Propaganda is the Bosses’ Best Tool
In the last post I talked about the history of labor struggles, at home and abroad. Today I’ll be considering how propaganda has been used to manage labor.
Brute force is always a last resort among the various methods for controlling the labor force. Convincing people to work their tails off—to vie for the pleasure of licking your boots—is cheaper and more effective than hiring cops and soldiers to kill off the leaders and terrorize the rest. And dead workers don’t produce anything.
The most effective tool is propaganda. The rich have always relied on an incessant stream of disinformation to justify their rule. Traditionally, this hogwash was produced by priests and scribes. An ancient Egyptian tomb painting shows servants carrying a noble in a sedan chair, singing that their burden was lighter with him in it than without him. One of Pharaoh’s titles was “the Good God.” Roman emperors were worshiped as gods, with temples erected to them.
European Christianity carried this idea forward. The Catholic Church considered the Pope to be God’s lieutenant. After the Protestant Reformation, King James I of England wrote, “The State of MONARCHIE is the supremest thing upon earth: For Kings are not only GOD’S Lieutenants upon earth, and sit upon GOD’S throne, but even by GOD himself they are called GODS.”
In the United States, even today, a significant percentage of citizens believe that the president is divinely chosen, and half of evangelicals polled—specifically, those who go to church most frequently—believe Trump was anointed by God. I wasn’t surprised by these figures. At a fundamentalist Christian service I attended some years ago, the refrain to one of the hymns they sang was Trust and obey, for there’s no other way/To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
For the more intellectual and/or less religious, contemporary justifications for rule by the rich have been produced by legions of so-called scholars at universities—Milton Friedman comes to mind—and think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute. These arguments for more power being held by the wealthy have also been given air time by mass media from the Wall Street Journal to Fox News. And even the more liberal media, such as the New York Times, are still strictly in the pro-capitalist camp. To my knowledge, the Times has never supported a workers’ strike in this country–again not surprising, considering who owns the paper.
The lower classes may be easily fooled but the well-to-do certainly know who butters their bread. My upper middle class brother-in-law was shocked to see me with a copy of the Times. “You read that left-wing rag?!” he exclaimed. I wasn’t angry, just amused.
To be continued…