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Confronting our Beliefs

September 10, 2016

I’ve been thinking a lot about propaganda these days, especially as it relates to politics. Propaganda is described as information, especially of a biased nature, used to promote or publicise a particular political cause or point of view. But is propaganda also advertising, or vice versa? Looking at the definition I would say yes.

One thing that propaganda and advertising have done well is to co-opt symbols to influence decisions. You only need to look at Nike, Armani, Mercedes-Benz to name three. These symbols hold value for people. But these symbols also came at a cost. Millions and billions of dollars spent reinforcing to the public that these symbols are the pinnacle of their respective industries. Reinforcing to the public that in order for them to be successful, they need to have these symbols, and the products along with it.  

What propaganda has done even better is to reinforce in your daily life the absolute certainty that our way of life is the best on the planet. Even when facts are presented showing that other countries have a higher standard of living, people believe what they have been taught to beleive. What they have been born to believe. That regardless of everything else, they believe. That is propaganda.

The Republican Party, being so closely aligned to the business interests in this country, have benefited enormously from this relationship. Because not only has the Republican Party used propaganda (as the Democrats have), they have the resources of the business world to be used to support their views. And what this combination of corporate/right wing politics have done is to insure that their interests are promoted against the greater good.  

One instance that comes to mind with this combination of corporate/political propaganda are cigarettes. “Cigarettes were recognised as the cause of the epidemic in the 1940s and 1950s, with the confluence of studies from epidemiology, animal experiments, cellular pathology and chemical analytics. Cigarette manufacturers disputed this evidence, as part of an orchestrated conspiracy to salvage cigarette sales. Propagandising the public proved successful, judging from secret tobacco industry measurements of the impact of denialist propaganda. As late as 1960 only one-third of all US doctors believed that the case against cigarettes had been established.” (From Robert N. Proctor, Tobacco Control). But propaganda, however successful wasn’t enough. The cigarette industry gave millions to politicians to insure that studies were buried, that hearings weren’t held, that the public wouldn’t know what was killing them. For them profit was worth more than lives. And for the government, insuring business profits is more important than protecting its citizens.

As was the government calling in the National Guard to quell protests throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Every factory owner faced with its workers unionizing, when they couldn’t quell the protestors with union busting thugs, they called the Governor to bring in the troops. And the Governor complied. Whenever it’s a stand between citizens and business interests, the government stands firmly behind business (and yes, there have been exceptions).

The US has been built on the idea that what is good for business is good for the country.  


Business is only good for its shareholders, not for its citizens. Government is not run as a business because it is run to promote goodwill amongst its citizens, to help them, to provide security for them.  

Since the 1980s, Republicans have been telling the citizens of the US that government is the problem. And that business is the answer. They hammer this point home every day, though ads, rallies, and speeches. Over and over again. For over 30 years. Every young person in this country has been born into this, understands this, and believes wholeheartedly in this.  



With the confluence of propaganda from the right (read corporations) and a government built to acquiesce to business, our country has now reached the nadir of this in the form of Donald Trump.

So this is now where we stand. A country that has a misogynistic, racist, habitual liar as candidate for the Republican Party. And the questions everyone asks is how did this happen? How can people be so blind?



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