What is Propaganda?

by Mike Driver | Apr 19, 2024

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes ‘What the hell is water?’”


—David Foster Wallace

In this analogy we are all fish, I’d like to claim to be the wise old fish for the purpose of this article but the old guy is swimming in the same water as the rest of us. The thing is our sea isn’t filled with water it’s composed entirely of propaganda. In this late stage of corrupt oligarchic capitalism and fake democracy there literally is nothing else. It is everywhere and everything. It comprises our entire experience.

Has the western way of attending to the world made us more vulnerable to the influence propaganda?

To understand


The least thing fully you would have to perceive


The whole grammar in all its accidence


And all its system, in the perfect singleness


Of intention


—WS Merwin

To understand the isolated objects and events of everyday existence we need to grasp the entire underlying basis of the entire system. We need to understand that when we pull at one piece of the universe it is attached to all the others. We need to realise that there are no simplifying causes in our complex system. To understand the smallest thing we need to understand everything. Until everything is continuous.


I recently visited the Kruger national park in South Africa and it is on a bush walk where you start to realise the power of trying to look at the world like an indigenous person. This is stupendously difficult for the western mind, like trying to walk headlong into a gale. The game drive is far more suited to our truncated attention span. Drive, see lion, take photo, drive, see giraffe, take photo, every encounter a small packet of transmissible information. When you walk, you notice your guide is attending to the world in a completely different way, a flow state more like a continuous and dynamic film than a static atomised photograph. A way of attending to the world that prioritises context, harmony and coherence. The herd of buffalo approach and retreat like waves on a beach, the lion print is days or hours old, the wind down or upward, this plant good for that ailment, everything attached by an invisible thread to everything else. The Pale Chanting Goshawk a verb, a bird that is goshawking not a noun frozen in time.

Over a number of hours paying this kind of attention to the wild you find yourself breathing more slowly, moving to a different rhythm, awed by the knowledge of your guide and the vast web of interconnectedness that surrounds us everywhere.

There is an entire realm of knowledge either lost or ignored. What gives us in the west the authority, the arrogance to assume we can discount these ancient ways of seeing? This is the hubris that engulfs us. Many millions of people and counting have died as a direct result of resisting the western way of knowing. A way of knowing that seeks control and believes in godlike powers of intervention. A way of knowing that sees the world as individuated separate events, parts to be manipulated. A way of attending to the world that misses the gestalt, the big picture. Is there a different way to look at what is happening to us and to understand our place in the universe? A way of looking and understanding that everything is continuous, nothing is discrete. Or are we condemned to be led by the men who live in the shadows, constantly feeding us bits of disembodied information, shaping our very perception of reality to their own ends?


The rate of change in the cultural environment, especially the digital environment, has drawn a veil over reality. The digitally minded, the reductionists, would have us believe homo sapiens is evolving in response to these changes – becoming less human, more machine-like, ‘transhuman’ they tell us. I suspect something even more sinister is happening.

Sigmund Freud’s nephew tells us exactly what is going on:

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… We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of… In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.


—Edward Bernays, Propaganda

As the familiar advice goes – when someone tells you who they are, believe them.

How then did they pollute the water?

Firstly they have taken advantage of our inability to contextualise, because we think linearly we fail to spot that the side effect of (manufactured) events is actually the intention. The propaganda of ‘cause’ obscures the nefarious machination.

For those with a more technical mind, Stafford Beer’s concept, ‘the purpose of a system is what it does’ (POSIWID), provides us with some intellectual systems thinking foundations. However I don’t think Stafford’s idea picks up the darkness and coordination involved, so I’m running with the side effect is the intention (TSEITI):

Oh look, we inadvertently transferred trillions from all of you to the billionaire class as a result of bailing out the banks, locking the world down and concocting a fake climate crisis.


Modern Monetary Theory, Covid and Climate Change is the propaganda.

The wealth and power transfer is the intention.

Oops, all the young orthodox Christian men have been killed in the defence of Ukraine. Defending democracy in the most corrupt country in Europe is the propaganda. The meat grinder was the intention all along.

Oh dear, we’ve triggered a cancer crisis via those safe and effective gene therapies we didn’t force on several billion people. A supposedly deadly ‘virus’ in ‘pandemic’ was the propaganda. The opportunity to fleece you for more unsafe and ineffective pharmaceuticals was the intention all along. At the time of writing it is starting to look like the intention may even be considerably worse than just mere theft as the excess death toll rises inexorably in highly vaccinated countries

The climate propaganda is particularly nefarious; the corporates spend several generations polluting the planet then pass the blame to you for driving your car, heating your house or taking a holiday.

