Dear President Trump,
On the way home from the frame shop this afternoon I got behind a car with an Indiana license plate. It had an American flag inspired background and at the bottom the words “In God We Trust.” When I got home I looked it up to see if it was a specialty plate or standard issue. Turns out, it’s sort of both; starting in 2006 it became one of the options people could choose without paying a specialty plate fee. Someone sued the state in 2007 because it’s giving Christians a free way to proclaim their faith that isn’t afforded anyone else. The state didn’t support that claim and essentially argued that it’s hunky dory to invoke God because, hey, it’s on our currency so what’s the big deal? It looks like maybe that’s changed since 2008 (when the ruling came down) because in the related Google “People Also Ask” box they list a bunch of states, including Indiana, with this motto on their plates and note that they are specialty plates requiring an extra fee. I sure hope that’s finally the case. The whole thing makes me want to get a plate that says “In Dog We Trust.”
Part of the reason this stuck in my craw is that I’ve been thinking about propaganda all day. I was perusing an old New Yorker magazine (11/26/18) and read an article by Page Williams in which she quotes the filmmaker Matthew Heineman as saying:
“Propaganda is the scariest tool humans have used throughout history.”
He was responding to how Assad told his people and the media that footage of victims of chemical weapons attacks were really actors, that they weren’t real dead people.
Here’s the definition of propaganda along with a bunch of synonyms, some extremely (weirdly) benign and some much more pointed:
“information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view”
Similar: information * promotion * advertising * advertisement * publicity * advocacy * spin * newspeak * agitprop * disinformation * counter-information * brainwashing * indoctrination * the big lie * hype * plugging
I’m not really sure about the Henieman quote because it’s arguable that killing people and then threatening to also kill similar additional people (like lynching was and like police shootings of unarmed Black people still is) is even scarier (and more effective from a control standpoint), but he does have a point. Propaganda clearly messes with people; it leaves us off balance, not trusting our own perceptions of things.
All of this is of obvious importance vis a vie your entire candidacy and tenure in office – you’re the master of fake news (I can’t believe that one didn’t make it onto the synonym list) and spin, messing with people right and left all the f*cking time, including now in the wake of Soleimani’s assassination. You and your mouthpieces are telling people that you took him out to stop a war, not to start one. You’ve got the media affirming this idea and thus far, no one is questioning it – I must have read 10 different articles about it between yesterday and today and everyone is saying that your goal is to reduce tensions in the Middle East even if this action ends up backfiring and inflaming tensions further.
No one is questioning your motives. No one is wondering whether you’re really trying to prod Iran into a deadly, over-the-top response so that the US military along with your Red Sea partners in crime (see yesterday’s letter) can all be justified in pounding the living crap out of them. It’s very scary that you seem to be getting a pass on your motivations. People are calling you out for being reckless, but what if you really do want all hell to break loose? What if that’s what Vladimir wants? And MbS and MbZ and el-Sisi and Netanyahu? If so, then there was no need for you to consider all the possible dire consequences of this action because they are exactly what you all want.
May we be safe from sadistic mobsters with too much power.
May we be willing to question the lines we are fed.
May we maintain healthy, on-point skepticism.
May we somehow not let you all blow the world up.