Huxley predicts “whispering machines and subliminal projectors” (83) at schools or hospitals–where the subjects are more suggestible–and the use of speeches and rituals in public spaces.
By the way, in the twenty-first century, we should notice that high-definition television screens are crammed with constantly scrolling information that we cannot process consciously.
Huxley explains another method of influence called “persuasion-by-association” by which the propagandist associates his message with an appealing concept or image, such as feminine beauty (83) or religious imagery (84).
Huxley refers to subliminal experiments (85) that tested associations. The results showed that an expressionless face, for example, can be unconsciously associated with either “happy” or “angry”.
He regrets not featuring subliminal projection in his novel Brave New World (86).
Huxley explains that various techniques will reinforce the future politician’s message with “positively charged words and hallowed images“. He identifies such politicians as representatives “of the ruling oligarchy” (86).
Sleep Teaching (Hypnopaedia)
The plot of BNW features sleep teaching as a method of hypnosis.
However, researchers seem to have concluded that sleep teaching or “sleep learning” is not effective at all—except when the subject is close to being awake. Huxley discusses the research in the 1950s (89-94), and he thought it could be effective for behavior conditioning, but not for intellectual training. The idea of the training portrayed in the novel is that each repeated suggestion accumulates drop by drop until the suggestions and the child’s mind become the same thing (90).
Huxley believed that BNW-style sleep teaching would be used by a dictator in order to condition children at nursery-schools and kindergartens during their naps. He would also do the same with hospitals, prisons, military barracks, ships, trains, airplanes, bus and train stations (95).
However, even Huxley’s discussion in Revisited casts doubt on the effectiveness of sleep teaching.
By now, potential electronic methods of mass conditioning would be much more sophisticated. I mentioned TV. How many hours a day now are we exposed to TV, computer monitors, video games, electronic music and high-frequency radio waves?
Part of this Brain Software podcast episode discusses the danger of TV.
Concentration is a normal state of mind, but what are people allowing into their minds? What do children–and adults–spend their time doing? What are they staring at? What are they listening to? What are they reading? What is holding their attention and where does it come from?
According to Huxley, Buddhists claim that “most of us are half asleep” and are always “obeying someone else’s suggestions” (96). Huxley is dropping a very clear hint that most people are “asleep”. He says the ideal is being awake.
He is impressed by the biological diversity of human beings and seems to regret that we are always pushed into conformity. On the other hand, he seems to be glad that “societies can function” because “people are fairly suggestible” (96).
Huxley repeats another conclusion that twenty percent of the public, supposedly, are very suggestible and can be hypnotized very easily, and another twenty percent can only be hypnotized when their resistance is lowered with fatigue or drugs (98).
Huxley is emphasizing that effectiveness depends on the methods used and the effort exerted. He points out the implication for democracy if it’s true that a minority of people can be seduced quickly and the majority can be influenced by those who know their stuff and are “prepared to take the necessary time and trouble” (100).
Whether or not these numbers are meaningful, Huxley in this case is stating that the controllers adjust their techniques for different segments of the population.
Huxley’s Contradiction: “Impersonal Forces” or “Oligarchy”
Huxley states that the “nightmare of total organization” is “just around the next corner” (2).
However, he refers to early twentieth century society as a time of “too little order” (2) which indicates his real Fabian-style attitude of control. And this attitude is borne out by the actual recommendations he makes in BNW Revisited about population, education and conservation.
Huxley cloaks these international policies using the justification of “freedom”, and even in the name of “decentralization”, even though they logically lead to less freedom and more centralized powers–no doubt leading towards the scientific dictatorship he pretends to oppose.
Also, these areas relate directly to the “ultimate revolution” concept that Huxley fears (supposedly), because they have to do with the human mind and biology, with the standardization of our nature, and with a concerted attack on our cultures and traditions.
These policies affect the human mind and body because they relate to “education” (propaganda and conditioning), resources, farming “methods” (pushing someone’s products “to solve hunger”), the food supply, access to the human body under the justification of “health care” and “birth control”. And since Huxley wrote this, there has been non-stop internationally coordinated activity in these fields by governments, corporations, Foundations, celebrity billionaires and thousands of NGOs. Note that Edward Bernays recommended the use of celebrities for propaganda.
