Social Control: The „Radio Project”
„Here, then, were some potent theories of social control. The great possibilities of this Frankfurt School media work were probably the major contributing factor in the support given the I.S.R. by the bastions of the Establishment, after the Institute transferred its operations to America in 1934.
In 1937, the Rockefeller Foundation began funding research into the social effects of new forms of mass media, particularly radio. Before World War I, radio had been a hobbyist’s toy, with only 125,000 receiving sets in the entire U.S.; twenty years later, it had become the primary mode of entertainment in the country; out of 32 million American families in 1937, 27.5 million had radios — a larger percentage than had telephones, automobiles, plumbing, or electricity! Yet, almost no systematic research had been done up to this point. The Rockefeller Foundation enlisted several universities, and headquartered this network at the School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Named the Office of Radio Research, it was popularly known as „the Radio Project.”
The director of the Project was Paul Lazersfeld, the foster son of Austrian Marxist economist Rudolph Hilferding, and a long-time collaborator of the I.S.R. from the early 1930’s. Under Lazersfeld wasFrank Stanton, a recent Ph.D. in industrial psychology from Ohio State, who had just been made research director of Columbia Broadcasting System—a grand title but a lowly position. After World War II, Stanton became president of the CBS News Division, and ultimately president of CBS at the height of the TV network’s power; he also became Chairman of the Board of the RAND Corporation, and a member of President Lyndon Johnson’s „kitchen cabinet.” Among the Project’s researchers wereHerta Herzog, who married Lazersfeld and became the first director of research for the Voice of America; and Hazel Gaudet, who became one of the nation’s leading political pollsters. Theodor Adorno was named chief of the Project’s music section.
Despite the official gloss, the activities of the Radio Project make it clear that its purpose was to test empirically the Adorno-Benjamin thesis that the net effect of the mass media could be to atomize and increase lability—what people would later call „brainwashing.” [ restul AICI ]
III. Creating „Public Opinion”: The „Authoritarian Personality” Bogeyman and the OSS
„The efforts of the Radio Project conspirators to manipulate the population, spawned the modern pseudoscience of public opinion polling, in order to gain greater control over the methods they were developing.
Today, public opinion polls, like the television news, have been completely integrated into our society. A „scientific survey” of what people are said to think about an issue can be produced in less than twenty-four hours. Some campaigns for high political office are completely shaped by polls; in fact, many politicians try to create issues which are themselves meaningless, but which they know will look good in the polls, purely for the purpose of enhancing their image as „popular.” Important policy decisions are made, even before the actual vote of the citizenry or the legislature, by poll results. Newspapers will occasionally write pious editorials calling on people to think for themselves, even as the newspaper’s business agent sends a check to the local polling organization.
The idea of „public opinion” is not new, of course. Plato spoke against it in his Republic over two millenia ago; Alexis de Tocqueville wrote at length of its influence over America in the early nineteenth century. But, nobody thought to measure public opinion before the twentieth century, and nobody before the 1930’s thought to use those measurements for decision-making.
It is useful to pause and reflect on the whole concept. The belief that public opinion can be a determinant of truth is philosophically insane. It precludes the idea of the rational individual mind. Every individual mind contains the divine spark of reason, and is thus capable of scientific discovery, and understanding the discoveries of others. The individual mind is one of the few things that cannot, therefore, be „averaged.” Consider: at the moment of creative discovery, it is possible, if not probable, that the scientist making the discovery is the only person to hold that opinion about nature, whereas everyone else has a different opinion, or no opinion. One can only imagine what a „scientifically-conducted survey” on Kepler’s model of the solar system would have been, shortly after he published the Harmony of the World: 2% for, 48% against, 50% no opinion.
These psychoanalytic survey techniques became standard, not only for the Frankfurt School, but also throughout American social science departments, particularly after the I.S.R. arrived in the United States. The methodology was the basis of the research piece for which the Frankfurt School is most well known, the „authoritarian personality” project. In 1942, I.S.R. director Max Horkheimer made contact with the American Jewish Committee, which asked him to set up a Department of Scientific Research within its organization. The American Jewish Committee also provided a large grant to study anti-Semitism in the American population. „Our aim,” wrote Horkheimer in the introduction to the study, „is not merely to describe prejudice, but to explain it in order to help in its eradication…. Eradication means reeducation scientifically planned on the basis of understanding scientifically arrived at.” [ restul AICI ]
„Tirania nu provoaca revolta multimii. Rezultatul e altul: publicul se obisnuieste, devine indiferent, uita ideile cu care era familiarizat. Trecerea timpului nu slabeste guvernele absolute, le intareste. Masa uita, rabda cu din ce in ce mai multa usurinta, pentru ca din ce in ce mai mult se obisnuieste, nu-i pasa. Opinia publica – celebra opinie publica, intai imboldul, apoi speranta democratiilor – nu rastoarna dictaturile, le sustine. Cand nu poti sa-ti exprimi liber si deschis gandurile, cand aceasta lipsa de libertate e aprobata de opinia publica, libertatea de gandire ea insasi inceteaza de a mai exista.” – Nicolae Steinhardt, “Guvernul autoritar”, Libertatea, 20 iunie 1937.
