Manufactured Images

A friend tells me that in The Times Naomi Wolfe is arguing that the protest movement, student protest in particular, has failed to learn the lessons of her own protesting days, though I can’t link it and I can’t even read it since it’s not even on the free web. Might be true. Might not be. Who knows. It’s just deliberately held from record or links in order to extort money from us.

He tells me that she says violence is counter-productive,which, mostly, I agree with, while noting that the reason we don’t get eaten by wolves in this country any more is because we killed all the wolves.

He tells me that she says, and again I agree completely, that images of people being suppressed are more politically powerful than images of people smashing up windows in masks.

Force the powers to oppress you, get someone to take photos, and publish them the best way you can.

This seems to be the formula for democratic change, for loosening the grip of power.

If they over-tax you, sit in their offices till they are forced to remove you, and broadcast far and wide the blood they produce as they escort you out.

Coz people aren’t affected by argument, they don’t change their mind based on statistics or meaning. They change their mind based on one thing: The images which their brain sees.

In his words, probably wrongly quoting her words, you “Manufacture pictures”

You know what? The depressing thing is that this statement really sums up all of human activism, at least the stuff done right. The stuff that works.

Manufacture pictures.

Not “Logically argue”, not “Evaluate the evidence and encourage others to do the same”, not “point out the weight of numbers”

Manufacture pictures.


The Right realised this years ago, somewhere between the 50s and the 80s. Read Lakoff’s “Don’t think of an elephant” if merely trying not to think of an elephant isn’t enough to convince you. Not thinking of the size of it’s trunk? How long is the trunk of an elephant which isn’t thought about?

The left is just beginning to grasp it, which is useful I guess. Finally. But you know what?

I just wish it’d stop fucking working. Because, it is, really, literally, insane. The whole fucking species is insane and reacts more to manufactured pictures than Bayesian analysis or scientific evidence.

I could convince you easily, if I could just come up with the right image. A bearded caveman, perhaps, scratching his head looking at a chalk-board with some incomprehensible mathematics on it. He’s looking at an explanation of the way photons can be captured, processed, and projected though film. Meanwhile a projection of a train reflecting from that board rushes towards him shortly before he throws up his chalk and runs for the door.
Politics is all about finding the right images.

The right images for flawed, biased, often literally insane, human brains.

Oh well.

Course, Labour would have done the same. Alan Johnson said something like “We should be proud of our brave and correct decision to introduce tuition fees” coz in many ways Labour started it. I remember telling some nobody on the internet at the time they took over that, he was mistaken, the socialists hadn’t won. The first thing they did was introduce degree fees.

They would have done the same. They are in the pockets of the same people. They are in the same conspiracy. They’re just a different head of the same beast.

My friend, and (I assume, without her her stuff being on the free web) Naiomi Wolfe are basically right.

Manufacture images.

That’s how you win the meme-war, which is what politics is all about.

Manufacture images.

To get even more topical:

If when you think of Julian Assange, you imagine a freedom-fighter running from an autocratic government that’s needlessly persecuting him for revealing their lies then you’ll support him regardless of whether his organisation will build a more free, true, or wealthy world.
If when you think of him, you imagine a heretic spy, devoted to the downfall of your society, hiding in the shadows and whispering your secrets to your enemies, then you’ll fight him regardless of whether his organisation will build a more restrictive, false, or poor world. The manufactured images affect me too. I know they do. Even while I know they’re manufactured.

I try to see past that, to see through my own biases, but it’s hard. How far should I reverse-compensate? Do I reverse-compensate too much because I know I’m reverse-compensating and so compensate to match?

All I can think to do is look at the evidence. What does the evidence suggest will bring a better future for all mankind?

But nobody’s even presenting any. It’s all just argument and presupposition.

Where’s the study that takes a group of students who had to pay fees, and a group of students who had free education, and contrasts within each group the number who actually did the education, their benefit from it, the benefit to even those who didn’t get it but came into contact with them, and the general wealth of both groups, including the tax revenue from their presumably-increased wages?


Nobody seems to even be trying to collect it.

It’s just Fucking Politics.

For instance, here’s a bit of the new government drugs policy:

Q: “When will the policy be reviewed to establish its impact?”

A: “It will not be reviewed”

You know what My MP said to me in the last letter she sent?

“We will have to agree to disagree”


Good to feel represented in parliament then. Nice to know my representative has got my back.