Don’t Believe Your Eyes — Part II

The last article written in this series was about how state, deep state, and private interests spend untold sums of money to manipulate public opinion by petitioning politicians, and through spreading preprepared and preselected information — or disinformation — far and wide. This is done by means of the orchestration of groups of paid or interested individuals in order to tackle issues in ways that make their efforts seem organic, and by tricking members of the public, as well as public officials, into thinking that there is much greater support for a product, policy, or individual, than there actually is; creating fake grass roots campaigns — ‘astroturfing’ — in order to achieve their desired ends.

As well as manipulating opinion behind closed-doors and online, there are public relations strategies which seep into the physical world, and public space, which are at least as devious in attempts to fool people on the grandest scales imaginable. The tactics employed by state and private interests to create perceived support for their very much questionable positions allows those with the funding to exercise greater influence, and greater control; with less and less opposition.

Human beings in the modern age are very… careful. Too careful. People do not want to step out of line out of fear of being noticed, having negative attention cast upon them. It is natural mammalian behaviour in social animals to try to blend in with the herd so as not to become a target for predation. I would argue that the same instinct compels people to refrain from making a fuss about the endless injustice in the world — at least not in ways that are super meaningful or impactful — for the sake of their own security, comfort, and status; both in terms of their ability to earn money, as well as their position in the social circles which they are part of. Unless, that is, they are tackling  pedestrian issues (the ones where if anyone disagrees with you they are immediately in a position to be morally judged, with severity).

Nietzsche had a beautiful line in his essay On Truth & Lies In A Nonmoral Sense(1) which I feel is perfectly suited to the ethos of this article: “…man(kind) wishes to exist socially and with the herd; therefore, he needs to make peace, and strives accordingly to banish from his world at least the most flagrant bellum omni contra omnes (war of every individual for themselves).” The point being, that: people generally do not want to rock the boat out of fear of alienation from the rest of the pack; which is a common consequence of being an outspoken contrarian in response to widely-accepted points of view.

There is a lot invested in understanding human psychology, group dynamics, and how to use this understanding to effectively coerce people into behaving, even thinking, certain ways.

Do you need to drum-up fake support for your very own personal agenda? It doesn’t matter how bad an idea it is! All that matters is that you can pay! Do you want to force your will upon the herd, but the pesky peasants who constitute it don’t want to go along quietly? We’ve got just the thing!

There are now PR agencies all-over the world offering such services as ‘rent-a-crowds’ to suit your desired ends, however nefarious they might be… That’s right, mobs for hire! — to accommodate the will of anyone willing to pay.(2) One can hire groups of people to attend whatever event they are orchestrating to show support, or to attend events of people they do not like, to show disdain and displeasure. The use of rent-a-crowds takes advantage human ‘herd instinct’, and uses it against us.

Human beings are social animals, and, as Nietzsche highlights, seek out the safety of the group instinctively; as it is generally in one’s best interest to be on the side of the majority. But, in the age mass media manipulation, there are powerful interests capable of creating a cultural diorama through controlled events, controlled coverage, and controlled media sources; which effectively takes advantage of this predisposition toward groupthink by constructing a believable pseudo-reality. Wherein, big-money players can make it seem as though there is majority support, even ‘consensus’ support, for a given interest’s preferred point of view.

The Allegory of the Cave, from Plato’s Republic(3) is a parable referencing how people living in a world of uncertainty, with limited perceptual faculty, are deluded due to their inability to discern between that which is real, and that which is simply their own schema built from the appraisal of insufficient data and sensory input.

The allegory goes somewhat like this: a group of prisoners are held captive in a cave, and bound in such a way as to not be able to budge from the spot to which they are shackled. They are unable to move their hands, feet, or even turn their heads. There is an opening at the entrance of the cave, and a wall behind which people move. There are artefacts being carried to and fro — statues of human and animal figures of all kinds — which stick up over the wall. There is a fire burning, and the light of the fire casts the shadows of the carried objects upon the wall of the cave before the prisoners — who can also hear the chattering of the passers-by who carry the artefacts.

The only reality the prisoners can perceive through their sense of sight is the shadows cast upon the walls of the cave before them. The sounds, whose echos reverberate from the walls around them, the prisoners attribute to the shadow-play figures they see projected before them. They see a shadow realm of mysterious, chattering figures passing back and forth every day, and understand this to be reality.

If one of the prisoners were to escape, he would be barely able to move in physical space, being so severely weakened from being shackled in-place since infancy, would be unable to properly see — due to the overload of sensory input being exposed to the blinding light of the fire and the light of day would cause. He would be physically and perceptually incapable of interacting with the newly realised world around him, and would be lost in confusion as to what was actual reality, and what was not.

This is a perfect analogue to the human condition. Especially in the age of highly controlled mass-media. Many of us grow up seeing nothing but the shadows of cultural artefacts projected on the wall/screen before us, and are thus deluded into believing a false reality to be the thing in itself. After the escaped prisoner had adjusted to the light of day, if he chose to return to the darkened underworld of the cave to attempt to inform and free his fellow prisoners, Socrates hypothesised — and Glaucon agreed — that it would be likely he would not be believed, and would even potentially be set upon and killed if he tried to convince the other prisoners that the only reality they knew was shadow-play on the walls of a cave — that they lived in a world of mistaken appraisal and delusion.

