From the perspective of our modern information and communications age, the word ‘propaganda’ continues to imply something evil. For some it is a cause of wars; for others, it is an even greater evil than war. Writing in 1926, Lord Ponsonby echoed the sentiments of many when he wrote that propaganda involved ‘the defilement of the human soul [which] is worse than the destruction of the human body’. For the liberal-minded, its continued existence remains a cancer threatening to eat away at the body politic of our increasingly free and globalized society; a disease which somehow afflicts our individual and collective capacity to make up our own minds about what is happening in the world around us. Propaganda, it is felt, forces us to think and do things in ways we might not otherwise have done had we been left to our own devices. It obscures our windows on the world by providing layers of distorting condensation. When nations fight, it thickens the fog of war. Propaganda thus becomes the enemy of independent thought and an intrusive and unwanted manipulator of the free flow of information and ideas in humanity’s quest for ‘peace and truth’. It is therefore something which democracies, at least, ought not to do. It suggests the triumph of emotion over reason in a bureaucratic struggle by the machinery of power for control over the individual. It is a ‘dirty trick’ utilized by ‘hidden persuaders’, ‘mind manipulators’ and ‘brainwashers’ – Orwellian ‘Big Brothers’ who somehow subliminally control our thoughts in order to control our behaviour to serve their interests rather than our own.
An enlightening read!
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