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We are inundated with propaganda. Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified that Russia continues to interfere in our elections and that other countries, including China and Iran, are targeting us. If that were not enough, there are also domestic sources of propaganda.

Christian Nationalism

Domestic sources include political parties, media outlets, religious institutions, and even academia. Professors and scientists can correct misinformation when informed by more complete knowledge, but they are also human beings who are subject to cliques and fads just like everyone else. We are all subject to the influence of propaganda.

We have Alt-Right propaganda and Leftist propaganda. We have establishment propaganda and third-party propaganda. Even advertising is a form of propaganda.

The propagandist seeks to change people’s attitudes and behaviors through deception and confusion rather than through persuasion and education.

What distinguishes propaganda is its deceptive and manipulative nature. The Encyclopædia Britannica defines “propaganda” as “information that is used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, which may not be objective and may be presenting facts selectively to encourage a particular synthesis or perception, or using loaded language to produce an emotional rather than a rational response to the information that is presented.” The propagandist seeks to change people’s attitudes and behaviors through deception and confusion rather than through persuasion and education.

The information provided by the propagandist may be true, but it is often just enough information to lead one to the wrong conclusion. The propagandist and his motives are often hidden. Some propaganda is disseminated to the enemy as a means to divide or neutralize the opposition.

The purpose of the propaganda may be to simply cause disarray. The propagandist encourages behavior and attitudes that divide and sabotage the opposition. I find overt propaganda promoted on the Right and subterfuge employed against the Left.

Current Russian propaganda directed toward the United States is designed to cause division and discord both between the Left and the Right and within the Left itself. While propaganda directed toward the Right may be overtly nationalist, propaganda directed toward the Left is often presented as Progressive when in reality it is designed to distract and undermine the resistance.

The propagandists and many of our leaders know they are being deceptive, but the rank-and-file do not know and come to believe the propaganda. They become disseminators and enforcers of the disinformation. With their self-righteousness emboldened by the emotion-laden propaganda they swallowed, they use peer pressure to force conformity upon anyone who calls oneself progressive.

All propaganda comes down from the top. One might imagine that propaganda comes from crazy people who believe weird things, but propaganda comes from governments and leaders. While people certainly come to believe the propaganda, it is the leaders of our organizations and political parties that disseminate propaganda either knowingly or unwittingly. This makes it difficult for people to resist.

One important thing people can do when faced with propaganda is to confront it. This allows other people to feel free to question the information, too. Many people spread propaganda unwittingly and actually believe the propaganda. Criticism may help to relieve them of their false and dysfunctional beliefs and attitudes.

It is difficult and painful for people to accept that their beliefs and attitudes may be influenced by propaganda. It’s difficult to accept that what we believe may be wrong, yet this is exactly what is needed. Critical thinking is an important skill that can protect us from the effects of propaganda.

Criminal profilers describe mass shooters and people who join hate groups as uncritical about what they choose to believe. It’s more about the perceived benefits of being a believer, from belonging to a community to identifying a scapegoat to blame. It really doesn’t matter whether the belief is true so long as it serves a purpose.

For example, no one in their right mind in this day and age can rationally become a Nazi. Everyone knows that fascism is evil. So why do we still have White Supremacists? It’s certainly not because of the persuasiveness of their ideas!

We are not engaged in an ideological struggle. Ideology, like theology, can be a tool to control people. The struggle is over power and money. Leaders use ideology to cynically manipulate the public.

I’ve often experienced this in church when the minister says something and then everyone has to agree. On a larger scale, propaganda is disseminated down multiple channels at once making it a cause celebre of the Progressive movement such that every Progressive must agree. After all, it’s coming down from the top and everyone is saying it so it must be right.

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People think that because the information is pervasive and coming from their leaders or some other trusted institution that it must be true, but it’s coming from above because that’s where all propaganda comes from and it’s coming all at once because it’s being timely disseminated.

As the election nears, we will see more propaganda. I want to address some of the Propaganda we can expect this election. There is already a great deal of propaganda out there. Much of it is long-standing and regularly repeated. I’ve identified two ideas that are currently being disseminated as propaganda.

One piece of propaganda came down during the impeachment debates and is still being used to demoralize and neutralize the Left. This idea is that the Constitution is a document written by slave owners for the benefit of the slave owners and is irredeemable and not worth defending. This neglects the fact that the Constitution is a living document that has been amended and is reread and re-interpreted with each succeeding generation.

Added to this is the half-truth that the United States is not a democracy so that democracy is not worth fighting for in America. You can see how these ideas have been weaponized and used against us. This propaganda prevents Leftists from understanding the value of defending the Constitution and fighting for democracy.

Always consider the effect that believing something has on one’s attitudes and behavior. It’s not whether the idea is true or not. It’s whether the idea is being used to manipulate and control people? These ideas are causing many progressive activists to sit on the sidelines in the struggle to uphold the rule of law against a rogue President bent on undermining democracy and instituting an authoritarian dictatorship.

The second piece of propaganda I want to talk about is the supposed “threat of Christian Nationalism.” Imagine this: We are in the middle of the campaign for President when we should be talking about climate change, healthcare, democracy, poverty, and all the other important issues, but instead we find ourselves in a pitched battle with the Right over Christianity.

Consider how this works to help Trump. Trump wants to label Bernie Sanders and his supporters as “Christian-hating Socialists.” There is nothing he wants more than to make the election about Christianity.

While there may be a thing called “Christian Nationalism,” is it really the threat the ideologues make it out to be? I imagine most Evangelicals would scratch their heads and not know what we are talking about. Even if “Christian Nationalism” is a thing, are we really engaged in an ideological or theological struggle?

President Trump isn’t a Christian and doesn’t believe in any of that stuff. He uses words and ideas to manipulate his followers. He wants to paint the Left as a bunch of “Christian-hating socialists.” Don’t help him paint that picture.

The concept of “Christian Nationalism” may have some truth to it, but it’s not the whole story. The pairing of the word “Christian” with the hated word “nationalism” appeals to anti-Christian sentiment on the Left and operates to demonize Christians. This is the main effect that the mention of “Christian Nationalism” has on Progressives.

So even if “Christian Nationalism” is a thing, it’s not the threat the ideologues make it out to be. It’s too complex an issue to be hashed out in sound bites. During the election, we should be focused on other issues. If you think impeachment was a distraction, “Christian Nationalism” is the distraction of distractions.

Yet you will see it on television, in the news, in books, and at church. You will hear it on the radio and in Leftist circles. It will come from the national leadership of social justice groups and be disseminated at rallies and in classrooms and speeches everywhere.

You may disagree with me on some issues, but be critical about your own ideas. View things through the eyes of the propagandist. Ask questions like “why this?” and why now?” Think about how ideas can be used to divide or neutralize us.

In this time of “fake news” and foreign interference, it’s important to think critically about what we believe. We should make it a practice to listen to the views of others without being afraid to confront divisive disinformation when we see it. Don’t react emotionally to information and be wary of simple arguments that don’t fully support the alleged conclusion. Remember, you're probably not getting a balanced viewpoint.

Things are more complex than a simple three-sentence argument can explain. Christian Nationalism is not the issue, especially during this election. We do have some degree of democracy in the United States which is protected by the Constitution which is worth defending, and yes, Democracy is worth fighting for even in America.

the election

Rich Procida