Nineteenth century French military and political leader Napoléon Bonaparte once said, “a soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of coloured ribbon,” recognising a fundamental aspect of human nature he readily exploited to bolster his now famous campaigns of European conquest.
Human beings value recognition. Today, it drives the addictive nature of social media platforms. Facebook co-founder Sean Parker recently admitted that the ubiquitous social network platform was designed intentionally to exploit this and become “addictive.”
In the Guardian’s report titled, “Ex-Facebook president Sean Parker: site made to exploit human ‘vulnerability‘,” Sean Parker would describe what he called a “social-validation feedback loop,” explaining that:
“How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?” It was this mindset that led to the creation of features such as the “like” button that would give users “a little dopamine hit” to encourage them to upload more content.
“It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”
This social-validation feedback loop utilising the “like” button is merely the most recent innovation in social engineering, and the latest iteration of Bonaparte’s “bit of coloured ribbon.”
Keeping Servants Eager and Loyal
Combining traditional methods and modern innovations in social engineering, modern day empires extend their influence through media, activist, political and business circles around the globe. In addition to boosting modern social media accounts of their handpicked proxies, facilitators and agents, they also maintain an impressive network of organisations that both manage and direct “soft power” efforts as well as reward eager and loyal functionaries.
A relevant and recent example of this was provided by the New York City-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The seemingly progressive organisation is in fact funded and directed by large US and European corporate-financier interests including banks, big-industry and convicted financial criminal George Soros’ Open Society Foundation (see CPJ’s 2015 annual report here).
In addition to maintaining a global network of media organisations that promote pro-US-European narratives and using human rights advocacy to protect their functionaries from local governments exposing and disrupting what is essentially lobbying dressed as journalism, CPJ also offers its annual CPJ International Press Freedom Awards.
It serves the duel purpose of lending the illusion of legitimacy to awardees, as well as fuelling the awardee’s ego to continue serving the interests CPJ represents.
A Profile in Eager Loyalty
CPJ’s 2017 awardees included Pravit Rojanaphruk from Thailand, a Chevening scholar and an eager member of Thailand’s opposition who uses his journalist credentials as cover for politically-motivated attacks against Thailand’s independent institutions in concert with foreign embassies as well as media organisations like CNN, the BBC, Qatar’s Al Jazeera, Reuters and many more.
The CPJ claims in their profile of Rojanaphruk:
Pravit Rojanaphruk is one of Thailand’s most prominent critical reporters and a long-time advocate for press freedom. He is currently a columnist and senior staff writer for Khaosod English (Fresh News), a website established in 2013 that publishes critical coverage of Thailand’s junta. Before that, he worked for more than 20 years with the local English-language newspaper The Nation.
CPJ and Rojanaphruk himself intentionally and repeatedly omit that his opposition to Thailand’s current government under the guise of promoting democracy and freedom of expression is entirely one-sided and dishonest.
Rojanaphruk often decries the Thai military which came to power after a 2014 coup. He neglects to mention the government it ousted from power was openly and illegally run by convicted criminal and fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra who remotely ran the country from a hotel suite in Dubai through his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra who help office in his absence.
Rojanaphruk also repeatedly neglects to mention the violence and abuse of human rights Thailand faced under Shinatrawatra’s regime whom he seeks to return to power, including curbs on the media, assassinations and a campaign of mass murder spanning just 90 days in 2003 that left nearly 3,000 dead or the violence and terrorism still being carried out by Shinawatra’s supporters.
While Rojanaphruk decries the Thai government for its “crackdown” on “democracy,” he sidesteps violations of human rights carried out by the opposition of which he belongs. In other words, Rojanaphruk is merely bias, lobbying for Shinawatra’s opposition and the foreign interests that back it, including the very same interests that sponsor the CPJ.
Giving Functionaries their “Dopamine Hit”
The CPJ International Press Freedom Award presented to Rojanaphruk is meant partly to grant him further legitimacy in front of Western audiences unaware of the true nature of Thailand’s political crisis, but also partly to feed the ego of Rojanaphruk himself, to keep him eager and loyal to what is otherwise modern day imperialism and the embodiment of the very sort of injustice he himself claims to stand against.
Empires in particular seek out the most self-absorbed and egotistical, because it is among this segment of the population that a “bit of coloured ribbon” works best.
Rojanaphruk boasts of his various awards, scholarships, fellowships and even awards he merely was a finalist for in his various self-authored profiles. Despite claiming to be a journalist, his social media accounts are flooded with stories and images of himself at the centre of attention, performing political stunts aimed at protesting the Thai government, making news rather than reporting on it.
There are tens of thousands of Pravit Rojanaphruks scattered not only across Thailand and Southeast Asia, but across the entire globe posing as activists, journalists, politicians and leaders in various industries, but ultimately serving as functionaries for interests on Wall Street and in London and Brussels. For the recognition that many so eagerly crave, awards and “achievements” are carefully designed to give functionaries their “dopamine hit” encouraging them to achieve yet more still.
Perhaps the most ironic aspect of Rojanaphruk himself, though, is that he comes from a nation with a widely known saying, ผู้ปิดทองหลังพระ (po bit tong lang pra) which roughly means doing good deeds without seeking attention. Strong, independent and just societies are built by those who do good deeds for the sake of doing them and for the betterment of society as a whole, while empires are built on the back of those who do deeds merely to obtain attention, ribbons, medals and awards for themselves.
It is worth considering, the next time an award event is organised, who funds those organising it, who they are offering the awards to, and what behaviour they are trying to encourage. For better or worse, such events represent social engineering and understanding what is being “engineered” is essential. It is also worth considering for nations infected with circles of sycophants eagerly destabilising order for foreign awards to find a means of encouraging more constructive behaviour.