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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