Friday, 11 July 2014

engineering consent - the art of manipulating people (Bernays)

"The central idea behind the engineering of consent is that the public or people should not be aware of the manipulation taking place." Wikipedia

I was thinking of focus groups and how in Scotland's mental health world we have a surfeit of these, often at the government's behest, and I've been at meetings organised by the (meant-to-be) national mental health user led organisation where the facilitator has wanted us to reach a "consensus".  

How daft.  For in a democracy there will always be, and should be, a range of opinions, for and against a motion or idea.  Otherwise we would be living in a totalitarian state.  Which it's often felt like to me since getting involved and up to my neck in mental health activism in Scotland.

I've been a community development worker since 1980, in South Lanarkshire then in Fife and surrounding areas, job wise.  It was always about empowerment, collective action, lifelong learning and being free to speak out.  I didn't expect the mental health world to be any different. 

It didn't take long, in 2008, to find out that it was a whole different ball game in Scotland's mental health world.  I'd recovered 3 times from psychiatric treatment following "psychoses".  Did it myself.  This seemed to be threat to the service user movement.  How dare I do it myself against the advice of psychiatry!  Huh.

I was non-conformist (non-compliant in psychiatric settings) and soon found out that the mental health leaders in Scotland didn't like it.  They couldn't "manage" me so they excluded me, badmouthing and backstabbing on occasion.  And so I retaliated.  I wasn't going to take it lying down.  

Since 2008 it's been a rollercoaster ride of thrust and parry, advance and retreat, trying to get meaningfully involved in this and that, mental health wise.  And now it's government high heid yins who are badmouthing me to my face.  Trying to silence my voice.  Targeting me.  Huh. 

I think it's high time that there was a shift in focus and a change of management style.  Level playing fields and straight paths.  Meaningful involvement of people with lived experience, service users and psychiatric survivors.  No more manipulation and game plays.  They are just a smoke screen for lack of leadership skills and management abilities.  In my opinion.

The Century of the Self - 4 Documentary films

This series is about how those in power have used Freud's theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy. Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, changed the perception of the human mind and its workings profoundly. 

His influence on the 20th century is widely regarded as massive. The documentary describes the impact of Freud's theories on the perception of the human mind, and the ways public relations agencies and politicians have used this during the last 100 years for their engineering of consent. Among the main characters are Freud himself and his nephew Edward Bernays, who was the first to use psychological techniques in advertising. He is often seen as the father of the public relations industry.

Freud's daughter Anna Freud, a pioneer of child psychology, is mentioned in the second part, as well as Wilhelm Reich, one of the main opponents of Freud's theories. Along these general themes, The Century of the Self asks deeper questions about the roots and methods of modern consumerism, representative democracy and its implications. It also questions the modern way we see ourselves, the attitude to fashion and superficiality.


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