Assumptions, Critical Curiosity, and Propaganda, Oh My
Being born the curious type, from the beginning, I have questioned everything much to the chagrin of many around me. At this point, nothing has changed but an increased ability to apply critical thinking, though “Why” has been a key and hard question from the beginning.
Analyzing assumptions are both critical to understanding biases and to evolving personally and spiritually. While my personal studies in propaganda have allowed me to see clearly that everyone is affected by propaganda, how it works from a marketing propaganda viewpoint, and the psychology involved, it has not given me license to assume that I or any other educated person is not affected by its effects. In fact, I understand from Ellul’s Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes (1965) that the educated are effected to a greater extent because they believe they can discern it more critically. So my assumptions are that I am affected by propaganda in every aspect of my life, be it academic, cultural, media, music, marketing, advertising, and even interpersonal. My assumptions of mainstream psychology, however, are not as colored in some ways and heavily in others, tempered by the fact that I seldom watch television news propaganda programming and don’t read mainstream media, but realize that psychology is key to all aspects of propaganda that is successful (see my comment above about being affected by propaganda).
Noting that, my epistemology is very much in the same vicinity of questioning everything as I mentioned above, soaking up knowledge wherever I find it, studying it critically, and tempering all that I know, see, and read, with a personal realization from my father who taught by example as an immigrant who finished middle school and never returned, “Education is never a sign of intelligence.” My critical thinking is helped, I think with the fact that I “eat” books of all shapes sizes and ideas, and that I was brought up into an extended family of conservatives who liked to argue and play poker. While veering far further than they might suspect, and while I debated several sides of an issue as a member of a competitive debate team, I learned from them to ask a lot of critical (not criticizing) questions rather than arguing a point I was bound to lose. Learning to be critical, assume little, and question everything in an environment that encouraged such curiosity was vital. Learning to hone that skill in this environment to a sharp point will be critical, and I hope to learn from all of you as much as I hope to contribute to our conversations.
Peaking ahead at a few readings, some biases were readily apparent, though much of their arguments are sound. However, it was interesting to readily see some of their biases as apparent to me as I compared their ideas to others, their sources, and considered their credentials. As I usually do with other academic readings I generally fast forward and rewind to analyze results, conclusions, methods, and their analysis and how it fits into the body of knowledge I have studied in the past as well as the body of knowledge I wish to study. While mainstream psychology has had some good press, bad press and indifferent press, it has been either as a result of critical analysis of methods, whether clinical, the pervasiveness of propaganda and its effects (especially from the biased interpretation of what it is in the US as well as US dominated societies courtesy of Edward Bernays and his work during WWI an after.
Ellul, Jacques. Propaganda; the Formation of Men’s Attitudes. New York: Knopf, 1965.