Brave New World Revisited
by Aldous Huxley
Perennial Classics, 2000, paperback
Control through the punishment of undesirable behavior is less
effective, in the long run, than control through the reinforcement
of desirable behavior by rewards, and that government through
terror works on the whole less well than government through the
non-violent manipulation of the environment and of the thoughts
and feelings of individual men, women and children.
Liberty cannot flourish in a country that is permanently on a
war footing, or even a near-war footing. Permanent crisis justifies
permanent control of everybody and everything by the agencies
of the central government.
Under a dictatorship - Big Business, made possible by advancing
technology and the consequent ruin of Little Business, is controlled
by the State, that is to say, by a small group of party leaders
and the soldiers, policemen and civil servants who carry out their
orders. In a capitalist democracy, such as the United States,
it is controlled by what Professor C. Wright Mills has called
the Power Elite. This Power Elite directly employs several millions
of the country's working force in its factories, offices and stores,
controls many millions more by lending them the money to buy its
products, and, through its ownership of the media of mass communication,
influences the thoughts, the feelings and the actions of virtually
everybody. To parody the words of Winston Churchill, never have
so many been manipulated so much by so few.
Modern technology has led to the concentration of economic and
political power, and to the development of a society controlled
by Big Business and Big Government. But societies are composed
of individuals and are good only insofar as they help individuals
to realize their potentialities and to lead a happy and creative
The really hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found
among those who appear to be most normal. "Many of them are
normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence,
because their human voice has been silenced so early in their
lives, that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms
as the neurotic does." They are normal not in what may be
called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in
relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment
to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness.
These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss
in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought
not to be adjusted, still cherish "the illusion of individuality,"
but in fact they have been to a great extent deindividualized.
Their conformity is developing into something like uniformity.
But "uniformity and freedom are incompatible. Uniformity
and mental health are incompatible too .... Man is not made to
be an automaton, and if he becomes one, the basis for mental health
In [George Orwell's book] 1984, the members of the Party are compelled
to conform to a sexual ethic of more than Puritan severity. In
Brave New World, on the other hand, all are permitted to indulge
their sexual impulses without let or hindrance. The society described
in Orwell's  fable is a society permanently at war, and
the aim of its rulers is first, of course, to exercise power for
its own delightful sake and, second, to keep their subjects in
that state of constant tension which a state of constant war demands
of those who wage it. By crusading against sexuality the bosses
are able to maintain the required tension in their followers and
at the same time can satisfy their lust for power in a most gratifying
way. The society described in Brave New World is a world-state,
in which war has been eliminated and where the first aim of the
rulers is at all costs to keep their subjects from making trouble.
This they achieve by (among other methods) legalizing a degree
of sexual freedom (made possible by the abolition of the family)
that practically guarantees the Brave New Worlders against any
form of destructive (or creative) emotional tension. In 1984 the
lust for power is satisfied by inflicting pain; in Brave New World,
by inflicting a hardly less humiliating pleasure.
To give organizations precedence over
persons is to subordinate ends to means. What happens when ends
are subordinated to means was clearly demonstrated by Hitler and
Stalin. Under their hideous rule personal ends were subordinated
to organizational means by a mixture of violence and propaganda,
systematic terror and the systematic manipulation of minds. In
the more efficient dictatorships of tomorrow there will probably
be much less violence than under Hitler and Stalin. The future
dictator's subjects will be painlessly regimented by a corps of
highly trained social engineers.
Higher education is not necessarily a guarantee of higher virtue,
or higher political wisdom.
No people in a precarious economic condition has a fair chance
of being able to govern itself democratically. Liberalism flourishes
in an atmosphere of prosperity and declines as declining prosperity
makes it necessary for the government to intervene ever more frequently
and drastically in the affairs of its subjects.
When I was a boy, it seemed completely self-evident that the bad
old days were over, that torture and massacre, slavery, and the
persecution of heretics, were things of the past. Among people
who wore top hats, traveled in trains, and took a bath every morning
such horrors were simply out of the question. After all, we were
living in the twentieth century. A few years later these people
who took daily baths and went to church in top hats were committing
atrocities on a scale undreamed of by the benighted Africans and
Asiatics. In the light of recent history it would be foolish to
suppose that this sort of thing cannot happen again. It can and,
no doubt, it will.
If politicians and their constituents always acted to promote
their own or their country's long-range self-interest, this world
would be an earthly paradise. As it is, they often act against
their own interests, merely to gratify their least creditable
passions; the world, in consequence, is a place of misery.
Propaganda in favor of action dictated by the impulses ... seeks
to influence its victims by the mere repetition of catchwords,
by the furious denunciation of foreign or domestic scapegoats,
and by cunningly associating the lowest passions with the highest
ideals, so that atrocities come to be perpetrated in the name
of God and the most cynical kind of Realpolitik is treated as
a matter of religious principle and patriotic duty.
If a nation expects to be ignorant and
free, it expects what never was and never will be .... The people
cannot be safe without information. Where the press is free, and
every man able to read, all is safe.
utilitarian philosopher James Mill
So complete was his reliance upon the
influence of reason over the minds of mankind, whenever it is
allowed to reach them, that he felt as if all would be gained,
if the whole population were able to read, and if all sorts of
opinions were allowed to be addressed to them by word or in writing,
and if by the suffrage they could nominate a legislature to give
effect to the opinions they had adopted.
Mass communication, in a word, is neither
good nor bad; it is simply a force and, like any other force,
it can be used either well or ill. Used in one way, the press,
the radio and the cinema are indispensable to the survival of
democracy. Used in another way, they are among the most powerful
weapons in the dictator's armory.
In the totalitarian East there is political censorship, and the
media of mass communication are controlled by the State. In the
democratic West there is economic censorship and the media of
mass communication are controlled by members of the Power Elite.
Early advocates of universal literacy and a free press envisaged
only two possibilities: that propaganda might be true, or it might
be false. They did not foresee what in fact has happened, above
all in our Western capitalist democracies - the development of
a vast mass communications industry, concerned in the main neither
with the true nor the false, but with the unreal, the more or
less totally irrelevant. In a word, they failed to take into account
man's almost infinite appetite for distractions.
For conditions even remotely comparable to those now prevailing
we must return to imperial Rome, where the populace was kept in
good humor by frequent, gratuitous doses of many kinds of entertainment-from
poetical dramas to gladiatorial fights, from recitations of Virgil
to all-out boxing, from concerts to military reviews and public
executions. But even in Rome there was nothing like the non-stop
distraction now provided by newspapers and magazines, by radio,
television and the cinema.
The other world of religion is different from the other world
of entertainment; but they resemble one another in being most
decidedly "not of this world." Both are distractions
and, if lived in too continuously, both can become, in Marx's
phrase, "the opium of the people" and so a threat to
Only the vigilant can maintain their liberties, and only those
who are constantly and intelligently [informed] on the spot can
hope to govern themselves effectively by democratic procedures.
A society, most of whose members spend a great part of their time
not[ informed] on the spot, not here and now and in the calculable
future, but somewhere else, in the irrelevant other worlds of
sport and soap opera, of mythology and metaphysical fantasy, will
find it hard to resist the encroachments of hose who would manipulate
and control it.
In their. propaganda today's dictators rely for the most part
on repetition, suppression and rationalization - the repetition
of catchwords which they wish to be accepted as true, the suppression
of facts which they wish to be ignored, the arousal and rationalization
of passions which may be used in the interests of the Party or
the State. As the art and science of manipulation comes to be
better understood, the dictators of the future will doubtless
learn to combine techniques with the nonstop distractions which,
in the West, are now threatening to drown in a sea of irrelevance
the rational propaganda essential to the maintenance of individual
liberty and the survival of democratic institutions.
Albert Speer, Hitler's Minister for Armaments
Hitler's dictatorship differed in one
fundamental point from all its predecessors in history. It was
the first dictatorship in the present period of modern technical
development, a dictatorship which made complete use of all technical
means for the domination of its own country. Through technical
devices like the radio and the loudspeaker, eighty million people
were deprived of independent thought. It was thereby possible
to subject them to the will of one man.
Albert Speer, Hitler's Minister for Armaments
Many a man has been haunted by the nightmare
that one day nations might be dominated by technical means. That
nightmare was almost realized in Hitler's totalitarian system.
Today, the art of mind-control is in the process of becoming a
science. The practitioners of this science know what they are
doing and why. They are guided in their work by theories and hypotheses
solidly established on a massive foundation of experimental evidence.
Thanks to the new insights and the new techniques made possible
by these insights, the nightmare that was "all but realized
in Hitler's totalitarian system" may soon be completely realizable.
Hermann Rauschning, 1939
Hitler has a deep respect for the Catholic
church and the Jesuit order; not because of their Christian doctrine,
but because of the 'machinery' they have elaborated and controlled,
their hierarchical system, their extremely clever tactics, their
knowledge of human nature and their wise use of human weaknesses
in ruling over believers.
The driving force which has brought about
the most tremendous revolutions on this earth has never been a
body of scientific teaching which has gained power over the masses,
but always a devotion which has inspired them, and often a kind
of hysteria which has urged them into action. Whoever wishes to
win over the masses must know the key that will open the door
of their hearts.
Hitler made his strongest appeal to those members of the lower
middle classes who had been ruined by the inflation of 1923, and
then ruined all over again by the depression of 1929 and the following
years. "The masses" of whom he speaks were these bewildered,
frustrated and chronically anxious millions. To make them more
mass-like, more homogeneously subhuman, he assembled them, by
the thousands and the tens of thousands, in vast halls and arenas,
where individuals could lose their personal identity, even their
elementary humanity, and be merged with the crowd. A man or woman
makes direct contact with society in two ways: as a member of
some familial, professional or religious group, or as a member
of a crowd. Groups are capable of being as moral and intelligent
as the individuals who form them; a crowd is chaotic, has no purpose
of its own and is capable of anything except intelligent action
and realistic thinking. Assembled in a crowd, people lose those
powers of reasoning and their capacity for moral choice. Their
suggestibility is increased to the point where they cease to have
any judgment or will of their own. They become very excitable,
they lose all sense of individual or collective responsibility,
they are subject to sudden accesses of rage, enthusiasm and panic.
The crowd-intoxicated individual escapes from responsibility,
intelligence and morality into a kind of frantic, animal mindlessness.
The writer speaking only to individuals, sitting by themselves
in a state of normal sobriety. The orator speaks to masses of
individuals, already well-primed with herd-poison. They are at
his mercy and, if he knows his business, he can do what he likes
Hitler was systematically exploring and exploiting the secret
fears and hopes, the cravings, anxieties and frustrations of the
German masses. It is by manipulating "hidden forces"
that the advertising experts induce us to buy their wares - a
toothpaste, a brand of cigarettes, a political candidate. And
it is by appealing to the same hidden forces - and to others too
dangerous for Madison Avenue to meddle with - that Hitler induced
the German masses to buy themselves a Fuehrer, an insane philosophy
and the Second World War.
Unlike the masses, intellectuals have a taste for rationality
and an interest in facts. Their critical habit of mind makes them
resistant to the kind of propaganda that works so well on the
Among the masses "instinct is supreme, and from instinct
comes faith. While the healthy common folk cannot make history;
they cannot be used as elements composing a community."
Intellectuals are the kind of people who
demand evidence and are shocked by logical inconsistencies and
fallacies. They regard over-simplification as the original sin
of the mind and have no use for the slogans, the unqualified assertions
and sweeping generalizations which are the propagandist's stock
All effective propaganda must be confined
to a few bare necessities and then must be expressed in a few
stereotyped formulas... only constant repetition will finally
succeed in imprinting an idea upon the memory of a crowd.
[The propagandist should adopt] a systematically
one-sided attitude towards every problem that has to be dealt
[Adolf Hitler believed that] the propagandist must never admit
that he might be wrong or that people with a different point of
view might be even partially right. Opponents should not be argued
with; they should be attacked, shouted down, or, if they become
too much of a nuisance, liquidated.
The subhuman mindlessness to which the demagogue makes his appeal,
the moral imbecility on which he relies when he goads his victims
into action, are characteristic not of men and women as individuals,
but of men and women in masses. Mindlessness and moral idiocy
are not characteristically human attributes; they are symptoms
Hermann Rauschning, 1939
[Under the Nazis enormous numbers of people
were compelled to spend an enormous amount of time marching.]
Marching kills thought Marching makes
an end of individuality. Marching is the indispensable magic stroke
performed in order to accustom the people to a mechanical, quasi-ritualistic
activity until it becomes second nature.
The survival of democracy depends on the ability of large number
of people to make realistic choices in the light of adequate information.
A dictatorship, on the other hand, maintains itself by censoring
or distorting the facts, and by appealing, not to reason, not
to enlightened self-interest, but to passion and prejudice.
Under a free enterprise system commercial propaganda by any and
every means is absolutely indispensable. But the indispensable
is not necessarily the desirable. What is demonstrably good in
the sphere of economics may be far from good for men and women
as voters or even as human beings.
People may start out with an initial prejudice against tyrants;
but when tyrants or would-be tyrants treat them to adrenalin-releasing
propaganda about the wickedness of their enemies - particularly
of enemies weak enough to be persecuted - they are ready to follow
him with enthusiasm.
The principles underlying [commercial] propaganda are extremely
simple. Find some common desire, some widespread unconscious fear
or anxiety; think out some way to relate this wish or fear to
the product you have to sell; then build a bridge of verbal or
pictorial symbols over which your customer can pass from fact
to compensatory dream, and from the dream to the illusion that
your product, when purchased, will make the dream come true. We
no longer buy oranges, we buy vitality.
For the commercial propagandist, as for his colleagues in the
fields of politics and religion, music possesses [an] advantage.
Nonsense which it would be shameful for a reasonable being to
write, speak or hear spoken can be sung or listened to by that
same rational being with pleasure.
Children, as might be expected, are highly susceptible to propaganda.
They are ignorant of the world and its ways, and therefore completely
unsuspecting. Their critical faculties are underdeveloped. The
youngest of them have not yet reached the age of reason and the
older ones lack the experience on which their newfound rationality
can effectively work.
the star of a children's program
Children are living, talking records of
what we tell them every day.
Democratic institutions can be made to work only if all concerned
do their best to impart knowledge and to encourage rationality.
But today, in the world's most powerful democracy, the politicians
and their propagandists prefer to make nonsense of democratic
procedures by appealing almost exclusively to the ignorance and
irrationality of the electors.
The political merchandisers appeal only to the weaknesses of voters,
never to their potential strength. They make no attempt to educate
the masses into becoming fit for self-government; they are content
merely to manipulate and exploit them.
Inured to television and radio, [an] audience is accustomed to
being distracted and does not like to be asked to concentrate
or make a prolonged intellectual effort. All speeches by the entertainer-candidate
must therefore be short and snappy. The great issues of the day
must be dealt with in five minutes at the most -and preferably
... in sixty seconds flat.
The nature of oratory is such that there has always been a tendency
among politicians and clergymen to over-simplify complex issues.
From a pulpit or a platform even the most conscientious of speakers
finds it very difficult to tell the whole truth.
The methods now being used to merchandise the political candidate
as though he were a deodorant positively guarantee the electorate
against ever hearing the truth about anything.
Ivan Pavlov observed that, when subjected to prolonged physical
or psychic stress, laboratory animals exhibit all the symptoms
of a nervous breakdown.
