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Shadow Economy, Democracy and the Manipulation of Public Opinion

by Denis Churilov

Let’s talk about drugs, pop-music, public opinion manipulation and shadow economy.

There’s a sociological concept known as the Overton window (also known as the Window of Discourse). Simply put, it’s a system of various political, cultural and media techniques that can be used to make forbidden topics acceptable, popular, and even policy changing. The classical model deals with ideas in six distinct phases: 1) unthinkable, 2) radical, 3) acceptable, 4) sensible, 5) popular and, finally, 6) policy-shifting. Pulling an idea from “unthinkable” to “policy” stage may take a couple of decades, or just a couple of years, depending on how much media resources do people who are interested in shaping society in a certain way have.

Consider the following imaginary example. If the elites wanted to, say, make people engage in coprophagy and to eat their own excrement for breakfast (which is simply unthinkable at this stage), they would first finance the media to make a report, or a documentary, about some mentally unstable persons consuming their own faeces. It would initially cause shock and aversion, but, nevertheless, people would start talking about it. Then the media would dig up some radical contemporary artists who perform by defecating on their plates and eating it all on camera.

This kind of topic would begin receiving more and more attention from the media, there would be Internet memes on that. And that would eventually result in more and more deviant and attention seeking people attempting to eat their own poo and coming out as coprophages. This disturbing trend would then naturally begin to attract even more attention. There would be debates on TV, with various “experts” on biology and zoology telling that it may not be that unnatural after all, since there are multiple examples from nature where animals do eat excrement. The representatives of the side that opposes such disgusting practices would be chosen from unpopular marginals, overly conservative oldies and various unpleasant personalities, so that the public would associate all the anti-coprophagic arguments with them.

There would be a serious public debate on this issue.

Then, perhaps, there would be stories about some kid being bullied at school for his habit of eating poo, with people condemning the bullies, saying how wrong it is to bully people who make their own choices of what to ingest. And then there would be another wave of similar stories of newly emerged coprophages suffering because of social stigma, and how we all should be open-minded and condemn discrimination. In a couple of years’ time, it would not be considered that crazy to eat your own faeces anymore, and those who strongly oppose it would be demonised.

Then it may actually turn into a popular trend (post-industrial crowds are extremely impressionable), with everyone, including pop-stars and big media figures jumping on the poo-eating bandwagon. Then, quite naturally, business companies would start coming up with ways to make money out of it, so it would turn into an industry. And then, finally, it might pressure the government(s) to change the policy (e. g. to create certain public spots where people in need could safely defecate and then consume their own faecal matter). The Overton window process would then be complete.

The above example is probably absurd, but it illustrates the mechanics of changing cultural norms by those who own concentrated wealth and control large media resources.

Now, think of the illicit substances legalisation.

When you read old interviews with DJs and electronic dance music producers from the 1980s and the early 1990s, you see that most of them avoided talking about drugs within rave culture (or they simply lied about it, denying the rumours). Then, closer towards the 2000s, many began to admit that, yes, illicit drugs used to be a big part of the rave culture “back in the days”, and how there’s no point in denying it anymore (even though it was still as if they were feeling ashamed because of it). A couple of years ago, during the Ultra Music Festival, Madonna addressed the audience by asking “How many people in this crowd have seen Molly?” (she was referring to MDMA). It caused quite an uproar back then. Various artists, producers and DJs were condemning her on social media for bringing this up and making a bad name for the dance music industry. Everyone was outraged by what she did, as if she had breached some kind of a taboo.

Just a few years later, in 2016, songs like “I Took A Pill In Ibiza” by Mike Posner and “Cold Water” (which opened with lines “Everybody gets high sometimes, you know / What else can we do we’re feeling low?”) by Major Lazer, MǾ and Justin Bieber were already topping world charts. Such songs could be heard in all public places and at every corner…

That escalated quickly, didn’t it?

Drugs have been becoming increasingly topical, with legislative powers worldwide generally moving into the direction of drug decriminalisation and legalisation. Earlier in December this year, the Norwegian Parliament voted in favour of decriminalising all drug use and focusing on the medical aspect of the issue instead. Australia legalised medicinal marijuana production in October 2016. Recreational cannabis use has been legalised in 9 US states since 2012.

If we assume that it is not just a natural flow of events, but, rather, a strategically controlled long-term process whereby society is being gradually prepared for new legislations through pop-cuture psy-ops, what could be the reasons behind it? Why would the elites want people to accept illicit drug use? Well, the answer might lie in the worsening crisis the global economy has been going through.

One of the proposed ways to postpone the recession is to take certain segments of the “unofficial economy” out of the shadow and start regulating them. According to the estimates provided by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants in their 2017 “Emerging from the shadows: the shadow economy to 2025” report, the unregulated sectors of the economy (e. g. illicit drugs sale, prostitution, unregistered weapons market, etc) was accounting for as much as 23% of the global GDP in 2011. Almost a quarter of the global GDP is obviously too large to avoid coordinated attempts to decriminalise and legalise some of its segments. Unsurprisingly, some of the most prominent members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, including the former UN Secretary Kofi Anon and the former president of Brazil Fernando Henrique Cardoso (who is also a professor of political science and sociology), have been advocating the drug decriminalisation for years.

So, it is quite possible that the drug decriminalisation and legalisation trend we have been observing worldwide is a part of a larger plot to bring “unofficial” economy out of the shadow in order to improve the official global economy statistic. And given that society is quite inert, the Overton window techniques have been employed by the financial and media elites to gradually normalise the drug use and prepare the ground for the subsequent legislative changes.

And, no, it doesn’t mean that some illuminati just sat down with Mike Posner and made him record that nauseating “I Took A Pill In Ibiza” song. When you employ the Overton window strategy, everything you need to do is to create the right informational environment for the “right ”ideas to flow, so that the desired discourse could then rise and roll through naturally by itself, like a snowball.

Just a thought.

Either way, with all these advanced sociological theories and public opinion manipulation techniques, the idea of Democracy can go to trash, because it’s the banksters and the affiliated media magnates who manipulate the discourse and shape society in whatever way they want, giving people the ideas that they would perceive as their own.


17 Comments

  1. The flaw in your theory is in the premise. Recession isn’t inevitable and the elites know that currency issuing governments have the power to overcome the business cycle.
    #LearnMMT

    • Big B says

      If MMT doesn’t recognise a continuing recession when we are in one – no thanks. Global GDP has been trending down for seven years. You can call it a debt fueled faux ‘recovery’ if you want: other titles might be “the continued financial crisis”; “the great recession”; “secular stagnation”; “the lost decade (07-17)”; etc. …we’ll see what happens if they ever end global QE???

      https://www.dallasfed.org/-/media/Images/institute/update/2016/1608c1.png?la=en

      • I don’t understand your comment. MMT is an analytical approach to understand the monetary system and how it can be used for public purpose. The MMT community certainly recognises the continuing recessionary trend but also understands that that is due to poor political decision making, not any law of nature or ‘economic reality’. If you want to fix the problems we have, you need to learn how the system works in reality and stop believing the monetarists’ lies that serve to entrench the status quo. #LearnMMT or be ignorant.

  2. Big B says

    I might be stretching the concept: but the entire binary political sphere could be viewed through an Overton Window. The left and right centrist parties offer the verisimilitude of choice – while the fundamental growth; central banking dominated; debt-driven; financialised; consumerist; exploitative (kept out of sight and supposedly confined to the economic vassal and neo-colonial hinterlands); ‘free’ trade; short-termist; militarist …all these structural paradigms go largely unchallenged. If the last election was anything to go by: it was incredibly parochial, with the greater emphasis on domestic policy; not to severely challenge the (Russophobic; preserving of the “Special Relationship” {with the world’s biggest terrorist organisation}; pro-EU-NATO; pro-nuclear; anti-immigrant; Islamophobic; pro-Israel; etc) worldview. All these structural pillars of the “Global Britain” world view are presented as ameliorable only with a left or right (centrist) ‘spin’ – but not to be challenged or deconstructed. Thus, a non-aligned, neutral, internally focused, largely self-sufficient and sustainable, degrowth, post-carbon, equitable, fair trade, non-militaristic, non-nuclear; unilaterally disarmed, socialist state and nation building paradigm – even if viewed as “sensible” – would be deemed too “radical” …or just plain “unthinkable”. For now, anyway?

  3. Edwige says

    Construct fake cultural icons to sell your message because most people listen to them more than politicians, journalists or academics.

    Start with Joe Atwill and Jan Irvin’s research into The Grateful Dead in ‘Maufacturing the Deadhead’, proceed to Dave MacGowan’s findings on The Doors in ‘Weird Scenes inside the Canyon’ and carry on until pretty much all popular music of the last half century looks like an example of created culture to sell some sort of message (as well as make a lot of money).

    • Bono and U2 achieved that hallowed status of fake cultural icons by themselves without any help from academics.

  4. Big B says

    The Overton Window is an interesting socio-political concept. It is largely fixed, if not static – as far as I understand it. Moving the Overton Window (which this article is about) is a related development of the concept: interesting, in that it incorporates mass and applied behavioural psychology. Underpinning this, is the view that humanity is socially conditioned, rational, materialist, and deterministic in nature. If Marx [and Darwin and other 19th century thinkers] is right: and homo economicus is determined by the prevailing economic, political, cultural, and social conditions – then, indeed, those can be manipulated to change our mode of thinking and being. For better or worse: the Overton Window can be moved by psychological ‘persuasion’ – and the modern mass surveillance followers of Bernays and Lipmann (Cass Sunstein springs to mind) can have their way …to manipulate the compliant ‘sheeple’ into pastures of their choosing.

