Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Power of Propaganda

I just returned from a trip to Russia. In short, it was fascinating! Every time I travel internationally, it reminds me of The Power of Propaganda. The first time I realized the power of propaganda throughout history was when I traveled to Egypt about 15 years ago: the pyramids were just as legitimate a form of propaganda as any we see today.

In Russia, the power of propaganda is hugely evident. Since I don't speak or read Russian, I don't know what kind of propaganda is being disseminated today. This is really a reaction to the residual impact that propaganda has on people over time. The most stunning thing I heard in Russia was that many adults -- over 35 or 40 -- are quite equivocal about the benefits of their new-found freedom since the fall of the Soviet government.

Undoubtedly, this uncertainty about the benefits of freedom vs. the Soviet state is a result of a complex combination of factors -- history, economics, AND propaganda. I won't try to unravel the clearly complex Russian psyche or understand the economic hardships the country has faced over time. But it was quite clear to me that if you grow up hearing every day that the State is doing good for you and all the countries in the West -- with all their freedom -- are not, you will very likely retain some of that perspective for your entire life. That's propaganda.

But an interesting question emerges about propaganda: is the speed of communications today changing the way propaganda takes hold and even how it needs to be created? With transparent communications today, can propaganda really exist? Is there enough longevity to any ideas that they can really take hold?

The answer is probably yes: with a big enough campaign and mass repetition and reinforcement, new, big ideas can be promulgated. Today, we see it with some big advertisers and religions. But with direct communications increasingly penetrating every inch of the world, how will propaganda be created in the future? The creation and maintenance of a propaganda machine is clearly more complex than it ever was before.

Or maybe the answer is in the march of small ideas, that ultimately grow into a big idea -- but this takes a pretty well conceived architecture. Over the next few decades, it will be very interesting to see how propaganda will evolve.

Tell me what you think.

3 Comments:

Blogger Bobby said...

But it was quite clear to me that if you grow up hearing every day that the State is doing good for you and all the countries in the West -- with all their freedom -- are not, you will very likely retain some of that perspective for your entire life. That's propaganda.

That is propaganda - yes. But its a little naive to think that only the communist regime uses propaganda and today we are living in a free world.

http://shs.westport.k12.ct.us/jwb/collab/ColdWar/Propaganda/Propaganda.htm
in this site you can see some USA propaganda posters. There isnt much difference.
Your viewpoint that people who enjoy life in communism are victims of propaganda is equally biased as theirs.

7:58 AM  
Blogger Bobby said...

The most stunning thing I heard in Russia was that many adults -- over 35 or 40 -- are quite equivocal about the benefits of their new-found freedom since the fall of the Soviet government.

Have your ever thought about the reason of your certainty that the communist regime was worse than capitalism. You may be a victim of propaganda yourself. Many bad things came along with democracy.

I grew up in a country from the east block. We used to leave our doors unlocked and we walked the streets fearless
Today Paris Hilton is an idol for millions of kinds - that cant happen in communism.
Your viewpoint is biased.
Dont take it personal - just something to think about.

8:14 AM  
Blogger Abigail Johnson said...

Bobby,

I have no doubt that I am naive. What fascinated me is propaganda, its history and future. There's no question that propaganda continues, all over, but in what ways in this modern world.

9:03 AM  

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