VJMP Reads: Religion, Property, Violence I

The next edition in the VJMP Reads column is Religion, Property, Violence: A Revolutionary Idea For Society by Horst Niclaus. This book was purchased cheaply from TradeMe. The back cover asks the question “Is the creation of God the reason why equality between human beings has not been achieved yet?”

After a short introduction, in which Niclaus recounts his early upbringing in wartime Germany, the first chapter begins. It is called ‘Does God exist?’

Niclaus mentions here that God was silent during the Holocaust and that “he” has no problems with things like the mass child rapes of the Catholic Church. It’s apparent that Niclaus is arguing against a conception of the Abrahamic God, in particular the Christian one. He lists a number of Biblical contradictions here.

In this chapter Niclaus cites Albert Einstein as saying that the Jewish religion is “an incarnation of the most childish superstition.” He then cites a list of arguments against the Abrahamic God and against religion in general, such as the fact that ignorance and fear underpins much religious belief. These arguments all proceed from a materialist perspective, and should be convincing to someone who has fallen at the second hurdle.

This list of arguments is duplicated from elsewhere, and any materialist ought to find them agreeable. One of the arguments copied here is Epicurus’s one, that makes that claim that if God has the power to end all suffering, but not the Will, then God must be malevolent.

The problem here is that Epicurus makes the assumption that the end of suffering is the highest value. The reality is that God encourages an unpredictable degree of suffering for the purposes of entertainment, on account of that infinite bliss is infinite boredom, and therefore more suffering than a the madcap mix of pleasure and pain that is life on Earth.

Many of the arguments listed here suffer from similar problems. They are attacking a Christian conception of God and therefore attack the characteristics that Christians claim that God has. These arguments do not address (e.g.) Luciferian or Hindu conceptions of divinity. As is true of many Western commentators, Niclaus appears to believe that disproving the Abrahamic conception of God is sufficient to prove the non-existence of God.

Most of the arguments in this chapter proceed on this basis, i.e. they are worthwhile criticisms towards Christianity or Abrahamism, but no more. The quoted section makes one cutting observation of missionaries in particular: while their work is risky, the rewards are to be worshipped by those who accept his guidance.

This chapter ends with the mention of some scientists who advanced the materialist world view, and then some letters to the Christchurch newspaper The Press arguing against Christianity.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2019 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 and the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 are also available.

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VJMP Reads: Edward Bernays’s Propaganda XI

This reading continues from here.

Chapter Eleven in Edward Bernays’s Propaganda is called ‘The Mechanics of Propaganda.’ Here Bernays talks about how propaganda gets transmitted to the public.

Bernays defined propaganda here as “the establishing of reciprocal understanding between a person and a group.” Therefore, there is no practical limit to the number and type of media that may be employed to transmit propaganda (one wonders what Bernays would have made of the Internet).

He writes about how the public meeting was the best means of propaganda 50 years ago (i.e. in the 1870s), but people have become “sick of the ballyhoo of the rally,” and prefer to get information from the radio and newspapers. The propagandist must keep up with the shifting patterns of the popularity of various media, as well as anticipate future changes.

Bernays notes here that there is almost no item of news that, if published, would not benefit the interests of some people and harm the interests of others. He notes also that the newspaper does not care about the propaganda value of a piece of information, but only about its news value. Thus, propaganda that is also news is more likely to get propagated.

It’s important to tailor the message to the audience. The propagandist must create propaganda items with specific audiences in mind. To this end, magazines are different to newspapers because they’re not obliged to print news. This also means that magazines are kind of naturally like propaganda organs.

The propagandist might like to consider supplying a propaganda organ with a series of articles that puts the case to a particular audience. This is especially likely to succeed if that organ feels like they can derive prestige from the association with the company the propagandist works for.

Hilariously (with hindsight), Bernays is able to speak about the radio when it was a new invention and its development uncertain. He notes that many newspaper enterprises have moved into radio, correctly in his estimation. Anticipating the Internet, he predicts that various groups will have an ev ever-increasing interest in buying media space for the sake of propagandising.

