Chapter 12

 

Manipulation and the New Elite

 
As we consider the coming of an elite, an authoritarian state, to fill the vacuum left by the loss of Christian principles, we must not think naively of the models of Stalin and Hitler. We must think rather of a manipulative authoritarian government.
  • As we consider the coming of an elite, an authoritarian state, to fill the vacuum left by the loss of Christian principles, we must not think naively of the models of Stalin and Hitler. We must think rather of a manipulative authoritarian government. Modern governments have forms of manipulation at their disposal which the world has never known before.
    • The determinists, who say man has no freedom in his choices. Ex.
      • Sigmund Freud’s psychological determinism
      • B.F. Skinner’s sociological determinism through conditioning
      • Francis Crick’s chemical/genetic determinism
  • The Christian position is not that there is no element of conditioning in human life, but rather that by no means does conditioning explain what people are in their totality. To a determinist, however, if one removed all the bundle of conditioning in man, there would be no man as man.
  • To proud, humanist man, who demands to be autonomous, technology of one kind or another is to be used to get rid of the limitations of nature, including human nature, which autonomous man finds insufferably confining.
  • So even though many–even most–people may reject the concept that man is totally a product of psychological, sociological, or chemical conditioning, manipulation by these methods is still very much a possibility. In fact, these techniques are all at the disposal of authoritarian states, and they are in some degree already being used.
  • If man is what Francis Crick says he is, then he is only the sum of the impersonal plus time plus chance; he is nothing more than the energy particle extended and more complex. Our own generation can thus disregard human life. On the one end we kill the embryo through abortion–and on the other end we will introduce euthanasia for the old. The one is already here and the door is opened for the other.
  • Without the absolute line which Christianity gives for the distinctiveness of people, even things which can be good in themselves lead to humanness being increasingly lost.
  • Another example of this problem is the curing of childlessness which is caused by an infertile husband. Such childlessness often can be cured by artificial insemination using the husband’s sperm (A.I.H.). Surely this is a help to many couples. But what about A.I.D. (sperm by a donor, another man)? Where is the boundary condition? Our Future Inheritance: Choice or Chance? says that under present laws in Britain the child born is illegitimate, and in the US judges in some divorce cases have ruled A.I.D. children the illegitimate products of adultery, denying custody rights to the husband or relieving him of financial support obligations. And what is the next step? The book answers, “Perhaps the most sensible suggestion made is that the concept of legitimacy be removed entirely.” If this suggestion were followed, morals would be shifted, and once more humanness would be weakened. What the family is, is weakened. What will be the relationship of parents and children? In the book this change in morals and laws is to be made upon the basis of “social hindrance.” This is what I have called sociological law.
  • On every side people are taught that people are only machines, and as they are taught their resistance to manipulation in all these ways is weakened, step by step. Modern man has no real boundary condition for what he should do; he is left only with what he can do. Moral “oughts” are only what is sociologically accepted at the moment. In this setting will today’s unthinkable still be unthinkable in ten years?
  • Man no longer sees himself as qualitatively different from non-man. The Christian consensus gave a basis for people being unique, as made in the image of God. but this has largely been thrown away. Thus there tends, even with the good things, to be a progressive fracturedness in the practice of life as human life.
  • In the light of this discussion about social manipulation, three questions arise:
    • Who will control the controllers?
    • What will happen now that people have no boundary condition indicating what they should do in contrast to what they can do?
    • If mankind is only what modern people say it is, why does man’s biological continuation have value?
  • TV manipulates viewers just by its normal way of operating. Many viewers assume that when they have seen something on TV, they have seen it with their own eyes. It makes the viewer think he has actually been on the scene. He knows because his own eyes have seen. He has the impression of greater direct objective knowledge than ever before. For many, what they see on television becomes more true than what they see with their eyes in the external world.
  • The point above is not so, for one must never forget that every television minute has been edited. The viewer does not see the event. He sees an edited form of the event. It is not the event which is seen, but an edited symbol or an edited image of the event. An aura and illusion of objectivity and truth is built up, which could not be totally the case even if the people shooting the film were completely neutral. The physical limitations of the camera dictate that only one aspect of the total situation is given. If the camera were aimed ten feet to the left or ten feet to the right, an entirely different “objective story” might come across. On top of that, the people making the film and those editing it often do have a subjective viewpoint that enters in. When we see a political figure on TV, we are not seeing the person as he necessarily is; we are seeing, rather, the image someone has decided we should see.
  • With an elite providing the arbitrary absolutes, not just TV but the general apparatus of the mass media can be a vehicle for manipulation. There is no need for collusion or a plot. All that is needed is that the world view of the elite and the world view of the central news media coincide.
  • Not all the media need to be involved in order for manipulation to be effective. Rarely would all the media be involved. It is always unfair to say simply “the press” or “the media” do this or that. They are never to be all lumped together as tough they were a monolithic whole. Nonetheless, the media can be a vehicle of manipulation.
  • Not only do these news makers make certain things news–in contrast to that which gets “lost”–but the color they put on the news tends to be picked up as well. Often this tone is set by starting off with what is called a “hard lead,” the first sentence of a news article which is supposed to sum up the story in an eye-catching way. If this is subtly slanted, the tone of the whole story tends to be set, and it becomes the stained-glass window through which that story and perhaps even related stories are comprehended.
  • The central message of biblical Christianity is the possibility of men and women approaching God through the work of Christ. But the message also has secondary results, among them the unusual and wide freedoms which biblical Christianity gave to countries where it supplied the consensus. When these freedoms are separated from the Christian base, however, they become a force of destruction leading to chaos. When this happens, as it has today, then, to quote Eric Hoffer, “When freedom destroys order, the yearning for order will destroy freedom.”
  • At that point the words “left “or “right” will make no difference. They are only two roads to the same end. There is no difference between an authoritarian government from the right or the left: the results are the same. An elite, an authoritarianism as such, will gradually force form on society so that it will not go on to chaos. And most people will accept it–from the desire for personal peace and affluence, from apathy, and from the yearning for order to assure the functioning of some political system, business, and the affairs of daily life. That is just what Rome did with Caesar Augustus.
Cover Photo: Press Cameras
 
This post contains quoted and paraphrased passages of How Should We Then Live? by Francis A. Schaeffer. 50th L’Abri Anniversary Edition, © 2005 by Crossway Books.
 

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