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The Emergent Conspiracy of Culture: How the Ruling Class Is Held Captive to a Toxic Cultural Story Like the Rest of Us

By Tim Hjersted / filmsforaction.org
May 4, 2013
4.5 ·
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The Emergent Conspiracy of Culture: How the Ruling Class Is Held Captive to a Toxic Cultural Story Like the Rest of Us
Is mass media used to manipulate the public? Yes, undoubtedly so. Examples to illustrate this are so numerous and backed up by intellectuals like Noam Chomsky, Norman Solomon, and those that actively engaged in this manipulation, like Edward Bernays, that this fact is not at all in dispute.

Given this well-documented history, there are some strands of activist thought that have come to believe that there are hundreds of modern trends that are all being driven consciously by some secret conspiracy of people, and that these people are using the media to create the social values and problems we see today.

However, this view is an inaccurate reading of a vastly more complex
relationship of causes and effects. Media manipulation does exist, by corporations and governments, but media also conditions and perpetuates itself by creating people with the same values, who then get into positions of power and keep doing the same thing.

So the media creates a feed-back loop. And our profit-driven economy creates a feedback loop. But no conspiracy of men is driving all world events. And no conspiracy is necessary, because the ruling elite all share the same ideology.
They don't need to meet in secret rooms to make decisions. They are following the logic of capitalism and neoliberalism. They were raised with this ideology and so were we. And everyone growing up with these values does the same. So the problem isn't some conspiracy. The problem is our culture.

If you like conspiracies, then call it, "the emergent conspiracy of culture."

This explanation has striking parallels between the theory of evolution and the theory of creationism. When you look out at the vast complexity of the world, you would be forgiven for thinking that only a conscious designer could have made things the way they are (god/the global conspirators). When, in reality, what we see today is based on innumerable complex and emergent factors that create a constant evolution of biology and culture.

To be sure, there are actors trying to create certain outcomes for themselves, but the hidden or unspoken side of this coin is that these powerful people that have too much control over our lives are also being heavily acted upon - by the cultural values that they grew up with, their family, friends and society - by the philosophy of their culture, the logic of capitalism and the stories that they were told about their meaning in the universe. And being acted upon creates people who act, who are acted upon, who act, ad infinitum. And that's the conspiracy of culture. But there is no over-ruling conscious designer. It is a complex web of interdependent relationships.
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“Independent media is dangerous because it allows people to speak for themselves. And when you hear someone speaking from their own experience - whether it's a Palestinian child or an Israeli grandmother or an uncle in Afghanistan or a refugee in the Calais refugee camp - it changes you. It breaks the sound barrier. It challenges the stereotypes and the caricatures that fuel the hate groups. You may not agree with what you hear - I mean, how often do we even agree with our family members? - but you begin to understand where they're coming from. That understanding is the beginning of peace. I really do think that the media can be the greatest force for peace on Earth. Instead, all too often, it is wielded as a weapon of war. We have to take the media back.” - Amy Goodman, Place to B at COP21