The thing about propaganda is—it works.
There are all manner of historical examples to prove the validity of that but we have no need for any of them. We have a front row seat to witness it every day.
I’m not talking about the “alternative facts” piped out all day every day by the trusty Republican house organists at Fox News; we’ve now reached the point to where even the rants and raves of the Hannity crowd have been regulated to propaganda-light status.
Commensurate with the rise of the Internet, we now have a whole new coven of fact distorters and conspiracy theory concocters with names like Breitbart, The Federalist, Infowars and The Daily Caller, all of which wrap hate into a much more attractive package of nationalism and pseudo-patriotism.
And yet, even these new boys on the block pale in comparison to the propagandist-in-chief who uses the presidential bully pulpit and his Twitter account to make direct appeals to his followers, stoking their fears and prejudices.
With Trump having successfully (if not accurately) branded virtually every legitimate news organization in the country “fake news,” about 40-odd percent of Americans now operate almost solely upon “Trump truth,” one which is so immediately absorbed it need not even offer pretense of reason or fact and is no more or less than the lie told over and over until it becomes real.
It is propaganda at its zenith—creation of a “reality” in which lies are no longer needed as means to an end because the atmosphere exists in which lies no longer matter at all.
“Propaganda is ideological,” the author Nicholas O’Shaughnessy has written. “It’s sell, not tell. It’s didactic. We want to actually drive people to a perspective which is pretty much set in stone.”
Ever since Roger Ailes paired up with Rupert Murdoch in 1996 to make his dream manifest with Fox News, the Republican Party has had itself a reliable propaganda machine which helped create a culture to consolidate the party’s base and loyalty to it.
It is a truth turned upside down world in which Benghazi is a real scandal and Robert Mueller’s probe no more than a “witch hunt,” regardless of any and all evidence to the contrary.
But propaganda can and does only work if it taps into and subsequently reinforces what its targets already believe.
Propaganda works because the senses of unease and alienation to which it appeals are real. Trump’s pseudo-populism painted a picture of America in which hordes of murdering rapist Mexicans were flooding over the border, black criminality was torching cities, the press was public enemy number one and white culture was under siege. In other words, he told White America what it already believed and that he was the only one who could fix it. It was really no different than an American version of Mussolini telling the masses that he could make the trains run on time.
Reason is the antibiotic to the infection of propaganda, so like all others before them, todays propagandists, Donald Trump chief among them, employ appeals to emotion, tapping into contemporary white America’s resentments, angers and fears. This, in turn, injects fuel into the kindred phenomenon of negative partisanship—the now solidly GOP voters’ antipathy toward the other party, an antipathy reflected by their failure to even call that party by his proper name (“Democrat” not Democratic) and to label its members such charming things as “libtards,” an epithet which is disgustingly offensive on more levels than can even be quickly listed.
What is important to know, however, is that the use of “libtard” today is no different whatsoever than was the use of “Jap” in the wake of Pearl Harbor. Both are references to an enemy.
Propaganda is the language of war and the half of America that may have not recognized that yet, would do well to wake up to the fact.
It is an ugly thing to even contemplate, but even more dangerous to ignore.
The oh, so deeply troubling fact is that 2018 America is a propaganda state and it will remain one unless or until its effectiveness is eroded by its targets’ life experiences—until the gap between what they are being told and what they see becomes too great to be believed anymore.
And that is not going to happen tomorrow or the next day or the next.
We tend to forget that with Nixon, it took production of the tapes to make the true believers suspend disbelief.
With this crowd, in this climate, would even that be enough?
Ray Mosby is editor and publisher of the Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork.