Tyranny of the Mobjority
Notes from the road to nowhere, plus war, pregnant Russians and modern representative democracy...
Joel Bowman, appraising the situation from Buenos Aires, Argentina...
We're on a road to nowhere
Come on inside
Taking that ride to nowhere
We'll take that ride
~ Talking Heads, Road to Nowhere (1985)
Welcome to yet another Sunday Sesh, dear reader, that time of the week when we poke our head above the parapet, feel for flesh wounds and praise the heavens we’re still among the quick.
Grateful to answer in the affirmative, we begin today’s epistle with a lively enough observation: There are pregnant Russian women everywhere!
Since the onset of war in Eastern Europe, millions of people have been displaced, conscripted... and worse. Among the masses are an exodus of young Russians, twenty- and thirty-somethings who grew up with dreams that didn’t include marching off to the battle front or dying face down in a muddy trench.
War is indeed the health of the state, as Randolph Bourne once observed, but it is quite another thing for the poor souls who must actually fight it.
Understandably, desperate people do desperate things... even fly to the other side of the planet, to a country with 100% inflation and rolling economic crises, where they speak a foreign language and where there is little enough hope, even for the locals.
Since the start of last year, more than 22,000 Russians have arrived on these fair shores... including 5,000 pregnant women in the past few months alone. There were 33 of them on a single Ethiopian Airlines flight.
At stake for these refugees: An Argentine passport. And not just for the baby, who automatically qualifies having been born here on rich, pampas soil, but for the parents, too. This is a non-trivial upside, as Argentine passport holders can travel to 170 countries visa free; Russian passport holders, 87. (Also, Argentina is not at war with a foreign power... only with itself.)
We asked some of our porteño friends how they felt about the sudden influx of foreign nationals to their already crowded capital. Their response was uniformly welcoming, exactly as one would expect from people accustomed to separating the actions of individuals from the diktats of their governmental overlords.
And yet, the scourge of warfare exists so long as the simple-minded “Us vs. Them” narrative is allowed to persist... on both sides. Bill has been expounding on his Bad Guy Theory of late, noting what ought to be obvious to even the most uninterested bystander: the situation is always more complicated than we, “The People,” are led to believe.
And yet, whipped into a foaming, chest-thumping frenzy, there is scarcely a great cause Homo Credulous won’t get behind, provided he finds himself happily ensconced in the false security of the mobjority.
Yes, dear readers, we speak here of the most sacred, fattened heifer of them all: modern, representative democracy, the very subject of today’s musing...
Tyranny of the Mobjority
By Joel Bowman
Man: He’ll go along with just about anything.
Given the right circumstances… a little programming… and enough time for it all to marinate in his soft, mammalian brain… there is almost nothing Homo Credulus will not learn to embrace.
Don’t believe us?
Take a look at the historical record; you’ll soon wonder how we ever got this far.
Sure, you’ll discover gizmos and flying contraptions… art and agriculture… music and mathematics. You’ll witness spectacular scientific breakthroughs, the number “0” and a man’s footprint on the moon. You’ll also find automobiles with so many cup holders, you won’t know where to holster your oversized 7/11 Big Gulp.
But you’ll also scratch your head. Perhaps you’ll even weep. And if you think hard enough, you’ll put a few things to serious question…
“Central banks?” “Modern democracy?” “The Chelsea Handler Show?”
How has mankind survived such atrocities? Self inflicted, no less! And why, moreover, does he rush so earnestly to repeat and replay his worst mistakes? (Ms. Handler has been on air since 2006!)
Don’t be too hard on yourself, Dear Reader. After all, repetition is nothing new…
You’ll recall that it was the Greeks who first gave the world democracy – from the Greek, dēmokratía, literally “Rule by ‘People’”. (And yes, it was those very same Greeks who put their own beloved Socrates to death… by a majority vote of 361-140.)
Today, democracy is a cherished tenet of “the West.” It is woven into the civic religion, sewn into the social fabric. Men march off eagerly to fight for it, to proselytize it … and to die in forgotten ditches defending it.
At least, that’s what they believe they’re doing. As usual, the poor saps have been duped. Herewith, a little historical context…
The phrase “Making the world safe for democracy” was actually a marketing slogan, coined back in the 1910s, as a way to sell “The Great War” to America. Weary from their own disastrous Civil War just a few decades earlier, in which hundreds of thousands of her finest sons gave up the ghost, Americans were mostly inward looking at the time. That is to say, they wanted little to do with what they largely saw as a “European affair.”
Polls might have indicated no appetite for battle… but the nation’s politicians were nonetheless starved for military misadventure. They sensed big profits abroad, both in manufacturing armaments and making onerous bank loans to foreign lands. Sure, “the nation” would have to fill tank and trench with warm young bodies… but very few soldiers would carry senatorial surnames along with their rifles.
