*This is Part One in a three part series. To view Part Two, click here.*
In today’s public arena, propaganda and news are easily conflated. This is further convoluted by the ubiquity of censorship. Why would these two things be related? Let’s look at the impacts of carte blanche censorship and how it affects the climate of our belief systems.
How many times have you logged in to a social media site to be greeted with a “session expired,” or a request for an ID or personal picture? You then proceed to get a chastising message, saying that something you posted or to which you responded doesn’t comply with an arbitrary set of standards that no one fully understands. This seems as an irksome inconvenience, at first, until you think about how this affects our global digital landscape. There have been numerous complaints of rightwing commenters attesting that they have been locked out of many of the big social media sites, ranging from Google, to YouTube and, especially Twitter. While this is seemingly only unfair on the surface, the aim is much more nefarious.
This is just a sample of the presence of propaganda tactics in media. These tactics, in effect, silence the opposition and make the selected ideology seem to be the prevailing and dominant one. These propagandists use a three-faceted approach to silence dissenters. It follows this model, dehumanizing, silencing and ostracizing.
The aim of propaganda is to dehumanize the opponent, so that those who are the targets are viewed as less than human. This is done to psychologically justify committing atrocities that would otherwise be unthinkable. Think of the claims of atrocities leading up to any military conflict? These are oftentimes proven to be incorrect at a later date. At that point, little attention is given because, you know, we won! The atmosphere changes to that of patriotism and the false claims purveyed prior to the conflict are all but forgotten. Because, so many weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq but I digress. Sun Tzu tells us that “all warfare is based on deception.” How many times must we see this proven before it becomes a realization? War tactics have found their way into the political sphere, and have become an ever-present tactic used in identity politics.
It is easily understood how it can be effective, because that with which you relate controls you. Denouncing someone as one of the four horsemen of the left i.e., “racist,” “bigot,” “misogynist” or “homophobe” can land the accused in a precarious situation. These accusations have real world consequences. Make no mistake, this isn’t simply name calling, it is an accusatory tactic intended to group the recipient of the epithet in the “out group,” effectively discrediting and invalidating any statement made by the recipient.
This tactic further has a divisive element to it. Machiavelli states, “A Captain should endeavor with every art to divide the forces of the enemy, either by making him suspicious of his men in whom he trusted, or by giving him cause that he has to separate his forces, and, because of this, become weaker.” One can see that these tactics are intended to divide and distract. There will always be another “flavor of the week” issue used as a tool to prevent the masses from uniting. When the masses are divided based on that with which they relate, the possibility of them challenging the power structure all but vanishes. We continually play into the hands of those who seek to hold their power. We have been dehumanized and are treated as the enemy.
Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing. –Orwell’s 1984