The Public Opinion Explosion
„Despite its unprovable central thesis of „psychoanalytic types,” the interpretive survey methodology of the Frankfurt School became dominant in the social sciences, and essentially remains so today. In fact, the adoption of these new, supposedly scientific techniques in the 1930’s brought about an explosion in public-opinion survey use, much of it funded by Madison Avenue. The major pollsters of today—A.C. Neilsen, George Gallup, Elmo Roper—started in the mid-1930’s, and began using the I.S.R. methods, especially given the success of the Stanton-Lazersfeld Program Analyzer. By 1936, polling activity had become sufficiently widespread to justify a trade association, the American Academy of Public Opinion Research at Princeton, headed by Lazersfeld; at the same time, the University of Chicago created the National Opinion Research Center. In 1940, the Office of Radio Research was turned into the Bureau of Applied Social Research, a division of Columbia University, with the indefatigable Lazersfeld as director.
After World War II, Lazersfeld especially pioneered the use of surveys to psychoanalyze American voting behavior, and by the 1952 Presidential election, Madison Avenue advertising agencies were firmly in control of Dwight Eisenhower’s campaign, utilizing Lazersfeld’s work. Nineteen fifty-two was also the first election under the influence of television, which, as Adorno had predicted eight years earlier, had grown to incredible influence in a very short time. Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborne — the fabled „BBD&O” ad agency—designed Ike’s campaign appearances entirely for the TV cameras, and as carefully as Hitler’s Nuremberg rallies; one-minute „spot” advertisements were pioneered to cater to the survey-determined needs of the voters.
This snowball has not stopped rolling since. The entire development of television and advertising in the 1950’s and 1960’s was pioneered by men and women who were trained in the Frankfurt School’s techniques of mass alienation. Frank Stanton went directly from the Radio Project to become the single most-important leader of modern television. Stanton’s chief rival in the formative period of TV was NBC’s Sylvester „Pat” Weaver; after a Ph.D. in „listening behavior,” Weaver worked with the Program Analyzer in the late 1930’s, before becoming a Young & Rubicam vice-president, then NBC’s director of programming, and ultimately the network’s president. Stanton and Weaver’s stories are typical.
Today, the men and women who run the networks, the ad agencies, and the polling organizations, even if they have never heard of Theodor Adorno, firmly believe in Adorno’s theory that the media can, and should, turn all they touch into „football.” Coverage of the 1991 Gulf War should make that clear.
The technique of mass media and advertising developed by the Frankfurt School now effectively controls American political campaigning. Campaigns are no longer based on political programs, but actually on alienation. Petty gripes and irrational fears are identified by psychoanalytic survey, to be transmogrified into „issues” to be catered to; the „Willy Horton” ads of the 1988 Presidential campaign, and the „flag-burning amendment,” are but two recent examples. Issues that will determine the future of our civilization, are scrupulously reduced to photo opportunities and audio bites—like Ed Murrow’s original 1930’s radio reports—where the dramatic effect is maximized, and the idea content is zero.” [ restul AICI ]
The CIA’s Psychedelic Revolution
„The simmering unrest on campus in 1960 might well too have passed or had a positive outcome, were it not for the traumatic decapitation of the nation through the Kennedy assassination, plus the simultaneous introduction of widespread drug use. Drugs had always been an „analytical tool” of the nineteenth century Romantics, like the French Symbolists, and were popular among the European and American Bohemian fringe well into the post-World War II period. But, in the second half of the 1950’s, the CIA and allied intelligence services began extensive experimentation with the hallucinogen LSD to investigate its potential for social control. It has now been documented that millions of doses of the chemical were produced and disseminated under the aegis of the CIA’s Operation MK-Ultra. LSD became the drug of choice within the agency itself, and was passed out freely to friends of the family, including a substantial number of OSS veterans. For instance, it was OSS Research and Analysis Branch veteran Gregory Bateson who „turned on” the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg to a U.S. Navy LSD experiment in Palo Alto, California. Not only Ginsberg, but novelist Ken Kesey and the original members of the Grateful Dead rock group opened the doors of perception courtesy of the Navy. The guru of the „psychedelic revolution,” Timothy Leary, first heard about hallucinogens in 1957 from Life magazine (whose publisher, Henry Luce, was often given government acid, like many other opinion shapers), and began his career as a CIA contract employee; at a 1977 „reunion” of acid pioneers, Leary openly admitted, „everything I am, I owe to the foresight of the CIA.” Hallucinogens have the singular effect of making the victim asocial, totally self-centered, and concerned with objects. Even the most banal objects take on the „aura” which Benjamin had talked about, and become timeless and delusionarily profound. In other words, hallucinogens instantaneously achieve a state of mind identical to that prescribed by the Frankfurt School theories. And, the popularization of these chemicals created a vast psychological lability for bringing those theories into practice. Thus, the situation at the beginning of the 1960’s represented a brilliant re-entry point for the Frankfurt School, and it was fully exploited. One of the crowning ironies of the „Now Generation” of 1964 on, is that, for all its protestations of utter modernity, none of its ideas or artifacts was less than thirty years old. The political theory came completely from the Frankfurt School;Lucien Goldmann, a French radical who was a visiting professor at Columbia in 1968, was absolutely correct when he said of Herbert Marcuse in 1969 that „the student movements … found in his works and ultimately in his works alone the theoretical formulation of their problems and aspirations [emphasis in original].” The long hair and sandals, the free love communes, the macrobiotic food, the liberated lifestyles, had been designed at the turn of the century, and thoroughly field-tested by various, Frankfurt School-connected New Age social experiments like the Ascona commune before 1920. (See box.) Even Tom Hayden’s defiant „Never trust anyone over thirty,” was merely a less-urbane version of Rupert Brooke’s 1905, „Nobody over thirty is worth talking to.” The social planners who shaped the 1960’s simply relied on already-available materials.” [ restul AICI ]