Men and manipulation

Leaders need to be able to do one thing: manipulate. Throughout history figureheads have used the media available to them to channel public favor. The ones who could not were crushed by those that could maintain good "public relations" (PR). To give a few examples, Hitler had good standing with most of his people, but the continued brutal suppression led to the rest of the world to view him in a sinister light. This led to his downfall. What of the French monarchs, whose disillusioned rule finally erupted into bloody revolt? Even Caesar neglected to keep face with his loyal followers, and became victim to one of the most infamous murders in history. Leaders need to devote considerable to appeasing the public if they want to stay successful; this is seen throughout Shakespeare's MacBeth, as well as in modern society through celebrations, censorship, and patriotism.

Celebrations are times of jubilance, but those hosted by the government and similar agencies are given a fake sheen of mystique and sophistication. The figureheads are simply there for show, not to discuss anything pertinent to the nation. This is still true with the current administration, as observed by Respers, noting that they stayed a very short time at their parties, in very quick succession (2) and by Hall, "their stay at each ball is, by necessity, fleeting -- a matter of minutes. They walk onstage, they wave hello, the president says something moderately funny, maybe they dance briefly, then they wave goodbye" (1). "By necessity" is the key point, "Even if Barack and Michelle Obama wanted to, they couldn't stay an hour at each ball" (1). The reason being, there are too many balls, too far apart for there to be any semblance of casual or formal interaction with the president, who must attend, as a tradition, every one of the inaugural or presidential balls. Holidays can also be seen as a sort of celebration, and many are enforced by the government. They give everyone something to look forward to, with a common theme of giving and good cheer. Governments soon adopt these and start putting restrictions on labor during such days. In a few instances, the leader has made a holiday for themselves, such as February 15, Washington's birthday, ("2010 Federal Holidays" 1) which makes the people at large associate him with a good time.

William Shakespeare's MacBeth also exhibits this. In celebration of his recent crowning of Thane of Cawdor, Macbeth invites the king, among others, to his castle (Act 1, Scene 4, Lines 65-157). Little would have gone on, barring the standard sleep-over fare, if MacBeth had not murdered Duncan, the king. This is seen again later as MacBeth hosts a banquet in the middle of the play for no reason other than to become pals with the other nobles, and possibly strengthen political ties, as seen by the quote "ourself will mingle with society, and play the humble host" (Act 3, Scene 4, Lines 1-9, 39-48). Both instances are less about legitimate business, or even celebration, and more about strengthening PR without really doing anything of merit.

Naysayers might point out such things are unnecessary wastes of money, but is it not necessary to keep the nobles of a population complacent? Few other things garner loyalty from the upper class as extravagance that outmatches their own, courtesy of the King/Queen/President. Others suspect these parties get in the way of more important issues. Yet, without these parties, issues would be spawned in their absence, such as a lack of support from the elite, which aids finance, as well as a diminished image in the eyes of the more general populace, for some of the grandeur and magnificence would be lacking. They may even say these events are undeserving of the current leader's valuable time. If observed purely objectively, they are correct. Those who do get close enough to view firsthand, though, are not concerned with that as long as they can participate, and those far off from the festivities are too enamored by the promised extravagance to care. These fluff-ceremonies produce false euphoria for the general populace; they mislead the common man of the grandeur of the institution, producing an effect very similar to outright censorship.

Censorship is an extremely effective way to control the flow of information, and by extension, ideas. The media at large has a huge impact on public support for leaders and their governments. As said by Erol, "A lack of understanding can lead news reports to be unsatisfactory or misleading" (qtd in Yan 2). The lack can be manufactured, making, as mentioned, misleading reports. These theoretical inaccurate reports spawn more confusion, more misleading information, which in turn can create even more skewed news, thus making a perpetual and efficient cycle of propaganda if handled correctly. Napoleon understood this, as he once stated "leaders are dealers in hope" (Lorentzen 1). This "hope" is a nebulous concept, and very easily appealed to. Those who make frequent use of it are seen as visionaries, true leaders, it is incredible what "hope" can do for support and morale. Yet, Napoleon also remarked "I fear three newspapers more than a thousand bayonets" (1). Sure, sensational stories can not kill people. Bayonets, however, can kill people. The danger becomes apparent when these previously harmless diatribes are able to mobilize groups of armed and angry citizens. This resistance may even come from other countries, "the more global influence a nation wields, the more responsibility it has to be transparent and accountable" (qtd in Yan 1). This is frequently why most heavily censored nations distance themselves from others. They may even digitally do this, as 31% of the world population is censored on the internet (Gross 2)

Another way to censor effectively, but entirely passively, is funding or financially assisting news organizations. This is twofold in its benefits. For one, it increases the motivation to make favorable news, it also "would not lead to increased understanding, but exclusivity of published thought" (Lorentzan 2). At that point, who would say something unfavorable? Biting the hand that feeds them is not a smart move in the least.

