Saturday, August 14, 2021

Propaganda at Work?

The other night on one of the evening MSNBC shows, they showed a clip of some people outside a Tennessee school board meeting haranguing medical professionals who had been testifying before a school board meeting about requiring masks at the local schools. The haranguers, who we as viewers are at least supposed to assume are parents in the school district, appear to all be white men. They are yelling and threatening the departing doctors or other medical experts, saying things like, "We know where you live."

I took a few photos of some of the footage as it flashed by because I was caught by one particular aspect of it:

Yes, what that sequence showed is that as that one bald guy was yelling threats at the guy in the car (such as "We know where you live,") the driver took out his phone to get a photo of the one doing the threatening so the threatener could in turn be identified.

And what did Mr. Threatening do?

He tried to block the photo so he can't be identified. He doesn't want the person he's threatening to know where he lives, of course. But there's another camera behind him shooting video of the whole thing, so it doesn't make a lot of sense.

What is behind this seeming rising tide of people deluded by one kind of fakery or another — from rabid anti-masking, vaccine denial, and false cures to January 6 and the big election lie to QAnon? And even to the point where they're provoked into violence in support of the denial or conspiracy?

I recently read a Medium essay by a psychologist named Julie Hotard called Most people don't believe propaganda works. She had some things to say that I will be thinking about. And she didn't even get into how much money has been backing right-wing messaging for years.

Meanwhile, I've seen a lot of discussion examining the moral question of people who are unvaccinated by choice. If they get sick and need a hospital bed, should they get one? What if it comes to a point where it's a question of who gets a bed, them or another person with a different illness or injury? Are purposefully unvaccinated people the victim of propaganda or is it their own fault?

The QAnon dad who just murdered his little children may or may not be sick or the victim of propaganda, but he killed his children just the same. Ashli Babbitt may have been deceived by Donald Trump, Fox News, and OAN, but she was prepared to attack Congress just the same as she climbed through that window.

I hope these remain edge cases whose existence tamps down a more general groundswell of violence that the propaganda seems designed to promote. At the time, Babbitt's shooting knocked back the other rioters. But now that Trump and others are using her as a martyr, that's no longer the case. If they can turn the QAnon killer father into a cause célèbre, we'll really know we're in trouble.

No comments: