'On Truth and Propaganda', by Ultan Banan. Ruminations on politics.
On Truth and Propaganda
“In an age of individualism, what made people feel secure was having themselves reflected back to them. Just like in a mirror.”
It’s difficult to express an opinion these days. No matter what you say you’ll manage to piss someone off, and while I can get my head around that part, it’s the reactionary aspect of debate that irks me. Discussion and opinion have evolved into ideological war, and no doubt it’s always been this way to some extent, but I don’t recall it being so pronounced as it is now. It’s a battleground out there, and it’s not exactly clear where the lines are but sooner or later you’re gonna cross ’em. Cause there are definitely lines.
I’m referring in the main to responses I got on a piece I wrote some months ago called ‘European Stupidity’ about the shortsightedness of the EU’s energy policy. In the piece I lambasted the EU for their schizo policies when it came to Russia, how they seemed intent on shooting themselves in the foot in order to maintain some kind of aggressive posturing towards our big eastern neighbour. Go try it yourself: Try to publish a piece on Russia that is not virulently Russophobic and see how you fare with the reactionary wingnuts. You’re not allowed. It’s against all policy. Russia? How dare you side with Moscow! They will descend on you like a plague.
Yep. You piss off the Occidentally inclined (I don’t know the terminology – shall we call them the ‘Atlanticists’?) and they’ll come out all guns blazing. They’re gonna cut you down to size. They’re out to revoke your license. They’ve come to take you down a peg or two. Cause get this: You’re not a commentator, you’re a shill. You’re not expressing an opinion, you’re a troll. Fuck knows, you might even be a bot. You’re not anti-stupidity or even pro-Russia, you’re a Putin agent. Speak out against Western political gangsterism, and you’re being “financed by the KGB”.
There is no opinion, it seems, only propaganda.
But why argue? I get the sense these are not a people who can grasp subtlety. Anyone who calls you a ‘shill’ or a ‘troll’ is a person who’s convinced there is but one truth, and that they and all who agree with them are alone possessed of it. Differing opinions are not only erroneous, but malicious. Sinister. Subversive. (Now there’s a word that we could get right into…)
So I don’t get into it. There’s nothing to be gained by involving yourself in discussion with someone whose kneejerk reaction is to accuse you of having sold yourself to the highest bidder. Let them fester. I’m not gonna roll around in the muck.
What is propaganda? For me, it’s the systematic dissemination of information designed to support an ideology or a body politic. There are surely some subtle deviations from that definition, but not enough to skew the basic principle. By the above rationale, can individuals engage in propaganda? I don’t think so. Not unless they’re working as part of a larger, organised whole. Maybe you’ll disagree. Maybe you’ll say I’ve been subliminally co-opted into Putin’s Soviet mind factory, working as part of the Kremlin machinery to disseminate perverse anti-European dictates and infect the pure and straight-thinking peoples of the West. He’s an agent! Flush out the rat!
This is what I say: If your first response to hearing an argument you don’t agree with is to call someone a shill or an agent, then your mind is not equipped to deal with nuance. In other words, you have shunned a world of contrast and colour to take refuge in a cold room of blacks and whites.
Adam Curtis was right. We’re living in the ‘post-truth’ world. There is no more recourse to truth; dictate and dogma suffice. In a world of elusive and shifting complexities it is far easier to view society through a prism of stark simplicity; there is no need to account for the cacophonous array of viewpoints, outlooks and opinions when you only hear in monotone. Life is simpler, and isn’t that what we all want?
Well, yes. To a degree. But if simplicity means living life in a world of hypernormality where nothing is true and nothing is a lie, and where truth is whatever anyone thinks and says it is, then no, I’ll take the swamp any day. Because the kind of ennui this blinkered outlook engenders is eerily similar to what those who rail against Russia are, I imagine, ultimately terrified off, and that’s the grim nihilism of totalitarianism. Like in North Korea, where there is but one truth, the truth which the state so benevolently dispenses.
So let’s all get with the story, my fellow Putin agents, and unite under the same auspicious opinion. Because there’s no irony in that at all, is there?
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‘On Truth and Propaganda’, by Ultan Banan. Please note: flash fiction, nonfiction and all other content is the sole work of Black Tarn. Ask before republishing.