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Monday, November 1, 2010

Media Literacy 601: Define Political Propaganda

Bill O'Reilly did two things tonight.

First, he assured his viewers that you can't win elections by being "far right". Was that propaganda? Did he challenge his viewers with a hard-hitting definition of "far right"? Or, did he just confirm their prejudices and himself, because who among his viewership would say that they are extremist? His guest wouldn't even use the language "moderate Republican". He caught himself and went for "RINO" and "liberal Republican".

Second, he indicted the city of San Francisco - "the whole thing, ladies and gentlemen!".

Now, I know there are people - even John Stewart? - who don't get why I ride FOX as a propaganda arm and Beck as champion of mastering the old arts.

Perhaps the young crowd of pundits will familiarize themselves with the Nazi idea machine (Beck surely has), with Orwell, with the true threats to discourse (not just Stewart's take):

Glittering Generalities: Propagandists employ vague, sweeping statements (often slogans or simple catchphrases) using language associated with values and beliefs deeply held by the audience without providing supporting information or reason. They appeal to such notions as honor, glory, love of country, desire for peace, freedom, and family values. The words and phrases are vague and suggest different things to different people but the implication is always favorable. It cannot be proved true or false because it really says little or nothing at all.

The Institute of Propaganda Analysis suggests a number of questions we should ask ourselves if we are confronted with this technique: What do the slogans or phrases really mean? Is there a legitimate connection between the idea being discussed and the true meaning of the slogan or phrase being used? What are the merits of the idea itself if it is separated from the slogans or phrases?

One day, someone will re-run Beck's footage and the children of a later age will marvel that we fell for it all over again.

Now, you might complain that anything might be construed as "propaganda". There is a whole Spring course on that, 655.

But, stop and think. Look at what the recommendations are when confronted with "glittering generalities", in what the natural defenses inhere. Now, do you think that an entire organization, Media Matters, would be required if this weren't a serious issue at FOX in particular? Is it really just a matter of tone, of "amplification", of being "sane" or of equivalence with other channels?

I don't think so. There is more to the picture. Laus Deo.

note bene: the use of the word "religion"