Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Propaganda and Patriotism: "Imperialism is Freedom!"

How are the views within nation-state populations shaped, especially consisting of an uneducated mass of working class people or a mass of people unfamiliar with history and current events around the globe? The history of propaganda in the form of inorganic popular culture has influenced the way domestic citizens (the masses) view imperialism. Many Americans make a solid comparison between the propaganda of the British Empire and the United States today. The main difference between the two forms of imperialism and how it has been consumed and digested by the people are distinguished by two technological stages of the two empires. During the zenith of the British Empire, the majority of propaganda was ingested through newspapers, theater, and literature (granted that beginning in the 20th century radio and screen began to appear). Of course, in the modern United States today, inorganic popular culture (to include inorganic patriotism and politically biased news reports) can be mass produced by the elite owners of capital and broadcast over thousands of cable television channels, radio stations, and the internet. A conscious person must be able to identify who is mass producing propaganda and what interests lay behind their mass production of propaganda. One must be able to research the corporation owners and alliances that are mass producing their popular culture (propaganda), mass producing their patriotism, and basically shaping their fears and hatreds. During the age of colonialism, and especially in today’s capitalist globalization structure, it would be hard to argue the point that the elite groups, who possess the most capital, produce the inorganic popular culture.

The examples are quite numerous, but I will post two examples, and follow it with a question.

Early Propaganda Networking: Zionism in the Ottoman Empire

During the early infiltration of Zionism into Palestine under the Ottoman Empire and the beginning waves of Zionist land purchases, which used inflowing capital not only to buy mass land but to import agricultural technology, we can note an early attempt to regulate the press by wealthy Zionists: “The formation of a press network aimed on one hand at the Ottoman intelligentsia and at middle officials, and on the other at different social strata of the Jewish community, was one of the first objectives of local Zionist activity. By the purchase of already existing periodicals or by the creation of new newspapers, an important press complex was organized. It was a question not only of making Zionist positions known, but also to neutralize those who were apt to thwart Zionism – Moslems as well as Jews.” [1]

World War II:

The Emergence of the 4th Arm

As technology advanced, so did the dissemination of visual and audio propaganda. What seemed to work well for Britain in World War I, was increased with new broadcasting technologies in World War II: “During the Second World War propaganda constituted an essential instrument of 'political' or 'psychological' warfare – the first term preferred in British usage, the second in American. Having tested it in the Great War with considerable success, the British government proclaimed this form of waging war in 1939-45 to be its 'fourth' or 'fifth fighting arm” [2]

Anyone can jump on Google today and type in ‘Hitler’ and select images in order to see some of the historical Western propaganda during World War II. You can also find propaganda, conscious and subconscious, concerning slavery and racial segregation in the United States during this time period.

I'm Glad the United States Doesn't Use Propaganda:

The previous two examples, and there are many others that can also be made since the inception of imperialism and increase of technology capable of mass-creating and mass-disseminating propaganda, bring is to the point of considering today’s United States. How do media outlets such as Fox News and CNN produce domestic propaganda that consciously or subconsciously promote patriotism, xenophobia, and the support of imperialism? Who owns these corporations and what are their economic, political, social, ethnic or religious affiliations? How do words such as ‘terrorist’ or ‘radical’, words that are constantly repeated used during heavily rotated reports, impact viewer consciousness? Are these news corporations selective about the news reports they cover? The pro-Israeli position of American media is certainly worth consideration. When a stray rocket is fired into Israel, the story gets hourly rotational coverage on the American news networks while illegal settlement activity on the part of Israel, house demolitions, or Palestinian civilian death counts are barely mentioned on these networks.

[1] Benbassa, Esther. “Zionism in the Ottoman Empire at the End of the 19th and the Beginning of the 20th Century” Studies in Zionism 11, no. 2 (1990): 134 http://www.estherbenbassa.net/SCANS/ZIONISM.PDF

[2] Stefanidis, Ioannes D. “The Fourth Arm” History Today 62, no. 9 (2012): 28-34

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