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“Propaganda does not deceive people; it merely helps them to deceive themselves.” (Eric Hoffer)
“You should never trust anything reported by the media. Their first priority is to spread propaganda; their second priority is to make money. They never really care if they tell the truth or not.” (Varg Vikernes)
“The biggest problem is that Facebook and Google are these giant feedback loops that give people what they want to hear. And when you use them in a world where your biases are being constantly confirmed, you become susceptible to fake news, propaganda and demagoguery.” (Franklin Foer)
Outside of the local stories reported by “The Coosa County News,” where do you get your news from? …Television? Radio? ABC? CBS? CNN? FOX? MSN? NewsMax? NBC? NPR? PBS? The internet? Memes? Whatever the source, does it provide fair and balanced reporting, providing equal time to differing views?
A long time ago, television, radio and print news were required by law to provide balanced reporting. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) introduced its “fairness doctrine” in 1949, but that was repealed in 1987. Since then, the news has not reported news, but instead reported whatever they think will garner a higher share of viewers.
I used to rely on television and radio for the reporting of the news. I was 17 years old when CNN debuted in 1980. At the time, I could not fathom what news there was that wasn’t already covered by the 30-minute or 1-hour long editions of the morning, noon and evening news.
Some 28 years later (during the 2008 presidential election), I realized that the news wasn’t reporting the actual news anymore; they were instead creating sensationalism in order to garner more viewers, so as to sell their airtime at premium rates for commercial advertisements. I stopped watching television news, and I began opting for alternate sources for information.
At first, I turned to social media, but I eventually began to refer to Facebook and other social media as “echo chambers” where one can go to have their ideas, beliefs and ideologies reaffirmed by friends, family and like-minded individuals. It matters not what you believe, you will find what you want to hear on social media, and whenever that annoying individual comes along with a differing viewpoint, pointing out their perception of the flaws of your posted statement, voila, with a click or two, that person can be blocked.
I, like most everyone else, have witnessed our society gradually drifting apart into numerous opposed camps. Apparently, “We the People” seem more comforted by the reassuring lies than we are with the uncomfortable truths.
It turns out that this is nothing new and has been something sanctioned by both our federal government and advertising since a man named Edward Louis Bernays (1891-1995) took a job with Uncle Sam at the beginning of World War One.
Bernays took on many jobs throughout his life, but he was what I call a “puppet master.” Bernays studied the work of his uncle, Sigmund Freud, and he applied Freud’s understanding of psychology and applied it to propaganda, and later advertising, in order to sway the public to buy into whatever he was preaching.
His first big gig with Uncle Sam was with the Committee on Public Information (CPI), focused on building support for war, domestically and abroad, focusing especially on businesses operating in Latin America. Bernays referred to this work as “psychological warfare.” Bernays later described a realization that his work for the CPI could also be used in peacetime: “There was one basic lesson I learned in the CPI – that efforts comparable to those applied by the CPI to affect the attitudes of the enemy, of neutrals, and people of this country could be applied with equal facility to peacetime pursuits. In other words, what could be done for a nation at war could be done for organizations and people in a nation at peace.”
Bernays was responsible for convincing the public that bacon and eggs was the true all-American breakfast; that Calvin Coolidge was not “stuffy” prior to the 1924 election; in the 1929 “Torches of Freedom” public relations campaign, he equated smoking by women in public with female emancipation. In 1940, Bernays advised William O’Dwyer, a candidate for mayor of New York City, on how to appear in front of different demographics, by telling Irish voters about his actions against the Italian mafia and Italian voters about his plans to reform the police department – and to Jews to appear as a committed opponent of the Nazis.
Bernays even convinced fashion-minded women that green was the new desirable color to wear for 1934, when in reality he was employed by Lucky Strike Cigarettes, who was looking to increase the sales of their green and red packages of cigarettes to women. Bernays was truly a puppet master, leading the public which ever direction the highest paying employer wanted the public led. Bernays died in 1995, leaving a multitude of others to fill his shoes, using the tactics of manipulation that he invented, and mastered.
Take a moment, please, and think of all of the news stories that have occurred since the end of the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine in 1987: the invasion of Panama, the end of the Cold War, Desert Storm, the breakup of the USSR, Somalia, Monica Lewinsky, 9-11, the War on Terrorism, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Russia-Gate, Black Lives Matter, Ukraine, and now Israel. Every single story, we chose a side to believe.
We believed that we were the good guys, and someone else was the bad guy. We informed ourselves from sources that reaffirmed our preconceived notions. We ate up the news that was fed to us, and the news stations kept us hooked as long as they could, until the next big story came along. Meanwhile, the other guys, whomever they were, ate up the news info that fed their own preconceived notions, getting a very different take of the exact same events.
Meanwhile, no one was bothering to take a look at why the other side didn’t like your side, and hardly anyone had their views changed to where they were willing to work together to try to resolve their dilemmas peacefully.
My request to you, the reader, is take a moment and think about your sources of information, compare both perspectives of any given story, and try to dismiss what is propaganda, leaving only the truth as your guide.