When something dramatic happens, we want to know what it means. We want answers to questions like: Why is it happening? How important is it? What will happen next? Where is it heading? What does it all mean?
In the mainstream narrative, the orthodox narrative, a clear meaning is always provided, right along with the news of the dramatic event itself. Like on the morning of 9/11, when the video of the explosions was first being shown, there was already a banner going across the screen: America under attack by Al Qaeda. And soon after: They want to destroy our democracy.
This prompt assignment of meaning to an event has an important psychological effect. The first plausible explanation someone hears tends to fix in the subconscious, and resists being displaced by later explanations. That’s why the orthodox meaning is provided promptly, is repeated endlessly, and is reinforced from a variety angles by the various media genre, such as news broadcasts, talk shows, official announcements, comedians, documentaries, interviews, newspapers, etc.
It is easy to see why followers of the mainstream media would consider themselves to be well informed citizens. On any big public topic, they know what it means, and from that framework they can discuss this or that development from a knowing perspective, with a sense of knowing what they’re talking about.
The world of the mainstream narrative is to a large extent a closed universe. Its stories and their meanings cover the whole scope of ‘what’s important’ and there’s no room for alternative explanations to find a place there. If a contrary explanation emerges from some non-mainstream source, there are many reasons why the explanation will be dismissed. First: ‘We already have an explanation for that’. Perhaps next: ‘Who are you that thinks you know better than the world’s experts?’ Every source that is non-mainstream is automatically suspect.
Because of its comprehensive explanatory framework, the mainstream narrative naturally defends itself against info-intrusions into its universe. That is to say, followers of the media tend to be quick in dismissing such intrusions. As if that weren’t enough to keep the universe closed, there are specific mechanisms — what we might call info-firewalls — that are carried as part of the orthodox narrative.
For many years now, ever since the JFK assassination, we’ve had the ‘conspiracy theory’ firewall. Any story that puts a contrary meaning on events is seen as a ‘conspiracy theory’, and conspiracy theorists, as we all know in the mainstream world, are a bit unbalanced, have authority issues, tend to be paranoid, need to get a life, etc. Not a place to go for useful information.
More recently, growing out of events involving Wikileaks and the last Presidential election, we now have a ‘fake news’ firewall. Right in the middle of the campaigns, Wikileaks came forward with information that by rights could have seen the Clintons and their foundation come under indictment for serious crimes. This obviously wasn’t going to happen in the real world of Washington politics, and a quick info-fix was needed. Instead of responding to or denying the leaks, they were simply branded with a fresh new term, ‘fake news’.
So the universe of the orthodox narrative is sealed tight, with strong defenses against contrary ideas, reinforced by firewall memes. This is why it’s impossible to discuss issues with a mainstream follower, if you have a contrary understanding of the meaning behind the events of the day. They don’t even want to hear what you have to say, because they know it will be either fake news or some conspiracy theory. Your attempt at info-intrusion can be received indeed as an insult, suggesting that the person isn’t well informed, and is in need coaching from arrogant you.
In the orthodox world big changes always come as a response to some unexpected crisis (e.g., Pearl Harbor, 9/11, WMDs, 2008 collapse, COVID-19). A crisis is identified, it is given a meaning, and changes are announced. And then another crisis comes along, and again we get big changes. Each crisis comes with its own little meaning story, unrelated to the meaning of the crisis that came before or the one that comes after. Society stumbles along, it seems, always responding to unexpected crises.
Each transformation society goes through is given a definite meaning, but no meaning is assigned to the sequence of transformations. There is no path being followed; we are not heading in any direction; there is no meaning in the combined effect of all the changes we’ve gone through. There can be no meaning in society’s trajectory, in the orthodox world, because in that world we know very well that the trajectory has been imposed on us by unexpected random crises. Any suggestion of some kind of direction, or path, will be automatically dismissed as paranoid fantasy — you are seeing patterns where none exist, a la Rorschach.
So that’s what we’re facing if we want to discuss anything with Orthodox media followers: a sealed-tight understanding of the world, including a perspective that sees historical change as a sequence of random events.
This is a solid edifice, Fort Orthodox. And the psyop mortar that binds it all together is control over meaning. That’s why meaning is introduced right away, even if it’s a mystery how they figured things out so quickly. And that’s why the meaning is repeated endlessly, via multiple info-genres, and is kept alive thereafter. No one ever refers back to the events of 9/11 without including the phrase, terrorist attack.
Declaring a meaning is much easier than trying to prove the truth of that meaning with data and arguments. If every voice in the mediaverse starts repeating with confidence the same meaning, it will quickly sink in to the follower as something that ‘everyone knows’. Of course there will also be arguments and evidence presented, but this need not go beyond the cursory. Since followers are already sure about the meaning, the Why, they need very little in the way of evidence in order for them to feel that the meaning has been adequately verified.
