As I May Think: War Propaganda Masquerade

War propaganda has two agendas: sell war and substantiate the need and use of money for war. If war is appealing, if the Military Industrial Complex has a clever and useful way of giving back to society, then it will continue to be funded by private corporations, who in turn, will also profit.

In an article by Vannevar Bush, As We May Think, from Atlantic Monthly, 1945, ( readers are allowed a glimpse into a prospective future which war profiteers will bring to us. The initial sentiment of the article resonates the fact that after World War II, technology will be hindered, as scientists return to their separatist place, rather than working in teams, research will be abandoned, all because there isn’t a war to fight. Lucky for scientists, our American society only subsists if there is a war, so while one ends, one will start up in another part of the world. How else would our economy survive? Of course, citizen’s aren’t supposed to notice this tricky-dick government sleight-of-hands, we’re supposed to think freedom, democracy, and human rights are the reasons for war; That’s why American has troops in Rwanda, Darfur, China… all those places where democracy and human rights are only whispered.

But let’s pretend we are with Vannevar Bush and we are still pro war in 1945. His argument and enticement of what the world-of-tomorrow will look like is appealing. He describes technology that will make life easier. Isn’t that what everyone wants, easier? Let’s be practical, the gristmill did make flour production a hell of a lot easier. No more grinding it on the stone just for a simple loaf of bread. Can you imagine drying corn and then after an episode of Reba going out to the yard to grind corn? Then all that miserable time to make the loaf and bake it. But something happened when the gristmill dropped the price of flour. If you agree with Ruth Cowen, it certainly made more work for mother, (See More Work For Mother, Cowen, Basic Books, 1983). There were serious changes to society, women and men’s roles, economy, agriculture, yet technologists would have you only see that it made life easier.

Vannevar Bush, like many scientists, don’t stop to see how society will change for the bad, only concentrating on the good. Bush, describes in 1945 the fax machine, the Internet or it’s database capacity to reduce texts to thumbnail size, like Encyclopedia Britannia, (he didn’t predict they would be obsolete for trusted information). He describes our current bank by phone system, a system that was still being advertised in Life magazine in 1964, by Bell, a technology that took another twenty years to really integrate in society, and that some people still don’t use, or not to the fullest. Bush describes the need for inventory to be accounted for and cites all the time it takes to keep track of it, thus we see the beginning thought of the RFID tags now being used by retailers, that not only track inventory, but reduce the privacy of citizens. (For more see

Bush makes an argument about people resisting innovations, describing how Europeans failed to adopt the Turkish Bow, despite being superior, (page 10). A thorough analysis of this example would be interesting to see what impacts switching to the Turkish bow would have be wrought to society. Other bow makers might’ve been put out of business, specific trees would’ve be cut down, making changes to the environment and landscape or city immigration, advantages on the battlefield might’ve made a group victorious over others, changing history.

This brings up technology that never comes to light. Do you remember the commercials twenty years ago promising the shopping cart that can get rung up all at once or the watch-phone promise of calling anyone anywhere. Are these important advances? While cell phones are finally spreading into all aspects of society, like the elderly, or causing the permanent removal of pay-phones, some, like myself don’t want one and don’t use one. Like the Turkish Bow, I acknowledge that there may be advantages, but also recognize other disadvantages. Never being alone is one of them, always being accessible, radiation, an extra expense… etc.

Bush ends his essay by saying, “The applications of science have built man a well-supplied house, and are teaching him to live healthily therein. They have enable him to throw masses of people against one another with cruel weapons.” Yes, we have well-supplied houses that support consumerism and corporate hegemony. We don’t live healthily. Life expectancy is down, and most people are taking one form of pharmacuetical, the new kings of the county. And yes, we have weapons to annaliate one another. We even have scientists making bullets that don’t kill, so our future wars won’t neccesarily lead to killing, just orchestrated ethical skirmishes. Perhaps Bush’s essay brings notice to the fact that our scientists were caught up with the military early on, and rather than make products or advances in society that would be peaceful, beneficial for a natural outcome, they brought us the world we see on the news each day.


~ by disembodiedspirit on September 13, 2008.

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