Brave New World captivated me as a child. I spent days reading and reading Chapter 3 when I revisited the book as an adult. Huxley’s world building in that chapter is a masterpiece of concise writing through the voices of his characters.
YouTube’s propagandist algorithm has pushed this video in front of me several times since I researched Aldus Huxley and Brave New World for my original review. I broke down this morning and watched it. Here are some interesting points.
Was Aldus Huxley Haunted by Visions or a Thoughtful Prophet?
“A man haunted by a vision of Hell on Earth!” And that is just the introduction to this Mike Wallace Interview conducted in 1958. Important because this is the tail-end of the McCarthy era of American politics. The Fund for the Republic sponsored the Mike Wallace Interview program. His Fordship, through the Ford Foundation, created the Fund for the Republic as a political arm of the Ford Foundation. It lasted all of two years, from 1958 to 1959.
Mike Wallace is sucking on the butt of a cigarette throughout the interview. He is incapable of putting it down.
The interview is a promotion of Huxley’s essays, Enemies of Freedom. Wallace wants these enemies to be people. Huxley redirects him to forces threatening the freedom of individuals. He discounts individuals as a threat to liberty, and throughout the interview talks of forces shaping public and individual opinion as a greater threat.
The first threat mentioned is overpopulation. The eight billion humans on Earth today would horrify Huxley. In defense of his argument, exploding population, and its desire to move out of poverty, is the driving force behind climate change. A world where fresh water is scarce could see the type of control Huxley feared.
Wallace is quick to turn attention to the Communist Party and the Catholic Church. The church for its resistance to birth control, and the Communist party because it’s well organized. John F. Kennedy would become America’s first Catholic President in 1961. Joe Biden is the second. China’s Communist Party is something to be feared.
Next on the list is hierarchical organizations controlled by deep bureaucracy. Huxley states the growth of technology will benefit these organizations. I have long argued corporations are a greater threat to freedom than any government or political ideology. Huxley may have shaped my views through his fiction.
Anyone working for a large national or international corporation can attest to the constant monitoring and suspicion with which those organizations operate. Amazon tracks its employees and its contractors every move, as if a lost minute of productivity will bring the megalith to ruin.
Aldus Huxley on Propaganda
Propaganda is the bulk of the discussion. Aldus is rolling in his grave at the efficiency with which Facebook and YouTube algorithms have produced flat earthers, Q-Anon conspiracy theorist, and Trump insurrectionist. Notice the complaint against television as a distraction instead of promoting a message. Now think how YouTube and Facebook algorithms direct a steady diet of content for you to consume.
As the interview nears its end, Mike Wallace mentions soma as a drug to pacify the populace. The last twenty-years have seen many American states hollowed out by an opioid epidemic that made the Purdue Pharma corporation billions. Have you ever wondered about all those laws legalizing marijuana? Where is that money going? In twenty years, how will we view this new liberal drug policy?
Huxley’s primary point about propaganda is that the dictatorship of the future will look different from those of the past. He argues the new dictatorships will not use terror and violence to preserve power. Instead, they will seek the consent of the ruled through drugs and propaganda. They will use technology to appeal to the subconscious and deeper emotions of the individual to make the slave enjoy slavery.
“Could this Brave New World come to America?” Mike Wallace asks. Yes, the prophet says. Through technology and drugs, this world will consume our shores. He fears the rise of the personality candidate, over the competent candidate. He was especially concerned about Madison Avenue shaping of candidates like Nixon and Kennedy.
He argues the fewer the agencies of propaganda, the more threat they are, especially to children. He refers to American children as TV fodder. Comparing the reference to European children as cannon fodder because of the many wars fought on European soil.
According to Huxley, propaganda becomes brain washing when propaganda gets a hold of a person’s psychology and breaks them down to put a new idea into their psychology. These individuals become fanatics.
“The passion for power is the most moving passion in man,” Aldus says. “It is important to not to let one man or group have too much power for too long a time.” People need to be on their guard for the verbal booby traps to which they are always being led.
After you watch this video, I want you to consider how much of American production is in the hands of a few corporations. As a child, my food came from local farmers. Now it is massed produced by a few mega-corps. You had to visit multiple retailers for your back-to-school shopping. Now you can get everything delivered by Amazon. Huxley says that if you can break up the bigger unit to small units, you can protect freedom.
“Is freedom necessary?” Wallace asks?
“Yes. Freedom is necessary for a productive society,” Aldus says. The life of man is impossible without individual freedom, which breeds initiative and creativity. You can recognize this fact in societies and organizations that are not free. Those at the top, running the organization have more freedom than those at the bottom, sustaining the organization. Those at the top need their freedom to continue to come up with new and creative ways to keep those at the bottom in bondage. The most chilling statement is the final one in this essay:
A situation where the top is free and the bottom is not, can last longer than one where everyone is not free.Aldus Huxley