reactionary ideas live on. The conservative project is something of an adrift ghost ship, programmed on its course, but with the captain no longer at the helm. It’s rudderless and destructive.
Once these toxic ideas gather a momentum of their own, they are carried forward by ambitious imbeciles convinced that espousing, propagating and promoting them will be their ticket to success and power, seemingly unaware that the people they think they’re impressing (who they believe will shower them with riches and favours) are long dead. Politicians and journalists are particularly renown for their barely disguised sycophancy. They’re unconcerned about and largely unaware of the damage they will do to ordinary people with their policies and pronouncements, because coming from their privileged, hermetically-sealed bubble, they don’t actually know any. Ordinary people are, to them, a somewhat abstract concept.
We don’t have to let the insane write the script for humanity‘s destiny. We don’t have to carry out the policies of dead, old capitalists, who only embarked on this course of ideological warfare because of their personal psychological issues and sheer unearned wealth. Why incinerate the world for the benefit of twisted, reactionary men who aren’t even alive to see it?
The project they paid to set in motion is not sane.