Western “propaganda”?

Though most Westerners would undoubtedly reject the idea, there is a conception at the political level in many non-Western countries, notably China, that the role of propaganda in the West is just as important as anywhere else. It is just very subtle, and much more successful.

But is this idea really so ridiculous? Certainly, Western media lack many of the characteristics that we associate with propaganda. (Just to be clear, in China propaganda is not a negatively loaded word.) By contrast, the West has a free press that is not controlled by any one centralized power or strict ideology. There is unhindered discussion and debate. But there are, many will argue, many strong consensuses, as well as a desire to conform to political correctness. Does this, without us noticing, mean that media installs us with biases and presuppositions?

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8 Comments

Filed under media, Religion & Ideology

8 responses to “Western “propaganda”?

  1. I find that most of the news coverage in the U.S. operates by eliminating most dissenting opinions from view altogether. For instance, when politicians or journalists debate the use of torture, the question is always whether or not it is effective. Will it get information? Will that information be reliable? Will it create more enemies for the U.S. in the future? Simply from watching the news coverage, you would never think that many Americans find torture immoral and repellent, regardless of whether it “works.”

    That’s why I find John Stewart so refreshing. He often manages to cut through the terrible phrasing of an issue to reveal what’s going on beneath the rhetoric.

  2. What you’re saying is interesting – especially in the light of the case of Bradley Manning (http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/03/201139154141620744.html). I’m not proposing that in the West we have “true” propaganda – but there certainly is a culture that exhibits certain elements that are questionable. Presenting facts selectively is a common propaganda tactic.

  3. Even in the West it never used to be a negative word before WW2. If propaganda is used to encourage young people to vote, or if a poster promoting a good work morale is hung up in an office, I don’t think many people would think of it as negative.

    In China, propaganda strongly emphasises social harmony, which is logical when thinking about both China’s philosophical legacy, and how much internal strife the country went through during the 20th century. It is hard to imagine China working so well today without propaganda that encourages people that it is good to sacrifice some things for the greater good of the country.

    So I don’t think of propaganda as all bad, even if some perverted cases like Nazi Germany or North Korea have destroyed its reputation. It’s a bit like the word “rhetoric” I guess, which used to be a positive word as well.

  4. Marlin

    I wonder about what you wrote about propaganda not being negatively loaded word in China. Propaganda means trying to make other people think and believe in a cause, not by making them choose for themselves,but making them believe without making an independent choice. How can this not be negative no matter where in the world you are? Propaganda means no choice, no own thinking. How can lack of freedom to choose your own opinion be anything but negative? If it`s not negative loaded word, who decided it to be positive? The government? The people who spread the propaganda? If so, it just states the fact that its neagtive, or what?

  5. Marlin

    Interesting thoughts. I agree if the post make the person vote it may be positive, but if it is only one choice and only one post, then it is not positive. We are making the person only having two choises; vote for us or dont vote, we will win and decide anyway! If there are multiple choices then i wont think of it as propaganda, because there are different opinions and you can choos what you think is right. I still think that only telling some facts to make peoople think in a certain way and restricting the information is negative, it is lack of freedom. Like China who wont let the people learn what they like to e.g. by restricting internet access. Restricting the information to make people having fewer choises and to not know of the other choises! Today the word is negative, we demand more and more freedom to choose our own opinions. Don`t you agree? Look at Libya, Egypt.. Very interesting subject you brought up!

  6. I don’t think it’s in the nature of propaganda to force people to do anything, just to influence them. Ultimately you do what you think it’s right, propaganda is only designed to present loaded messages to impact your emotions.

    Thank you for your comment, because you’ve inspired me to write a post about China, which I’ll upload tomorrow=)

  7. Pingback: An Illegal War in Libya | bigbluebelle

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