Two farmers were leaning against a fence staring intensely at the horizon of a field where you could just make out the sheep, and there seemed to be a problem, but they couldn’t quite see it, so one famer said to the other, “I’m going to go over there and ‘ave a proper ganda!”
A “proper ganda” in this South West England meaning is to have a closer look, to begin to see what is really going on. Propaganda, on the other hand, is precisely the opposite. It is designed to obscure, to blur and hide. And we humans are surrounded by propaganda all the time, not least in the heated culture wars of the West where Critical Theories have played their hand for decades and are now calling in the chips of chaos and disorder.
It is not by accident that Critical Theory relates pretty much everything to power, and the power of language to assert control and dominance. This is an aspect of post-modernism called post-truth. The roots of the post-truth phenomenon go back to postmodern and deconstructionist philosophers: Jean-François Lyotard’s claim that truth is relative to the person making it; Michel Foucault’s argument for the relationship between discourse and power; and Jacques Derrida’s challenge to the reliability of authentic communication. This might sound high-brow and academic, but the ideas of these philosophers is mainstream and running amok. A great couple of books to engage with this is Anthony C. Thiselton and The Grammar of Hermeneutics, and his ‘On Meaning, Manipulation and Promise, where he states,
“For what counts as true for one group is often disparaged as a manipulative disguise to legitimate power-claims by another group. If different groups try to adopt different criteria of truth to determine what counts as true, or even what counts as a meaningful truth-claim, rational argument and dialogue become undermined by recurring appeals to what one group counts as axioms, but seem far from axiomatic for another. At this point argument becomes transposed as rhetoric. Rhetoric then comes to rely on force, seduction, or manipulation.”
And it sure does! Listen to the Nazi Joseph Goebbels saying something about propaganda: “Propaganda must facilitate the displacement of aggression by specifying the targets for hatred.” We are seeing this happen everywhere in Western culture, specifically in Critical Theories ideology, Covid ideology propagated through the mainstream media, political class and Big Tech. One gets the feel that the lamb is being force-fed ready for the slaughter.
In a recent and very long discussion between Jordan Peterson and John Veraeke, they discussed the mind, consciousness, thoughts, culture and so on. Peterson said that humanity’s search is for “truth in love” or “truth seeking love” and that this is where Reality is so be found, discovered, experienced. The Critical Theories that are so prevalent in Western culture and they argue from the base that reality is sought through power, whether it is their own exposing of what they think or define as corrupt and wicked. And it is on these terms that reality is sought. So at root, the blunt difference is between truth and power.
One seeks the truth in love for the best possible outcomes in living a life well, a life lived in wisdom, and the term for this is philia sophia: the love of wisdom. The other seek power through a sub-structure of an artificial or imagined reality, a utopian vision that is so destructive, wisdom plays no part and is neither desired nor wanted. The term for this is philia nikia: the love of victory. Nikia means ‘victory’ and is a famous sports brand name today.
And yet the irony is plain for all to see. To expose power play in culture, history and language, as the Woke left do, as Critical Theory does, is itself a power play, and the problem with it is that because it does not operate by attaining Reality as it is by persuing truth in love, it deligitimises itself by using the same rules it says it denounces, because it lacks the critical self-awareness required to guard against deception and manipulation. This is why the logical conclusion of Cancel Culture is the extermination of everything and everyone. What a wonderful world that won’t be!
Thus, if Peterson and Veraeke are right, and I think they are, then a proper ganda at the propaganda of a Marxist system of ideas will reveal, using the biblical worldview as Peterson so often does, that “propaganda” per se is a form of idolatry, as a deviation from what is true by illigitimate means – the blunt tool of power used without recourse to deep wisdom, different cultural traditions, and an awareness of history coupled with the most obvious fact of human history, that no one is perfect and all have sinned. This is why cancel culture is so wrong-headed, and desperately wicked. Their internal logic just keeps getting it wrong. The inconsistencies, and illogical fallicies are there for all to see, especially when one looks at the raging debates around race, gender and identity. The logic of this Woke argumentation could take the following form:
(This is from a TED Talk given by John Veraeke giving an example from equivocation): “Nothing is better than long life and happiness. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is better than nothing. Ergo, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is better than a long life and happiness – so why not eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and kill yourself?”
