Propaganda is an interesting tool. Like paved road strongly implies where to drive, propaganda is media that strongly implies what to think. It is used to direct people to believe a biased idea or point of view. Often time, propaganda is seen as lies.
I’m currently reading a YA Dystopian novel titled “After” by Francine Prose. The book is based around the fact that school policies at Central High have dramatically changed after shootings at a nearby school, Pleasant Valley. The administration of the school suddenly and quite swiftly set up new security measures around the school to “ensure the safety” of the students. These measures include metal detectors, bag checks, banning the color red, banning any talk of harming others, etc. Any violators of the rules are sent to “Operation Turnaround”, behavior correction camps.
The book seems heavily influenced by questionable “security” measures that our government has taken due to attacks that are close to home, but not close enough to call for certain measures. The way the protagonist Tom describes going to school is “going through airport security, but every day”.
These measures however are justified in the school and town by the following:
- The killings at Pleasant Valley are upsetting and tragic for us all
- Illegal drugs were involved in the shootings at Pleasant Valley
- Central High will have a happy and peaceful future
- It’s for our own safety and protection
And more to come… (I haven’t finished the book)
The reasons listed do indeed justify concern and perhaps action, but do not totally warrant the extensive measures that Central High is imposing. I think that is a major characteristic about propaganda; it is contrived and stretched out thin to mask actual motives. Propaganda sometimes is a lie that is created to turn that lie into a truth.
Specifically, I want to focus on how Central High plays the proximity and tragedy cards often in any of their propaganda. The administration incessantly reminds the students how close Pleasant Valley was to Central High, and how the tragedy affects everyone dramatically, not just Pleasant Valley. Though it may be true that the shootings were nearby and a disappointing thing to happen, it did not call for the color red to be banned, or drug tests to be performed every practice.
Francine Prose reminded me with this story to be aware of the propaganda that affects us in our modern world. Safety is always a priority, but we have to gauge whether or not we want our privacy, rights, and freedoms to come before safety.