Here’s a funny one (in both senses of the word). Aldous Huxley wrote back in 1958 that…
…the early advocates of universal literacy and a free press envisaged only two possibilities: the propaganda might be true, or it might be false. They did not foresee what in fact has happened, above all in our Western capitalist democracies — the development of a vast mass communications industry, concerned in the main neither with the true nor the false, but with the unreal, the more or less totally irrelevant.
In a word, they failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” [Emphasis added]
So here’s today’s distraction (Northern Irish politics is full of them).It seems that the West Belfast MP is going to report the Belfast News Letter to the Press Council for an editorial which described west Belfast as “lavishly taxpayer-funded” through the benefits system.
In a presser (not available online) Paul Maskey Sinn Fein MP for West Belfast said…
The editorial comment in today’s News letter is insulting in its use of outdated and negative bias. Editorials in newspapers should not be used as a platform to denigrate and stereotype entire communities.”
He said it was the News Letter’s prerogative to support “Tory-driven” welfare cuts but slammed the editorial as “insulting and patronising”.
Good luck with that Paul. In the meantime, the News Letter struck back…
Figures compiled by non-political Assembly research staff — which were published last year — show that of all 18 Northern Ireland constituencies West Belfast has the highest percentage of the adult population claiming at least one benefit, with more than half (50.7 per cent) of those over 16 claiming at least one benefit. The Northern Ireland average is 39.8 per cent.
The report also shows that West Belfast has more people claiming disability benefits and more people claiming unemployment benefits than any other part of the Province.
News Letter editor Rankin Armstrong said: “We stand over the editorial. The figures speak for themselves. Many realise that helping people to get off benefits and into work is not only in the interests of taxpayers, but is also better for those who have in some cases been abandoned to a life of dependency on the state.”
And the kicker…
Six years ago, Mr Maskey’s predecessor as MP for West Belfast, Gerry Adams, reacted angrily when the Andersonstown News printed a column by its editor, who wrote a column under the name ‘Squinter’, in which he accused Mr Adams of having failed the area. The following week, the paper carried a front page apology to Mr Adams for the “hurt” caused.
Hmmm… Or as Huxley also noted back in the 50s…
In their propaganda today’s dictators rely for the most part on repetition, suppression and rationalization — the repetition of catchwords which they wish to be accepted as true, the suppression of facts which they wish to be ignored, the arousal and rationalization of passions which may be used in the interests of the Party or the State.
As the art and science of manipulation come to be better understood, the dictators of the future will doubtless learn to combine these techniques with the non-stop distractions which, in the West, are now threatening to drown in a sea of irrelevance the rational propaganda essential to the maintenance of individual liberty and the survival of democratic institutions.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty