Principalities & Powers

Nationalism, True and False

Ruling classes exercise power through combinations of coercion and manipulation—what Machiavelli called force and fraud, or the habits of the lion and the fox that he recommended to princes who wish to stay in power. Like most princes, most ruling classes tend to be better at one than the other, and depending on their talents, interests, and psychologies, they will habitually rely on one style of domination more than on its complement. In the 20th century, totalitarian regimes have rested their power on the use of force—to the point of what the Germans came to call Schrecklichkeit, or terror, pure and simple—but they did not fail to attend to the arts of manipulation as well. Communist brainwashing and the high science of propaganda that Joseph Goebbels perfected were perhaps as useful to their respective regimes and the ruling classes they served as the Cheka and the Gestapo.

Unlike European totalitarians, their American counterpart in this century has tended to rely on manipulation, which involves not only indoctrination through the mass media but also the whole battery of techniques by which the population is manipulated to think and act in the way that the managerial ruling class wants it to think and act. Those techniques include the bread and circuses of mass consumerism and the entertainment industry as well as the blunter ideological disciplining delivered every night on television and in most Hollywood...

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