Essential for Citizens: Propaganda Literacy

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Tetsuo Arima Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, Waseda University

society_160905_01Tetsuo Arima writes: In Washington D.C., the capital of the United States, there is an attraction called the “Duck Tour.” It takes tourists on an amphibious vehicle to tourist spots on both sides of the Potomac River. As the vehicle nears the State Department building, the tour guide gives tourists a quiz. “Over there is the Voice of America, a network which broadcasts around the world. What is the only country that is not covered by this network?” When I participated in this tour, I was the first to raise my hand and answer, “America.” The tour guide made a sour face.

The U.S. government does not engage in propaganda toward Americans. Since the people choose representatives to form a government by democratic elections, the government should not lead its people to make wrong decisions by spreading propaganda. This is a basic principle of democracy. Countries such as China and North Korea, which do not practice democracy, control their populations with propaganda.

However, the U.S., which is a democracy, does engage in propaganda toward other countries. Even its allies are no exception. America, with huge “soft” power, has great influence on other countries, mainly through movies, TV programs, music and fashion, and also utilizes propaganda to the maximum extent. The tour guide must have been displeased because he realized I knew that.

Propaganda in the Information Age

We live in a highly digitized world today. The amount of information is growing exponentially, and many people believe unconditionally that more information is better. This is true if such information is true, unbiased and helps its recipients make sound judgments. But as the amount of information grows, so does the amount that is biased and false. In particular, in the borderless world of the Internet, if one continues to pursue related information, one can easily stray into propaganda sites established by various countries without knowing it.

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Readers believe that such information is interesting and useful, but its creators take the trouble to translate and present it in an effort to plant certain ideas and images in the reader’s mind. They expend great time and money to do so. Even smallish businesses spend huge amounts of money on public relations and commercials, so it is natural that major countries bring together elite propagandists, organize powerful state agencies, and give them enormous budgets in order to spread propaganda.

VOA, mentioned above, is one of those propaganda agencies. In fact, it is modeled after the British Broadcasting Corporation. The BBC has a strong image as a reputable public broadcaster, but it is also known to spread propaganda, especially during wartime. Nonetheless, it did not spread rumors, praise its country unreservedly, or slander enemy countries, unlike state-owned media in non-democratic countries. The BBC reported news strictly based on facts, but achieved enormous impact by broadcasting only the facts that were convenient to its country and inconvenient to hostile ones.

Soviet Five-Year Plan propaganda poster.

Soviet Five-Year Plan propaganda poster.

Responsibility of the mass media

In China, a non-democratic country which controls its people with propaganda, news presented by China Central Television (CCTV), a broadcaster run by the Communist Party, should be regarded as propaganda whether it targets domestic or foreign audiences. Of course CCTV also uses language which makes its content really sound like propaganda. The problem in Japan is that the mass media frequently repeat such propaganda as part of their news. Read the rest of this entry »


Sedução! Orgia! Escapar! Mass Escape from Brazilian Prison After Women Seduce Guards

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Police found a bag of lingerie and dominatrix police uniforms believed to have been worn by the escapees.

Twenty-eight inmates escaped from a Brazilian jail after three women in fantasy police costumes “seduced” prison wardens.

“From the moment they drank the whisky the agents don’t remember a thing. One was found dizzy, trying to wake up. Another slept for the whole afternoon and couldn’t even be questioned.”

Police found three wardens naked and handcuffed inside the Nova Mutum public jail, near Cuiaba, central Brazil, the morning after the mass break-out.

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Dozens of prisoners escape with weapons after wardens at Nova Mutum public jail, near Cuiaba in Brazil succumb to female temptation

The women reportedly drugged the prison guards by giving them spiked whisky after convincing them to take part in an orgy, according to investigators.

“The plan was to seduce them. They served them cheap whisky with some substance to knock them out, then unlocked the central gate which accesses the internal cells.”

Inmates then left the prison through the main doors, even taking with them guns and munitions they had taken from prison caches.

Police later found a bag of lingerie and dominatrix police uniforms believed to have been worn by the temptresses.

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Last night photos of one the naked wardens, believed to have been leaked by amused police officers who found him, had been shared thousands of times on social network sites.

The three women – one of them reportedly the girlfriend of one of the prisoners who escaped – arrived at the prison at three o’clock on Thursday morning and asked to be let inside to “chat and drink”, police said.

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The prison guards reportedly obliged and were soon persuaded to leave their posts, accompanying the girls to staff sleeping quarters.

After drugging the wardens the women handcuffed them, took their keys and unlocked all the prison’s cells, according to chief Angelina de Andrades Ferreira.

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She told a news conference: “The plan was to seduce them. They served them cheap whisky with some substance to knock them out, then unlocked the central gate which accesses the internal cells.”

“Whoever wanted to escape left by the front door.”

“From the moment they drank the whisky the agents don’t remember a thing. One was found dizzy, trying to wake up. Another slept for the whole afternoon and couldn’t even be questioned.”

The inmates took three 12 caliber rifles shotguns, two 38 caliber revolvers and munition, she said. Read the rest of this entry »


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