What is Propaganda…is it different from Fake News?…and when is it good?

World War I Posters That Reveal The Roots Of Modern Propaganda
By All That’s Interesting
Published December 26, 2016
Updated July 10, 2019
These World War 1 propaganda posters courtesy of the U.S. government provide a fascinating look at the America of a century ago in the midst of the Great War.

Propaganda is the more or less systematic effort to manipulate other people’s beliefs, attitudes, or actions by means of symbols (words, gestures, banners, monuments, music, clothing, insignia, hairstyles, designs on coins and postage stamps, and so forth). Deliberateness and a relatively heavy emphasis on manipulation distinguish propaganda from casual conversation or the free and easy exchange of ideas. Propagandists have a specified goal or set of goals. To achieve these, they deliberately select facts, arguments, and displays of symbols and present them in ways they think will have the most effect. To maximize effect, they may omit or distort pertinent facts or simply lie, and they may try to divert the attention of the reactors (the people they are trying to sway) from everything but their own propaganda

Britannica.Com on propoganda

If you spend a little time absorbing this definition, which I have no quarrels with, you realize that what has been called Fake News IS largely propaganda. And it IS what the US main ‘news’ channels have been practicing either somewhat accidentally or wholly on purpose for the last four + years. They have been sliding this way for decades, but it has slid down the slippery slope to this end state quickly over the last few. (Read my post on the Slippery Slope…Looking at this topic I realize this fits into that type of situation where the Slippery Slope IS real, all of the actors are in the game and the rational observers have no impact on the discussion AT ALL.)

Is propaganda ever appropriate? I can’t tell. I want to say NO not just ‘no’ but HELL NO. But I also see how difficult it is to get everyone on the same page and can see that in general if there is a societal good that can be defined as good then making sure everyone is on board is also Good.

But….a big one.

I think that with the internet and the explosion of ‘near news’ outlets propaganda and its bastard child fake news, become a very bad thing, an evil. Everyone learns about propaganda and they get a sense that in the right hands it is good, in the wrong hands evil. So it becomes something of a standard tool, because most of us sees ourselves as ‘one of the goodies.’

The problem is that all sides of an argument get a say. And the general populace do not have any deep sense of the reality of the situation, the nuances etc. If you are generally democrat you see mostly democratic outlets. If Republican, only that line. While some resources have centrist voices, they always shade one way or the other, and many outlets are purposefully hard over. One sides group gets propagandized into believing their trope. The other side…the other trope.

So as Scott Adams points out you get two radically different views of the same events. To the point that the objective reality is not even in view of those Propagandized. Take the Capital Intrusion, one side, clearly nonviolent non threatening, good people protesting an at least murky election. Other side clearly violent, threatening, evil people trying to overturn a fair election.

In this war of propaganda the sides are purposefully pushed apart because the two sides cannot allow ‘their’ segment to wander. They rationalize deleting and spinning evidence because it is not important and muddles the message.

But…but…but…Journalism!

Journalism has always had an element of propaganda. Yes there was a period when it was portrayed as noble to present just the facts but the reality was this was at best a hope and and worst cover. The same schools essentially TEACH propaganda methodology as part of the general curriculum. Again in one view to inoculate the innocent learner against it, in the alternate view because there are a lot of jobs in public relations and advertising (commercial propaganda) as well as in government (propaganda straight up though usually for neutral topics.)

And….”If it bleeds it leads”…news of any kind is a business. Yes you can point to billionaire liberals propping up various operations. But at the end of the day news is a good way of turning a billionaire into a millionaire over time. The operation has to support itself or it cannot last long. What Fox showed was that you could get an audience by bending the news in a certain way and feeding them ‘red meat.’ They tried (mostly succeeded) in a combination of pretty clearly factual reporting and pretty clearly politicized editorial content though you were left to guess which was which. What a lot of the other operations couldn’t really afford to do was the factual reporting. Editorializing everything with a left bend…but left the audience to believe they were giving ‘just the facts.’ And probably excusing themselves by closing their senses to the much more complex nuanced reality…Though it is not clear most of those smiles even have a clue that such a thing exists.

Sigh…and so it goes…have not watched TV/Video news in years, probably never will again, despise its superficiality and bias. Even the talk shows are uselessly one sided these days, making the whole realm a danger to the Republic rather than the safety valve it was supposed to be.

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