Tuesday, September 19

Propaganda isn't all bad...

...but it is still propaganda.

Propaganda comes in many forms. It can be used to teach parents to use seat belts for their kids. It can be used to tell us the importance of voting.

It can sell you clothing for your decorative lawn goose. (Why they hate America #540).

My point is propaganda isn't always a bad thing. The best example of good propaganda in recent days has been Keith Olbermann's "special comments" at the end of his Countdown shows. These speeches, with more viewers on the internet than probably on the show itself, are passionate, thoughtful, and true statements defending our Constitutional rights of free thought and free expression. I've loved all of them.

But they're still propaganda. And what's interesting is, they're good propaganda. They work.

I'm reminded of another excellent (though not positive) use of political propaganda: Ronald Reagan's "Morning in America" ad. I vaguely remember that in 1984 CBS News ran a story critical of Reagan, and as a visual ran that "Morning in America" ad. The next morning, a Reagan staffer (Ed Rollins, maybe) called Dan Rather to thank him. Dan said he didn't understand, as the story was critical of Reagan. But the Reagan guy said that didn't matter. The images were so good and comforting for the viewer, it didn't matter what the story said.

I think in large part it doesn't matter what Olbermann is saying in these special comments, even if I and the rest of the left-wing blogosphere love his words so much we're signing up to have his baby. What matters is the images, and here Olbermann and company are putting Rollins and Rove and the rest of the Republican Smear-Meisters to shame.

KO v. Rumsfeld was the first of these special comments, and the images are terrific. Watch it with the sound off if you dare. Image-wise, it goes like this:

KO, Blue background. Blue is color of Democrats but also connotes honesty. KO is the "anchor" of the segment in every sense of the word.

Bush talking about Hitler.
KO-Blue Background
Hitler/Chamberlain/Nazi montage
brief shot, Winston Churchill (good guy)
Rumsfeld montage, clapping for Bush
Capitol montage, Nixon, McCarthy, Curtis LeMay
Summation (more on that below)

The juxtaposition of Bush/Rumsfeld and Hitler/Nazis/Nixon/McCarthy leaves the viewer giving Bush exactly what he deserves, indeed, what Rummy asked for, in doing the whole Nazi appeaser name calling thang. "They wanna talk Nazi appeasement? Huh."

The latest special comment, on the Rose Garden Press Conference (last time Karl holds it there, betcha) is even better.

Bush Alone looking pissy in Rose Garden
Colin Powell looking official-testimony at UN
Colin Powell smiling and hugging our troops, who are wearing camo (no, really it's not propaganda at all.)
cut screen Rose Garden--Bush says "Unacceptable to think"
Abu Gahrib torture photo montage
President Rose Garden
KO-Blue "responsible leaders need to sit the President down"
Thomas Jefferson/Declaration of Independence montage

We get it. President=Torture. KO=Jefferson.

MSNBC sportscaster 2, Rove 0.

And now let's look at those KO summations, at "camera 2", that KO's director uses, effectively and I'm sure consciously, at the end of each of these special comments:

Now it's true, that Christians like myself are taught in Divinity School to see God everywhere. But seriously, look at the background: Glowing windows, blue and red, gray columns on either side. Olbermann is speaking direct from the MSNBC Cathedral of Truth. It's cathedral imagery, we are the choir and the parishoners and the faithful and the redeemed. Turn the sound back up and listen to the sermon. It's damn eloquent, it's the truth, and it WILL CONVERT THIS COUNTRY.

I am not making this up. Look more closely:

KO detail

Do not think for an instant that I am being critical of Keith Olbermann. I adore him. What he and his staff are doing is converting, and stirring the souls of those already converted. Make no mistake: watching this is a religious experience. And don't think for an instant that I'm giving away secrets. Believe me, I'm sure Karl already knows. Karl, for once, is peeing his pants. Somebody does it better than him. Go MSNBC. Go Keith. We're praying for you, and I don't mean that in some sucky "third awakening" apocalyptic vision way, either.

Kisses always to C&L. Original cathedral image here. (Yeah, those stained glass windows look just like a bank of TV sets.)

UPDATE: Reuters reports that MSNBC knows a gravy train when it sees one (good!), but KO says ""No voice came to me and told me to do this."

Yes, dear.


  1. I enjoyed your blog even though I am a rightwing poodle!

  2. Anonymous2:14 PM

    Sheer brilliance, Blue Gal. Bravo.

  3. Well done, dear Beege!

  4. I keep thinking, how does he do that, night after night after night?

    And then I wonder when he'll get canned.

  5. My dictionary defines propaganda a "the systematic propagation of a doctrine or cause." If, as in Olbermann's case, the cause being propagated is to expose Bush, Cheney, Rummy, Rice, Gonzo, et al. as the mean-spiritd, lying-ass cowards (nearly used a different c-word) that they are, then, yes, it's good propaganda.

  6. oh my a right wing poodle beat me here...I am kerflemped...

    About Keith....I could listen every day and every night because FINALLY SOMEONE IS SPEAKING THE TRUTH....

    finally a man with balls....

  7. Anonymous9:14 AM

    Excellent analysis! I know I'm being propagandized (assuming that's actually a word), and I love every minute of it.

  8. Nice essay, Bluegal, and a remarkable lack of panty references.

    I wish that KO had a bigger platform or a louder bullhorn, but I'm grateful for what he has.



  9. i've been thinking along the same lines as you, quaker dave.

  10. Propaganda -etymologically derived from the Latin verb meaning to sow seed, can be traced to the New Testament Proverb, Mt. 13: 3-8; Mk. 4: 3-8; Luke 8: 5-8
    Funk and Wagnall's has two entries, one for Propaganda capitalized, which has a special meaning in the Catholic church; the Congregation Propaganda del Fide, a body responsible for proselytising. Compare 'seminary', derived from the Greek word for seed.
    The assumption in the Christian context is that the seed is good seed, therefore propaganda is good. How the verb acquired its perjorative connotation is anyone's guess.


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