Incredibly, Bernays was able to write 90 years ago that Hollywood films were major propaganda devices. He also predicts the rise of the cult of personality by noting that “the public instinctively demands a personality to typify a conspicuous corporation or enterprise.” This is acutely true in New Zealand, where our Prime Ministers have little to go on apart from the personality cults.

Bernays notes that the public has already become cynical to attempts at manipulating them through the media, but some interests are universal. People will always have a need for food, for amusement, for beauty and for leadership. For this reason, they will always seek out sources of propaganda.

He leaves us with the statement: “Intelligent men must realise that propaganda is the modern instrument by which they can fight for productive ends and help bring order out of chaos.” This statement must be read in the light of World War I, which was itself the result of the old methods of fighting. In this sense, Bernays and this book herald a shift from an Age of Iron to an Age of Silver.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

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VJMP Reads: Edward Bernays’s Propaganda X

This reading carries on from here.

The tenth chapter of Edward Bernays’s Propaganda is called ‘Art And Science.’ Here Bernays discusses how one can use propaganda in the service of culture.

As in other chapters, Bernays emphasises that the success of almost any enterprise today depends on public acceptance. Therefore, if a gallery is to successfully run an exhibition featuring a particular artist, they will need to first ensure that their works have public acceptance.

Bernays gives us the maxim “In art as in politics the minority rules,” by which he means that those who understand “the anatomy of public opinion” can shape it. He claims that propaganda gives the artist the opportunity to collaborate with industry to improve society.

As in previous chapters, Bernays mentions that the interest of the public can be captured by associations and by dramatic incidents. He gives the example of an American silk manufacturer who forms industry links with Parisian fashion houses for the sake of forming an association.

The effect of aesthetics is laboured in this chapter. Bernays writes that, because mass production has driven the costs of producing propaganda to the floor, propagandists must look for other ways to stand out. One way is by applying aesthetics to their product. There is an economic incentive to meet the public demand for more beauty.

Part of propaganda is to give people something to talk about when they meet up at tea parties. To that end, it’s important to bring people the best of art and aesthetics as they relate to one’s industry. Museums have an interest in making their message intelligible to the public, and to that end they must employ propaganda.

Even in the late 1920s, Bernays was able to write about the phenomenon where scientific research is sponsored by large corporations. This phenomenon was already powerful enough that Bernays could write about it changing the whole world over decade previous to Propaganda being written. Science needs propaganda in order to condition the public to accept the advances it makes.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

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VJMP Reads: Edward Bernays’s Propaganda IX

This reading carries on from here.

The ninth chapter of Edward Bernays’s Propaganda is called ‘Propaganda in Social Service’.

By “Social Service,” Bernays refers to what would today be known as the welfare system. He states that the welfare system requires constant propagandising, on account of that its continued existence is contingent on the will of the wealthy. Here he states the maxim that “Civilization is limited by inertia.”

One striking feature of today’s world, Bernays contends, is the democratisation of propaganda opportunities. Back in the day, change was effected by autocratic rulers who decreed it, but today any person is able at least to try changing public opinion about something.

In this chapter Bernays again underlines the significance of appealing to the leaders of the various groups within society. If a variety of leaders of different social groups can be brought on board, it’s not too hard to get the people they influence on board too. With this achieved, it’s possible to use the approval of these leaders to further propagandise.

Bernays states here that “Social service… is identical with propaganda in many cases.” By this he means that all efforts to effect social change are propaganda efforts. The efforts of the welfare state to raise the wellbeing of people necessitates a propaganda effort. This is especially true when new scientific advances suggest certain changes (as they did in Bernays’s time in the case of prison reform).

He concludes this chapter with the statement that “Social progress is simply the progressive education and enlightenment of the public mind in regard to its immediate and distant social problems.” In this regard, the propagandist has an extremely important role. It’s perhaps telling, though, that Bernays doesn’t write about how the propagandist knows whether they’re enlightening or misleading people with their work.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

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