"Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest." ~ John Stuart Mill
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In reading or viewing the mainstream media news outlets on a dailybasis, something struck me: It seems to me that all I ever hear is propaganda. Pumped from the primary source of all news, worldwide, like a sewage lift station, the news within the news cycle must abide certain ideologies or it gets canned. Stories of interest that highlight dissent from the mainstream is typically stifled or totally eliminated. Ron Paul in the Republican debates is a good example, since his own party hates to have him affiliated with them, but there are so many other examples out there it is hard to believe what is being packaged and sold to us as news. There are a few sources of news that do not pump the propaganda so profusely, but by and large, the propaganda is pushed at such a rate as to make one wish to vomit.
And just how is it that one can identify propaganda? After a small learning curve, it becomes quite easy to do. You must first know the techniques used to identify it. There are several types, but we will keep with the basics of rhetorical techniques, which seem to be used the most. First, we have Doublespeak. Doublespeak is improperly attributed to George Orwell from his dystopian novel 1984. Actually, his word was Newspeak, which alluded to the same basic connotations. Doublespeak is defined as words deliberately constructed for political purposes: Words which not only have in each case political implication, but were intended to impose a desirable mental attitude upon the person using them. In other words, designed to obscure the meaning of plain English. An example of which might be "collateral damage," which means killing innocent civilians, or "downsizing," which means firing many employees.
Fear is another propaganda technique used quite extensively in today's politically charged climate. Fear is a primordial human emotion based upon the survival instinct. Since fear is fundamentally irrational, it is one of the techniques used most widely by propagandists. There are several types of fear injection into the mainstream, but suffice it to say that fear-mongering, selling fear and emotional control are all the same pieces of the puzzle. It is generally accepted knowledge that a fearful people will give up their liberty voluntarily if they believe they can receive some safety in return. In the past, our politicians promised dreams of a better world. Now they promise to protect us from terrorists. I, for one, do not want their protection. Condoleezza Rice gave us all a good dose of fear when she stated, "There will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
Another method of rhetorical propaganda is the use of "Glittering Generalities." These are words that have usually positive meanings for individuals, but are linked to highly valued concepts. The words emphasize the concepts, which sound good but mean almost nothing. "Spreading democracy" might be a decent example of glittering generalities, since the word democracy is tightly linked to a concept that is highly valued, like our individual freedoms. Therefore, if one was to "spread democracy," it could only mean a good thing, right? Heaven forbid should one have to kill someone to spread democracy, even though that happens all the time wherever democracy is "spread." There are a plethora of terms used today, such as democracy, freedom, honor and glory. A really good example of John Kerry using the glitter is this little gem: "I believe in an America that's strong at home and respected in the world. I believe we can have a strong economy focused on good-paying jobs, a health care plan that reduces costs, an energy plan that frees us from Mideast oil, and I believe we can lead a strong military and strong alliances that keep America safe and secure."
Name calling is the last on the list of the rhetorical propaganda techniques. Name calling is a form of ad hominem attack that draws vague equivalence between a concept and a person, group, or idea. By linking the person or idea to a negative symbol, the propagandist hope the audience will reject the person or idea on the basis of the symbol, rather than the evidence. Today's most used name calling word in American politics is the word "terrorist", the definition of which has changed since the Patriot Act parts I & II were signed into law to include a much wider section of the population than previously imagined.
Other common name calling techniques used in modern times are the terms "soft on terror", and "un-American" or "unpatriotic". Ron Paul was attacked by Rudy Giuliani. "That's really an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of 9/11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don't think I have ever heard that before, and I have heard some pretty absurd explanations for Sept. 11. I would ask the congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn't really mean that." While not really name calling, he insinuated that Ron Paul brought forth the absurd. It was a "quiet" name calling. What it really meant was "You sir, are an idiot", or, "You, sir, are unpatriotic". Either way, it was name calling, and therefore, propaganda. The sad part was, when everyone applauded for Rudy instead of Ron (who simply told the truth, like it or not).
There are other methods of propaganda, such as euphemisms, misinformation, disinformation, buzz, buzzwords, divide and conquer, echo chamber, straw man, and hosts of others. One must be attuned to hearing propaganda to recognize it for what it is. In recent years, I have noticed a ratcheting up of propaganda from the mainstream media outlets we call our news sources. This is troubling, because if information is power, then he who controls the most information is the most powerful.
Since most all of our news sources are indentured servants of the military industrial complex, just what we get told must be put through a filter to determine what, if any, is propaganda, and what is true. With the help of the internet as an alternative news source, and education of the people in spotting propaganda, this makes "truth" somewhat easier to detect, and propaganda a bit easier to spot.
Unfortunately, the American people don't get very good training in learning to spot propaganda. But make no mistake; propaganda is widespread, insidious, and quite bad for the people of these United States. Unfortunately, it will not be taking a hiatus anytime soon. Rather, due to the impending 2008 electoral cycle, we will likely hear much more of it than we have ever heard historically. Not being a voting person, this won't bother me all that much, however, watching the sheeple eat it up and spout it back to me in daily conversation is enough to make me wretch.
So read critically, listen carefully, and watch observantly to your duly elected or their mouthpieces. The rhetoric is ratcheting up, and so is the propaganda. And hardly anything you hear in the upcoming election cycle will ever come to fruition, because it's all propaganda ' and all phony.