Let’s admit the truth – lying by politicians is nothing new. White lies and bold-faced lies are not a new part of our political landscape. But, what seems new is the petty, indefensible bold-faced lie that everyone in the room knows is false. There is a word for that, propaganda. Defined as information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.
Almost exactly one century ago the first communications propaganda industry sprung up – President Woodrow Wilson, anxious to convince a skeptical American people to support the “Great War stated the Creel Committee in April 1917. George Creel, a journalist, gathered an all start team to put out “not propaganda as the Germans defined it, but propaganda in the true sense of the word, meaning the 'propagation of faith.” They went to work dehumanizing the Germans, exaggerating and fabricating tales of German human rights abuses, and making America’s citizen army into a band of everyday heroes. They branded the Germans and Austrians as Huns, vicious inhuman killers who had no respect human life.
While controversial, the effort was a success, coming on the sinking of the Lusitania a month after the Committee was established and coming up on the heels of the leaking of the Zimmerman Telegram. Creel used these incidents to whip up fear and distrust.
So what does this have to do with the Bowling Green Massacre and the “Terror in Sweden?”
Creel worked to get the American people behind the war effort – using fear, hatred and racial messages.
Today’s lies come without a clear end game. Rather than coming at a time of a national crisis, they feed fears of crisis – and they are divisive.
Certainly Creel unleashed a powerful brand of dark marketing – one that would go on to thrive during the Second World War. But the world moved on, and consumers became more sophisticated and savvy – disseminating such clearly false lies. Until today. Today’s emersion of falsehoods may act as a vaccine against the truth – simply flood the market with so much misinformation and distortion that people will simply tune out, and stop trying to distinguish between the truth and lies. WE become desensitized and ambivalent. A dangerous precedent – one that may be rooted in the past, but has dark overtones for the future.