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

Category: US Foriegn Policy

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 ┬áHistory 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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A Sociological Framework Around US Media

So I have been talking about social forces and implicit bias, describing how culture has the ability to impact our lives and points of views – often times more than we would like or be aware of. Now, if you are up on your social justice game and are culturally aware.. you are also going to see how easily this analysis holds when we analyze things like, US Foreign Policy and Corporate Media. Meaning, you are going to have a really good ability to spot BS – or as intellectuals like to call it, the ability to spot “modern propaganda” directed at you.

Now, modern propaganda is a term that is really mis-understood. When people see this term, they usually role their eyes and think that anyone who says it, must be a cooky conspiracy theorist. The reality is though, that modern propaganda is real – read Noam Chomsky’s Manufactured Consent if you want your mind blown. It does not take the form of shadowy figures controlling the world through subliminal messages.. that is just Hollywood donkey piss. (subliminal messages actually do not have a strong scientific bases, and their effects, when measured, are actually pretty trivial. Of the studies that measure an effect, a lot of them have technical issues such as sample size or selection bias)

The reality is that supraliminal messages, live advertising or movies or news, has a much larger impact radius which can be, and often is used (see the success of american anti-cigarette campaigns), to change cultural pressures. Modern propaganda is not some fool-proof way to actually brainwash someone… what is instead, is the outcome of various social pressures. It is a naturally occurring phenomenon due to social structures built around US ┬ámedia. The various social pressures we have already explored through racism, sexism, homophobia.. etc… Those same social pressures that we accept can have impact on us… are the same social forces that can be used to shape what we call “modern propaganda.”

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American Hypocrisy

A while back I read manufactured consent – by Noam Chomsky. The material was the densest material I ever read, and it took me a while to get through. However, by the end of the book… Chomsky gave me a sociological framework to use when I view mass media reports. I figured that everyone needs to read his book, because too many times do we all lack a fundamental perspective necessary to be able to evaluate propaganda when we see it.

Recently, I was thinking about all this in relation to the Syria situation that is all over the press. It really has made me reflect on my readings from Chomsky. Two readings in particular stand out to me – one from Manufactured Consent and the other from Hegemony or Survival.

The first was about events that happened after the Vietnam war. In the book, during a section where Chomsky was highlighting the moral absurdity of the American press and the American government, he gave a stunning example of “why do they hate us?” mentality that some unaware people in power have and propogate.

He highlighted the depths of American hypocrisy in a spectacular fashion…. So…. Let’s take a look!

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