These days, one memory stands out more than most others when it comes to our education. Most of us, when we were kids in school, were forced to read George Orwell's 1984as part of our English Lit education.
In 1984, a tyrannical government uses propaganda to brainwash people. Things that were printed months ago were immediately glossed over or changed by news groups at the behest of the government. At the end of the book, it becomes clear that the world was a dystopia where no one knew what was real anymore.
Little did we know that art would imitate life so quickly. Today, we live in a time when people question news sources, politicians discuss "alternative facts," and the White House no longer admits any wrongdoing despite ample evidence to the contrary. Many people are quite vocal about their support of right-wing policies. They regularly vote against their own interests, attack those who are different from them, and refuse to look at the science-backed facts.
It's easy to hate people who stubbornly refuse to listen to others despite the fact that they are hurting others. However, we can't fault them for their support; they've been brainwashed by a love affair with propaganda—all backed by Uncle Sam himself.
In 2013, the National Defense Authorization Act repealed the longstanding ban on using propaganda on American citizens by the government.
The NDAA was quietly passed, and had almost no coverage from mainstream media. The act allowed the government to make and disseminate their own news for people. This effectively allows the US government to make propaganda for people to consume.
At the time it was passed, not many people would have believed that the American government would outright lie to them about what's going on. Those who approved of the law said that it would allow the government to offer fair and balanced reporting that can be trusted.
However, there have been a number of moments in recent years that made it clear that Uncle Sam might not have the best intentions for us—and that we shouldn't trust the propaganda given to them.
- Multiple states passed laws forcing doctors to offer misleading or outright wrong information about abortions to women who want to terminate their pregnancies. Studies have shown that the information placed in these anti-abortion pamphlets are wrong, and at times, can end up putting the mother's life at risk. Doctors have been challenging the laws, claiming that it's against medical ethics to lie to patients.
- When Snowden revealed that the US government was spying on civilians, the government had released documents that made it seem like he lied. Oliver Stone, who later made the Edward Snowden biopic, openly admitted that the "government lies all the time."
- Then, there were numerous lies that Trump had told in order to get the presidency. Trump's lies included that he wouldn't touch women's rights, that he wouldn't raise health care costs, and that he didn't meet with Russians. The lies keep on coming.
- Studies have shown that consuming news from certain stations, such as FOX News, can make you less informed than watching no news at all. Many researchers believe this could be a primary reason as to why many people seem to have differing views on what is going on in American politics.
The list of instances where the government has lied goes on and on. It's clear that the very people we expect to protect us are not people that we can trust.
Allowing a government to disseminate propaganda in "the land of the free" is like asking a wolf to guard a chicken coop.
Let's Make America Great Again, or just learn how Republican politicians flooded voters with propaganda right before the election.
Right before Trump's victory in 2016, voters all just assumed that Clinton would win—and she did win the popular vote by 3 million. However, gerrymandering and propaganda were what turned most of America red enough to let Trump win.
Basically, Republicans said America was broken and they could "Make America Great Again."
The only problem was that America wasn't broken. In fact, Obama's presidency led to a booming economy, expanded health care, and better human rights throughout the country. Research backs this with a phenomenal amount of data.
So, why do so many people think that Republicans are better for economic policy and human rights? Well, it all boils down to a very well-oiled propaganda machine from the right-wing.
During the months leading up to the election, right-wing news groups and speakers made a point to tell citizens that they were under attack by leftists. They began to paint a picture in which only Republicans could save America from the onslaught from these invisible forces.
They appealed to extremist Christian groups by talking about God and how they would end abortions. They began to talk to families about the dangers of immigrant crimes, despite the statistics that show most immigrants are law-abiding people. Even online memes were politicized with great success.
Rather than appeal to people via facts that don't back the Republican party's views, they went for emotion. They do what they can to make people think they're being attacked, judged, or hated. That is, after all, the most effective way to get people on your side—and also the hardest to defend against.
However, emotional propaganda is only one part of the Republican ways of brainwashing the public. They also have taken a page from fascist regimes by attacking the press.
Trump's Twitter explosions against the press are no coincidence.
Politicians are now attacking press members for reporting unflattering stories—even if they are true. In fact, many of Trump's party have claimed that the media is lying about the stories that they are publishing, even when there's video proof of what's going on.
Everyone laughed when FOX News representatives discussed the importance of listening to "alternative facts," but this isn't a laughing matter in the least bit.
