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Why is propaganda considered bad? If a government wants to express a viewpoint why shouldn't that be allowed? Why do people have to be informed that their government is expressing a view rather than some other entity? For example the government made a series of news segments which it then gave to various news agencies who aired them without attributing their source to the government. I mean if those videos didn't contain any lies what is the problem?

January 31, 2013

Response from Andrew Pessin on February 6, 2013

Good question, and perhaps your last sentence hits the nail on the head. Perhaps in its earliest days the concept of "propaganda" didn't necessarily have a negative connotation -- it was just a matter of getting information 'out there', and surely there is nothing wrong with the idea of a gov't participating in and faciliting the distribution of information. But the concept these days DOES carry a negative connotation, precisely in the assumption that the information so conveyed is not reliable. When you refer to 'propaganda' these days you are implying that the information is biased, selective, misleading, etc. -- which it can be in all sorts of disturbing ways even if it falls short of being an outright "lie." For example the government might release a report citing a bunch of economists praising a particular economic strategy the gov't is backing -- and conveniently leaving out reference to the numerous other economists who argue it won't work. That's not a lie, exactly, but if you are expecting the gov't to be providing complete/objective information, it falls short of that. The great difficulty, naturally, is how to distinguish in any actual case (a) the gov't making a good, reliable argument for its policies and (b) the gov't releasing propaganda, i.e. something designed to convince and persuade but not necessarily on the basis of good, reliable argument ...

hope that's useful!
best,

ap


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