By: Erik and Elisabeth
Elisabeth – What would you do if you learned your every thought, action, and whim was being influenced by an outside source?
Erik – Well, this is exactly what is happening with propaganda today, and most of the time we don’t even realize it.
Elisabeth – Social media has become a standard part of our daily lives, but along with all the good come some downsides.
Erik –More and more people aren’t thinking for themselves because they take what they see online as the complete truth.
Elisabeth – That becomes a problem when it starts to strip us of our individuality and independent thought, and as a result, freedom of speech becomes less and less common.
Erik – But not to worry, we’re here to help!
Elisabeth – I’m Elisabeth,
Erik – And I’m Erik
Elisabeth – And this is Utopia Debunked, Where our goal is to discover, declutter and debunk. In today’s episode, we’ll be talking a little bit more about this problem and what you can do to help combat it. We’ll start out by discussing propaganda and how it’s affected people’s thoughts throughout history
Erik – Then we’ll discuss how social media is being used today as a platform for propaganda to be spread by almost anyone
Elisabeth – And later, we’ll delve deeper into what exactly is the problem surrounding social media and its use in controlling citizens, and what you can do about it.
Segment 1 –
Elisabeth – so a lot of the time nowadays we see that when we’re on whatever social media platform, whether it’s Instagram, snapchat, Facebook or anything else, we are presented with a lot of information
Erik – It can be news, people’s opinions, trends, or an infinite number of other things but one thing is certain: propaganda is everywhere.
Elisabeth – That is so true! And one of the most common places we see propaganda is in politics.
Erik – That’s right, and, one of the first things we tend to think about when we hear the word “propaganda” is world war two, more specifically how it was used by Hitler and the Nazi party. They used propaganda in order to keep people in line, and to encourage people to help a cause that a lot of people did not want to stand behind.
Elisabeth – Of course! Throughout the war both sides used propaganda through posters, cartoons, schools, and more to promote their side, and get the citizens more on board with the war. One example of propaganda the United States used to encourage men to enlist was the “we want you” poster with Uncle Sam pointing through the poster. This was used almost as a guilt trip tactic to “encourage” men to enlist by telling them if they really loved their country and if they were real men, that they would enlist.
Erik – Even the posters telling everyone to do their part by donating scrap metal to create ammunition for the soldiers were a form of propaganda, telling citizens that everyone needed to do their part in the war.
Elisabeth – Pilots would even fly over towns of their enemies, and instead of dropping bombs, they would drop pamphlets of propaganda supporting their country.
Erik – Right, and even though there were plenty of citizens in Germany, the United states and other countries that didn’t agree with the tactics of the war or the things that were going on, the government’s propaganda made certain that any naysayers were silenced, and they’re opinions not heard.
Elisabeth – Now, propaganda has always been there, however, its face has changed throughout the years. Although it started as simple posters it soon evolved into pamphlets, newspaper ads, and even mail. Then when the internet was made, it slowly evolved into advertisements online. Even politicians today use forms of propaganda to boost their campagnes.
Erik – Exactly, Just like Hitler used propaganda to keep people in line and to target people with scare tactics and telling them that his way was the way, many world leaders use similar propaganda and tactics, albeit less extreme, in order to stay in control. This can take the form of things such as attack ads on the radio, online, or on tv. Politicians use attack ads as a form of propaganda to convince the people that their way and their plan is the best. Even if it is taking a different form this is still propaganda. One specific example that we can think of that is a more recognizable form of modern propaganda is BREXIT
Elisabeth – While BREXIT was an ongoing affair it was common for people who got a vote but didn’t necessarily know the economy very well but who also wanted to be informed to go to economists to get informed. Economists who were for BREXIT would project good numbers for the future, whereas economists that were against BREXIT would project low numbers when these people came to them. By promoting their own agenda and goal of BREXIT going through or not, this can be recognised and considered as a form of propaganda.This strategic disinformation was not only used by economists during brexit but even opposing sides to try and spread false information about the other side via social media.
Erik – What is interesting about this is that because of advancements in technology, creating propaganda and influencing others has never been easier, even for people outside the government such as propaganda driven by corporations or consumerism?
Elisabeth – Right, so, this is where social media propaganda comes into play and although it can be hard to recognize, it is one of the most common ways we see propaganda spread today.
Segment 2 –
Erik – Teens today are bombarded with more information than ever before via social media and online, and it can be challenging to separate what’s true from what isn’t.
Elisabeth – You know Erik, last time i looked at my screen hours on my phone, I had spent an average of 7 hours a day online! That’s longer than the school day!
Erik – Looking at what your friend posted yesterday, the latest tiktok trend, news, and more. It creates an impression on us all, and affects the way we think and see the world.
Elisabeth – This provides the perfect opportunity for companies, governments, or even people to influence the way we think while we’re none the wiser.
Erik – Elisabeth, I spend hours everyday on social media, but I don’t feel like my ideas are being changed by others? How would propaganda be used through social media to influence what I think?
Elisabeth – Well, there are many ways you can be influenced through social media. One example is targeted ads.
Erik – That’s when you’re shown ads based off of what brands know you like, right?
Elisabeth – Pretty much, yes! Advertising and propaganda are different, but can be used together to influence your opinions, political views and even what you buy.
Erik – Advertisements can use my desires to make something seem more appealing to me, but propaganda is used by those advertisers to influence what I actually see as “desirable”.
Elisabeth – Exactly, so it’s like a loop. You are influenced to see certain things, people, experiences, feelings, or any multitude of other things as desirable. Then, once what you like is tracked, you’re shown ads which feed into that desire. Making you want to purchase something.
Erik – That’s crazy! But I still have a question, how are companies able to influence what I like in the first place?
Elisabeth – That’s where propaganda works together with social media. Companies or other people with influence use your emotions to make you like or dislike something to their benefit. They can do this through ads,
Erik – Wait, ads that make you like other ads?
Elisabeth – Yeah, but also through public relations, sponsorship by well known people and much more.
Erik – So things like seeing people you look up to using a certain product or doing a certain activity can change how you think of that product or activity?!
Elisabeth – Yep. Propaganda in advertising can also look like testimonials, using fear, seeing people like you thinking a certain way, or much more.
Erik – Interesting. And all this must relate to what you watch online too.
Elisabeth – How so?
Erik – Well, everybody today is in their own “media bubble”. Like targeted ads, social media algorithms keep track of what topics you like more than others and slowly show you more and more things you will probably find interesting.
Elisabeth – But isn’t that a good thing? It makes social media so much more enjoyable when I get to watch videos that I’m actually interested in. Like how everyone sees different things on tiktok. It shows me marvel videos, which I love, but not all my friends would like them as much. And you get to watch all your travel videos, but I don’t want to see them.
Erik – That’s a good point, it can be fun to see videos and posts that you’re interested in. That’s why social media is liked by so many people. But you have to be careful. It’s innocent when you’re watching a cat video, but companies and organizations can use it for their own good. that’s part of how targeted ads know what you like.
Elisabeth – Exactly. And it gets worse. More and more people are using social media as their main news source, and if you’re only ever shown ideas you already agree with, it becomes hard to change your mind.
Erik – If you’re only shown one side of the story all the time of course you’ll think its true!
Elisabeth – And eventually you just take the information for granted and no longer think for yourself. If you don’t see different opinions how are you supposed to figure out what you really think?
Erik – That’s like when a particular subject becomes trendy and then everybody is posting about it. Even if it’s something worth sharing, it feels like you’re not able to have a different opinion and if you do then it’s wrong. Sometimes I don’t even know what to think!
Elisabeth – Well this is a huge problem! What can we do to help stop it? Or at least to make it less effective against us?
Erik – That’s a great question, answers coming up after the break!
Segment 3 –
Elisabeth – Now that we know what the problem is we need to work on a solution.
Erik – One big thing we can do is learn how to recognise propaganda in our everyday lives.
Elisabeth – We can do this by making sure we stay inquisitive about the world around us, and always questioning the information we are given.
Erik – Don’t assume the first thing you see is the truth. If you see an ad, or information about a political leader, or news about something that is going on in the world on instagram or another platform, always be sure to double and triple check that information before taking it as the truth. By doing this you are ensuring that your thought is your own and not being controlled by the people around you.
Elisabeth – Take the recent presidential election in the United States for example. There were many rumors circulating social media about both candidates, and many people would take what they were seeing as the complete truth without bothering to look into the context. However, this could be avoided by using the method we previously mentioned and by making sure you do your research before simply going along with the majority.
Erik – And finally, it is important to be open to opinions different from your own, and try not to judge people for their opinions as long as they don’t harm people. No opinion is really wrong.
Elisabeth – Wow that was quite the episode, we sure did cover a lot.
Erik – Right but the important things to remember is that propaganda has been here for a very long time. I is constantly evolving and it is not going anywhere
Elisabeth – This is why by learning to recognize it we can in turn do something about it to ensure that we continue to learn and think for ourselves and that individuality and differences in actions and opinions are promoted instead of being contained by the majority.
Erik – Exactly! This has been Utopia debunked and we hope to catch you next time when we continue to…
Elisabeth – discover, declutter and debunk.
“Banks’ ‘Project Fear’ Brexit forecasts were commercially driven ‘propaganda’, economists say.” Telegraph Online, 6 Sept. 2019. Gale In Context: Canada, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A598562909/CIC?u=43riss&sid=CIC&xid=c5e4bc2a. Accessed 12 Mar. 2021.
“Fakebook and Twibber: why we lie on social media; A new survey claims a third of us would lie on social media ‘to appear cool’ or because of peer pressure.” Telegraph Online, 13 May 2013. Gale In Context: Canada, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A329588569/CIC?u=43sbo&sid=CIC&xid=d5280515. Accessed 12 Mar. 2021.
Ingram, David. “More Governments than Ever Are Using Social Media to Push Propaganda, Report Says.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 5 Nov. 2019, www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/more-governments-ever-are-using-social-media-push-propaganda-report-n1076301.
“Tag: Brexit.” Political Propaganda Social Media, 29 Nov. 2019, publish.illinois.edu/political-propaganda-and-social-media/tag/brexit/.