Faking It At the End of History, II

I left off the last post on “the culture of lying” and the practice of faking it with the suggestion that we need to understand how and why the culture of lying and Mr. Herzog’s ubiquitous “B.S. Factor” originated. This seems necessary following the premiss that we don’t know where we are going unless we know where we have been. If there is a resolution to the crisis of our time (which is fundamentally a crisis of consciousness and concomitantly also a crisis of values and truth) then we have to know how this situation came about. For we are now well into Nietzsche’s prophesied “two centuries of nihilism”.

Mr. Herzog wants to trace the roots of what he calls our “Great Semantic Crash” to the invention of the atomic bomb. Presumably, this is on the basis of Lord Acton’s premiss that “power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” While there is some truth to Mr. Herzog’s association of the splitting of the atom with the disintegration of the individual and society, the crisis has deeper historical roots, which are equally deeper psychic roots. In some ways, there isn’t really much difference between what we call “psyche” and what we call “history”, since history is better understood as our autobiography. This is, in part, what St. Augustine intends by his statement that “time is of the soul” and what historian Jean Gebser means by “the ever-present origin”. Self-overcoming and transcending history are one and the same.

Unfortunately, this was not understood by the (then) neo-conservative Mr. Fukuyama when he penned his early essay, and later book, The End of History and the Last Man. Jean Gebser would have recognised this also as the product of “deficient rationality”.

If historical signposts are wanted for how we have descended into the dark side — the shadow of the European Enlightenment — my money for the most part is on the discovery of systematically organised propaganda during the First World War, along with other nefarious weapons of mass destruction. We are still struggling with the consequences of this event, and the practice of what is now called “perception management” is one of those consequences. Hitler blamed Germany’s defeat not on the superior numbers, weaponry, and compelling force of arms of the allies, but on their more effective use of propaganda — a lesson he learned well. And it wasn’t long after the World War that allied propagandists turned their attention from disorganising the external enemy to organising the “internal enemy” — public opinion — with the argument that just as propaganda had been effective in winning the war, it would be equally necessary for the task of organising the peace. This was the argument that the first grand theorist of “democratic propaganda” (and nephew of Sigmund Freud), Mr. Edward Bernays, proposed in his very important 1928 book simply entitled Propaganda.

Still, the systematic organisation of propaganda during the World War was preceded by, and relied upon, the rise of the modern corporation in the late 19th century and the growth of corporate advertising and “public relations”. The late Australian sociologist, Alex Carey, made the connection explicitly when he observed, 

 

“The twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.” (Taking the Risk Out of Democracy)

 

Another consequence of the First World War was that the industrialisation of mass slaughter required a corresponding economic means of organising industrial scale war, and so the industrial corporation became more central to the political process and an important strategic instrument for the organisation of national power and for prosecution of war. The beginnings of the military-industrial complex, and the corporate-state nexus (or “private-public partnership” as it is euphemistically called today), also lie in the First World War.

We could take this back an additional step, for there is a most interesting pattern and progression to the history of propaganda. The social and political propaganda of today is preceded by the war propaganda of the Great War, which is preceded by the commercial propaganda of the corporation, and these are all preceded by the religious propaganda of the Church. There are four facets to what we call “propaganda”, and this reflects the fact that Man is a fourfold being. For propaganda to be truly effective and encompassing, it must surround the human being and society completely and without being obvious. And since Man (and society) is a multiform and multidimensional being of mind, body, soul, and spirit, a truly encompassing propaganda must shape man and society on these four existential fronts — the past and the future, and the inner and the outer.

 

The word “propaganda,” in its contemporary usage, begins with the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide, the Church department responsible for “the propagation of the faith”. The secularisation of religious thought and theological categories that occurred during the Reformation, which process Max Weber also highlighted in his well-known The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, also applied to the secularisation of religious propaganda. Just as each of our contemporary political ideologies — liberalism, conservatism, socialism, communism, anarchism — have their origins in theological controversies and schisms stemming from the Protestant Reformation, so does propaganda as a means of gaining, maintaining, and organising adherents. Contemporary political, commercial, and social propaganda has its roots in evangelism. The whole process of what we call “secularisation” was actually only a translation of theological and ecclesiastical forms and categories into worldly or secular terms, which still bear the signs and traces of their theological origins in controversies over the proper interpretation of the Gospels. All the contemporary political ideologies — liberalism, conservatism, socialism, communism, anarchism — were originally Christian sects. The secular ideologies are like shrapnel flying or radiating in different directions from one central theological explosion called “Lutheran Revolution”.

