Information vs Propaganda
Be the captain of your own ship.
I have chills, energy racing across my skin, tingling and delicately cool against skin heated by exclamations of triumph and literal tears of joy and relief.
~ My reaction to reading the OSHA portion of the Supreme Court’s decision, Nos. 21A244 and 21A247, at 1:30pm, January 13, 2022
Dear Freedom Friends,
The thoughts I’m sharing have been rolling around inside my head for days. Months, actually, and I’m going to do my gosh darn best to pull it together into a cohesive whole. Think I can? Maybe. If you cross your fingers and I cross mine, will that help? Probably not - I just tried, and it’s really hard to type with crossed fingers!
Pretty cool stuff, right? In fact, information is like water. We have it or we die. But, under what circumstances do humans die from lack of water? Two scenarios pop into my head: stranded at sea and lost in the desert. How many movies and books have been written about those two terrifying scenarios? Plenty, but let’s add some flourish and pizzazz to really torture the characters caught up in these tragic events.
Imagine that you find a pool of water, in a narrow depression, shielded from the hot desert sun by large cliffs, and you race forward, desperate to slake your thirst, only to see a sign pounded into the sand in front of the pool: Brackish Water Do Not Drink
The information is partly true. Brackish water is salty, like sea water. Drink it and your kidneys overproduce urine in order to expel the excess salt from your body, leading to (or making worse) dehydration.
But, is the water brackish?
When we talk about propaganda, in casual conversation, many of us are actually thinking about advertising. These two things are different. Advertising is performed to promote the sale of a product or service. “Hi! I have this and I want you to consider paying me for it.” No matter how fancy your advertising gets, it’s still advertising if you’re fundamentally selling a product or service. Propaganda, on the other hand, “is all about favouring, opposing or criticizing a person, idea, trend or cause, to achieve a certain political or economic end.”
(If you have to read that twice, don’t feel bad. So did I.)
So, back to the question about the pool of water and the sign.
Is it advertising? No. There is nothing to sell and no one to take your money.
Is it propaganda? Not likely. There appears to be no political or economic goal, and there is no viewpoint or opinion that is being attacked or promoted.
Is it a warning? MAYBE.
Remember that brain we were born with, that works? These are some questions that likely would come to mind as you stood there, staring at the sign, and the pool of water: When was the sign made? Was the water brackish at that time? Maybe the sign was posted by a well-intentioned person, who didn’t know the water is also sometimes pure and clean to drink? Yes, the person could have been stupid, malicious or selfish, but even if he or she was operating from a place of tremendous positive intentions…the sign could still be wrong.
We won’t know, unless we test the water ourselves.
Are you the person who would tentatively taste the water? Or, the person who cries out in agony, then turns away and wanders off in hopes of finding water elsewhere? If the water is brackish, then both have the same potential for survival. If the water is fresh, then the one who tested the water for herself has a far greater chance of survival than the other. Because she took the time to vet the information provided. (That whole brain usage thing…)
Arguably, death by dehydration is a rare occurrence, but most Americans see a similar, nearly equivalent sign, “Brackish Water Do Not Drink” on the daily, and in most cases, what we’re seeing is propaganda. I’ll give two examples. One just happened this past week, and the other happens every single day, millions of times, across the land and especially on social media.
Propaganda Strategy #1: Promote a Lie, then Claim it isn’t True
Goal: Discourage attention, distract people, create distrust, gain unwarranted trust
(Forgive me if this is a bit dry - it’s the government’s fault, not mine!) Over the past two weeks, WA State Residents have been talking about an upcoming WA Board of Health meeting. Here are the facts, as shared forward amongst concerned citizens:
On January 12th, the WA State Board of Health hosted a public meeting (online) to discuss applying current infectious disease WAC codes to include Covid-19 for all WA State residents. Comments were accepted through Friday, January 7th at noon.
Proposed Policies to be Discussed at the January 12th Meeting Summarized:
Allowing local health officers to use law enforcement (WAC 246-100-070) to force an emergency order to involuntarily detain a person or group of persons (families) to be isolated in a quarantine facility (WAC 246-100-045) following refusal to voluntarily comply with requests for medical examination, testing, treatment, couseling and vaccination. These specifics come from (WAC 246-100).
Including the Covid-19 injections as part of school immunization requirements using (WAC 246-105).
All of the above is true. You can Google each of those WAC #s and it’ll pop up for you. You’ll actually learn a lot more, because the above is a summary focused on the meeting agenda items for January 12th.
NOW, what do you think the WA State Government & Corporate Media did? That’s easy, too! Google “WA Board of Health Meeting” and first you will see a direct link to https://sboh.wa.gov, but below that, the TOP STORIES rant and rave about “fact checkers, protestors spread misinformation, no discussion of forced quarantine, WA did not enact covid internment camps, WA state isn’t changing quarantine rules), etc. Blah, blah, blah.
It’s sort of like Thanksgiving! (You didn’t see that coming, did you? Scariest part of the essay begins now!) Imagine you’re hosting the family get-together, and you tell your cousin that you’re not making a Turkey this year. You’re going with tofu! Your cousin sends an Emergency Alert Email to everyone in the family and outs your plan. (Gasp!) Then, your sister sends a reply to the entire family and says, “It’s not true, what you’ve heard about us giving up on tradition and tossing Great-granddad’s favorite sweet potato recipe out the window. Of course we’ll have sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie and green beans, and seriously…our cousin gave you misinformation.”
No. Your cousin told the truth, and you didn’t want to talk about it, so you made up another narrative and then declared IT wasn’t true. The fact is, you’re still planning to ditch the turkey and offer up tofu to everyone, but you’re obfuscating that truth behind an accusation that wasn’t ever made and directing everyone’s attention to your denial of that claim while offering feel-good reassurances that there will be pie and sweet potatoes and green beans.
Magicians do this all the time! One of the greatest powers a magician can weild, is control over the audience’s attention. If you intentionally do NOT look where they want you to look, you’ll often see the trick. It’ll be as obvious as day.
Personal Story Time:
I was in Maui, twenty-five years ago, at a professional magic theater, and the magician asked if anyone in the audience could keep their eye on the golden coin. I made myself look wherever he was not directing our attention, and I saw him slide the golden coin, most blatantly, into his pocket while everyone else was staring at some bird or whatever. So, I spoke up and said, “Hey, yeah, I saw you slide it into your pocket!”
That magician looked me in the eye, as he kept going on with his show, and he asked me in a voice that was suddenly normal and not the “theatrical” magician voice, if I did magic? I was startled, and he was clearly unhappy with me, like I was a professional magician blowing his cover. That would be rude! So, I said, “NO! Not at all.” In that moment, it was like a movie where the actor breaks the 4th wall, and I swear, I don’t think anyone else in the audience heard him talking to me, because they were so caught up in the show. I literally felt off balance.
And, this is exactly what the media does to society every day. Don’t stand for it!
Propaganda Strategy #2: Check Your Source (usually delivered with a level of snark)
Goal: Discourage reading, much less trusting, information you disagree with
This one’s a personal pet peeve. How many of us have shared forward an article containing information that we know to be true and valuable, and a person who doesn’t like the information, instantly tells everyone that they should “check out the reputation of the person who wrote the article!”
I hate that.
Honestly. It’s in the top three of manipulative strategies used everyday that I can’t stand…and I bet you can’t, either. I mean, seriously! If the person on Earth, who you despise the most, stated during a press conference that the Earth orbits the Sun, are you going to suddenly adopt a geocentric view of the solar system? Just to spite them? Or, because they must be wrong all the time? They’re not. No one is, and you can get a better array of information, gain a more broad and deep understanding of any topic, by listening to diverse sources. Diversity is good!
(I hear the voice of the biology professor in the movie Twilight in the back of my head, saying “Green is Good!” every time I read that. Wow.)
Reading an article does not mean you adopt what’s written as your truth. You’re just considering it. You’re thinking about it. And, we need to trust ourselves to be able to do this. On our own. We do not need the government to screen everything for us, before we read it, because we’re infantile or gullible or dumb. We. Are. Not.
And, that’s what we’re being told, when someone says:
“I’d suggest anyone reading this article Google the author. Basic due diligence.”
Excuse me. I just had to fight to keep my lunch down. This appeal to people’s willingness to actively practice self-censorship, by limiting their reading to information presented by individuals within their own echo-chambers, is HURL-INDUCING!
Which brings me back to information. The lifeblood of humanity. The source of everything we do and have done, as a species through myriad iterations of society.
Here is my appeal:
Information of great value can come from many sources, and life is most vibrantly experienced when we dive in and immerse ourselves in that diversity. Every person who discourages you from examining information, for any reason, is doing you a massive disservice. They want you to cover your eyes, plug your ears, and turn off your beautiful brain.
Do not comply. Trust yourself. Your brain works! Keep it turned on and well-oiled by checking assumptions and challenging what you are told, every day.
Because it’s way more fun standing on the bridge of a ship, wheel in hand, wind in your face, telescope to your eye, consulting star charts and your compass…than being stuck in the brig, under the deck, in the dark, while someone else decides where you’ll go in this life and what you’ll believe is true.
I just found you tonight. Love your work. I'll be subbing soon once I start work again. Cheers from Northern Ontario, Canada
Be your own lab rat!!!