on the contemptuousness of propagandists

Reading this piece about Isaac Levido, the new campaign manager that the Tories have employed this time round, I was struck by this quote from one of the pair of socnet edgelords in charge of their dAnK b0oM3r MeM3Z:

“You can have a quote from an economist. Or you can have a picture of a dog next to it saying ‘tax is bad’. Guess which one had more engagement,” said Guerin, reflecting on the successes of the Australian campaign.

A recurring feature of the Brexit situation, and indeed every election I can recall prior to it, is a riff wherein one is castigated for assuming that a significant chunk of the electorate is susceptible to the lumpen political signalling found in tabloid newspapers; this is to hold the electorate in contempt, you will be told, because it’s almost certainly not true.

I have long begged to differ, having spent many years on both sides of the class divide: it is a demonstrable fact that people parrot what they’re told by sources they trust, and this is as true of readers of the Same Old Statesman and Teh Graun as it is of the Daily Hate and the Torygraph. To observe this fact is not to hold the electorate in contempt*.

But to exploit that fact for the propagation not just of party-line interpretations but outright falsehoods — that, I would say, is a definite demonstration of contempt. That quote above expresses not just utter contempt but a certain gleeful malice, a swindler’s two-facedness made possible by the knowledge that the channels accessed by those you are exploiting will never carry a bad word about you, because you and others like you are in command of the content therein.

By way of analogy, then: which expresses the greater contempt, to observe and lament that smoking causes cancer, or to sell cigarettes?

* — For those more amenable to economic arguments: if propaganda didn’t work, no one would bother expending money and resources on it. See also the long history of state psy-ops, disinformation and so forth — and indeed the violent loathing that repressive states tend to have for even the most obscure writers and artists who dare to counter the dominant narrative; everyone knows that stories are the whole game. So I guess we’re fortunate that the game has yet to be reduced to a science… though that, for me at least, is the true insomniac horror of Farcebork etc., namely the prospect that they might through sheer size-of-n manage to master the art of persuasion.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.