On Propaganda – Religion and Politics

Kurt's Religion and Politics

prop•a•gan•da prŏp″ə-găn′də

  • n. The systematic propagation of a doctrine or cause or of information reflecting the views and interests of those advocating such a doctrine or cause.
  • n. Material disseminated by the advocates or opponents of a doctrine or cause.
  • n. A committee of cardinals (Congregation de Propaganda Fide, ‘for propagating the faith’) which has the supervision of foreign missions in the Roman Catholic Church.

More at Wordnik from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

It’s a word that people love to hate. Propaganda.

I did a standard search on my favorite search engine (DuckDuckGo) for “propaganda definition” and got what you see above.

The fact is, based on this definition, pretty much everybody is likely to be guilty of disseminating propaganda at one time or another. For a very long time, I’ve heard various people talking about propaganda and insinuating the word was something that could only be used in a negative way.

When folks desire to say someone is trying to deceive people, it’s regularly stated they are a, “propagandist.”

Here’s the thing, some ideas are good, some are bad. Some are internally consistent, some broken.

The fact is though, you can “systematically propagate doctrine” that’s reasonable, true and correct.

Since that’s the case, the idea that someone is, “spreading propaganda” can be used as a way to try and invalidate what’s said. This, as I say, is based on the notion that propaganda is an inherently bad thing.

To me, this is something about which one should always be vigilant.

Assume for a moment, that an individual is prone to say things from a frame of reference with which you generally disagree. The immediate tendency would be to disqualify the statements of such person out of hand. But just because a speaker or writer is prone to speak from a particular viewpoint, doesn’t mean what he or she puts forth is always wrong.

That’s even true if the person is speaking from their normal place.

The decision of the validity or error of a given statement, should be made as a function of evaluating that statement.

If you decide the person is correct in what they’re saying, where they’re sending their message from isn’t necessary supremely relevant.

Many times, I’ve heard people from a progressive vantage point, make a statement or series thereof that were totally proper.

At some point, they may be prone to wander off the beaten track. Them doing so doesn’t invalidate what they got right.

This is the problem with allegations of propagandist activities; they can as easily be used to squash good, correct ideas as bad, errant ones.

It’s for this reason I advocate evaluating the words of others from a perspective that’s neither biased toward or away from them where possible.

I know this can be a hard thing to do. There are people who consistently demonstrate both truth and accuracy, as well as those who seem to be prone to lies and inaccuracy. That said, the one who’s consistently wrong can say something right and vice versa.

In fact, if this doesn’t periodically happen, you should be entirely amazed.

As a younger person, I would tend to assume the statements of an individual who typically appeared to be “out there,” to be wrong. Obviously, the contrary was also the case.

You need to know this is a very dangerous thing to support.

Just because a person doesn’t speak consistent truth, doesn’t mean they never will. And when they do, and you refuse to accept it, who’s being harmed?

This is why so many people argue for the idea of doing one’s due diligence.

Assuming rectitude or error is a very bad idea.

Here’s where things get tough. When you find you’re unable to make such assumptions, it means you have to take the time to evaluate whatever comes your way.

That seems hard until you begin to realize that, over the course of time, you come to know what you accept and why.

The result is, you end up more listening to what others say to find out what they accept and why. This is really the way things ultimately ought to be in any case.

That doesn’t make it an impossibility that you might learn from others along the way, this is a piece of critical evaluation as well.

You should be asking the question, “Am I correct in what I believe?” on a regular basis.

Very few things you hear (or say) in life cannot be checked for correctness on the fly. If somebody yells, “Duck!” chances are, you should do so; likewise if someone shouts, “Fire!”

For most things you’ll deal with though, you’ll have a good deal more time to react and respond.

Even better, people operate with incorrect viewpoints for years often with comparatively little effect.

That’s not to say they won’t possibly do themselves harm in the short term because of it, just that the harm done may not end up being all that serious.

So, having core beliefs about things that are emergent in nature that you can fall back on is totally sensible; though you should be willing to question them too, most particularly when you’re not in those touchy situations.

On the other hand, recognizing that a given circumstance doesn’t require an immediate response, gives you the time to consider what you believe, why, and how it compares to what others bring to the table.

Put another way, don’t be afraid to question what you believe when people are not going to suffer immediate harm if you do so.

The hope is that you’ll find you’re correct more often than not; the older you are, the more likely that’ll be the case. That considered though, if you’re willing to examine things again, you may find flaws in your outlook.

So in the long run, people yelling “Propagandist!” may not be something you should totally ignore, but it is something you should be wary of. People doing so likely have a vested interest in your not believing what the supposed purveyor of propaganda is saying—whether it’s valid or not.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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