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  1. #1
    Tenured roisterer SolitaryWalker's Avatar
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    Default A plea for political propaganda

    My thesis is straight-forward, some degree of political propaganda is desirable in order to devise a social-political system that is the most conducive to the happiness of the most individuals possible.

    Many of us are familiar with the idea and associate it with the famous doctrine of a Noble lie which has been initially introduced Plato and recently advocated by Levi Strauss. Frequently, the proponents of this view are reviled as dishonest because most people feel insulted when they are lied to. However, very few would argue that lying is insulting under all circumstances as most parents lie to their children for the welfare of their children. The justification that they would provide is that the person being lied to is not mature enough to handle the truth.

    For this reason, knowingly communicating false information to children is acceptable and doing the same to adults is not. I propose that the line between the two is much less clear than conventional people tend to imagine. Although I agree that immature people should be lied to and mature should not be, I do not see any reason to believe that most adults are mature enough to handle the truth.

    This leads us to ask the fundamental question regarding what exactly it means to be mature enough in order to handle the truth, or what it means to be mature to begin with. Mature people, as a general rule are responsible, reliable and self-sufficient. Most adults can be described as such with regard to their job, their duties as citizens, duties to their community and a variety of other tasks that do not require a formiddable intelligence. However, their minds are decidedly immature. Most adults learn very little in school and pursue education strictly to the end of acquiring a higher social standing or a more materially comfortable life. They memorize whatever they must to pass the exam with no concern for the fact that they will forget almost everything within months. Surely they retain some skills that they need in order to work proficiently, however they perform the skills not due to their insightful, analytical or creative thinking, but by virtue of route memorization and mindless physical work. Consider the tasks handled by a conventional businessman, accountant, clerk or a salesperson. In almost all of these occupations, one may succeed by merely memorizing a short list of operations and ensuring that is ingrained within one's mind by practicing it consistently. Innovation and critical evaluation of a currently accepted way of functioning is frequently discouraged and very few conventional businessman have either the ambition or opportunity to pursue new ideas. For this reason it is not at all surprising that senility and the Alzheimer's disease are common threats to most senior citizens.

    ------------------------------------------------------------

    Why would we wish to communicate the truth about to a mature person? Obviously for a variety of reasons and I may list only a few. Clearly, this world is a troubled place and many problems that we are painfully aware of lack a clear solution. It is desirable for sharp minds to assist us in the endeavor of furnishing the much needed solution. In addition to the social problems, people benefit from knowing themselves and their circumstances. Instead of acting on whim like mere animals, knowledgeable individuals can be clearly aware of what they desire from life and the precise course of action they must embark upon to receive what they wish for.

    Why is it a mistake to communicate the truth to an immature individual? Because the person in question not only will fail to understand what has been said to him, but he will also abuse the knowledge. For example, many religious zealots misunderstood the teaching of their masters and massacred millions. The following is even a more down to earth example. We all may conceive of a typical Elemetary School teacher who heard about terrorist attacks across the country in the year of 2001. In his fear for his own life and that of his pupils, he may an advocate a very cautious and a fearful approach to life. He may preach to the children that they would always be best served if they never spoke to any person who has not been invited to dinner by his parents. Not only should the child do this, but he should also be very apprehensive about the motives of others and trust only if it is manifest that the person is not a killer.

    The impressionable young minds may have been led to develop a deeply cynical view of people and an extremely apprehensive approach to life. This could be the first step to robbing the children of their natural youthful exuberance. Because the early years tend to carry a great influence with regard to how the life of a person is shaped, it is conceivable that the children will become timid adults because of the work of this teacher. How was the teacher intellectually immature? He failed to properly analyze the events that he was informed of. He comitted the fallacy of composition by deducing the conclusion that all people are dangerous from the premise that some are. Namely, he thought that all people may behave like terrorists because very few did. If it was the case that his community was fraught with criminal activity, his maxims would indeed be highly desirable. The case was far from such, criminality occurred thousands of miles away from where he lived and it was unlikely for his students to inhabit areas where criminality is rife.

    To look for more of such examples we need not rewind any further than the aforementioned year of 2000 or 2001. Many of us do remember the host of irrational fears that plagued this country with regard to the Y2K calamity and possible terrorist acts. The irrational journalists, media propagandists and their viewers have been allowed freedom of thought and expression which granted them to full right to blow the situation out of proportion. Certainly it was not for the better or for the welfare of the human race as a whole.

