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Overcoming authoritarianism: Who would you like to grope your kids’ brain?

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The reactionaries are becoming worried about losing control of the conversation

Social media and street protesters working together to stop Border Force harassing innocent people in Melbourne is a sign of what can be achieved with better messaging, writes Willy Bach.

Does everyone remember that "a ha" moment in 2011, when Hillary Clinton was arguing that the U.S. military-industrial complex was “losing the information war” and, therefore, the U.S. State Department needed more money?

They didn’t seem to notice that she wasn’t arguing for better kindergartens, or more emphasis on critical thinking in schools, or more affordable universities, or (heaven forbid) more honest renderings of U.S. imperial history. Of course, she was complaining about the fact that some important truths had been made public by WikiLeaks, which caused mild embarrassment but no substantive threat whatsoever to the empire.

It was a similar "projectile muesli moment" for me when I learned that the Murdoch media was indignantly reporting:

'Islamic State grooming Aussie teens as young as 14 for terror army online'.

What audacity! Only special people with the extraordinary power to manipulate lies into truth can assume to do such a thing.

Suddenly – or not so suddenly – the military-industrial complex was not having it all their own way on Facebook and Twitter. Hollywood and Disneyland had been filling heads with sentimental narcissism for decades and now, shock-horror, ISIS was making slick videos and winning an audience of gullible followers. To clarify here, I do not find their credo or logic in the least bit inviting. What I would concede, though, is that their horrible message has found fertile ground because of a failure of critical thinking and mainstream narratives.

As a member of the lonely and much-ignored peace movement, I have been saying for a while that our adversaries in the government cyber-security-military-industrial complex are very good at manipulating public opinion. They are qualified, well-paid, work around the clock and some of them are robots who don't get depressed, or go on holidays.

Most importantly, they reach into the minds of their victims soon after these infants leave the womb. They catch 'em young, in childcare, kindy and school and indoctrinate them with their militarist fantasies. At Scarborough in Yorkshire, for instance, Britain – one of very few European nations still recruiting 16-year-olds into the armed forces – has a permanent military immersion centre.

We may expect the grooming of children to take place in a country that has recent experience of a military coup, but it is universalised around the world. “Astonishing pictures show young children handling huge machine guns” as part of Thailand's National Children's Day. Just because they appear to take to it like it is a part of their DNA, it doesn’t make it good for humanity. We can choose to impart something other than ‘our darker angels’ “A small child looks delighted as she gets to touch a machine gun bigger than herself as part of Thailand's National Children's Day”

This lesson is powerfully conveyed by Palestinian poet Rafeef Ziadah in her emotive masterpiece: 'We Teach Life, Sir!, which she performed in London.

To quote from her poem:

'But still, he asked me, Ms. Ziadah, don’t you think that everything would be resolved if you would just stop teaching so much hatred to your children?'

Keen people may like to read a classic academic explanation of how indoctrination was done by the Nazis and by the Western allies during the Cold War: 'Worldview Warfareand 'The Science of Coercionby Christopher Simpson.

But we in the peace-harmony and human security movement are stuck with volunteers working for nothing (like us) and clunky messages no one wants to hear. Why do they want cat videos? I tear my hair out. But just must watch this one — it’s gorgeous and surprising:

OK, there are other people working on this problem, and they've written a book: ‘All Your Friends Like This: How Social Networks Took Over the News’. The creepy bit is that Rupert owns the publisher, but never mind. We can all learn the art of "tag archives" and the workings of the "likeable engine".

When we all have a go at tweeting and get the hang of it – the haiku and such – we should realise that that is just the easy bit. The harder bit is crafting our messages so that people pick them up and go for a frolic with them — like these colourful jumpers for oil-slick affected little penguins. I suggest that we all listen to this ABC Radio National Media Report programme The amazing true story of why we share content as homework.

I would be the first to admit that on this aspect of promoting mindset change, I probably rate as somewhere between rotten and a bit crumby. Senator Scott Ludlam is quite good and he's looking for a new word to replace the word "peace". We aren't there yet, I am very unsure about undertaking such a journey. So, let's put our heads together.

And just when I was feeling as though the information war had to be conceded to the dark forces of the Deep State, this happened in Melbourne on Friday 28 August 2015. An unexpected demonstration of bodies on the street and social media working together. It was a tweetstorm, hashtag #BorderForce, and it sent Dutton's storm-troopers packing from Melbourne.

#BorderForce became #BorderFarce as the lame explanations issued forth from the Minister’s office.

The Adolf Hitler video from ‘Downfall’ even got an airing.

All this tweeting was followed by a petition:

'Today Abbott's Border Farce were to stomp the streets asking for papers. He still hasn't shown his…'

I’ll leave this with you, you might like to sign.

Meanwhile, the much bigger problem: how do you get Australia to care this much that Tony Abbott’s foolish plan to accept an invitation from Washington for which he begged for months.

The RAAF will bomb Syria and accelerate the departure of refugees fleeing bombs and persecution.

Where is the peace movement when you need them?

You can follow Willy Bach on Twitter @willybach2011.

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