In the modern age we may not be weakened by being physically bound to our unreality. But, by being bound mentally and intellectually we are weakened, and our ability to effect change on the real world is hampered in such a manner that we may as well be physically powerless. And, if we manage to escape into the light of day: when we attempt to inform our fellow prisoners of the situation that exists beyond the bounds of the cave of their epistemological ignorance: they very often will set upon us, and act as thought we are the ones who are deluded or mistaken. So, we are stifled, even willing to abide within the cave of ignorance out of convenience, and a desire to not be set upon by our fellow prisoners; to be accepted.

The complexity with which disinformation campaigns are carried out in the modern age is staggering, so much so that a lot of people are unwilling to believe that this is actual, even after being presented with evidence that can be verified in order to find their way into the light of day. Rent-a-crowds are one means of many which are effectively used to trick modern day human beings into accepting unreality as reality.

To take a historically significant example of how effectively rent-a-crowds and other similar means can be used to sway public opinion: in 1953, a cooperative US and British intelligence operation was conducted to overthrow then Iranian President, Mohammad Mosaddegh(4). The aim was to be able to take power from the then president, and transfer it to the Shah. The means through which this was to be achieved: the creation of a wave of public support for the Shah, while at the same time a public groundswell of opposition to, and condemnation of Mossadegh.

The Shah was aligned with US and UK interests, would be more cooperative, and easier to influence. This would present a range of benefits for the US and UK, not least of which would be the prevention of Russian access to Iranian oil. The operation was titled “Operation TPAJAX” (or ‘Operation Ajax’), and the details of it were classified up until 2013, sixty years after the events took place. What was required was a number of well-placed operatives with connections to preexisting dissenters, who would then, on command, unite and organise, creating a huge show of force again the president. All it took was a few million dollars to pay off those involved.

Here we see what was to be a successful coup d’état. Hatched, developed, and deployed with a high level of success in relatively short order with not a lot of genuine players involved, and, minor expenditure (when one considers the scope of the operation, and what a monumental impact it had on the nation of Iran, as well as the surrounding regions).(5)

Nowadays, similar means can be paid for and deployed by state agencies and private individuals alike to manipulate public opinion in whatever way they want, to achieve whatever ends they so desire; by petitioning officials with an endless sea of ostensible support, by controlling online discussion, by having crowds of supporters and activists shouting whatever slogans those fitting the bill want, protesting or supporting whatever they are directed to, wherever they are to be deployed. The only barrier standing in the way of an individual or group utilising such means is whether or not they can pay.

Beyond even that level of interference, and in addition to it, there exist Agent Provocateurs, who can be seeded into protests, activist organisations, and even added to rent-a-crowds, for an added level of emphasis, perceived hysteria, and disruption. Agent provocateurs are parties who are used to infiltrate organisations of whatever kind with the intention of causing further disturbance, chaos, by behaving in ways which make the groups they have infiltrated look bad; by openly expressing extremist beliefs, starting arguments, even behaving violently and destructively.

One example of the use of agent provocateurs in recent history is the series of FBI operations known as ‘COINTELPRO’ (short for ‘Counter-Intelligence Program’), in which agents were used to infiltrate and corrupt the groups which were a part of the Civil Rights Movement in the US in the 1960’s(6). This was achieved by having members of the FBI posing as concerned citizens. They then joined the ranks of innumerable activist organisations with the express intent of impeding the organisations’ effectiveness, bringing them down from the inside — as a Trojan Horse — or co-opting the groups for the convenience of making them an asset for the FBI’s further use(7)(8).

A more recent and straightforward view of how agent provocateurs can be used was during the G20 summit of 2010 in Toronto(9). A group — of what later turned-out to be undercover police — clad in black, with covered faces, joined a group of peaceful protestors. The undercover provocateurs then began to engage in vandalism, running riot, inciting violence. This allowed the official police force to justify becoming more heavy-handed with genuine protestors, and shutting down the protests. But, it turned out to be a monumental failure when undercover agents were identified, called out, and separated from the real protestors; the provocateurs eventually ended up running behind police lines to protect themselves after being outed(10).

It used to take shared interest, good ideas, and a sense of unity to motivate people to come together to collectively represent a cause. People would naturally form associations to combat injustice. Now, we are left even more unsure of how to act, and of the state of reality at large. Campaigns of any kind can be spoofed by means of paying a bunch of programmable conflict actors to champion whatever non-cause you can make up over the course of an afternoon’s plotting.

There is an ever-increasing atmosphere of fear and uncertainty around saying or doing the wrong thing. When you consider the investment in certain positions, and the apparent support thereof, as well as the fury exacted on opposition, it is easier to understand people’s unwillingness to take a stand on any issue. In regard to so many problems that exist in the modern world, there is such a push in one direction that the herd instinct has kicked in. And, us herd animals, being urged in one direction, become uncomfortable, begin to moo, and paw the ground apprehensively when one begins to deviate from the wranglings of the farmer and sheepdogs.

Many, at least subconsciously, sense the imminent danger of non-conformity; and, as a result, experience feelings of angst caused by the potential agitation the perceived deviation may bring. So, they either side with the popular position, or do nothing out of fear of repercussion.


Because they believe their eyes, and don’t look deeper at the issues than how they appear on the surface.

  1. On Truth & Lies In A Nonmoral Sense, Friedrich Nietzsche
  3. Republic, Plato, p.240 (Oxford’s World Classics, 1993)

A great podcast on some of the same topics can found here:

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