First, a short story. As a boy, I lived in New Jersey, across the street from a professional violinist. During warm weather, I often sat in his backyard, listening to him practice. Years later, my wife, and I, were sightseeing near my old home and we stopped in to visit my, now retired, friend. “I was just playing when you arrived,” he said. I begged him to play something for us. He refused, saying, “Nowadays, I play for my own amazement.”
Recently, I resigned from the task of trying to convince people that our nation’s overriding problem is special interest money corrupting our elected representatives, and that voting as a path to improvement is obsolete and will remain so until the corruption problem is destroyed. I attribute my failure to the pervasive power of propaganda.
How can it be, I wondered, that intelligent, educated people can be so emotionally involved in the endless battle between left and right that they can’t see the futility of a win-lose attack and ignore problems that are taking our nation ‘down the tubes’—problems that predate today’s hot issues?
I’ve learned a few things about propaganda:
It appeals primarily to our emotions.
We live with it in almost every aspect of our lives.
It’s not always bad—a means of putting lies over on the ignorant and uneducated. For example, images of children are often used by charities to raise money for the oppressed.
Once we’re emotionally committed, we find it extremely difficult to change our minds, even when presented with, verifiably true, new evidence.
In politics, it’s always used by the other side. My party fights back with information. The occasional slip into hyperbole is justified—the ends justify the means—especially when the other side fights dirty.
In an earlier essay, I wrote that America’s left and right are irreconcilable and that one cannot defeat the other and that democracy is the only form of government designed to manage our situation. We need to reclaim ours.
For democracy to work we need to recognize that there are shortcomings on our side and be willing to change. Further, we need to listen—really listen and incorporate some of the other side’s thinking into our combined solutions.
P.S. I recognize that many of those on my list rarely read these essays and that many of those who do read through the filter of their own opinions. That’s okay, nowadays I write for my own amazement.