Recent news sources have shown that the White House is now trying to blackmail people into publishing flattering storiesabout Trump. This is a major example of how a fascist regime uses "gag orders" to keep the truth from being shared.
If you aren't scared yet, you should be. Not being able to see two sides to a story is the quickest way to isolate and brainwash people into committing atrocities. In fact, even Hitler used this tactic in order to seize power from people.
New shows are beginning to glorify America and patriotism — but they might not be as innocent as they first appear to be.
A number of patriotic shows have recently been released, with many people calling them excellent dramas. These include military dramas such as The Brave (For God and Country), SEAL Team, and Valor.
Considering the current atmosphere of the country, many are beginning to wonder what the deal is with the sudden uptick in military-focused programs in Hollywood. To someone analyzing this situation, it looks like a case of history repeating itself—as well as a case of opportunistic groups looking to make money.
Extremely nationalist countries have always historically glorified military personnel in media. North Korean children's shows have strong military themes as well as violence "for the sake of the country." 1940s Germany was known for glorifying Germans and making a point of discussing military might in programming.
This is nothing new and was also done in America via Captain America during World War II. This alone might not be a full reason to worry if it was only this aspect of propaganda to worry about on entertainment television.
What is new is seeing political parties using commercials to target voters based on what seemingly politically neutral shows they watched. Marketing analytics allows any group to do this, and politicians are no exception from the rule.
In a Forbes article, Jared Kushner admitted that the campaign targeted people by demographic based on the content they were watching, and ran ads they knew would appeal to viewers based on what they were watching.
So, for Walking Dead fans, the Republican party ran ads about immigration. NCIS viewers were shown health care ads that glorified Republican values.
More impressively, some shows even displayed a direct correlation between fans and their likelihood to vote for specific candidates. Duck Dynasty fans almost all voted for Trump, while Clinton fans were more likely to be fans of Family Guy.
Whether we want to admit it or not, Uncle Sam knows what we like to watch and knows how we'll respond to propaganda in it—and they've become the masters of subtlety and planning in that sense.
What's most disturbing about this is that this is now the new normal. Everyone does this in business, and now politics is being treated as a business as well.
Short of legislation being put into place barring this kind of propaganda and ad analytics being used to influence political beliefs, nothing can be done to bar politicians from using this to their own benefit.
The American propaganda mill may have been a long time coming — and it may actually be a conspiracy theory that ended up being true.
The CIA has admitted to using mainstream media as a way to send out disinformation in the past. In fact, representatives even admitted that it's the truth in the 1970s.
Declassified CIA documents also showed that the government has paid off major newspapers and headline makers to boost political figures' public images in the past. The name of this project was Operation Mockingbird, and it's believed it's one of the biggest reasons why politicians had such a strong following in the past.
Ronald Reagan's propaganda machine was even stronger by 1987 when the president was able to create "hot button" issues on demand. At one point, a CIA chief was even credited with the following quote:
"We’ll Know Our Disinformation Program Is Complete When Everything the American Public Believes Is False.” - William Casey
What's amazing about this quote is that most people trusted the government at the time, and thought that the press was free. The CIA openly admits it tampers with the free press. Nowadays, the cracks are beginning to show—and we're starting to wake up.
The information released has only been shown to be the tip of the iceberg. Imagine what's not being released, and how far propaganda has come. Who's to say that anything we see is real anymore? At what point do we realize that we've been fooled and that we can no longer trust anything that's currently being placed in media anymore?
Considering what we know, it's unsurprising that conspiracy theories and fringe beliefs are becoming more mainstream.
Logic allows us to see the "why" fairly quickly here.
Propaganda is used to convince people to act on behalf of a political interest—often one that is actually against the best interests of the people being swayed. This is what is used to convince people to go to war and potentially die for the sake of someone else's conflict, and what is used to get people to cede their freedoms in exchange for "safety."
Therefore, it makes sense that American propaganda would be made to appeal to low-income people when their policies benefit the rich. It also makes sense that groups that want large portions of the country to die out would make propaganda that makes health care repeal look attractive.
In other words, if the government is using propaganda, it's rarely for our best interest. In many cases, propaganda is used to control us, make us act against our best interests, and divide us so that we become more manageable.
Can anything be done to fix this issue?
It's hard to figure out what could be done when it comes to the American propaganda machine. Short of new legislation and full forced disclosure from the people behind the political machine, the best we can do is just refuse to believe anything that we don't see with our own eyes—and start looking at the statistics behind the platforms.