P for Propaganda

A recent news link referred to Putin’s girlfriend, Alina Kabaeva, who called propaganda as important as using Kalashnikovs, in the current war. Seriously? At least she’s naming it for what it is. Propaganda is a catch-all term for state sponsored lying. 

movie poster in public domain
Propaganda permeated the UFA (Nazi movie industry), as well. The most famous movie being Triumph of Will. We might laugh at the stupidity of these manipulative films, but they worked. Putin knows this.

Why is propaganda—blatant lying—so popular?  Why else would global corporations spend billions on advertising?  As a human race, we're a gullible lot.  In one Russian video clip, interviewing young residents from St. Petersburg, a woman artist said, “propaganda helps people lie to themselves.”   

Lying to one’s self is easier than ever with social media. We only ‘like’ what we follow and vice versa. If everyone is out to deceive us then who do we trust? I feel like Eve in the Garden of Eden. Media-literacy has never been more important. Critical thinking skills can’t be assumed. We need diverse points of view.

My parents’ generation grew up under the influence of Hitler and his propaganda minister, Josef Goebbels. Germans, always ready to follow rules, were told they were the chosen people— superior to Slavs, Jews, Roma and coloured people. Treat humans like animals long enough and that lie becomes easier to believe.

Russians are now told that Ukraine is their enemy, overtaken by Nazi fascists. As ludicrous as this sounds to our western ears, Russians are losing touch with objective truth. Meanwhile, massive corporations control our media. Ads about liquor, cars, beauty products, holidays, etc. bombard our lives daily. 

Canada is a democracy, but this freedom of choice has a price. Our challenge is to be aware, skeptical, and engaged. It’s up to us to separate truth from propaganda.

Here are some tips to avoid being 'brain-washed' by propaganda.

1. Listen to/read/view multiple media outlets. Don't share something on social media if you can't verify the facts. 

2. Be aware of the distinction between mis-information (an error) as opposed to dis-information (a lie). 

3. Be aware of the power of slogans and symbols. (for example: Soviet: raised fist; Nazi: swastika; Russia: Z; clothing brands: the Nike swoosh)

Check out this Canadian government website for more information on how we can be aware of potential manipulation of facts during the current conflict in Ukraine.

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