2+2=5 and other Alternative Facts, Fake News, and Propaganda

Propaganda:
1: the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor or the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person
2: ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause; also : a public action having such an effect
Autocracy:
1: government in which one person possesses unlimited power

We already have a word for Alternative Facts and Fake News and that word is Propaganda. If you really feel the need, read the definition provided above, as well as the definition for autocracy (look up autocrat if you cannot infer its meaning). Alternative facts and fake news are just a new way of phrasing and selling propaganda and doing a poor job of it. Let’s go a little deeper shall we?

Fact:
1: something that has actual existence; an actual occurrence.
2: a piece of information presented as having objective reality
News:
1: a report of recent events
2: previously unknown information
3: material reported in a newspaper or news periodical or on a newscast.

What would the opposite or antonym of a fact be? Theory, fabrication, and lie.

What about news? Question, silence, concealment, suppression, ignorance.

So, really alternative facts are lies and fake news is the hiding of information. That also pretty much happens to be what propaganda is, except it’s typically applying those terms to a government or organization. Everyone takes part. The United States is not exempt from that. We still do it (hint hint) and we were woefully supportive of some horrendous propaganda during the World Wars. Everyone wants to point fingers at the Nazis for their nasty pieces of wartime propaganda, but we weren’t much better. As a children’s librarian, it is my duty to point out that Theodor Geisel, more recognizably known as Dr. Seuss, was horribly racist towards those of Asian decent and created pieces of propaganda perpetuating those beliefs. Usually though, we think of Nazis and Russia, because those two were and are just so blatant about it.

My point though is that fake news and alternative facts are lies and concealment of information. They are terms thrown out to discredit others, specifically those who hold opposing beliefs and are questioning those in power. They are words that are apart of a propaganda machine. When a government tells you that the only information you can trust is that which comes directly from them, then you need to be doing the exact opposite. It is your duty, especially in the United States, to question your government, to question those in charge. It was what this country was founded on. It’s what every teenager revels in, which is a fairly good analogy to what the United States is.

The USA is a teenager. We do stupid shit, we believe we are invincible, we think everyone is out to get us, and we rebel all the time. We are angst-ridden. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes not so much, but it is who we are at the core. Honestly, I think it’s mostly a good thing. We’re learning, still developing and learning who we are. We’re young. Most importantly, it’s that ingrained belief that you should ask questions.

There is nothing wrong with asking questions. It is exactly the act of asking questions that help eliminate ignorance. Asking questions, keeps those in power, whatever the position may be, in check. You question the information a parent or teacher gives you so that you can learn, to force them into a position to revaluate what it is they are saying. That is a good thing. As an educator I want to be asked questions. I want what I’m sharing not to be taken at face value. I want you to question everything I’m writing right now. I’m right, but you shouldn’t just read this and assume that I’m a genius, which I’m not. I’m also far from the first person to articulate this thought and there are those who’ve done a better job.

Articulating a thought well does not make it immune to critique. If anything, I want you to take a second look at something well worded, because that is where true propaganda flourishes. It’s those beautiful well written words and pieced together images that you appreciate for what they are without analyzing the deeper meaning behind them. This may be a poor example, but it’s one that comes to mind right now. Birth of a Nation is a grotesque movie. As a film and piece of cinematic and U.S. history, it is beautiful in it’s own right, but horrendous in what it is actually portraying and the message it represents. Documentary films are a good example. A movie like Blackfish, may move me to my core, but it does not mean that it has a very biased side. Just because it moves me and is articulate in presenting it’s message does not mean I should just unquestioningly accept that everything in it is accurate and right.

But don’t go crazy. I don’t want you running around in tin foil hats, which would actually only amplify a signal. Everything is not a conspiracy theory. Everything does not need questioned so far and in so much over analyzed detail that you no longer believe anything is certain. But do question things, especially those that ring a bit false or those that seem too good, especially by those with any power. If you see something that just hits home and your gut reaction is to agree with it 100%, don’t. Think about it for a few minutes and look to see if maybe you are just being feed what you want to believe.