Historical Propaganda

I’ve been thinking about the post I wrote last night, having a day to mull it over led me to ponder historical propaganda. A bitter pill is much easier to swallow with a little sugar. Human nature predictably wants to be on the winning team, and feels much better believing action was justified. Gathering support for unpleasant responses, or defending distasteful action, becomes a lot easier when coated with the right amount of careful presentation. It doesn’t take a genius to understand which buttons to push when outrage, sympathy, or fear justifies the end result.

I was only three years old when the Cuban missile crisis took place, obviously I can’t write as to news reports during October of 1962. I can however remember learning about it in school; being certain that not once did I learn that America had missiles stationed in Turkey within striking distance of Moscow. I was taught the crisis was America’s response to the Soviet Union placing missiles in post revolution, socialist Cuba – practically in their back yard. The Soviet Union agreed to stand down when America agreed to remove their missiles from Turkey. Clearly a lot happened in between but my point is – U.S. missiles aimed at Moscow from bases in Turkey never made it to my history lessons.

Think back a few years to the Weapons of Mass Destruction fiasco giving the Bush administration public justification for the Iraq war. Poppycock swept under the bridge once images of American tanks rolling into Baghdad aired 24/7 on news networks and Saddam Hussein was extracted from his “spider hole”.

How about the great Mississippi flood in the 1920’s. African American share croppers forced at gunpoint into work camps along the levees. Held against their will, forced to fill sand bags in a futile attempt to stop the river, while white plantation owners were evacuated to safety. Edgar Hoover, appointed to investigate allegations of brutality made a back room deal with share-croppers – if they kept quiet, and voted for him in his upcoming bid to become president, he would give them land of their own. We all know that never happened.

Pulling a few examples off the top of my head wasn’t intended as anything other than a gentle reminder – human nature is what it is – far from rocket science, my ponder grows from the realization things have changed. Propaganda has become considerably more complicated; where once the church or government held tight to the reigns of opinion, media has entered the ring with a vengeance. Propaganda used to serve a purpose; it kept people blissfully unaware, while controlling and channelling reaction.  Now news and social media fan the flames; where once a singular propaganda served a nation, we now dial into the propaganda of choice.

The situation is far too confusing for a majority of people to handle. Sadly unable to make the distinction between “fact” and “opinion”, propaganda is out of control. Once upon a time it was simple; right or wrong we were served a single message for the good of us all. Irresponsible doesn’t begin to describe the “information” game we’re now playing.

15 thoughts on “Historical Propaganda

  1. I once met a Vietnamese student in Saigon and over a beer, I asked him what he thought about the vietnamese boat people / refugees. He was lost for a while before he started laughing. “No, you silly, they are not refugees! They are patriots who went to study and work overseas to come back and make our country better!”. His entire generation of northern vietnamese kids have been taught this while at the same time, their southern vietnamese ‘brothers’ whose families didn’t escape the prospect of “re-education” camps in time were sweeping the porch of the house their parents once owned before it was ‘given’ to the northern victors.

  2. Ah yes the power of propaganda, still searching for a way to combat this force. We were lied into Viet Nam, we were lied into Iraq and now it appears we are being lied into Syria. I lay awake nights trying to come up with ways to overcome this force. How much more will the people take before they see the facts?

    • It would be naive of us to expect governments not to put favourable spins on the “truth” My worry is the added influence of media. Far too many people believe “opinion” to be fact because they heard it on a news station.Utter nonsense, rantings of opinionated celebrity ratings booster; brings controversy, and ultimately advertising dollars. As I’ve said – stirring ignorance into a frenzy.

  3. I do remember the Cuban missile crisis, I was there. Tracking dozens of Soviet ships, for weeks before it came to light and announced by Kennedy, that the ships were carrying Soviet missiles for deployment in Cuba that would eventually target most cities in the US, Canada and South America. The US did have missiles targeting Turkey that was no secret nor was the fact that the Soviets were targeting Frankfurt, Paris, London and hundreds of other targets in Europe and the mid east. Fact or propaganda? Both.
    I agree that the media manipulates (and manufactures) information in order to give the talking heads something to spew about to sell the sponsor’s dog food.

    • Without question it was an extremely volatile time.We lived on a farm and my mother told me she was so frantic with worry, she went out into the orchard to find my father and made him drive into town to stock up on canned milk for her 5 small children. I can’t begin to imagine what it must of been like for you.Hopefully you understand I wasn’t blaming America – perhaps not a secret that the U.S. placed missiles in Turkey – my point being an amended version made it to my history class with no mention of the fact. Completely understandable considering the tension of the era, so I used it as an example of controlled information 🙂

      • It was a very difficult time for sure.
        Yes I do understand that you were not blaming America. Your posts that I have read, are balanced, well researched and articulate. Sometimes we will have different ways of looking at a given subject and that’s a not a bad thing. We do agree, I think, that the media and the spin doctors working in any public trade or venue (especially political) manipulate their “Bully Pulpit” to the denigration most every thing that makes a society work.

      • Thank you, and yes we agree. No country escapes manipulation. That said, news is vastly different in Canada.We leave the grandstanding and opinionated talking heads to America. If ever you get the chance when a big international story or disaster happens – watch coverage on CNN or Fox for a while then tune into CBC.Truly an eye opener 🙂

      • As sad and needy as those talking heads are, the most frightening aspect of that circus is that they would not be up on that stage stage if they did not have an audience. A huge audience.

  4. It’s hard to find anything that is reported on a factual basis. The media will put a spin on it so the public won’t panic, much. The politicians say whatever will make the other guy look bad, or get them reelected. Most schools have switched from teaching to presenting propaganda in a fashion that dilutes everything to less than worthwhile. Somewhere in the chaos of the swirling goo is a kernel of truth.
    I was in junior high when the Cuban Missile Crisis happened. I’m not sure how I felt about it other than I trusted in God, and our government to do the right thing. I was too young to know how the gov’t really worked.
    Oh, we had those absolutely idiotic drills to sit under our desks with our hands protecting our heads. You tell me, how was that supposed to help against a nuclear bomb? I guess it kept the students from panicking–they had a way to survive! Yeah, right.

    • It seems we agree on a few things 🙂

      That said, you lost me again when you stated most schools have switched from teaching to presenting propaganda…I’m not sure how that fits in or is true.Schools have curriculum they follow. If your problem is based on science or religion – as I said, they follow standard curriculum based on accepted principles. As for American missiles in Turkey not making it to my history class – that was based on political spin not philosophical differences.

      Above all the intent of this post was to make people think about what they hear, and the context in which it was delivered.Political propaganda aside, my worry is with editorial opinion by the Bill O’Reilly’s of this world being taken as fact because they were aired on a news station.Utter nonsense like “Obama is Muslim” demonstrate the danger of media manipulation.

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