Propaganda 101 Supplemental: Build It And They Will Come (Around)

by Gene Howington,  Guest Blogger

The Parthenon

In the beginning, there was the word. And when addressing propaganda, the word was either persuade or coerce. This is the essential nature of propaganda: to change (or re-enforce if you are already sympathetic) your mind on a particular issue. As the first article showed, the most basic tool of propaganda is connotation/implication. Before venturing into the depths of the lingua tactical of propaganda, I thought it might be useful to illustrate some non-verbal and indirect methods of propaganda.

First we must realize that propaganda is the cultivation of an image. An image that relies upon idea(s) the speaker wants associated with certain people, organizations or actions. To that end, propaganda is essentially image control: seeking to create mental associations in the viewer be they emotional or rational and spreading that image/association through out a given populace.  Keep in mind that literacy was for the bulk of human history limited to specialists such as scribes and/or the upper class who could afford education.

Very few people in the ancient world could read, but most of them could see.  What better way to communicate the power of those who run a society to those who cannot read than by using a non-verbal symbol to send a message?  Perhaps a symbol like a great building or monument. Something that says “we’re here, this is what we are about, this is our place and look what we can do” to the great unlearned masses. This form of propaganda is also as old as civilization. You could argue that it is older than modern civilization, stretching back to the late Neolithic period.

A temple area with megalithic pillars at Göbekli Tepe.

Consider Göbekli Tepe, a set of Neolithic religious structures located in what is now southeastern Turkey.  At approximately 12,000 years old, Göbekli Tepe predates Egyptian culture by five or six thousand years. But is it propaganda? Let’s examine the basic criteria of propaganda as applied to this structure to see if it qualifies.

Carved relief of a lion at Göbekli Tepe.

Does it send a message? Yes. In its most basic form, it is a statement of religious ideology. At the deepest levels of the sites, many of the upright pillars are decorated with the nature based symbolics commonly found at Neolithic religious sites such as lions, bulls, boars, foxes, gazelles and other predator and prey species. You can even see the message change over time as their religion changed. Moving up through the layers of the dig, newer decorations include human figures. As an aside, many archaeologists place considerable significance on this change in message taking it to mark the transition from a culture where nature inclusive of man is worshiped to a system of belief where man is elevated above nature.

Is it designed for public consumption? Yes. All the evidence points to Göbekli Tepe being a religious retreat. Being the only stone structure for many miles around at the time, I think it is safe to assume that it was not only known to the locals but to nomads and pilgrims of like minded worship.

Is the message one of persuasion and/or coercion? Yes. It can be interpreted as both. As persuasion, it is a statement of the ideals of their religion and the basic value of worshiping as the builders of Göbekli Tepe worshiped. As coercion, it was a statement of the power of their faith that they could build a massive structure from stone at a time when most people were either nomadic or living in small hunter/gatherer villages. To provide a bit of context, Göbekli Tepe predates the invention of pottery, metallurgy, writing and the wheel.  The complex also predates the Neolithic Revolution when archaeologists start seeing the beginnings of agriculture and animal husbandry. Look what we can do and what we’re about, indeed.

The Egyptians took this idea of buildings as propaganda to a whole new level. The scale of their building remains one of the great wonders of the world. The temples, pyramids and palaces they built were not just statements of faith or housing for the Pharaohs. They were projections of power for the ruling dynasties, often run as great public works projects to bolster the ancient Egyptian economy and as statements to the greatness of the Pharaohs. The ruling class went to great strides to out do one another as well. This trend of using architecture as a form of propaganda stretches back to the very beginning of the Egyptian dynasties.

The Pyramid of Djoser

In the 3rd Dynasty, the first of the pyramids were built by the Pharaoh Djoser and his commoner architect Imhotep.  Until that time, all of the Pharaohs had been buried in mastabas – rectangular flat roofed stone buildings. Imhotep’s innovation was to stack six mastabas of ever decreasing size to create the Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara, a royal burial complex to the northwest of the then Egyptian capitol of  Memphis. This started a competition among the subsequent Pharaohs as to who could build the most impressive burial sites. They saw this as not only fulfilling their religious obligations, but as statements of personal power, each trying to make a greater statement to history about the glory of their rule. This practice pyramid building reaches a nadir with the 4th Dynasty Pharaoh Khufu building the Great Pyramid at Giza, the plateau used as a royal burial complex just outside of Cairo which was used in conjunction with the Valley of the Kings by the later dynasties.

