The Power of Propaganda and Ignorance
America is facing a crisis connected with fake news and propaganda. The news media today reflect what they want the Americans citizens to believe in, even if the information is wrong. The media manufacture fake news with the purpose of making the population consume them regardless of the credibility of the news. Americans today are mostly puzzled regarding what is true or false in the political media. The propaganda of fake news was described in Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave.” The story of three prisoners chained since their childhood resembles the situation Americans are currently in. The prisoners are held in a cave. There is a fire behind the prisoners and it casts a shadow which the prisoners perceive as a reality. The situation, however, changes for one prisoner who is released to the outside world and who learns the truth. When he returns to the cave, the others think he has gone crazy but he understands them. In “Politics and the English Language,” Orwell discusses how the English language is misused in a deliberate way with the help of erroneous language use to obscure the truth and conceal someone’s lies. Orwell’s essay identifies how wooly words can limit the effectiveness of what one says. The author also emphasizes on the political consequences of vague words that can distort the language for political gains. He was right when he inscribed “In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible” (516) to depict the current political climate in America and how language has to suffer when the general atmosphere is bad. This is because those who are in power, as Orwell states, resort to sheer vagueness for the fear to admit uncomfortable truths. Nevertheless, Orwell has a solution to correct the erroneous use of the English language – the six rules that in his opinion will prevent people from resorting to bad English. This paper will examine current political events and propaganda through the lens of Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave” and George Orwell’s “Politics and English Language.”
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In Plato’s classic work“The Allegory of the Cave,” he uses many concepts to help readers visualize his concepts which are now more understandable to the modern politics in the US. The allegory is an illustration of a sheltered environment where a certain number of captives are left in a cave. Inside this cave, they are bound to one side of the wall, while on the other side some images of a fire dance are being projected on a wall in front of them. That is the only thing they have ever experienced in that place. When one of the prisoners is released to the outside world, it is the moment that he understands the differences between reality and the shadows. It can be seen that the prisoners in the cave are impaired epistemologically; they are unable to differentiate between a fact and fiction due to numerous external manipulators. When the prisoner that was free for a period of time returns to the cave, he was unable to see the shadows as the actual images any longer; they were not what they appeared to be but through experience he was able to understand the others who thought he had lost his mind. This indicates that when following the news media that broadcast mainly fake news, one can get brainwashed and consider that they may keep returning to the false news source and present incorrect data.
Plato’s allegory of the cave relates very well to democracy, especially in modern American politics. A bright example is a long-lasting effect connected with the perpetuation of fake news the media have on the people.. The allegory shows people that are tied to the other side of the cave and can only perceive what the media want them to see or hear. The modern media in America have become a source of political news, so they want the general population to consume what they present. If people are not careful with the content of the media they are getting, then they are going to be duped into swallowing the media’s biased opinion. Nevertheless, the free press is very important in a democracy-based system as it helps the media to keep the population informed about the current news events and keep the country running efficiently. Currently, in American politics, these puppeteers are the vendors of fake news that are more interested in shaping the political opinion to incline to what they want. It is true that lies can eclipse the truth. In America, the combination of respect and liberty has totally complicated public policy. It can be observed in a situation when, for example, there is some overwhelming evidence that fossil fuel contributes to climate change. However, because of some corporate interests, a politician continues to argue over this well-known fact. Consequently, the citizens may believe in the politician’s speculation, as if it is equal to scientific knowledge. Fake news is the latest manifestation in American politics. The people in the US are used to the freedom of speech and to the belief that all opinions matter. It only gets harder for them to tell the difference between reputable and disreputable news sources. Plato, however, had stated that this is only a natural result of a mature democracy.
In “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell writes that the English political language can be formed to make the lies sound like truth. There is a post-truth anxiety in American media today. The writer warns about three main literary sins: meaningless words, pretentious diction, and dying metaphors that, in his view, weaken the English language. By dying metaphors Orwell suggests that a fresh metaphor will contribute to what will be said and what will be written. This is achieved by invoking a mental picture that will deepen one’s understanding. A stale metaphor, on the other hand, will do the opposite thing, and namely – undermine the communication. In pretentious diction, Orwell incorporates a number of simple words and terminologies which are beyond the use of fancy words. Usually with intent to create an illusion that something is better or more sophisticated than how it appears to be. In meaningless words, the author notes that some expressions may not have any sense or words may be totally devoid of meaning. According to him, using meaningless words may denote any other kind of thinking as one may perceive them either positive or negative. Analyzing these literary sins, Orwell describes that they do not expand, but rather reduce the truth. He further notes that these sins do not state the truth but rather falsify it, and that they lessen clarity instead of increasing it. This manipulative and obscure language speech or writing is carefully planned mainly to defend the indefensible.
Contemporary American politics have raised what Orwell had written several decades ago. When Donald Trump started campaigning for his presidential ticket in the Republican Party, due to his rhetoric and message the media wrote that he did not have a chance to even touch the Republican ticket. He, nevertheless, went further to not only “touch” the Republican Party but to win the presidency. The American media have generated some new rhetorical statements that they expect the people – in this context the voters would follow. The same can also be said concerning the propaganda spread by the President and his team. Taking “alternative facts” as an example and combining them together with other phrases – everything can be grammatically feasible in the Trump’s world.
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American politicians make some statements that are only acceptable for public approval. This kind of language corruption is not just deliberate but also systematic. The intention is to shape people’s thoughts and manufacture lies until it appears to be the truth. Stale writing and speech will usually lead to careless thinking. Although Orwell wrote from the totalitarian governments, the American politics today, both Republican and Democratic leaders have used his essay. The writer further talks about total eradication of propaganda as totalitarian practice becomes internalized. This also reflects the American politics of propaganda and fake news. President Donald Trump’s administration is used to involve flattery words that may seem to be more appealing to voters and his strongholds. “Terrific,” “Terrible,” “Drain the swamp,” and “fake news” are some of the terms Trump uses to refer to the media or political opponents. The outlandish dystopian use of blunt words and speech to brand his opponents as traitors and to dismiss media facts by branding them “fake news” is exactly what Orwell is describing.
In conclusion, Orwell’s intention was not to just criticize the language of politics and demonstrate how biased it is but to show a situation where political vagueness increases and exposures, affecting people’s ability to think plainly. He predicted the poor level of political speech and writing in American politics as well as an access to media that may confuse Americans. This is the same message that Plato expresses in “The Allegory of the Cave” that the media resources have reached a point where Americans do not know what or whom to believe anymore as fake news and propaganda dominate political talk. Notwithstanding this, George Orwell gives hope to those who may want to balk – to start debunking the fake news and calling them for what they are.
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