The Four Stages of a Truth. Part 2/2

Another method you can use is to load the words or ideas with strongly negative connotations. This is by far the most widespread tactic, because all it requires is the propagation of a slight shift in how one talks about an idea. Eventually someone hits on the right word combination, or the right image, and it spreads like wildfire. This is how we get the “Satanic sacrifices” and “Satanic ritual abuse”, the “depressed, hedonistic atheist”, the “sex-obsessed, child-molesting, AIDS-spreading homosexual”, the “violent anarchists”, “evolution says we’re just animals without morals”, and the “cold, unfeeling science.”

This is most efficient when it is a projection of the belief’s flaws, as in the atheist and anarchist examples. Projection serves the important propaganda role of diverting attention from the flaws of a belief system by reinforcing the demonization of one’s enemies. Believing that atheists are hedonists and nihilists neatly deflects any correct criticism that it is in fact Christianity which is hedonistic and nihilistic.

A related tactic is to analyze the idea within the context of the belief system. Atheists do believe in God, they are just angry at it and deny the obvious evidence of nature. Anarchists do want statist aggression, they just use violence to demand it. Satanists really do worship Satan and evil. Homosexuals are sinners who need to turn back to God. Science is really just a study of God’s will, and can never contradict it. In all cases, it is easier to stimulate attacks against an enemy when you can integrate it as an ideological enemy within your own context.

Stage 3- Trivialization.
“It is growing but it will go away eventually. It’s not a threat, it’s really nothing.”

We arrive at this stage when a truth can no longer safely be suppressed- because of its growing popularity, because of growing awareness, because we come to depend on it, and so on. Any defense mechanism at this point must be passive and aim to reduce the truth to something trivial, which exists but really has no special importance.

By automatically judging all ideologies as equally justified manifestations of a cultural or social context, relativism and post-modernism are a perpetual stage 3. They defeat competing truths by claiming that they are conditioned by one’s context, and therefore no more valid than any other position- that ideologies are not true or false but rather on an equally trivial footing. This is the position most people have about science and atheism, putting them at stage 3 in respect to the general population.

Other stage 3 tactics include “it’s just a phrase”, and marginalizing people by portraying them as freaks. The media eagerly jumps on gay parades in order to trivialize homosexuality. The difference between this and loading of an idea through negative connotations is that here people are seen as harmless curiosities instead of enemies. They are simply not to be taken seriously.

Stage 4- Integration and Co-option.
“It’s here to stay. How can we manipulate the idea for our own ends?”

When the dominant paradigm has failed to ignore an idea, to suppress it, or to trivialize it, and the idea is now dominant as well, what it can do best is to exploit that new dominance for its own ends. Thus you get the statist control and exploitation of science, “theistic evolution”, statists who claim to support freedom and the free market, the rhetoric of “wage slavery”, and equating eating animals with the Holocaust.

When the history of the struggle to acceptance of a given truth is long forgotten, so is the justification, and a truth may eventually go back down the stages. Acceptance of homosexuality was a matter of fact during the Antiquity, but today we are only coming back up in the cycle. Science and atheism used to be widely accepted, but in the last century they have fallen into varying degrees of disrepute. Because of their power of adaptability to new times and mores, religion and statism are always a threat.

I have already discussed the issue of memetic defense, dividing it in two categories, “tolerance” (defeating the opposition by taking away its power) and “intolerance” (defeating the opposition by attacking it). These four stages clearly illustrate the two categories in more detail. Stage 1 and 2 are part of the “intolerance” strategy, while stage 3 and 4 are part of the “tolerance” strategy.

Finally, note that these steps also apply to untruths that go against the dominant paradigm- such as the rise of Nazism. Authorities with power don’t really distinguish between truth or falsity, since such a distinction is completely irrelevant to their success, except insofar as people will most readily believe seductive lies wrapped in a thin layer of truth.

One thought on “The Four Stages of a Truth. Part 2/2

  1. eques October 26, 2006 at 19:36

    I was depressed and hedonistic WAY before I became an atheist. ;)

  2. […] Go to part 2.  Posted by Francois Tremblay Filed in Propaganda, Worldviews and semantics […]

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