- Journalist Note: This will run on the Opinion Page for Daily Times Pakistan on Friday.
“Now when all the kings west of the Jordan heard about these things—the kings in the hill country, in the western foothills, and along the entire coast of the Mediterranean Sea as far as Lebanon (the kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites)— they came together to wage war against Joshua and Israel. However, when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to a ruse….” (Joshua Chapter IV)
The Gibeonite deception was accomplished (according to the Vulgate and Syriac translations) with “prepared provisions loaded on donkeys”. This Middle East story of treachery gives a depiction in miniature of the elements needed for a good propaganda war. You need the message or the word crafting. Throw in a few useful donkeys, and the game is on!
The game of disinformation is as old as man. As soon as man began to speak he learned how to lie. Having learned that a lie can be both spoken and constructed, the nascent psycho-science of propaganda received its legs. Donkey’s legs for sure, but none the less, legs with a sturdy kick.
Donald J. Trump will be the next President of the United States. He has surmounted unbelievable odds. But this is the first election in which this journalist has witnessed such a deluge of propaganda. It has the feel of a full envelope intrusion. Instead of a war of ideas our election was reduced to a propaganda insurgency. Mainstream media has been complicit in the task, and the blogosphere also availed herself of mercenary tools.
Think the worst nightmare for mankind is of the nuclear variety? Nuclear Winter is inherently undesirable and the control of peacetime use for isotopes provides a powerful singular metric for the preservation of mankind. But if you think that balance of power of nuclear assets is the kingmaker on the chessboard, think again. Because when considering propaganda as weaponry, future generations will go to war based on the potency of their belief that their cause is just. (We already see this with Islamic State.) Future generations will engulf themselves in urban political skirmishes because of propaganda armories capable of manipulating arsenals of thought. Nations may very well find themselves on the receiving end of bad leadership because of an ordinary Gibeonite deception.
Full disclosure: I voted for Mr. Trump. I am thrilled that he won.
President-elect Trump was on the receiving end of full metal jacket propaganda. The propaganda included low points, like the Frat’ Boy stunt pulled by GOP media darling Glenn Beck. He posted a YouTube smothering his face in a plate of crushed Cheetos. Trump was mocked as “Cheetos Jesus” by various bloggers. Verbal sneers became the order of the day, but such things are not worthy of media broadcast organizations.
Twitter developed into a cyber ghetto of conspiracy theorists. It is appalling to note an increase in the use of Tweets, instead of facts, to drive opinion. The concurrent use of Facebook posts to drive national discussion is also a new tool used in modern-day propaganda war. This is sloppy journalism. It has no real place in the tool box of a professional reporter.
Organized escalation of propaganda came with a sudden (and what appeared organized) uptick in ladies who claimed they had been groped by Mr. Trump…. thirty years ago…. twenty years ago…. with the telephone number of one woman crocheted back into the Clinton Foundation telephone land lines. The scenario became so distasteful that I considered selling T-shirts proclaiming, “I was groped by Donald Trump” as a push-back form of feminine class revolt to rage against the machine. If ever a flash fire with an accelerant, the aforementioned had that kind of a feel.
Perhaps the most hideous of propaganda was the incessant drum-beating for a Clinton insertion into the White House. Across the board, mainstream media pundits became the professional fortune tellers for the aspirations of the insider/elite. They told Americans residing in Middle Earth what the view looked like from the castles perched on the cliffs. Scanning the horizon, there was not even a smoke signal sent out in favor of the RNC nominee. But Middle Earth won! And we did it with what looked like an army of dwarves and misfits. (My apology to J.R.R. Tolkien!)
Of course, the battle is still raging. Leading Republicans and their drive-by shooters otherwise known as “think tank scholars” are still smarting from what they had anticipated as an election loss. Undoubtedly, a few of the “shooters” had already queued up their articles, no differently than a newspaper will archive an obituary for a famous person who is still breathing. The anticipated salivation of proclaiming that Trump had destroyed the GOP turned to bile in the back of the throat. The man did it. He really won the election! And Trump has not destroyed the GOP, but he has invigorated the base. He has not decimated the GOP, but the career aspirations of a few (Cruz and Rubio come to mind) may now lie like shipwreck on the shoals.
Propaganda warfare has come a long way from provisions-and-donkey props. It is no longer an embryonic field of study. This warfare is more akin to the energetic toddler without parental controls. And it is only going to become worse in a digital age. Images can be photo-shopped, videos can be spliced and diced, and the sons of Adam are proficient poker-face liars.
You do have a choice in the matter. Engage disciplined research for areas of interest. Read a broad range of opinions, including ones with which you are in distinct disagreement. Look for the nugget of truth.
Do you believe what I have written today? Or is it just a donkey’s kick? Have I provisioned my column with verifiable facts or mere speculation? Does my writing give you new ideas or have I nourished my favorite ideology? And always, always be aware of the donkey’s kick.