, Newburyport, MA

October 12, 2012

Propaganda machines in high gear

Bill Plante's North Shore
Newburyport Daily News

---- — We come now to the final stretching of propaganda in electioneering to choose those who will govern us after the turn of the year.

Nourished by the seemingly inexhaustible flood of money by a Supreme Court ruling that its use is a form of speech and therefore free of restriction, propaganda floods the political landscape.

It always has, but historically considered it is only the exceptional amounts of money and the modern means of communication that differentiates this election from those beginning with this nation’s early thrusting between, say, John Adams and Alexander Hamilton.

Propaganda’s taproot was formalized by the creation of the College of Propaganda by Urban VIII in the early 17th century to educate priests for their missions. Essentially, it was, and remains, a means of advancing doctrines.

The degradation of propaganda was taken to its most lethal level by Joseph Goebbels and Adolph Hitler, which led, eventually, to the massive slaughters of World War II and, ultimately, their suicides.

Its use in our elections leads either to a change of political leadership or its continuation.

Propaganda, therefore, is not of itself evil; it’s a marketing strategy that can lead to outcomes, good and bad. Because we are a democratic republic, we can undo the bad without bloodshed.

Successful shaping of campaigns seizes upon that which resonates with supporters of a candidate or weakens support for the opposition.

The reported tightening of this race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is where we’re at and, considering the stakes involved, the outcome to follow should be truly historic.

So, too, will be the events leading to it in the next four weeks.

Following the Second World War, the paths of propaganda in politics have made us more dependent upon government. As a matter of course, we have submitted to regulatory authority that binds us to its rules and regulations to a degree that did not exist prior to the war.

We have benefitted from that, but there have been other consequences.

Most of these have related to the business world, large and small. Much has been for the good. Recently, much has not and the unemployed and the less employed are the sufferers.

Reasons for that are debatable, and understanding related propaganda from both parties is challenging.

The hour grows late, however, and it’s time for their strategists to seize upon what is the most commonly held concern of the great majority of Americans.

We, in the main, have become insecure.

Those employed have watched costs overtake their paychecks. Those unemployed grow weary of job hunting, and many have simply given up. Many struggle on, praying for a turnaround. Those in colleges and universities, already burdened with heavy loans, face years of trillion-dollar indebtedness.

But so have those who invest in industry been made less secure.

Much of that has to do with the world condition, but so has government policy regarding the business climate. That has been especially true for small businesses. Insecurity is the environment which stultifies risk.

Those responsible for shaping the propaganda for the candidacies in play had best deal straight on and straight up with those realities. Their parties’ leadership had best end this stone-walled standoff. It has created an unaffordable barrier for investors.

Those who would better the nation’s condition had best sort the wheat from the chaff of the propaganda paid for by the result of the Supreme Court decision that made free speech of money.

It is to be hoped that will be changed.

Meanwhile, we are left with the challenge of separating the wheat from the chaff of what lies ahead while wondering who paid for it and why.


Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and staff columnist. His e-mail address is