Showing posts with label Propaganda. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Propaganda. Show all posts

Friday, January 15, 2021

True news is good news

 “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” ― Karl Rove

Mainstream news sources and some politicians are calling it “the big lie.” By this they refer to a phrase that Adolf Hitler used in “Mein Kampf” to describe an untruth so enormous that no one would dare to question it. This time around, the lie under discussion is President Trump’s preemptive claim that if he lost the election, it would be due to voter fraud, and his follow-up claim that voter fraud cost him the election.

The mainstream news cites court rulings and election officials to defend its claim that the 2020 election was  fair. Those who claim it was stolen typically consider mainstream news to be fake. In some of their minds a cabal of leftist pedophiles has infiltrated powerful institutions and gained control. Less than five percent of men are estimated to be pedophiles. No matter how perverse lefties might be, it’s likely that fewer than one in 20 is a pedo. How did so few pedos manage to gain control of everything?

Regardless, both sides can’t be right. One side must be lying. The First Amendment, of course, guarantees Americans’ right to lie their asses off. Or does it? Actually, telling some types of lies can bring legal problems. But many other types of lies are legally bullet proof. Perhaps it’s time to change that up a bit.

Between the years 1949 and 1987, TV and radio stations were bound by the “Fairness Doctrine.” This policy required broadcasters to devote a portion of their programing to issues in the public interest. It also required them to air opposing views.

With no policy like the Fairness Doctrine to restrain them, some broadcasters now freely spew bullshit. With no rules at all, bullshit rules the internet. Take “likes.” When a user likes a  Facebook post, that signals Facebook to feed the user other posts offering the same viewpoint. Social scientists say many innate biases influence our behavior. One of these is called “confirmation bias.” This bias describes a human tendency to look for information that confirms what one already believes. Facebook willingly feeds us what we already believe. When we don't consider other viewpoints we cannot grow. 

When Russia tries to influence our votes and when its users make hateful statements, Facebook responds with too little too late and promises to do better next time. Suppose instead, Facebook stopped manipulating its feeds and provided its users a stream of mixed viewpoints? That might work somewhat like a Fairness Doctrine. This alone wouldn’t restore a common, more-or-less factual news narrative, but along with fresh, well-conceived laws, Americans might once again share the same reality.

Friday, January 08, 2021

About those First Amendment rights

 

On January 7, 2021 Senator Josh Hawley tweeted:

“This could not be more Orwellian. Simon & Schuster is canceling my contract because I was representing my constituents, leading a debate on the Senate floor on voter integrity, which they have now decided to redefine as sedition. Let me be clear, this is not just a contract dispute. It's a direct assault on the First Amendment. (Yada, yada, yada) We'll see you in court.”

 Let’s take a closer look at this. Hawley mentions “Simon & Schuster,” “they” and “sedition” all in the same sentence. But, publisher Simon & Schuster has not accused Hawley of sedition. Hawley’s chief accuser is a PAC called The Lincoln Project which represents disgruntled current and former Republicans. Is his grammatical ambiguity Hawley’s attempt to write in Orwell's Newspeak? It's certainly Orwellian to contest votes for which there’s no evidence of voter fraud, but I digress.

 Anyone who occasionally glances at publishing news will know that publishers regularly cancel contracts. They do this for a variety of reasons, but the chief reason is future profits. Publishers are capitalists you see. They’re in business to make money. Perhaps we'll never know the 'true' reason S&S made its decision. Whatever the reason, it's not fair to say, “It's a direct assault on the First Amendment,” because once it passes through a publisher, speech isn’t free anymore, but sold at a profit. At various points in my career I’ve met people who say this sort of thing. Most have an inflated sense of self-entitlement. That seems to be a characteristic of the ruling class, people who like Hawley, attend expensive colleges, suffer from affluenza, and threaten to sue people. The ruling class has a name for those who stormed the Capital naively believing that taking selfies and destroying property will somehow change election results. They’re called sacrificed pawns. They're meant to be lied to, cheated, used and discarded.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Wrong name. Right problem.

