Old 03-21-2019, 12:29 PM
Johnny L.A. is offline
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The Truth as propaganda

You know... you're should never read the comments on Yahoo news articles. But I do.

This one got me to thinking, though. One person posted that his family is disgusted by the president's disparagement of a veteran and war hero. (He did provide context, but that's not important for this thread.) Someone else was like, 'Your father doesn't speak for all vets. Nice propaganda, though.' Someone replied, 'How is it propaganda when it's the truth?' The other rebutted, 'Just because itís truth doesnít make it any less propaganda.'

I think most of us instantly see a parallel with Peter Zenger's libel case and think, 'It's not libel if it's true.' How can the truth be propaganda? The guy's an idiot, right? But the definition of propaganda doesn't exclude truthful facts. In general usage propaganda uses false, biased, or misleading information, and I think those attributes are what most people think of when they hear the word.

On the other hand, Merriam-Webster defines propaganda thusly:
2: the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person
3: ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause
The cause to which The Straight Dope is dedicated is 'Fighting Ignorance'. We further this cause by spreading facts and factual ideas. Is not the spreading of facts 'propaganda'?

I don't think so. I think that propaganda requires... 'intent'? Something. And I think that despite the definitions not excluding the truth, propaganda requires a certain degree of disingenuousness. Still, the comments made me stop and think about the Truth as propaganda.
Old 03-21-2019, 12:42 PM
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The word "propaganda" has acquired very negative connotations, but as already noted in the O.P., these aren't necessarily found in the actual literal definition of the word ("the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person"). This poster is literally U.S. government propaganda, but that doesn't mean what it's saying wasn't true, or that it wasn't produced in a good cause.
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Old 03-21-2019, 12:46 PM
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Propaganda is much more about intention than content; it's perfectly possible for it to be 100% true. It's like how the KKK can circulate a pamphlet of facts about black people that are completely true, but obviously meant to be derogatory.
Old 03-21-2019, 01:25 PM
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Of course the truth can be propaganda. It's the best kind of propaganda, because it is not susceptible to being exposed as a lie.
Old 03-22-2019, 09:15 AM
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Ever hear the expression "Correlation does not equal causation"?

Example: All women who have abortions suffer depression in their lives. But does the abortion cause the depression?
Old 03-22-2019, 09:29 AM
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It's possible to mislead with nothing but truthful statements

This article (previously discussed here https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb...d.php?t=749595) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/...=.2da7b6a93f98

"Fact: About 46 years ago, NASA detected two lifeforms on the Moon. These lifeforms were able to use sophisticated technology, as NASA could easily verify from their audio and video transmissions that we intercepted. Iíve actually seen the video, and the beings seemed humanoid to me, but quite frankly, I think itís hard to say for sure because of the bulky protective shielding they were wearing at all times.

Fact: What did NASA do? Stuck these lifeforms onto a rocket and brought them to Earth! NASA did the same thing five more times over the next 3.5 years and brought back ten similar lifeforms. Every time NASA has detected lifeforms on the Moon ó every single time ó theyíve removed them from the Moon and shipped them to Earth. Those might have been the twelve only lifeforms to have existed on the Moon ó intelligent, technologically sophisticated lifeforms ó and now the Moon is barren! (As far as we know. Could there be more such lifeforms evading detection? Iím just asking.)"
Old 03-22-2019, 09:39 AM
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Average age of death of rock stars is 36.9 years, while the average age of all deaths is 79.8.

Selective perception at its best. And truthful propaganda.

ETA: People say this about gay people too. They die young. How many of them have been out od he closet long enough to die old?

Last edited by Annie-Xmas; 03-22-2019 at 09:40 AM.
Old 03-23-2019, 04:08 PM
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Way back in my introductory journalism courses we talked about "black propaganda" vs. "white propaganda." And throughout my career in advertising and public relations we were ordered to never, ever put a falsehood in our material, because it would destroy the credibility of the true things we wanted to say.
Old 03-25-2019, 04:15 PM
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3: ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause
That's just conversation. Just cuz it's in the dictionary doesn't mean it's correct. I'd say propaganda is the deliberate structuring of truths without regard to context (see Andy L's thing about NASA) or falsehoods, with the intent to create an impression unreflective of reality.


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