TAKING THE RISK OUT OF DEMOCRACY: The Scottish council elections, GE17, ScotRef and lessons from history with Edward Bernays…

WATCHING COVERAGE of the recent Scottish local election results provided by the British mainstream media (MSM), you could be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that the Conservative party had taken over Scotland.

Taking the risk out of democracy
Taking the risk out of democracy

As the Scottish local election results came in last Thursday (4th May 2017) the MSM airwaves were given over to selected commentators banging on about deprived areas of Scotland voting Conservative and the Scottish National Party (SNP) losing seats.

The level of analysis was shockingly poor. As one friend put it to me:

“There hasn’t been an SNP collapse, and the Shettleston and Paisley results can be explained by the Ibrox effect”!

But the MSM could’t even get to this level of analysis.

Or as another friend put it:

“A Tory gets 13% of the vote and is ‘swept to victory’ on the 10th set of transfers, 4th available spot, in ‘deprived area’ of Paisley Northwest and it makes headline news. Not mentioned is the 44% of the vote which went to the SNP, or that the two Nats were in first and second place, with Labour third, or that an Independent candidate had the same name as the Tory, or that only a small area of the ward is in any way deprived, and many householders are sitting in houses costing the best part of £400,000.”

In fact the SNP gained six seats overall compared to the previous local elections – pretty amazing after 10 years in government – and the pro-independence Scottish Greens gained 7 seats.

The news is: independence parties are up and large numbers of soft right New Labour voters move to vote Conservative. Labs and Cons are now nudging each other for around 50 per cent of their vote share, coming into line with the political scene down south. The difference in Scotland is that half the population have come to the conclusion that they want out of the Lab/Con Westminster game.

The last few years of MSM propaganda onslaught seem to have been pretty effective at herding Labour supporters towards the Conservative party. Thus far Scottish independence supporters seem to have been inoculated against the majority of mainstream spin. This will now be tested as we move into general election (#GE17) mode.

Of course, modern democracy has flourished in tandem with the understanding and development of propaganda to influence what populations think, as well as with the rise of mass media technologies to deliver weponised messages.

Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, published his book titled Propaganda, in 1928, which did not go unnoticed by the rich and powerful at the time.

Finish writer and social activist Olli Tammilehto suggests that:

‘…for Bernays PR was not only a marketing tool but also a political weapon. As a member of North American upper class, he identified strongly with the fears of European and American elites: after the 1st World War, widening franchise and social movements threatened to diminish the power and privileges of the top. As they themselves put it: the problem was how “to take the risk out of democracy”. For Bernays the solution was the new propaganda technique. In his book Propaganda (1928) he writes: “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”

‘PR-techniques were used successfully to manipulate political elections and they became part and parcel of “normal democracy’. But propaganda functioning on subconscious level had an even more important political effect. By creating mass demand of luxury items it diverted people’s energies from risky political and collective activities to harmless individual aspirations.’

Edward Louis James Bernays was a “double nephew” of the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, through his mother, Freud’s sister, on one side and through his father’s sister on the other side.

An Austrian-American, Bernays  developed the field of propaganda and public relations. Due to the success of his work he has been named one of the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th century by Life magazine.

The Wikipedia entry for Bernays notes that:

‘His best-known campaigns include a 1929 effort to promote female smoking by branding cigarettes as feminist “Torches of Freedom” and his work for the United Fruit Company connected with the overthrow of the Guatemalan government in 1954. He worked for dozens of major American corporations including Proctor and Gamble and General Electric, and for government agencies, politicians, and non-profit organizations.’

‘Of his many books, Crystallizing Public Opinion (1923) and Propaganda (1928) gained special attention as early efforts to define and theorize the field of public relations. Citing works of writers such as Gustave Le Bon, Wilfred Trotter, Walter Lippmann, and his own double uncle Sigmund Freud, he described the masses as irrational and subject to herd instinct—and outlined how skilled practitioners could use crowd psychology and psychoanalysis to control them in desirable ways.’

‘He was the subject of a full length biography by Larry Tye called The Father of Spin (1999) and later an award-winning 2002 documentary for the BBC by Adam Curtis called The Century of the Self.’

How Edward Bernays hacked democracy…We know from our experience of the last independence referendum that a large majority of the mainstream media will be against Scottish independence in any future campaign. And we know from the Brexit referendum and the recent U.S. presidential election that new ways of influencing peoples’ opinions are becoming increasingly effective.

Much has been made of the involvement of Cambridge Analytica (CA) in both the Brexit referendum and Trump’s election. CA is “majority owned by hedge [a] fund billionaire” and  could be seen as one example of a high profile modern day manifestation of Bernays’ work. As Wikipedia puts it, CA “… combines data mining and data analysis with strategic communication for the electoral process”.

With #GE17 just around the corner and #ScotRef likely in 2018-19 we better get genned up on what we’re up against, because people with a lot of money and strong interest in keeping Scotland in the U.K. will be preparing to use whatever methods they can to stop Scotland gaining independence.

Stewart Kirkpatrick, YES Scotland’s former Digital Operations Manager, told the recent Scottish Independence Convention 2017:

“We will need to be ready for the next referendum because there is one certainty about it. This is going to sound weird, but the certainty about the next referendum is that it will not be as easy as it was last time. Because this time the other lot know that we can win from the get go. They might have been chaotic and a bit hilarious last time. Next time they will be professional and they’ve got lots of money and they’ve got lots of friends in the media. So we are going to have to be clever if we want to win. I’m here to tell you that we are going to win”

[VIDEO CLIP] Former Digital Operations Manager for YES Scotland, Stewart Kirkpatrick, talking to delegates at the recent Scottish Independence Convention 2017

Subscribe at: http://www.thetron.scot
Follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/THETRON.scot/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *