Welcome to Do Now’s Special Series on “The Press, The Presidency & Propaganda”. We live in a controversial and confusing political climate where there are daily disputes about what is factual and true, and what is not. We think it is important to have the vocabulary and media literacy background to think critically about different ways the nation and its leaders speak and write about issues that matter to us.
Join us here on Wednesdays in February for Do Now questions exploring different aspects of the press and propaganda as it relates to the presidency and public knowledge.
February 1: Lying Politicians & Propaganda
February 8: Censorship
February 15: The Fourth Estate
February 22: Citizen Accountability
Featured Resources [AUDIO]:
‘New York Times’ Editor: ‘We Owed It To Our Readers’ To Call Trump Claims Lies (NPR)
In September, the New York Times addressed an issue plaguing the news media industry: whether to call the then Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s false statements blatant lies.
Last week, the subject was revisited by the NPR’s Richard Gonzales with a different perspective.
A Pattern Surfaces
At the first press briefing of the Trump administration, the day after the inauguration, Press Secretary Sean Spicer falsely claimed that the ceremony drew the largest audience in inauguration history. In his defense, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, said that Spicer was presenting “alternative facts” rather than making false claims.
Later that week, President Trump claimed that voter fraud cost him the popular vote, and said that he would launch an investigation into the matter. The administration has not produced evidence to back these claims.
Throughout the administration’s first full week in office, discussion on the validity of the information being passed down from the White House has placed the media and lawmakers on edge.
While most prominent media outlets have yet to call the President and and his advisors’ statements complete lies, opinion pieces have addressed the issue in more forthright terms.
In an article from Teen Vogue, writer Lauren Duca puts it this way:
“At the hands of Trump, facts have become interchangeable with opinions, blinding us into arguing amongst ourselves, as our very reality is called into question.”
And in rare form, the New York Times addressed the voter fraud claim with a striking headline – “Trump Repeats Lie About Popular Vote in Meeting With Lawmakers”.
So what’s going on? And why do we need to pay attention?
Gaslighting and Propaganda
Manipulating facts for political gain is propaganda. History reveals that political gains advanced by propaganda have steered nations into conflict. For example, in Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler and his Minister of Propaganda, Josef Goebbels, used military rallies and fiery speeches to build nationalism, win support for their political party, and ultimately justify the systematic genocide of the Jewish population.
In another instance, propaganda was used to recruit and garner support for women entering the workforce during World War II, as seen in the famous “We Can Do It!” poster of that era.
And when it comes to shaping policy, decisions based on propaganda have consequences that affect public life.
The communication style we’ve seen in the first few days of the Trump Administration exemplifies propaganda and gaslighting techniques, both strategies for controlling the flow of information that eventually shape public opinion and discourse, as well as policy outcomes.
Have you seen or read an example of propaganda recently? If so, what was your reaction?
Respond in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #DoNowPropaganda.
Trump’s Lies VS. Your Brain [Politico Magazine]
What Comes After Alternative Facts [Pop Sugar]