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Author Topic: Why propaganda trumps truth - article  (Read 1320 times)


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Why propaganda trumps truth - article
« on: September 17, 2009, 07:30:42 am »

As the old saying goes:  "All truth passes through three stages, first it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed and third it is accepted as self evident"", (I think) from Arthur Schopenhauer.

I was just reading "Outrageous conspiracy theories:  Popular and official responses to 9.11 in Germany and the United States" by Peter Knight, and I can see that we are still in the "ridiculed" stage (or were, I couldn't find a date for this publication).  I had to stop reading it because I got so angry at the snide comments about "mental illness" and "fringe beliefs", and the section on "shape shifting lizzards" just about made me vomit (I didn't actually read this section beyond the first sentence because it annoyed me so much but I think they were saying something like "most of the mentally ill, illiterate, sub-human, knuckle dragging 9.11 official story rejecters and conspiracy nuts believe that shape shifting lizzards flew the planes into the twin towers on 9.11".  Maybe that's a bit exaggerated but I think that is pretty much the image of a "9.11 conspiracy theorist that the author was trying to convey.)

Anyway, here's the article referred to in the title:

An article in the journal, Sociological Inquiry, ["There Must Be a Reason": Osama, Saddam, and Inferred Justification, Vol. 79, No. 2. (2009), pp. 142-162. [PDF] casts light on the effectiveness of propaganda.  Researchers examined why big lies succeed where little lies fail.  Governments can get away with mass deceptions, but politicians cannot get away with sexual affairs. 


The staying power of the Big Lie is the barrier through which the 9/11 Truth Movement is finding it difficult to break. 


The researchers explain why so many Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11, years after it has become obvious that Iraq had nothing to do with the event. Americans developed elaborate rationalizations based on Bush administration propaganda that alleged Iraqi involvement and became deeply attached to their beliefs.  Their emotional involvement became wrapped up in their personal identity and sense of morality.  They looked for information that supported their beliefs and avoided information that challenged them, regardless of the facts of the matter.

In Mein Kampf, Hitler explained the believability of the Big Lie as compared to the small lie: "In the simplicity of their minds, people more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.  It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have such impudence.  Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and continue to think that there may be some other explanation."

What the sociologists and Hitler are telling us is that by the time facts become clear, people are emotionally wedded to the beliefs planted by the propaganda and find it a wrenching experience to free themselves.  It is more comfortable, instead, to denounce the truth-tellers than the liars whom the truth-tellers expose.

The psychology of belief retention even when those beliefs are wrong is a pillar of social cohesion and stability.  It explains why, once change is effected, even revolutionary governments become conservative. The downside of belief retention is its prevention of the recognition of facts.  Belief retention in the Soviet Union made the system unable to adjust to economic reality, and the Soviet Union collapsed.  Today in the United States millions find it easier to chant "USA, USA, USA" than to accept facts that indicate the need for change.

Snip - go to article

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