When people use the word “propaganda”, they usually assume that we all have the same understanding of the word, which goes something like this: propaganda is bad, and even evil. In fact, people assume the definition is so widely understood, that they often use it without any further explanation. “Home schooling is propaganda,” they will say, and they really don’t have to explain it any further. I know and you know that by saying “propaganda”, they mean “evil”.
But really, propaganda is simply an idea. Let’s take the classic Soviet-era propaganda posters. They often depict scenes of might, valor, and victory on behalf of the Soviets against the evil, murdering USA. The US’s propaganda posters during World War II were similar, often depicting scenes of the young, athletic, every-man GI, working hard to fight against the tyranny of fascism.
Now, both of these examples are propaganda, but not everyone will agree that they are evil. If, as I do, people believe that the US propaganda posters are good, then other words spring up to defend their goodness. Bravery. Sacrifice. Truth. And if, as I do, one believes that the Soviet examples are evil, then other words appear to assert their badness. Twisted. Bigoted. Liars.
And yet, the posters are essentially identical. For every Wartime Hero the US produced, the Soviets had a Communist Hero. For every Greedy Capitalist villain the Soviets produced, the US had a Thieving Communist villain.
So, we find that the evil connotation the word “propaganda” brings with it, actually comes from us—from a personal belief that the propaganda relays an idea that is a lie. If it relays truth, our subconscious says, then it couldn’t possibly be propaganda (even though it really is). Propaganda, in reality, is simply any idea.
If propaganda are ideas, then ideas are propaganda. This means that every commercial we watch about the attributes of the most interesting man in the world is propaganda. Every streaming episode of Arrested Development we watch about never-nudes and kissing cousins is also propaganda. And listening to Daft Punk sing about getting stoned and lucky in their latest earworm is (you guessed it) propaganda.
When we demonize a certain type of propaganda, like talk radio, Fox News, or The Huffington Post, we are essentially saying that most people are so weak minded that they’ll believe the first thing they hear, the first thing that makes them feel good, or the first thing that confirms their previously held beliefs. And this is often true. Propaganda is powerful, which is why the Soviets and the USA had wings of their governments dedicated to nothing else but the production of propaganda. People believe it. That’s life.
But, there are many others that do not believe propaganda. They have a reasoning mind, and a set of principles that forces them to research the matter on their own, before they believe it. These people tend to change their minds during their life, believing one way in college, and another way as a working adult.
They don’t shy away from propaganda, but instead consume as much propaganda as they can because they crave knowledge. They don’t need to be shielded from propaganda, because they have developed reasoning minds that put all propaganda to a series of strict “BS” tests before believing them. It is because of these people that I strongly despise any law that prohibits or restricts propaganda.
When the government bans faith in public schools, it is favoring one type of propaganda over another. When a government bans home schooling, as Germany has, then it is robbing parents the right and opportunity to feed their children the propaganda they choose, and instead, the government takes this power for themselves. These were done to protect “the children”, because the government knows what’s best for them, better than you do. In effect, the government stole a freedom.
Every friend, family member, and coworker we have in our lives continuously feed us their own brands of propaganda, and we either believe them, or call “BS”. Those freedoms won’t last long. Today, Government tells us what is “BS”, and what to believe. Already the PC police have descended on the workplace. They tell us the types of propaganda we can and can’t say, and they dutifully inform us of the propaganda that could get us fired, all while scheduling “team building” propaganda events that they define, run, and control.
1984 depicts a world where the thought police can penetrate our minds, read our rebellious thoughts, and arrest us. A world where children are trained (by the government) to rat out their parents for anything that could be considered harmful to the Party. Where lovers can’t embrace without being watched, where friends can’t pontificate without being overheard.
Today, we have drones with cameras and microphones entering cities. The government can gain access to what we Google, and what we email our friends. Our children are bussed to schools we can’t choose, taught languages we have no say in, fed food we can’t control, taught information we might strongly disagree with, and install tracking devices on kids. If the government next gains access to Google Glass, then they’ll see what we see, as we see it. All of this, done to control propaganda.
When you control propaganda, you control free speech. And then you own people.