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The people of the United States invested a large chunk of tax dollars to the cause of teaching me Russian. In exchange for that money I was required to read Soviet periodicals and books, to listen to Soviet radio, and to watch Soviet films and television. After almost eight years of doing that, I know something about propaganda.

If you want an easier path to understanding propaganda, just look at press releases of any kind, from any organization. You will almost never see a purely informational press release, even if it is to announce an informational report. How many times have you compared the press release with the report and discovered they have “buried the lede” to convince you that the report says something it doesn’t?

To truly be propaganda, the purpose must be to alter the truth. Advocacy is not automatically propaganda, if you are “advocating” the truth. The most blatant propaganda substitutes opinion for facts. The purpose of propaganda is to alter the truth and hide the facts to further a goal.

Every segment of the political spectrum resorts to propaganda to convince you that their candidates have the answers to all of the world’s problems. It isn’t all that difficult to separate fact from opinion.

Fact checking is the easiest way of determining if someone is an advocate or a propagandist. If their facts are true and they clearly separate facts from opinion in their writing, they aren’t writing propaganda.

The form or media does not determine whether something is propaganda. The qualifications of the writer do not determine whether something is propaganda. The causes supported or protested do not determine whether something is propaganda.

To simply label a mass of people that you don’t know, many of whom you haven’t read, based on their mode of expression and perceived political bias, as propagandists is intellectually lazy and, in fact, is the special subset of propaganda known as stereotyping.


1 BadTux { 05.06.07 at 11:24 am }

That said if, for example, 3 out of 5 Fox News anchors engaged in propaganda while you were sampling their offerings, you would be well served by simply assuming that all Fox News anchors are propagandists. On average you will be correct.

2 Bryan { 05.06.07 at 1:42 pm }

Ah, but you are actually taking a large, meaningful sample, gathering facts.

The problem is that too many of the “traditional media” would look here, your place, NTodd’s, and Steve Bates, and pronounce that bloggers are liberal to libertarian, computer geeks, former or current teachers who are associated with cats. Think about it, as a group we cover both coasts and the South. Throw in Melanie at Just a Bump and you have DC covered.

When you are cherry picking, you can get any answer you want.