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

and more...

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.


Anonymous said...

I agree in general with what you're saying, but there are more than just "two sides."

There are many people, myself included, who do not identify with either.

To me, the "two sides" are propagandists who are most interested in keeping Power.

Liz Hinds said...

That is a great cartoon!

I would like to think that Christians consider subjects by wondering how Jesus would deal with it, rather than being told by narrow-minded thought police.

Mauigirl said...

Fairlane, you are right, of course. The truth is always somewhere in between. What I meant was that every news source has its bias and that we have to try to find the most unbiased sources we can and still make up our own minds.

Liz, just to be clear, I believe many Christians do just as you say and try to sincerely think how Jesus would deal with issues rathe than listen to propaganda. Unfortunately this friend is under the influence of a church with a strong right-wing slant to it. They actually have pamphlets explaining why we don't need to care about the environment, with Biblical sources to back them up. There are factions of evagelical churches in the U.S. that are strongly under the influence of right-wing politics and she is in one of those churches.

TomCat said...

Maui, do you remember the Run-up to Bush's war for oil and conquest? The NY Times was one of Bush's biggest cheer leaders. Actually, the Times is pretty centrist, but not liberal. It only appears liberal because the rest of the MSM is skewed much further to the right.

Liz, I tend to ask myself that question almost daily. I think that authentic Christians do, but the theocons that goose step behind Bush clearly do now. If they did, they would have known that Jesus would not have told Bush to attack Iraq, as Bush claims.

Mauigirl said...

Tomcat, very true about the NY Times - in fact, that was a big disappointment to me, that they did not have the courage to stand up against the Iraq war. So yes, you're right, they aren't always liberal. They can be hoodwinked too. All the more reason for bloggers and other alternate sources of information to keep being the voice of dissent.

Tom Harper said...

Yes, your quote is sad but true, that if a lie is repeated often enough it becomes "common knowledge," "conventional wisdom."

I think education might be part of the problem. I've been out of school for too many decades to have any first hand knowledge, but from what I've heard about No Child Left Behind, there's no sense of logic or critical thinking being taught. It's all "pass this test, get promoted, rinse and repeat." That plus all the cuts in education since the 1980s, and we have millions of voters who are educated but gullible.

Who Hijacked Our Country

Mauigirl said...

Tom, I think you're right about that. Nowadays the kids are all being taught to pass the test, which leaves much less time for thought-provoking discussion, etc. Also, fewer schools are able to provide important things like music and art which help make well-rounded people.

Martta said...

Well, since the Rupert Murdoch conglomerate is gradually taking over all of the media in the Free World, it's getting harder and harder to ferret out the truth. I look to some of the more off-the-beaten-path periodicals to help me with that. Reading history also helps.

Fran said...

Truth- it sure can be elusive these days. Very elusive.

Mauigirl said...

Good point, Martta, there are a lot of good sources o finformation if we look for them.

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