Search This Blog

Sunday, May 04, 2008



Propaganda is, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, “The systematic propagation of a doctrine or cause or of information reflecting the views and interests of those advocating such a doctrine or cause.”

We think we know propaganda. We think of large stone statues of collectivist workers with brawny arms, holding farm implements and looking intense. We think of giant banners in the streets and on the walls of buildings, urging workers to think as the state would have them think. We’ve learned the lessons of “Animal Farm”, that some animals are more equal than others…according to the ruling animals, of course.

We think we know propaganda. We see Islamic children being fed cartoons where heroic Palestinian children wear explosives onto a bus full of “Satanic, murderous Jews” and ensure their place in Paradise with a suicidal blast. We watch the Palestinian children’s show where the young participants sing songs about Jihad and the glories of martyrdom. We see Saudi children crammed for hours into small classrooms, unthinkingly chanting verse after verse of the Koran.

We’ve seen newsreels of Hitler preaching his evolutionary doctrine of ethnic purging and the creation of a master race. We’ve watched Nikita Kruschev slam his shoe on the table at the UN, giant visages of Chairman Mao hovering over podiums in Red China, Osama Bin Laden’s video valentines to murder and we’ve shaken our heads over the rants of Hugo Chavez.

We think we know propaganda. It is clumsy and stupid, a frontal assault on the peasantry that we sophisticated Americans would never fall prey to in a million years! We’ve read Ayn Rand! We’ve been taught the Declaration of Independence! We have a free press and the airwaves and cableways are filled with every point of view imaginable. We’ve absorbed the warnings of Orwell and have been sickened by tales of the excesses of Stalin.

But we don’t…not even close! All sorts of propaganda techniques are being used on you. Here are the basics from the Propaganda Student Handout:

BANDWAGON: The basic idea behind the bandwagon approach is just that, "getting on the bandwagon." The propagandist puts forth the idea that everyone is doing this, or everyone supports this person/cause, so should you. The bandwagon approach appeals to the conformist in all of us: No one wants to be left out of what is perceived to be a popular trend.

EXAMPLE: Everyone in Lemmingtown is behind Jim Duffie for Mayor. Shouldn't you be part of this winning team?

TESTIMONIAL: This is the celebrity endorsement of a philosophy, movement or candidate. In advertising, for example, athletes are often paid millions of dollars to promote sports shoes, equipment and fast food. In political circles, movie stars, television stars, rock stars and athletes lend a great deal of credibility and power to a political cause or candidate. Just a photograph of a movie star at political rally can generate more interest in that issue/candidate or cause thousands, sometimes millions, of people to become supporters.

EXAMPLE: "Sam Slugger", a baseball Hall of Famer who led the pros in hitting for years, appears in a television ad supporting Mike Politico for U.S. Senate. Since Sam is well known and respected in his home state and nationally, he will likely gain Mr. Politico many votes just by his appearance with the candidate.

PLAIN FOLKS: Here the candidate or cause is identified with common people from everyday walks of life. The idea is to make the candidate/cause come off as grassroots and all-American.

EXAMPLE: After a morning speech to wealthy Democratic donors, Bill Clinton stops by McDonald's for a burger, fries, and photo-op.

TRANSFER: Transfer employs the use of symbols, quotes or the images of famous people to convey a message not necessarily associated with them. In the use of transfer, the candidate/speaker attempts to persuade us through the indirect use of something we respect, such as a patriotic or religious image, to promote his/her ideas. Religious and patriotic images may be the most commonly used in this propaganda technique but they are not alone. Sometimes even science becomes the means to transfer the message.

EXAMPLE: The environmentalist group PEOPLE PROMOTING PLANTS, in its attempt to prevent a highway from destroying the natural habitat of thousands of plant species, produces a television ad with a "scientist" in a white lab coat explaining the dramatic consequences of altering the food chain by destroying this habitat.

FEAR: This technique is very popular among political parties and PACs (Political Action Committees) in the U.S. The idea is to present a dreaded circumstance and usually follow it up with the kind of behavior needed to avoid that horrible event.