The Great Pyramid of Khufu

However impressive the Great Pyramid is, the practice of building to project imperial power reached its full potential  with the 19th Dynasty Pharaoh Ramses II.  Instead of trying to compete for sheer size to send his message against the rather imposing legacy of Khufu, Ramses went for volume. He built a lot, by far more than any other Pharaoh, and he even took credit for buildings he didn’t build by literally having his mark carved on them. To give him credit, many of these buildings he co-opted for his greater glory Ramses was indeed responsible for massive additions to and an upgrades on.

Abu Simbel

In addition to his large burial complex, the Ramessuem at Thebes, Ramses is credited with building numerous temples, monuments and even entire cities.  The city of Pi-Ramesses was built to replace the capitol at Thebes. He is also credited with building a lavish tomb for his favored consort, Nefertari, and the temple complex at Abu Simbel which was an act of pure ego carved into the living stone of two mountains in southern Egypt.

Did these buildings send a message? Yes. The Pharaohs are Living Gods and their power over Egypt is absolute. Were they designed for public consumption? Without a doubt. Is the message one of persuasion and/or coercion? Yes. Look up at the great works of the Pharaohs in awe and despair for you will never be their equal. Unless you’re really special. Like the man who started the Egyptian architectural tradition, Imhotep. It should be noted that the man “who made all of this possible” was one of the few commoners in ancient Egyptian history to be accorded the status of godhood upon his death.

The Parthenon on the Acropolis

The Greeks were also great builders, but none of their buildings says propaganda quite like the Parthenon. Built nominally as a temple to the goddess Athena, the patron of the city-state of Athens, the Parthenon is located on the Athenian Acropolis – a rocky outcropping that dominates the skyline of Athens.  I say nominally built as a temple because the evidence tends to point to the fact that it was never really used as a temple by any given sect let alone the cult of Athena Polias (which was the official cult of Athena as patron of Athens).  In addition to serving as a display case for the massive statue of Athena crafted by Phidias, the Parthenon served primarily as a treasury. Does this building send a message? Yes. We are Athens and look to our glory. Was it designed for public consumption? Being on the most visually prominent spot in all of Athens in addition to being the largest Greek building of its time, the answer can only be a resounding yes. Is the message one of persuasion and/or coercion? Also a resounding yes as the building is a testament to both the glory of the Athenian patron goddess and the economic power of Athens.

Arbeia

Rome specifically and with great forethought used buildings as propaganda, especially in the provinces. It was, in fact, a key element in the projection of Roman power. Everywhere the Romans went, two things were sure to follow: stone roads and buildings. Think of the messages the provinces got when Rome built coliseums, market complexes, government buildings, military fortifications and aqueducts. Even in Gaul, modern France, where there was a sophisticated network of wooden roads built by the local Celts, Rome conquered and then Rome built and they built in stone. Europe is littered with the ruins of the projection of Roman power.  In  South Shields, England at Tyne & Wear, the Roman fort of Arbeia stands today (partially restored) as testament to how far Rome could project her power. Most of the provinces were the home of timber and thatch construction. The stone buildings of the Romans were sending a message that “Rome is here, get used to it, and we can build crazy things you can’t, by they way did you notice our well-organized professional military that came with them”. They were not only functional, but aimed to make an impression on the locals. The message was clearly a mix of both persuasion (look at the lovely bathhouse!) and coercion (nice fort you’ve got there).

The U.S. Supreme Court

Just so, consider the monuments and public buildings of the modern United States.  The Capitol building was partially burned by the British on August 24, 1814, during the War of 1812. To shore up confidence at home and to tell those Brits who was in charge here, the Capitol was not only reconstructed but expanded in the period from 1819 to 1826. Look at the style of construction of the Supreme Court and Congress. The Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, Mount Rushmore, they are all monuments to men who left their mark on history certainly, but what else do they say? Are they not projections of power and creating the image of a society as great as that of the Romans and Greeks whose architecture and scale they mimic?

There are clearly more ways to send a message than words alone.

What do you think?

Kudos to commentator Darren Smith for tangentially suggesting this supplemental topic.

~ submitted by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger

The Propaganda Series;

Propaganda 105: How to Spot a Liar

Propaganda 104 Supplemental: The Streisand Effect and the Political Question

Propaganda 104 Supplemental: The Sound of Silence

Propaganda 104: Magica Verba Est Scientia Et Ars Es

Propaganda 103: The Word Changes, The Word Remains The Same

Propaganda 102 Supplemental: Holly Would “Zero Dark Thirty”

Propaganda 102: Holly Would and the Power of Images

Propaganda 101 Supplemental: Child’s Play

Propaganda 101: What You Need to Know and Why or . . .