Censorship helped MacBeth as well when MacBeth's wife goes insane (Shakespeare Act 5 Scene 1 Lines 1-12) and when MacBeth murders Banquo, but his wife keeps him quiet (Act 3 Scene 4 Lines 69-102).If MacBeth had let word out his wife had gone mad then needless scandal would be created. The information would be useless to the rest of the nation, but it could still tarnish his image. If Macbeth's wife had not silenced MacBeth's babbling then his rule would have been cut short even sooner. However, Macbeth later makes the mistake of censoring himself of reports of the enemy (Act 5 Scene 3 Line 1) making him victim of the same information deprivation he has provided for most of his rule as king.

The most basic argument against censorship is that it violates human rights. This is not necessarily true. Violent crackdowns on the media and forced thinking violates human rights, passive censorship and misinformation do not in the least, and are just as effective, if not more so. Still, some think people will instantly rise up against it. That is only true if the movement from fact to fiction is abrupt or apparent. If it is done gradually, the people will be twice as complacent from being spoon fed white lies, which are much more comforting than worrying facts or statistics. This constant bombardment of praise for the government fosters a great sense of national identity, or simply put, patriotism.

Patriotism creates an attachment for the place one lives in, and by extension, its leaders. It can help fund wars and public events as noted by Leith

"Look at the Olympics - an unimaginably expensive bagatelle whose stated purpose is to "bring the whole country together". Look at the Millennium Dome, an unimaginably expensive bagatelle whose stated purpose was [...] something to do with "celebrating" Britishness. Look at "Cool Britannia". Look at Gordon Brown blethering on about the importance of hosting the football World Cup. Look at the whole paraphernalia of "citizenship classes" and Britishness tests." (1-2).

Even with the faltering national identity of Britons, discovered by a YouGov poll (Leith 1) these things are still very prominent. The Olympics, The Millennium Dome, The World Cup, all are prime examples of patriotism in action. People clamor to these and lust for such events and monuments to be in their nation. As long as people identify with their country and hold themselves accountable for its triumphs and tragedies, they will yearn for these events.

Making an appeal to patriotism is an effective way to instantly gain supporters. This is made easy because "patriotism is an irrational, and frankly, unidimensional trait" (Chris 1). When the 9/11 event took place, the president's approval ratings shot up to the highest point in fifty years ("Presidential approval ratings" 6). This is mainly due to the emphasis on the country attacking a foreign threat. Most Americans got caught in the resulting orgy of patriotism.

In the play, MacBeth, King Duncan gets rid of the old thane of Cawdor, who was very unpatriotic, and hands the title to MacBeth (Shakespeare, Act 1, Scene 3, Lines 90-101), who shows great patriotism at home and on the battlefield (Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 18-25). This is an example of what not to do. Duncan is noted to be an overly trusty fellow, and, based on his decision, thinks patriotism alone is enough to earn a high office. Ironically, he partakes of a device meant to subdue the public, and pays for this with his life.

There are a few who would turn this method on its head. Pride for one's country? "But the other side of pride is shame" (Leith 2). Even shame can be used to the advantage. If there is not enough public funding or enough support for the current war, shame to every citizen. This shame translates into charity quickly. Others think that they may start switching allegiance to another faction; that is fine. Brand them as heretics, traitors, blasphemers, and infidels. They will be ostracized quickly.

Celebrations, censorship, and patriotism are all key points in any successful leader's agenda, and MacBeth made poor use of them. Celebrations enchant the idea of the government and higher living. Censorship morphs ideas into favorable opinions and dissenters into supporters. Patriotism grants loyalty and charity, even without reason. These are even seen prominently in Shakespeare's MacBeth. Few believe, or even acknowledge that such things can be used as the base for a long and successful government. This needs to be changed. Only when these points are used as crutches do those governments fail. For like an artificial sweetener, they cannot be accepted alone, their overly saccharine impression apparent and bitter, but together, they sweeten anything.

Please be aware that the free essay that you were just reading was not written by us. This essay, and all of the others available to view on the website, were provided to us by students in exchange for services that we offer. This relationship helps our students to get an even better deal while also contributing to the biggest free essay resource in the UK!