Saturday, August 10, 2013

Propaganda 101; Or the 2013 "Leni" Riefenstahl Memorial Palme d'Ore

It's really a shame that we do not teach a serious senior high school course on recognizing propaganda. I vaguely recall taking such a course, possibly part of a larger course, either in high school or as a freshman or sophomore. I know there are some fine books on the subject. And of course any study of the Second World War would likely include at least some mention of the propaganda efforts of the Nazis and Japanese--which are instructive beyond their immediate context, because they show how propaganda works.

A second level of understanding of propaganda comes to most of us when we grasp that propaganda is at work in advertising, and in some ways even in our most trusted news media. This appreciation has, in scholarship over the past 50 years (if not prior), been burnished and refined. Post-modernists have over and over again made the correct observation that there is always, in reporting as in fiction, a point of view. The omniscient 3rd person does not "really" exist. This observation is in some ways ancient: Archimedes said "I could lift the world had I the lever and the fulcrum." (I paraphrase.) When we look into the electron microscope, we actually bump the atoms around in the act of observing them.

But this profound truth should not be allowed to obscure other truths, or to ground the cynical idea that nothing is true, and that everyone is forever at their workbench, abrasive wheel a-spin, sparks flying. There is indeed point of view, and unexamined premise. And then there's the conscious construction of a false narrative aimed consciously and precisely at determining a desired outcome. The car manufacturer wants you to buy their car--so he puts a beautiful couple on the way to a beautiful weekend moment possibly culminating off screen in connubial bliss beyond mortal imaginings precisely because of that shiny red rocket we watched them park at the beach, before the screen faded to sunset. This is science, as is the precise concoction shunted into the veins of the murderer on the gurney.

So it is that Fox "News" grinds its double-bits to a razor's edge. They toil in the service of a grander goal, which is the utter defeat of the Democrat now serving as our President. Last night, having bumped up against the weird prison-reality weekend that is MSNBC, we looked for a moment at what was on Fox. We found this:

This, children, is a fantastically perfect example of propaganda. It's as good as Lord Haw Haw. For "jew" substitute druggy dirty hippy, continue taking until boil of rage bursts and pus is expelled at next election. Result: more Tea Party Congress critters. I'd love to know how they got this wonderfully filmed vignette, or if the lead (protagonist, in classical lingo) was paid, and in what coin. I'd guess the calculation on the part of the employers of the "reporter" was simple--more voters will absorb this as the gawdsawful truth, than cut off the channel in utter disgust. This is how the hourglass has filled I'm afraid. People with some discernment have become a discountable minority, grain by grain.

All in all, just another brick in the wall.


Note: here's a companion piece:

Monday update: There aren't enough fingers for the dike:

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