Deception? Deception?

EDITORIAL, 13 Apr 2020

#634 | Marilyn Langlois – TRANSCEND Media Service

In Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie”, a stunned Amanda Wingfield enters the second scene repeating an enigmatic question: “Deception?  Deception?”  Amanda revels in the fantasy world of her genteel girlhood, when she cultivated good looks and witty conversation to entertain numerous gentlemen callers, all of whom went on to become rich and successful, except for her wayward and absent husband.  She envisions a gentleman caller entering their forlorn apartment any day now and swooping her painfully shy, disabled daughter, Laura, off to financial security and wedded bliss.  As a back-up plan, she sent Laura to typing and shorthand school to acquire her own means of support.  Laura’s extreme nervousness caused her to break down the first day of class, and since then she secretly spent class time walking around town alone, to parks and museums, to avoid her mother’s anger.  When Amanda encounters evidence of Laura’s dishonesty, she can’t believe her own daughter, whom she has dutifully raised and fed, could deceive her so monstrously.

Deception happens on a societal level when false or misleading narratives are spun in such a way to become widely accepted as the truth.  In the US and many other capitalist societies our consciousness is constantly being manipulated by the ruling elites, also known as the ruling class, the super-rich, the big money interests—those relative few who control the vast majority of the earth’s resources.  Because they aim to keep their dirty work out of view, they assiduously avoid catchy labels.   We don’t even know most of their names, but they play a major role in who gets elected to political office, what consumer trends will take off in the near future, and how we make sense of challenging global phenomena.

The ruling elites can be found in powerful semi-covert networks such as the World Economic Forum, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Trilateral Commission. They include top financiers, as described by Peter Phillips in “Giants: The Global Power Elite”, constantly on the look-out for new investment opportunities to keep increasing the wealth of the 1%.  Their well-funded toolkit contains hand-picked scientific experts, global news agencies, pundits on the right and left, entertainment and sports celebrities, and FBI/CIA covert operations, all choreographed by highly sophisticated public relations (PR) professionals.

The ruling elites don’t always agree on everything, as seen in the US with squabbles between Democratic and Republican party leaders and their corporate funders, but a key attribute they share unflinchingly is allegiance to capitalism, free markets, and the absolute right of any individual to use the system to amass obscene amounts of personal wealth.

Why would they deceive us?  When you stop and think about it, the only truly rational, sensible and healthy way for human beings to co-exist on this planet would be through cooperation and solidarity, ensuring a dignified life for everyone, resolving disputes peacefully and sharing the earth’s resources equitably and fairly.  We’re clearly intelligent enough to figure out how to make that happen.  But no, the ruling elites, whose disdain for ordinary people emanates from their own deep-seated fears of losing control, bristle at this notion and spare no expense in making people believe that such a vision is both impossible and undesirable.  The ever evolving field of PR offers a resplendent palette of strategies for doing so.

Adam Curtis’ 2002 series “Century of the Self” documents the history of PR, invented by Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays.[i]  PR, shrewdly appealing to deep-seated emotions more than intellect, has been utilized and refined over the last 100+ years to dissuade the masses from seriously questioning and rebelling against the grossly unequal wealth and power that the ruling classes cling to.  The 1917 Russian revolution was a wake-up call, and elites will spare no expense to ensure the downtrodden aren’t able to seize and hold onto power for universal social uplift.

PR enables the ruling elites to control the way people behave and perceive the world, without needing to use brute force.  It has been used for both commercial and political ends–to generate excessive profit for the few and to ensure people elect and accept leaders who will preserve this unequal and unjust status quo.  It helps to have an enemy out there that everyone fears:  communism, drugs, terrorism, COVID-19……   The more fearful people are, the more willing they are to give up their liberty and agency and seek protection from the increasingly authoritarian state.

The ruling elite reflexively attempt to vilify, co-opt or destroy any social movement that starts to gain traction, as we saw with CIA-backed coups d’état against democratically elected leaders implementing social reforms in Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Chile (1973), Haiti (1991, 2004), Honduras (2009) and Bolivia (2019).  These illegal and immoral regime change operations were carried out with impunity, as perpetrators hid behind a carefully constructed façade of “preventing the spread of evil communism” and “defending freedom”.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. vocally rejected the elites’ Freudian notion that the “maladjusted” should blindly conform to society’s unjust norms;

“… I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few and leave millions of God’s children smothering in the airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society.”

Clearly, the charismatic King had to go.  He was killed by agents of the elites on April 4, 1968, as has been well documented in the works of William Pepper and the 1999 civil trial that concluded the US Army and Memphis Police Department were complicit in his murder.  But ask someone on the street who killed Dr. King, and they’ll most likely say some crazy gunman acting on his own.  That is the narrative the ruling elites want us to believe.  For those willing to do the careful research, it has been proven false.

