Essential for Citizens: Propaganda Literacy

painting-propaganda-1942

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 »


[VIDEO] SpaceX Launches: 4K Footage

Enjoy SpaceX launch footage in Ultra HD 4K. All footage used in this video was shot in 4K. If your connection is slow, toggle to 1080 HD for smoother playback.


Sell Your Kid into Slavery, Buy a TV

Best. Amazon. Review. Ever. From this morning’s G-File, Jonah Goldberg‘s browser history is a lot funnier than mine. This is an actual Amazon review. Hit the more button for more.

[Amazon.com: Samsung 85-Inch 4K Ultra HD 120Hz 3D Smart LED UHDTV ]

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“My wife and I bought this after selling our daughter Amanda into white slavery. We actually got a refurbished. It’s missing the remote, but oh well– for $10K off, I can afford a universal, right? The picture is amazing. I’ve never seen the world with such clarity.

Amanda, if you’re reading this, hang in there, honey! We’ll see you in a year.”

[you know you want to buy this TV, as a bonus, it’ll really, really help support this site]

I just wanted to add an addendum to my review. Since posting it, we have received a flood of responses. People have said some pretty hurtful things–even questioning our values. Let me assure you, this was not an easy decision to make, and we made it as a family. Obviously, it’s very personal. But in light of all the second-guessing, I wanted to explain our thinking.

First and foremost, screen size. I really think you can’t go too big. 85″ may seem huge, but you get used to it fast. Second, resolution. Is 4K overkill? Please, that’s what they said about 1080P! More dots = better. Period. And as far as this being a $40,000 “dumb” TV, people need to re-read my initial post: WE BOUGHT IT REFURBISHED. It was only $30,000…

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