Almost every significant historical event over the last century and a half or so becomes clearer when looked at through the side-effect-is-the-intention lens. WW1, WW2, the Russian Revolution, what were the outputs of these events? What was the propaganda that ensnared people? Why did hundreds of millions of people die? If I had the time and patience this list could be book-length. I’ll leave you to work out the intention of your favourite raft of bullshit.

So what is it that is truncating our attention span, destroying our ability to see in context and to act in good conscience? In the broadest sense the enemy is media, the more digital, available and addictive this media becomes the worse it is.

And of course we are now all addicted to the crack cocaine version of media. The internet and all its bastard sons, social media, smart phones, google, fucking phone cameras, ear buds, sat nav and every smart dumb thing that keeps pulling us back to the glass vampire.

Jonathan Crary in his excellent book Scorched Earth:

“Near the end of his life, in 2007, Jean Baudrillard observed that the logic of Western modernity required that it be imposed on the entire world, that no peoples or places should escape its demands. The West, he writes, exports its economic and cultural models everywhere in the name of universality but it is a nullifying universality, emptied of any truths, leaving in its wake all that has been de-sacralized, unveiled, objectified, financialized.


“It is a challenge to the rest of the world ‘to debase themselves in their turn, to deny their own values … to sacrifice everything by which a human being or a culture has some value in its own eyes.’”

The internet is the ultimate hypnotist, the purveyor of propaganda in its purest form, the creator of this decontextualised world. Your true consciousness is analogue, there is no algorithm running your mind. This is the basest of all propaganda lies. The origin of consciousness remains a mystery. All speculations of computational-like function require an even bigger leap of faith than dragging God into the debate. “Computation” is the phlogiston explanation of consciousness.

The side effect of digitising the world is to sever you from your analogue conscious mind. The truth is that relationships, time, value, purpose, experience, sacrifice, humour, love, consciousness, and the sacred are irreducible to algorithm or anything else. And everybody knows this. Meaning precedes reason.

We don’t need to worry about artificial intelligence so much as we should be wholly concerned with the ‘artificialising’ of intelligence.

Once the world is digitised, behaviour is driven from the outside. The lie they sell you is that your unconscious desires are driving your behaviour. Bullshit, it’s all propaganda: fear porn, actual porn, manufactured crisis, the science, climate malarkey, nudges, lies, trickery, deception, politics, debt, consensus, tv, Netflix, social media, education, race, employment, news, suggestion, hypnotic repetition, drugs – legal and illegal, atheism, bad parenting advice, academia, institutional subservience, centralisation, new age mumbo-jumbo, the internet, trans, psychological conditioning, behavioural science and war. All lies. Everywhere.

“The loss of memory by a nation is also a loss of its conscience”


—Zbigniew Herbert

How do we shake ourselves from this hypnotic trance, how can we wake ourselves up? How can we remember what we really are?

The writer Barry Lopez tried to live his life as a ‘Continuous respectful attention to the presence of the Divine’. Theodore Adorno said ‘Das Leben lebt nicht’ – Life no longer lives. I think he meant us. Rilke said ‘Du musst dein Leben ändern’ – You must change your life.

Is there anything more astonishing than waking to the morning, the slow wheel of the universe turning silently? I heard a Black Redstart while walking in the forest yesterday. It shouldn’t have been there. Too early in the season. Switch everything off, it said. Switch everything off. Du musst alles ausschalten – You must turn everything off.

The ladder out of the sea of propaganda is an intense interaction with the sublime. Sublimity is pure context, it is absolute consciousness. Have you ever woken in the early hours, a storm raging outside? Have you been moved to absolute silence by the beauty of a sunrise or sunset? Can you put your phone down for long enough to become that moment yourself? This can only take place in the absence of artificiality.

Complete disconnection is the only answer. We must turn the internet off. If this sounds too radical please tell me what your freedom is worth, what your soul is worth.

I think we can all sense something: like music from very far away or the light from a JMW Turner painting. Something like a memory not made yet or the warmth from a log fire when you walk in from the cold. Something calling your very soul: ‘come home, come home’, it whispers, ‘this isn’t the life you intended’.

Listen. The old world is waiting for you, ‘still spinning its one syllable between the earth and silence’.

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Frankie Mac
Frankie Mac
26 days ago

Profound thoughts but still does not stop the juggernaut governance of the elites to depopulate and redefine the context of a sustainable society, industry and power wealth !
btw, I did not understand the last sentence meaning re “spinning syllable …” too abstract for me !!

Last edited 26 days ago by Frankie Mac

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