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Focus on Deficiencies

Unemployment is a commonly looked at societal deficiency.


This pattern suggests that the way to look at a community (or other things presumably) is to focus on its deficiencies; what's broken or dysfunctional. Thus, one can "diagnose" a community for its "diseases" such as crime, drug use, broken families, or "loose morals."

How it works

This pattern reinforces the idea that the particular thing being looked at is bad fundamentally. This has the effect of making people in the community feel that they're worthless and are incapable of doing anything positive. It also can justify the need for "professionals" to come in from outside and clean up everything. The pattern also helps disregard the things that are good about the community and represent potential "local" solutions. If these assets are ignored, then it's very easy to simply not think about supporting them.



Profit-motivated Health Care, Social Darwinism, Criminalizing Poverty, Sustaining World Hunger,


Hidden Agendas

The reverse side of the Great Seal of the United States (1776). Traslates to "New Order of the Ages" or "New World Order." Some claim this shows a hidden agenda to create such a world order.


Society expects its leaders to keep their agendas transparent and in line with the agenda of the groups and people that they represent, however, this is rarely the case. Those in power often have agendas of their own that aren’t in line with the public’s limited expectations of them, and for this reason they may choose to keep these agendas hidden. Of all the patterns this one may be the most pervasive and potentially destructive.

How it Works

Hidden agendas work by keeping certain information secret and misrepresenting the true motives behind an action. It can sometimes use the ability to distort history to be in line with whatever agenda is being propagated. It is very important to shut down any vocal opposition or questions about the possible reality of the hidden agenda, if such an opposition arises. It often relies on the societal apathy of the people who may be affected by this hidden agenda and their ability to be distracted by other things that may demand their attention.

If the hidden agenda gets out, it can disenfranchise citizens and fuels their disrespect and distrust for those in charge. Once trust is broken, the people may begin to look for more evidence of lies and distrust can snowball. Hidden agendas cannot represent the people’s best interest if they have no say (as they've been kept in the dark) and overtime can lead to civil disobedience and social unrest.


An example could be the motives of the 2002 US/Iraq war It was said that this war was a war on terror as officials in the US government implicated Saddam Hussein being involved in the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11th, or 2001. These implications were questioned by skeptics and have been denounced by various groups and multiple official investigations into them, including the US select senate committee on Intelligence.[1] Top officials from both sides of the aisle later came out and indicated that the war was for the protection of oil assets, not the spread of democracy and freedom.[2]


Semantic Manipulation, Distorting History, Corruption and Fraud, Opacity, Societal Apathy, Weapons of Mass Distraction, Advertising-Funded Media


  1. Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane, "Bush Overstated Iraq Evidence, Senators Report," New York Times (6 June 2008).
  2. http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/03/top-republican-leaders-say-iraq-war-was-really-for-oil.html , retrieved Feb 2nd, 2014

Media Monopolies

Chart showing media concentration ownership

Description of the pattern

Media outlets that are controlled by a small number of corporations often broadcast propaganda that aligns with the interests of those corporations. Information that challenges or opposes those interests is rarely given through mainstream media sources.

How It Works

A large company, or corporation, such as News Corp or Walt Disney Company, buys many shares of a media source (i.e. news, radio, newspaper, billboards. etc.) so that they effectively own that source. The information broadcasted is then under the corporations discretion. Now when there is an event that may jeopardize the interests of the company the news source controlled by them is forbidden from reporting on the event. The control and censorship of media is rendered more effective through media cartels; whereby different corporations that own media sources agree to support one another through the content and right-wing slant of the news they control.

If media is controlled by corporations, pro-business perspectives can dominate. This will also inhibit marginalized groups from spreading their messages. When we allow these media sources to frame the way we view current issues then the way we respond to those issues is informed and manipulated by corporate interests. Media monopolies try to ensure that the public thinks a certain way, and that they are overwhelmed by a sense of superficiality and fear (see Fear Mongering pattern).