    What is the alternative to this? Obviously, we do not wish to regress to Plato's theory of Philosopher kings, Communism, Fascism or any totalitarian ideology. Political authorities who have full control with regard to what individuals of their community may and may not do or say are known to become corrupt. This is the basic problem of watching the watcher.

    In the typical totalitarian system, there are three groups of communicators. Number one consists of the well informed and the powerful who know the truth and deceive the simpletons. In the other, self-explanatorily, the simpletons who neither know the truth nor are aware that they are deceived. The third are those who are not in the first group, yet are insightful enough to understand that the authorities continuously attempt to deceive them. They must believe that if they are to lie under certain circumstances, ensuing punishments will be dire.

    A certain bureau must supervise the leading politicians, analogously to how the Congress and the Senate (in some cases) may supervise the president by forcing him to follow a contract. The politicians must not lie to this bureau, however, they shall be encouraged to deceive the masses. Journalists must not be prohibited from communicating freely, because otherwise, the common man will be led to believe that the United States is no longer an open society. However, if the prominent political figures make an effort to consistently propagate a set of certain views that are false but beneficial to society, they may prevail over the journalists. Or they may convince the masses that they should be believed and not the journalists.

    The reliance on useful fictions should be minimal. They should be used with great caution and seldomly. The main purpose of such political propaganda is to eradicate false beliefs regarding the Y2K, fear of Anthrax, the likelihood of terrorist attacks and so on. If this strategy is overemployed, some political groups may create an atmosphere that yields the 'matrix effect', or a mass delusion. This is dangerous because false beliefs may inspire one to act in a way that is completely irrelevant to the immediate circumstances and great harm may be done. The behavior of young men who believe that acts of terrorism grants access to heaven is a dramatic case in point. In short, this engenders fanaticism which holds the power to justify a variety of attrocities. With consideration regarding the level of sophistication of the current military technology, it is not at all unlikely that the attrocities in question may engender greater massacres than those that Hitler's name is associated with. Inevitably, a reality check is necessary. However, the ethical maxim regarding the desirability of the truth in all cases is uncongenial. There is such a thing as a noble lie and I do not think that it is at all invidious.

    Scholars should be invited to perform a specific political function: namely devising the relevant useful fictions and supplying them to the bureau that supervises the leading politicians of the nation. The bureau and the politician will hold a discussion where a plan will be concocted with regard to why, how, where and why the politicians will propagate the messages of the 'noble lie'.
    "Do not argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level and beat you with experience." -- Mark Twain

    “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”---Samuel Johnson

    My blog: www.randommeanderings123.blogspot.com/

  2. #2
    Sniffles
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    Odd I had a thought about this exact topic earlier. All I can say it that any real system has to be based upon truth, not lies - however "noble" they maybe.

  3. #3
    AKA Nunki Polaris's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SolitaryWalker
    My thesis is straight-forward, some degree of political propaganda is desirable in order to devise a social-political system that is the most conducive to the happiness of the most individuals possible.
    Sorry, but I stopped reading here. I don't agree that the purpose of a government is to make me or anyone else happy. Any government that would try to do so would become the individual's worst enemy. In order to make as many people happy as possible, each person would have to sacrifice his own happiness and fix every ounce of his will on bringing his neighbors as much pleasure as he can. He would be able to achieve his own happiness in that context alone, for anyone who tried to seek personal happiness at the cost of the collective would have to be eliminated: such a person would destroy far more happiness than he would generate. The only people in such a world who would be able to enjoy true freedom would be those rare individuals who want nothing except to serve their fellows.

    A little off-topic, I know, but a Utilitarian government is the basis for your argument.
    [ Ni > Ti > Fe > Fi > Ne > Te > Si > Se ][ 4w5 sp/sx ][ RLOAI ][ IEI-Ni ]

  4. #4
    Tenured roisterer SolitaryWalker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peguy View Post
    Odd I had a thought about this exact topic earlier. All I can say it that any real system has to be based upon truth, not lies - however "noble" they maybe.
    Why is that?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nunki View Post
    Sorry, but I stopped reading here. I don't agree that the purpose of a government is to make me or anyone else happy. Any government that would try to do so would become the individual's worst enemy. In order to make as many people happy as possible, each person would have to sacrifice his own happiness and fix every ounce of his will on bringing his neighbors as much pleasure as he can. He would be able to achieve his own happiness in that context alone, for anyone who tried to seek personal happiness at the cost of the collective would have to be eliminated: such a person would destroy far more happiness than he would generate. The only people in such a world who would be able to enjoy true freedom would be those rare individuals who want nothing except to serve their fellows.

