On the Mechanics of Propaganda – a Few Quick Words

Pragmatic philosophers with no conflicts of interest debating and sharing information in order that they may make the best decisions concerning the governance of their country.

Ahoy readers!  There is not a moment to lose, and thusly let’s clap on directly to the plum in the pudding here:

One of the themes of the novel – the manifestation of the effects of propaganda on society – has come to mind as of recent, upon observing the several variants of reported news and related divisiveness concerning such, nebulous to the 2016 US presidential election and party primaries. Let us see if we may spot a morsel of prescience in Of Woodbridge and Hedgely by the rousing out of some parallel features concerning these current events and that which was said on the subject during my scribbling of the book.

Old Promo Card: Two Towns Torn Apart By Propaganda; A reminder of the vicious media storm that occurred this 2016 election cycle.

In the middle of the fifth episode we do indeed find the lower rungs of society suffering from one part of such having been molested by the ill hands of disinformation – this generating an apparently chronic series of intra-class altercations, physical in nature, with the Hedgely’s tribally seeking blood from their brothers, the Woodbridge’s – and the subsequent legal adjudications regarding these, presided over by the elder Mr. Moore – the two towns’ squire and community leader:

The corn harvesting in Woodbridge and Hedgely had come a bit late in the year, and as most farmers in the region were of a mixedhusbandry sort, their post-gathering schedules had been affected, so that there were still a significant number of deciduous laborers hanging about, quite willing to make themselves drunk and sociable when such could be afforded, and who were positively beastly in comparison to their more permanent brethren of the towns.  Nevertheless the former’s itinerate qualities, they did possess a fierce loyalty to their employers, especially in the cases of the steadily returning hires, and by default were sympathetic, if not in total agreement, with their master’s religion and politics, that those in Baptist Hedgely’s camp thought rather poorly of Jonathan Moore’s scientific sermons, and on intoxicated occasion had made such known in the presence of their cohorts in the Woodbridge camp.

A few men from each of these respective sets who were unrepentant brawlers had indeed engaged each other over philosophical conflicts similar to those apparently illuminated in The Balanced Scale – the unusual periodical which did of recent plague the Moore’s so, and whose contents had been generously passed down and along by those that could read the material, framing such as a radical attack on Christian orthodoxy and the soul’s path to preservation. Little attention was paid to their initial excursion, as those nebulous to such had presumptively considered it an individual event, but as more material concerning the age of the earth, that of the fossils, and the nature of animal forms and kinds trickled down upon, and circulated around these pawns, such fueled a steady supply of minor violence that was eventually deemed fit for reconcile, and brought to the attention of the area’s lay magistrate:  George Moore.

Mr. Moore’s Michaelmas session had already occurred and it was not yet time for the winter Epiphany, but the squire saw fit to address the issue in an unofficial capacity with the tacit understanding by the offenders that such could convert to a Petty Offence were they not to come to an agreeable conclusion with him.  He was tolerant of a drunken brawl, provided no chronic harm was done to any participant – and indeed there was but a small a number of those to be had over a credible length of time in their small community – yet this particular situation was starting to escalate into an ongoing feud, placing the towns’ reputations one notch closer to the butcher’s block. Thusly he sat at his desk with the Hedgely lot before him, just as he had done with the Woodbridge’s a few days prior:

‘Please to explain sir – your initial objections with the men of the other party’, he asked of one of the more rational members.

‘Well sir, I believe ‘twas the night o’ the social meet at the inn, which we were mind’n our own, next t’ the lot which was mind’n their own, whenst one o’ our fellas here says t’ one o’ theirs, “Praise be t’ God mate – our day o’ rest!”’, as we all o’ us were fixed t’ make ourselves drunk – sorry, sir. ‘twas then that the man gave us joy, but followed with that he was very sorry t’ tell our fellas that there was no day o’ rest, ‘cause God made the earth not in one day, but in a great many ten-fold-a-thousand years, having it on good authority by his parson that that be true.’

