Propaganda is a concept that many of us living in the United States believe to be associated with far away countries, ruled by dictators and a fascist regime. However, it is important to realize that propaganda is something that we, as Americans, actually consume everyday.
Propaganda is defined as “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.”
While propaganda from regimes like North Korea is quickly identified as outlandish and false, it is the propaganda that we consume that can make us believe this. America’s own beloved “Uncle Sam” was actually designed as propaganda to promote the enlistment of soldiers in the United States Military with the notion they would be given the choice to serve and protect their country, even though the draft was already in the works of being put in place without public consent.
Americans may look at the two examples I’ve provided of military propaganda and think fondly of Uncle Sam and poorly of the North Korean ad; however, I’d like to call your attention to the fact that the writing on both signs is almost identical in meaning. The Korean sign reads “Let’s all serve in the army!”. It’s as simple as that. So what makes one form of propaganda worse than the other? When it comes down to it, neither. Both are objectively the same. They carry the same message to their intended audiences. And they are both extremely effective at promoting extreme nationalism and patriotism in their respective countries.
In the era of the Trump Administration (or regime, depending on what definition you look up), the American public is constantly being fed propaganda. To break things down and to make things a bit easier to understand, I’ve identified the different methods being used, their history and how they affect our opinions on political and global issues.
“Whataboutism” is a technique originally utilized by the Soviet Union to divert public attention and criticism away from the regime and to redirect it towards the West. Basically, whataboutism works by diverting the public eye. For example, when Trump was asked in a press conference about the violence of the Alt-Right in the recent events in Charlottesville, he responded by questioning, “What about the ‘Alt-Left’?”. For one, the “Alt-Left” he was referring to isn’t a term that has any colloquial resonance with anyone, because he made it up. Secondly, he managed to avoid answering the press’s questions about his position on the actions of the Alt-Right. This method of whataboutism distracts the public and validates the wrong-doings of a regime.
Invalidating the Credibility of the Media
This is a method that has been used by almost every single regime, particularly Hilter. Much as Trump has coined the term “Fake News”, at the time of the Nazi regime, Hilter coined the term “Lugenpresse”, which can be translates to “lying press”. The parallels are startling. By discrediting the press for presenting facts, it leaves room for people to question the truth and for biased and regime-run press to gain popularity. The media is powerful and if a regime can control the media, they can control the public by feeding them whatever propaganda they please.
This latin phrase refers to the act of attacking the opponent as opposed to attacking the opposing argument. Although there is Ad hominem happening from all sides of the current political situation, it becomes dangerous when instigated by the group currently in power, aka the Trump administration. When Trump tweets slandering remarks about those who oppose his agenda, it damages the opponent’s reputation instead of the credibility of the argument.
Yet another latin based term, “Ad nauseum” refers to the continued repetition of a thought or idea, often dispensed through campaigns or media. “Make America Great Again” is a perfect example of this although it can be applied to much of Trump’s rhetoric. By insisting that America can “be made great again” over and over again without ever explaining what that will look like creates a unified group with a bunch of separate ideas. This creates conflict by allowing extremist groups to interpret this rhetoric exact how they need for it to benefit their cause.
While there are THOUSANDS of propaganda techniques used every single day, in every single country, I can’t possibly fit them all into one post. My hope is that by seeing a few examples, you are able to more easily identify what is and what isn’t propaganda which will allow you to think and act more independently. If America is the home of the free, your opinions and thoughts must be free too.
Until next post,