The fact that governments have always used suggestion to exercise power is nothing new. At the start of the 21st Century however, that form of suggestion is getting less subtle, not more. Here we look at how two very different dictators manage it.
I left the United Kingdom and moved to South Africa the same year Blair got into power. Watching him from a distance I cannot help but notice the similarities between the Blair Private Eye magazine calls the Vicar of St. Albion and that other great philanthropist, Josef Vissarionovich, Man of Steel, or Uncle Joe to his friends.
Of course Blair smiles a lot more, sucks up to Bush a lot more and has managed to resist the temptation of installing forced labour camps or growing a moustache, but the real parallels are far more subtle. When Joseph Stalin wasn’t busy murdering millions of his own countrymen, he always tried (and succeeded) to present himself as a modest genius. Stalin may have been General Secretary, but at the Communist Party Congress, he would sit quietly on the second row and not in the seat in the centre of the front row which was reserved for him. Thus, the great dictator became loved by the people, leaving him free to murder even more millions of them with alacrity – this being a perfect example of indirect suggestion. False modesty is always effective as a good manipulator of other souls, and Blair always comes across as exceedingly modest.
Of course he has occasionally allowed himself the odd self-congratulatory moment; the day he walked into Downing Street and shook the hands of his supporters (carefully placed along both sides of the street by the New Labour spin machine) is the first example, but then I suppose this is only to be expected and even forgiven. But the thing that has always impressed me about the smiling narcissist called Prime Minister is his ability to put forward an agenda which is not always immediately apparent. Whether he is conscious of this behaviour or not can only ever be a matter of conjecture – only he truly knows, and in either case he is unlikely ever to admit it. There is often a deeper (and sometimes more sinister) message that underlies his tear-jerking, faux-sincere, man of the people pulpit delivery, which the more cynical amongst us may have already spotted.
Towards the inevitable end of his political career, Blair adopted a nasty habit of mentioning any newsworthy event in America at every opportune moment. So when Blair tells a suitably hushed Parliament that the thoughts and prayers of the British People are with those who died as a result of the latest college shooting spree (an increasingly popular sport in America) most people would take that seemingly heartfelt tribute at face value. The real message however is a million times (or a million dollars) more subtle, and it is this; ‘I know that this section of my speech will be shown on primetime TV News in America… there… that should bump up the fees for the inevitable lecture tour a little…. Well, every little bit helps!
He knew he was to leave Downing Street and was keen to establish ‘the Blair legacy.’ He had a brief flirtation with climate change before deciding on Middle East Peace Envoy, which is a supreme Irony as he is in part responsible for bombing several hundred thousand Middle Easterners to kingdom come. But in this case, ‘the Blair legacy’ will definitely include a lucrative lecture tour of the United States, an undertaking that will almost certainly make him several million dollars and plump up his Prime Ministerial pension. Now we know how he was able to get a loan for that £3 million mansion.
Still, the point is that Blair always got his own way. Any member of the Politburo, sorry, cabinet foolish enough to disagree with his views either resigned or was forced to resign (sacked.) Stalin treated errant members of the central Committee with equal generosity (most of them were shot.)
It is unlikely that the Blair years will be remembered for anything other than the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The war on terror is like the war with Oceania in Orwell’s 1984; an invisible foe is far more terrifying than a visible one. The war on terror has been a perfect replacement for the war on Communism – both are equally scary and fear of the common enemy helps to keep the population in line. The threat posed by Al Qaida is insignificant compared to the former threat of the Russian nuclear arsenal, yet our lives have changed immeasurably more than they did in the Cold War, when the only real inconvenience was the possibility that we might have to watch a public information film telling us where to shelter when the mushroom clouds started sprouting. The war on terror has had another effect on society which has gone unreported and unnoticed. It has created employment. Tens of thousands of people who were previously too dim to get a job in McDonalds are now employed at airports and the like as ‘security.’ This is brilliant. They have been taken off the dole and turned into tax-payers in one fell swoop and the cost has been passed on to the passenger. That’s right; the cost of an airfare has risen by approximately only 85p per person. No wonder other nations have adopted the system!
But wait! What about the weapons of mass destruction Blair insisted were a real threat? What about the claim that Saddam Hussein could launch an attack on Britain at forty-five minutes notice? I think we all accept by now that there were never any weapons of mass destruction in the first place and that we were led by the nose up the garden path and into a war that no one really wanted.
