Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mind Games

This guy was taking a self-portrait in front of the white house, using his phone. Sweet.

I finished the H.G. Adler book, The Journey, a couple of days ago. But I picked it up again this morning. Apparently I'm going to re-read it. That book, what a book. It's fiction and philosophy, and also true, the story of Adler's deportation to Theresienstadt. Rather than a grim, black and white retelling of the horrors of the Holocaust, it's a personal story. The word "Nazi" is never used, nor is the term "concentration camp." There's nothing black and white about it - it's fiction that strikes me as incredibly real. Reading that book is helping me unhinge from many old assumptions I held about the part we Jews played in the genocide. Wow.

What I was thinking today as I walked home from my appointment with the Sufi acupuncturist was mind games, the way hopes and fears obscured what was really going on, not only from us, the Jews, but from the Nazis as well and also from the German, Polish and French people who were close up but perhaps not quite as clued in to what was going down as I used to believe. In retrospect it's easy to imagine that everyone was lucid but in fact I'm starting to really get that no one, no matter what role they played, was truly in his/her right mind. H.G. Adler calls it "insanity." Oh man - truer words were never written!

Propaganda - it's so effective. I'm thinking about this today because a dear friend of mine posted an article from The Patriot Post on Facebook today. Just the name of this site explains exactly what kind of propaganda my friend wants to share. Does anyone tuned in to what's happening politically in the U.S. right now doubt for a second that this is an article written in order to juice up those who support the conservative mind game while enraging liberals such as myself? Well?

Similarly, when I see that someone has posted anything from the Huff Post on FB, I don't have to read the article to know it is intended to stoke my liberal righteousness (also a mind game) while enraging those who lean to the right side of the political agenda.

I'm so over the propaganda, so over articles written to massage the egos of one type of thinker while enraging another kind of thinker. I'm so OVER American rage, the way we can't even tolerate normal conversations with each other any more. I am so DONE with propaganda no matter whether or not I agree with the point of view behind it.

I wonder, would I have been wowed by Leni Riefenstahl's amazing work? Could I have been convinced, as so many were, that the final solution was a Really Good Idea?

Probably. Hence, I'll be avoiding propaganda - like the plague - from now on. Oh yeah.

Speaking of propaganda, these are the feet of a sculpture dedicated to the Boy Scouts. Holy cow. It's monumental - kinda scary.


Cyndy said...

I just finished reading a very interesting article in the New Yorker about H.G. Adler that made me think of you and your quest, and got me wondering if you'd read any of the books that were mentioned, including The Journey.

I was completely unaware of the holocaust during the earliest years of my childhood. It was not discussed until high school, and even then it was sort of presented as something to not talk about very much.

As I learned more about it I was really disturbed about how something so horrible could be downplayed so much. I was very young when I first read The Diary of Anne Frank and I knew they were hiding from the Nazis but I remember wondering why in the world they had to hide and other people didn't. I thought it was kind of weird. It was not something I could discuss with my parents - I already knew that they were afraid that I was going to end up being a bleeding heart liberal pinko communist and this might be related to that in some way. I often found my parents views to be rather confusing. Sheesh, I wonder why?

I hate propaganda too, but I think that witholding information that should be known is even worse. At least with propaganda you have a choice whether or not to believe it.

Reya Mellicker said...

YES, I read that article which is why I ordered the book. It's The Journey that I'm currently re-reading.

Reya Mellicker said...

Do you think most Americans are smart enough to 1) recognize propaganda, and 2) make a choice about whether or not to buy it? I don't.

I think we are so dumbed down, and propaganda is so slick, it's not as easy as it seems.

I just watched Triumph of the Will, Leni's 104 minute tribute to Hitler and Nazi Germany. Thinking about Germany after WWI, the state of mind in that ruined country, and then seeing this film, well, wow. I was ready to stand up and yell HEIL HITLER. Incredible.

Cyndy said...

I'm afraid I probably have a tendency to give other people the benefit of the doubt regarding their ability to make intelligent decisions more often than is practical in real life. For myself I think it's pretty easy to tell if something is propanganda, just from the writing style, but I've had practice from an early age -having read so many of my mother's rabble-rousing conservative rags, etc. just because I was curious about the way those other people think.

You are right though - an awful lot of the American people react to what they read or hear before they think about it, or maybe they don't even think about it at all, and the writers of propaganda know that.

People definitely become more vulnerable to propaganda when they are beaten down by poverty, despair, and fear. It's completely understandable. And Americans sometimes become vulnerable as a result of their own complacency from taking a comfortable life for granted. I guess there's no way around it.

Reya Mellicker said...

I'm not sure that even the writers of propaganda always know what they're doing. I think most of us, on most days (myself included) walk around in a fog. When we are lucid, it's kind of a miracle.

Angela said...

What I could not believe when I grew up in after-war Germany was how much this propaganda was still alive! It must have to do with what you learn at a young age. If "everybody" agrees on the same things (or you are told this is so) it is very hard to ask pointed questions! When you grow up in a free society you get used to speaking your mind and wonder if the things you are told are indeed close to the truth, but if you never are allowed that, how shall you sharpen your mind? And apparently when later on you hear facts and see terrible pictures of what was REALLY going on in your country, you want to defend yourself. I hear the same arguments of the former DDR people as I have from the Nazis. Interesting psychology, always misused by the dictators of this world. I bet the North Korean people will also defend their beloved leader!

jeanette from everton terrace said...