EXAMPLE: The Citizens for Retired Rights present a magazine ad showing an elderly couple living in poverty because their social security benefits have been drastically cut by the Republicans in Congress. The solution? The CRR urges you to vote for Democrats.

LOGICAL FALLACIES: Applying logic, one can usually draw a conclusion from one or more established premises. In the type of propaganda known as the logical fallacy, however, the premises may be accurate but the conclusion is not.


* Premise 1: Bill Clinton supports gun control.
* Premise 2: Communist regimes have always supported gun control.
* Conclusion: Bill Clinton is a communist.

We can see in this example that the Conclusion is created by a twisting of logic, and is therefore a fallacy.

GLITTERING GENERALITIES: This approach is closely related to what is happening in TRANSFER (see above). Here, a generally accepted virtue is usually employed to stir up favorable emotions. The problem is that these words mean different things to different people and are often manipulated for the propagandists' use. The important thing to remember is that in this technique the propagandist uses these words in a positive sense. They often include words like: democracy, family values (when used positively), rights, civilization, even the word "American."

EXAMPLE: An ad by a cigarette manufacturer proclaims to smokers: Don't let them take your rights away! ("Rights" is a powerful word, something that stirs the emotions of many, but few on either side would agree on exactly what the 'rights' of smokers are.)

NAME-CALLING: This is the opposite of the GLITTERING GENERALITIES approach. Name-calling ties a person or cause to a largely perceived negative image.

EXAMPLE: In a campaign speech to a logging company, the Congressman referred to his environmentally conscious opponent as a "tree hugger."


There are several Big Lies being told to you and your children, lies that have insinuated themselves throughout our culture to the point that they have become part of our daily lives. Whether they have been told for centuries or for just a few years, they all have commonalities. I intend to address each of them in the following weeks as what they are, propaganda from elitists designed to control you and manipulate you in the way they wish you to go.

What is “The Big Lie?”

As Hitler wrote, in Mein Kampf;

"All this was inspired by the principle - which is quite true in itself - that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation.”

In other words, a big and colossal lie works better than a slight spin on the truth.

Do you understand that Big Lies are being fed to you on a daily basis? Allow me to suggest that the following Big Lies are among those being presented to you in 2008:

• Evolution is an accepted scientific fact. Call it Macroevolution or Neo-Darwinism if you will, every serious scientist accepts it and no one questions it.

• Man-Made Global Warming is proven scientific fact and is therefore a pressing worldwide concern.

• The Democratic Party is the champion of Civil Rights and the historical friend of minority races, particularly African-Americans.

• Black Liberation Theology, as practiced by the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, is based on biblical principles and is the standard belief system taught in Black churches around the country.

• Sex with virgins prevents/cures AIDS.

Wait a minute, about that last one? Well, it is folklore which is, tragically believed by much of the population of Third World Africa and has led to the rampant spread of the HIV virus in the 20th century. I propose that while most Americans would immediately identify the last statement as complete bunk, it seems most of them swallow the previous four statements whole, without contemplation.

I intend to address Democrats as Civil Rights Champions first but will make a preliminary post on each of these topics over the next two weeks. Stay tuned for that post within the next 24 hours!


Chaos Engineer said...

About the five statements at the end...I know this is a stupid question, but how can we be sure that all five of them are false?

Let's take the last one: How can I know that having sex with virgins doesn't cure AIDS? I haven't done the experiment, and in fact it would be unethical for me to try.

Now, a naive person would say, "Ask an expert, like a doctor or something. Duh!"

And a doctor would say, "This journal article says that AIDS is caused by a virus, and there's no known mechanism by which sex with a virgin could cure a viral infection. If that cure worked, it would call all of Modern Medicine into question, and I'd be out of a job!"

But can we really trust doctors to understand medicine? As you've pointed out in the other examples, we can't trust most professional biologists on the subject of evolution, and we can't trust most professional climatologists on the subject of global warming, and we can't trust most black people on the subject of what political party to vote for. They're either lying or deluding themselves, in order to further a secularist/socialist agenda.

