How To Resist Propaganda

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Propaganda is a volume of slanted messages spread with intent to deceive. It’s a package of bulked up lies.

We ought to know what propaganda is. We have just lived through a massive propaganda campaign that launched the Iraq War. Our topmost government officials lied so much, jumping from one lie to the next, that they made it difficult for many to believe they were lying.

Numerous people spread the lies through speeches, commentary, and the media. The false stories were simple and graphic, designed to stick in your mind. They seemed believable. The catch-words stirred up old memories and deep emotions. They aroused fear.

The Bush administration spread the war-scare lies. This was base and disgusting war mongering. And they are using the same tactics still. The media largely rolled over and accepted the lies, hook, line and sinker. They then spread them too.

The so-called liberal press cheered on the war as lustily as the conservative press. Why? The press is in business, the entertainment business. Truth is incidental. Costs matter — the lower the better. At low cost, reporters drink in stories and news from political sources and press secretaries. Then they can fill up pages and air time on the cheap. Finding the truth, checking sources, developing multiple news sources, hiring knowledgeable reporters, doing research all take much more time and money. As a result, reporters fill tv and print media with the babble of politicians.

The news-consumers do not seem to care or know the difference, so why not supply the shoddiest product? This indifference to content and lack of discrimination are products of the huge decline in the quality of education in the U.S. This in turn is due to government-run schools.

Once upon a time, stories routinely told the reader who, what, why, where and when. Not any more. Nowadays the editorializing and speculation are so intermixed with the story that separating fact from slanted fiction and guesswork is hard. The reporters and reporting have dipped down to a juvenile level that matches their reader’s and listener’s lower capacity to reason and think things through on their own. The minds of the reporters have been switched off by the educational system too. Interviewers are stars who love to hear themselves talk. Their questions fail to be incisive. Instead they make mini-speeches.

The solution is to read the foreign press.

It’s clear that our media supported government officials and politicians during the Iraq campaign of lies. Stories that played up the Iraq devil sold. Readers bought. Saddam Hussein became a household word and face. The public demands, and the media supply. The public likes big stories that arouse the emotions.

Rumors of war and of impending doom sell. Calm analysis of lies does not. Stories that puncture patriotism don’t sell when the President and his men are systematically and continually manufacturing one storyline after another in a crescendo of hatred and fear.

High officials coordinated this despicable campaign. Speeches and talk shows provided the foundation upon which the house of lies was built.

The fact that the U.S. had utterly wrecked the 3rd-rate Iraq military a few years earlier and then hemmed the country in for 10 more years had no impact. The ability to analyze, to think, fled Congress, the masses, and the media. Manufactured threats superseded anything real. This was the Salem witch trials all over again, or the child molestation panic of the 1980s in which state and judicial officials also played a big role.

Fortunately many people come to their senses. They hunger for the real news. They learn. And not all are ever fooled. Unfortunately, people also forget and have much else on their minds. They are easily diverted by new stories and deceptions.

The Iraq War is an expensive teacher. It teaches many lessons. One is that propaganda works. Unbelievable lies can be made believable to large numbers of people.

Official and concerted lying campaigns are now part of our culture. Let us hope that disbelief of the organs of the State grows even more quickly. Let us further this hope with a quick, free, and lighthearted guide to methods of resisting propaganda.

  1. Read LewRockwell.com. The articles at this web site are way above the level to be found in the typical media. Here you have free thinkers and iconoclastic thinkers who provide a high standard of argumentation, fact, logic, reason, opinion, and entertainment. All you have to do is click and read many novel viewpoints.

  2. Think. No matter how well or badly you think, you can always improve your thinking skill. The main tool to do this is to question whatever you read. Don’t accept it. Ask why, why, and why. Then question whether what you read makes sense. If you do not agree, figure out why you don’t agree. Go beyond your opinion. Use your intuition, your own ideas, and your own knowledge. Read people whom you disagree with. Maybe parts of their argument make sense, and other parts do not. Put your emotion aside.

  3. Talk back to the tv. If you watch tv and can’t break the habit, then don’t sit there like a dummy. Otherwise you’ll be hypnotized by what some fool or fool politician is saying. Talk back. Anything to break the spell.

  4. While watching tv or reading, talk to yourself. Converse continually. That breaks the spell too. It has the benefit that talking is thinking. Any flow of thought is better than none. If it’s disorganized, so what? If you have trouble expressing yourself, so what? This is the norm for most of us. You can talk to yourself silently. Most of us do that anyway.

