Propaganda is terrifying

I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to write about the current conflict in Ukraine. As much as this feels more shocking to me than most other conflicts in the world have, probably because Ukraine seems a lot closer than most other countries with big conflicts do, at the end of the day there are many horrible things going on in the world at any time and I’m not really qualified to talk about most of them. War is bad. Not a hard statement to make, I think war is almost universally bad. I think there’s a place for violence in protest, since many good things have happened in our history on the back of violent protests, but full scale war is almost always a bad thing. Like I said, I’m not really qualified to talk about these things, but if you’re bombing schools and shooting at nuclear reactors you’re the bad guy.

But what happens when the bad guys don’t realize they’re the bad guys? One thing the world has become very conscious of is the power of propaganda. Media outlets can really tell you anything they want and you’re kind of at their mercy. You can compare sources and try your hardest to find out what is true, but at the end of the day I do hope I can trust the news sources I consume. Yet there’s so many people out there who still believe that vaccines cause autism, that covid is a hoax, that Donald Trump is still president of the United States, that Thierry Baudet is a human and not a lizard in a human suit (for legal reasons that’s a joke). Misinformation or fake news, which have become synonymous with propaganda over the last few years, are very prominent in an era where everyone can claim something to be news.

This brings me to the conflict in Ukraine. Putin is the bad guy here. And I’m sure there’s likely some monsters in his army or personal circles that are just as bad. But to me, the most shocking images and videos to come out of this conflict are those of Russian soldiers in tears. So many of these young men were told lies and only found out the hard truth once they were already invading Ukraine. From what I’ve been hearing the Russian state media has been telling everyone that Ukraine has been taken over by Nazis and Putin is doing them a service by invading them to save them from the Nazi regime. From what we can see here in the west, this is quite obviously false. There’s just so much footage showing that Putin is in the wrong here that it’s undeniable. Yet even here we have people claiming the most preposterous things. For example, the aforementioned Thierry Baudet, who is a Dutch right-wing extremist politician with a cult following, has been talking a lot of pro-Putin rhetoric as of late, claiming that the west is at fault for this war, and Putin is just doing what’s right for his country. 

Before writing this piece I saw video of someone driving a billboard around in the Netherlands that said the following (translated from Dutch):

Russia is not the enemy, but Rutte*, who gives away our freedom to the EU and WHO, is.
*Mark Rutte being our Prime Minister

Now I personally do not like our PM at all. He’s a center-right politician whose economic policies are slowly pushing a large part of the population into poverty. But this billboard was claiming some outrageous things that are just ridiculous. Yet somehow there’re people who feel strongly enough about this that they go out to share it with the world.

I think this all stems from a feeling that a lot of us have. Youtuber Hbomberbuy puts it extremely well in his flat earth video. Something is wrong with the world. I feel the same way. There’s something very messed up about the way our society works and that’s a feeling shared by many, many people. The danger is to then buy into propaganda that preys on these feelings. You see it in the anti-vax movement, the covid deniers and flat earthers. These people are completely right in their beliefs that something is wrong about our society, they’re just finding an all too convenient answer that someone else puts in front of them to profit off of them. 

And this is the dangerous part of propaganda. From what I’ve been hearing, there are certainly some Nazis in Ukraine. There’s Nazis everywhere, it’s a dangerous ideology that never really went away. Just like how racism is unfortunately also not likely to go away. And propaganda takes this truth and twists it to make it seem like something else is going on. I think that’s also how these racist folk convince people they’re right. If you have someone who happens to be an immigrant and also a bad person, it’s not that hard to convince people that immigrants are bad people. But that completely ignores the fact that a person is responsible for their own actions and where they were born or what they look like has nothing to do with it. I can go into more detail on this and pull up statistics on socio-economic influences on crime and all that, but I think that’s best left to someone better educated than me. All I know is that it’s used as propaganda to put people against each other while the real enemy of the people laughs from their high tower.
I want to end this on a bit of a positive note, since it’s depressing talk.

Firstly, I hope things in Ukraine calm down soon, but I’m not optimistic.
Second, if you’re like me and you are wrestling with this feeling that something is not quite right, here’s a small bit of advice that I’m trying to follow myself as well:
It’s okay to feel like the world is wrong. Just focus on the things you can do for yourself and others around you right now. Don’t try to look for a convenient solution to a complex problem. The world and our society is extremely complex in its stupidity and a single person or idea is not the answer. Focus on the here and now, focus on improving yourself and living your own life while not hurting others. If we all start there, then together we can eventually get to a better place.

Or not, I’m not your dad, you can do what you want. Thanks for reading.

2 thoughts on “Propaganda is terrifying

  1. Well said. I completely agree. Here in the US, though most of the country and most politicians accordingly support Ukraine against Putin, there are some here as well on the far/alt-right who support Putin. No great surprise there considering what they tried to pull here last year. Sadly, a minority of people here still buy their line.

    I’m certainly not pushing for war with Russia — that would likely be a total worldwide disaster, instead of a disaster just in Ukraine. But at the same time, it’s infuriating to see what Putin and his friends are doing. Hopefully even more Russians will understand what’s truly going on (as many seem to know already) and fight against it. In the best case, I think Putin would fall from power, though I’m not sure still how likely that is or what would come afterwards for Russia if it did.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s scary, and I (obviously) don’t really have any answers either. Part of me says Ukraine should get help from NATO, but that just opens Pandora’s nuclear box. I just really hope this can get resolved as quickly as possible somehow, but I worry it won’t.

      Liked by 1 person

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