Symbolic seduction: Women’s rights, partisan politics, ethnocentrism and “American narcissism”

Global Research, February 03, 2017
Edward_Bernays

In 1929, Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud’s nephew, U.S./CIA war and coup propagandist, and the founder of public relations, conducted a successful mind-manipulation experiment for the tobacco industry. 

In those days there was a taboo against women smoking in public, and Bernays was hired to change that. 

He consulted a psychiatrist, A. A. Brill, who told him that cigarettes represented the penis and were a symbol of male power.  

If women could be tricked into smoking, then they would unconsciously think they “had” their own penises and feel more powerful. 

It was irrational, of course, but it worked. Bernays had, in his words, “engineered the consent” of women through symbolic prestidigitation. 

The age of the image was launched.

He did this by having a group of women hide cigarettes under their clothes at a Big Easter parade in New York.  At a signal from Bernays, they took out and lit up what he called “torches of freedom” (based on the Statue of Liberty).

The press had been notified in advance and dutifully photographed and reported the story.  The New York Times headline for April Fool’s Day 1929 was entitled “Group of Girls Puff at Cigarettes as a Gesture of Freedom.” 

This fake news story made cigarettes socially acceptable for women, and sales and advertising to them increased dramatically.

The institutional power structures smiled and continued on their merry way.  Women were no freer or more powerful, but they felt they were.

A symbolic taboo was breached as women were bamboozled.  Image triumphed over reality.

We have moved on from the symbol of the penis to that of the “pussy,” and now the symbol is displayed openly as an ironic postmodern spectacle in the form of a sea of pussyhats.

And the fake news stories continue apace; the mind manipulators labor on and are still successful.

Genitalia remain the rage.  In the 1920s there was no overt talk of the penis; the idea then was that there was an unconscious association that could sway women to smoke.  Today subtlety is gone.  “Pussy” power is out there, cutely symbolized by pink pussyhats (see image below), promoted by a group called the Pussyhat Project that on its website praises the Washington Post and the New York Times for their “high quality journalism” and “integrity.”  “In the midst of fake news sites,” the Pussyhat Project claims, “we need high quality journalism more than ever….newspapers that have integrity….[that] can continue reporting the truth” – i.e. the Times and the Post.

By “truth” and “integrity” do the women running the site mean that the Russians are behind Trump’s election, Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and there are 200 or so alternative websites that repeat Russian propaganda, a few of the lies reported by these papers of “integrity”?  Or do the Pussyhat women have something else in mind?

Most women demonstrators who marched against Trump were no doubt well intentioned within their limited perspective.  At the call of organizers, they were roused from their long liberal naps.  Reacting to Trump’s gross comments about “grabbing pussy” – sick words, macho aggressive in their meaning – they donned their pink hats, made signs, and took their newly awakened outrage to the streets.  Rightly disgusted by being verbally assaulted and afraid that their reproductive rights and services were threatened, they pounced like tigers on their verbal attacker.  Massive, very well organized, media friendly marches and demonstrations followed.  It was a hit parade.

Yet as others have forcefully written, something is amiss here. During the Obama years of endless wars, drone killings, the jailing of whistleblowers, including Chelsea Manning, etc., these demonstrators were silent and off the streets.

A large number of the women (if not the vast majority) who marched against Donald Trump – and the recent women’s marches can only be described as anti-Trump marches – were Hilary Clinton supporters, whether they would describe their votes as “the lesser of two evils” or not.  Thus, opposition to Trump’s aggressive statements toward “pussy” was implicit support for Clinton’s and Obama’s “feminism.”  In other words, it was support for a man and a woman who didn’t publicly talk aggressively about women’s genitals, but committed misogynist and misandrist actions by killing  thousands of women (and men and children) all over the world, and doing it with phallic shaped weapons.  Trump will probably follow suit, but that possibility was not the impetus for the marches.  The marches centered on Trump’s misogynist, macho language, and his threats to limit women’s access to health services – i.e. family planning and abortion.

