The new exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago is a look at Soviet poster art , propaganda posters, from the 1940′s. Its a voyage back to Orwell and 1984. But, a closer examination, of Orwell, would show that 1984 attacked our enemies, but the same thesis with minimal adjustment could have been aimed squarely at the basic assumptions of our own system, which most of us smugly embrace. While the Soviets said don’t disobey, we in the West defer to authority and its systems apparatus in a more nuanced manner. American propaganda posters of the WWII period have an eery similarity. The central difference appears in our creative use of political debate or dialogue that ostensibly encompasses a broad palette of options- an expression of our individuality- but in fact is played out over sharply curtailed parameters. These basic assumptions of what Chomsky referred to as “necessary illusions” are plausibly the basis of our own propaganda system, with an acceptance of the system being the door of entry into this Aldous Huxley type phantasmagoric “doors of perception.” Ken Kesey is de rigeur, Ginsberg was a hipster, but MLK well, we know what happened.The vilification of our enemies and the laying of blame always seems to be permeated by the “lone gunman” theory with dovetails nicely with our sense of “individualism.”
So, the big lie is part and parcel of what we are willing to accept, or in retail politics, what the traffic will bear. In Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism, there are several examples of lying. Stalin and Hitler are the featured examples, and the concern Arendt articulates is not only in lying but in its effects as well.Sort of the side-effects of the medication. This is coherent with Arendt’s thesis that lying has always been favored in politics, but the circumstances have changed. Arendt asserts that the modern lies are so huge that they must be swallowed because the opposite would appear to be almost of miraculous stature. To Arendt, not Stalin’s and Hitler’s expertise in the art of lying but the fact they were skilled in organizing the masses into a collective unit to support their lies with impressive magnificence, exerts a form of endless fascination tied to ritual, pomp and the pretensions of a viable individual identity.
In Theodor Adorno’s theory, the lie and propaganda becomes a pretext for inner hate and inner evil to be projected outwards: onto nature, woman, or marginalized undesirables like jews or gypsies. Adorno perceived self-hate and resentment being exteriorized. It appears then that wickedness in its pure form is not a necessary condition for doing evil, it just needs a structural basis organized around complicity to propagate. Arendt can at least be thought to have developed counter-argument to subjective evil. She emphasized that our faculty of thought is connected to telling good from evil and right from wrong, in which case an “activity of thinking” could sublate innate wickedness, thus providing a condition against evil-doing….
Eve M. Kahn:During World War II, Soviet artists stenciled posters to keep up public morale. They drew scenes of Russian heroes overwhelming Nazi cowards under slogans like “The Time for Vengeance Is Approaching” and “Sweep Away the Scum.” Tass, the Soviet press agency in Moscow, produced the newsprint sheets, up to 10 feet tall, in editions of a few hundred each. A new design emerged almost every day. The government hung them in storefront windows and occasionally sent them as gifts to leftists in Britain and America. a
The classic East West cold war theory was that two great propaganda systems agree on some doctrine, it requires effort effort to escape its being dragged into the morass. The basic doctrine is that the society of Lenin and Trotsky and later by Stalin and and beyonds had some connection to socialism in some meaningful or authentic sense of what it was conceived as. The only relation is one of radical contradiction. Hence, according to thinkers like Chomsky is obvious why both major propaganda systems insisted on supporting this illusion. Almost from Day 1, the Soviet State by whip and carrot tied to shackle the energies of its own citizenry and oppressed people world-wide in the service of those who took advantage of the popular uprising in Russia in october 1917 to seize State power. The central ideological weapon employed to this end has been the claim that the State managers are leading their own society and the world towards the socialist ideal; an impossibility. The Soviet posters reflect this lie of stupendous proportions, the Permanent Revolution as leitmotif since the earliest days of the Bolshevik regime. The posters show this attempt to gain legitimacy and support through exploiting the aura of socialist ideals and the respect they deem worthy, to mask a ritual and intentional practice of massacring any vestige of socialism. As for America, association of socialism with the Soviet Union and its client base served as an ideological arm to enforce conformity and obedience to prevailing power complex since the alternative lack any compelling features. Pax Americana. The Soviet leadership tportrayed itself as socialist to protect its right to wield the big stick, and Western ideologists have plausible adopted a variant of a similar pretense in order to forestall willy-nilly, stonewalling and dawdling over the risk of a more free and just society.For example vis a vis China today.
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