See chart above. The New Media Monopoly by Ben H. Bagdikian http://www.multinationalmonitor.org/hyper/issues/1987/09/bagdikian.html http://www.fordham.edu/images/undergraduate/communications/caseagainstmediaconsolidation.pdf

Linked Patterns

Dumbing Down Monopoly Silenced Voices Weapons of Mass Distraction


Painting depicting retribution-where everyone gets stabbed

Description of the pattern

Equivalent exchange by way of exact behavior. There is no need to "be the better person" because you will be the only one. This is the idea that, "doing unto others the same as has been done unto you," is the true balance of justice.

This pattern upholds the running behavior that seems to underline a lot of society. The idea of "Returning the Favor" has evolved and resides in the shadows along with most hidden agendas (see hidden agendas). By keeping a "laser pointer" on the simplicity of what it is in any form, eye for an eye can never truly loose it's muster. It is "instant gratification" the current moment- which is important when there is a demand for quick respond.

How it Works

Eye for an Eye is, in it's purest form, doing exactly what is done to other party that has been done to them. Example: to kill another is to be punished by death. As time as passes, the way in which it may manifest can vary. This is due to the complexities of society. The idea dates back to biblical times- See Matthew 5:38 (King James Version).


Mutually assured destruction: I.e. Policies on nuclear warfare, Hatfield and McCoy Feud that lasted (1862-1891)

Linked patterns

Hidden Agendas Violence


Mutual Assured Destruction

Hatfield-McCoy Feud

Strip mining is an example of extreme Environmental Degradation


The natural environment; including but not limited to soil, water, air, flora, and fauna, has a natural balance. Through pollution, over usage, and lack of stewardship, the balance is broken causing the natural networks that sustain life on this planet to suffer.

How it Works

Is humanity part of the environment or are we separate from it? The belief that the natural environment is something to be used and conquered is core to this pattern. This sort of Humanity Vs. Nature situation has led to the degradation of the delicate balance of natural systems that cannot be easily replenished. With a growing population the need for natural resources are rising, but in 1st world countries the amount of resources a single person can consume significantly outweighs the amount of resources a person living in the third world would.

However, this is only part of a larger problem.

When the depletion of resources cannot be replenished naturally we found ways to put a Band-Aid on the solution here and there. This has led to all sorts of problems including introducing chemical pesticides and fertilizers that allow us to create more food resources in the environment than can occur naturally. In the end, some of these end up further degrading the environment which leads to more Band-Aids.

As long as humanity-at-large sees itself as separate from the natural environment this degradation will likely continue.


“Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land. We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

- Aldo Leopold

A study from the University of Oregon found that in certain zones, areas that were clear cut had nearly three times the amount of erosion due to slides. When the roads required by the clearcutting were factored in, the increase in slide activity appeared to be about 5 times greater compared to nearby forested areas. The roads built for clearcutting interrupt normal surface drainage because the roads are not as permeable as the normal ground cover. The roads also change subsurface water movement due to the redistribution of soil and rock.


Consumerism is a major cause of Environmental Degradation, especially with it's "throw away" cultural values.

Denialism helps to perpetuate the continuation of Environmental Degradation in that people can be in denial of the problems we create for the environment.

Silenced Voices helps this pattern by silencing the voices of those who speak out against or warn others about this patterns existence.

Conservation Reliance happens as a result of this pattern when the ecosystem that supports certain species degrades to the point that it can no longer support them.


Swanson, F.J.; Dyrness, C.T. (1975). "Impact of clear-cutting and road construction on soil erosion by landslides in the western Cascade Range, Oregon". Geology (Geological Society of America) 3 (7): 393–396. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-environmental-degradation.htm

Time Square in NYC-an example of societal distractions


Societal distractions can be naturally occurring or manufactured in such a way as to distract people and subvert their attention away from social and civic issues of concern to something more menial. If properly occupied by such distractions, people can be better controlled and thier attention diverted to issues of unimportance.

How it works

Cell phones, movies, sports, games, celebrity, Soap Operas, Music, war, holidays, reality TV shows, etc. What do these things have in common? They are all possible to use as Weapons of Mass Distraction. Distractions can be useful and are possibly even necessary for human happiness, however they can also distract people from other goals or areas of interest that could be addressed, most notably political, social, and human rights issues. Any country or entity that employs this tactic is essentially saying that an informed and motivated public is a dangerous thing and a distracted and apathetic public is much preferred.


