February 2021
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Like Little Whiteboards: Propaganda and Contemporary Minds II

The March for Our Lives is a work of propaganda. In the last piece in this series, I looked at some supplementary propaganda, from The Washington Post, which aimed at associating the March for Our Lives with the famous Children’s Crusade of 1963. Although the parallels between the March and the Crusade are obvious, Steven Levingston, writing for the Post, was prudent not to rely on the obvious. This is because of a paradox inherent in propaganda: its ideal consumer must be acute enough to understand what he is being told to believe, but obtuse enough not to understand that he is being told to believe something. And under no circumstances must the consumers of propaganda begin to recognize who is doing the telling, or why. Propagandists naturally get some help from their victims in this area. People do not prefer to recognize themselves as mere receptacles for others’ ideas, with minds like little whiteboards, to be scribbled on and erased, in accordance with some larger lesson plan. But even though people prefer to remain ignorant about what politicians, public-relations firms, media conglomerates, lobbying groups, think tanks, foundations, schools, universities, and non-profit organizations are scribbling on the surfaces of their minds, if the propagandists press too hard, people will take notice. So propaganda requires some finesse.

Unless, that is, it is targeted at people who are completely helpless. Which brings us back to the March for Our Lives.

With this preface, I invite you to consider the best treatment of the March, in the broadest context, that I have come across so far: “The Making of A Mindless Movement – A Teacher’s Perspective On Student Walkouts,” from Brett Veinotte’s School Sucks Podcast. In this episode, Brett reads a letter from an elementary school teacher who sees more going on with the March for Our Lives than propagandists will be comfortable with.

I detest the way that children have been used as pawns for political protest. To capitalize on a tragic event like the Parkland shooting and manipulate young people’s emotions for a political cause is absolutely disgusting. Since the progressive movement in education, youth have been idealized as agents of change who possess the powers to solve society’s most profound problems. But youth are also highly impressionable, and there is a fine line between promoting activism and indoctrination.

Read or listen to the whole thing.

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