Blogs and the Erosion of Propaganda

It’s already a problem in the marketing world:  customers are essentially immune to the hard sell.

It’s becoming a problem for the ’68er Baby Boomer crowd, as well:  the moronically simple propaganda that used to sound oh so intellectual… you know, like the “bake sale to build bombers” stuff…. now doesn’t really stand a chance.

So, here’s this young man named Ramzi.  He runs Ramzi’s Blah-Blah.  (Fair warning, pop-up ads to casinos and such)  And he engages in this sort of instant-substitute -for-actual-thought sort of propaganda about Israelis bombing ambulances — which has already been torn to pieces in the comments section, mostly because of the well-known propensity for Middle-East terrorists to toss bombs and rockets and all sorts of other stuff into ambulances.  Getting worked up about that is oh-so 2003… 

It’s told as a basic story:  images and captions.

The government of the UAE, having seen the images of Lebanese ambulances being targeted and destroyed, thought a gift of 12 new ones was a good idea. 

So off they shipped them in a cargo plane all the way to Damascus – the mighty bastion of Arab resistance allegedly.

Okay, first and foremost, the post is being ripped limb from limb even on the assumption that every word in it is true.  Hrm… is it?  We don’t know.  There’s no links, no news article… nothing.  This could be straight from the forehead of Zeus for all we know.  We have certainly seen plenty of intentionally-misused images lately (such as the now-disproven “Israelis shelled an innocent family’s beach picnic” piece, that looked so compelling until you found out that Israel had no ships deployed even vaguely nearby within a week of the incident).  So… when were the photos taken?  Do they actually have anything to do with the story at hand?  Well, because they’re not cited, we don’t know.

And from there across the border to the Bekaa valley – home to some of the best wine you’d ever enjoy.

And up the mountain side on the last patent artery into the stricken capital, a gorgeous view of the cultivated valley by the way. 

Oh, the Bekaa valley… how I’d love to vacation there.  But, um, oops, I can’t, because it’s A War Zone, with wall-to-wall Hizballah, the Syrian-Iranian tools whose only claim to legitimacy is the argument that they’re better than Hamas at killing Israelis, and who started this whole war with a cross-border raid that even Ghandi would admit constitutes casus belli.  But remember, this is ’68er-style propaganda, and we’re supposed to “get a message,” not stop and think critically about what’s being written.  What we’re supposed to think is, “ahh, the lovely wineyards of Bekaa Valley, full of birds and kittens and butterflies, what a lovely peaceful place…”

And then… KABOOM. Air strike hit the convoy.

It did?  When?  Ramzi shows a cool action shot of F-16s.  Except it’s not actually an action shot, and it predates this war by a long, long time.  In fact, it’s a cropped version of a fairly unremarkable milplex industry paper, meant, along with a spiffy briefing, to convey a visual confirmation of ideas like “approve the funding for this fighter, which will give us air superiority and thus battlespace dominance.”  It’s the kind of thing that’s used for filler wherever milplex topics are discussed:  Spacewar.com, for example, uses lots of these stock images.

And… the finale, complete with a heart-rending picture of some bandaged-up little boy:

 You see, ambulances are dangerous things.
They get in the way of murder.

Wait, wait… ::sniff-sniff::  What’s that smell?  Oh, yeah, it’s the smell of ’68-er-style Baby-Boomer thought.  Like the Bake-Sale-to-Build-Bombs thing, it sounds great… for that quarter-second required for your forebrain to kick back into gear, realign itself with the reality-based community, and come back with wtf?  Ambulances get in the way of murder?  How’s that work?  How come I never see hard-bitten riot cops riding in ambulances to stop crime?

Oh, yeah, because they don’t…

Fair enough.  His country’s being bombed; he’s entitled to be pissed and fly off the handle.  What I’m interested in is why the post doesn’t work, and what that has to do with bloggers.  This isn’t the 1990s.  In the era of half-a-dozen guys in their pajamas taking down Dan Rather, half the stuff that Bill Clinton used to get away with would be DOA within six hours  (Not a partisan thing: Republicans aren’t good enough at it to even bother) — this little gem, however heartfelt and ’68-ey, doesn’t stand a chance.

In other words, the game’s changed.  The bar has been reset, and it’s a much, much higher bar.

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6 Comments

  1. Mike

     /  July 21, 2006

    68-ey? I love that term, I will have to use it on my hippy uncle and aunt next around. But you hit it, no depth, no thought, and dismissal of YOUR thought as being “inexperienced” (if you haven’t been over there you can’t possibly know anything) or “not balanced” (if you were over there, then you can’t be objective enough to have a fair opinion).

    Best of both worlds.

    And boy do they hate being called on their BS.

    Reply
  2. You can see why: imagine that you’ve spent thirty years having this sort of moralistic, slogan-as-substitute-for-thinking not only drilled into your head, but rewarded and approved by all your peers…

    then the world changes, and no wonder you’re using epithets like “mean-spirited…”

    Reply
  3. I’d have to disagree – mainly because of the essential way that propaganga plays against peoples fears.

    Real propaganga works best with the three elements of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) – and while the bar may be raised I don’t see it disappearing.

    Example – I was bowled over with the Iraq war – I know that much of the information was bad or wrong, but at the same time I couldn’t prove it – and essentially, it worked – for a while.

    Reply
  4. I’m not saying that propaganda is gone — far from. But this *style* of propaganda is falling consistently under the new bar height.

    Reply
  5. Mike

     /  July 23, 2006

    Getting good info is much easier now. Google for MIILBOLGS and drive on. You are going to get hundreds of results and you can search around for the best. The Command Post, Mudville Gazette and Strategypage are some of the best. The info is so much easier to get with the internet and the fact that so many reservist and NG have been over there. You have a much greater chance of meeting or knowing someone who can give you a first hand view and so you can whip out the “yeah, well I know or talked to someone over there who says you are dead wrong”, and since no self-respecting liberal would ever actually talk to a service member, you have upperhand. Until they try the “he couldn’t give an objective veiw because he was too involved” which makes them looks awfully stupid in a crowd.

    Reply
  6. No, that argument is not one that would incline me to take the speaker seriously, I must admit… there is a tremendous difference between scholarly detachment and simple ignorance.

    Reply

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