Nonetheless, Blair gets out of this tight corner by falling back on one of the oldest (and most pathetic) excuses there is. “Because it was the right thing to do” he pleads from his tight corner. “We had to do it, because it was the right thing to do” he would say, repeatedly, regardless of any disagreement or tough questioning about his policy of ignoring the democratic wishes of his own party or the wishes of the proletariat… sorry, the voters. “Because it was the right thing to do” is the fall-back position of someone who is devoid of any reasonable justification and he got away with it countless times. Blair ran the cabinet more like the Central Committee of the Politburo rather than the democratic institution it was supposed to be. But then Blair is a manipulative, narcissistic, mass murderer, so it was only to be expected.
In hypnosis, repetition of an idea always works in the long run. Frequent repetition of the same or similar ideas cause those ideas to stick in the mind. When those ideas are repeated against the background of emotional shock, as they were after the attacks of September 11th, then they become instantly more powerful. Blair is a frequent repeater of ideas and he frequently gets emotional which adds gravitas.
Stalin said that when a lie is repeated often enough, it soon becomes accepted as the truth. Blair’s famous Security Services dossier on Saddam Hussain’s Weapons of Mass Destruction is a case in point, owing as it did, more to government spin than fact. Years after the report was found to be false, Bliar still refers to it as if it was the Gospel Truth. Every time, without fail. Well, the war is an obvious one, but there are many other policies that Blair has instigated “because it was the right thing to do.” That phrase is not just reserved for foreign military adventures.
The terrible two, Bush and Blair, have yet another trick up their sleeves – they add to the dogmatism of Western ideology that most dangerous and abused of all ideologies, religion – in this instance, the Christian religion. This is guaranteed to win the sympathy of white middle class voters unlikely to find themselves in the sights of smart-bombs, whilst at the same time guaranteed to offend worshippers of a different kind of religion (you know the one I’m talking about.) Since leaving Downing Street, Tony Blair has quietly converted to become a Roman Catholic. Whether or not this will save him from an eternity of torment in Hell is anyone’s guess, but let’s hope not.
Blair is a politician and we all accept that politicians lie to us. What makes this particular politician different is the methodology behind the lies.
Before becoming a professional revolutionary, Stalin studied for the priesthood in his native Georgia. He remarked that “the priests always understand what people want.” Stalin soon converted to atheism but admitted that the techniques used by the priests were immeasurably useful when it came to running the Soviet Union. Blair also utilises some of these techniques; iconic gesturing, the use of metaphor, the image of a man always in a hurry, trying to get the job done, and the perennial grin of the nice guy.
Above all, Blair understands the real meaning of democracy. Again, I quote Stalin; “It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”
“Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas?” (Stalin.) Here’s another; “Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.” (Stalin.) New Labour spin has neatly taken care of both these maxims.
Bush and Blair have subtly forced upon the West a new kind of ideology inspired by the (American) Neo-Conservative ideal of the New World Order. France and Germany refused to get involved in another Gulf War because their Presidents were old enough to remember the devastation and heartbreak of the Second World War. They know that when the bullets start flying, it is innocent children who die. Blair wanted to be a great wartime prime minister. He failed. It is now our generation and the generations of Iraqis who will pay the ultimate price for his failure.
“To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he is doing is good, or else that it’s a well considered act in conformity with natural law. Fortunately, it is in the nature of the human being to seek a justification for his actions.
Macbeth’s self-justifications were feeble – and his conscience devoured him… The imagination and strength of Shakespeare’s evil-doers stopped short at a dozen corpses. Because they had no ideology.
Ideology – that is what gives evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination. That is the social theory which helps to make his acts seem good instead of bad in his own and other’s eyes, so that he won’t hear reproaches and curses but will receive praises and honours. That was how the agents of the Inquisition fortified their wills: by invoking Christianity; the conquerors of foreign lands, by extolling the grandeur of their Motherland; the colonisers, by civilisation; the Nazis, by race; and the Jacobins (early and late), by equality, brotherhood, and the happiness of future generations.” [from The Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.]
Descartes said “Question everything! Question everything!” Not everything we hear penetrates our consciousness because anything too far out of kilter with our own selfish desires is all too often lost before we have a chance to question. And this is yet another reason why suggestion (and repetition) works!
When an ideology is put forward by a person or persons of perceived authority or goodness, whole groups – even whole Nations – can be influenced (I sometimes wonder if they are also fooling themselves) to commit acts that are unspeakably evil. The false ideology of ‘the fight against terror’ has so far claimed the lives of 650,000 innocent Iraqi men, women, and children, but we pretend not to notice because the action is for the best reason, “because it was the right thing to do.”
For more information about how to use suggestion for manipulation, read All in the Mind – Hypnosis, Suggestion and the New Mesmerists. Available as an Instant PDF Download.
Copyright Andrew Newton 2013. All rights reserved.