Socio/Political and Historical analysis necessary for my peace of mind.

Month: March, 2014

What is Propaganda? (Part 3)

Let us start with an analogy that I think will be helpful. You have two people. One is a king, the other is a peasant. The peasant is not happy with the king, and as a result is making this known to anyone who will listen. He goes around the kingdom talking about the King and saying that the King is a bad person and that someone should do something about it. He does this all the time, so much so that everyone in the kingdom, even the king himself, is aware of the peasant’s constant complaining – this goes on for years. The king, in turn, does the same to the peasant. One day he starts talking about how bad he thinks the peasant is and that someone should do something about it. This goes on for a week or two, and after that we find that someone actually did do something about it… they killed the peasant.

We ask ourselves two questions 1) If the king and the peasant had identical actions, why did the results differ so much? 2) If the King knew his actions would yield a radically different result, and expected it, does the king have a higher responsibility than the peasant to not engage in similar behavior?

We should know the answers to both these questions really easily. The Kings actions had different results because he is the king – he has power and influence, obviously so, that the peasant does not have. The peasant can say anything he wants, but because he has very little to no power, nothing much will come of what he says. The King on the other hand, rules the land with influence and anything he says, no matter how small, has a large impact radius.

The second answer is also relatively easy to think about. When you have that much power and influence, that means that you have to be that much more careful with how you use your power and influence – a mistake from the powerless will do nothing, a mistake from the powerful means everything. The idea that because actions  are identical, they have the same moral standing is outlandish – no one thinks that. A child can bully another child and while it is wrong, it is not as wrong if, say, a teacher is bullying a student – the actions may be identical but the different power structures at play mean that one action (the teacher’s) is on a different moral standing.

What does this have to do with our definition of Propaganda? Everything.

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What is Propaganda? (Part 2)

So hopefully, now that we saw a brief overview of a fairly successful effect of Propaganda in part 1, we have convinced ourselves that, at least feasibility, there exists some form of Propaganda in America. The next question is, once you are aware that it exists, how the fcking hell is it even possible? People are not stupid, I am not stupid, you are not stupid, so how is it possible that we can be fooled to such an extent? I mean no one is talking about wild conspiracy theories, no one is talking about shady government figures watching our every move and brainwashing us with some advanced technology (Although with the recent NSA revelations… ).. what we are talking abut with Modern Propaganda is a far more natural thing, a thing that is fairly easily established by logic and fairly easy to prove with facts. So here, in this post, I want to give a brief, and probably boring but necessary, history of US propaganda.
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What is Propaganda? (part 1)

As someone who lives in America but is of Salvadorian dissent, I have noticed something. That most American Citizens are astonishingly uninformed about American Foreign Policies. Importantly, they are amazingly ignorant about their own  History of Militarism and Terrorism in regions like Latin America. If I talk to an American about what America has done and is still actively doing all over Latin America… most either won’t know, won’t care, or even worse still believe america is like Mother Teresa to all Latin America, and that Latin Americans are “too stupid” to understand just how “helpful” America is being. The third response is by far the most common response I have ever had, and this response is telling – it highlights a particular mentality Americans mostly share.. that they can not comprehend why the rest of the world “hates us” when we “do so much good.”

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Listening, Learning, and Language Modification.

It has been quite a while since I posted something on here. Outside factors continuously prevented me from staying committed to this new thing I am trying to do. (Blogging is hard because it is so time consuming to produce quality material regularly). However, I have not been slacking either.. instead of writing, I have been using my free time to listen and learn.

I have been reading about other forms of oppression that I do not have to face. My privileged status left me ignorant about various issues outside my own Salvadorian community. The effect of understanding the amount of ignorance I have on other issues has worked as a mitigating factor when it came to writing about those issues. I found myself wanting to share, but I also realized that I lacked the expertise needed to talk about these issues with any force or nuance. Sometimes it is better to just shut-up, listen and learn when you are part of the privileged group instead of voicing your opinion. All too often, the way privileged people voice opinions is to either act like authorities on issues in which they have no experience in, or to be mere mouthpieces of minorities they have been listening to. Desiring to be neither, I have opted simply to listen and learn. (Something many of us should try doing from time to time)

Now, as I did this, I was simultaneously educating myself about Human Psychology. In my profession, it helps tremendously to understand human behavior, because that knowledge helps to manage, deal with, and control a situation. Having “people skills” can help you get your message through with even the most resistant folks.