Since the women who recently marched didn’t march against Obama and his Secretary of State Clinton while they slaughtered foreigners (others) and Clinton exulted at the sodomized killing of Muammar Gaddafi, it is quite clear the focus of their anger was a sense of personal outrage at Trump’s insulting remarks.

Where were they these last eight years?

Mike Whitney recently said it perfectly.

“They were asleep. Weren’t they?  Because liberals always sleep when their man is in office, particularly if their man is a smooth-talking cosmopolitan snake-charmer like Obama who croons about personal freedom and democracy while unleashing the most unspeakable violence on civilians across the Middle East and Central Asia….No one seems to care when an articulate bi-racial mandarin kills most people of color, but when a brash and outspoken real estate magnate takes over the reigns of power, then ‘watch out’ because here comes the protesters, all three million of them!”

Obviously partisan politics, self-interest, hypocrisy, and incredible ethnocentrism are involved. Would women’s marches have occurred if Hillary Clinton had been elected?  Of course not.  She would have been applauded and regaled as the first woman president, and her war-mongering history against women and men would have been excused and supported into the future, just as Obama’s has been.

This is liberal war porn by default; complicity through silence.

“Hands off my pussy.”  “My pussy bites back.”  These are funny repartees to Trump’s comments, but they are totally ineffectual and harmless.  Trump’s objectives are larger, as were Obama’s and Clinton’s.  Symbolic protests attract attention, but result in the stasis of structural power arrangements, or worse.   Edward Bernays’  “torches of freedom” campaign resulted in more women smoking, more disease, and more profits for the tobacco companies.  He preyed on the gullible.  What was learned?

The Pussyhat Project resulted in a sea of pink adorned women and made for colorful images.  Images, Daniel Boorstin wrote in his prescient 1960 book, The Image , were the future.  That future is now.  The language of images is everywhere, and it is tied to what Boorstin termed “pseudo-events” and our “demand for the illusions with which we deceive ourselves.”

Symbolically wearing your genitals on your head is surely an arresting image, but it is misplaced and duplicitous when one has not opposed the systematic brutality of the American empire’s ravaging around the world under Obama and Clinton.

Boorstin argued that this world of images would displace our ability to think clearly and understand the ways we were being manipulated.  An image, he said, was “synthetic, believable, passive, vivid, simplified, and ambiguous.”  Contrived and appealing to the senses – there are no pink pussycats as far as I know – they side-step thought and cannot, strictly speaking, be unmasked.  “An image, like any other pseudo-event, becomes all the more interesting with our every effort to debunk it.”  The contrivance of the image and our knowledge of its ingenuity – e.g. pussyhats – convince us that we are smart to be taken in, even when we’re not.  It’s interesting to note that the word image (Latin, imago) is related to the word imitate (Latin, imatari).  It’s as though certain images can serve as mirrors (“to mirror” being cognate with “to imitate”) in which we can see and mimic ourselves, “though we like to pretend we are seeing someone else.”  And seeing our images in the images, we can imitate ourselves in an endless cycle of self-love and navel gazing.  Selfie culture has triumphed.  The society of the spectacle marches on.

The focus on genital imagery is a reflection of American narcissism, an inward gazing, while out “there,” others are being slaughtered by our masters of war.  This is the start of a pink color revolution.

Edward Bernays would be proud.

Guatemala’s current situation can be traced back to the 1954 CIA-led coup. U.S. guidebook on political assassination

Part II of Why Americans Should Closely Watch Unfolding Events in Guatemala

By Prof. Edward Curtin
Global Research, October 08, 2015
Who.What.Why. 7 October 2015

For the first part in this two-part series, go here.

Guatemala’s current situation and tragic history can be traced back to the CIA-led coup in 1954 that ousted the democratically elected government of President Jacobo Arbenz and installed the military dictator Carlos Armas. Arbenz was an advocate for land reform and was loved by the poor. The wealthy hated him. And when the CIA couldn’t bribe him, they ousted him in a most humiliating way. Even after he went into exile, the agency used constant disinformation to smear him in every way imaginable until his strange death in a bathtub in 1971.

