“Who does not know the truth is simply a fool, yet who knows the truth and calls it a lie is a criminal.”
- Bertol Brecht
- Bertol Brecht
Since January 23rd, 2017 I have spent a majority of my free time researching propaganda and media censorship across history and the globe. While this was not a new concept for me to look at, as reading about current events has been a habit I’ve maintained since early on in high school, I decided to devote more of my time to the topic in the form of an independent study. I’ve been extremely fortunate to be supported by Stephen Scherer in this project, as his perspective on global events, and his eye for design, helped keep me on target as well as encouraged me to always go deeper in my questions.
As I’ve done all this, I’ve discovered that propaganda is when a government or individual goes too far. Propaganda is a way of providing stability within a nation by displaying centripetal forces within a state. These forces can unify the whole country or select groups based on the information displayed. It is meant to downplay the issues within the nation and promote unity. In another fashion it can also be a unifying factor against opposite beliefs. It can confirm and further negative opinions of other people, groups, ways of life, or beliefs by demonizing them. These are both biased and can offer slanted information effectively to populaces that may have certain beliefs already.
Propaganda is characterized by the involvement of ideas or beliefs, which are being spread through imagery as a substitutive or implied language. These messages can be honest, or subversive, but are always goal oriented. Often it is emotionally charged and appeals to a logic that stems from emotional reactions
People seem to have a morbid curiosity with knowing about the negative events in the world. They are satisfied knowing the who, what, where, when, why, and how - but they often don’t care enough to see the resolution. They like to know the dirt, the inciting factors, who is most wrong. We, humans, care about our friends - but we really want to know what’s wrong with our enemies.
Keeping that in mind, we need to consider the way the media and governments present us with the news. The news is often told in a narrative format which keeps long term attention, and allows for exaggeration and other literary elements to be included, which can garner emotional investment or outrage. Both the media and the government give information after they set their agendas, frame their point of view, and prime the materials
When considering contemporary propaganda we must look at our contemporary international leaders. I researched Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan the President of Turkey, and President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. Each are unique in their ways of dealing with media and propaganda, but there is also the thread of connection between their actions and one another. All must be evaluated separately, but in understanding that the current state of the world does not allow for their policies to only affect internal events.
One major event threads all these leaders together, the Syrian Civil War. Each is intimately involved in the movement of refugees and supporting the change within the country, what kind of change they desire to see differs in all of them. While I evaluate the influence of media and propaganda in their governments, it was important to note how that media related to the Syrian war, as the large migration of people can hardly be ignored. Angela Merkel has taken in an unprecedented number of refugees, as has Erdoğan. Erdoğan has also rehabilite the injured, stabilize areas in Syria that the healthy can return to, and supported the overturn of the Assad regime. Bashar al-Assad has been a contentious leader in the international community due to the length of the civil war, and the human rights issues that have occured.