Related articles of interest;

Mythology and the New Feudalism by Mike Spindell

How about Some Government Propaganda for the People Paid for by the People Being Propagandized? by Elaine Magliaro

96 thoughts on “Propaganda 101 Supplemental: Build It And They Will Come (Around)”

  1. Some big elephants walking around here. I’m quiet as a mouse. I know him by his nickname: Bitter Peirce.
    So long ago it is forgotten why.

    2:30AM Thanks for me.

  2. C. S. Peirce’s great friend and benefactor, William James, did a lot to popularize philosophical pragmatism, but unfortunately his poor choice of terminology and unreconstructed religiosity led to a great deal of confusion, as well; so much so, that Peirce later changed the name of his philosophy to “pragmaticism,” a term which he considered “ugly enough to be safe from kidnappers.”

    Oliver Wendell Holmes, a former classmate of Peirce and James, had a somewhat unsympathetic opinion of James’s views:

    He thought that James had made scientific uncertainty an excuse for believing in the existence of an unseen world. ‘His wishes made him turn down the lights so as to give miracle a chance.’ — Louis Menand, The Metaphysical Club

    A practicing scientist, Peirce understood the essence of Heisenberg’s uncertaintly principle wherein one can predict quite a lot about the operations of nature, just not precisely everything about it at any one point in four-dimensional space-time. According to Peirce, no reputable scientist would dream of issuing his research results without appending to them an estimate of their probable error. Peirce accepted uncertainty, but understood its proper place, and did not in the least think that this uncertainty disproved natural laws.

    I realize that this digression has little to do with Building Propaganda, but since Peirce practically founded the field of Semiotics, or the science of symbols, he has an enduring relevance to any discussion of propaganda, as later experts in rhetoric and symbolic communication — like I. A. Richards, Alfred Korzybski, and Umberto Eco — publicly acknowledged on many occasions.

  3. Leaving out a “slash” in the closing “blockquote” HTML tag produces indented quotations. I’ll try to remember that in the future when I may want to do that intentionally. Obviously, the last two paragraphs constitute my paraphrase of Peirce as well as my own caution against confusing solipsism with philosophical pragmatism.

  4. Bron:

    If you should ever wish to know something factual and useful concerning philosophical pragmatism, I recommend going straight to the master himself, Charles Sanders Peirce, beginning with The Fixation of Belief, published in 1877 in the equivalent of today’s Scientific American.

    To satisfy our doubts, therefore, it is necessary that a method should be found by which our beliefs may be determined by nothing human, but by some external permanency — by something upon which our thinking has no effect. Some mystics imagine that they have such a method in a private inspiration from on high. But that is only a form of the method of tenacity, in which the conception of truth as something public is not yet developed. Our external permanency would not be external, in our sense, if it was restricted in its influence to one individual. It must be something which affects, or might affect, every man. And, though these affections are necessarily as various as are individual conditions, yet the method must be such that the ultimate conclusion of every man shall be the same. Such is the method of science. Its fundamental hypothesis, restated in more familiar language, is this: There are Real things, whose characters are entirely independent of our opinions about them; those Reals affect our senses according to regular laws, and, though our sensations are as different as are our relations to the objects, yet, by taking advantage of the laws of perception, we can ascertain by reasoning how things really and truly are; and any man, if he have sufficient experience and he reason enough about it, will be led to the one True conclusion.

    Philosophical pragmatism, as you can now see, has nothing to do with personal opinion but rather with the public settlement of it in terms of “Real things,” available to everyone equally, which do not depend for their existence upon what one man or any generation of men may think of them. In short: Scientific Method.

    The quote you offered fairly reeks of solipsism, not pragmatism, and you would do well to ponder the difference between these wildly conflicting concepts.

  5. As for the Georgia Stones.

    How fucking (pardon) naive can we get. Shades of Stonehenge modern worshippers. Shades of pyramid mystery worshipping—-on our dollar bill, no less.
    And where else but in Georgia.

    Some day, some smart guy will lease the rest of the farm, build a replica antebellum plantation complete with slave shanty row (already exists), and hire staff. The slaves will be black Phd’s glad for the work. Predict a riot outside the gates when hiring opens up.

    Tangents? You damn right there are. But now they are not so obscure, or if you think so, then you are slow picking this up.

