asbak wrote:In the modern age, that control is exerted via (mostly) media. In the pre-information age, religious institutions often played a major role.
Yes. I think that my point is that religion (in the past) and use in the media (today) were not exactly invented for this purpose, and with this plan. Although people in power clearly recognized the capabilities of those means, and used them to great extent, the vast majority of them believed in religion too.
The Vatican state, for example, controlled, throughout its history, huge territories through the use of religion in strategic ways. However, most of the officials and heads of state were truly Christians, including the inquisitors. They really believed in it. That is, they did not invent religion for their goal: in those centuries having that mentality aligned with being able to control the crowds. They realized it for sure... and exploited it.
asbak wrote:The lesson is that most people will believe whatever they are taught and conditioned to believe. Very few people have the ability (or the knowledge about these things) to discern fiction from reality and to understand how they are being manipulated and for what purposes.
Not only that. That's the lesson we get from "steady state" totalitarianism, that is when the state owns all media and all education. There is another lesson actually.
In Europe, Fascist-like totalitarianism, at the beginning, were ideologies embraced by minorities
. Being minorities, they had no control over media, information and education. And the few people involved in those, as the inquisitors in the late middle ages, truly believed in that. The hardest thing to understand about totalitarianism is that it does not born
from a minority controlling media and education, it is maintained
by a majority controlling media and education. The reason why totalitarianism born, and spreads, is because it proposes a radically new ideology (or at least something that looks like it) that identifies clear "enemies of the state" against which anger and action should be performed, in opposition to the "passivity" of the current government. It gives to people a brutally simple (and unrealistic) system of values into which they think they will restore their community power and glory, the simplicity (Us VS Them) being a big seducing factor. Finally, totalitarian minorities, at first, get attacked on all sides by the establishment, growing the number of people that join in, as there is the a feeling of "persecuted because against the corrupt establishment" and "comradeship against our enemies" driving people in, as well as making feel those already in as "heroes". In all of this, maybe those at the very head of the totalitarian-fetus understand the power of their dumbed down, overly simplistic, ideology in term of crowd control and for sure they exploit it. But at the same time, they truly believe in it: that is, their ideology was not designed to drive the crowds, but in that moment of history it happened to be perfect for it. They realized it, and for sure used it, but after they gained control the paranoia they all developed in controlling people opinion shows how much they felt their power fragile: they could be overthrown in the same way they overthrown the establishment.
Totalitarian state is enforced by control of the media and education... but it spawns from the people: the people ask for it, and want it, and believe in it, initially. They want it before
it controls them. That is the hardest lesson of history, and one that shows deeply the nature of mankind: we prefer passivity and blind leader following over independent though. We prefer overly simplistic world depictions of Heroes VS Enemies against even trying understand the real complexity.
So, I think we are pretty much saying the same thing really. We differ just on one thing: how deliberate and calculated all of this is by those in control. On the short term, they clearly seem to know what they are doing, but I think that the alignment with the boundary conditions of history is much more important, and the long term events all spawn from the necessity of history rather than the control of few.