Throughout history one of the more common themes in revolution and uprising in societies is that people who rise up and take action against those in power are not getting what they desire and often are of the opinion that there is an unfair disparity of resources: namely wealth, food, quality of life, land, and pursuit of happiness in its many forms. There is often a tipping point of dissatisfaction with the current system and some precipitating event that sparks action. Usually an extreme disparity of wealth, happiness and comfort is involved and lives are very much at stake.

One way to stop or slow the possibility of growing dissatisfaction in a population is to provide them with enough distractions and entertainment that they have no time or willpower to be dissatisfied enough to do anything about it. A population that places a high enough value on entertainment can effectively be enslaved in their vices, and are in this way pacified from the pursuit of change within a society.

Linked patterns

Societal Apathy, Media Monopolies, Hidden Agendas, Conservation Reliance


The plot for the movie, Wag the Dog is basically about the use of this pattern.


Being apathetic to the suffering of those around you is a kind of societal apathy


By definition, this is "absence or suppression of passion, emotion, or excitement." When adding the social aspect to this, it creates a negative connotation. Not only is one absent of their own life's situations, they care even less about the situations of others-- even if they can do something about it. Social apathy is a desensitization of humane involvement where society is concerned.

How it works

The belief that "you can't fight city hall" helps to ensure inaction. Basing one's know of historically failed attempts, where there is a small group concern for important issues, they can "pass the buck" and ignore the problem.

Much like "Unacknowledged Privileges" this a great pattern of avoiding opportunistic callings. Whenever one comes upon a chance to make a difference in another person's life they can fall back on the fact that it is "not their problem."


The events of Pearl Harbor rallied America to arms in joining WW2.

See: US Non-Interventionism Policy:

George Washington's farewell address is often cited as laying the foundation for a tradition of American non-interventionism:

The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to domestic nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.(1)

By not affiliating too closely with the rest of the world, the US attempted to avoid involvement in a situation that affected everyone. This elevates Social to National Apathy. The US were pivotal in tipping the balance of WW2, even though their hand was forced.


Unacknowledged Privilege, Denialism, Conservation Reliance


(1)United States non-interventionism



The meaning of words is not fixed, it is malable.


Certain words, phrases, or ideas become taboo in societies due to their negative definitions. When these definitions prevent governments or corporations from their goals, they will sidestep the problem by redefining/rephrasing words or using straw man tactics to manipulate the public into accepting something they otherwise would not accept. Redefining negative or positive words, phrases, or ideas to change their meaning to support an argument or idea. This is done without changing the true merits of the words or phrases.

How it Works

To rename or relabel an act or object for the purpose of acquiring different results, outcomes or perspectives can be classified as Semantic Manipulation. The distortion of the original semantics can be motivated by wealth, power or to maintain the status quo within an organization that is reluctant to change. Like wise, Semantic Manipulation can be used to provide you with false information within media and especially pseudoscience. in doing so,Semantic Manipulation can not only be used to maintain a certain course within a system, but can also be used to influence it into a different direction. This works because language can be used to influence people's actions and beliefs. As linguist Benjamin Whorf stated, "“The structure of anyone’s native language strongly influences or fully determines the world-view he will acquire as he learns the language.”[1]


There have been many different examples in the last few years in explaining how Semantic Manipulation works. One of the most disasterous examples is that of the Bush administration distorting the fact that lead up to the Gulf War. Despite the fact that the UN weapon inspectors could not find evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The Bush administration created their own fact to support their agenda within the Middle East. [2]

The Semantic Manipulation of the fact of Iraq's weapon program, coupled with the idea that Iraq had something to do with the 9/11 attack was the reason the U.S. went to war in the Gulf. Against the backdrop of protest within and outside the U.S. against the war, and conflicting information coming to light against the Bush administration original claim, The U.S. entered open hostilities with Iraq under false and distorted information. The willful manipulation of data to support a preconceived agenda is almost always at the core of Semantic Manipulation.

