The masks are slipping part 2 or how can we going to counteract the heavy government propaganda we’ve all been subjected to for the last 5 or 6 years. When, like me, you talk so much to people who share your views, it’s very tempting to imagine that most people think the same as you do and it comes as a considerable shock to sit in on a conversation between people who honestly and trustingly believe what they have been told, as I did last week. They were all such well meaning people, happily agreeing that most politicians are honest and doing their best, and that most people cheat HMRC in order to put money by to support their children and grandchildren. The conversation was predominately cheerful and almost entirely based on political untruths. I moved away from it feeling very cast down.
The trouble is that propaganda is so easy and so powerful, Dr Goebbels said ‘if you tell a lie often enough, it becomes the truth,’ and when Hitler came to power he followed the repellent doctor’s advice to the letter. His first propaganda campaign led to the most hideous anti-Semitism and eventually and almost inevitably to the Holocaust. It began with a crude but deliberate vilification of the group of people who were going to have to carry the blame for everything that was wrong in Germany, like massive unemployment, poverty, poor pay and the general sense of defeat and depression that followed the first world war. Just take a look at the sort of posters Germans saw as they walked about their streets.
Hitler’s propaganda may have been crude, but it was still effective. It wasn’t long before Germans were beating Jews up in the streets, painting the Star of David on Jewish shops and breaking the shop windows and cheering as they were led away to the cattle trucks and the concentration camps.
It is sad to say that nowadays a scapegoat group is chosen by politicians in much the same way but with more subtle persuasion. I’ve watched several groups of people tarred as scapegoats in my own lifetime. When I was a child it was the Irish, in the ’50’s it was ‘blacks’, now it is ‘scroungers’ and ‘idlers’ and ‘hordes’ of refugees who have to be stopped before they can ‘flood’ over the borders and ruin our economy. There are people in our society now who are already blaming the chosen groups for the difficulties they face in a society completely under the power of the moneyed elite, who are of course, perfect and completely honest. All of which begs the very pertinent question, how on earth can we persuade people who have been given a lifetime of ‘perception programming’ that what they believe is based on falsehood?
Perhaps a deconstruction of Cameron’s speech to his faithful followers at The Grand Connaught Rooms might help. The man is a consummate liar and a skilful actor. He knows how to manipulate his audience. Lets watch him doing it.
First of all he said that of course he was going to apologise, but he didn’t actually say sorry that he was salting away so many millions, in his fathers offshore tax-haven. No, what he apologised for was that he had ‘handled it badly’ but that was because – cue for tug at the heart strings – he was so upset to see his father, whom he loved deeply, maligned. Oh sob, sob! Actually nobody had been maligning his father, what we were all interested in was how and why the man had salted away his vast fortune, so that he didn’t have to pay any tax on it. Having brushed that uncomfortable truth out of the way by ignoring it, our beloved PM played his next propaganda card. He said he took all the blame. Nobody was to blame his advisers – cue for us all to think what a fine and noble man he was to take the blame and let his advisers off the hook -. Actually nobody had ever blamed them, it was Cameron’s tax avoidance that we were, and still are, interested in. But no matter. His forehead shone with sweat and nobility. Then followed a passionate avowal that he hadn’t done anything illegal. Well of course you haven’t Dodgy Dave. After all, you and your friends in the house, make the law. Your actions are certainly immoral, selfish and greedy but not illegal.
But although I’m poking fun at this particular speech, the art of propaganda is not funny, it never was. And even when we’ve been watching it in full flow, it leaves us with the massive problem of trying to work out how to counteract it.