Information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.
The deliberate spreading of such information, rumors, etc.
The particular doctrines or principles propagated by an organization or movement.
If you look at the definition, it’s clear that the reports of a child abuse ring run by the Democratic presidential nominee from the basement of a pizza parlor certainly fit the very definition of propaganda (if not absolute insanity—seriously, who in their right mind could possibly believe this?).
The first reports of the term fake news and the whole bizarre pizza parlor/child abuse ring brought to mind a very specific time during my stint in the Army. In 1987, when I was stationed in Wildflecken, Germany, I was put on a detail to paint the mess hall. We had to work nights, as we could not close the mess hall down during the day. It sounds like a shitty detail, but it really wasn't—it got me out of going to Hoensfel for training, it wasn't hard work, and the cooks and bakers took care of us as the mess hall was closed at night while we were working. I think I may have put on five pounds, they fed us so well.
Wildflecken was on a mountain, and being on on "The Rock" we could pull in a lot of radio stations due to our elevation. The one that played the best music happened to be the Soviet version of Radio Free Europe. The name of the station is lost to the sands of time (I cannot even find mention of it on the web).
During our eight-hour shift we would listen to the Soviet spin on the news of the Western world in between AC/DC, Aerosmith, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and other ‘80s-era rock/metal groups. The sergeant in charge of the detail did not have a problem with us listening to it, but the lieutenant wasn’t real happy about it. He would come in and change the station to some talk show or tape-delayed baseball game on AFN (Armed Forces Network). Then he would leave and we would change it back, knowing he was not going to stop by again that evening.
The announcers spoke impeccable, accent-free English. Most of what they said was laughable, but some of it—the truth was twisted just enough to make it believable. This was before the Internet so we could not just look it up on our phone. AFN radio at that time of day was not running news, so we had to wait until we got off duty and then watch AFN’s feed of CNN to verify what we heard the night before.
One of the key things this propaganda station would do was attack the U.S. and European press—most notably the Washington Post, New York Times, and the Chicago Tribune—as nothing more than mouthpieces of the capitalist governments of the West.
The Soviet propaganda shared quite a bit with “fake news.” It demeaned the mainstream western media. It then took real news and twisted it around just enough to make it fit their framing and their objective, which I assume was to undermine support for NATO and the United States’ presence in Western Europe. As an example, they would use a bank robbery in some podunk town in Kansas as proof that the underclass was forced into robbing banks to feed themselves. They made the bank robbers out to be some sort of Robin Hood. Even at 20 years old, I knew that was a bit of a stretch.
The Soviets were not the only ones to push propaganda. Who can forget Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, aka Baghdad Bob:
This is why it’s so disturbing to see the likes of Steve Bannon on Donald Trump’s staff. He runs what amounts to a propaganda website. The items his website publishes are often based on reality, twisted just enough to make them believable—but they are often far from the truth. This feeds the other Internet trolls like Alex Jones, a man who just makes shit up. There is no pretense of reality in anything he puts out.
It has been said that a lie told once remains a lie, but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.* Hillary Clinton is crooked, Hillary broke the law, Hillary is a child molester, Hillary cannot be trusted, and so on. How many times over the last 30 years have we heard that the Clintons are horrible people?
How many times have they been investigated, with nothing resulting from those investigations? The GOP went so far as to go on a fishing expedition led by Ken Starr that could only come up with the fact that the president got a blow job. Yet even those on the left view the Clintons with suspicion, all because of years of lies and propaganda—and an all-too-willing media that has been reinforcing the misinformation for 30 years.
When I see and hear Trump and his surrogates speak, I am reminded of that summer of 1987 and listening to Soviet propaganda, the demeaning of the press, and outright lying. It is not “fake news.” It is propaganda, and we should start calling it what it is.
Now I know some of you will come into the comments on this post and say that the U.S. government has practiced propaganda for years, and I‘m not denying that. What’s new here is lying, propaganda, and disparaging of the mainstream media at levels that the world has not seen since Joseph Goebbels. Just imagine what he would have been able to accomplish with a platform like Twitter ...
*I have no idea who really said this: Goebbels, Lenin, Hitler, or the half-dozen other folks who have been given credit for it.
Author: Mark E Andersen