Propaganda or Misinformation

The Aim of this article is to point out a widespread problem that affects all sides of the political spectrum. I am afraid that my own thoughts have been clouded by the rampant misinformation so readily available on the internet.

Back when I was a Judaic studies/Hebrew teacher, I had the opportunity to teach a class of 8th graders some of the history that led to the Holocaust. What I learned from the text books and documents that I scoured in preparation was that the Nazis were systematic and adept at using mass media and  propaganda to gain control of the hearts and minds of a population that had not all voted in lockstep with them to begin with. The Nazis drew upon centuries of stereotyping and stories about the scary “other,” who made an easy scapegoat for real problems that had nothing to do with them. Despite the demise and repudiation of the Nazi regime over 60 years ago, these vivid images persist: the “Fat Greedy, Banker Jew,” the “Blood-drinking Satan Worshipper,” the “Lazy, yet Violent Barbarian.”

Especially with the advent of the internet, and it  being so easy to find multiple sources of information, one would assume it would be nearly impossible to get away with the type of propaganda that can be used by an oppressive, controlling regime.

Propaganda (dictionary.com)

[prop-uhgan-duh] noun

1.

information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.

2.

the deliberate spreading of such information, rumors, etc.

3.

the particular doctrines or principles propagated by an organization or movement.

Until recently, yes, very recently, I was very naive about the power of propaganda in an open and free society. I don’t think I’m the only one, and I now believe that the makers of the current us vs. them propaganda are poisoning our social media and turning what should be open, reasoned discussions into finger-pointing and accusations. We think of our digitally advanced society as the “information age,” but solid facts are becoming harder and harder to discern.  

Yesterday, I saw clearly for the first time a blatant example of propaganda, a supposedly evidenced based article, promoting the narrative that Trump motivated hate crimes are a hoax created by “liberal Jews.” Here is the headline:

FAKE HATE: Leftist Students Painted Swastika and “Trump” on Campus Church

The article actually quotes and links to a real news story from the Jewish Week, and if you do a search for the two defendants mentioned, you will find multiple articles from mainstream news sources such as the Chicago Tribune. The author, Jim Hoft, of the Gateway Pundit, does not expect readers to click on and scrutinize the original source material, but by quoting a Jewish media source, he has given his article an aura of legitimacy.

Now, go ahead and click on the original news stories. You see the same pictures of the two students, but something is missing, not one word characterizing the two as “liberal” or “Jewish”. In fact, they are currently still being prosecuted on multiple counts for an actual hate crime, not for creating a fake hate crime!  Also, the Gateway Pundit story is dated Nov. 15, 2016, which is yesterday, and withholds the information that this incident occurred back in March. Mr. Hoft is trying to create the illusion that the two students are retaliating for the loss of their favored liberal candidate to President-Elect Trump.  The author copy and pasted an old news story and slapped on the attributes liberal and Jewish, to create a misleading piece of propaganda.

Now let’s say you are a liberal like me, and don’t bother to read the Gateway Pundit, which apparently is filled with stories like this, yay, I won’t be mislead! Unfortunately, this article and others like this showed up on my Facebook newsfeed yesterday, thanks to a well-meaning  more conservative minded friend who is by no means anti-semitic. She immediately deleted it, when I pointed out how it was false and misleading. Another friend, however, continued to argue that the Jewish week and Chicago Tribune confirmed the veracity of the Gateway Pundit story. I don’t think I have been able to change his mind. Even if I had been able to change his mind, it is unlikely that most conservative readers are discussing with liberals this specific article. Meanwhile, the idea that liberals and others are responsible for perpetrating hoaxes to malign Trump supporters has already taken hold.

Propaganda is being used with increasing frequency on both sides of the political spectrum. Now that the head of the alt-right Brietbart news has become the chief advisor to President-Elect Trump, after heading up his successful campaign,  I am afraid that this type of systemic and sustained propaganda is being intentionally deployed to control the hearts and minds of free citizens, who might otherwise be able to have reasoned, fact-based discussions of the issues facing our country.

****Update: If you click on the Gateway Pundit, the story has now been updated, and “cleaned up”.  Here is another site that picked up on the same false story and links back to the gateway pundit as proof.

Update 2: Another site removed the “erroneous” Jewish attribution.

Update 3: Huckabee called out for quoting misinformation about this fake story here.

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