[Ivan] Pavlov's findings [conditioned reflex experiments] were
confirmed in the most distressing manner, and on a very large
scale, during the two World Wars. As the result of a single catastrophic
experience, or of a succession of terrors less appalling but frequently
repeated, soldiers develop a number of disabling psychophysical
symptoms. Temporary unconsciousness, extreme agitation, lethargy,
functional blindness or paralysis, completely unrealistic responses
to the challenge of events, strange reversals of lifelong patterns
of behavior-all the symptoms, which Pavlov observed in his dogs,
reappeared among the victims of what in the First World War was
called "shell shock," in the Second, "battle fatigue.
The only people who can hold up indefinitely under the stress
of modern war are psychotics. Individual insanity is immune to
the consequences of collective insanity.
[Ivan] Pavlov learn[ed] that, on their way to the point of final
breakdown, dogs become more than normally suggestible. New behavior
patterns can easily be installed while the dog is at or near the
limit of its cerebral endurance, and these new behavior patterns
seem to be ineradicable. The animal in which they have been implanted
cannot be deconditioned; that which it has learned under stress
will remain an integral part of its make-up.
The effectiveness of political and religious propaganda depends
upon the methods employed, not upon the doctrines taught. These
doctrines may be true or false, wholesome or pernicious - it makes
little or no difference. If the indoctrination is given in the
right way at the proper stage of nervous exhaustion, it will work.
Under favorable conditions, practically everybody can be converted
to practically anything.
Everything that is done within a society is done by individuals.
These individuals are, of course, profoundly influenced by the
local culture, the taboos and moralities, the information and
misinformation handed down from the past and preserved in a body
of spoken traditions or written literature; but whatever each
individual takes from society ... will be used by him in his own
unique way - with his special senses, his biochemical make-up,
his physique and temperament, and nobody else.
We must begin without delay to educate ourselves and our children
for freedom and self-government. Such an education for freedom
should be an education first of all in facts and in values - the
fact of individual diversity and genetic uniqueness and the values
of freedom, tolerance and mutual charity which are the ethical
corollaries of these facts. But unfortunately correct knowledge
and sound principles are not enough. An unexciting truth may be
eclipsed by a thrilling falsehood. A skillful appeal to passion
is often too strong for the best of good resolutions. The effects
of false and pernicious propaganda cannot be neutralized except
by a thorough training in the art of analyzing its techniques
and seeing through its sophistries.
Children are nowhere taught, in any systematic way, to distinguish
true from false, or meaningful from meaningless, statements. Why
is this so? Because their elders, even in the democratic countries,
do not want them to be given this kind of education.
The Institute for Propaganda Analysis ... was founded in 1937,
when Nazi propaganda was at its noisiest and most effective...
Certain educators disapproved of the teaching of propaganda analysis
on the grounds that it would make adolescents unduly cynical.
Nor was it welcomed by the military authorities, who were afraid
that recruits might start to analyze the utterances of drill sergeants...
The clergymen were against propaganda analysis as tending to undermine
belief and diminish churchgoing; the advertisers objected on the
grounds that it might undermine brand loyalty and reduce sales.
The social order depends for its continued existence on the acceptance,
without too may embarrassing questions, of the propaganda put
forth by those in authority and the propaganda hallowed by the
Individuals must be suggestible enough to be willing and able
to make their society work, but not so suggestible as to fall
helplessly under the spell of professional mind-manipulators.
Similarly, they should be taught enough about propaganda analysis
to preserve them from an uncritical belief in sheer nonsense,
but not so much as to make them reject outright the not always
rational outpourings of the well-meaning guardians of tradition...
the happy mean between gullibility and a total skepticism.
The value of individual freedom, based upon the facts of human
diversity and genetic uniqueness; the value of charity and compassion,
based upon the old familiar fact ... that, whatever their mental
and physical diversity, love is as necessary to human beings as
food and shelter; and the value of intelligence, without which
love is impotent and freedom unattainable.
The right to vote, by itself, is no guarantee of liberty.
Without freedom, human beings cannot become fully human and that
freedom is therefore supremely valuable. Perhaps the forces that
now menace freedom are too strong to be resisted for very long.
It is still our duty to do whatever we can to resist them.
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