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Gregory Bateson: The Master of Double-Bind Black Propaganda


Anthropologist Gregory Bateson (1904-1980) was a heavy hitter in social theories and propaganda. He was also the husband of Margaret Mead. In 1942, while working in black propaganda, he wrote about the war:

… is now a life-or-death struggle over the role which the social sciences shall play in the ordering of human relationships. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that this war is ideologically about just this – the role of the social sciences. Are we to reserve the techniques and the right to manipulate peoples as the privilege of a few planning, goal-oriented and power hungry individuals to whom the instrumentality of science makes a natural appeal? Now that we have techniques, are we in cold blood, going to treat people as things? (Bateson 1942, as quoted in Price)

After the war, Bateson answered his own “rhetorical” question. In a CIA website article titled “The Birth of Central Intelligence,” Bateson is quoted as follows:

… the bomb would shift the balance of warlike and peaceful methods of international pressure. It would be powerless, he said, against subversive practices, guerrilla tactics, social and economic manipulation, diplomatic forces, and propaganda either black or white. The nations would therefore resort to those indirect methods of warfare. The importance of the kind of work the Foreign Economic Administration, the Office of War Information, and the Office of Strategic Services had been doing would thus be infinitely greater than it had ever been. The country could not rely upon the Army and Navy alone for defense. There should be a third agency to combine the functions and employ the weapons of clandestine operations, economic controls, and psychological pressures.

Black propaganda is false information that purports to be from a source on one side of a conflict but is actually from the opposing side. This, and false-dialectic mind games (Clinton vs. Trump, red vs. blue, whites vs. blacks, etc.) is something the population is being continually subjected to.

Bateson’s research focused on double-bind theory as a brainwashing and propaganda technique. A double bind is an emotionally distressing dilemma in which an individual (or group) receives two or more conflicting messages, and one message negates the other. This creates a situation in which a successful response to one message results in a failed response to the other (and vice versa), so that the person will automatically be wrong regardless of response. The double bind occurs when the person cannot confront the inherent dilemma, and, therefore, can neither resolve it nor opt out of the situation. I also like to think of this as a dead end.

Double-think is an adoption of this method and is the act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct. Double-think is notable due to a lack of cognitive dissonance — thus the person is completely unaware of any conflict or contradiction.

According to George Orwell’s book “1984,” double-think is:

To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions, which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it …

The classic example given of a negative double-bind is of a mother telling her child that she loves him or her, while at the same time turning away in disgust, or inflicting corporal punishment as discipline. (“I’m spanking you because I love you!”) The words are socially acceptable, but the body language is in conflict with the message.

The field of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) also makes use of the expression “double bind.” Here, a communication could be constructed with multiple messages, whereby the recipient of the message is given the impression of choice — although both options have the same outcome at a higher level of intention. This is known as a “double bind” in NLP terminology.

The mind controllers then meld double binds or dead ends with the concept of injunctions. According to Bateson, a “primary injunction” is imposed on the subject by the others in one of two forms:

    • (a) “Do X, or I will punish you”
    • (b) “Do not do X, or I will punish you”
    • (or both a and b)

A “secondary injunction” is imposed on the subject, conflicting with the first at a higher and more abstract level. For example, “You must do X, but only do it because you want to.” It is unnecessary for this injunction to be expressed verbally.

If necessary, a “tertiary injunction” is imposed on the subject to prevent them from escaping the dilemma.

The punishment may include the withdrawing of love, the expression of hate and anger, or abandonment resulting from the authority figure’s expression of helplessness. A common tactic is gaslighting or shaming.

Typically, a demand is imposed upon the subject by someone whom he or she respects (or thinks he should respect), but the demand itself is inherently impossible to fulfill because some broader context forbids it. For example, this situation arises when a person in a position of authority imposes two contradictory conditions but there exists an unspoken rule that one must never question authority.

Unlike the usual no-win situation, the subject has difficulty in defining the exact nature of the paradoxical situation in which he or she is caught. The contradiction may be invisible to external observers, only becoming evident when a prior communication is considered.

Growing up and being subjected to perpetual double binds could lead to learned patterns of confusion in thinking and communication. It can even induce societal schizophrenia and psychosis. Bateson and his colleagues hypothesized that schizophrenic thinking was a learned confusion in thinking and could be induced on whole populations.

Bateson had established a scholarly relationship with hypnotist Milton Erickson as early as 1932. Erickson’s research involved the idea that hypnotically effective trance states could be established in the course of ordinary life activities, such as reading, talking to a therapist or watching motion pictures, especially if intense and traumatic emotional states could be evoked by the experience. During such trance states, Erickson believed, the subconscious mind of the the target could be accessed by means of hypnotic suggestion (Atwill).

The video below is an illustrative example of all these concepts in action. Audience members are interviewed as they leave a showing of “An American Sniper.” This is an emotional and patriotic rendering produced by the icon and authority figure Clint Eastwood. The end of the movie shows the sniper being honored in a parade for his “heroic” conduct.

The paradox is that the sniper, Chris Kyle, loves his job of killing. The movie is about this blood sport being portrayed as heroic. The second paradox is that the people he kills in Iraq are arguably defending their own now ruined cities and homeland. Yet the people interviewed claim and espouse the notion that Kyle was defending the American homeland with his cold-blooded sniper attacks on Iraqi locals.

The interviewer (an Iraqi veteran) in the clip is very skilled at getting these jingoistic people to face their inconsistencies, circular logic, fuzzy thinking, dilemmas and paradoxes in their points of view. The reactions vary from vague realizations, to cognitive dissonance to just flat-out double-think. But above all, it illustrates first hand just how twisted, warped and inverted large segments of American society have become as a result of the methods concocted by Gregory Bateson and his ilk.

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