Propaganda in AmerikaSubmitted by grumpy on Wed, 01/28/2009 - 15:53
This is a cool article I just accidently ran across.....
Propaganda: Nobody Does It
Better Than America.
by Paul Weber
Over the years, I have had the privilege of meeting and having discussions with people who came to America from countries known for their adherence to totalitarianism: China, Russia, and former east European satellites of the Soviet Union. When we discussed how the state managed to control public opinion under totalitarianism, these people would usually produce a weary, knowledgeable, cynical smile and point out that propaganda in those countries was really done quite incompetently. If you really want to know propaganda, they said, you need to study American propaganda technique. According to them, it is, undeniably, the best in the world.
"How can that be?" I asked, honestly puzzled.
Propaganda in those countries was too obvious, they told me. As soon as you read the first sentence you knew it was a bunch of propaganda, so you didn’t even bother to read it. If you heard a speech, you knew in the first few words that it was propaganda, and you tuned it out.
"But," I then queried, "How do you know when it’s just propaganda?"
The expatriates explained that bad propaganda uses obvious terminology that anyone can see through. Anyone hearing the phrase "capitalist running dogs", knows he’s listening to incompetent propaganda and tunes it out. Lousy propaganda, these knowledgeable but jaded individuals would tell me, appeals to an abstract theory, to a rational thesis that can be disproved. Even though communists had total control of the press, the people just tuned it out (except for those who were the most mentally defective). Most people, they assured me, just went about their lives as best they could, paid lip service to the state, and just tried to keep out of the way of the secret police. But hardly anyone really believed the stuff. The result, after many decades of suffering, was the eventual collapse of the old order once The Great Leader expired, whether his name was Brezhnev, Mao, or Tito.
American propaganda, however, is much cleverer. American propaganda, they patiently explained, relies entirely on emotional appeals. It doesn’t depend on a rational theory that can be disproved: it appeals to things no one can object to.
American propaganda had its birth, so far as I can tell, in the advertising industry. The pioneers of advertising—a truly loathsome bunch—learned early on that people would respond to purely emotional appeals. Abstract theory and logical argument do nothing to spur sales. However, appeals to sexiness, to pride of ownership, to fear of falling behind the neighbors are the stock in trade of advertising executives. A man walking down the street with beautiful women hanging on his arms is not a logical argument, but it sure sells after-shave. A woman in a business suit with a briefcase, strolling along with swaying hips, assuring us she can "bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, but never let you forget you’re a man" really sells the perfume.