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The propaganda of today's war

At this time of year, we spend much time thinking about past battles and those that were lost.  Everyone – on both sides – were fighting for a cause.

Years ago, when I travelled to Israel, I visited Vad Yashem, the World Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.  One portion focuses on the propaganda that the Nazis used to justify and disguise their activities to German citizens. It was a part of history I never understood in history class.

I couldn’t fathom how the German people could be so easily misled by their government.  That is, until I entered that overwhelming room of unending propaganda and lies.

Propaganda: The Art of Selling Lies, a documentary by Larry Weinstein (Canadian, no relation to #MeToo) explains why it works.  And why what is happening today is no different than in WWII.

But instead of radio broadcasts and posters, in 2019 we’re dealing with Tweet-storms, TV interviews, editorials from left- and right-slanted columnists and even the false online advertisements from other countries.

We are dealing with modernized propaganda.  And the war being waged, is on the truth.

Propaganda has always been defined as a calculated attack on the complexity of other people’s minds.  Put simply, it’s political brainwashing: getting others to submit without consciously realizing they are submitting.

It does so in two steps.  First, it over-simplifies complex ideas.  They’re either good or bad.  There’s no context and therefore, no room for grey areas.

Trump is the king of over-simplification.  Consequently, he’s easy to understand even if he’s wrong.  After all, we are a headline society.  We prefer catchy one-liners that we can repeat instead of in-depth, thoughtful analysis of the different sides of an issue.

The second step was best explained by President G.W. Bush.  He said that politics is a business where you have to “repeat something over and over again for the truth to sink in.”  That’s why the Republican Party will share simplified catch phrases about a subject internally and then in interviews repeat them verbatim.  Over and over, the public will hear it until that “truth” sinks in – regardless of the facts.

For example, the current impeachment inquiry has been repeatedly called an “unfair, secretive process.”  Yet, many Republicans are allowed in the room for the depositions which are then summarized and released to the public anyway.  These hearings simply decide if a public trial is, in fact, required.  And these so-called unfair rules being followed were actually set out by Republicans.

But that’s more detail than the propaganda machine allows.  So the public, who doesn’t have time for detailed analysis, is instead left with “unfair, secretive process.”

Propaganda weaponizes the media – for good and for bad.  So it seems that Trump was right.  The media IS the enemy of the people.  It’s also their saviour.

And because of what we once learned of its use in war, today’s propaganda isn’t going anywhere.  Especially since according to the late Edward Bernays, the father of public relations, “The best defence against propaganda: more propaganda.”

But where does that leave the truth?