Deceptive propaganda has been employed throughout the world to serve the elites, misrepresenting events in Haiti, Cuba, Israel/Palestine, Rwanda/Democratic Republic of Congo, North Korea, Yugoslavia, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela, to name just a few examples.  There are many likely deceptions that merit further investigation, including a few that would be considered taboo to even mention.

At the dawn of the 21st century came the mother of all deceptions—the official story of 9/11, which countless independent researchers have found to be full of well documented flaws and cover-ups. The events of 9/11 initiated the US’ global war on terror, driving up profits of military contractors and the surveillance industry while leading most Americans to willingly accept sharp curtailments of their civil liberties.

Public Health and COVID-19

In 1929, Bernays doubled the US market of tobacco consumers overnight.  As it had been previously unacceptable for women to smoke, he arranged for a squadron of fashionable debutantes to lead New York’s highly publicized Easter Parade, defiantly pull out cigarettes, called “torches of freedom” and light up.  Smoking was subsequently glamorized in movies and on television.  Social movements later forced the disclosure that tobacco companies knew all along about the adverse health impacts of smoking, while continuing to aggressively market their products and rake in huge profits.

Examples of major deceptions by big pharma and the medical establishment include pushing thalidomide to enhance pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy for menopause, and Vioxx for arthritis.  All were discontinued only after extensive and often fatal damage was done.

Unbeknownst to many, Cuba has been a shining example of transparency and altruism in local and global health promotion. Because the 1959 Cuban Revolution successfully wrested power from ruling elites and foreign corporations, allowing the Cuban people to refashion a society built on values of cooperation and solidarity with housing, education, jobs, healthcare, and cultural activities guaranteed to everyone, it has been a prime target for elites who deceive people in the US and much of the rest of the world into viewing it as a “brutal, totalitarian state.”

Hospitals in New York and California that lack sufficient medical personnel should ask Cuba for help.  Cuba has already sent medical delegations to many countries to help with COVID-19 and is prepared to send more.  Two weeks ago, as a group of Cuban doctors in Havana prepared to board a plane to Italy, one was asked if he was afraid.  The response: “He who says he is not afraid is superhuman.  We are not superhuman.  We are revolutionary doctors.”

It’s time for the US to get over its Cuba-phobia, end the economic blockade against it, and show some appreciation for its immense contributions to human health worldwide.   Fortunately, amidst the current pandemic, the rest of the world is increasingly opening its eyes to the reality of Cuba’s generous internationalism.

We’ve experienced the “war on communism”, “war on drugs”, and “war on terrorism”, all of which were really a war against the poor perpetrated by ruling elites to distract people from challenging their unjust hegemony.  What about the current “war on COVID-19”?  Before rushing to accept every aspect of the official narrative conveyed in the corporate media, shouldn’t we also be seeking critical information that is missing from mainstream coverage?

Clearly COVID-19 can be a serious and even fatal disease for a small percentage of those who are infected, and preventive measures are warranted.   But is the high level of alarm and panic engendered by daily death tolls, sharply rising curves on graphs, and doomsday predictions really justified?

To put the crisis into a broader perspective, Swiss Propaganda Research, with daily updates in multiple languages from March 14 to the present, provides links to insightful analyses from well-credentialed epidemiologists, physicians and infectious disease specialists who are not being featured in the corporate media.

There are several questions rarely if ever being asked, whose answers would help shed light on the level of danger this pandemic poses.  How reliable and consistent are COVID-19 testing methods?  To what extent has the weekly per capita number of deaths from all causes in any given region during the past three months differed markedly from this time period in previous years?  How many of the COVID-19 deaths are individuals who were at or very near the end of their life already due to extreme old age and terminal illnesses?  For example, in my county of 1.1 million there are an average of 140 deaths per week from all causes.  We’ve had 7 deaths so far from COVID-19 in the past ten weeks, the most recent a person over 90 in end-of-life hospice care.  All people do die eventually.

Not to minimize the tragedy of COVID-19 deaths, but to make sure we don’t focus on them excessively to the exclusion of the much more numerous preventable and tragic deaths from other causes.  As John Pilger aptly put it last month,

“A pandemic has been declared, but not for the 24,600 who die every day from unnecessary starvation, and not for 3,000 children who die every day from preventable malaria, and not for the 10,000 people who die every day because they are denied publicly-funded healthcare, and not for the hundreds of Venezuelans and Iranians who die every day because America’s blockade denies them life-saving medicines, and not for the hundreds of mostly children bombed or starved to death every day in Yemen, in a war supplied and kept going, profitably, by America and Britain. Before you panic, consider them.”

