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Written by: critical (on Scribd.com). FEB 96
Propaganda is the organized attempt through communication to affect beliefs or attitudes, and thereby actions of the masses, in ways that circumvent or suppress formation in the individual of an adequately informed, rational, reflective judgement. This proposal for a definition of propaganda by Randal Marlin appears to be the most comprehensive and sensible one presented in class. There is only one
modification I would make to this proposal and that is to remove the proviso 'organized'. The question must be asked; what forms of communication are left out of consideration in placing 'organized' in our definition? The answer depends on the sense in which Marlin intended the use of the term in question. Here are two senses of 'organized' that seem applicable to a definition of propaganda: 1) An organized attempt could mean an attempt by a group of people, to the extent of excluding small groups of 5 or less and most certainly excluding individuals. 2) An attempt of a planned or intentional nature. The person or group is not merely informing, communicating or interacting with an audience, he/she or it (the group) is involved in a conscious and calculated attempt to affect an audience in a certain pre-conceived way for the reason of achieving definite goals. An 'organized attempt' in the first sense involves an attempt by a group of people or at least more than one person. This would mean that if we attempted to analyze a newspaper article we would need to establish that more than just the individual author of the column was involved in an attempt to affect beliefs in the
way described. This is a problem as I do not think individuals should be ruled out from analysis, not to mention the fact that establishing the responsibility of a certain article to more than the author herself could be a burden of proof of a far too difficult and stringent nature. Individuals are just as likely to be guilty of attempting to hinder rational and reflective judgement in their audiences, as are organized collectives. It would appear to be a result of the current and recent historical political-economic climate that many believe individuals are incapable of affecting change, that only organizations and organized groups of individuals can accomplish anything of substance in our complex and increasingly alienationist society. Thus the advent of large numbers of conspiracy theories abound to deal with our society's lack of faith that individuals can affect change on their own. Now I am not suggesting that Randal Marlin's
propaganda definition is a conspiracy theory; merely that if he intended 'organized' in the first sense which I described above he would be partly falling prey to a broad social climate that believes in the ultimate dis-empowerment of the individual. It should be noted that the absence of proof that an individual is acting at the behest of a group or organized whole is not conclusive evidence that they are in fact working solely on their own, thus a definition that requires the presumption of groups as the primary unit of action would be unnecessarily restrictive in eliminating those cases in which only individuals can be pointed at as empirically demonstrably responsible for the article. It does not seem likely that Randal Marlin was utilizing the first sense of 'organized' and I believe it is sufficiently obvious given the above discussion that it is overly restrictive. The second sense of 'organized' if you will remember is an attempt of a planned or intentional nature to affect an audience in a pre-conceived way to achieve certain goals in audience behaviour. The reason I oppose use of the term 'organized' in this sense is because of a lack of need for the proviso at all. When we
communicate with each other we have a reason for doing so, we wish to inform them or to influence them. There appears to be no form of communication that lacks an intention or some form of plan in its purpose. My intentions in writing this paper are a planned and intentional attempt to explain my views on propaganda, but they are also readily described as an attempt to explain my views on propaganda. To say that this paper is an organized attempt to explain propaganda adds nothing to a description that my paper is an attempt to explain propaganda -- except perhaps confusion. The confusion results from the possibility that the first sense of 'organized' described in this paper is a possible interpretation, although I have argued not a prudent use of the term 'organized'. Thus I would reword Randal Marlin's definition of propaganda as: Propaganda is an attempt through communication to affect beliefs or attitudes, and thereby actions of the masses, in ways that circumvent or suppress formation in the individual of an adequately informed, rational, reflective judgement. An example of propaganda for the purposes of this paper is the article, "The jobs crisis myth: Mother's experiment shows there is work if you want it" by Carol Lewis. This article is a very misleading and subtle form of propaganda, it attempts to approach one of the most important issues of the day in a very misleading and dishonest way -- Jobs versus Mcjobs. I'm one of many parents who questioned our government's success in ensuring the employment futures of ourselves and our children. Spurred on by cries of high unemployment rates, and my eldest daughter's lament that there were no jobs available, I visited several places of possible employment, allowing them to assume that I was an OAC (grade 13) student with limited hours to offer an employer.i The result of Lewis' little 'experiment', as she called it, were several offers of employment and a number of appointments for interviews. Lewis' interpretation of her data leaves a great deal to desired as she states that she "no longer believes
there is a job crisis."ii Of course she only later (2 paragraphs later) states that the only area in which she sought employment was the food service industry. Places like Wendy's, McDonald's, Harvey's, etcetera were reportedly all eager for applicants, the thing that Lewis neglects to mention is that to get employment at one of these establishments is normally referred to as a Mcjob not a job unless you are under 18 or, as is becoming increasingly popular, over 60. It is on the basis of the
abundance of Mcjobs that Lewis is willing to assert that she is satisfied that our government is currently successful in "ensuring the employment futures of ourselves and our children." This is summed up by her assertion that she no longer believes that there is a job crisis. The food service industry was my main target in job searching, because food services make excellent training grounds for learning to deal with people. Most of the jobs I "applied" for are low paying, usually minimum wage. The big bucks are offered by the same people who want you to be experienced.iii Presumably these higher paying jobs where you get the "big bucks" that are offered by the "same" people who were more than willing to hire Lewis are management jobs in Wendy's, Harvey's or McDonald's. I say 'presumably' because Lewis is extremely vague about what kind of job it is that pays these 'big bucks'. It would appear that the reason that she does not make the type of "big bucks" jobs explicit is precisely because they are not well paying nor are they widely considered real jobs by the public -- they are Mcjobs in management. Lewis makes good use of the vagueness of the term job to attempt to mislead her average reader, what she does not mention is that the only kind of work that she has found to be available "if you want it" is work in a low paying, low prestige, and low satisfaction job -- that is, a Mcjob. The beauty of this piece of art by Lewis is the way she mixes and matches stereotypes and 'crises'. On the one hand Lewis talks about the rate of high
unemployment and how she has found that jobs are plentiful so people should not be
unemployed. On the other hand Lewis exploits the stereotype of young people in the so-called generation-X who make up a good bulk of the unemployed and describes them as depressed, spoiled teenagers who just do not want to "go out and work for a living".iv What Lewis neglects in this article is that the majority of unemployed
people are not teenagers who just do not want to earn a living they are; lawyers, doctors, students with doctorates in education, bureaucrats (fired because of the last budget), many of the current unemployed are the people who did not get hired back when the economy recovered but jobs did not. What Lewis is attempting to do in this article is to cling longingly to the old adage 'the more things change the more things stay the same'. Lewis asserts that when she was a teenager things were just the same for her as they are for teenagers of the mid 90's. The majority of us, the adult working population struggled and juggled from paycheque to paycheque, putting aside a little at a time until we could "acquire fancy cars, a grand house."v It would seem that Lewis wants to argue for the timelessness of her experiences without actually making an argument -- just merely by asserting the correctness of what she says. By inference she is asserting that the current perceived "jobs crisis" and high unemployment are the result of teenagers who do not want to work for a living. Lewis attempts to mitigate the truth of high unemployment by describing the phenomena not as fact but as myth. This myth is born out of "cries of high
unemployment rates", and is placed on the same standing as the rest of Lewis' opening statement; " and my eldest daughter's lament that there were no jobs available."vi There is the distinct possibility that Carol Lewis believes every idea which she expresses in this article, although it does not seem likely given that it fits perfectly into a case of not- telling-the-truth through the age-old device of 'reservation'.
This techniques of Lewis' has strong parallels to techniques of avoiding lying when you believe the best moral policy is to not tell the whole truth but without compromising yourself by lying outright either. This technique is often called
reservationism, and has been widely discussed in class. What Lewis is doing in her article is to make what appears to be valuable arguments and pronouncements about the first subject of her sentence (ie. high unemployment) while actually talking about the second subject of her sentence (her eldest daughters's lament that there are no jobs). The fact that Lewis' examples, analyses and experiment are pertinent to only the second subject does not distract from her pronouncements and certainty about the first subject in establishing that there truly is no job crisis (in her beliefs!).
