Civil disobedience: A destructive Euphemism

"Civil disobedience" is a euphemism utilized by those who would manipulate others into great harm to advance a political cause. The term isn't just deceptive; the concept of "civil disobedience" is a term I hold in great contempt due to the sheer amount of violence it has inflicted on the innocent and unknowing.

On March 7th, 1965, nearly 600 people marched over the U.S. Highway 80 bridge. Of these people, only one person knew what was about to happen to them all. The next day, America woke up to one of the bloodiest police confrontations in history; broadcast right to their TV.

Now lets re-wind. Before we can understand what really happened on that Sunday, first you must understand the core principles that gave birth to "civil disobedience" as an emotional persuasion tactic. In the mid 19th century, most people approached politics by examining ideology, rhetoric, and arguments. However, a very intelligent man had a different idea of the situation. Ludwig von Rochau proposed a system of realpolitik, the idea that politics should be viewed as a set of underlying factors that lead up to the gaining of political power. Realpolitik gave way to a new model of political thought: the Hypergame.

The idea of the hypergame is to take into account the many differing perceptions of events while keeping in mind the "conditions of opposition." Different groups have different underlying motivations, goals, and perceptions; by understanding the ways that these goals interact, one can cause groups to take actions that they would not normally even consider.

Although the hypergame is a fairly contemporary term, the use of the hypergame model dates back to the 1920's. Edward Bernays, the little known cousin of Sigmund Freud, was hired by the American Tobacco Company (ATC). The ATC had realized that there was an incredible market for women in smoking, however due to cultural factors women who smoked were looked down upon. Bernays utilized physiological factors to attach smoking to feelings of rebellion and independence in women in his famous Torches of Freedom campaign.

The Torches of Freedom campaign is an excellent example of the basic psychological tactics employed in most propaganda. First there must be a shock, the viewer must be given a reason to care. In Torches of Freedom this came from the shock of women smoking cigarets in the Easter Sunday Parade. Next, the viewer must be given the "payload." The "payload" is the base message the campaign would like to get across, with some extra elements to increase their effects. Although the base message of this campaign was to encourage women to smoke, it does this by attaching the feeling of smoking to the idea of rebellion against social norms.

With the basic structure of most propaganda campaigns in mind, we can now see the true nature of "civil disobedience." In the mind of Henry David Thoreau, this act of protest was originally designed to provide "counter friction" and eventually "stop the machine." However it is not through the ideas of Thoreau that "civil disobedience" became the gut-wrenching tactic that is known today.

"Civil Disobedience" is not designed to create "counter friction." If it was, the act would be carried out in a silent fashion. The point of this act, is to incite the defending party into an act of violence and perceived retribution against the attacking party. The general public will only notice the extreme brutality of the defending party, and given no background information on the events, will swiftly condemn the violence they see televised on the local news.

The process of this tactic begins long before the news stories ever begin. First a chosen target must be analyzed and their motivations understood through a hypergame-esc lens. The attacking group must identify a way to anger the defending group in such a way that they will respond with retribution. In many cases, this a direct violation of a law that would have severe and immediate consequences to those partaking in the activities. Then the "actors" must be chosen. These are the people (usually protesters) who will take place in the act. This group of people must be kept in the dark about the events that are about to unfold. If they were to understand the violent acts that would befall them, they would quickly leave. These unknowing participants are then led into the "act of protest" designed to incite the defending party. When this "act of protest" ends, the propaganda begins.

Imagine turning on the news as you woke up in the morning. You watch the weather, and hear a few small headlines before the biggest headline of them all is shown. "Protestors from X cause were brutally beaten by police last night during an all night standoff," says the nice looking lady on the screen as intimidating images of police with baton and riot shields are shown clubbing a poor defenseless old woman while smoke almost cloaks the scene creating an ambiance akin to that of a horror film.

Did you see what just happened? An almost perfect piece of Bernays style propaganda was formed. You were lead in with the shock and awe of people being beaten, while you were guilted into condemning the anti-riot team that was forced to take action against the protesters. With no background information you wouldn't have known that the leaders of this protest had been trying for days to reach this type of scenario with no luck, or that some groups had left because they perceived the tactics being employed as "dangerous." Most people don't have the time nor the patients to look that deeply into the issue, and will go with even the most limited slivers of information they have on a topic.

There is no such thing as a "peaceful resistance" to a law. The concept of "civil disobedience" is to entice an apposing party via proxy. Do you think that anyone who watched the altercation between police and protesters in Selma on the so called "Bloody Sunday" knew that Martin Luther King Jr. and the SCLC had been trying for weeks to incite attacks from the local police fore? Do you think anyone noticed that SNCC pulled out and denounced the attempts made by the SCLC to create a violent situation? Or that Martin Luther King Jr. had been warned beforehand of the events that would occur on "Bloody Sunday" and decided not to attend?

May these words act as a warning to all others. Be warned of those who would lead you into a trap to further their own political reach.

Posted on: 2017-07-21 18:13:16