Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner


Originally posted on August 6, 2015

As we begin the debates and the next round of political jostling for public office, I’m reminded that I’ve been interested since my early teen years 65 years ago in propaganda, the way the newspapers and other media can and do distort the truth. The old term for this is “rhetoric,” and I think they should teach about this form of manipulation in middle school. (That’s when I sublimated my rebellious impulses into critical thinking.)

I noticed that lots of folks see no problem in supporting popular arguments, however the publicity agents (propagandists) twisted the message to support a product or their candidate. I read up not only on propaganda analysis and semantics—the study of “how” words mean—that is, the emotional tone of ideas or words, much of it being unconscious. I studied logical fallacies, all the short-cuts that seem true but are really false. It’s as if I studied prestidigitation (tricks of the hand), magic tricks, card tricks—which my older brother did—but for me they were more cerebral, not just hand passes. I grew subtly rebellious and doubtful. I realized that seemingly good, honest men lie! They use an ethos of “all’s fair in love and war.” Then the candidate with get all sincere and overlook their publicity agents’ lies.

So I think that these “tricks” of semantic distortions (playing with words) and logical fallacies are mental manipulations that should be part of the standard late middle school or early high school curriculum! As I said, it’s critical thinking, what so many people talk about instilling in young people’s minds. It also helps to counter peer pressure.

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