The fall of social engineering

Mass media outlets have been used as social engineering and manipulation tool since the end of the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century, many tactics and guidelines of using the media a social engineering tool were developed by professional propagandists and public relations professionals (for example: Eduard Bernays) and the behavioral psychology discipline, especially with the work of B.F. Skinner and later by CIA funded research and experiments. Many books explained the basics of using the media for social engineering, and Noam Chomsky was a prominent author in that field.

Recent events showed that the media does not have the same effect as a social engineering tool. We can cite many examples of the failure of mass media in imposing social change of different communities in the current decade.

The biggest failures of social engineering

In 2016 In the United States, the election of Donald Trump was a wake-up blow to the social engineers who worked hard to demonize him and amplify Hillary Clinton. The campaign was so fierce that people who supported Trump were reluctant to share their opinions in public. The mass media portrayed trump as a stupid racist unelectable candidate, and ridiculed anybody who dared to support him or even criticize their favorite candidate, Clinton. The election result showed that a major part of the American people had developed immunity against media campaigns. That confirms an earlier poll by Gallup showed that the majority of Americans do not believe the messages relayed to them by the mass media outlets.

Last year, 2015, Greek witnessed a referendum that was accompanied by a massive media scare campaign. The Greek government lead by SYRIZA party decided to put the question of approving a new loan plan to the Greek people. The euro group wanted to force their loan plan, and launched a massive media campaign on the Greek people accompanied by forcing Greek banks to close for lack of liquidity in the country. The Greek people were not intimidated, and they voted no to the new loan plan.

Greece witnessed another massive media campaign in the parliamentary elections in 2015. SYRIZA was demonized by the Greek and European media, but the Greek people gave them the majority that allowed them to lead the new Greek government.

In 2013 the entire world was subjected to a massive campaign to promote war against Syria. The mainstream media promoted a false narrative that the Syrian Government was using chemical weapons against its civilians. The campaign failed to condition the UK people to support invading Syria, and when the UK prime minister James Cameron proposed military action against Syria to the UK house of commons, MPs voted to reject the military action. The same campaign failed in other European countries and in the united states, and was later diffused by the Syrian and Russian diplomacy.

The chemical attack media campaign was part of an ongoing media war against Syria, and in spite of all the western media efforts to demonize the Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad. He was re-elected in 2014 by a majority of 88.7%. Now he stresses in every interview that, contrary to the western propaganda, he still enjoys the support of the Syrian people.

A new era

The failure of so many huge media campaigns in engineering the public opinion in recent years proves that growing numbers of people around the world are developing resistance against media campaigns. More and More people are deciding for themselves what they want to do no matter what the social engineers try to manipulate them to do. 

As for the social engineers, what worked in the previous decade does not work anymore. Media campaigns used to rein people into wars only a few years ago, but nowadays, Propaganda about removing babies from incubators or about the actual use of weapons of mass destruction on civilians or about human rights crimes have lost their effect on people. Intimidating and censoring extreme left or extreme right ideas on mainstream media used to extinguish these ideas in the past. Those days are over, and what was sidelined as “extreme ideas” has become part of the public debate.

This was an incremental change, not a quantum leap.  The rise of blogging and social networking enabled many of the censored people to establish their own podiums and start publishing and discussing their ideas in public. The rise of social media enabled bloggers and podcasters to connect with like-minded people. Blogging and podcasting gradually and organically evolved to become what we know as “Alternative media”. Currently, the alternative media is a complete eco-system for information production and distribution. Most of the alternative media sources are crowd funded, either through donations or through sales of supporting books and DVDs. They do not depend on advertising or financing by corporate interests, therefore they enjoy a high level of independence and freedom in their work.

Attack of the alternatives

The alternative media positioned itself for war against the mainstream media from the beginning. In fact, almost all alternative media platforms voiced criticism to mainstream media narratives and vowed to expose some mainstream media platforms at some time. This new media war did not affect the funding sources of the mainstream media, as the alternative media did not compete for advertising and public relations budgets. The war targeted a specific weak point in the mainstream media, which is, the use of the media as a social engineering tool. Alternative media platforms published eyeopeners, facts, leaks, and discussions in counter narratives to the social engineering narratives that were traditionally spread through mainstream media outlets.

The direct and interactive relationship between Alternative media sources and their audience enabled alternative media platforms to establish loyal audience bases, and to gradually grow these bases on the expense of the mainstream media. In the meantime, this direct relationship made it very difficult for the social engineers to censor or silence the alternative media, and the only method that proved successful in controlling some alternative platform was co-opting.

Apparently, all the social engineering failures did not notify the mainstream media to the fact that they are bleeding their audience to the alternative media. The wake-up call came with the win of Trump in the recent US elections. The recent “fake news” campaign is just an attempt by the mainstream media to stop the bleeding. While they initially used to ignore or laugh at their adversaries, it looks like the mainstream media outlets finally decided to fight back to defend themselves and their role as a social engineering tool.

Revenge of the engineers

With their latest big failures, social engineers must have realized that their existing textbooks are outdated. To be successful in herding people in the current century, they will need to develop new strategies, methodologies, techniques, and tools.

I am not in the business of predicting, but I can try to guess the next moves on a chess board. I think that the eternal “divide and conquer” strategy is still applicable, and that the Arab spring operation proved that co-opting works in many cases. Careful monitoring shows that People who built a personal legacy on opposing war became humanitarian war cheerleaders, and people who claim they support democracy became advocates of regime change and creative chaos plans, and were lead to support overthrowing democratically elected governments by terrorist insurrection.

My guess is that co-opting will be used to create vertical divides in the alternative media, and will possibly be based on the left vs right paradigm. Many alternative media platforms will see this as an opportunity, and will sell for the highest bidder. Others will be fooled to support this strategy for free. How many alternative media platforms will refuse to engage in the upcoming divide and conquer plan will determine the outcome of the war.

In addition to co-opting, I believe the social engineers will use their other tools in this media war. Schools and universities will certainly "inform" and "teach" students about "fake news", and law makers will draft laws to protect the people's minds from the dangerous "fake news". Banks will block transactions related to "fake news" publishers. Police will "investigate" the "harmful" "fake news" publishers. And so on.

The rebellion against social engineering was initiated by the alternative media, and they will face the ramifications when the counter attack of the social engineers begins.

Then you win

When we, the audience, look at the ongoing media war, we need to remember that social engineering does not serve the people, but conditions them to serve the social engineers and their financial sponsors. Therefore, resistance to social engineering is a good cause and serves the people. We also need to notice that the resistance, until now, was carried out in a very peaceful manner, as alternative sources did not try to drive the mainstream media out of business. The resistance was intellectual using logic, proof and accountability, without the violence of censorship and intimidation. I believe the alternative media conducted their resistance in an ethical and moral way in most cases, and when I sit back and look at the ongoing war, I remember Gandhi’s moral and peaceful resistance, especially his quote “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win”.

Al-Ayham Saleh

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