    Only, to my POV: the mind (consciousness) defies all rational materialist and determinist reduction. The only word I can coin is that it is metaphysical (or both physical and non-‘physical’ {beyond-physical}) in nature – beyond rational scientific or materialist reduction or understanding. The theory or replication of consciousness is (and always will be) beyond us. That makes conscious resistance possible: our Zen is our collective and intellectual self-defence???

    It also raises the theoretical possibility that the sheep can move the shepherd (so to speak): or at least resist conscious manipulation. If the socio-cultural can condition consciousness: then consciousness can condition the socio-cultural …it is not all one way traffic; the reciprocal and dialectic are also true. Modern examples of this would be the (UK) government u-turns on changes to social security; and the dropping of the “bedroom tax” due to public outcry.

    Or more pertinent, the Overton Window on government intervention policy in Syria – could be said to have been moved (or cleansed) by Vanessa Beeley et al’s courageous reporting. This has forced the FCO to admit that in funding the “Free Syria” (even the name is a psyop) Police – some of the money inadvertently went to (Nour al-Din al-Zenki) terrorists. Whoops, we won’t let that happen again! The idea that they were setting up parallel and shadow government structures (police, local councils, the WH first responders) in ‘moderate rebel’ held territories (as opposed to directing aid to the sovereign legal government of Bashar al-Assad) – is (for now) outwith the (publicly acceptable) “Window of Discourse” …but that can change. And if that can change: what else can an evolving social conscience achieve???

  5. Re Manipulation of Public Opinion, Tony_0pmoc forwards an expose of the Guardian in today’s Saker Vineyard:

    “… written by a student at a University in Newcastle, England, astonishing in its detail, and readability. It quotes, highlights, summarises, impeccable real journalist sources with irrefutable evidence.

    If you actually buy or read the once wonderful Manchester Guardian … read this first before you ever spend a penny on what is now total trash written by evil brainwashed war supporting morons. These people are at least complicit, if not directly responsible for the complete horror of millions of innocent people’s deaths and mutilation over the last 20 years.

    “WHITE HELMETS: The Guardian Protects UK FCO Destabilisation Project in Syria”

    http://21stcenturywire.com/2017/12/20/white-helmets-guardian-protects-uk-fco-destablisation-project-syria/

    Intro: It’s hard to tell what’s going on in the world, isn’t it? Whom do you believe when there are competing, totally irreconcilable narratives out there? “

    • Hi, I couldn’t find the article in the Saker Vineyard you mentioned; any chance of a link? Ta!

  6. I suppose the October 2017 incident in which the Russian performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky set on fire the doors of a Bank of France office in Paris – this incident coming after a similar incident in November 2015 in which he set on fire the doors of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) in Moscow and which was applauded by Jonathan Jones at The Guardian among others as an act of defiance against the current Russian government – doesn’t quite make the jump from “unacceptable” to “radical” and “acceptable”, does it?

    Jonathan Jones, “Pyotr Pavlensky is setting Russia’s evil history ablaze”
    https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2015/nov/09/pyotr-pavlensky-is-setting-russias-evil-history-ablaze

    Anna Codrea-Rado, “Russian Artist Is Charged Over Fire at Central Bank Building in Paris”
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/19/arts/pyotr-pavlensky-paris-fire.html

    In vain I Googled for a Jonathan Jones article on Pavlensky’s pyromaniac prank in Paris but didn’t find anything. Hmm, wonder why? – maybe not looking hard enough?

    • Big B says

      He also nailed his testicles to Red Square in another ‘performance’. Is that the best the USAID/OTI/CIA/Soros slush fund can do to convince the world that the rooskies are evil???

    • [Chuckles.] We should do a group photo of us editors one of these days, when we happen to be on the same continent and in the same country at the same time, that is — until then, here’s a little smiley icon instead 🙂

  7. noreen cerino says

    Yeah, it’s called social engineering. Thank the Tavistock Institute, they mastered it.

    • Richard Wicks says

      What do you mean plausible? You’ve seen it happen multiple times.

      Gay marriage is one example.
      The US government using torture is another.
      Having the US government spy on the ENTIRE POPULATION is another.
      The US government committing war crimes and blatantly lying it’s way into a war is another.

      You’ve seen this done over and over and over again. With education, with religion, with foreign policy. I was born in the 1970s, and fully 1/2 of what the government does would be utterly unacceptable back in, say, 1990.

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