Persistent structural racism that is regularly swept under the rug simmers beneath surface of pandemic reporting. African Americans, already overly impacted by poverty and poor health outcomes, are disproportionately succumbing to COVID-19 in Louisiana, Michigan, Chicago and New York.  African soccer players have expressed outrage at the suggestion of using Africa as a testing ground for COVID-19 remedies and vaccines.  Some, still psychically scarred by the 40-year post-WWII Tuskegee experiment that left hundreds of black men in Alabama uninformed and untreated for syphilis, are skeptical of government health information.  Former Tuskegee mayor Lucenia Dunn commented on local reactions to pandemic reporting, “We have a general distrust in this community… The attitude is, ‘I’m going to rebel against this.  You people have been telling us lies for years.  Why should I believe you now?’”

The level of hardship people experience during the nearly ubiquitous stay-at-home orders is vastly different.  Elites continue to live in abundant luxury.  Others employed in essential sectors or working from home are strained but coping reasonably well for now, while masses of the poor around the world see an already dismal future worsen with dwindling means of basic sustenance. Think about it. Who is counting deaths by starvation?  Deaths triggered by impacts of extreme fear, isolation, anxiety and desperation?

Authorities living in comfortable circumstances with uninterrupted incomes tell us to just stay home.  But what about those whose homes are not happy places?  Whose homes are physically decrepit and overcrowded?  Those with no home, sleeping on the streets?  Those whose homes are an emotional nightmare?  How many children are being abused behind closed doors with no way of escaping or finding a supportive adult to rescue them?

While countless peoples’ livelihoods and businesses disintegrate, big pharma and the high-tech sector are booming while they aim to be viewed as our saviors in this crisis.  Multi-billionaire Bill Gates, a self-appointed, unelected, non-credentialed spokesperson for the COVID-19 pandemic, insists that the only solution is developing a vaccine and administering it to every person on the globe, generating astronomical profits to the manufacturer.  He alleges there’s no cure for COVID-19, when in fact the human immune system cures the vast majority of those infected (for free!).  Reputable public health experts who suggest promoting herd immunity among the majority of people while protecting the vulnerable as a more effective way to defeat the virus are ignored or ridiculed.

Humans are social beings whose survival depends on close physical contact with family and community.  People cherish the hard won right to gather in public spaces for educational, recreational and political purposes.  Even if one believes in the necessity of imposing prolonged draconian measures of physical separation, it’s still astounding to see entire populations give up their right to freedom of assembly from one day to the next, without a peep of discussion on the implications.  NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden warns that COVID-19 is dangerous but temporary, while the destruction of fundamental rights is deadly and permanent.

Is it possible all the high-end PR firms are standing idly by, passively watching the COVID-19 saga unfold?  Or have some been hired to manage the flow of information, feature experts who exaggerate the lethality of the virus, dispense proposals for ever more restrictive lockdowns, titrate the level of alarm and sensationalism that permeates the media, mask social control as voluntary, altruistic obedience to the new norms, and reinforce the idealistic yet deceptive concept “we’re all in it together”?

If we were truly “all in it together” our leaders would listen to people who are suffering from many avoidable afflictions.  They would promote integrated strategies to reduce the number of preventable, premature deaths worldwide from all causes.  They would prioritize eradicating poverty and despair, improving living standards, hygiene infrastructure and health care for everyone over preserving the inordinate wealth of the few.

Naomi Klein asks,

“In times of crisis, seemingly impossible ideas suddenly become possible.  But whose ideas?  Sensible, fair ones, designed to keep as many people as possible safe, secure, and healthy?  Or predatory ideas, designed to further enrich the already unimaginable wealthy, while leaving the most vulnerable further exposed?”

Deception?  Deception?  Would those who have the power to shape the dominant narratives we are fed incessantly in the corporate media actually deceive us?

How many of us are deluded and deceived Amanda Wingfields, clinging to the hope of the proverbial “gentleman caller”—in the guise of a bold new president, a gallant billionaire philanthropist, a miracle vaccine—solving all our problems and sweeping us off to a fantasy world where those who work hard and follow the rules might have the opportunity–if they’re lucky–to enjoy democracy, freedom and good health?

No matter what the future brings, don’t forget to exercise your intellect—carefully evaluating information, and assert your humanity–reaching out to other human beings in solidarity any way you can.


