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.

Missing the Cold War


Reading a post the other day by wordpresser Robert Nielsen – Why Did Communism Fail – http://robertnielsen21.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/why-did-communism-fail-3-incentives/ set me pondering in another direction. I started thinking about how my post WW2 childhood placed my generation smack dab in the middle of paranoia central. The threat of nuclear annihilation ever present, fresh off McCarthy era Communist witch hunts, Kennedy assassinations, and the bay of pigs – Cold War paranoia served us well – we were prepared; people weren’t considered wing nuts for stocking a fall out shelter or filling the pantry with canned food.

Once the Cold War evaporated, so too did our sense of impending doom. Happy as I was to show doom the door; my children spared sleepless nights worrying about a slow death from radiation poisoning – the fall of Communism took with it our ability to fathom a world where we might have to fend for ourselves.

We live in a vastly different world today. Not even 9/11 or North Korea pounding it’s chest, replaces the void left by a departing Cold War. The cold war era was practical if nothing else, people prepared as best they could. At the very least families talked about contingency plans  Without the internet, cell phones, or bank cards, people had to plan ahead. Problems were approached differently, and solved with good old fashioned ingenuity.

I don’t loose sleep fretting about impending disaster. I write posts on solar flares, asteroids, and super volcanoes because it blows my mind that our planet supports life in the first place. Equally mind blowing is my conclusion that for all our progress and technology, I’d place my bet on the survival of cold war era society over today. The cold war is history, the product of a time vastly different, and impossible to compare with the modern world. That said, it was a time when technology or not, it was accepted, talked about, and prepared for. I miss the sensible middle ground of a time when people thought about having to take care of themselves.

By default the cold war era prepared us for an infinite number of calamities. With each passing decade since, our self preservation becomes more about packing a firearm than storing food, water, and a hand cranked flashlight. It’s entirely possible that I’m just getting old, yet boldly ponder a simpler time when nuclear annihilation was tackled with sensible preparations.