Propaganda 101

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    IN A state of war – for the minds and hearts – of the electorate we already are, well over five months to the 2013 polls.

    At the rate the issues and innuendoes, allegations and abusive languages, charges and counter-charges go, the people may end up so messed up in true lies.    

    “It’s all propaganda.” Too often we hear. But what really is propaganda? Here’s a lecture from my academic past. 

    “AN ASSOCIATION
    or scheme for propagating a doctrine or practice.”

    So reads an old Oxford Dictionary definition of propaganda.

    Its root word: the Latin propagar – to propagate – as the farmer’s practice of sowing rice grains, then when grown to seedlings pull them out and pin them into plowed and harrowed fields to reproduce new plants that will bear more grains.

    Substitute ideas for the rice grains, the propagandist for the farmer, human minds for the field, and the plowing, harrowing and planting for the transmission of the ideas and therein is the meaning of the word as we know it, as we understand it, as we use it.

    In its basic essence of propagation, propaganda was instituted in the Roman Catholic Church in 1633 when Pope Urban VIII established the Sacro Congregatio de Propaganda Fide — the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith – that took charge of the foreign missions to the New World and the Orient.

    Many a Filipino student gets his first brush with the term in Philippine history – the Propaganda Movement of Rizal, Lopez-Jaena, Del Pilar and the Luna brothers in Madrid which principal vehicle was the La Solidaridad.

    Its objective: to bring to the attention of the Spanish Cortes the abuses of the Castilian colonists in Las Islas Filipinas and seek provision for representation of the insulares in that legislative assembly.

    In both usage by the Church and Rizal, et al, the ends and means of propaganda are most noble, to say the least.

    It is the later misuse and abuse of propaganda that gave the word its ignoble meaning: of lies and deceit, as a deliberate attempt to manipulate if not control, by underhanded means, the minds of others to suit the propagandist’s ulterior, and always insidious, ends.

    That mutation in the meaning primarily owing to Dr. Josef Goebbels, the German Third Reich’s propaganda minister, who put into devastating effect Der Fuehrer’s dictum of the “Big Lie,” to wit; “The broad mass of a nation will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one.” A lie constantly repeated assumes, after a time, all semblances of truth.

    There came a-borning propaganda’s qualifier: “black,” meaning “all lies.”

    Where there is black, necessarily there be at the opposite end, “white” too, meaning “all true,” and in-between, “gray” meaning “half-lies and half-truths” which essentially redounds to black. A half-truth being no truth.

    The operative phrase in propaganda – in all its color variants – is “influencing the emotional attitudes of others.”

    Beyond the dictionary definition of “a state of mind or feeling with regard to some matter” or the synonym “disposition,” attitudes are further qualified as “likely to be long-lived and do not necessarily reflect the feelings of the general public although they tend to reflect those of some group with which the individual has become associated.”

    Unlike attitudes, opinions are briefly held and likely to reflect current public feeling. They are readily changed and therefore are more susceptible to propaganda or to reasoned argument.

    The basic mechanism of propaganda is suggestion – the attempt to induce in others the acceptance of a specific belief without giving any self-evident or logical ground for its acceptance, whether it exists or not.

    Here rises the distinction of education from propaganda.

    Education aims at independence of judgment. Propaganda aims at supplying ready-made judgments.

    Education strives to produce individual responsibility and an open mind. Propaganda, using mass effects, strives to produce a closed mind.

    Education teaches people how to think. Propaganda tells people what to think.

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