[i] “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of…in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.”
– Edward Bernays (Nephew of Sigmund Freud) from “Propaganda” (1928)

Read also: Edward Bernays, the Father of American Propaganda by Gary Kohls, TRANSCEND Media Service, 5 Dec 2016


Marilyn Langlois is a member of TRANSCEND USA West Coast. She is a volunteer community organizer and international solidarity activist based in Richmond, California.  A co-founder of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, member of Haiti Action Committee and Board member of Task Force on the Americas, she is retired from previous employment as a teacher, secretary, administrator, mediator and community advocate.

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 13 Apr 2020.

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7 Responses to “Deception? Deception?”

  1. Nicholas Marconi says:

    Dear Ms Langlois,

    I just finished reading your impassioned essay, “Deception? Deception”. Thank you. You describe a state of affairs that we have been operating under for a long time quite well. I don’t disagree with your description nor do I under appreciate the honest frustration that underlies it. I too have railed and ranted in a similar vein. And have made similar observations that you write so well about. But, my frustration runs deeper. And what I have found out is that the only way for me to finally address this deeper frustration is to go or try to go to the roots of the human condition itself as arrogant as that might sound.

    I claim no special expertise, no special calling…only an inordinate curiosity and passion to understand and perhaps to shed some light on US. This journey of the mind and of the heart started when I was 12 when I looked around in the highly dysfunctional educational system I was forced to endure and consciously declared my “independence” and got promptly sent down to the principal’s office to be investigated. Nothing came of that visit. But I never looked back or stopped. That was over a half century ago.

    In that time I’ve discovered two insights that I consider powerful keys to unlock the meaning of our predicament.
    The very first one is that we all “alone” meaning that we need to solve an existential condition of alienation. What I mean is that we have no way to really know one another from the inside out( from their perspective) which means that very best we can do is to create representations that act like communicative bridges to others at best; but, more often become ways to mis-represent the other…putting whole groups into various categories that freeze and cage them and our understanding leading to all sorts of distortions including racism, slavery, wars and, in short, everything you describe so well in our essay.

    The other insight is even simpler to discover. It is our fundamental NEED for others, to BE FOR others and the other’s need to be for us and for us. Perfect reciprocity. But, if we fail to recognize our equally fundamental alienation and this NEED, then we have the perfect storm on all levels: social, economic, political and spiritual. We create the “us” and “them” category of pseudo-understanding. I’m not saying that you are doing this in your essay.

    My deeper frustration stems from these two insights. How we do build real bridges to help transition( to transcend our current dangerous predicament) to reach our full humanity? All of us, including those financial elites that are so terrified of losing control which you rightly point out. How do we?

    I have one answer which is not an answer that I invented; the answer is us coming together in our unity and shared humanity. But, as Thoreau once quipped in his classic Walden,

    “In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

    One very powerful and practical way to build those “foundations” is to get simple as Thoreau advises, for us to re-form communities at the local level through the invention of new ways of co-coordinating our efforts at provisioning ourselves and sharing power equally in the process. This will require radically different forms of financial systems: community currencies, service credits systems and the like. BUT, these new systems do not need to threaten those whose deepest fears have led them to create elite systems that exploit the powerless and are destroying the natural basis for all of our lives. This we must not do. The time for attacking is over and is counterproductive. We have attacked and described until most of us numbed and just want to hide.

    I thank you again for sharing your thoughts.

    • Marilyn Langlois says:

      Dear Nicholas Marconi,
      Thank you very much for your insightful comments and for sharing your experiences. In the very last sentence of my essay I tried to encapsulate what you are advocating.
      Blessings to you—

      • Nicholas Marconi says:

        You’re so welcome! And thank you for your kind reply. And yes, your very last sentence did help to inspire what I wrote. In fact, I’m reprising a kind of solidarity “movement” in my home state of Vermont based upon the initiatives I wrote about. Bold and perhaps, a bit arrogant of me…but, if no one tries to do something positive to make a change to help us awaken to our basic humanity, then we’ll never know what we are capable of.

        I applaud all the good work that you do.

        warm regards to you,

  2. rick Sterling says:

    Excellent review of the past and important, thought-provoking questions about the present.

  3. Carissa Brands says:

    Thank you, Marylin for this article! You point out the current situations related to the covid plan-demic within the on-going class struggle and power-over elite class, a well as the continual degradation of our human and civil rights. I thought it was very appropriate to tie capitalism (patriarchy) as the mechanism in which the 1% impose the amassing of obscene amounts of money and power from the rest of humanity (and not all humans being equal) through disaster capitalism. Perfect crisis for a perfect opportunity.

