I was fortunate to have an English professor in college who instilled in us a fundamental understanding of propaganda, how it works, why it is used, and so on.
Propaganda is the use of words and symbols and images to persuade people. Get people to believe certain things, have certain attitudes towards things, even do things. Could be good or bad things.
Today, people generally equate the term “propaganda” with something originating in a foreign country. Say, German or Russian propaganda. But not American. By definition, propaganda can’t be American…
Instead, we use other words, such as “marketing” or “advertising” or “spin” or “public relations” (which sounds vaguely sexual) to describe the symbols used to persuade us to believe in and buy things. That these untruths are spun in the pursuit of money is supposed to render the lying more palatable and understandable. The American Dream is to make a buck, after all, is it not?
So what if drinking cheap beer doesn’t make women in bikinis magically appear in your hot tub? So what if Michael Jordan didn’t get to be the greatest by eating at McDonald’s? So what if Donald Trump became president mainly to “sell his brand” rather than help anyone besides himself?
Of course, this view functions as a deliberate blindfold to the realization the American government and our corporations are every bit the purveyors of propaganda as those “foreign devils” in Russia or the Middle East.
And so, we arrive at our current frog in a well crisis. The powers that be are oligarchs, plutocrats, whose rule is derived from their money. Their demonstrated excellence at “making a buck.”
The oligarchs in turn buy the political class through campaign finance. In this pursuit, they have taught us to call them “donors” as in “campaign donors.” This term “donor” is synonymous with noble causes. Blood donor. Organ donor. Giving the gift of life.
And this is how it works. A casino boss (which we all know entails being a mobster of sorts) “donates” $$$113,036,500 to politicians. Out of the goodness of his heart. Because he loves democracy! What a kind-hearted great man he is!
This is propaganda. A “donor” buys whatever laws and concessions and policies he wants from our elected officials, and we have been taught to consider this act noble. Charity even. That’s a lie. And it isn’t an “accidental” lie. It’s prostitution. Legalized prostitution, but still, there ain’t nothing noble about it.
And so, the conservatives believe the liberals are always lying and the liberals believe the conservatives are always lying and there we have it. We’ve all been sold what amounts to trillions of dollars worth of bullshit. How did we get here?
Nothing new under the sun. These techniques and tactics and strategies and models of linguistics, psychology, sales, behaviorism… we’ve seen it all before.
At some point, we started to believe “propaganda” means something that can’t happen here. RIBBIT!
Towards this realization of how it works, here are some of the classics of propaganda. They are free. Yet the vast majority of people ain’t got time for that. Because most people want to be sold their heapin’ helpin’ of bullshit rather than read pearls.
So be it…
Freeing your mind may be free, but it ain’t easy.
(Header image: The Frog And The Well by Denny Bond)