We are experiencing what demagogic, authoritarian leadership is like. The constant stream of nonsense, lies, and outright attacks on the very notion of truth are spectacular in scope, bravado, and sheer audacity. We have also witnessed how unprepared Americans are for such an attack, intellectually, emotionally, socially, and politically.
There is substantial evidence that a widespread propaganda campaign was directed at the American public by the Russian government. As additional details emerge, we already know of connections between the administration and members of the Russian intelligence community. These facts will themselves be side-stepped, refuted, and dismissed by those who benefit from the outcomes they produced. Many people will reject the same facts out of misplaced loyalty and a distorted sense of duty and patriotism. They will not be swayed.
The methods and techniques of mass propaganda are not new. Wartime propaganda has an ancient history and was one of the features of the old Soviet-era regime in Russia, where a program of ‘dezinformatsiya’ was one of the main techniques of Soviet control. Pravda and other official Soviet news outlets maintained a tight control over the message and access to verifiable facts. Only in the waning days of the regime did that edifice of lies start to crumble, with glimpses of food shortages, empty store shelves, etc. But the old techniques are being revived by the new Russian state, this time for American consumption, especially those with little education and limited access to unbiased news sources. Sadly, these are the same people who were pivotal in the election and the people most vulnerable to the policies that it will enact. Still, too much sympathy for ignorance is dangerous for the rest of us.
Today, we are faced with blatant, in-your-face lies about events we witness first-hand on nationwide television. While the public record should be sufficient to dispel or rebut false claims, a cynical culture of ignorance and corruption has taken root. Crackpots like Alex Jones, from InfoWars, are leading the charge to dumb down coverage of the administration and create more noise for the crowding out of credible information. These are deliberate attempts to undermine society, to undercut the foundations of civilization itself. Without a strong understanding of the fundamental elements of rational discourse and the veracity of what is said, chaos and fear take control. That is when force is welcomed by the masses for security. And that is when they win.
A keen awareness of propaganda is necessary. Above and below are a couple books that are outstanding primers on propaganda and its uses.