    Other than being in solidarity with the 99%, what can we do and what roads do we travel now in this age of the possible Medical Martial Law and other draconian measures that are being accepted by the masses right now? How do we counteract (or make moves like in aikido to accept the energy, blend with the attacks, and redirect that energy-transmute/change) that which does not serve? We are so many in numbers, but it seems that most people are drinking koolaide.

    Gracias. En solidaridad,

    • Nicholas Marconi says:

      Dear Ms Brands,

      Your last sentence…”We are so many in numbers, but it seems that most people are drinking koolaide,” nicely sums up the situation that Ms Langlois describes so well. Theoretical “solidarity” is not enough…fine on paper. But, precisely: how do we transition to that world of real, down to earth earth solidarity? To our full united humanity!?

      I’ve been trying to wake up the 99% and at times even the 1%, even if only tangentially. But, what I found out was that my rants and raves and very precise, intelligent attacks against the 1%( well deserved I might add) didn’t work and don’t work. That “koolaide” is powerful stuff to keep us dead-unconscious. I wish it was that easy to just slap that drink out of the hands of the 99% before they brought it to their lips. But, it’s not that easy and I believe there is a good reason for this as I tried to explain in my longer response above.

      Our fundamental alienation keep us from also knowing in the very marrow of our being our to need for the other and our need to BE for the other and the reverse; as I describe it, a perfect reciprocity. This alienation has not been imposed upon us; rather it goes with the landscape of the kind of beings we are: speaking and story telling beings. That is where we live. We’re not just animals with needs; we are symbol-making beings. The stories we’ve told ourselves and continue to tell ourselves hide us from own fears, especially the fear of the other( the stranger, those who differ from us and even our own neighbor). We fell into the horrific story that it was right to have “might over right”, to have “power-over” others, for men to have power over women; for a few to concentrate power using a skewed financial system that uses “money” that transforms the world into commodities enslaving our labor and the natural things of this world to maintain that power-over story. But, the vast majority believe in this story in one way or another even though they may not know it. And we continue to live by it and reproduce it.

      But the time for fear is over. We need to new story; one that reflects our humanity. Certainly, we need to face the fear and the need that lies beneath it. So, I slow down my breathing when I get overwhelmed with anger at the injustice of it all and concentrate on the fact that this need not be. In my relationships I need to face the deepest loneliness of my need and reach out for help. I need to build real everyday bridges with others everywhere, and I mean everywhere. For this I need to know my deepest need for the other and my deepest need to be for the other.

      I live in Vermont. I believe that we have the capacity right here to build a kind of democratic “federation” or network of local communities united with this knowledge of the need we have for each other. I’m proposing that we develop a new kind of “credit” based on the knowledge of who and what we are. I call it a “community-service-credit” that could function as kind of “currency” circulating through the state linking needed services and service with need products. It could also function more directly as a kind of “voucher” to gives us direct access to the wealth we create together.

      I know this is possible for us to do. I don’t know that we will. I certainly don’t feel up to the task of leading us to this possibility; I feel very small in this task. My reach vastly outdoes my grasp. But I’m reaching even if by a little.

      Thank you sharing your thoughts and warm regards,

      • Carissa Brands says:

        Nick, thank you for your thoughtful reply. As I am working through my own personal fears, I am reminded that everyone else is doing the same, in the only ways we know how. We respond to situations based on our previous experiences and react (or respond) based on our perceptions. If all we know is the hierarchical, capitalist, paid-slave economy that keeps us craving and insecure in this scarcity model, then how will we, as a society know there are many other and more humane options? Especially when the governments and media are on a constant rampage to snuff out any type of socialism, the threat of a good example, as in countries like Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.

        As you point out, the alienating nature of our current systems keep us divided and ruled by the elite class as a means of retaining control. Your suggestion of creating an alternative and parallel system of valuation and trade has been tried by several communities, and with local success. I wonder if we have to “hit more bottom” before a different models can become reality. I have hope in humanity that we can figure this out as current systems fail. How? I have no idea.

        I am intrigued by the difference of talking about solidarity and actually building solidarity. To me solidarity is the horizontal exchange between people and cultures, strengthening communications and shared experiences of what works and doesn’t work. Instead of doing what the corporate media tells us to do (go shopping to help the economy), we create our own person-to-person networks to meet each others needs. But, then I get caught up on the places that we get stuck, as mentioned by you and Marylin in her article. Fear. It is such a useful tool. But, so is love. Love of humanity, love of the Earth (no, we’re not colonizing Mars :), love of connection.

        Thank you, Nick, for your in-depth insights and Marylin, for your article that brings up many questions and issues to chew on :)

        In solidarity and love,