During the W. Bush administration semantic manipulation was everywhere. “The War on Terrorism” was a semantic manipulation of the word “terrorism,” which is loosely defined, however it gave the government the extra power it has in time of war for an indeterminable amount of time. The Patriot Act, the invasive, controversial legislation was given a name that suggests anyone against it was “unpatriotic.” The slogan “Support the Troops” was seen everywhere, suggesting that if one was against the indefinable, unjust war that they were also against the troops. This again suggests opposers were “unpatriotic.” The best example may be that torture was renamed “enhanced interrogation.”[3]

Private companies can interpret words present in laws to try to manipulate the outcome of certain legal matters. [4]


Professional Obfuscation and Semantic Manipulation are very closely related and are used for much the same purpose as the other. They are often used interchangeably and side-by-side.

Distorting History: Semantic Manipulation is a sort of history distortion in that you are changing the meanings of established words and phrases that have historically been used for other meanings.

Hidden Agendas works with this pattern in that Semantic Manipulation often distorts the agenda being propagated thru the method of changing the way we talk about it.


  1. Brown, R. (1976). Reference in memorial tribute to Eric Lenneberg. Cognition, 4(2), 125-153.
  2. Freedman, Lawrence. "War in Iraq: selling the threat." Survival 46.2 (2004): 7-49.
  3. Nordgren, Loran F., Mary-Hunter Morris McDonnell, and George Loewenstein. "What constitutes torture? Psychological impediments to an objective evaluation of enhanced interrogation tactics." Psychological science 22.5 (2011): 689-694.
  4. http://truth-out.org/news/item/16167-retail-exemption-shields-some-fertilizer-facilities-from-stringent-safety-requirements


Pharmaceutical and health insurance companies profit off of disease and injury, and so it is in their fiscal interest to keep patients ill and/or injured. Band-aid "solutions" and expensive procedures target symptoms, instead than causes, of diseases.

How it works

Health care companies and professionals profit off of people staying alive, but being ill, so that they can pay to be "cured." There is little to no incentive for health providers to offer aid to those who need it most, because they are often the ones who can't pay for it. Turning healthcare into a commodity to be profited off by some, and denied to others, is a sure way to prevent cures from reaching the public and eliminating the unemployed or underemployed who cannot pay for a doctor. If you are lucky enough to be accepted for treatment, the price will be outrageous, and you may think it would have been better to pass on than to be drowned in debt for the rest of your short life.





Corruption and Fraud, Focus on Deficiencies,


Ulysses enticed by sirens


The complexity of the world makes reasoning about it very difficult. In many public deliberations it can be useful if this situation can be made even more incomprehensible. There are many ways to bring this about. One effective way to do is to engage professionals to develop campaigns to increase public ignorance. In the United States the tobacco lobby effectively kept damaging information about the lethality of their product the people. They also systematically claimed that there was no "proof" of the link. More recently climate change denial campaigns have been developed that are intentionally designed to sow doubt in the population.

"In a now-famous memo, leaked to the press in 2003, Republican pollster and media advisor Frank Luntz urged candidates in the 1992 mid-term elections to use scientific uncertainty as a political tactic. "The scientific debate remains open" he wrote emphatically. "Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate." (Oreskes and Conway)

How it Works

According to Wikipedia, Agnotology "is the study of culturally induced ignorance or doubt, particularly the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data."



Semantic Manipulation, Opacity, Hidden Agendas, Corruption and Fraud


Oreskes, Naomi and Conway, Erik. Challenging Knowledge: How Climate Science Became a Victim of the Cold War. In Agnology

Proctor, Robert. Agnotology: The Making and Unmaking of Ignorance.

{{:Distorting History john, scott

{{:Corruption and Fraud jonesy, phoenix

{{:Denialism amber, john

Cultural imperialism jeremy, amber

Criminalizing Poverty justin, jeremy

Bad Education (includes Factory Education, Education for Deaffirming, Lifeless Education, etc.), scott, chuck

Ultra-nationalism robert, isaac

Racism cache, courtney

Monopoly jonesy, robert

Silenced Voices jeremy, jonesy

Mock Public Space tim, chuck

Fear Mongering justin, ali

Dumbing Down courtney, tim

Dehumanization john, cache

Compartmentalization of Knowledge scott, phoenix

Advertising-Funded Media adam, jeremy

Activism Delegitimization chuck, justin

Xenophobia ali, amber

Violence (celebration of, desensitivity about, as a problem-solving strategy), phoenix, john

Sustaining World Hunger amber, adam

Unacknowledged Privilege isaac, scott