    I won’t take up the ten points. They could be written by any high school valedictorian anywhere, even the ones failing English in their senior year.

    But I note the teabagger’s got to write in their favorite about the petty officials. And the world language folks got theirs in too.

    As GeneH so well characterized it; it is but aspirations. Well, don’t hold your breath those who are breathing heavy at the sight of paradise.

    Do we have any theosophists here? Any table knockers. Any rosys?
    Any group of the “mysteries of the ancients”, any gnostics, any searchers after and readers of ancient manuscripts?

    Gather round the stones, drop some acid, eat some shrooms, get laid back with maryjane (listen to Janis version), do it all. And wake up to the same mess tomorrow. The answers lie not there in those screeds.

    Yes, the answers lie within. But it is not a mystery.
    It is as plain as a bowl of porridge. Power=survival.
    Until we defeat that drive, then we won’t get anywhere.

  6. Ekeyra (dizzyoak in swedish),

    Re-think on my part.

    Rehabilitation through PKD and Fiasco. Where do you hang out to find Fiasco?

    Life was just starting 50 years ago. The space age had been declared started by JFK. We were still
    cherry, all of us. We believed in chemical rockets, although any sensible scientist could tell us that apace was not meant for us or our chemical horses.

    I note there are some here today who still nurture those dreams. GeneH mentions emigrating to the other parts of the solar system on urgings from others.
    Of course I bought it too. We all did.
    But here’s the straight stuff from a guy who worked with it for 35 years in NM. And y’all know what NM is famous for.
    http://www.neofuel.com/inhabit/inhabit.pdf

    How much are echos of our wild west stories/films we grew up with. Where men are men, and women seldom seen, until the need arises. How many saw McCabe and Mrs Miller? Do so.

    I did stuff for Vandenberg (RFI proofing), JPL (mars lander assy facility planning, anonymous (giant satellite camera lens production), NASA (LEM rocket motor test). Those were the things that were ordinary in my world.

    Let’s face it, until we can open holes, ie warp space, we are not going anywhere. And if we got there, could we manage a strange ecology when we are fucking up our own now with Roundup?

    Roundup is 95% of soybeans which is cow fodder, and also screwing up alfalfa which is at times is cow fodder. And 50 percent of the first born of heifers are miscarriages due to this alfalfa fodder. USDA figures.
    Small grain reductions of 20 percent after two years of Rowndup, USDA figures.

    And some are worrying about micro-nutrients. Got news: the macro ones disappeared from our fields long before Roundup. Ever seen a carrot grown in mineralized soil? Might improve several things in your life if you could eat them.

    So you illustrate another nightmare with Fiasco.
    I got enough of my own. And so do most of us.

    Point your finger in any direction and something will bite you. If it is not Big Oil, big pharma, big gov, big unemployment, big terror, big surveillance, big “don’t dare say a word” or you’re fired, sentenced, screwed and tattooed.

    And if you walk into a courtroom not as a lawyer or a functionary, count on leaving at least half of your life pawned or burned.

    And so ends this tirade. For now.

  7. leander22:

    I have no conspiracy theories and only read about the Georgia Guide Stones the other day. I had never heard of them before.

    I dont see Satan or New World Order.

  8. AY,
    “The buildings are just as strong or in some cases as wrong as the people that run them…..” AY

    Would that apply to the Pentagon and the WH too?

  9. Dredd,

    I missed this line earlier. “That would indicate that building propaganda is not related to crucial dynamics of nations or civilizations.” Not necessarily. It depends on context in including historical, technological and sociological contexts. While building propaganda may not play as crucial a role today (your word), it was most certainly crucial to the Egyptians and Romans. Today, I’d say it’s sometimes crucial but mostly incidental as a result of the development of mass communications technologies. Mass communication fundamentally altered the nature of propaganda and steered to the verbal/visual over things like buildings that have their greatest effect in person.

  10. .. to only have no child or only one child or two, hmm? or take care of some that already are here?

  11. .. to only have no child or only one child or two?

    You an correct the rest yourselves.

  12. Well, in the grand scheme of things I would rather be for maximizing profits than supporting the killing of 6,000,000,000 [6 billion] people and forcing the remaining 500,000,000 to selectively breed like cattle to produce a “master” race.

    If I may, secret and conspiracy theories feed on each other, with its respective variation of dark forces. One is unimaginable without the other. Personally I love secrets. People find it hard to accept a secret, something they cannot understand, it makes their imagination run wild. And of course there always must be someone out there preventing us from understanding. The people behind the project may well have been aware of this, but I doubt it is their prime motive to produce conspiracy tales. But they obviously realized once there is a secret it will create the desire to fill the void.

