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Archive for the tag “propaganda”

The Power of Illusions

Perception-3There is a popular saying that “all that glitters is not gold”. And it is true. What appears to be one way, doesn’t necessarily mean it is truly so. A pretty house may hide inside it deserted rooms covered in cobwebs. Just like a big smile, may be masking unexpressed pain. Illusions have a huge part in our lives. But we often fail to realize how great their power actually is.

What appears to give a location or a person wealth, luxury and comfort does not completely cover up the fact that behind the expensive stores and villas, people may be found living out of makeshift homes, just like the favelas in Rio de Janeiro. Just because this is not publicized enough, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Recently, for example, with the ongoing demonstrations in Turkey, CNN Turk was avoiding any news on the matter and instead broadcasting cooking shows. Yet, just outside their door a riot was breaking out and overtaking the headlines of international news media.

The amount and type of publicity something takes, greatly impacts on your psychology too. Advertising a destination as rich, colourful and luxurious, creates the illusion that there can be no wrong there, no danger, no risk. And yet, when a tsunami hits the very shores you are bathing at, you are caught unprepared, as that crystalline illusion is washed away in a surge of a tidal wave.

In crisis-struck countries of southern Europe, such as Greece, negative publicity creates an image in tourists’ minds that streets are filled with unbridled immigrants who are waiting for the opportune moment to attack, steal and plunder. That shopping streets are closed and deserted. That nationalistic sentiment has overtaken the calm and peaceful mentality that once was. And that no one is safe in a country full of crime, corruption and offences. But that is not the case. And it is truly a shame that such negative propaganda is what wins over the reality of a country as beautiful as Greece. That despite the crisis, and the unavoidable impact it has had particularly on small businesses, it still maintains its pride and life still goes on as usual, as people try to cope with the new laws, the additional cuts, and the extra taxes. But this negativity spreading internationally does not help. For people enter the country with the illusion that they might get attacked any minute now, and fear overwhelms them, as they look at all those faces travelling alongside them in the metro, and create conspiracy theories in their head. To the point that in the end they become afraid of even their own shadow.

Illusions work both ways. Not everything publicized as bad exists without any hidden trace of good; but neither does all that is advertised as perfect not bury something bad. Just as there are two sides to each coin, there are too sides to each story. And even though looking for both may risk you being dubbed a skeptic, it is better to know the whole story, rather than half the truth.

Spin it around, bend it and hit the target

Political.spin1_-222x300Exercising authority in determining what message will be disseminated is a significant task in itself. It is not surprising that so many Public Relations (PR) agencies exist today, with their main goal making others look good and controlling what their clients say and do. What message they send out. It is also no wonder that the entire Third Reich created a specific Ministry simply for that: Propaganda. On how to send out the right message at the right time to the right people. And how to persuade people to accept it as their only option. Today, politics engage in a more “discretionary” power of the sort: that of Spin. Defined as “providing an interpretation of an event or campaign to persuade public opinion in favour or against a certain organization or public figure”, spin very often implies disingenuous, deceptive and/or highly manipulative tactics. Since the 1990s the interpretation of “spin” has shifted to mean a “polishing of the truth“. In fact, politicians are often accused by their opponents of claiming to be honest and seeking the truth, while using spin tactics to manipulate public opinion. And those who help them in this task are referred to as “spin doctors”. The latter have, in recent years, become the most important resource for a government, for they enable the political elite to remain in power on their own terms and to manipulate events as it best serves them.

Spin occurs in various forms. From different interpretations of a statement or an event so as to best suit your interest and purposes, to stealing ideas and dubbing it “inspiration”. Spin is not just for politics. It is employed in advertisements and publications to promote certain practices and behaviours as more socially acceptable. Companies may use spin to create the appearance that the company or other events are going in a slightly different direction than they actually are. As such, spin appears in the selective presentation of facts and quotes (cherry-picking) in the event of swaying public opinion in the desired direction. Ambiguity in public statements, euphemisms, and the careful choice of timing in the release of certain information so it can benefit from prominent events in the news, are also considered techniques of spin.

Spin very often occurs on issues that only half see the light of day, because no-one really knows what happens behind closed doors. For all we know the people inside could be playing poker, exchanging state secrets, or simply gossiping about celebrities. Lack of transparency and accountability leads to the manipulation of consent. And the consequent brainwash of ordinary citizens by political elite who simply feed them the information they want them to know – nothing more and nothing less. Thus leading to a 1984 Orwellian-type of state where a constant Big Brother surveillance exists and citizens only think they are safe because that it was they are taught to believe by the “Ministry of Truth”. Such is the power of spin.

People need to wake up from this passive sleep. To raise their voice. To nourish their curiosity and to want to discover more about the world they live in. To not settle for half-truths but to realize their own ideas and to strive to make the world the one they envision. Only by working towards making a difference, will that longed-for change actually arrive. Passive is no longer an accepted form. Active is the current necessity. The wake-up call. The obligation.

In these difficult times the world is facing, the economy is in ruins, crumbled down by a handful of those powerful elites, the ones who for so long abused the system at the expense of the others lower down the scale. Citizens around the globe are today protesting. But it is no longer enough for a few to act upon their grievances and the rest to simply complain. A change for all will be brought about by collective action. Spinning the system around will indeed require the collaboration of not just experts, but anyone whose life is affected by it. And to be honest, I don’t think there is anyone untouched…

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