‘I see’, said George Moore, who noted a certain reluctance in the voice of the laborer, who was indeed bashful to insult the ‘good authority’ – he of course being the brother of the justice before him.  ‘Go on then sir’, he commanded in as fair a voice as he could intonate, not wishing the man to be the least bit shy on any detail of his case.

‘Yes sir, which I then told the man that we was attentive that that was being told to folk ‘round our village, but it did not signify ‘cause the Bible says otherwise, and there were a right many learned chaps – like the Cuvier fellow their good parson was obliged to – who were just as clever as that ol’ Hutton lad, which knew it t’ be true by their own philosophizin’. Then I cautioned their lot not t’ dig into every bone a learned man had for ‘em, ‘specially if they was – excuse me, sir – pay’n ‘em in supper t’ believe ‘em, for those university gents are returned even better than that by the thought, no matter was it ill or not, just as long as it be plausible t’ their audience – and half of ‘em atheists at any rate’.

The Baptist laborer further explained that the Anglican lot had then accused them of ‘biting into their own ill plausibilities, for ‘twas the recent hand o’ man that penned the Creation date o’ four thousand and four years before the birth o’ the Savior onto the start o’ the Holy Book’, to which the Hedgely’s hastily countered that were God not to have had it so, he would have smote the hand of the amender, which put them in an anxious position regarding their masters’ reverence of traditionalism. This had then grown a bushel of disagreements, including the laborers’ stand that volcanoes were greatly exaggerated things – mere coal seam fires – and surely not evidence of some deep earthen furnace that motivated change from the Lord’s original intentions:

‘“The learned’s lust for boasting a catastrophic strength of a but gently puffing mountain is founded in a latent desire for tragic playwritin’ and self importance”, I says t’ ‘em, directly from the mouth of my master, which such a thing riled ‘em up so, that after an exchange o’ more impolite notions we took t’ the street t’ pink each other’s cheeks a bit more than the grog had done’.

Incidentally the phrase ‘framing such as a radical attack on Christian orthodoxy’, with regard to the work of the propaganda rag, The Balanced Scale, in the novel, brings to mind ‘Fair and Balanced’ Fox News’ War On Christmas theme (and variants of such) that is drummed up at this time of year.  Readers should also note that in the last quoted paragraph, there lies a bit of satire regarding modern climate denial propaganda which seeks to belittle those that are concerned with the long term costs of unregulated carbon pollution, often qualifying them as ‘Chicken Little’s with their radical notion of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming who seek popular attention and the money brought with it’, authored by those that consider short term reactions to problems to be more valuable than long term prophylaxis; they having not put much thought into the weight of this particular problem or suffer that it will not affect them personally to any significant degree.  However we will stray directly back to the goose we are chasing:

Firstly we will note that were we to place these fictional characters on our own history’s timeline, little has changed in the last two hundred years with regard to stoking the fire of tribalism in the lower classes for the purposes of political leverage; and the general effect of such is too preserved.  There was plenty of bruising to be had this year engendered by the enthusiasms shared by the Hilary’s and the Trump’s, secondary to the primarily negative messaging that was volleyed at and around each camp, naturally so concerning strategy, considering these were two of the most disliked politicians in recent history (or perhaps not so recent). Some of this occurred at rallies, some of it presented but randomly in the regular goings-on of the American day-to-day, and we had one anomalous case exemplifying how embellished and nuanced an ill sentiment can grow, where an armed man showed up at a local District of Columbia pizza shop with the intention of getting at the plum of a pedophile ring that Hillary was supposedly administrating there; this story fabricated not by the masters of mankind, but by the pawns themselves, thusly exemplifying the archetypal notion that there is little which cannot be presented as plausible to the ignorant, by the skillful sophistrist and storyteller, especially in the presence of a particular grudge.

