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View Diary: Propaganda: What it is and what it isn't. (79 comments)

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  •  Could you clarify this (7+ / 0-)
    I'm pretty sure that you don't usually consider popular prejudice or ignorance as valid yardsticks for judging the validity of a proposition. I'm equally sure that isn't your intention here.
    Do you mean ignorance in respect to the definition of propaganda?

    Because I very much hold a prescriptivist view of language. There is no "preoper" definition of propaganda, only the various usages. I think that's true of most everything except technical terms and group deliniators, although the latter has variations. If enough people are wrong about the meaning of a word then that word has another meaning.

    •  Exactly. Unless a Word Has a Hard Technical (8+ / 0-)

      meaning, definitions are ultimately democratic.

      --Which is a continuing problem with words like "theory" which have everyday and technical meanings that are nearly opposite.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sat Sep 07, 2013 at 07:52:02 PM PDT

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    •  Well if by prescriptivist you mean (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cedwyn, serendipityisabitch

      that one usage is as valid as another, we will just have to agree to disagree.

      Nothing human is alien to me.

      by WB Reeves on Sun Sep 08, 2013 at 12:51:25 AM PDT

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      •  By prescritivist I mean (0+ / 0-)

        that the dictionary describes how you should use a word, not how people do use a word. 'Propaganda' is almost universally used in the connotative sense, and in my experience is only used in its other senses either in technical/academic writing or to explain that the connotative/generally accepted meaning is wrong.

        I think there are some of these lingustic battles worth fighting, this one is over.

        •  Okay but as I've said (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          serendipityisabitch

          if you're going to treat propaganda as synonymous with lying, you have to treat it as subject to the same proofs as an accusation of lying.

          Labeling an opposing view as propaganda without such proof and then arguing that it ought to be dismissed or ignored as such is dishonest and demagogic. It is itself an attempt shut down discussion and limit debate.

          So our choices are either to fight the linguistic battle or to insist that people using the word in this fashion treat it as an accusation of lying.

          Or I suppose we could just close our eyes to what's going on in the name of serving some "greater good."    

          Nothing human is alien to me.

          by WB Reeves on Sun Sep 08, 2013 at 12:09:10 PM PDT

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          •  But it's not synonymous with lying (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            WB Reeves

            It's more subtle than just lying. It's presenting information in a misleading manner. That's why people don't just say that it's lies. The use of the "hundreds of dead children" meme is an example of propaganda. It's certainly true, so propaganda isn't just lies. The constant repetition of Saddam's name while talking about 9/11 while not explicitly linking the two is another example of propaganda that isn't lying.

            •  Okay (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              serendipityisabitch

              but that's the equivalence that's being presented here. Sorry if I incorrectly assumed it was your view.

              But this gets to the core of the problem. If we aren't going to use a standard definition, if instead we appeal to some nebulous "common" usage, what is that usage?

              All that's been presented is that propaganda is synonymous with falsehood and half truth. If you reject that as well as the dictionary, what common understanding can we appeal to? A word that can mean anything means nothing in particular.

              Your examples of propaganda seem to comport with my central point; that Propaganda is simply any polemical argument, regardless of its truthfulness or lack there of. Consequently, labeling something as propaganda isn't, in itself, a viable refutation of an argument.

              What is it exactly that we are disagreeing about?  

              Nothing human is alien to me.

              by WB Reeves on Sun Sep 08, 2013 at 12:52:45 PM PDT

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    •  say what now? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AoT
      If enough people are wrong about the meaning of a word then that word has another meaning.
      no; it just means that a lot of people are !@#$%& wrong.

      a lot of people use "equivocate" when they mean something akin to "treat as equal."  but equivocate means what it means; the incorrect usage is just wrong, not a redefinition.

      Please don't dominate the rap, Jack, if you got nothin' new to say - Grateful Dead

      by Cedwyn on Sun Sep 08, 2013 at 05:43:20 AM PDT

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      •  Linguists would disagree (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AoT

        with you.  Word meanings change and evolve over time and are defined by use in a community of speakers.  The best you can say is that for one population or at one time "equivocate" meant that.  It's not as if there are Platonic forms floating about in some eternal ideal space defining meaning.  This is just linguistics 101.

        •  As I've pointed out elsewhere (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          serendipityisabitch, Cedwyn

          if you're going to privilege the popular use of propaganda as a synonym for lying, it follows that you must treat the accusation of "propaganda" the same as you would an accusation of lying. That is, proof must be presented or the accusation must be withdrawn.

          Are you prepared to do that?

          Nothing human is alien to me.

          by WB Reeves on Sun Sep 08, 2013 at 11:47:01 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  The english language, and all languages (0+ / 0-)

        are built on words and phrases changing meanings. That's just how language works. Nice used to mean something very different than what it does now, and still would if words didn't change meaning based on usage. But they do change meaning, or acquire new meanings. There are times when people misuse words and phrases and it's perfectly fine to correct them, but once a definition is commonly used enough then the word really means that. There is no determinant of meaning other than popular usage.

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