It has been interesting to see more people being news-watchers lately, since people-watching has fallen out of fashion. We were already used to slogans being used by companies to try to make us believe something or other about their product and convince us that we cannot live without it. Critical thought being applied to sloganeering was in vogue in many circles, as it should have been in all. However, recent events have taken this type of communication to a whole new level.
Daily repetition of anything makes it hard to process. Reservations that you may initially have had are submerged below the constant restatement of information by the press or others ad nauseum, until it seems that you must be the only one questioning the message. And that is only looking at the bald face of it. What of the intent, purpose and result of the message which may not be obvious? Do you even have time to think it through between hearings?
There are two things I think we need to consider as we realize there is a challenge with the current day's messaging. Then, I'd like to address the costs that we are seeing and how they relate to home education. We need to be awake, aware, and well-informed citizens. Propaganda Has Never Gone Out of Style
We are too often ignorant of the propaganda which constantly surrounds us and its varying levels of access and success. Currently we have reached an interesting point in the history of the free world, as we see the government using the 'free press' as a proxy to carry a government's message. We have seen the government issue bailout packages to press that are carrying the 'right message' and withhold funding from those who carry the counter-cultural message. Not that these groups would even accept funding from the government because it makes them vulnerable to influence and they wish to be free, and seen as free, from any obligation to toe a party line.
Where the free press used to be the watchdog of government and act in the assumed interest of the people, it has slowly transformed into a producer of opinion-driven news articles which do not hide their biases. When I was a child in school, we were taught to eliminate the bias from our factual writing, and save our opinions for the proper assignment. This was the mandate of journalism, but even journalists have seen this as a professional debate. As journalist Jen Gerson observed in an article published in Nov. 2018 titled 'Canada's media bailout will weaken trust in journalism. We should reject it.' "How this system is expected to strengthen press freedom, I have no idea. From what I can see, it will only lead to a national professional standard or credential that will inevitably centralize control over the media in a country where the media is already profoundly consolidated." Sadly, the ones getting the money, and more likely to survive, are those who have compromised.
So how can you spot propaganda? There was a book written in 1965 by Jacques Ellul called Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes that was partially covered in a 2015 article called 8 Frightening Characteristics of Propaganda on Intellectual Takeout's website. I'd suggest that you take the time to read it to understand how each of the eight characteristics mentioned are used. However, here is the short list – see what is all too familiar.
- Prevents dialogue – no time for details, excludes contradiction.
- Focuses on the mass – an isolated unit presents too much resistance to external action.
- Is total – utilize all technical means of media at their disposal.
- Takes over education – no contrast to propaganda. Utilize to condition to what comes later.
- Takes over literature and history – rewritten (past and present) according to need.
- Must be subtle at first – seeks to create a favorable preliminary attitude before direct prompting.
- Must be nonstop – eliminate outside points of reference, filling a citizen's whole, and all, days.
- Aims at irrational action – the aim of modern propaganda is to provoke action not modify ideas.
Please note that this list is not new, nor is the objective observation on the subject matter. The use, and the effectiveness, of propaganda is very, very real, and left unchecked, it is a world-changer. Spotting it, and calling it what it is, gives us the ability to think outside a rapidly shrinking box that prohibits free thought. This is critical to preserving what we hold as personally important, as all things become subject to government objectives instead of personal objectives. Freedoms Are at Stake
There have been numerous articles that highlight the rapid changes coming provincially, federally and internationally. But we must realize that this didn't just start. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has a section on their home page titled "Freedom Under Attack – Canadians Tell Their Stories" where you can watch videos going back to 2013. There is also a section now dedicated to Covid-19 and Constitutional Concerns, which means that within the last two months there has been an extreme uptick in Constitutional concerns that warrant legal attention. And the team at the JCCF is not alone, as there other firms just as busy, and alarms being sounded from numerous sectors. As I write on May 3rd I count four hundred and fifty five (455) separate emergency measures that have been enacted and are being tracked on this site, or you could follow this Repository of Canadian Covid-19 Emergency Orders. One of the best articles I've read lately that lays out the need to stand for freedoms is by a law professor named Bruce Pardy titled Even During a Pandemic, the Needs of the Many Do Not Outweigh the Rights of the Few. He states that "Rights protect individuals from the whims of public opinion."
Home educators can relate to this, as our decision to educate our children at home has never been that of the majority. The right to home educate relies on the other rights we have under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 2 of the Charter outlines the following fundamental freedoms: freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of thought, freedom of belief, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association. Given that every freedom challenged puts the others at risk, it is beholden on us to support them all, for our own sake. In this spirit I say that no matter our personal opinion on different topics, we need to see that freedom truly is being threatened and this issue deserves our most sincere support if we want to see our home education rights survive in the scrum freedoms are now involved in. A Cautionary Tale
"It has been pointed out that very different events took place in France and England in the latter decades of the eighteenth century. The French Revolution was a revolution of power. The French citizens drove out the aristocratic rascals and put their own leaders in. But the Age of Reason gave birth to the Reign of Terror and finally led to the tyranny of the Napoleonic era. At about the same time, when England could have fallen into a parallel situation, the Wesleyan and Whitefield revivals took place. As the Word of God had its sway in the hearts of thousands and thousands of people, instead of violence and bloodshed, a moral transformation of the land eventually expressed itself in the laws and culture. But those changes did not happen in the world's way."[i]
A friend shared an observation on that quote and how it relates to our current situation. "These are two concepts of liberty. France was the god of reason. England was liberty of conscience as bestowed by the God of the Bible. France's path results in bloodshed and we are treading that path again."
I would advocate for the moral transformation that is possible when we have the personal liberty to teach our children our values. I would advocate for us being able to speak in the public square with all of the conviction that having a biblical basis for our conviction allows us, and that we speak not just for ourselves but for our fellow man. I implore us to not be passively apathetic or fatalistic, as action is surely the point of being the hands and feet. I pray that during this time, when we are living history instead of studying it, that we will set an example for our children in doing what we ought. What we can do, as we are each called, is to be the voice of faithful confidence in our circles, knowing that God holds our lives and days in His hands, and thus we need not be afraid of anything.
"Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90: 12)
[i] James Montgomery Boice, The Life of Moses: God's First Deliverer of Israel, p. 47.