Indeed in the last chapter of Of Woodbridge and Hedgely we have men than have become so attached to the propaganda they were initially fed (not unlike the Drain the Swamp/Brick & Mortar Mexican Wall proponents or their Russia Cost Hillary the Election counterparts), that they continue to both embrace and self generate ridiculous bits of fiction, in an effort to continue to preserve their flawed belief systems, even after adequate information has become available that definitively unmakes such.  Here is one explaining how all the town’s farmland is to be converted to greenhouses so that their political rival, Mr. Winter, can indirectly benefit from the money generated from the taxing of glazed windows – a feature of the tax policy at that particular time in England:

Glass House
An old estate glasshouse – supposedly the right farmer’s greatest rival according to partisan Hedgely’s

‘Sir, you know it to be true: In ten year’s time, there will be glasshouses all up and down the fields and the Moore’s and Winter’s will have lined their coffers with tax money from Cheltenham to Cirencester!’, cried one of the old fellows, uncommonly proud of his distrust of the said parties and the tax collector. And though the lass was a bit less trusting of this man – the counterarguments against him having always been more well thought out than his repetitive snippets of debate – she nodded her head affirmatively at the idea of glasshouses as far as the eye could see.

And one should observe as the conversation continues, the man continuously has to invent new flawed rationals to support the old ones, creating an exponential rise in ridiculousness upon every new level of support for such:

‘Oh Lord, here we are again; and again I will ask of you: Who would pay for such a thing?; ‘cause ain’t none of it cheap!’, returned another from the more sensible camp across the table.

‘Oh the parties in question will pay, for the taxes are just that compelling! Look at ‘em trying to bleed the ground out of a few more bushels of wheat! That’s a rich man’s greed for ya! And not only that, but there will be one in every cottage’s back yard that their tenants may garden all year ‘round; which’ll put all our right farmers out of work!’, the man insisted in as gushing a voice as could be exhibited without him being asked to move along by Mrs. Bagley or one of her men employed at the inn. His proposal was, by any reasonable man’s part, entirely fictional – indeed it conflicted within itself in that the first part required farmers, whilst the second destroyed them – yet it afforded him an ill temper as were it not, but something credibly to be worried upon; and such then did cause his opponent too to become more animated:

‘Unreasonable, sir! Our farmers provide for all the county and more, and one backyard glasshouse per cottage here could scarcely keep enough corn to make half of a loaf of bread a year for its tenant and their family, much the less that for all of Cheltenham or Gloucester!’

‘Oh?; and are you so naïve that you suppose they would stop building once the limits of our towns were achieved?’, the fellow queried, as if all there was to the art of argument was to continue to rabidly answer with ever more cynical and conspiratorial sentiments.  Indeed perceived truth and cynicism had so passionately embraced within him that he gloated in having brought – by his own consideration – such cleverness to their table.

Secondly, of course there are several distinctions between the propaganda of current events and that occurring in the novel, namely the latter is concerned with misinformation designed to confound acceptance of scientific truths/facts, authored by men in fear of what they perceived as an existential threat facilitated by these (paralleling the current attack on climate science by the fossil industry), whilst the former has more to do with two rival sides manufacturing untruths for political gain (sometimes targeting each other, sometimes targeting middle class wealth and livelihood on behalf of the establishment), exacerbated by disinformation agents whose living depends on creating outrageous headlines and content to opportunistically prey upon those inflicted with emotionally driven partisanism.  On another incidental note, regarding these arbiters of so called ‘fake news’ (as were the ‘real news’ that much cleaner), the presence of child or teen related rape propaganda directed at and redistributed by both factions does indeed work as a proxy measure for the present level of smoldering anger in the country.

And in closing (apologies on the abbreviated posting) we must always keep to mind that there is a lighthouse in this tempered sea of low quality information – the scientific method.  I will let Sir Humphry Davy close this day’s missive with the selfsame words he did in the novel concerning the effect of enlightenment in the pursuit of rigorous science:

There are sufficient motives connected with both pleasure and profit, to encourage ingenius men to pursue this new path of investigation. Science cannot long be despised by any persons as the mere speculation of theorists; but must soon be considered by all ranks of men in its true point of view, as the refinement of common sense, guided by experience, gradually substituting sound and rational principles, for vague popular prejudices…