    A little off-topic, I know, but a Utilitarian government is the basis for your argument.
    I think we agree more than you would imagine. You have quite aptly pointed out the inadequacy of collectivism. Essentially, noone can know what is best for you other than you yourself. That is why totalitarianism is pernicious and it is hard to imagine a totalitarian society that is not collectivistic. As after all both fascism and communism, the two most prominent species of totalitarian ideologies promote the welfare of the state over that of an individual.

    I am not doing this. My political orientation is radically individualistic. Utilitarianism is not the basis of my argument. Utilitarianism as conceived of by Bentham and Mill maintains that my happiness is just as worthy of an objective as that of any other person. Hence, it is an inevitable entailment of this that I should sacrifice my own welfare for that of others, should I have the opportunity to do so.

    I issue no such prescriptions. I do not think that it is appropriate for the government to force people into any action. At best, it should attempt to persuade them to do what is the most fitting. The individual should have every right to reject the suggestions of political authorities if he believes that this serves him well.

    In summary, I am not advocating any kind of a Utilitarianism or collectivism. The differences between the two aforementioned ideologies and my own is as follows. They tend to create a society where a certain regime that is judged best by the government is imposed upon all. Mine does no such thing. It merely allows the government to advocate views that are judged to benefit the community the most. Yet no imposition is made upon the citizen with regard to his legal or social obligation to accept the views of the authorities.
    "Do not argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level and beat you with experience." -- Mark Twain

    “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”---Samuel Johnson

    My blog: www.randommeanderings123.blogspot.com/

  5. #5
    AKA Nunki Polaris's Avatar
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    It would be political suicide for a nation to spread propaganda and then do nothing to silence dissent. No one under such a government would be able to take their nation seriously; even most of the leaders would balk at such a policy. There would be two choices: either to stop spreading propaganda or go to the opposite extreme and suppress freedom of expression.
    [ Ni > Ti > Fe > Fi > Ne > Te > Si > Se ][ 4w5 sp/sx ][ RLOAI ][ IEI-Ni ]

  6. #6
    Tenured roisterer SolitaryWalker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nunki View Post
    It would be political suicide for a nation to spread propaganda and then do nothing to silence dissent. No one under such a government would be able to take their nation seriously; even most of the leaders would balk at such a policy. There would be two choices: either to stop spreading propaganda or go to the opposite extreme and suppress freedom of expression.
    It must not be obvious that propaganda is being spread. As I mentioned in the end of the post, scholars highly knowledgeable about political science and rhetoric must be employed to devise useful fictions. They will successfully promote views that are false and present them as perfectly reasonable and rigorously defended views. Only specialists will manage to see through the smokescreen and even they will struggle to deliver the truth about the matter to non-specialists. Understanding the nature of the true circumstances will require profound knowledge of logic, rhetoric and human nature.
    "Do not argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level and beat you with experience." -- Mark Twain

    “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”---Samuel Johnson

    My blog: www.randommeanderings123.blogspot.com/

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    The elder Holmes Mycroft's Avatar
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    What would happen to the journalists (for example) who exposed these lies to the public?
    Dost thou love Life? Then do not squander Time; for that's the Stuff Life is made of.

    -- Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, June 1746 --

  8. #8
    Tenured roisterer SolitaryWalker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mycroft View Post
    What would happen to the journalists (for example) who exposed these lies to the public?
    They would have every right to voice their opinions in the public forum. However, they shall be no match for the scholars who are highly competent at rhetoric, logic and the study of human nature. There is no doubt that individuals who have over 20 years of experience in Liberal Arts can construct more persuasive arguments than mere journalists. They will make the views of the journalists (which are true) appear false in the eyes of common man and their own views (which are false) appear true.
    "Do not argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level and beat you with experience." -- Mark Twain

    “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”---Samuel Johnson

    My blog: www.randommeanderings123.blogspot.com/

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