What I saw, was this underlying connection to the importance of Language Modification to get desired results. In every book I read, the main point and strategy in communication is acknowledging that your language matters. Language used, made all the difference to the impact your message had on the person you were trying to communicate with. In that, having good people skills/communication skills means knowing what to say, how to say it, and when to say it. If you were unwilling to modify your own language, then it meant that you were going to have trouble communicating with resistant people – and in my profession there are many. In a profession where you have to put the needs of your client above your own, having the ability to monitor and change your own language, in order to comfort your clients (getting them to a place were you need them to be), is the difference between a successful career and unsuccessful one. Because my profession requires me to make such accommodations daily, this has resulted in me using these same accommodations in my personal life. The career skills I learned have benefited me in my personal and social affairs, and as such, I have no resistance towards modifying my own language when I think it is appropriate. (Hint: In my blog, I use that I want, if I want to say fck or sht, since this is my space, I am ganna do it. Do not attempt to argue with me about my language on my blog.)

So here is the thing that hit me, one that I felt was interesting enough to write on my blog…. each and every time I entered minority spaces on social justice issues, in which, as a person of color, I was not one of the oppressed but rather one of the privileged (LGBTQ issues, anti-black race issues, mental illness issues, physical issues, feminist issues, womanist issues)… what I found was that each of these minority groups actively monitor the use of Language by privileged people. They look for trigger words that indicate this or that privileged person either has a lot to learn, or if they are not ready to engage minorities directly because they still voice biases and bigoted thoughts about minorities. Minorities also develop they own words and labels in which they feel comfortable with. They point to words that more accurately describe their lived experiences – often times they promote the use of these words in order to encapsulate their struggles. Needless to say, I am all for this. However, what I found interesting is that each time they monitored a privileged person language or tried to improve their verbal repertoire (which in effect humanize their experience that are often dehumanized by the larger society)… they were met with resistance every time. Nothing but privileged whining and nonsense about how, oh now they are the “real oppressed because someone wants them to use better words.

What kind of fking sht is this?

I mean, it really started to piss me off. How resistant can people be to simply using better words because the language they are presently using actually hurt the minority groups they spoke of. WTF is the issue? Why is it that cis people are so resistant to using accommodations like cis-male or trans-male? Why is it so hard to, when asked to refer to a trans-woman as a “her”, to use the word “her”? The world is ending because Transgender activists are actively trying to inform the public that they prefer you acknowledge the natural complexities of gender we have? Puhlease… This active resistance becomes really grotesque when privileged groups accuse minorities, who attempting to make space for themselves by adding humanizing language to their experiences, of being abusive or totalitarian. How fcking foolish do you have to be to not understand that words are important? How ignorant do you have to be to not understand that being adviced to use better words is not actually a form of oppression?

How can someone not understand that the words you use have an impact on what you are trying to say? I would think such an understanding is so trivial that even grade schoolers  understand the logic of such a view. Their resistance is… not just frustrating but also a form of aggression. This resistance, is actually a symptom of their privilege and is, in many cases, quite literally, active oppression. Oppression comes in many forms and in difference intensities, and in this case, peoples inability to and or refusal to simply modify one or two words when actively talking to minority groups (where words can be triggers), after being told, repeatedly, what word to use, is in fact dehumanized and oppressive.

When someone asks you to not use this word because it dehumanizes them, and tells you to use other words because it makes their experiences real (when often society likes to ignore their experiences)…. to not engage in such an activity, and to continue to use the word in question in their presence…. is plainly a move of oppression. It is telling someone “fck off, I can say whatever I want, and I am ganna say this to fck with you because you don’t mean sht to me. You are garbage, watch me make you powerless” Make no mistake, that is the massage that is sent.

When this is done by someone who is in the privileged position in society – someone that has enough social, political, economical power to shrug off the struggles of the other peoples – it is a step in active dehumanization. They use their status to say that this or that group is not worthy of such a trivial (on our part, not theirs )consideration. This rejection of language modification (which is easy to do) does in effect, undermine their human dignity. You see, if you can not even be bothered to use different fcking words, what does this say when the stakes are higher? When we are not just talking about the impact of words and asking you to use better ones, but instead talking about violence or built in societal inequalities? If you can’t even do that… do you think you are even going to engage in the other harder issues around that minority community?

The truth is that if privileged peoples don’t give a fck there… they ain’t ganna give a fck over there either. Instead their active and often aggressive resistance to using different words does a tremendous amount of emotional damage to the minorities in question. You see, it makes it that much harder to mobilize on other issues because they are being hurt, and burnt out on language issues. So yeah, if you refuse to take part in humanizing minority experiences by simply using better words – can’t stress that enough – then you are actively being an oppressor.