PERCEPTION MANAGEMENT MANAGEMENT IN AN ELECTRIC UNIVERSE
Over the course of the last hundred years or so, a new cosmology has emerged which radically challenges the orthodox model promoted by the scientific establishment.
The Electric Universe, as it is branded by the group of scientists spear-heading a sustained and well-organised attempt to mainstream it, makes immediate sense, unlike the chaotic and counterintuitive prescriptions of ‘standard model’ cosmology — big bang, black hole, dark energy cosmology — which almost seems to sell itself on its incomprehensibility, as if anything that wasn’t completely mystifying could not possibly be science.
The emerging electrical cosmology, by contrast, is comprehensible, coherent, even elegant in its description of a balanced and beautiful cosmic system. It builds on authentic and validated science, the work of outstanding plasma physicists and astronomers whose discoveries continue to be ignored by the mainstream because they contradict the improvised theoretical cosmology propagated to the public as accepted science.
Meanwhile the primacy of theoretical physics and the astrophysics derived from it have profound social consequences, resulting in a public which is scientifically illiterate while holding ‘science’ in primitive awe.
I came to the Electric Universe through learning a little about the work of Eric Dollard, one of the unacknowledged progenitors of this view of the universe. Through him I developed an interest in the electro-magnetic movement which culminated in the avenues of discovery opened up by Tesla, Alexanderson and Steinmetz at the dawn of the twentieth century; at which point electrical discovery, in terms of open science, was shut down by financial interests and physical science decisively steered in a different direction in the aftermath of the First World War. This was the period in which universities and government funding took control of the direction of scientific inquiry.
Academic science still seems to be gripped by a fetishistic compulsion to deny any role to the electric force in the cosmos, despite the known importance of magnetic fields in space. So I wasn’t surprised to learn that as Electric Universe Theory (EUT) has begun to gain a significant following over the past few years, there has appeared a growing trickle of articles in popular science outlets attacking the movement.
The standard of these articles is poor, running mechanically through the usual tropes, the snide ad hominem, the appeal to ridicule, to authority, and so on. Articles such as Michael Shermer’s in The Scientific American are in no way scientific in outlook. The ‘arguments’ that appear in such articles are so weak as to seem hardly even intended to convince, but merely to send subliminal signals that this topic has been decreed off-limits, which is all the conformist mind needs to know.
But a line in one of them gave me a moment of hilarity and led to something of an epiphany, which I thought I would share. The article is called The People Who Believe Electricity Rules the Universe, and my epiphany was about toast, or rather, toasters.
Speaking of the late Wallace Thornhill, one of the leading proponents of Electric Universe Theory, the writer, one Sarah Scoles, attempts a killing jibe:
“When Thornhill speaks to their souls in a YouTube video that claims to explain what NASA hasn’t, using only the force that runs their toaster, they gravitate toward it. They log on to Thunderbolts.info and watch the full hour of Thunderbolts of the Gods.”
It may be the lamest, most self-satirising thing anybody has ever written on this subject. This is the proud jewel of this writer’s palette of witticism and withering rebuke: Thornhill thinks the universe is ordered by ‘the force that runs their toaster’.
It’s reminiscent of the satirical movie Idiocracy — where the suggestion that the people should water their crops with water rather than soft drinks provokes the baffled response:
‘Water? Like, out the toilet?’
Electricity? You mean, like, the stuff that powers your toaster?
Very scientific, Sarah.
Try this: electricity is a fundamental entity in nature, and one of the main components of matter itself.
The force that runs their toaster. Such a snug little bit of reductionism, conjuring up a cosy domestic scene. And I realised that this is how it was decided, a century ago, that the denizens of the new consumerist age should think of electricity.
The idea that an intellectual elite should decide how the masses should think is quite explicit in the literature of the time, elaborated in books such as Propaganda (1928), by Edward Bernays, and Public Opinion (1922) by Walter Lippmann. These books explicitly championed the use of the mass media for perception management, the cognitive disciplining of society. The writers were contemporaries of Tesla, Alexanderson, Steinmetz, JJ Thomson, Birkeland, and Langmuir, and I imagine that the case of electricity was high on the perception management agenda at this time, given the nature of the campaign to erase Nikola Tesla from public memory. Tesla’s projects clearly caused a spasm of panic among the financial and corporate elite and an unprecedented mobilisation against his ideas.
This was the period in which it was dawning on engineers and physicists like Tesla and Birkeland that the energy we call electricity is everywhere around us and within us. It powers the planet we live on, surging into the poles in huge twisted filaments of plasma from the sun, creating the aurorae, and cascading down through the earth to the equator. It’s the force that powers your brain, your nervous system. It is everywhere in space, it flows beneath our feet, and through our nerves; the most powerful force in the universe, and learning how to tune into its energy would liberate humanity and completely destroy the economic structure of a society built on artificial scarcity.
Perceptions had to be managed. In the public mind, the miracle was to be — not the universe — but the toaster, the washing machine, the electric oven. Wonder must be redirected into narcissism and competitive consumption. Housewives could now manage their households and remain fragrant and beautifully coiffed to welcome their husbands home after their corporate shift. That was what had to matter.
The oligarchy had moved against Tesla abortively in 1895 with the destruction of his laboratory, and decisively in 1901 with the blackballing of the inventor in the financial markets, followed by the confiscation of his radio patents in 1904. By 1906 Tesla was bankrupted, and the banks then used the financial panic of 1907 to destroy his former business partner, George Westinghouse.
Westinghouse was a humanitarian inventor and ethical capitalist, who had partnered with Tesla in the development of alternating current, and whose company was investing heavily in electrical research. He was also the only remaining competitor to General Electric, and refused to be amalgamated. So the banks called in his loans, took his company and his name and subverted it, killing its research wing and turning the company into the flagship of the new consumerism. Alternating current created the opportunity to sell the public all kinds of new products, as well as new mass media which would be used to promote them. The inception of the consumerist mentality is a prime historical example of social engineering through advertising. In the process, the power of the new media to narrow and control the conceptual and perceptive range of ‘the public mind’ became apparent.
Westinghouse Corporation, sans George Westinghouse, became a star player in the industrial exhibitions of the day. One of the most lavish of these, the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago, featured the revealing slogan: SCIENCE FINDS. INDUSTRY APPLIES. MAN CONFORMS.
The public mind is shaped, not by knowledge, but by the way industry exploits — and, crucially, sells — that knowledge.
Westinghouse became synonymous with the new consumerist chic of electric domestic appliances: washing-machines, cookers, hair-curlers, irons and toasters. And so in the story of Westinghouse we see the toaster jibe played out on a societal level.
What is electricity?
It’s the stuff that powers your toaster. You plug it in here.
That is all you know and all you need to know.
That’s how people were taught to think of electricity as ‘the force that powers their toaster’ and no more. And that’s where Scoles, like Shermer, comes from, products of consumerism and perception management. I can’t help picturing them like the housewives in 1930s Westinghouse adverts.
She knows nothing about electricity, of course. She’ll never ask — What is this energy, this power of which we are allowed to catch the merest dregs to run our multifarious machines and gadgets?
After her husband has gone to work she cleans the kitchen.
“Isn’t my new Turnover Toaster a beauty?” she plans to say when she shows it off to her friends. “I just bought it. During February, you know, one thinks about adding to the home furnishings, and these handy electric appliances make house-keeping so much easier! My Westinghouse Iron and Percolator Set have really become indispensable, they’re so useful and attractive. Next we’re going to get the Waffle Iron.”
Her shrivelled imagination can hardly summon an idea of how anything could be otherwise. Why would she even want to?
But she does wish that somebody could invent a more convenient way of dealing with toaster-crumbs. She sighs.
“Oh well, I suppose there are more important things for the scientists to be doing.”
Maybe one day.