 

Systemic Racism is not a good name for it. It’s not a formal system and there is no formal name. And yet it’s there, flowing through our culture like kerosene saturating a dry rag.

 It’s in the things we don’t think about. Pointless commentary, children’s rhymes, ethnic jokes, in the things we don’t realize we’ve said. Those things get inside our heads and it doesn’t occur to us to get them out.

 And in some cases, those things pollute entire organizations. Take the Kenosha, Wisconsin police for example. There is no excuse for the appalling crime committed on August 23 by its officers. And yet I don’t blame the police, at least not entirely.

Our culture is ailing and the disease has worsened in recent years. Many Americans are a paycheck or two away from being homeless. This is stressful for people, including police officers. That doesn’t excuse violent behavior, though it may help to explain it. There’s plenty we can do to change policing laws and weed out bad cops, but police thuggery is a symptom, not the root of America’s problem.

 Money is the problem. Too little is a problem. So is too much. Those with too much think of themselves as winners and of those with too little as losers. If the cops kill a few losers, it’s a small price to pay to maintain law and order.

 And what is “law and order”? It’s the maintenance of an unjust status quo. That’s what the president means when he uses those words in response to “Black lives matter” Those words don’t address justice. They address social control. During the 1890s, Tom Watson tried to unite poor blacks and whites politically. He said, “You are kept apart that you may be separately fleeced of your earnings. You are made to hate each other because upon that hatred is rested the keystone of the arch of financial despotism which enslaves you both. You are deceived and blinded that you may not see how this race antagonism perpetuates a monetary system which beggars both.” Let’s replace law and order with social justice before someone touches a match to a kerosene soaked rag.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

All art is propaganda

Propaganda refers to the use of persuasive information to influence public opinion. Such information is often distorted, based on rumors and allegations, or simply untruthful. But that isn’t always the case. Governments often release persuasive public service announcements based on factual information. And that, too, can be called propaganda insofar as it promotes and spreads information persuasively. Generally people think of propaganda in its negative sense, as a tool of corrupt governments and institutions. However I think W.E.B. Du Bois, Upton Sinclair, George Bernard Shaw, and George Orwell intended the word in its broader sense when they considered art as propaganda.

It raises serious questions, but pared down to the bone their meaning is clear: art attempts to persuade others of an artist’s viewpoint using factual, fictional, or even biased information. Its function is to propagate a viewpoint. It is therefore propaganda.

I began to take a fresh interest in George Orwell when I saw “Down and Out in Paris and London” on a must-read list. While reading his, “Burmese Days” I wondered what else he’d written. I found a compilation of Orwell’s essays titled, “All Art is Propaganda”. Intrigued, I requested it from the library. Once I got it home I looked for the essay with that title. There wasn’t one. So I went online to look for the quote.

It turns out that Orwell wasn’t the only writer who’d made such a statement. George Bernard Shaw is credited with, “All great art and literature is propaganda.” Prolific author, Upton Sinclair, said, “All art is propaganda. It is universally and inescabably propaganda; sometimes unconsciously, but often deliberately, propaganda.”

W.E.B. Du Bois addressed propaganda during a 1926 lecture. He tells us, “The apostle of Beauty thus becomes the apostle of Truth and Right not by choice but by inner and outer compulsion.” He continues, “Thus all Art is propaganda and ever must be, despite the wailing of the purists. I stand in utter shamelessness and say that whatever art I have for writing has been used always for propaganda for gaining the right of black folk to love and enjoy. I do not care a damn for any art that is not used for propaganda. But I do care when propaganda is confined to one side while the other is stripped and silent.”

In Orwell’s case, the comment about propaganda is made in reference to Charles Dickens, “But every writer, especially every novelist, has a ‘message’, whether he admits it or not, and the minutest details of his work are influenced by it. All art is propaganda. Neither Dickens himself nor the majority of Victorian novelists would have thought of denying this. On the other hand, not all propaganda is art.”
Have I been writing propaganda? It’s something to ponder.