This is the first in a series of posts that Deb Galentine has offered to provide and it not only establishes the context for the series but provides a call to action. These are days in which we need to accept that there are facts within the current chaos but its our duty to discern them. That requires work, the last thing in the world anyone should be doing is re-posting or retweeting information without vetting it. Active measures propaganda is a reality, from multiple sources – accept it, deal with it, denial of that fact is a form of surrender. I’ll be continuing with interim posts on historically familiar subjects, leaving Deb to lead you through the social media warfare that has become part of daily life in the early 21st Century.
I offer sincere thanks and appreciation to Larry Hancock for this blog, for his books, and for his dedication to truth in history. In this age of “Alternate Facts,” we depend on people like Larry who spend their lives digging for historical accuracy just as surely as we rely on our Free Press to accurately report current events every day. Democracy requires truth, and truth dies in darkness. Truth thrives in the light of free, logical, and rational thought, and the free exchange of ideas.
Some of the darkest days of our country occurred when our political system buried or obscured truth. Consider the 1960’s and ’70’s during the Vietnam War when our governments’ guiding mantra became “Winning the Hearts and Minds of the Vietnamese People.”
“Winning hearts and minds”— making people think what governments need people to think— wasn’t a new idea in the ’60’s. In 1933, Adolph Hitler appointed Paul Joseph Goebbels his Reich Minister of Propaganda. Goebbels proved himself one of the greatest purveyors of biased and misleading political information. He controlled and censored all information outlets— books, film, literature, art, music, news— and he preached hate against all targeted groups, including Jews, Gypsies, Black people, Gays, millions of whom were exterminated. Still, Goebbels helped Hitler capture the hearts and minds of the German people who adored and supported Hitler and the pride he gifted them through his ethno-nationalism brand of governing.
After WWII and during the Cold War, our own government fought for the hearts and minds of We the People of the United States of America to fortify our nation against the doomsday weapon that our government created— the Nuclear Bomb. Our leaders devised a detailed and systematic program, overseen by psychiatrists and the newly-created CIA, to make Americans so fearful of the USSR (“The Red Menace”) and their possession of nuclear weapons that we would cheer the spending of millions upon millions of dollars to dot the US landscape with “defensive” nuclear warheads. School children learned the “duck and cover” routine and regularly practiced it to the tune of air raid sirens. Our government-produced propaganda gilded the effort by painting nuclear war as dangerous, but survivable. https://youtu.be/IKqXu-5jw60
Families built fall-out shelters in backyards. Those who couldn’t foot the bill for underground living lined their basement shelves with canned goods, water, and toilet paper in preparation for the sure-to-come nuclear winter. The US government regularly pumped black and white Civil Defense films to our televisions. Their intent was to create fear. They succeeded.
A 1950’s Civil Defense film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcTxipBP2Kk
Many of the children who grew up under the threat of the mushroom cloud learned not to expect to live past the age of thirty, especially when the Vietnam War saw the draft reinstituted. This fear prompted the youth during the late 1960’s and early ‘70’s to develop a philosophy of “Tune In, Turn On, and Drop Out.” They had been so marinated in fear, cynicism, and disillusionment, many of them abandoned hope for tomorrow. Drugs helped them escape their fears, even if only temporarily. Propaganda frequently produces unexpected negative consequences.
Winning the hearts and minds of the American people to spend massive amounts of money on excessive defense measures didn’t end in the ‘70’s. President Ronald Reagan made exceptional use of the Hollywood-produced film “The Morning After” (1983) to bolster his propaganda about the enormous threat emanating from the USSR: https://youtu.be/Iyy9n8r16hs
The movie intended to portray Nuclear War as an unwinnable and disastrous extreme. However, Reagan used the movie to advance his case for his Star Wars Defense Initiative meant to thwart a nuclear strike from the USSR by destroying their missiles in the air before reaching our country.
All around the globe, propaganda has served as a useful tool for those who desire to spin world views. Nicaragua. 1986: “The Sandinista Regime …has [pushed] its main propaganda themes: The United States is a military aggressor, the opposition is illegitimate, and the Sandinistas are committed to political pluralism.” (“The Nicaraguan Externals Propaganda Apparatus: Diminishing Returns,” 1986. An Intelligence Assessment, Central Intelligence Agency, Sanitized Release, 11/18/2011. https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP97R00694R000600520001-7.pdf )
The perpetrators of propaganda leave the average person trying to decide who relays the facts— those identified as propagandists or those who point accusing fingers at so-called propagandists. In other words, “How do we know who tells us the truth?”
Sorting through today’s mind-boggling array of political propaganda makes everyone’s heads hurt. Without all the information in hand, we sometimes find ourselves feeling as if we are wandering through dark mazes filled with racial nonsense, chaos, half-truths, disinformation and distrust. In defense, we carry our own shields of pre-conceived ideas and personal biases before us.
While we think we know what we believe, we may become confused. We begin to doubt who or what to believe. We may distrust what we thought we knew. Or, we may cling steadfastly to what we thought to be true, no matter what evidence we find presented to the contrary. We argue. Discussions grow contentious. We fight. And we tend to fight and bicker a whole bunch on “Social Media”— the newest, latest, greatest tool of the most accomplished propagandists the world has ever produced.
The accomplished propagandists use active measures specifically designed to create the fighting, the division, and the chaos that we’ve all witnessed (or been a part of) on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms. Their goal in these battles (infighting that they typically cause) remains winning our hearts and minds over to what they want us to believe; they want us to distrust what we believe to be true about ourselves, our country, our government and each other.
They want us to be afraid— afraid of each other, our government, the people next door. They want us to be afraid of gun owners or so afraid that we believe we should purchase a gun. They want us to eventually become so confused and over-burdened by all the noise and hostility and fear and chaos that we cease to care. Being too much to cope with, we tune out to calm ourselves. We learn not to watch what’s going on in the news, in our government, our country, our cities, our churches, our schools, our streets, and maybe even our homes.
Once we reach that point, they win. Therefore, our number one tool remains— Resistance. We must do everything within our power to resist efforts to make us fearful, to doubt who we are and that in which we believe. We must resist believing that for which there are no verifiable facts.
Dr. Sarah Kendzior, expert on Russia, authoritarian regimes and their use of the Internet in undermining public trust and manipulating the media, wrote an important essay shortly after the 2016 election. I urge you to read it and consider doing as she recommends to remain strong and alert. https://thecorrespondent.com/5696/were-heading-into-dark-times-this-is-how-to-be-your-own-light-in-the-age-of-trump/1611114266432-e23ea1a6
Today’s propagandists have embraced and improved upon Joseph Goebbels’ techniques. They use the Internet in previously inconceivable ways. They’re crafty. Difficult to detect. Persuasive. And they can be quite charming.
So, you might want to know “Who are They?”
“They” are what I’ll write about with my next posting.