Q & A with Ellis Medavoy:
It’s rare, these days, for me to get messages from retired propaganda master, Ellis Medavoy. He’s always been a difficult man. Now, he’s even tougher to coax out of his cave.
Nevertheless, because I’m persistent, I interview Ellis 28 times (290 pages) in my new collection, THE MATRIX REVEALED. The quality of his information on the nuts and bolts of The Matrix is priceless.
Q (Jon): So the job of the propagandist is to make fiction look and feel like fact.
A (Ellis): Propagandists know who they’re feeding, and they know what morsel will be snapped up by these newspeople. They know how to shape the morsel and color it and flavor it so that it becomes a drug.
Q: The memories of these newspeople…
A: Are data banks. Their memories are all data all the time. The memories form their reality. INTERRUPTION of reality is the primary sin. It can’t be tolerated.
Q: What do you mean by interruption?
A: A place in the mind where a corrosive question or doubt is inserted about the nature or character of a fact. For the regular human, this can be dealt with, at least to some degree. For the newsman, this is like a hammer blowing time to pieces. The flow is interrupted. It would be like one of those old stock brokers, when he followed the second-to-second transmission of stock prices by looking at a narrow piece of paper tape. He’d hold the tape in his hands and read it as it came through, yards and yards of it. But suppose the tape came out of the machine blank for a few minutes. This is why some people can’t meditate. They’re instinctively afraid they might come upon a silent moment where thought stops.
Q: So to ask your own question back to you, where DO these newspeople come from?
A: They, at an early age, see power as the capacity to know “what’s going on.” They plug into that kind of power.
Q: It’s strange.
A: It’s superficial. It’s all about surface flow of information. They stick to the surface. What they’re looking at, what they’re fascinated by is a kind of theater. They’re looking at theater. I’ve known that for a long time. It was part of my job to know it, because then I could present stories that would get through to reporters in a form that would have that theatrical feel.
Q: The players know their roles.
A: The reporters know, their editors know, their reliable sources know, and people like me, who feed those reliable sources, are like directors. It’s hard to describe this, but there is a certain pulse and pace and feel to the way you should supply stories to sources or reporters or editors. You know when to go fast and when to go slow. You know how to plug into their sense of theater. Their need for theater.
Q: So the addiction of these newspeople has a theatrical dimension to it.
A: Have you ever seen a junkie operate? A great deal of his action and talk is theater. He presents theater and he wants theater back. The newsman confuses theater with facts. It’s all rolled up into a big space. I’ve sold stories to reporters based purely on the theatricality of my presentation. See, let me tell you something. When I talk to a reporter, I know I’m walking into a theater where the play is ALREADY underway. It never stops for a reporter. So I hit the ground running. I enter the scene mid-stream. I don’t think, “Now, I’m starting to pitch my lines, now the scene is beginning.” No. I’m intuiting and seeing where he [the reporter] is right now, in the middle of one of his scenes, so to speak, and I plug directly into that place, that moment. Do you understand? This is the subtlety of the art.
Q: You understand his psychology.
A: Yes, and I understand his flow. I read the signals. Oh, this is Death of a Salesman or Streetcar Named Desire, or Hamlet, and they just shoved me out on the stage, and I have to know how to match the emotions of the moment, where the scene has already been going on for five minutes. It sounds a little odd, but that’s how you play the game if you want to win. It could be a very quiet moment in the scene, and then I need to talk in a whisper. It could be the peak of the scene, where the emotions are running high, and I have to drive right in and be there for it, with my feelings turned on high, too.
Q: But behind that, you were doing something quite different.
A: Of course. I had my marching orders and my agenda.
Q: You know, it’s almost like you’re talking about frequencies.
A: I am. Propaganda runs on carrier waves. What are you using to transmit messages? What wave? I knew my targets: reporters and editors and their reliable sources. So I had to understand and tune into the frequencies they would accept. If you watch the best television news anchors, you see they’re adopting several tight emotional frequencies, and they use them to transmit, with their voices and demeanor, the news to the public. They use a nearly perfect imitation of several things: concern, objectivity, dignity, intelligence, with a bit of a rosy glow of sincerity and humanity. That’s the recipe.
Q: Imitation, you say.
A: Yes. They’re a cartoon. They create a cartoon persona. A very well crafted one. And the audience is a cartoon, too.
Q: Why is the audience a cartoon?
