I've been meaning to post this for the past couple weeks, but I keep forgetting. I'm so tired of everyone throwing around the word "propaganda" for information or commentary with which they don't agree. I don't want to start another discussion about Fahrenheit 9/11, but in my original post on that film, I took a moment to actually define "propaganda." The word itself carries a negative connotation not because of its actual meaning but due to the way it has been used in the past, particularly in relation to the rise of Nazi Germany. For those still confused, "propaganda" does not mean the same thing as "lies," although "lies" may be used to create "propaganda." However when listening to any political pundit -- who, by the way, are spewing their own "propaganda" 99% of the time – the former is exactly the message conveyed.
A few weeks ago in the fantastic magazine The Week, Editor-in-Chief William Falk wrote a short but brilliant commentary about propaganda in which he states, "The only thing remarkable about (Michael) Moore's film, really, is that it's a film. He's just opening a new front in a war already raging on the airwaves, in print, and on the Web."
While I have loved the speeches of Edwards, Clinton and (especially) Obama, I won't hesitate to make the obvious point that this convention is primarily an infomercial, trying to sell John Kerry and the democrats with testimonials and demonstrations much as Ron Popeil shills his rotisserie oven. I barely remember the conventions of my youth, but stuff actually used to happen at them. Now, it's all preaching to the converted. It's all propaganda. And next month's RNC will be exactly the same thing: the cheering masses wearing stupid hats, carrying large signs and believing in every last utterance made by any speaker at the podium.
We encounter propaganda every single day on every talk radio show and almost every cable news network. The people yelling about Michael Moore's propaganda the most -- Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bob Novak, Bill O'Reilly, etc. -- are the ones who produce the majority of the propaganda floating around the national consciousness every day. I know some very conservative (and young!) Republicans, and I can't listen to them have a conversation about or reaction to any issue without simply hearing Rush's talking points. Do they listen to or read the other side's arguments before dismissing them? No. And that, in itself is propaganda at work. And sadly, the loudmouth liberal pundits – Paul Begala, James Carville, Donna Brazille – all do the exact same thing, making the same arguments utilizing virtually the exact same script.
Go read Falk's piece, and regardless of your political beliefs, keep all of this in mind not just when watching or listening to those with whom you agree, but also when you're rooting for your own side. And most of all, remember that calling someone else's argument propaganda is simply creating your own.