Modern Day Propaganda

  • Karina Carlos ’21

We are living in a time where technology and the Internet rule our lives, and with this comes a new age of media. It is now much easier to reach information, it is simply one click away. Every social media platform allows easy access to news outlets and any type of information. This means that almost all news and media we absorb comes with some sort of bias.

This has always been the case, even with newspapers and other forms of media in the past. Humans are inherently biased, which causes a person to question how trustworthy the information they receive is and the intention behind it. Modern media has introduced a new wave of propaganda in our country. Propaganda has been around for decades. When war broke out in Europe in 1939, American public opinion was not to join the war. Barely recovering from the Great Depression and the first World War twenty years prior, the American people were tired. They wanted nothing to do with the European war.

However, the American government did want to get involved in World War II, but they could not do it with so many Americans against the idea. Then a German submarine sank a U.S. ship, killing several American soldiers, yet, this tragic event still did not persuade the American population to join the war. Then on December 7, 1941, Japanese planes attacked the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, killing over 2,000 Americans. This was the event that enraged the American people, enough for the American government to declare war on Japan and enter World War II. The U.S. government wanted to ensure that they would have the full support of the American public throughout the entire war, so they used forms of propaganda to persuade.

Posters lined the streets that read “Avenge Pearl Harbor!” and “Remember Dec. 7th!” All to keep public opinion for the same agenda that the United States was keeping. Back in the early 20th century, posters and newspapers were used to influence public opinion. Today, propaganda is distributed in a different manner, with the use of social media and online news outlets. The U.S. government no longer needs to use posters and newspapers to persuade public opinion in their favor; propaganda is now digitally distributed. This has become very clear with the recent rising tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Trump has made it clear that he is 100% willing to go to war against Iran, and will take any force necessary. The agenda here is going to war. And based on headlines I have seen, that is the direction that the public opinion is being swayed.

For example, a CNBC article headline read, “The U.S. Just Killed the World’s #1 Bad Guy.” How do you keep track of how “bad” a person is? Headlines like this do not compel you to read the actual article or even do your research. They are meant to persuade you into thinking it’s the truth and then develop your opinions based on that. This is how propaganda works in this new age. This is how agendas are pushed forward: through internet propaganda that is meant to influence public opinion. Propaganda may seem like a strong word to use, but its definition is a “form of persuasion meant to influence people’s attitudes, beliefs and behaviors” (Edge: Ethics of Development in a Global Environment, Stanford. edu).

Propaganda has always been used by the American government to drive public opinion in their favor. It is easier to do so now with the Internet. However, we can use the power of the Internet to push against false information as well. Through research and our own judgment, we can uncover these kinds of hidden agendas and the propaganda used to enforce them, which is made incredibly easy through the Internet.

Humans been easily manipulated in the past through the use of propaganda and these headlines that we absorb on the Internet make it easier to spread this type of misleading information. However, we can fight the spreading of false information with our own research and push back against agendas that do not benefit society as a whole.

Photo from WatchMojo

By Axel de Vernou

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