Propaganda & Finding Meaning

“Meaning is not given to us; we have to create it.” (Bolman, p.248)

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As a student of propaganda, I see ‘meaning’ as a matter of individual and public perception. It is formed by input, and thanks to modern modes of communication and the accessibility of information, there is no shortage of potential input. It’s a practice of nations and corporations to insert their ideas into this large pool of concepts, for financial gain and social control.

They ‘form attitudes’ or ‘create meaning’ through thousand-fold layers of ideas, with an endgame or goal desired through the effort of deception and subterfuge. I’m a firm believer in the observations of Jacques Ellul, a social scientist who has studied the pervasiveness of propaganda in society, who figures that most “people live in the mental confusion that propaganda purposefully creates.” (Ellul, p. 199) Our understanding is one that is presented to us, be it ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Unless we take it upon ourselves to find and determine our created meaning using our faculties and senses, we are subject to the influence of ideas which generally do not have our intentions at heart.  I believe that meaning IS given to us, if we have not created it for ourselves.

Meaning can be turned on and off, by folks ‘higher up in the pyramid’. I believe that we are awash in a sea of propaganda, thousands of layers deep, which has us generally (purposefully) confused on most issues, unless we have examined them thoroughly for ourselves to our own conclusions. I think there is an ethical responsibility, be it in leadership, government, or the corporate world to convey a plurality of ideas, and encourage those who listen to examine the notion further, as opposed to blind acceptance. However, that works contrary to the purpose of propaganda and streamlined thought.

Bolman, Lee G, and Terrence E. Deal. Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2003. Print.

Ellul, Jacques. Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes. New York: Vintage Books, 1973. Print.

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