    Do you think the word secret can one day discarded, humans will change at one point in time and not need the word anymore? Or do you envision a world were there are no secrets? How do you think it can be brought about?

    There surely is the idea of less “breeding”, but nowhere is there a hint of force, or leaders, some statements and signs actually hint in the opposite direction.

    Personally I never felt the urge to “breed”, following my own desires, or somebody else’s. It felt I could not protect a child in a world with which I struggled. It didn’t want the child to bear a reflection of my own troubles.

    Women’s role and selective “breeding”.

    Look at it this way. In Nazi Germany mothers got medals for “breeding”, I forget in what precise order, or how many kids you needed to get your first one. Leaders always need a human power base. The women’s duty was to procreate to make it grow.

    Can you imagine: It may at times be a women’s wish to only have no child or only one child or two? Don’t you think? It means lot of responsibility beyond bodily joys.

    What attracts your imagination, was only one part of the other side of the coin. Selective breeding concerned the Aryan leaders only, something they considered necessary for their “ideological survival”. Remember they einvisioned 1000 years of Nazi reign. They needed human material that could be shaped according to their desires.

    I do not find a trace of this idea in the text. Maybe you can point it out to me. There is no word about masters and servants. There is no word of force.

    Sometimes it makes sense to look closer. But take care to keep out the colorful tales and their salesmen; or alternatively the Christian personification of evil, that at one point in time it may well have veiled sexuality, or fertility rites, the new religion had to be imbibed first and foremost by women. They had to know their duties. My mother objects to Mother’s Day, it may well have been passed on from mother to daughter to me, she doesn’t want to think of and call her on a day the Nazi’s invented. I forgot once. so she reminded me.

    I accept the reality of secrets, and that some people have desires that may be different from mine. I even have some secrets myself, and do not feel an urge to share them with anybody. What about you?

    Consider sparse resources and a possible limit to economical growth, combined with growing masses that can be lead one way or the other, could well lead to the result you think you have to fight in the Georgia Guidestones.

    Will you tell me your favorite conspiracy theory you found most inspiring about the Gorgia Guidestone? The Satanist approach, the Rosicrucian or the New World Order. And who is your prophet? Alex Jones?

  13. Is that the best you’ve got, Mr. Selfishness is a Virtue?

    That’s adorable.

  14. Gene H. 1, June 4, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Dredd,

    lol

    Uh, yeah, that qualifies, but you have to admit that isn’t your traditional functional derrick either.
    =============================
    True.

  15. Gene,

    So, because, you merely aspire to wipe out 6 and a half billion people, and micromanage the genetic destiny of the entire human race, but do not yet possess the practical ability to do so, Im mistaken in my assessment of your ambitions?

  16. Dredd,

    lol

    Uh, yeah, that qualifies, but you have to admit that isn’t your traditional functional derrick either.

  17. Gene H. 1, June 4, 2012 at 11:39 am

    Dredd,

    I don’t think oil platforms meet the criteria, primarily because they aren’t for public consumption. Most are in areas not easily accessible and the message they send (if any) isn’t really what I’d call persuasive or coercive either. Destructive environmentally perhaps, but not persuasive or coercive. Industrial structures rarely count as propaganda for those very reasons. There are exceptions of course, like the Hoover Dam which serves an industrial utilitarian purpose and sends a message, but by in large I don’t think most industrial structures say anything more than their function.
    – – – – – – – – – –  – – – – – – – – —
    Gene H. 1, June 4, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Dredd,

    Sorry, hasty mousing.

    The symbol of an oil derrick though could be considered propaganda. If you’ve ever driven through Texas or Oklahoma, you see the image everywhere. But that isn’t the structure proper. I’d consider its use in that context an example of symbolism that attaches to the endeavor of oil production itself – the corporate – and it has been used as such in advertising for many years. The act of creating an advertising brand from the structure is what gives it any propaganda value.
    ===============================================
    Interesting, and especially so since:

    A website of the federal government tells us:

    “Oil is the lifeblood of America’s economy.”

    (Department of Energy). Which is the same thing as saying you are economically dead without your blood, your oil.

    (The Fleets & Terrorism Follow The Oil). That would indicate that building propaganda is not related to crucial dynamics of nations or civilizations.

    Even though the Imenhoteps of the world might think so?

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