Huxley tries to claim that there are multiple “impersonal” threats to freedom–“demographic, social, political, psychological”(113), thus encouraging readers to overlook the times he referred to “oligarchy”, “power elite” and “rulers”.
He divides the freedom-threatening “impersonal forces” into two categories: “over-organization” and “over-population”.
Impersonal Force: Over-Organization
Huxley refers to the consequences of technological advances as “impersonal forces”. He even says man will have to pay the “price” for “technological progress” (18). He claims that technology is leading to more and more centralized power (18).
So he doesn’t mention any element here of deliberate planning–except all the plans that he makes himself in this book! But he’s not by himself either. His brother Julian ran UNESCO, and helped to found the World Wildlife Fund. And Julian was very busy in all sorts of areas that have a huge impact on human thought, human biology and natural resources. The Huxley family worked for an oligarchy.
What do you think “wildlife” is all about? Same with “health”, “education”, “hunger”, “environment”. All of these things may mean something positive to us, but these are just stories and excuses in order to justify the complete domination of the planet by the oligarchy. And so you can read, for example, Agenda 21 and that’s what it’s all about–planetary resources. But most people have never even read it, because OMISSION of information is one of the forms of “education” we receive from “on high”.
The other point here is that using these weak arguments, Huxley makes it seem that totalitarian control is inevitable–unless we do what he says!
Plato in The Republic wrote about the power of poets. The role of the entertainment industry, including dystopic science fiction, is to direct society. This is Aldous Huxley’s role. Art preconditions us to accept the technologies that are essential to the construction of a scientific dictatorship. Think about how many people have been exposed to Brave New World since it was written.
It’s a huge subject. Think about the funding by governments to musicians and authors–you can find the Canadian federal and provincial agencies online. Think about all the broadcast regulations over the decades. Think about the subsidization of Hollywood blockbusters by the Pentagon. Read The Cultural Cold War by Frances Stonor Saunders about CIA funding and influence over the arts, Hollywood and Western intellectuals. Read Propaganda by Edward Bernays. And so on.
Huxley writes about how more and more people are drawn into big cities by industry (22), leading to more mental health problems. People are absorbed into work and entertainment, feeling a loss in significance and meaning (23).
Huxley writes that human societies are more like packs and are not like ant heaps or beehives. But he says that “civilization” is turning human society into the mechanical “analogue” of beehives (23). An attempt to create the actual equivalent of a human beehive organism will only result in a “totalitarian despotism” (23). It’s a strange mindset that would try to turn human society into a hive, right?
He says we should refuse to go along with “the blind forces” pushing us in this direction (23). He also notes that the desire to resist does not seem to be common (24).
Often, Huxley assumes the role of champion of the individual. He refers to the book The Organization Man by William White (24) in which the author claims that a new “social ethic” is replacing the old idea that the “individual is primary”, introducing terms such as “adjustment”, “adaptation”, “group dynamics”, “group thinking”, “team work”, etc. Even the wife of the “organization man” is expected to put the company first.
From this, we can see that this attack on individuality has been going on a long time.
Huxley justifiably argues that an organization is not “good in itself”. It has to benefit individuals (26). He quotes Jesus saying “The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
Huxley says (29) that most people are “probably decent enough” “to be trusted” with their own “destinies”. I don’t think he believes that at all.
Our experiments in self-government in the West are “little by little, taken away from us” (30).
He observes that “dictators, organization men and certain scientists” are trying to change diversity into uniformity (101-102).
Huxley criticizes (102) behaviorists, Skinner for example, who believed that people were just products of their social conditioning. And he also criticizes Herbert Spencer’s idea that individual actions were the result of social forces (102). Possibly Huxley dislikes these ideas of social conditioning, but that doesn’t mean they’re not used practically on the masses with some success.
Huxley claims that genetic hereditary factors determining human behavior are very important, and that some individuals can “profoundly affect their social environment” (104). He mentions that Bertrand Russell agreed also with William James that there are three causes of “historical change”: economic, political and “important individuals” (104).
He thinks that some individuals are special because of their genetics. In my view, Huxley’s pro-individual attitude, in his mind, applies only to the elite.
We also have an acknowledgment here by Huxley’s fellow Fabian that society is directed by “important individuals”.
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