There is a war going on for your mind.
There is no secret your mind is exposed to thousands of bits of information and concepts every single day but lately it feels there is a war against it.
Someone has been trying to manipulate and influence the way you think, without you even knowing it. The fighting in this war is done with propaganda campaigns of misinformation and misdirection. Movies, media articles, news stories, songs, even memes can all influence the way you view or feel about a topic, in a manner directed by the creators.
Propaganda is defined as “Information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.,” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
Propaganda is nothing new though; it has been used during times of conflict, to incite fear, garner support and influence politics.
For example, during the American Revolution, posters were common, often containing warnings of treason to the people by the King, in an attempt to frighten the Colonialists, whereas the people often used cartoons to show the King as an evil tyrant.
The American Civil war brought with it the rise of the telegraph and newspapers across the country, spreading the news, as well as anti-Union propaganda faster and further than ever before. President Lincoln even resorted to jailing some reporters, in an attempt to control the opposition to his war.
In the twentieth century, during World War I and II, propaganda became more popular as a means to influence the war efforts using posters and films, Hollywood quickly becoming the center of the U. S. government propaganda machine.
At the height of the Cold War, then President John F. Kennedy, approved “Operation Mockingbird “ A wiretapping program targeting the global media, authors, directors, reporters etc..
Under CIA director Allen Dulles; alleged changes were made to “Operation Mockingbird”. The media was not only to be used to discover leaks in the intelligence services by monitoring the news stories, but actual CIA assets are placed in important positions within the media to control the narrative.
In the 1970s Rolling Stone Magazine wrote an article reporting on a Congressional hearing and declassified documents, claiming that more than 400 mainstream media employees were considered assets by the CIA as well as 25+ newspapers and wire agencies were directly influenced by the government.
In 1976, CIA director George H. W. Bush stated “effective immediately, the CIA will not enter into any paid or contractual relationship with any full-time or part-time news correspondent accredited by any U.S. news service, newspaper, television or radio station or network.” Officially ending Operation Mockingbird. However according to the article this notice did not include foreign or freelance agents or those without official accreditation.
Propaganda in the Digital Age
After the invention of personal computers, we see the decrease of print media such as newspapers and books and the increase of digital media and the World Wide Web. The internet gives rise to self publishing and social media. We now have instant communication around the world by the average citizen, with the ability to share news articles, photos, and video, all at the push of a button. Today most mainstream news outlets have an online presence to reach the viewing public.
“Fake News” is a term made famous by President Donald Trump, who refers to news articles that are, in his opinion, slanted, biased, or meant to be propaganda of some sort, generally negative about him and/or his political or economic agenda or his personal past.
A lot of news circulated about the interference in the 2016 and 2020 presidential election campaigns by the Russian government. Fake Twitter and Facebook accounts spread various forms of propaganda, such as, posting bogus news stories, and negative candidate Memes.
The fact that any person or agency can release some bit of information and have it seen by millions around the globe in a matter of minutes, sets the stage for mass campaigns of disinformation and propaganda. These items are almost impossible to defend against especially in the age of cyber attacks, cyber hacks, satellite spying, and the ability of anyone to use the internet as a vehicle for their own platform or agenda. Combined with biased sources for fact checking, and soon the public can be led to believe that up is down or right is wrong.
We would have to be very naive to think that we are not targets of propaganda campaigns today.
So how can we identify propaganda?
Well, you can never be sure but checking against the following list will give you a head start.
- Name calling – (Nazi, Right winger,Trumpers, etc)
- Testimony- (add a statement by a celebrity or conversely someone hated)
- Band wagon- (The speaker will try to convince us to change our point of view before we miss out on something.)
- Hot potato- (an inflammatory statement like “why won’t you show your tax returns?” Or “ have you stopped beating your wife?”
- Misused statistics- (percentage shown but not the size or other details of study or research group.. “9 out of 10 people voted for Hillary”)
- Fear-This one is very common (“If he wins our country is doomed”)
- Diversion- ( this one is easy… What are they NOT talking about)
- Deflection- ( when it attacks the messenger, not the topic)
- Attack- ( attack something or someone else not related to the topic)
- Lying- (this is perhaps the hardest to defend against.. fact check everything from several sources.) Tip: use Duckduckgo.com or Swisscows.com search engine or use lesser known and perhaps lesser biased search resources. DuckDuckgo.com, in my opinion, seems to be more center of the road and doesn’t censor your results… or track your searches.
I hope this article helps you understand more about how propaganda is shared today and perhaps it teaches you to question everything you read or hear, use common sense, research the information , use critical thinking, due diligence, and win the war for your mind