Letters From Home

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Who’s pulling your chain?

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It’s been a really long time since I graduated from high school. My 40th reunion is coming up in 2008. Yes, I’m old. 🙂

I don’t know if it’s true any more (my kids have been out of high school for years, too) but in those days nearly every high school had a required course in civics. At my school it was called “Modern Problems.” The unfortunate thing about civics classes is that they were almost always taught by coaches, because there just weren’t enough gym classes for coaches to teach, and besides, the administration had to make it look like they weren’t just hiring the guy to coach football.

And thus, since a lot of coaches were marginal at best as teachers (with apologies to Mr. G. who coached wrestling and was a top-notch physics teacher, too) nearly everyone snoozed through the classes and ignored pretty much everything once they’d regurgitated it on a test.

Which, in retrospect, is kind of a shame. Because there really were a few nuggets of valuable information to be had. One of the most important things we studied in civics class was the topic of propaganda techniques.

Of course, in 1967-68, propaganda was something those godless Commies did to “indoctrinate” their hapless masses. We were supposed to be able to see communist doublespeak for what it was. We weren’t asked to analyze what our own “indoctrinators” were spitting out. Which is also a shame. We could have learned a lot by paying attention to the politicians of the day.

In this day and age, one of the most important ways you can take a stand against ignorance is to recognize when you’re being manipulated. The techniques of propaganda are alive and well, even if they’re called “spin doctoring” or some other phrase today. Once you understand the method, it’s a lot more difficult for the spin-meisters to bamboozle you.

A complete discussion of propaganda techniques is beyond the scope of this short essay, but there is an excellent discussion here. Be patient; sometimes the site takes a while to load. Which is a good sign–people are learning what to look for.

Print that list of techniques out and read over it. Then, the next time you hear Warren Windbag, Barton Blowhard, Peter Politician or whoever “bloviating” on a subject, see how many of those propaganda techniques are being used. The more such analyses you do, the more you insulate yourself from claptrap.

This video is par for the course for my high school years, but if you can get past the laugh-out-loud factor, it actually does present propaganda techniques in a format that’s easy to understand. After all, it was being played in civics class.

Edit: Well, apparently the video doesn’t play nice with my theme… gonna have to take my own advice and learn something new today so I can fix that!

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Author: infmom

Otherwise known as Infamous Mom.

2 Comments

  1. Yipe! It looked fine when I previewed it. Well, out it goes till I can figure out what went wrong. Thanks for catching that! 🙂

  2. I think your embedding is borken, Marte. 🙂 Everything after the video is showing up with screwed-up formatting in Firefox. Did you close an extra tag in the embed code perhaps?

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