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TotD: Controlling the Public

Wag the Dog, any­one?

Wag the DogThere have always exist­ed three ways of keep­ing the peo­ple lov­ing and loy­al. One is to leave them alone, to trust them and not to inter­fere. This plan, how­ev­er, has very sel­dom been prac­tised, because the politi­cians regard the pub­lic as a cow to be milked, and some­thing must be done to make it stand qui­et.

So they try Plan Num­ber Two, which con­sists in hyp­no­tiz­ing the pub­lic by means of shows, fes­ti­vals, parades, prizes and many paid speech­es, ser­mons and edi­to­ri­als, where­in and where­by the pub­lic is told how much is being done for it, and how for­tu­nate it is in being pro­tect­ed and wise­ly cared for by its divine­ly appoint­ed guardians. Then the band strikes up, the flags are waved, three pass­es are made, one to the right and two to the left; and we, being com­plete­ly under the hyp­no­sis, hur­rah our­selves hoarse.

Plan Num­ber Three is a very ancient one and is always held back to be used in case Num­ber Two fails. It is for the ben­e­fit of the peo­ple who do not pass read­i­ly under hyp­not­ic con­trol. If there are too many of these, they have been known to pluck up courage and answer back to the speech­es, ser­mons and edi­to­ri­als. Some­times they refuse to hur­rah when the bass-drum plays, in which case they have occa­sion­al­ly been arrest­ed for con­tu­ma­cy and con­tra­ven­tion by stocky men, in wide-awake hats, who lead the stren­u­ous life. This Plan Num­ber Three pro­vides for an armed force that shall over­awe, if nec­es­sary, all who are not hyp­no­tized. The army is used for two purposes—to coerce dis­turbers at home, and to get up a war at a dis­tance, and thus dis­tract atten­tion from the trou­bles near at hand. Napoleon used to say that the only sure cure for inter­nal dis­sen­sion was a for­eign war: this would draw the dis­turbers away, on the plea of patri­o­tism, so they would win enough out­side loot to sat­is­fy them, or else they would all get killed, it real­ly didn’t mat­ter much; and as for loot, if it was tak­en from for­eign­ers, there was no sin.

A care­ful ana­lyst might here say that Plan Num­ber Three is only a vari­a­tion of Plan Num­ber Two—the end being gained by hyp­not­ic effects in either event, for the army is con­script­ed from the peo­ple to use against the peo­ple, just as you turn steam from a boil­er into the fire-box to increase the draft. …

The pas­sage is by Elbert Hub­bard, from Lit­tle Jour­neys to the Homes of the Great, Vol. XIV: Great Musi­cians, Chap­ter 8: “Lud­wig van Beethoven”. I can’t hon­est­ly see what it has to do with Beethoven in par­tic­u­lar, but per­haps that would become clear in con­text.

2 comments to TotD: Controlling the Public

  • It isn’t in ref­er­ence to Lud­wig von Beethoven, but rather his grand­fa­ther who was in the employ of a Ger­man Arch­bish­op-elec­tor. Indeed the para­graph pre­vi­ous to that one gives a lot of clar­i­fi­ca­tion:
    “And so the chief busi­ness of the elec­tor was to keep the peo­ple in his dio­cese loy­al to the King.