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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Poisoning Minds

The way propaganda works is that you tell people what they want to hear and casually slip in one or two little things that you want them to hear. 

Let’s say you want to turn public opinion against the union at University X. What you do is join discussions that have nothing to do with the union and whose participants don’t know much and don’t care about it. And then you begin to agree with them, trying to imitate their speech patterns as much as possible.

“You are absolutely right! Trump is such a disaster for this country. And that extremely corrupt family of his? Gosh, it feels like it’s posoning the whole country with its rot. There’s this union at University X – and by the way, I’m completely a union person, and always have been – but this union, it’s completely corrupt in the worst Trumpian manner. And hey, did you see that he’s completely dismantling EPA?”

And then you do the same thing among people discussing the political situation in France, the economy of Indiana, and the results of the recent football game. 

The second time people hear of your union, they will already have a warm and fuzzy memory of a person who has really convincing beliefs and original, valuable ideas telling them the truth about this horrible union. 

I saw this unfold when the war in Ukraine started. Good, wonderful, well-meaning people were reciting outlandish propaganda at me. They had nothing against Ukraine but they were completely convinced by these smart, persuasive folks who told them everything they wanted to hear about things that really mattered to them. Unlike some silly conflict in some boring Ukraine. 

People want to belong. You agree with them on something they care about, and they will gladly repay by agreeing with you on something they don’t see as very important.

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