On Propaganda, Part Two

One of the biggest concerns of America’s “Founding Fathers” – if not the single biggest concern – was that in spite of the greatness and sophistication of the system of government which the “Founding Fathers” contrived and devised, America would still end up like any other country. And as we are witnessing now, it did end up like many other countries. Current events and the state of play in terms of both domestic and foreign policy very much deflate and ‘puncture the tires’ of the whole concept and idea known as “American Exceptionalism,” even though many of us were devout believers in that concept and idea for some time. 

What is notable, however, is that despite all the pressure and psychological warfare being waged against him, Donald Trump has yet to cave into the pressure and the full-fledged assault against his political activities. What was clever on the part of Trump and his attorneys amidst this whole “espionage” controversy was that Trump agreed to unseal the warrant used to search his office and residence. What Trump sought to signal from agreeing to unseal the warrant was that he never had the intent to conceal or hide any information from government agencies. Plus, by virtue of the ‘executive powers’ and the ‘executive privileges’ which are wielded by a president and are nuanced, vague, and determined more by the mysterious “balance of power” principle than anything else – in addition to being situated at the top of what is known as the “Chain of Command” in the American government – no one is more entitled to keeping such information and being privy to such information than a president or former president who holds or once held the highest office in the land. 

Hence, the issue of what constitutes “propaganda” encompasses more than what is said or written by people. Propaganda encompasses issues and subtleties such as Elon Musk putting Twitter in a bind over the disclosure of how many fake accounts there are on the platform. Blue ‘check marks’ are also a form of propaganda intended to denote an air of authority and imbue certain individuals with a certain type of social status when in reality, many of these individuals with blue check marks are nothing but brainless cowards. 

An interesting story I heard once regarding the complexity and nature of propaganda was when I had just finished grad school and was volunteering in Washington for a ‘non-governmental organization’ (NGO) that assisted Afghan students who were studying abroad. The gentleman who managed the organization would often invite me to his office to chat over tea after business hours. On one occasion, he told me about how one of the biggest challenges for individuals who were either working for the American-backed Afghan government or were affiliated with the Afghan government was the fact that they were losing the ‘information war’ being waged over the internet and social media. In his view, the Taliban were much more advanced and successful than the Afghan government in waging the ‘information wars’ that were being waged on the internet and social media. This goes to show that when it comes to propaganda and ‘information wars’ and so forth, asymmetry between opposing parties in terms of money, power, and status does not necessarily translate into asymmetry when it comes to how effective a particular entity or party is in the generation and use of propaganda and information. 

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