Satire and Propaganda

Alex Symington
Alex Symington

by Alex Symington…

I was reading contemporary satirist, Andy Borowitz, and it occurred to me that satire and propaganda share a common denominator. They both require a kernel of truth to be effective. Neither can be total fabrication or they ring hollow, although that doesn’t stop FOX from trying. Andy’s work fits well with our short attention span and fondness of sound bites because they are brief little pokes at the political foibles and theater of the absurd that is in all three branches of our government in DC and in all fifty states.

Joseph Goebbels, inspirational mentor of sorts to Karl Rove and other modern day propagandists, was masterful at twisting information into various shapes to bolster the Third Reich agenda of racial superiority and other warm and fuzzy ideals. Speaking of warm and fuzzy, doesn’t “spin doctor” sound so much friendlier than “minister of propaganda”? Much like our two party system of which both are owned and operated by Global Corporate, (thank you, SCOTUS), our media sources are beholding to corporate sponsorship that has a vested interest in what information is and isn’t to be disseminated, to what degree of importance to place on it and what should be hidden entirely from Jane and John Q. Public.

Big Oil is one example of that corporate sponsorship and a major player in our ministry of propaganda. They would rather you didn’t know about frequent pipeline blow-outs and the resulting ecological damage caused by existing pipelines because that might impinge on the foregone sale to the American people of the Keystone Pipeline project. So, as a result, you will not hear about these spills on FOX or CBS. (See links below for non-corporate sponsored news of said blow-outs)

This inevitable environmental disaster of a pipeline would bring the extremely dirty tar sand goop from Canada straight through our pristine wilderness all the way to the Gulf of Mexico to be processed into a product that will be shipped directly to China. Big Oil tells us that gazillions of jobs will be created, but the reality is that after completion it will result in only thirty-five (35) permanent new jobs. On top of that, the oil companies are going to use American steel for only a portion of the project. After all their lip service on job creation, the Republican Senate had the juevos to shoot down a bill that would have made the use of American pipe for the entire project mandatory. No matter what the spinners say, energy costs for Americans will not be lowered one tiny bit even after risking our precious environment. This is simply rape and pillage so a handful of spiritually diseased and morally corrupt empty suits at Exxon/Mobil can increase their quarterly profit margin, throw some chump change at congress to keep them voting “properly” and because, God knows, they need more money! Spin, spin, spin….

Joe G is to propaganda what Jonathan Swift is to satire. Swift’s most well known work is Gulliver’s Travels, published in 1726, which is both satire on human nature and parody of the literary subgenre of travelers’ tales. (Robinson Crusoe perhaps, published 1719?) His less well known but more seriously biting work is A Modest Proposal, published in 1729. The full title is, A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burthen [Burden] to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick. It is a satirical look at the perception and treatment of the poor of that time. Not really very different from today’s perception by some.

Swift, with the written equivalent of a straight face talks of the “healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled…” He goes on to allude to the “Landlord/Tenant” [1%/99%] relationship with, “I grant this food may be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for Landlords, who as they have already devoured most of the Parents, seem to have the best Title to the Children.” Did Ayn Rand read this and not realize it was satire?

Today we have visual/audio technology that give us the satirical likes of John Oliver, Jon Stewart and my personal favorite, Stephen Colbert. Colbert’s send-up of the ultra-conservative pundit will be a very hard act to follow. The fact that he was able to lampoon members of congress in personal interviews for years before they caught on to him is a testimony to his satirical genius and his ability to never break character. Colbert even coined the phrase “truthiness” to humorously expose the essence of satire itself. Another brilliantly talented comedian, Tina Fey, went far beyond a single “kernel” by repeating word-for-word riffs from Sarah Palin that when Tina says them are transformed into comedy gold!

Back to propaganda… Like selling us on tar sands, another far reaching and disastrous proposal by Global Corporate and Finance is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, aka, TPP. It is another example of the intentional omission/diddling of important information by our fake Fourth Estate. Corporate Media is busy keeping Jane and John in the dark on TPP’s direct harmful effect on them. Public Citizen had this to say, “Although it is called a “free trade” agreement, the TPP is not mainly about trade. Of TPP’s 29 draft chapters, only five deal with traditional trade issues. One chapter would provide incentives to offshore jobs to low-wage countries. Many would impose limits on government policies that we rely on in our daily lives for safe food, a clean environment, and more. Our domestic federal, state and local policies would be required to comply with TPP rules.”

In President Obama’s most recent State of The Union speech is the depressing proof that even the president can’t escape the clutches of the Global Corporate Juggernaut. With his mellifluous vocal stylings he was dutifully spinning away the tale of what a glorious panacea the TPP will be for the economy, failing to mention it will be one more giant spike in the coffin of the vanishing middle class and the continuation of global environmental destruction for the almighty dollar. Again, those dollars going only to the Crème de la Crème One Percent Club.
All TPP negotiations are held in secret-behind-closed-doors-no-press-allowed. Where is Big Media, you might ask? I say conspicuously absent, AWOL and in addition, nowhere to be seen. I visualize a big shaggy dog, tail wagging with tongue lolling and slobbering. There is a shiny press pass dangling from his collar and he’s being patted on the head by an obese guy in a suit saying, “Who’s a good boy? You’re a good boy! Yes you are!”
Turn off the cable/network twaddle and get busy finding out what the propagandists and spinners are trying to hide from you and closely examine the crap they are peddling. Your life and livelihood depend on it. “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”, Wendell Phillips (1811-1884). Meanwhile, enjoy the satire. God knows there is no shortage of grist.


About the Author: Alex lives with his wife, Anna in Key West, Florida. He enjoys writing poetry and prose and making the complacent uncomfortable.

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3 thoughts on “Satire and Propaganda

  1. Alex, You ‘da man! Dude, how inconspicuous the truth has become. It has been forced to take residence in the outer spheres of the blogosphere where few dare to tread. It is about as hard to find as a nugget of gold on a mountain side, but at least I found a nugget today. Carry on.

  2. Alex, I wanted to say one more thing. I am uncomfortable comparing Borowitz to propagandists. Sure, there are some comparable things, but what Borowitz does is meant to move us closer to the truth, while the propagandists lead us further from the truth. Good satire always does that, while propaganda does just the opposite. In fact, their purposes are different. I just wanted to mention that, it does not take anything away from the quality of your piece.

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