An Apple iPad monitor in Istanbul displays the logos of well-known world brands. Photo: iStock
An Apple iPad monitor in Istanbul displays the logos of well-known world brands. Photo: iStock

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said that “they muddy the water to make it seem deep.” It is a paradox of propaganda, to make everything look so muddy that the masses start believing imagined conspiracy theories and the accusations leveled by the propagandists.

This is the case with almost every state where propaganda is used to control people’s conscious and subconscious. From the corporate joints selling brands to the regimes waging wars and imposing their agendas in and outside the country, all use propaganda to their own advantage.

The public relations pioneer Edward Bernays said, “If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it?”

The world today is being controlled and even the desires of the masses are manufactured. What you will like to wear, what you will like to eat, where you want to live, where you want to travel, which cellphone or laptop you want to buy, for whom you are willing to vote, everything is controlled through the manipulation of your subconscious. It actually is the control over minds that gives the corporate sector and political regimes legitimacy for waging wars, for selling wars, and to allow corporate entities to control the desires of the masses.

For example, Apple’s iPhone is a piece of brilliant technology and design but it is not the only phone, nor for that matter is the Samsung Galaxy series the only one offering the latest features – any cellphone can do it, but it is the power of branding that compels people to buy the iPhone or the Galaxy. It gives them the satisfaction that they have the purchasing power to acquire such costly wonders.

Political philosopher John Ralston Saul perfectly described this phenomenon by saying, “The age of reason has turned out to be the age of structure; a time when, in the absence of purpose, the drive for power as a value in itself has become the principal indicator of social approval. And the winning of power has become the measure of social merit.”

Getting social approval of their actions seems to be everything for the ordinary masses and they do not have the time to think that this social-approval mantra is created in their minds by corporate bigwigs. Likewise, the brands of patriotism and religion are being installed in people’s minds by the state and the groups working to attain power over the resources or to have a say in the policymaking of a state.

The great American dream of achieving prosperity, social and democratic liberty and to get equal opportunities for earning  has been linked to the safety and security of the US itself, and it is being turned into the dream of conquering the resources of other countries by waging war in the name of national security for the US. The people of  the US are so obsessed with this dream that they do not care that in order to keep this “branded” dream alive the US has demolished many other countries through direct and indirect wars.

The same is the case with Saudi monarchs, who use religion and the concept of Muslim ummah to serve their own interests. Saudi Arabia and Iran are both involved in proxy battles in different Muslim countries and faith is being sold as a brand so Muslims wage war against each other or against the West. US President Donald Trump selling racism and “save America” slogans is another example of how the masses are fooled into thinking about conceived threats that do not exist in reality.

We are living in an age where information is overflowing and yet it is still easy to control and manipulate minds

The entry of electronic and digital media has made things more complex as not everyone likes to analyze the information he is receiving from these media. We are living in an age where information is overflowing and yet it is still easy to control and manipulate minds.

The mainstream media with their corporate interests normally endorse state and corporate propaganda. Television programs on where to travel and where to stay during travel, and the current-affairs talk shows, are examples of promoting corporate and state interests.

Social media have created a whole new generation that is unaware of the difference between information and knowledge. Since fake news is a common phenomenon on social media, people easily fall victim to false information. This information they get from mainstream or social media creates their perceptions, and perception eventually shapes consent. The consent to buy, the consent to eat, the consent to vote – everything is controlled through the electronic and digital media.

This paradox of manipulating minds and manufacturing consent has created an imbalance, as there are regions like Syria, Yemen, Libya and Afghanistan that are sent back to the stone age by making these countries proxy battlefields. It is almost as if the blood of the people living in these poor countries is cheap compared with that of the people of the developed world.

Probably a man sitting in New York, in Toronto, or in any posh area of a war-free country will have no interest in knowing about the situations of these war-affected areas. Nor does he have any intent to harm them; but the sense of deprivation that is created in these war-affected areas or countries with extreme poverty creates a feeling of hatred between the person whose country is made a battleground and the person who thinks he is enjoying life by purchasing brands and living in a branded environment.

Perhaps both are prisoners, one to the sense of deprivation and insecurity as a result of a war and the other to the desires and wants that actually were never his own choice but were manufactured through propaganda.

The global elite busy manufacturing wars and turning the masses into consumers has turned this world into a place where only those with purchasing power can survive at the cost of less privileged masses and countries.

Liberals and conservatives are different sides of the same coin, busy accumulating wealth and resources. It is high time for the ordinary masses to realize that they were not born to consume brands, products, and ideologies. Perhaps the masses need to think about whether their desires and needs are their own or are being created in their minds by the state or by corporations through propaganda.

It is time to think beyond the paradox of set beliefs and pattern of thoughts and to judge whether the water is really deep or is being muddied to get control over them.

Imad Zafar

Imad Zafar is a journalist and columnist/commentator for newspapers. He is associated with TV channels, radio, newspapers, news agencies, and political, policy and media related think-tanks.

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