The problem with propaganda is, it is so embedded into our day to day life, it has become so normalised, we fail to notice it, never mind attempt to analyse how it affects us.
We all kind of know we are being lied to, what is less understood, is the extent to which we are being lied to and for how long.
Alex Cary, in his book Taking the risk out of democracy, Which documents the history of corporate propaganda in the twentieth century writes:
“It is arguable that the success of business propaganda in persuading us, for so long that we are free from propaganda is one of the most significant propaganda achievements of the twentieth century.”
Compared to other political topics propaganda is rarely written about, yet the study of the history of propaganda, is guaranteed to convince even the most skeptic unbeliever in the power it holds over us and how it affects our every day to day affairs. Let me offer here what I would argue is good propaganda – Read Alex Cary’s book.
Most of us will come through our (formal) educational experience without hearing a mention of the word propaganda, let alone studying it, yet most of our education in school is learning to accept propaganda.
Early years. Education through fairy tales
When we are children there is much to learn. In a responsible society, It is usually up to the parents, relations, older siblings and the community, to engage and offer help in a child’s upbringing, education and awareness, of the world around them.
This is no easy task, for the young child lacks the experiences we use to make judgments in determining what we deem to be right or wrong. But there are tools at our disposal that can ease the way. Stories, fables, myths, folklore are devices that can help to nudge the child along, in helping to understand ideas that might be to complicated or difficult to the young mind. What is good and what is bad, can be explored, life, death, the idea of what is fair can be expressed through stories. Myths and folklore can be carried to extremes in order to make a point more lucid. Such is the stuff of a creative education -in childhood.
Most of the stories that are read to us or we learn, in the early stage of our childhood are about fairness, forgiveness, sharing, goodies and baddies, and where the goodies usually win. (I am generalising here to make the point that we usually, along with our children seek out the goodness of the world in early and pre-school education.)
The next part of a child’s education, you would imagine, for the educator, parent, guardian, as the child develops, is to unravel the myths of educational, fairy tales, from fact. To instill in the young person the tools they will need to think and to make decisions for themselves.This we do because, there are harsh realities in our world that do not meet up to their childish expectations of fairness.
Should it not therefore be the purpose of school and further education to educate our young to meet these realities, with the same sense of fairness, equality, cooperation and concern for others, through their actions, that we try and teach them in the community in the company of their friends and family.
Alas no, in school (with exception to exceptional teachers) we are educated – To survive in this world, we need always to revert back to the world of myth and fairy tales.
Re education in fairy tales
In the world we enter through formal education, we learn to accept, the rich king gets to keep all the stolen taxes, as the poor peasant dies of starvation, outside of the castle walls. That’s the way things are. In this world the baddies are usually seen as the goodies,(kings, the rich) and the goodies are usually seen as the baddies.(revolting peasants, trouble makers) In this world we are not left to live happily ever after, but are constantly threatened by the big bad monster that will come and eat us up, if we do not do what our big leaders tells us. Here we learn to conform to fairy tales, not to question them.
If we study hard (accept what we are told) and do well at school, (do what we are told) we could become the rich kings servant, some day, (but of course, we would be nicer to the peasants.) By the time we leave school, if the state has done its job properly in moulding the student into complying with the reward system of rote slavery, we are ready for work and have completed the crucial stage in the indoctrination process on which all propaganda relies.
If we fail to understand this, or question these ideas as the measure of a good citizen, the class system, another reward for compliance falls into place.
In the western class system, (the rich kings servants) the middle class was invented in order to create a buffer, or cushion, that would protect the upper class from the poor and from those non compliant in the fairy tale. The same way the education system is a buffer between – the innate intelligence of people* – and state control in the service of the rich.
*who if left to develop in their communities and be educated within their social groups and families and in accordance with their needs, would develop the fairness and cooperative attitude we try so hard to instill in our small children.
The disconnection of our children from their families and communities into formal education, is the first step in the mass propaganda system, that helps to nullify our kids from their pre-school sense of cooperation, to one of competition. From one of fairness, to one of winners and looser’s. From one of truth to one of selective truth. From one of creativity, to one of conformity. And most importantly. From one of boldness, to one of fear.
Part of this fear, is the fear of failure in being accepted into a system that does its best to work against most peoples better interests – Work, will then present a continuum to where school left off and condition our adult life to the service of the rich, rather than in the service of leading a critical and creative life.
The first lesson in propaganda is, don’t believe me, think for yourself. The idea of the following pages is only to introduce the reader to a subject that is not only fascinating, but contributes so much to how we understand our world.