(When Karl Marx decided to make socialism “scientific”, it was precisely because he wanted to secularise socialism by bringing it out of the stream of theology and religion and into the realm of history — as “historical materialism”. But he certainly couldn’t disguise its origins in theology. He simply overlooked it. That omission was rectified by Max Weber. But the fingerprints of Marx’s Protestant background as a Jewish Lutheran — the very embodiment of “Judeo-Christian”, especially in the near mystical writings of the “young Marx” — are all over the philosophy of historical materialism).

What makes “the Fake Factor” ubiquitous, though, is not the atomic bomb, but the mass media — print, film, radio, television — which today surround and bombard the senses from all sides. In this context, Marshall McLuhan probably has more pertinent things to say about our post-modern condition than Karl Marx.

Rosenstock-Huessy gave a nod to our post-modern condition when he commented that both Hegel and Marx — nationalism and communism — had been check-mated by the World Wars, and merely hang around like lost causes — zombies. The so-called “New Left” and “New Right” are, in some ways, acknowledgements of this and even reactionary attempts to recover and reconstitute their relevance. In fact, all the “neos” of neo-liberalism, neo-conservatism, and neo-socialism are essentially this. Despite their rhetoric, they are all post-modern political reactions and configurations. Their alleged “newness” as political innovations is also part of “faking it at the end of history”.

Zombies also fake being alive and vital when in fact, the soul and spirit have long departed the form.

For Herzog, the “Fake Factor” is, of course, more than propaganda, and propaganda itself has become but a branch of what is now called “perception management” more broadly. What Herzog wants to say is that what we call “culture” has become profoundly mendacious.

There are reasons for this, and it has much to do with the decline and exhaustion of the Modern Era — the last 500 years. In this post, I’ve only wanted to touch upon some of the background to the development. In the next post, I want to explore some of the reasons for this decline of the Age of Reason and of Enlightenment standards along the place of “faking it” and Herzog’s “Fake Factor” within that process.

6 responses to “Faking It At the End of History, II”

  1. amothman33 says :

    I hope you cover what Herzog mean by the b.s. factor,and what b and s stand for, in your next post.I donot like to leave the world crying as I entered it crying.

    • Scott says :

      Ah, yes… BS is short for “bullshit”, a colloquialism that covers every form of lying you can think of. Take the different forms of lying: mendacity, prevarication, dissembling, hypocrisy, dissimulation, disingenuousness, phoniness, hyperbole, etc, etc. Well, not too many people have studied the forms of lying and untruthfulness and discern between them, but they can sense falsehood when they hear it or “smell a rat”. “Bullshit” covers all of them, so you can’t miss. So, if you sense you are being deceived, but can’t name the deception by name, call it “bullshit” and you can’t miss. Herzog calls the “BS Factor” all forms of “faking it”, and he invents names for quite a few ways of faking it in his book… not all of them useful.

  2. amothman33 says :

    Donot you think he is faking?

    • Scott says :

      Who? Mr. Herzog or Mr. Haggard? Good question, though. Is the situation as bad — as “ubiquitous” — as Herzog believes? Rosenstock-Huessy put the same question about the situation of “speech disease” even before Mr. Herzog posed it. So, I don’t think so. There are too many noticing the same thing and asking the same question: “how can society survive this tower of Babel?”

    • Scott says :

      Actually, I take that last comment back… The situation is as bad as Herzog believes. After I posted that last comment, I went through my mental inventory of clear examples of Late Modern “deficiencies”, and they add up to a sorry situation indeed, the anticipated outcome of which I’ve taken to calling “The Big Ugly”.

      On the other hand…. there is another possible explanation, and a strange one. It is quite possible that the social situation of “muddling through” has not changed all that much, but that certain people (perhaps Herzog) are becoming more sensitized to truth — new truth — and that this sensitivity that finds the old ways irritating, outrageous, and mendacious corresponds to Gebser’s “irruption” of a new consciousness structure, and that the old ways have become intolerable to this new consciousness structure that is emerging. To such a mutating consciousness, the old ways might seem to be degenerate and decadent, whereas maybe they haven’t changed that much at all — still muddling through. In that case, it would be the perceiving consciousness that is changing or mutating, and which now surveys an historical social landscape — modernity — that now appears completely insufferable and intolerable.

      On the third hand… (if you have three hand or “the third eye”), both may be true, and this becomes an even greater challenge to unravel. Naturally, to an old consciousness structure, the birth of a new consciousness structure in its midst would seem like deviance, subversiveness, or nihilism, while the old ways would appear to the new as degenerate, decadent, and deceitful.

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