Have you ever considered how much you are influenced by what a friend or a family member might have once said to you? Or by a television commercial you saw? The power of influence in our daily lives is inescapable, that is to say, the power of the information that you hear and see is inevitably going to shape your thinking and opinion.
This is the natural order for human learning, as there is no other way for us to absorb information, whether positive or negative, except by it being relayed to our consciousness by what we hear, see, or otherwise experience through our five senses. As babies we learn how to walk by seeing our parents and others walking, and as they coax us to emulate them we eventually begin to follow their example, until one day we are walking on our own. In the same manner, we learn to talk by hearing patterns of speech over and over again, until one day our gurgling efforts at forming our own words are eventually successful, to our parents ecstatic delight. Thus the formula for how we learn and grow has begun, beginning at birth and stopping only when our bodies and brains cease to function.
Simply stated, everything we know, everything we perceive to be true and real, is received by each of us through the senses, processed through learned (or perhaps instinctive) reasoning, whereby we either accept or reject the information. When we reject something as false or unworthy of assimilating into our daily discipline we do not discard it mentally whole hat, but we in a sense store it in a mental file somewhere in our brain. Picture, if you will, two file cabinets in your brain. One file cabinet has the label "Accepted Information", and the other, "Rejected Information". Now realize that every day of your life you are constantly bombarded with stimuli and information, both consciously and subconsciously, which is ending up in either one or the other file cabinets. Now understand that how you process this wealth of information could have a profound impact on every decision in your life.
Before we delve too deeply into the repercussions of conscious information and subconscious information, we may want to pause a moment to consider the enormous power that the media wields in modern times to in effect control our thoughts, actions, and asperations. Some of us may be painfully aware of such attempts at manipulation, while I suspect the majority of humanity may be shamefully ignorant of any such influences.
Have you ever wondered why you want to do some of the things you do? For example, a certain musician says he prefers Fender Stratocaster guitars because his idol Jimi Hendrix played one. Further, a young woman buying her first automobile decides to purchase a Toyota because her best friend drives one and told her how much she likes it. This illustrates the power of influence. Now, perhaps this man and woman may change their opinions with time, as their experience with these respective items may vary. Let's say the woman drives her new Toyota and after a year her car begins to develope constant mechanical problems. She eventually trades it in and purchases a Ford. She has effectively taken the information she once accepted (i.e. Toyota's are great cars) and by her own processes has determined the information to be false, therefore rejected. Imagine the file on Toyota automobiles being transferred from the "Accepted" cabinet to the "Rejected" cabinet. She then continues the "algorithm of influence" by telling everyone she knows that Toyota's are terrible cars, and the power of persuasion goes on ad infinitum. By extension of this hypothetical situation we can determine that any information we receive, whether true, false, or undecided, can easily influence our actions and thereby affect critical decisions in our daily lives.
When we start to think about the possibiliies of manipulation the conclusions can be overwhelmingly disturbing. Propaganda, at it's essential core, is such an animal. Truly, when done correctly, such manipulation is as subtle as it is indiscernable, and therefore diabolically malevolent in it's nature.
The best propaganda has at it's essence a kernel of truth which is then exploited. It is rumored that the Devil is the greatest of liars because in part he manages to weave enough truth into his lies as to make one believe even the false aspects of his statements, the conclusion of the listener being, "Well, he was right about that, therefore he must be right about this". Therein lies the danger.
For more than a century mankind has been using propaganda in various forms to manipulate the masses (that's you and me, folks). In times of war, propaganda exploits our feelings of patriotism to elicit a designed response from us, whether it's enlisting in the military, buying war bonds, or evoking a manufactured hatred against our 'enemy'.
In the next installment of PROPAGANDA AND YOU, I hope to illustrate how propaganda can be designed to 'de-humanize' a faction of the population in order to manipulate a generated bias against them. There are several known and recognizable elements to propaganda, and by the end of this series you will be better prepared to process any information that you hear and see. You'll soon be acutely aware of attempts to manipulate your perception, moreso than you were before.
For now, just begin to consider the amount of useless or even harmful nonsense that is being pumped into your conscious and subconscious mind daily by the continuing stream of media -- what you hear on the radio,the lyrics to the music, what you see on television and in the movies, and on commercials especially. Is it all propaganda? On some level, it all is. What do you think? Does it influence you? You may not even be aware of the power of it's influence. How about politics...is political speak propaganda? Most assuredly, friend! Every politician, for good or bad, is trying to influence you to their agenda. Even local and national news broadcasts are controlling what is being told to you in one fashion or another. This is especially evident as one analyzes the differing political bent portrayed from one 'news' channel broadcast to another -- one channel may pander to the left, while another may pander to the right. Depending on your own personal views, you may prefer one slant over the other, but please understand that each POV is still likely expressing a bias in one form or another. Someone writes the stories that the anchor reads on air...who decides what news story is 'worthy' of being told? And how is that story being told? What of the stories that aren't being told to you? Ultimately, someone other than you has a lot of power and control over what you are being told day in and day out.
Also, as you become more aware, you can then start to consider the many levels of perception, and how elements of the media are trying to tell you something as they are trying to sell you something. That is, the words you hear are the conscious message, while there is likely a more devious message being relayed to your subconscious mind, unaware. It is all real, and we will explore it all, little by little, until the truth becomes exposed for all to see.
I'm asking you to wake up, a little bit at a time.
Let's start using our brains again. That's what they are for.
Not for others to try to control.
Seek the truth, and you will find it.
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
-- Joseph Goebels
Propaganda: "Persuasive communications directed at a specific audience that are designed to influence the targeted audience's opinions, beliefs and emotions in such a way as to bring about specific, planned alterations in their behavior. The information communicated by the propagandist may be true or false, the values appealed to may be sincerely held by the propagandist or cynically manipulated, and the presentation may be either logically and dispassionately argued or rhetorically tailored to arouse the most irrational emotions and prejudices -- but the message content of propaganda is always deliberately selected and slanted to lead the audience toward a predetermined mindset that benefits the cause of the propagandist."
-- Paul Johnson, Auburn University