Propaganda has power. Does it overpower you? Or do you have a mind of your own?
EDUCATION teaches you how to think. Propagandists tell you what to think. True educators present all sides of an issue and encourage discussion. Propagandists hammer hard on their view and discourage discussion. Many times their true motives are hidden. They sift the facts, tell the favorable ones and conceal the others. They distort and twist facts, specialize in lies and half-truths. Your emotions, not your logical thinking abilities, are their target. Many fall easy prey because it takes no effort to feel, whereas thinking is hard labor. And the propagandist sees to it that his message is made to seem wise, the right and moral one, and gives you a sense of importance and belonging if you follow it. You are one of the smart ones, you are not alone, you are comfortable and secure—so they say.
Propagandists have little respect for people’s thinking abilities. Hitler wrote: “The intelligence of the masses is small. Their forgetfulness is great. They must be told the same thing a thousand times.” Lenin was more discriminating. He used historical and scientific arguments to persuade the educated minority, but slogans and half-truths to arouse the masses, whom he considered unable to grasp complicated ideas. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but oftentimes it is used to prepare the way before the sword.
Tricks of Propagandists
Symbols stir feelings. Words such as mother, home, justice, freedom—all pack a wallop for the heart. Slogans are catchy and seem to be packed with wisdom. Favorable facts are exaggerated; the others are distorted or concealed. Oratory often substitutes for sound argument, and it diverts attention from unpleasant truths that cannot be concealed. Burn a building in one place while robbing a grocery store somewhere else, is the technique.
Tyranny of authority, ridicule, name-calling, smears, slurs, personal digs—all such tactics are marshaled to assail your mind and take it by storm. Sound evidence, reasoning, logic? The propagandist’s deadliest foes! He therefore attempts to rout reason and stimulate passion. As emotion rises, judgment declines; and, under the lash of stinging words and reckless rhetoric, the mind is herded along. Some propaganda is of this inflammatory kind, but much of it today is more subtle. Many people today are more sophisticated and see through the rambunctious oratory; so a “soft sell” is used instead.
Television commercials specialize in this. Products are associated with happy families, beautiful girls, romantic men, cuddly babies, playful kittens and puppies—all desirable things but which have nothing to do with the products. Television programs are often propaganda, for the new morality, for materialistic goals, for selfish satisfactions. Newscasts are colored. Most situation comedies are superficial fluff.
What About You?
HaShem's Word at Proverbs 14:15 states: “A simple man believes every word he hears; but the wise man understands the need for proof.” Many today are like sponges; they soak up whatever they are submerged in. It is the easy way. Exercise for the muscles is hard work; exercising the mind is even harder. It is so much easier to soak up whatever is around—and today, for the most part, that is television, the printed page, radio and movies. There are, however, some good books, movies and television programs. They require more mental effort to read or to watch. So each individual must choose what he will feed his mind. It is said that we are what we eat, and this can apply to food for both the body and the mind. Whatever you read or watch or listen to, test whether it is propaganda or whether it is the truth.