My daughter and I often discuss this. The inability of people to listen or carry on open discussions about other viewpoints. It's like they see the other person as liberal or conservative and then just decide they violently disagree with whatever comes out of that persons mouth. She especially struggles with this now in law school because her political leanings are not held by the majority of the other students. Propaganda is indeed a sly little mistress at times.

Reya Mellicker said...

Oh yeah. And here in such a polarized moment in history, all the anger and refusal to listen, all the hyped up positions so many people take ... whoa ... it's toxic.

Jo said...

I agree with you about the aspects of propaganda. It can be snuck into anything from advertising to novels to movies. So many movies in the WWII era were pure propaganda and make me cringe to see them today.

I find it easy to spot the propaganda techniques, but not everyone is so equipped. Let's face it, it's used because it works.

The more of us opt out of buying into that drivel, the better. Let's start a "NO PROPAGANDA ZONE"

Linda Sue said...

Reya- you have a fully functioning bullshite meter- one of the best! Mine is overactive- I probably need to tone it down and accept more than I do. I reckon that if you don't identify with anything out there the propaganda will just bounce off because there is nothing invested in the emotionality of it.You, having lived as you have -having had all of that experience and at times shaken down to zero- would not be a part of the manipulation- You are too smart for it!

steven said...

the first time i felt the built in "o-mometer" was during the vietnam war when a copy of the national newspaper was delivered to our door. the cover story was about the war being "won". inside a group of canadians had assembled a list of all the canadian companies supporting the war effort through providing material support to the production of armanents. the company my dad worked for at that time was right there. producing blue, green, silver, and pink five pound bomb casings. my dad was so ashamed. he asked me to see the list because i wouldn't have known otherwise. the space between winning and losing was never so real and as unimagined by fancy words and maps with arrows as in that moment. since then i have worked real, hard to be one tiny part of the world i wish for. i have no time for the emptiness of political propagandist posturing. literaly no time. nope. i'm here for good. and for good only!!! strange boy! steven

Dan Gurney said...

I find that corporate media does much to fan flames of division among us. I avoid it because I want to connect with people across the political spectrum.

I find, too, that beneath our political ideologies, whatever they might be, we share many if not most of the same values and can talk usefully to each other about them.

Kerry said...

Propaganda was used so effectively during Hitler's time, and people seemed especially vulnerable to what he was saying. I guess we must be vulnerable now, too, because I see people all around that fall (especially it seems) for right-wing words-of-flame. I like to think I am resistant to propaganda, but that can't be so; why should I be?

Pam said...

It's all a matter of the theory,'how can I benefit from this'. You throw propoganda in the mix and it's a sure way to get exactly whats wanted for personal gain, at the expense of who(m?) we have to ask...and I always ask. So many don't,only too happy to jump on a bandwagon.
I'd like to think I'm right in trying to instill this questioning in others,particularly young ones, and encourage them to research thoroughly the two sides of every story, then reach a balanced conclusion where their heart feels happiest.
Sometimes Reya though, I feel that so many people's hearts feel happy in the wrong place (Riefenstahl and her Nationalistic loyalties?).
Assuming I consider my altruism right,does that make me self-righteous?
We can't go wrong with the values of not harming others, compassion and acceptance. Propoganda just reeks of gain to me.
That Riefenstahl stuff though - I've done my research on that. Phew. Now to me,THAT's self righteous self-justification.
Thanks for exercising my thinking muscles today. I think buying into propoganda just lets others do the p.r.yards of selling their own convictions for a particular agenda. An experienced older person recognizes it for what it is. It's very young minds subject to indoctrination that concern me, and so much is tied up with nationalism, a place where people continue today to choose to nurture feelings in their heart, whatever persuasion and form it takes, mostly terratorial.Has been so since time began.
Fierce nationalism scares me. I tend to steer clear of "Australia Day" - Invasion day to our indigenous people, and I think "the Mother Country" was not adverse to the propoganda machine under the guise of Commonwealth expansionism.

linda said...

I don't necessarily agree that propaganda in and of itself is the problem. One man's propaganda is another man's demagoguery, which is equally as bad.

I don't believe the problems we face as people or a country or humans inhabiting the same planet are a result of too much information, but rather the ease with which so many people are willing to suspend their critical thinking skills when trying to solve problems. It doesn't seem to me that many people these days are able to form their own opinions. It's easier, to be sure, to let others tell them what they should think.

I try really hard to look at all sides of an issue and read thoughts and opinions from all over the political spectrum before making a judgement or comming to a conclusion. I embrace the free exchange of differing points of view and try not to automatically dismiss a point of view simply because I don't happen to agree with it.

I plan to add 'The Journey' to my e-book que. Anything historical has always appealed to me, because it helps us understand the how and why things happened and hopefully, learn from our mistakes.

Your posts are always thought provoking Reya.

Much love,

Reya Mellicker said...

Linda thanks for weighing in! See? I love this about you.

A site that calls itself "The Patriot Post" signals straightaway that it's going to be heavily weighted in its "reporting" to the right. It doesn't even try to be objective.

I read the article and checked out the site before I wrote this post. My blood was boiling. The assumption underlying all the content is that there is only ONE way to "save" America, that socialism is "bad" and that our president is doing a terrible job. I could not disagree more vehemently.

I sure won't be reading anything from there ever again. Or the Huff Post. I'm living pundit-free and propaganda-free from now on. Oh yeah!