Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Thoughts on Propaganda
Today's "Frazz" comic strip was very appropriate in the Age of Dubya, as it used humor to demonstrate how propaganda works.
"A falsehood repeated often enough becomes the truth."
A falsehood such as...
- Saddam Hussein was connected to 9/11
- Saddam has Weapons of Mass Destruction
- The Surge is working
DH and I started talking about it. About the fact that those who tell falsehoods repeatedly, eventually believe them themselves. And how if the falsehoods are continually repeated in the absence of contradictory information, that they are believed even more quickly and thoroughly.
It got me thinking about how important it is to have that contradictory information available, how crucial it is that voices of dissent are not silenced. In order for a person to know the real truth, both sides of the story must be available for critical analysis.
This is why freedom of the press was included in the Bill of Rights. If the press is under the control of the government then a citizen cannot know the truth about anything.
The continuous blurring of news, commentary and entertainment in the mainstream media is doing the pubic a disservice by obscuring the truth. People hear commentary and think it's truth. They watch stories about celebrities on the "news" and don't get to hear the truth - the real news. And Fox News reports only the news they want you to know, the way they see it.
So we must be ever vigilant - if we hear a news report, we should Google it and check it on multiple sources before passing it on; and make sure those sources are legitimate.
I have a friend who is a right-wing Christian and we get together and talk about political/religious issues from time to time, such as abortion, the environment, evolution and gay marriage. I like to do this so I can understand how the other side thinks. And I am struck by the propaganda to which she is exposed. She sometimes brings "proof" of her opinions - often from World Net Daily or some obscure newspaper in the South, or pamphlets her church gives out to help their members talk to non-believers about evolution and other touchy subjects.
My friend refers to the New York Times as "the New York Slime," and won't give any credence to anything I quote from that source; yet she believes in the sources she reads.
But in all fairness, she does have a point. I know the Times has a liberal bias. So I also read the Wall Street Journal, and am struck by the difference in the viewpoints expressed in their editorial pages. At least I am getting both sides this way, from respected sources. Then I can make up my own mind...which still usually agrees with the New York Times!
The thing that is clear is how important it is for those who disagree with the government's policies to continue to speak out against them. If these voices are silenced, there will be no one contradicting the falsehoods that are repeated over and over...until everyone believes them.
(By the way, the quote may have been "A lie repeated often enough..." not "falsehood." And some sources seem to credit Lenin with the quote, and others Joseph Goebbels. Of course, he could have been quoting Lenin.
Sometimes the truth is hard to come by, even on Google. But at least no one said it was Stalin!)
Update: In view of a couple of comments made to this post, I just want to clarify, that there are definitely more sides to every story than only two. The important thing is to expose oneself to as many information sources as possible in order to try to learn the truth, since so many sources have their own biases. And I also want to emphasize that, first of all, my friend is very sincere in her Christian belief, her church's propaganda notwithstanding; and that not all Christians are victims of propaganda from their churches. I do believe there are certain churches that have a strong right-wing political bias and they pass this on to their congregations. And there are churches that have a liberal bias as well, I realize.
The upshot of it is, we can't live in a bubble of just listening to others who share our opinions. We have to expose ourselves to all kinds of opinions and information in order to ferret out the elusive nugget of the truth.