And so, after a public relations campaign of truly epic proportions, America marched off to war… wrapped in the delusion they had freshly been sold.
Eddie Bernays, the man who coined the phrase and, thus, peddled the war to America, made a fortune for his efforts. He was even invited by Woodrow Wilson to attend the Paris Peace Conference, in 1919, as a show of gratitude for his services.
There, Bernays learned the full impact of his “democracy” slogan. An obviously bright fellow, the surreal experience caused him to think…
If people will line up to kill one another under the influence of a mere marketing campaign… they could surely be convinced to do, say and buy just about anything!
Bernays was right. In fact, he wrote a series of books, detailing his insights. They included Crystallizing Public Opinion (1923), A Public Relations Counsel (1927) and a neat little number titled Propaganda (1928), in which Bernays laid out the blueprint for mass social and psychological manipulation.
The collected works went on to become a runaway success… and the favorite of none other than Joseph Goebbles, Reich Minister for Propaganda in Nazi Germany between 1933-45.
Bernays himself, writing in his 1965 autobiography, recalls a dinner at home in 1933 where…
Karl von Wiegand, foreign correspondent of the Hearst newspapers, an old hand at interpreting Europe and just returned from Germany, was telling us about Goebbels and his propaganda plans to consolidate Nazi power. Goebbels had shown Wiegand his propaganda library, the best Wiegand had ever seen. Goebbels, said Wiegand, was using my book Crystallizing Public Opinion as a basis for his destructive campaign against the Jews of Germany. This shocked me. […] Obviously the attack on the Jews of Germany was no emotional outburst of the Nazis, but a deliberate, planned campaign.
It is indeed chilling to think of such a heinous undertaking as being engineered, blueprinted, premeditated and carried out according to some kind of script. And yet, there it is… in Bernays’ own words, the “Father of Propaganda.”
Having acquired somewhat of a tainted reputation-by-association, propaganda, itself, underwent a “strategic rebranding” after WWII. But make no mistake, the very same métier thrives to this day, under the more socially palatable designation, “Public Relations.”
Still, a ruse by any other name…
Bread and Circuses
“Could we be so stupid again?” wonders the gentle reader. “Might the mob still be swayed by what Charles Mackay termed ‘extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds?’”
Why, of course! That’s the nature of the mobjority!
Whether in love, finance, politics or any other matter, man is wont to be convinced, assured, persuaded, often against his own best interests. Few are the absurdities in which he will not take refuge, invest his hard-earned capital or squander his morality.
All he needs is a good story, something to arrest his imagination and cauterize his capacity for reason. A distraction from his lonely, quotidian existence, what Henry David Thoreau called the life of “quiet desperation.”
A carefully constructed narrative, in other words, and a few crumbs to pass his lips.
The Roman poet, Juvenal, recognized as much when he mocked the panem et circenses (bread and circuses) stratagem almost two millennia ago. In his Satire X, he referred to the Annona (a kind of grain dole) and the famous circus games, held in the Colosseum and elsewhere, as designed to keep the unthinking population fed and happy.
Look around you today, Dear Reader. What do you see, two millennia later, in the Year of Their Lord, 2023 AD?
We’ve got reality television and Rhianna on the Super Bowl halftime show, plus food stamp programs and a Niagara of leaky bucket transfer payments. We’ve got China to the left of us, Russia to the right, and the whole bogus pretense of safety and security in between. There’s $31.6 trillion in national debt and government spending out the wazoo, all set against a nationwide crime wave, a fentanyl epidemic raging from sea to shining sea, while emotionally incontinent social justice warriors rewrite our precious culture, one children’s book at a time...
And behind it all, the greatest bread and circuses show ever invented: modern representative democracy.
Now, as then, the show goes on!
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Ok, that’s our bit done. Speaking of fattened heifers, we’re off to the very first parrilla we ever visited here in Buenos Aires, 13 years ago: La Cabrera. It’s been hit and miss over the years as it turned from a local favorite to a popular tourist joint. We’ll let you know
Last week’s venture to El Pobre Luis resulted in a well-deserved, multi-hour meat coma. The milanesa was the popular standout, along with the service. What we didn’t know until afterwards was that El Pobre is an Uruguayan parrilla, which made the compliments from our porteño guests all the more impressive...
Whatever you’re feasting on this weekend, hopefully with friends and family, know we’ll be raising a glass together.
Until next time...
P.S. Real quick! Dan just wrote to ask… are you seeing any unusually long lines at local banks in your neighborhood? The kind that might portend a… dare we whisper… bank run? Seems like the whole SVB debacle has put the fear of a crisis out in the ether. If you notice anything, snap a pic and send it along. We’ll share your findings, if any, next week…
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