Brave New World Revisited Once More for Good Measure

Aldous Huxley’s 1958 Brave New World Revisited is arguably one of the most prescient cautionary books on the present and future of propaganda and manipulation—if also an unintended handbook for some on how to manipulate our minds. I wrote about and quoted from it over a year ago, here. But now that the campaign season is here, it may be sobering to re-read some passages from this blueprint for how media can bypass our rational defenses, sneak up and infect our thinking.

. . . prefer to make non­sense of democratic procedures by appealing almost exclusively to the ignorance and irrationality of the electors. “Both parties,” we were told in 1956 by the editor of a leading business journal, “will merchandize their candidates and issues by the same methods that business has developed to sell goods. These include scientific selection of appeals and planned repetition. . . . Radio spot announcements and ads will repeat phrases with a planned intensity. Billboards will push slogans of proven power. . . . Candidates need, in addition to rich voices and good diction, to be able to look ‘sincerely’ at the TV camera.”

The political merchandisers appeal only to the weak­nesses of voters, never to their potential strength. They make no attempt to educate the masses into becoming fit for self-government; they are content merely to manipulate and exploit them. For this pur­pose all the resources of psychology and the social sciences are mobilized and set to work. Carefully se­lected samples of the electorate are given “interviews in depth.” These interviews in depth reveal the uncon­scious fears and wishes most prevalent in a given so­ciety at the time of an election. Phrases and images aimed at allaying or, if necessary, enhancing these fears, at satisfying these wishes, at least symbolically, are then chosen by the experts, tried out on readers and audiences, changed or improved in the light of the information thus obtained. After which the political campaign is ready for the mass communicators. All that is now needed is money and a candidate who can be coached to look “sincere.” Under the new dispen­sation, political principles and plans for specific action have come to lose most of their importance. The person­ality of the candidate and the way he is projected by the advertising experts are the things that really mat­ter.


For more Steven Heller, download his recent webcast, “Researching Design History: From a Personal Perspective.”

3 thoughts on “Brave New World Revisited Once More for Good Measure

  1. dan kimble

    Yes, propaganda has taken over the media, across the board. But, for the vast majority of the message, it is the leftist message which is being delivered through the propaganda.
    It starts in kindergarten….and it carries through all the way through graduate school.
    I don’t need to point this out, we all know it. The leftist propaganda comes from Hollywood, from pop music, pop culture, government, celebrities, and the hard core leftist organizations, such as the various environmental groups. The one saving grace has been talk radio, and some books, and, of course, the internet, where conservatives get to blog.
    I think Romney is the real deal. I think he is not pandering….just look at his appearance before black Americans at the NAACP conference. He was not pandering to them. He was honest.
    Obama and his propagandists are clearly making things up about Romney. Romney is the original MR. Clean….there is very thin gruel for the democrats to uncover. So, far, they have a story about a dog on vacation ……..the rest is made up BS.
    This election is not all that complicated…it is eftism, statism against traditional American values, which the left has been trying to bury for two generations. 
    I do not doubt that the American electorate has been dumbed down quite a bit……..but, it must then be commented on….dumbed down by whom?…by what?
    Well, I would say…and I know this is backed up by one well known former professor from the U of Chicago, Milt Rosenberg, who has been called one of the smartest people on the planet (his reputation comes from his long standing talk show which has been running on WGN radio 720 in Chicago for decades)……the level of knowledge of young people entering college has been going down year after year.
    What is to account for this?…Surely not the lack of proper nutrition, as the heights of young people have rocketed up….No, it is the paucity in the education system, where a couple of generations have been fed with leftist tripe rather than rigourous education.
    We need to regain control at the local llevel of the education system….and get rid of the political correctness coming down from on high from the federal government.
    Let the parents control the school boards and the curriculum, rather than having it dictated from on high by leftist bureaucrats….it was just that way not so many decades ago. Sometimes the past was better than the present…lets get back to parents making sure there is common sense in the education of their children…..Let’s root out leftism from the schools.
    Leftist ideology is a failure everywhere it has been tried…..why is it still flourishing in the USA? Who is it that implements this dangerous ideoogy of lies in our school systems?

  2. David Apatoff

    If you want to be truly scared, contrast the videos of the presidential debates in Huxley’s era with the debates we see today.  Huxley was writing about candidates who spoke in long complex sentences about legitimate policy concerns, and he blasted them as inadequate.  If he saw today’s exchange of puerile sound bites, he’d throw himself off a bridge