My Turn: You can't always trust your feelings

  • Posted: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 12:01 a.m.
    UPDATED: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 4:44 p.m.

By Rexx Shelton
Trust your feelings - we hear it all the time, but what does it mean? Are feelings always to be trusted? I feel like a soda, feel like I need to go to bed, feel hungry ... sure, those feelings can be trusted. Now how do you feel about democracy, capitalism, socialism or a planned economy, as opposed to a free market? These are not things that one should accept or reject based upon feelings; rather, these are the things that you should let your reason play with or contemplate to come up with your support or rejection. Regardless, the propagandists will work on your feelings and try to bypass your thinking. They will work on your subconscious to recruit you to their way of seeing the world. Here's one definition (from Wikipedia): "Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position by presenting only one side of an argument. Propaganda is usually repeated and dispersed over a wide variety of media in order to create the chosen result in audience attitudes." By this definition, anyone who is working for a cause and is trying to convince you of it rightness is a propagandist. When we describe a message as having a certain "spin," we are referring to propagandists who are putting out information - or misinformation - favorable to only one point of view. They will not bring up facts that do not favor their argument, and they will dismiss any negative facts that do come to light. How many times have you heard it said, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts"? Lying by omission is when someone knows certain facts detrimental to his cause but does not bring them up when making their case. Propagandists are not concerned with presentation of the truth; rather, their goal is to produce an emotional response rather than a rational consideration of their argument. When the word was coined, "propaganda" generally referred to benign or innocuous persuasions, such as public health recommendations, signs encouraging citizens to participate in a census or election, or messages encouraging persons to report crimes to the police, among others. But its use has devolved. Garth Jowett and Victoria O'Donnell, authors of "Propaganda and Persuasion," have provided a concise, workable definition of the term: "Propaganda is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist." More to the point, Richard Alan Nelson puts it this way in "A Chronology and Glossary of Propaganda in the United States" (1996): "Propaganda is neutrally defined as a systematic form of purposeful persuasion that attempts to influence the emotions, attitudes, opinions, and actions of specified target audiences for ideological, political or commercial purposes through the controlled transmission of one-sided messages (which may or may not be factual) via mass and direct media channels. A propaganda organization employs propagandists who engage in propagandism-the applied creation and distribution of such forms of persuasion." So I besiege you to be wary whenever someone is putting forth arguments that appeal to your feeling rather than to your understanding. We find propagandists on all sides, but whenever and wherever we encounter them, we should not be manipulated by our feelings as to what is right and what is wrong about the argument; leave that to your reason and put your feelings aside.

Rexx Shelton lives in Salisbury.

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