[Paleopsych] symbols

Steve Hovland shovland at mindspring.com
Mon Dec 6 20:01:35 UTC 2004

One way to promote unity and a shift to the
left is to use family metaphors as often as
the right does.  

We can associate progressive projects with family 
values without specifying whether the family in 
question is "strict father" or "nurturing parents" in 
orientation (see Lakoff about these models.)

One thing that is very interesting about this is
that these associations do not have to be logical
in the sense of verbal logic.  

They may in fact be a-logical, with no connection
other than their appearance in the same picture
or sentence.

Many people on the left don't understand why a
lot of people think that Iraq and 911 are connected.

The reason is that the Republicans were advised
by Frank Luntz to include a reference to 911 at
the beginning of every speech they gave about Iraq.

Strangely enough, the Pres reinforces this nonexistent 
connection even when he says that there is no connection 
between Iraq and 911.  The mere appearance in the same
sentence gives the impression that there is a connection.

There must be a technical term for this in cognitive
science- something to do with associative memory.

Steve Hovland

-----Original Message-----
From:	Michael Christopher [SMTP:anonymous_animus at yahoo.com]
Sent:	Monday, December 06, 2004 11:16 AM
To:	paleopsych at paleopsych.org
Subject:	[Paleopsych] symbols

>>Effective propaganda relies mostly on images
to take advantage of the ancient power of vision.
If words are used they will be so few in number
that they function mainly as images.<<

--Good point. Music video also has a powerful
entrainment effect, although there are fewer singing
dictators. Dictators tend to be too perfectionistic to
sing. I always liked how political messages were
embedded in nursery rhymes and children's games. What
a great way for an underground to communicate to each
other. Dictators never listen to children. :)

>>Propaganda pieces that deviate too widely from 
the current state of the viewer's mind may be 
rejected, so it may be useful to proceed by small

--Also, propaganda depends a lot on words that may
have personal meanings to the listener, but which
allow him to view his feelings as if they were shared
with all others (much of popular music shares that
quality of "abstract specificity", so that millions of
people can think "that song was meant for me!")

What does "freedom" mean in concrete terms? Freedom to
do what? Freedom in what contexts? What does "honor"
mean? Is it loyalty to truth or loyalty to a group? It
is by trial and error (sometimes painful trials and
catastrophic errors) that the real meaning of words is
carved out. "Freedom" comes to mean "freedom for some,
not so much for others" and "honor" comes to mean
"doing whatever avoids the appearance of weakness".
Symbols are degraded when they become tainted by
association with mistakes, with weakness, or with
guilt. Much of our behavior as a mass relates to the
need to cleanse symbols of negative associations.
Hitler was obsessed with cleansing symbols of German
superiority, and he gave a generation of children
raised with authoritarian coldness and perfectionism a
chance to let their ids rip in service to the
superego. Jews, Communists and homosexuals became the
children to be punished in order to purify German
society of its dishonor and humiliation. We go through
similar cycles still, in less dramatic ways. We still
need to detoxify our symbols at the expense of a
shamed group.

By the end of a revolution, everyone is fighting,
because the words and signals they relied upon to
signal unity become fragmented and altered and no
longer have the same resonant call. The question is,
are there symbols that relate so deeply to feelings of
community and shared goals that they don't degrade
over time as systems turn inward upon themselves? How
do we signal the kind of unity we need in order to end
religious and civil wars and prevent cycles of
humiliation and punishment from becoming genocides and
nuclear/biological crusades?

What role could advertising, entertainment or religion
play in the generation of new symbols, the healing of
old ones, and the unification of groups and goals
across cultural divisions? 


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