The Daily Heller: Essential (Summer) Reading That Ain’t Fun to Read

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Wear plenty of sunscreen if you’re out reading on the beach. Or, better yet, just stay inside under mosquito netting. You’re in for some dreary but necessary summer reading.

We are in for a contentious Fall, especially with elections and a possible Department of Justice inquiry into former president Trump’s criminal activities on Jan. 6. But one thing is certain: The propaganda wars will swing into full gear by Labor Day, if they haven’t already. Yes, all sides attack and counter-attack—but some practitioners are bigger liars than others (if you get my meaning, Marjorie Taylor Greene).

Propaganda is neither art nor science but it is a dubious skill that is practiced with cunning efficiency under the overall rubrics of public relations, mass opinion and mind control. The mass control is a modern concept wherein popular consent is manipulated through orchestrated big lies, petty rumor and innuendo, which go viral at such accelerated speed that big ideas (and big lies) turn into human behavior, and from behavior into activism, and from activism into action (coming out the other end as truthiness). It happens in every discernible segment of life, from the religious (where the original sin of propaganda began in the 15th century with Pope Gregory) to politics and commerce—from visceral to fanciful.

We’re in for a major blitz of distorted media, from mainstream to lamestream, from diabolical to ignorant. Propaganda is a spreading disease. Protective and curative vaccines always lose potency as new variants of manipulation emerge. So the canny consumer of propaganda (and we are all consumers, whether we believe it or not) must be skeptical; always vigilant, always! We are the prime targets, and no kind of mask—not even N95s, plastic shields or armor plates—will keep it at bay.

Resist! This summer read the three books featured above by Edward Bernays and Gustav Lebon. Each is a guide through the practice by those who’ve mastered the mass deceit.

As George Orwell wrote, “All art is propaganda.” If you keep that simple truism in mind, and if you learn to discern the signs and distinguish the venal from benign, you might have a reasonably tolerable election season.

And, just as a precaution, don’t trust (male) politicians who dye their hair (Giuliani, I’m talking to you and your bud).