Since the 1954 coup, and with the ongoing support of the CIA and the School of the Americas (SOA), the Guatemalan people have lived a nightmare. What follows should give you a sense of the CIA’s thinking behind the coup and its aftermath. It is a transcription of a CIA document released to The National Security Archive, a research institute, on May 23, 1997 under a Freedom of Information Act request.

A hammer, axe, wrench, screwdriver, fire poker, kitchen knife, lamp stand, or anything hard, heavy and handy will suffice.” For an assassin using “edge weapons,” the manual notes in cold clinical terms, “puncture wounds of the body cavity may not be reliable unless the heart is reached.

United Fruit Company Building. Photo credit: Michael Bentley / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

United Fruit Company Building. Photo credit: Michael Bentley / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

“A Study of Assassination,” unsigned, undated:

Among the documents found in the training files of Operation PBSUCCESS and declassified by the Agency is a “Study of Assassination.” A how-to guide book in the art of political killing, the 19-page manual offers detailed descriptions of the procedures, instruments, and implementation of assassination. “The simplest local tools are often much the most efficient means of assassination,” counsels the study. “A hammer, axe, wrench, screwdriver, fire poker, kitchen knife, lamp stand, or anything hard, heavy and handy will suffice.” For an assassin using “edge weapons,” the manual notes in cold clinical terms, “puncture wounds of the body cavity may not be reliable unless the heart is reached…. Absolute reliability is obtained by severing the spinal cord in the cervical region.” The manual also notes that to provide plausible denial, “no assassination instructions should ever be written or recorded.” Murder, the drafters state, “is not morally justifiable,” and “persons who are morally squeamish should not attempt it.”

“President Arbenz delivers on his promise — Farmers: here is your land. Defend it, care for it, cultivate it.” (1954) One of a series of photos by Cornell Capa, documenting the sweet,short-lived dream of life under a democracy. Photo credit: Cornell Capa

“President Arbenz delivers on his promise — Farmers: here is your land. Defend it, care for it, cultivate it.” (1954) One of a series of photos by Cornell Capa, documenting the sweet,short-lived dream of life under a democracy. Photo credit: Cornell Capa

No, this dirty work is not for the “morally squeamish.”

If one is searching for the truth about the coup, the document above is accurate and revealing. However, if one searched the web and discovered a posting at globalsecurty.org (see sidebar at the end of the article) one would be misled. That posting is nothing more than a summary of a Congressional Research Service report. It never mentions Guatemala, although it includes other Latin American countries — Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, and Peru. A gullible reader might come away with the impression that the School of the Americas had nothing to do with Guatemala, when, in fact, it had a great deal to do with it. Why leave out this country in particular?

Could it be that GlobalSecurity.org is unfamiliar with documents such as the one described above? Is it one of those glib sites that posts articles that do not give the full picture, even if inadvertently? Or is it a site that presents disinformation? The web is filled with questionable information, so one must proceed skeptically.

Those interested in the truth must probe much deeper, but that is difficult as the following account of the propagandist Edward Bernays makes clear.

From PR to “The Engineering of Consent”

The 1954 coup d’etat was ably assisted by American Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud’s nephew, who is often called the “father of public relations.” He is barely known to the general public and is part of our secret history. A war propagandist for the US during World War I, Bernays used his propaganda techniques — now called PR — to “engineer the consent” of the American people on behalf of the power elite.

Leading up to the 1954 coup, he was the chief propagandist for The United Fruit Company and in that capacity created a vast media campaign painting the Arbenz government as communist and in cahoots with the U.S.S.R.

This was the height of the Cold War, and the American government was consumed with using anti-communist and anti-Soviet rhetoric to defend its spheres of interest; for a long time the American government, in conjunction with American corporations, had considered Latin America and the Caribbean their de facto colonies.