Last month I read C. S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man. Oh my goodness is it even more relevant and necessary in our day! It is a tiny three chpatered book. But it is a giant in importance. His last comment of the book is crucial (p.48). It is about explaining things away and seeing things for what they are, he writes,
“You cannot go on ‘explaining away’ forever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You cannot go on ‘seeing through’ things forever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? It is no use trying to ‘see through’ first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see.”
Now, proaganda is of course a self-serving tool, and always proves itself internally inconsistent and unsustainable in the end. It serves to hide and obscure the truth, to “not see,” as Lewis said. Therefore, propaganda cannot be love in action, but the opposite. From the propaganda of the snake in the garden to the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, humankind is embroiled in the murky waters of propaganda, evidenced today through the mainstream media, the unified course that national and global politics have taken since the Lockdowns began, and the obtuse manner in which a greater destruction is being wrought on massive numbers of people because the propaganda of government responses is taking a life of its own. So because this is not “love in action” it becomes demonically destructive, and utterly wicked. And it is wicked because it is driven by fear, and is precisely why Thiselton’s line above is so powerful: “Rhetoric then comes to rely on force, seduction, or manipulation.” Similarly, Slavoj Žižek observed in his 2008 book ‘Violence: Six Sideways Reflections, that in modern post-ideological politics, the only lever for politicians to generate energy and enthusiasm is fear. This is precisely what has driven the global response to Covid.
The snake is alive and well in the garden, and we are listening to its idolatrous propaganda.
One line I like is this: “If the situation were hopeless, their propaganda would be unnecessary.” In this sense, the very fact of propaganda is itself a sign of hope. The very sign of idolatry is itself a sign that where their is evil, the must be a good. If idolatry is even a thing, in other words, wrong worship, then there must be right worship. And right worship is the seeking truth in love, because Jesus claimed to be The Truth and the New Testament declares God is Love. And a life journey of philia sophia is the binding Spirit that brings this about and draws us into Trinitarian Reality, a reality that is above and beyond us, and not a mere construct of our minds and imaginations. This is more often than not a utopian vision, and man made utopias do not end very well, since as Peter Hitchins noted with his usual charm, wit and utter conviction to truth, “Utopia is only possible when those advocating it assume they are good.” That’s a weird assumption to make isn’t it? And it’s very dominant in the world among the Wokery folk. That’s why, as George Orwell said, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” Indeed it is. It got Jesus ‘The Truth’ crucified.
Finally, in ‘Where Are We Now – The Epidemic of Politics’ by Giorgio Agamben, in a chapter entitled ‘On Truth and Falsity’ he writes,
“What we are now living through is more than just a staggering imposition on everybody’s freedoms; it is also a massive campaign to falsify the truth (my emphasis). People consent to limitations on their personal freedoms when the accept the uncorroborated data and opinions by the media. Advertising has long gotten us to a discourse that works better when it does not pretend to be true (my emphasis). And for some time, even political consent has been given without the presense of actual conviction – the assumption being that truth is not at stake in electoral speeches. What is currently happening before our eyes is something new, however, if only because we are passively accepting a discourse on whose veracity depends our everyday existence and our entire way of life. It is vital, that we examine closely what has been proposed, using just a simple process of verification. . . . . . Why is there still faith is falsity, even when the falsity is documented? . . . . . In order to stop this, we must have the courage to seek, uncompromisingly, the most precious of goods: A true word.” p.46-48
We really need to take a proper ganda at the propaganda before our very eyes, and maybe even coursing through our very veins, and certainly eroding our hard won cultural freedoms. For if the situation were hopeless, their propaganda would be unnecessary.