By Roland Watson

In the last series, I described how social institutions seek to co-opt those individuals who exhibit great merit, and who might choose to rebel against them. You might term this a tactic, an approach that the institutions use to protect their power and to preserve the modern system. Institutions have many such tactics, all of which are further reasons why any rebellion, why all attempts to alter things for the better, are quite possibly doomed to failure.

Institutional tactics can be characterized as either defensive or offensive, although a few are both. All of them are objectionable. In fact, in many cases the institutions are probably unaware that they engage in these actions. However, simply because they are not conscious or premeditated, does not change the fact that they are objectionable, and that they therefore should be resisted.

Demand for conformity

I will now review the defensive tactics that social institutions practice. First, they prize conformity. There is little tolerance inside an institution for dissent, for people who seek to shape the organization to be more in line with its traditional role as a service provider. This is especially the case with whistleblowers, with people who go public with clear, even criminal, examples of institutional wrongdoing.

For instance, in police forces everywhere there is an unspoken code that you do not inform on bad cops, on police who are themselves criminals. Many police become aware of such individuals, but they do not bring them to justice. The code of silence is stronger than their oath to uphold the law.

Secondly, institutions are highly resistant to change. They too are afraid of the unknown! They are extremely risk-averse, and are willing to experiment only within very narrow boundaries.

Institutional propaganda

Thirdly, institutions engage in many forms of propaganda. They use public relations and institutional advertising to present a positive image of themselves to the world, even though this may be misleading or even completely false.

For example, the worst political dictatorships, as well as the corporations that commit the most heinous environmental crimes, hire public relations firms and advertising agencies, and spend huge sums, to try to persuade us that they are actually responsible social citizens.

In the face of their onslaught, we need to remember that talk, even expensive talk, is cheap, and usually outright lies. Also, as an aside, when a company that destroys nature lies and presents itself as a custodian, this is called media greenwash.

Another aspect of institutional propaganda is that they gloss over problems, the specific ones that they create, and the more general problems of the world to which they make important but indirect contributions. They seek to divert us from discussing these problems, including their role in them, and the existence of solutions to them. They seek to divert us from any course of action that would require them to change.

Secrecy and obfuscation

In this context, they further attempt to control, manipulate, and if possible keep secret, information about themselves.

For instance, if you want information about the U.S. government, you must file a request under the Freedom of Information Act, which is not an easy task, and which in any case does not ensure compliance: that you will get the information you seek.

Indeed, on a personal note, I've done this. I filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking intelligence on what the United States knows about Burma's nuclear program, and which information the U.S. is already required to disclose under a specific American law. The Obama Administration refused to follow this law, or satisfy my request, for two years, at which time it published one page summaries for the relevant years in question, which in fact revealed nothing new at all. But, we know from statements that diplomats have made that the Administration knows a lot more about the program.

Next, if institutions are caught red-handed, they use a number of other tactics to defend themselves. The first of these is purposeful obfuscation. They hire highly paid lawyers and press agents, and use government allies - we are talking here about officials who have sworn to serve the public - to engage in all manner of speculation, to hide and distort the real situation, the real facts, and to deflect attention from them. Also, in the application of this tactic they are masters of making deft changes of subject, such as from a contentious idea that is under debate, to one with which it is impossible to disagree.

If clouding the issue fails, they engage in litigation. They get their lawyers to sue, and if possible ruin, anyone who attempts to bring their wrongdoings to justice.

Institutional repression

Finally, if all else fails they use the tactic of repression. Of, course, this is an offensive tactic as well. Opponents are charged with dubious crimes, or imprisoned solely on the basis of "suspicion," and then tortured to confess and to implicate others. Also, people not in custody are harassed, and attacked, and if need be killed. This is actually known as extrajudicial killing or murder, as if any murder could be "judicial."

In addition, although my description of this tactic used as an example government repression, since this is the institution that most often applies it, it is by no means limited to them. Physical force is used by other institutions as well, including corporations and schools, such as when they call in the police to deal with rebellious employees and students. And, of course, religions throughout the ages - and in the present day - have not been above advocating and imposing a little force to get their way.

To close this article, I want to note that institutions use more subtle means of repression as well. Indeed, this is often the most effective defensive tactic of all. They promote mind-numbing entertainment, and mind-altering drugs, to quell any inclination to rebel.

In the next article, I will review their offensive tactics.

© Roland Watson 2014