Thursday, January 5, 2017

Reality check

Here is a good article from the Huffington Post discussing Germans' reactions to state propaganda during the Third Reich.  While I tend to shy away from anything that compares any current event or figure to anything from the Third Reich, this one is actually relevant and well-done.  Essentially it warns us that the strongest effect of propaganda is not in convincing us of facts, but in swaying our emotions and gradually moving our conceptions of what is acceptable or normal.  In today's context, this means that, while many of us may not factually believe the assertions of the ascendant Right Wing about the existential threat posed by Islam to the US, or the inherent danger or intellectual inferiority of ethnic minorities, the constant refrain of these themes may succeed in seeding an unconscious suspicion or dislike of those unlike us, or a willingness to entertain patently absurd arguments about foreign policy.  For me the lesson is that, when I feel an irrational discomfort or unconsidered rejection of a person or an idea, I should make a conscious effort to go against my gut feeling and to challenge myself.  This is something I generally try to do anyway, and I feel that over the years it has enabled me to get a lot closer to the complexity and nuance of reality, because I no longer unquestioningly accept the argument or testimony of someone who gives me "good vibes", nor am I so quick to discredit or ignore the ideas of someone whose outward appearance or way of speech has been demonized by society.

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