I find propaganda to be phenomenon that’s simultaneously fascinating and infuriating. I view myself as a propagandist, of a sort, in that I try to use rhetoric and evidence to influence people. But the vast majority of propaganda that’s out in the world is created or boosted by extremely powerful people and governments, all with their own agendas. They also seem to all be some degree of malicious, working to hide truths and spread lies, in amongst the facts they choose to recognize. Someone’s lying about everything so loudly and with so much conviction that it makes it incredibly difficult to tell what’s going on in the world. Often the best we can do is try to find sources we can trust, and keep a close eye on what they choose to ignore, or how they misrepresent things. My personal go-to has been to look at how a source talks about issues on which I believe I have enough expertise to tell fact from fiction, but that’s far from foolproof. It’s a vexing problem, and it’s one that will not be going away any time soon.
Another general rule I have is to consider historical parallels. I’m in the “history doesn’t repeat, but it often rhymes” camp, and my hope for changing the kind of poem we’re in relies on understanding the structure of things as they have been. That’s why I’m grateful to people like Dan of Three Arrows, for digging into history on topics like this
The video goes over the use and abuse of propaganda leading up to, and during World War 1, covering lies countries told their own people, lies people and publications told each other, lies they told everyone else, and the corrupting effect those lies had not just directly, but also indirectly on people’s ability to believe in future reporting. In particular, this video frames WW1 as the first media war, in which global communication networks spread lies to global audiences, and fabricated false realities for large segments of humanity. That has been more or less the norm ever since, and from what I can tell it’s only gotten worse in my lifetime. Hindsight isn’t flawless, but it can provide a perspective that I think is extremely important in dealing with the world as it is.