There are some projects that exist in and of themselves. They come to you in a moment of inspired feeling, never a thought.
The ones that move through from feeling to action are the ones who don’t let go. Like persistent spirits, they are energy, looking for someone to whom they can attach and whisper in their ears. When they find you, they grab you around your core, an exciting, tingling grip, holding onto your spine, your major artery, radiating energy throughout your body. If you’re lucky, you feel it race up the back of your neck and into your brain — and when it hits you in its fulness, there is nothing you can do except write.
The New Agers call them downloads from the universe. I
experience them in various forms of insistence.
Some are strong and immediate; others are mild, more annoying than necessary.
Like demons sitting on your shoulder, they alight and whisper. Sometimes they have to whisper for a long time before you are ready for them, before you’re willing to understand who they are and what they want. But eventually, always eventually, you will take notice and do as they bid.
You are not your own.
You are merely a vehicle for art.
Propaganda was like that. I’ve known that propaganda was my thing since I first read 1984, when I was maybe ten or eleven years old. I drowned in that book in utter delight; fell in love with George Orwell and his voice and perspective; read it every year, like Dune, until I left home. Always an activist, I had a feeling even from that very young age, when I was secure and safe and a nobody in the world, fed and kept with absolute joy and love by parents whose methods (I see daily as I get older), were fantastic; I had a feeling even then that somehow, at some point in my life, I’d end up in a re-education camp, tortured for being subversive.
Maybe I was too young to read the book.
Nevertheless, propaganda, persuasion, hypnosis, human behaviour; these things have always been in my wheelhouse.
But the devil never spoke to me directly until I emerged into the final years of my 30s. And when she did, she didn’t let me go.
The topic is enormous.
The material for the project is everywhere, millions of bits daily flying around us. New meme formats emerging daily, including mashups of street art and digital overlays. So much moves so quickly that the firehose can barely be held, let alone studied.
And so even though the devil sits on my shoulder, whispering, ever more urgently, as the Leuchhtturn1917 notebook in front of me beckons, I’m frozen by a fear that simply won’t let me go.
At least, I thought it was fear.
It’s not writers’ block.
It’s not even an inability to take a tiny step forwards.
I believed it was fear, had a narrative that it was fear, that people would laugh or snicker or throw threats and abuse back in my face once I’d written it.
That I wasn’t good enough to write it, that there is nothing that I could possibly contribute, not being a specialist or a student, or even someone with any kind of credential beyond that which I have created in the world.
But it isn’t fear. It’s bias.
It’s knowing that whatever I write is not, can never be, the type of examination that I had told myself for over a year that the world needs. That is: A rational explanation of propaganda and its effects; a method of writing and being that enables you to craft a situation in which you can influence anyone in any regard. All I see in society is a strong narrative of lies and deception that, yes, could itself be propaganda. But isn’t so strong, so pervasive, so entrancing to those who believe that they are highly educated, yet the narrative shifts society in directions that are destructive. It’s so destructive that I cannot view social media any more; the pull away from it is so immense that I can’t even do it to keep my finger on the pulse of the propaganda.
I am unwilling to take that step, to poison my being with it, because now I know enough to know how damaging it is.
And I am not willing to be infected, to give a home to the demon that is the new way of thinking.
It’s true, there is a destruction that is coming.
It isn’t from climate. It isn’t from discrimination.
It’s a total subsuming of civilisation that is going to be so immense that people in cities are going to suffer enormously, and those outside of cities will be forgotten… not that there will be many of those by the end.
My lack of movement on the propaganda project is entirely a result of this deep knowing, of knowing that my own daily work isn’t as important as the propaganda work; knowing that the propaganda work is the thing that’s going to shift the needle; knowing that propaganda can’t be written except from the perspective of absolute bias towards my own perspective; and knowing that this is going to shape negatively the reception and perception of the writing, and even of the framework itself.
Thoughts are things, and thoughts are energy, and thought forms become life forms. Would you trust a book about propaganda that talked about energy, thought forms, and spirit? Probably not.
This battle of wills between the writer and the demon on my shoulder is forcing an inability to move forwards.
The Writer wants to Do The Research, to tame the firehose, to find a way to analyse the floods of material coming out of its nose at the other end.
The Devil says, ‘Just write’.
This battle caused me to reach out to an academic-slash-mentor, a man I’ve never seen, but whose work on creating frameworks and new ways of thought are works that I’ve read extensively. He replied with, ‘Why do you care what people think?’
Because I want the significance of the work, that’s why.
Still, The Devil just wants me to write.
Writer, you stand, balancing on a fine line between worlds, knowing that you’re damned whichever way you fall. Your readers will be whoever they are and you can’t control them. You have a perspective that will cause people to react because that’s what the demon of propaganda does.
Writers have a choice:
They write and may suffer. Or not write and suffer anyway.
Writing is madness. It’s a madness of thought, a madness of creation, a madness that is life and creates life, but which we see as interrupting life.
The truth is, writing may well be life itself.