I no longer believe there is a job crisis.vii
Perhaps her use of the words 'I no longer believe' at this point is another way out for her. In sentential logic we discover that the words 'I believe' when preceding any other group of words is non-truth functional. If cognizant of this information one might be led to believe that one can not be lying in using such a sentence either. The title of this article suggests that Lewis' claims hold for all jobs and all of the unemployed of society, whereas the content is specifically applicable to only young teens like her daughter. At the very least it can be said that this article was
unjustifiably titled "The jobs crisis myth". These last several pages are the primary basis upon which I place my assertion that this article is propaganda. Carol Lewis is attempting to suppress the formation of an adequately informed and rational judgment in her audience with regard to the jobs crisis and high unemployment. In attempting to liken her own climb out of the realm of mcjobsviii through hard work with that of the present unemployed youth,
Lewis is glossing over certain realities of the present times. In the seventies or eighties when Lewis applied for her current well-paying job she had to compete with dozens of qualified applicants. This can be compared with the present economic climate in which people now in Lewis' position must compete with hundreds or even thousands of qualified applicants. The reality of this situation is completely ignored (purposefully avoided?) by Lewis. The likely intended impact of this article could be to convince herself and others of her socio-economic group that they should feel no culpability or guilt in the present conditions of youth through denial of the very existence of those conditions. Another possibility involves a need to make sense of the crazy and hopeless seeming economic conditions that many baby-boomers are experiencing vicariously through their children and the news. Also Lewis could see youth much like her eldest
daughter as her target audience; attempting to shake them up and make them break free from perceptions of hopelessness. Alternatively, Lewis could be providing
parents with a tool perhaps useful in persuading their young children to go out and get a Mcjob. I believe this article is unethical, it claims to express the reality of the present job market for many thousands of unemployed and under-employed citizens of Canada through the assertion that 'there are plenty of jobs' without explaining the true reality of these so-called 'jobs'. To be accurate Lewis should really be saying; there are plenty low-status, low-income, low-satisfaction jobs that can lead to low-status, low-income, low-satisfaction jobs in management in the food service industry. This latter group of jobs Lewis inaccurately describes as "big bucks" jobs.ix Inaccurate because $8.00, $9.00, or $10.00 an hour is hardly big bucks even when compared to a $7.00 an hour job. In a very small way Lewis' article may have a positive impact by helping stressed and hopeless citizens to believe their is an easy and readily definable reason
for 'the jobs crisis' -- giving meaning to the lives of some where there was little before. Unfortunately, Lewis chose to write an article with a message that was full of inaccuracies and that was not capable of fulfilling the scope of its title -- except by deception.x In class discussion it was once asserted by Marlin xi that the majority of readers only read the first two or three paragraphs of most articles. In the light of this assertion it appears that this article is perfectly designed for just such an audience. That is, the fact that the job offers that Carol Lewis received were all Mcjobs and payed minimum wage is not revealed to the reader until they have read the sixth paragraph, this in concert with the sweeping title provides a perfect opportunity for misleading an audience. My approach to evaluating the ethics of propaganda is informed by Christopher W. Tindale in asserting that the wrong caused by misleading propaganda is in the violation of the fundamental obligation we have to improve our audience, not simply in the lying or telling of that which is not quite true (reservationism).xii The Newspaper editors themselves are also culpable due to the fact that they dressed up this opinion page article to look exactly like news articles. The only distinguishing feature that could differentiate this opinion page article from a regular news column is the small title at the top of the page which reads 'opinion'. It is hard to say whether these articles are purposefully designed to look just like news columns or not, but the fact that they do resemble news is certainly something that the editors should be culpable for -- intended or not.
.Paragraphs 1 and 2, section 1. .Section 1 paragraph 3. .Last paragraph section 1.
.Section 3 paragraph 2.
.Section 2 second last paragraph. .section 1 paragraph 2. .Section 1 paragraph 3. .See the quotation marked endnote number 5.
.Section 1 last paragraph.
.I am not knowledgable about how titles are arranged in newspapers, if it is the editor or some other member of the newspaper staff that words the titles of articles then at least some of the propagandistic impact of this article could be blamed on chance or bias of the person responsible for such duties.
.If memory serves. .From C.J.R.S. page 148.
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