This is going to be the first in an extended series of posts about the foundations of mass perception manipulation, and it starts with a video that is an hour and a half long. If you’re older than 40 or so, you may have seen this video in school, on or around November 22nd every year.
It is perhaps one of the finest movies produced by the government, using none of the tools we face today. As a matter of fact, this might be the last “pure” government film produced, as the government began actively experimenting with the basic principles of modern mass perception manipulation as an ongoing component of the media during Viet Nam.
In this video, you see the simplest, cleanest form of “propaganda”–the careful use of music and narrative combined with video chosen with equal care, and nothing more.
Language, in its written or spoken form, can be analysed and scaled using standard tools. Different words and terms carry different “weights”, meaning they will cause more or less engagement, and will produce greater or lesser degrees of emotional/psychological response. This is why it is so important when dealing with the opponent as an infiltrator to use their terms and their context, as any spy from any age knows well.
He who frames the language, frames the argument.
Deconstructing The Project–Observational Analysis.
Opening–Strong multi-targeted image. Music is martial/nationalist in overall tone, generic. Narrator is Gregory Peck, chosen for his authoritative, neutral tone. Epitaph represents a strong call to action:
Dedicated to the great men of the future… Who in their youth will search through history for an idea–and find and ideal….Who will search through the dreams of that ideal, and find their own destiny.
Approximately 12-14 seconds of internalization and absorption of image, emphasizing meaning and call to action, a mission being given.
Take note of the opening Narration, in particular:
It was true, that the assassin took careful aim at the President of the United States.
It was true, that at the precise moment the assassin waited for, the trigger was pulled.
And it was true, the President was killed.
But it was also true the assassin missed his target
For he wanted John Kennedy to die, and that, he was unable to do.
For no man could take away years of lightning, with a single day of drums.
This is a good example of framing the “argument”. The person who wrote this deliberately used neutral statements of fact, with nearly neutral weighting when setting the base tone. This establishes the “zero” for the piece, much like the “tare” button on a scale. Released for foreign distribution within literally months of Kennedy’s death, the opening imagery of the tombstone with the epitaph was chosen to create a strong call to action, to internalize an idea or set of ideas, and find an ideal.
The narrative following, with the cloudy sky as the background, combines imagery chosen to appeal to aspirations and higher instincts, with a religious sub-structure that is neutral, allowing the subject to internalize the message in a personal context independent of the central theme.
The narrative itself is neutrally weighted, to bring the subject from a strong emotional trigger and call to action back to a state of objectivity, by laying out the facts in the most neutral terms, and ending with another imperative that is presented with a neutral. The mind is presented with three undisputed facts, against a personalized neutral contextual framework.
From that now neutral point, the subject is presented with three new ideas, formatted as declarative sentences in “fact” format equal to the three actual facts. A well respected and famous figure whose voice was familiar presenting the second three statements with the same emphasis and certainty elicits the “these are also facts” reaction from the subject. The weighting of the statements moves from a careful neutral, to a determined positive, ending with a resolution–completing the call to action.
Approximate time to set complete narrative: 60 seconds.
And There You Have it…In 60 Seconds.
That is a basic deconstruction of the opening. Bear in mind, this was set for foreign release, so the context in which it was shown also had bearing on the final result of the project. The film was typically screened in public movie theaters, for free, paid for by the embassies in the countries it was shown in. It was also shown in schools, and according to anecdotal accounts and a number of historical references from showings, was preceded by presentations from respected local figures.
The purpose of the film was to show the world the strength of our resolve, and was also a message to the Soviet Union, and the communists in North Viet Nam, according to people who participated in the project.
That fact was not public knowledge then, and may not be now (but most of the old guard are dead, anyway). The non-military and non-intelligence subjects saw it only as a message of resolve, strength, and continuation of the missions John Kennedy had begun, and a way to mourn and experience closure in 1 hour and 26 minutes, give or take…