Thus arguments about evidence have little impact on Fort Orthodox. An articulate follower might respond: ‘Not only has your evidence been debunked, by trusted fact checkers, but the official story was proven — wasn’t there some kind of 9/11 Commission and some article in Popular Mechanics? I didn’t bother with the technical details myself, no need. The experts are dealing with all that, and I don’t want to talk about it with you.’
Thus the whole power of Fort Orthodox stands on one tactic: the prompt implantation of a declared meaning deep into the psyche of the follower, followed by ongoing comprehensive reinforcement. This powerful tactic makes the job of info-propaganda much easier, as the follower is only looking for verifications, for rationalizations, not proof. With meaning firmly and promptly established, the media can focus right away on promoting the actions that are required by that meaning, by that orthodox declaration of what it’s all about, e.g., terrorist attack, Novichok, deadly pandemic, etc.
Whereas Fort Orthodox is a closed bubble of information and meaning, with a clear explanation for everything, there exists outside that bubble a wider world of open-source information and meaning, available on the Internet, with a wide variety of explanations on offer for everything.
In order to be a ‘well-informed’ citizen of the orthodox world, you need only to sit down, turn on the TV or open your newspaper, and absorb. Becoming a well-informed citizen of the real world, by making use of what’s available open-source, is a much more challenging undertaking. You must rely on your own judgment, your ability to discriminate between wheat and chaff, and your ability to make overall sense of what you learn.
I’ve been doing my best to be a well-informed citizen, using open sources, for many years now. I’ve found this process to be a journey, never reaching any final ‘land of truth’, but each step in the journey peeling away one more layer from the onion of meaning. Not only are there deeper meanings for specific events, than those offered in the orthodox world, but there are meanings that tie events together, that reveal directions and paths in society’s trajectory.
No way does society proceed by responding spontaneously to unexpected crises, as orthodoxy would have it. The declared and implanted meanings found in the orthodox world are among the earliest layers of the onion to be peeled away. Those meanings never were intended to stand up to scrutiny, as their means of being implanted was based on psychological processes and repetition, not on the availability of persuasive evidence. For example, with 9/11, if you look at all deeply into the evidence, it soon becomes apparent that the orthodox meaning, terrorist attack, makes no sense — Muslims in planes could not possibly be what caused the twin towers to collapse into molten steel and dust at free-fall speed.
So we have a real world, with real meanings behind events, and an orthodox world, a matrix world, whose illusions are maintained by a universe of implanted meanings. Whereas the implanted meanings are very resistant to outside influences, as we have seen, they are at the same time very fragile, if ever evidence might become relevant to the conversation.
However conversations of any significant kind are nearly impossible across the boundary of the orthodox bubble. Each side sees itself as being well-informed, and the other to be misinformed. Neither sees the other’s viewpoint as worthy of serious consideration. Both parties in such an exchange feel that their well-informed knowledge is not being respected, and that their attempts to point out obvious facts are being dismissed out of hand. Such conversations, if attempted at all, soon sputter to a stop, succumbing to frustration and annoyance.
If there are to be useful conversations across the bubble, a way must be found for the two parties to approach one another with respect, and a kind of conversation needs to be found, where the two parties could genuinely listen to one another.
As regards respect, it is important that we recognize that it is quite understandable that an intelligent, critically thinking person, can feel quite well-informed in the mainstream world. They get explanations for everything, and they hear the same message from many different authoritative voices. Why should they doubt what ‘everyone knows’ to be true? We need to respect that such a person is doing their sincere best to be a well-informed citizen, and we need to show our respect in how we talk to them.
As regards listening, that is where we could do a whole lot better. It is so easy to immediately reject ideas we know to be wrong. It is possible, however, to listen to what is said, to acknowledge understanding it, and to respond with something other than a contradiction. Perhaps a request for clarification, or perhaps a question, Have you ever considered such and such possibility? The point is that if you don’t do any respectful listening, or respectful responding, you won’t get very far in a conversation. And if you show respect, you might get some respect back. You are both, in fact, seeking to be well-informed citizens. You have at least that goal available as a common ground for conversation.
Conversations across the divide must happen somehow — we cannot just turn away from Fort Orthodox — because there is a path that society is following, there is a direction, and where it is heading is really not a place any of us would like to be. The orthodox majority is being led down a garden path, with each step disguised as a crisis response. Somehow we must find ways to break through the bubble’s meaning barrier, or else humanity will follow blindly down the path, like lambs to the slaughter.
This article originally appeared on Richard's Cyberjournal, August 22, 2020.
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