Western Propaganda

tober
#1
We generally think of propaganda as something produced by government. Images from WW2 predominate, with Hitler and Goebbels expounding to mass crowds, and state print media like Pravda advising on the latest official positions. Modern propaganda aimed internally is less likely to come from government in western states. Most western propaganda aimed at westerners is more subtle.

I am reading the book Topaz, by Leon Uris, an espionage novel about events leading up to the Cuban Crisis. Early in the book is one of the most powerful pieces of propaganda I have ever read. It is a masterpiece of subtlety that inspires contempt for an entire people and pride in “us” in one fell swoop. When you analyze it, it is nasty. When I first read the book, when it was new and I was young, I presumably just swept quickly past it as background and accepted its values without thinking. In other words, I was completely taken in. That is the mark of good propaganda. When I read it last week I was appalled at how crude it looks today.

The paragraph is short. In the book the American espionage resident in Copenhagen is about to take a Soviet master spy into American protection – the Russian is defecting with his wife and daughter. The paragraph describes the two Russian women. It reads:
Near the building, Stebner and a half-dozen ININ agents waited for Bartlett and the blue Ford. Stebner took a position so that he could clearly see Boris Kuznetov with his wife and daughter. They came down from the second floor. Mrs. Kuznetov read the time from a lavalier watch. Stebner wondered why her husband loved her so. She was a drab and dumpy woman. The daughter, he estimated, was about twenty. A fine figure, but it ended right there. Severe hairdo, no make-up, flat shoes. (Pages 18-19.)
Given that the scene is part of background, not action, we tend to read it quickly and form a fast impression. Let’s analyze the impression. I don’t know what a “lavalier watch” is, perhaps a hint of Soviet corruption, but I do not include it in my opinion. Consider only the last five sentences.

1. Stebner wondered why her husband loved her so. This sets up what follows. Obviously there must be something dreadfully wrong with the woman.

2. She was a drab and dumpy woman. What is drab? Presumably an absence of bling. Probably like her daughter, who is described as wearing flat shoes and being without make-up. Obviously she is not like a western woman, slender, impeccably dressed and laughing with her hair blowing in the wind (at the time they were in a museum under surveillance by four Soviet guards, but this fact is left without comment). Dumpy? Well, she isn’t slender, is she? She is a middle-aged mom. She obviously doesn’t spend time every week at the spa. We are told it is surprising her husband loved her so. Obviously communism is bad and produces second class people.

3. The daughter, he estimated, was about twenty. A fine figure, but it ended right there. Severe hairdo, no make-up, flat shoes. Style style style. This is the Cold War, armed SAC bombers were on 24 hour patrol and we are naturally expected to feel no human warmth for a young woman with flat shoes and no make-up, although there is a hint of “fine figure” for the imaginative. To the victor go the spoils.

Westerners are expected to take pride in the comparison wrought by the description. We are sophisticates. We are expected to honour family values and love our families because our wives are not drab and dumpy. They are chic and slender. They wear make-up. Their eyes flash and their teeth shine as they swirl in front of expensive shop windows. They are worth defending from the drab and dumpy Slavic hordes. It is interesting what this also says about western morality. I do not remember the line in my wedding vows that reads, “Till drab and dumpy do us part,” but apparently love should have stopped some time before. I don’t like radical feminism, but at times it is easy to understand feminist anger.


 
Most helpful post: The members here have rated this post as best reply.
CDNBear
+7
#2  Top Rated Post
Or it could just be background written by the author. I love watching people try and look for untoward or subliminal context in works of fiction, lol.
Last edited by CDNBear; Oct 13th, 2013 at 02:15 PM..
 
Machjo
+2
#3
I think you're reading way too much into it. Where does it say in there that everyone was like that family. It is merely protraying that particular family and nothing else.

Here is a taste of effective Canadian propaganda that has affected our laws (e.g. the Official Languages Act) and our Constitution (e.g. the language provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) up to today, and was so effective that it has majority support from across the political spectrum:

'We should point out here that the Commission will not examine the question of the Indians and the Eskimos . Our terms of reference contain no allusion to Canada's native populations. They speak of "two founding races," namely Canadians of British and French origin, and "other ethnic groups," but mention neither the Indians nor the Eskimos. Since it is obvious that these two groups do not form part of the "founding races," as the phrase is used in the terms of reference, it would logically be necessary to include them under the heading "other ethnic groups ." Yet it is clear that the term "other ethnic groups" means those peoples of diverse origins who came to Canada during or after the founding of the Canadian state and that it does not include the first inhabitants of this country.'
Report of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, Book I, Paragraph 21


In fact, the report this comes from was commemorated at U of Ottawa just last year with the Commissioner of Official Languages present.

Now that is a propaganda coup de grace!




Last edited by Machjo; Oct 13th, 2013 at 02:26 PM..
 
SLM
No Party Affiliation
+5
#4
Quote: Originally Posted by CDNBear View Post

Or it could just be background written by the author. I love watching people try and look for untoward or subliminal context in works of fiction, lol.

You mean like the way The Lord of the Rings completely misrepresents the nature of Hobbits?
 
gerryh
+2
#5
Quote: Originally Posted by SLM View Post

You mean like the way The Lord of the Rings completely misrepresents the nature of Hobbits?


exactly eh........and not just the Hobbits, but the Dwarves too.
 
SLM
No Party Affiliation
+1
#6
Quote: Originally Posted by gerryh View Post

exactly eh........and not just the Hobbits, but the Dwarves too.

Those poor Dwarves! People will now be indoctrinated to think horrible things of them.
 
taxslave
Free Thinker
+2
#7
And the Trolls. Oh wait people already think bad things of tober.
 
tober
#8
Quote: Originally Posted by Machjo View Post

I think you're reading way too much into it. Where does it say in there that everyone was like that family. It is merely protraying that particular family and nothing else.



You can't read it in? By the rest of your reply, you can't see propaganda if it isn't wrapped in government paper, and people's inability to see non-government propaganda was precisely my point. I guess modern propaganda is too subtle for you.
 
Machjo
#9
Quote: Originally Posted by tober View Post

You can't read it in? By the rest of your reply, you can't see propaganda if it isn't wrapped in government paper, and people's inability to see non-government propaganda was precisely my point. I guess modern propaganda is too subtle for you.
[/FONT][/COLOR][/FONT][/COLOR][/FONT][/COLOR][/FONT][/FONT][/COLOR][/FONT][/COLOR][/COLOR][/FONT][/COLOR][/FONT][/COLOR][/FONT][/COLOR][/FONT][/COLOR][/FONT][/COLOR][/FONT][/COLOR][/COLOR][/FONT][/COLOR][/FONT][/COLOR][/FONT][/COLOR][/COLOR][/FONT][/COLOR][/FONT][/COLOR][/FONT][/COLOR][/FONT][/COLOR][/COLOR][/FONT][/COLOR][/FONT][/COLOR][/FONT][/COLOR][/FONT][/FONT][/COLOR][/FONT][/COLOR][/FONT][/COLOR]

It was describing a family, not a nation. It was fiction. So, the author decided to present a particular type of family. What, should he have described everyone as looking the same? Or maybe not describe them at all?

So he decided to describe them. Maybe it is too subtle for me. But in the end, I'm more concerned about propaganda that has actually had a direct impact on our laws and constitution today than those that haven't.

In my mind, the ultimate proof of the effectiveness of propaganda is in the way it actually translates into action.

In the example I'd given, it actually translateds into a direct, tangible impact on the laws and constitution. Can you show how the propaganda in that book has affected anything in a contrete way?
 
tober
+1
#10
Quote: Originally Posted by Machjo View Post

It was describing a family, not a nation. It was fiction. So, the author decided to present a particular type of family. What, should he have described everyone as looking the same? Or maybe not describe them at all?



Key to my position is that one US agent looked at the Russian woman and decided it was amazing her husband could still love somebody as shabby as she. Because the description was stereotypical of the western picture of Russian women at the time, it was intended as a put-down of all Soviet citizens. IMO.

Quote: Originally Posted by Machjo View Post

So he decided to describe them. Maybe it is too subtle for me. But in the end, I'm more concerned about propaganda that has actually had a direct impact on our laws and constitution today than those that haven't.

Quote: Originally Posted by Machjo View Post


In my mind, the ultimate proof of the effectiveness of propaganda is in the way it actually translates into action..

In the example I'd given, it actually translateds into a direct, tangible impact on the laws and constitution. Can you show how the propaganda in that book has affected anything in a contrete way?



I googled "propaganda definition”. It said:
prop·a·gan·da
/ˌpräpəˈgandə/
Noun
1. Information, esp. of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.
2. The dissemination of such information as a political strategy.
That general definition is what I meant. Presumably Leon Uris was not approached by anyone and told, “Make us some propaganda.” He was writing an adventure spy novel so he repeated what he felt was the societal view of the subject best suited to the novel. But it would also be accepted by the general public as part of the national “truth” about Soviet Russia. His novel received much acclaim. I believe that enough novels like that in a culture so effected by its media as western culture would (and did) have a cumulative effect. It certainly described what many of us felt.

I would not personally view your example as propaganda. As the definition above states, propaganda is biased or misleading information, essentially an untrue bullsh!t story, that is designed to mislead. The example you gave was a policy you didn’t like, wasn’t it? Maybe I’m incorrect?

Uris’s paragraph had as its purpose to implant an idea in peoples’ mind, not to make them do anything. He wanted to make people think of Russians as untermeunchen, second rate human beings whose deaths shouldn’t necessarily bother us if it came to a nuclear war. Remember, it was describing a spy scandal leading up to the Cuban Crisis and was written at the height of the 1960’s Cold War nuclear threat.



 
lone wolf
Free Thinker
#11
Propaganda is just BS. It's nothing new. There's a sucker born every minute
 
PoliticalNick
Free Thinker
+1
#12
I can see Tober's point. It is much like subliminal advertising. We are given stereotypical descriptions in books and portrayals on film or tv and it is a form of propaganda. It may not be state sponsored but it creates a general opinion shared by the masses.
 
IdRatherBeSkiing
#13
Quote: Originally Posted by PoliticalNick View Post

I can see Tober's point. It is much like subliminal advertising. We are given stereotypical descriptions in books and portrayals on film or tv and it is a form of propaganda. It may not be state sponsored but it creates a general opinion shared by the masses.

If it is a stereotypical representation, then it could be that this is the image the author is thinking of when choosing the imagery of the specific Russian family he is writing about.
 
tober
#14
Quote: Originally Posted by IdRatherBeSkiing View Post

If it is a stereotypical representation, then it could be that this is the image the author is thinking of when choosing the imagery of the specific Russian family he is writing about.

That's it.
 

Similar Threads

3
Who's got the best propaganda ?
by tay | Aug 16th, 2013
21
Propaganda: Mass distribution
by eh1eh | Dec 12th, 2010
17
Empire: war and propaganda
by Blackleaf | Jul 28th, 2006
22
Is the GDP corporatist propaganda?
by quinton | Mar 2nd, 2006
1
How To Resist Propaganda
by jjw1965 | Nov 4th, 2005