The use of fear in propaganda is one of the oldest examples of persuasion known to man. “Do x (or don't do x) and y will surely happen. And we don't want y to happen, do we?” Part of the brain is effectively geared to respond to fear for the sake of personal safety. The use of propaganda is one way of exploiting this amygdala effect. Another way is physical or mental force, including humiliation and torture. During the coronavirus lockdown we have witnessed extensive use of fear propaganda on both sides of pertinent issues. Interestingly, for the first time in history, these are global issues that have seemingly nothing to do with politics, but with ostensibly with health. For reasons of their own, each side is using persuasive propaganda, including fear-based persuasion, to gain converts to their biased ideal. Both sides claim to have the best interest of humanity at heart. Sincerity is apparent on both sides – and so is deception to varying degrees.
The battle to win men's minds is as old as the idea of freewill. Why would someone want to persuade others by winning over their minds? Safety, prosperity, wealth, etc. all have a part to play – along with more sinister motives, such as power and control. Fear of loss is innate to the human condition, tied in closely with the natural race instinct to survive and thrive. Powerful fundamental forces are at work here. So, fear of loss of individual or collective life drives the urge to save life/lives. Fear has always been associated with threat - real or imagined. And since the advent of the idea of free will - has also included fear of deception. Nobody wishes to be deceived. Thus during the coronavirus lockdown seeking truth has been one of our main concerns - along with concerns over suppression of truth, which is tantamount to deception. Therefore, fear of being deceived has also been uppermost in mind - alongside fear of loss of life. And let's also throw in the other big one - fear of loss of freewill or personal liberty.
The word 'propaganda' does not necessarily have negative connotations. It literally means 'things to be propagated' or 'that which ought to be spread'. The root of the word is from Latin: 'propago' meaning 'young shoot'. We are reminded therefore of the natural human urge to 'go forth and multiply' as expressed so succinctly in stories about the creation of the world. Just as organisms have the innate urge to reproduce and spread themselves, so do ideas, and by extension ideals. Propaganda is, in effect, the organic way ideas are propagated - be it ideals of liberty and equality, manipulation masked as compliance with 'God', commercial advertising, good news to thrill the heart, Armageddon mentality, concerns over life-threatening viruses such as coronavirus, resistance to world totalitarianism, etc. Each in its way makes use of persuasion to gain converts, fear-inspiring or otherwise, each for its own purpose – seemingly good or evil.
During the coronavirus pandemic and its subsequent lockdown we have been presented with two principle opposing ideals, each of which is rooted in the one idea of 'salvation' or saving the world. Fear of loss of life has naturally been high on the agenda. This fear has effectively driven both sides of a central argument, which could be epitomised as: to decide what is the most effective way of overcoming the enemy coronavirus. On the one side we have our ('God-given', if you subscribe to that idea) natural immunity, an innate healthcare system built into the bodymind organism. On the other we have the perceived need for human intervention - in the specific form of quarantine and vaccine. As a spin off to this concern we also have a further issue: free will, or the ability to choose between different possible courses of action unimpeded. In other words, we are presented with two opposing ideals: 1) for the sake of public health, to submit to extreme quarantining and vaccination and 2) also for the sake of humanity as a whole, to resist all attempts to impose a will on us other than our own.
The propaganda, or spread of ideas, on both sides of this issue has contained a roughly equal mix of two primary drives: 1) the urge above all to prosper and 2) fear of loss of life or constraint of freedom. As we entered the lockdown all those weeks ago, the issue became increasingly urgent. Now as the lockdown progressively lifts, hopefully these two aspects will move toward a natural harmony without resorting to civil disorder and martial law. Already we are seeing the seeds of this conflict sprouting. Whether it escalates into chaos and anarchy will depend partly on the determination of factions with motives other than altruistic, (those who could even ramp up fear propaganda to achieve their own ends), and partly on the capacity of astute individuals to wake up to a greater awareness themselves, and then courageously assist in alerting others. Whatever process proves necessary, let's pray that truth, personal healthcare and public welfare will all come together harmoniously - as democracy effectively proves its wherewithal to include the equal voice of all.
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