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.