So isn't it likely that doctors are just as wrong? Secularists need to believe that diseases have a material cause and a material cure. They'd want us to waste money on fancy-schmancy "medicines" and "condoms" instead of just praying our diseases away.

If you look at it that way, the having-sex-with-virgins cure is an improvement over the status quo. It correctly identifies the problem as a spiritual one, not a physical one, and it understands that the cause is a deficiency of spiritual purity. We just need to teach people to restore their purity through a spiritual ritual instead of a physical ritual, and we're set. (Or maybe the physical ritual actually works? Doctors say it doesn't, but they would say that, wouldn't they?)

Or am I misunderstanding things? Is there some reason that doctors are inherently more trustworthy than biologists?

radar said...

chaos, nicely done. You have the devil's advocate job sewn up.

A) As we know, research has been done that has pinpointed the HIV virus as the cause of AIDS and has identified methods of transmission. The opinion of doctors may not matter, but being able to test and get real time results of the tests can more or less "prove" it. The testing has been done. Therefore, the opinion of doctors is not an issue.

B) Evolution cannot be tested. The opinions of biologists, like noses, all vary and they all have one. Whether evolution has ever happened doesn't impact their every day research assignments unless they are trying to find a way to "prove" evolution, which must be a frustrating mission.

I suspect we can trust the actual research of professional biologists when they are doing actual tests and research. So I trust biologists to do their jobs and I need not agree with their worldview.

C) "Most" climatologists??? I wonder about that. The groundswell of nay-sayers against manmade global warming has been coming in large part from the climatologist field. Neither Al Gore nor a bunch of suits at the UN have an opinion on the subject that really matters. Many climatologists are warning that, if anything, global cooling is coming and we can neither produce it or stop it.

D) We don't "trust" black people to vote one way or the other, they have the right to vote as they please...and the black writer who wrote that essay has the right to opine and I have the right to agree. I hope that by pointing out the little guy behind the curtain, I will cause some folks to turn away from the Great and Powerful Oz and no longer buy his brand of propaganda.

By the way, the sex-with-virgins thing? It really isn't an improvement to the status quo in the opinion of the vast majority of the virgins, who are often just underage girls. Taking the virginity of someone against her will, particularly a child, doesn't sound like a means of spiritual cleansing by any measure.


Taxandrian said...

Wait a minute here, Radar. Are you arguing that propaganda is bad? Did I understand that correctly?
I'm quite puzzled here, so I'd like you to give me a clear answer to this question:

Is propaganda bad?

-Only in some specific cases (please specify)

Thanks in advance,

radar said...

Propaganda, in the context of being false information being not just disseminated but indoctrinated? Yes, that is bad IMO. False information is always bad.

Chaos Engineer said...

The testing has been done. Therefore, the opinion of doctors is not an issue.

If I had done the testing myself, then I wouldn't need anyone else's opinion. But I haven't done the testing. In fact, the testing is too complicated to be done by any one person. Some people interview patients and collect the raw data, some people design the tools to detect viruses, and some people try to organize all the information into a coherent whole.

In order to accept the results of the test, we have to first agree that the testing process is valid. We have to have faith that the people collecting the raw data are generally telling the truth, and that people who designed the tools knew what they were doing, and that the people who put it all together don't have a hidden agenda.

Personally, I think this is a safe assumption. Maybe some of the people involved are lazy or dishonest, but there's enough good data coming in to compensate for the bad data...unless there's an active conspiracy to create bad data.

Some people do think there's a conspiracy. The Third World people in your example are probably thinking something like, "Oh, those crazy foreigners! They think we should throw away the sacred medical traditions of our ancestors in favor of this 'science' mumbo-jumbo. And it's not like they've given us good advice in the past. I mean, thanks for drawing our national borders for us, guys!"

Meanwhile, in the West, we've got people thinking "AIDS is just a big hoax to sell expensive medicine. If you don't take the medicine, you'll probably get better on your own!" (Search on "HIV denialism" if you'd like to meet some of these people.)

So here's the point: Young-Earth Creationism and HIV denialism are both considered fringe beliefs, and are rejected by most of the experts who work in the field. How can we, as laymen, tell which experts are telling the truth and which are conspiring to fool us?