  5. Talk to someone else. Say you, the husband, are watching a speech on tv. Your wife is folding clothes.

    Husband: Did you hear what he just said?

    Wife: I wasn’t listening.

    Husband: The man’s an idiot.

    Wife: They all are.

    Husband: But he’s worse. He’s a bald-faced liar.

    Wife: Why do you listen then?

    Husband (fibbing): I want to see if he blinks.

    Wife (looking): He’s not blinking.

    Husband: That’s because he’s such a good liar.

    Wife: I didn’t vote for him.

    Husband: Look, he twitched. He’s trying not to blink.

    Wife: He believes what he’s saying.

    Husband: No one could be that dumb.

    Wife: You mean he’s not dumb?

    Husband: He’s a clever devil. He’s lying.

    Wife: You just said he was an idiot.

    Husband: Did I? You know what I meant. He’s a pompous jerk.

    Wife: Then don’t listen.

    Husband (pauses): Maybe you’re right.

    Wife: I’m always right.

    Husband: Of course. You married me.

  6. Don’t listen to speeches. Of course, you’ll hear the lies on Fox network, or from someone else, so this method is not infallible.

  7. Assume all politicians are lying. This is a very low-cost method of resisting propaganda with a high degree of accuracy.

  8. Avoid the media. Another low-cost method. If you find the lies entertaining, this method is not for you.

  9. Apply logic. Any political speech must be meant to persuade you of something. If so, the speaker is trying to get over. Whatever they are promoting is probably not good for you. If it even sounds remotely good for you, be against it. Another way of stating this is: Be suspicious. The same rule applies to advertising, stock broker recommendations, and anything written by professors.

  10. Read Antiwar.com for entertainment instead of newspapers.

  11. Read the speech transcript. What you see on tv and hear on radio goes right into your mind, willy-nilly, unless you resist. Reading is different. You have a chance to stop, pause, take a sip of tea, and think about what you are reading.

  12. Look away from the tv. That breaks the spell. If you have one of those monster-sized tv sets, trade it in for a 15-inch set made in Korea. It will cost $68 and last forever. Take the leftover money and invest it in gold. In 20 years you will have enough to buy El Segundo.

  13. Stick a pin under your fingernail while watching. Not recommended unless all else fails.

  14. Walk around while listening. Every so often, kick the couch.

  15. Mute the sound and just watch. This is highly recommended for all sorts of viewing. You can then pay close attention to how the speaker looks, facial expressions, body movements, etc. You will be amazed at how much you can understand of the speaker’s motives and feelings with the sound off. This method takes a little practice. Easier as you age and can’t hear or understand what is being said.

  16. Never read another newspaper. Just read blogs if you can stand it.

  17. Vote no on all bond issues. Not exactly what we’re talking about but good advice anyway, that is, if you vote. Some libertarians worry about this. I don’t. I stopped voting a long time ago. There always seemed to be something better to do that day.

  18. If you have not already done so, read any good book written before 1910. Literature declined in the 20th century, but there are lots of good books written before that. Good means that they’ll stimulate your thinking, possess insight into human beings, and be well-written, engaging, and suspenseful. To find a good book, find an old list (definitely not a modern list) of the hundred best novels or writers. You can’t go wrong by reading the likes of Thomas Hardy, Anthony Trollope, Joseph Conrad, Samuel Butler, Charles Dickens, Tolstoy, Dostoevski, Austen, Flaubert, Hugo, Balzac, Melville, and Kafka. Read the Holy Bible. The 20th century has some worthwhile literature, such as Dreiser and Faulkner. The philosophies of these writers and their viewpoints may differ from yours, but that’s beside the point.

  19. Fear no evil. Propaganda and lies often appeal to fears inside us. "Fear is an instructor of great sagacity," Emerson wrote. "One thing he teaches, that there is rottenness where he appears. He is a carrion crow…" Fear not, and you’ll be less susceptible to lies told to arouse fear.

  20. Trust the Lord first and foremost. This is advice for believers, to help you to fear no evil. For others, the idea is to place your trust of man on a lower plane. Men have incentives to lie.

Choose one or more items from this list to start girding yourself against the next diet of lies you are fed by our rulers. I offer no money-back guarantee.

Michael S. Rozeff [send him mail] is the Louis M. Jacobs Professor of Finance at University at Buffalo.

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