“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude. To make them love it is the task assigned, in present-day totalitarian states, to ministries of propaganda, newspaper editors and schoolteachers . . . . The greatest triumphs of propaganda have been accomplished, not by doing something, but by refraining from doing. Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth.” ~ Aldous Huxley
Hello, welcome, come on in. Please find a seat. I’m excited to be here with you today; we will take a look at how public opinion is so easily molded by promoters of the state. Many of us use the word “propaganda” a lot and it’s helpful to understand some basics about what propaganda is and how it is used. Messages released through traditional media organs can now be more effectively challenged directly by interested persons from outside the media priesthood, thanks to the Internet. Until we do this more effectively there will continue to be a trend of hyperactivity towards the police state at home and abroad and the serial-warring will continue. So, here we are; let’s get to it.
The word “propaganda” is often used when trying to explain how the state has been able to maintain such a powerful stranglehold over the collective imagination. Propaganda walks the fine line between what is known and what is purposely hidden while appealing to base emotions of fear and loyalty. Americans have been conditioned to react to this word by associating it with words like Nazi, Fascist, Communist and Terrorist. Basically, propaganda is what Bad Guys do, not Good Guys. Why would Good Guys do anything but tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
You see, Good Guys don’t control the media and good old capitalist media hacks are just giving the people what they want. Right? So, when you say “propaganda,” many people will immediately think that there is no way “our professional journalists” and “our politicians” could possibly do anything so awful to the good people of the United States of America as to inseminate the seed of propaganda into the Red, White and Blue body politic. No sir-ree, only conspiracy theorists believe stuff like that. Only Bad Guys do that and “we,” by definition, are the Good Guys. Now back to reality.
The traditional media machine is sold as being a necessary social institution, completely outside of the state (except for licenses – but don’t mind them), that wields a mighty pen with righteous indignation at political scandals and as giving The People a “voice.” The Third Rail of politics is used to “keep them honest” or “keep their feet to the fire,” for noble purposes, of course, like, say Social Security, Health Care, the Drug War or bombing foreigners. Because these trained and certified journalists had to work their way up the corporate ladder, honing their integrity, sense of honesty and desire to speak truth to power! But, gasp, people today look to the Internet and read ideas written by people who didn’t study in the media education mills or learn to kiss the right spots on the behinds of the right people! The self-serving glorification of mainstream media persons can only be surpassed by politicians themselves. The good news is that liberty has a golden opportunity today because this monopoly on the communication of ideas to the masses controlled by the melded interests of the state and big corporations has been disrupted by new technology.
The manipulation of messages to promote favorable outcomes for a messenger when interpreted by those receiving the message is as old as the first handshake. But how that message is delivered has changed profoundly a few notable times, including the most recent iteration over the past 150 or so years. The written word, developed thousands of years ago, changed communication with the masses from a very personal event with lots of shouting to a non-personal event that put the focus of thought onto the words themselves. It changed everything in society, some good and some not so good. The elite always have used their influence to promote conditions that ensure and/or expand their positions and advantages, often at the expense of the common man. This is not new; however, it has become more complex over the ages.
When the printing press came along in the Middle Ages, it allowed for many copies of written ideas to be distributed simultaneously; this changed how society organized again. The world gets smaller with each advance in communication technology. The most recent step with computers is a continuation of the electronic communications revolution started in the mid to late-1800s. The inventions of telegraph, telephone, radio and television communications made distances literally disappear for people spreading ideas far and wide. The computer has combined all of these technologies into one platform. Now there is a race between liberty and the state seeking to squelch the freedom of ideas in society with laws, regulations, licenses and official messages crowding out the truth.
The term propaganda has its roots in the writings of the Medieval Catholic Church priests wishing to propagate their faith to wider audiences using the new technology: the printing press. Machiavelli wrote a popular book for monarchists that incorporated some age-old theocratic tactics and strategies for modern (at the time) use. Hitler is often given credit for the modern resurgence of propaganda with his use of rituals, including nighttime rallies, fire, symbolism, loudspeakers, mass printing of pamphlets, film distribution, and radio transmissions as well as his autobiographical best-selling book Mein Kampf. But it is Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud and the man known as the “father of public relations” in the United States that deserves the real credit for modern propaganda. I don’t have the time today to go into a detailed history, so please do a search for Edward Bernays for a little interesting homework on the man who inspired the use of modern propaganda.
I want to spend the rest of our limited time looking at a recent article in the mainstream media as a case study in how crude propaganda is passed off of as serious journalism. It goes on everyday in every country, hidden in plain sight. Lies implying the “why” mixed-in with the hard, cold facts of who, what, where and when told by messengers posturing as journalists simply reporting impartial facts to We the People; their agendas hidden behind the façade of good intentions and given legitimacy by official blessings. These statist scribes are the perpetrators of never-ending war as they advertise a continuum of ridiculous propaganda phrases like “Making the World Safe for Democracy,” “World’s Policeman” and “War on Terror.”
First and foremost, propaganda…