The United Fruit Company — now Chiquita Brands International — was an American corporation that had controlled vast tracts of land and numerous businesses in Guatemala and throughout Latin America since the early 1900s. The company was known for its support of dictators and the exploitation of the people and the land.

Intimately linked to the power elite within the US government, United Fruit extracted huge profits and rejected any reforms that challenged its control of the land. It was the largest landholder and employer in Guatemala. It owned railroads and discouraged the building of highways. It had long controlled Guatemala’s politicians. It’s power was so extensive that one historian compares it to the Dutch East India Company in its influence. It’s shareholders and supporters were amply distributed throughout the foreign policy establishment in the US.

As US Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler made clear in 1935, the US military was used to deal with any resistance to American corporations’ business interests overseas. Guatemala is a case study in this regard. President Arbenz’s land reform act of 1952Decree 900 — expropriated rural farm land, 70 per cent of which was in the hands of 2 percent of the landowners, including vast acreage controlled by United Fruit but, significantly, only land not under cultivation by the company. The land was redistributed to poor peasants. The owners ( who included Arbenz himself) were to be compensated at fair market value.

But this arrangement was not acceptable to United Fruit or their backers in Washington. The American Ambassador to Guatemala, John Peurifoy (CIA Director Allen Dulles’s handpicked man), then tried to bribe Arbenz with a $2 million payoff to terminate the land reforms.

Arbenz refused, and his overthrow was set in motion by the CIA. Bernays was called upon to present the land redistribution as a communist takeover and a threat to US national security. His media propaganda campaign, presenting Arbenz as a communist in league with the USSR, together with the CIA’s additional propaganda, created the justification for the CIA-led coup.

What wasn’t revealed at the time was that the Eisenhower administration had intimate ties to United Fruit. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles had represented United Fruit at his law firm Sullivan and Cromwell, and his brother, Allen Dulles, the CIA chief in charge of the 1954 coup, once sat on United Fruit’s board of directors and had also done legal work for them. Both brothers had large financial stakes in the company. Such clear-cut conflicts of interest were not an anomaly within the Eisenhower administration. Many other administration officials were connected in one way or another to United Fruit. Bernays’s propaganda, using anti-communist rhetoric, served perfectly the interests of his conjoined clients — United Fruit and the CIA. As a result of Dulles’s and Bernays’s machinations, hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans were eventually massacred

The excellent documentary by Adam Curtis, The Century of Self, documents Bernays’s profound and largely pernicious influence on American life with a section specifically devoted to his propaganda efforts on behalf of the 1954 coup. Today’s “mainstream media” has learned a lot from Bernays, so if one wishes to see through the vast amount of propaganda and dissimulation in current news coverage, learning about Bernays is crucial.

The recent arrest of Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina on corruption charges cannot be understood except within the larger context of US interference in Latin American countries going back more than a century. And that record of US meddling in Central and South America has been largely left out of official histories of the United States.

The rise of the CIA to virtually unchallenged supremacy in Washington’s power structure is but one part of this backstory. Peter Dale Scott, who has written voluminously on the subject, calls this phenomenon of a de facto shadow government hidden behind the public facade while serving corporate interests, “the deep state.” This secretive power elite, through its decades-long support of coups and death squads in Guatemala, has linked that country’s fate inextricably to US interests and policies.

***

Sometimes even when the mind knows and assents, the heart stays frozen. But music, like poetry, can often break the ice within. Here is the acclaimed singer and former Panamanian reform presidential candidate Ruben Blades, singing a song from his album, Nothing but the Truth. The song is called “In Salvador,” but his words could apply to what goes on in many Latin American countries. The “regular guys” of Ruben’s song are often death squad killers, “made in America” at the “School of the Assassins.”

http://www.globalresearch.ca/guatemalas-current-situation-can-be-traced-back-to-the-1954-cia-led-coup-us-guide-book-on-political-assassination/5480546