A: Because, underneath it all, they know they’re being conned. At some level, they realize it’s a show. So they pretend, and they do it well. They pretend they’re very involved.
Q: You can see that?
A: See it? I lived by it for many years. I staked my reputation on all of this, on everything I’m talking about here. It wasn’t just theory. I went into the trenches with my understanding, and I made it succeed.
Q: You’re talking about using your skills on people who report the news, who tell the public what’s going on.
A: As I just said, it’s all a cartoon. On both sides. Broadcasters and audience. You may not like it that I take a hard line on the audience, but too bad. The audience is faking it just as much as the newscasters. You have to admit there are levels to the mind.
A: On one level, the audience appears to accept what the mainstream news is telling them. But on another level, as I’m saying for the third time, the audience knows it’s a fake. And why don’t they admit it? Why don’t they say, ‘I’m sitting here at night buying what I know is fake. I’m watching the screen and the anchor is giving me the news and I know it’s cooked.’ Why don’t people do that? Because they refuse to look at their own little drama of stimulation, in which they are titillated by what the newspeople are giving them. They don’t want that professionally produced titillation to go away.
Q: You may have heard of something called the Internet. It’s changing things.
A: Sounds vaguely familiar. Yes. The ground is splitting beneath the audience’s feet. I’m not a praying man, but I do something close to that every day, as regards The New York Times and NBC. I ask for them to go bankrupt. The Times is on the road to perdition and insolvency. If they go, it will make an interesting sound.
Q: Is your blood pressure okay? You’re a retired senior citizen.
A: I think I can hold my own.
Q: If you need to take a break, we can do that.
A: (laughs) Everybody needs to take his medicine.
Q: I can think of two or three meanings for that sentence.
A: See, I’m a little sick of people saying that the great unwashed masses of very fine people are being fooled and duped by the big bad controllers. It’s a mutual dance. I knew that thirty years ago. Everybody has to own up to his part in the cartoon, in the theatrical presentation. I know the difference between real victims and fake victims.
Q: What is that difference?
A: The real victims, in certain countries, are being taken out by massive corporations with their assisting government troops and all sorts of other support. The fake victims are sitting in front of television sets eating sugar and tuning right into the frequencies of the presentation of the news. They’re frequency addicts, and I’m very serious about that. This is exactly what they’re hooked on. Why do you think all this research on the brain is being done? To home in on the best frequencies for the insertion of information. That’s what we’re discussing here. But good newspeople already understand the frequency game. Intuitively. They understand it better than the brain researchers. And the audience needs that human face and voice to transmit the addicting frequencies to them. It isn’t just the old flicker rate of the TV or the frames per second or the illuminated screen. It’s the person delivering the news. He’s the prime force. He’s addicted to the frequencies he’s using! He’s addicted, too, and he’s transmitting and sharing his addiction with the audience.
Q: And what’s the cure for this addiction?
A: The world is resonating every day with what humans want. Here is what they want: they want to ingratiate themselves with each other. Ingratiation. Acceptance. Those are the frequencies. That’s the theme of the play. Those are the resonating frequencies. That’s how information is built and fabricated to invoke belief and faith. That’s the carrier wave, the resonance.
Q: When did you realize this?
A: When I was nine. But that’s a whole other story. Realizing it pushed me into the work I did. It also rescued me from continuing to do that work. I got out. You know what getting out means? It means I don’t any longer accept what I was doing, AND I refuse to accept the conditions that made it possible to do that work. I didn’t just get out part way. I got out all the way. I don’t buy the basic theme of the play or the ingratiating resonance anymore. I offloaded the whole thing. You know what? Tomorrow, if I wanted to, I could start a new religion. And it wouldn’t really involve any of the factual deceptions I used to use in my work. I could start a non-denominational religion based, say, entirely on charity. That’s all. And it would look like a very good thing. But I WOULD be using my ability to put out my messages on frequencies and resonances that would attract people. See? That’s how I’d build my audience. And I won’t do that. I know how to do it very, very well, but I won’t do that. That’s what getting out all the way means.
Q: You know—
A: I know a few solid truths. You can get people to sleepwalk from “bad things” to “good things” and they’re still sleepwalking. And that’s the real problem. That’s one element of The Matrix.
Q: Scientists tend to believe in operant conditioning. They believe people think and act according to one type of operant conditioning or another, and there are no other choices.
A: That’s right. That’s the problem.