Column riddled with propaganda

By using manipulative language to stoke up emotions, columnist steps out of the bounds of civilized dialogue

Re: Mark Walker’s opinion piece of Dec. 16 “Other people’s money in short supply”.

We all have learned by now that mud slinging works: it wins federal elections and gains advertising dollars in rude American “reality” TV. Your opinion piece, Mark, shows me that journalism now, too, is capitulating: describing climate change as a “social experiment” that has “failed”; the repeated mention of the “EU communists”; the praise of the “sound economies” of the Bush years; pointing at the sinister conspiracy of evil environmentalists masterminded by “Soviet” functionaries. All that and more made it clear that we’re looking at a piece of propaganda rather than intelligent and civilized discourse.

“Propaganda” is the art of combining words to trigger emotional responses in the reader, with the only objective to discredit those that have other views, and to provoke emotional support for one’s own cause. How this word soup reflects reality is unimportant.

That climate change is not a social experiment but a scientific theory and observation; that it can’t “fail” but only be disproved, or proven; that the “EU Communists” include leading and successful democracies and market economies with highly evolved social programs such as Sweden and Germany; that the massive debt of the Bush years and the criminal activities of an unregulated financial mafia laid the foundation for the bankruptcy of the world’s largest economy (and many other countries); that all is unimportant. “Communist”, “socialist”, “climate-change-hoax”, “greens” taken over by “communist peaceniks” — they all are emotionally charged words that can be thrown together in a toxic soup that will give susceptible minds the proper and intended hallucinations. I can’t begin to engage with it rationally, Mark, since this is obviously not what you intended.

Ms. Thatcher’s words about “other people’s money” were a witty quip, and unlike you, she had the good sense to leave it at that. She knew that looked at more closely it is, like many witticisms, unspeakable stupidity: we have used “other people’s money” ever since we crawled out of the primal slime to realize that there is something like communal good that warrants diverting energy toward it. Hence the question is not whether or not to use other people’s money, but how much, and how to spend it. That is the task of a functioning democracy. Unless, of course, you want us to climb back up the trees where we came from.

If humanity wants to advance morally it must learn to practice civilized dialogue. It starts with the premise that we all, no matter what our convictions, are guided by noble motives. That we arrived at different views because of different personalities, histories, faculties and material conditions, not because you are bad and I am good. That our very differences are a riddle God gave us to solve and, ideally, help us to transcend our isolation.

By using manipulative language to stoke up emotions, using terms like “socialism” and “communism” without either knowing their meaning or caring to explain what these tired labels actually still mean today, by conjuring up a scenario of evildoers purposely conspiring to bring down civilization, by denigrating those that don’t agree with you, you have stepped way out of the bounds of civilized dialogue.

Florian Maurer





Penticton Western News