Common Knowledge vs. Reality: The propaganda ghosts of the Cold War

Russians are extremely sceptical people. This is partly due to the fact that the modern Russian history has been turbulent, rollercoaster-like, with ideological frameworks changing a few times within a single person’s lifetime.

Take the last 40 years, for instance: Soviet propaganda, blatant anti-Soviet propaganda during Perestroika years, (neo-)liberal propaganda, followed by the economic reforms and privatization, which led to a disappointment in capitalism and “free market” by the majority of the population during the 1990s, the attempted “de-Sovietization” information campaign with a second wave of anti-Soviet propaganda during Medvedev years. The list goes on.

There is an old joke: Russia, among all countries, has the most unpredictable past. Russian society’s view of its own history is very fluid, with official narratives changing every 4-12 years. The re-evaluation of paradigms happens often, with debates on fundamental historical and political issues being vibrant and mainstream. Most Russian people have learned how to be sceptical and how to not easily trust the official stories.

Things are different in the West. Unlike Russia, the Western world has been largely living in the same psycho-historical matrix since the late 1940s. Westerners tend to be more trustful when it comes to the mainstream media and official narratives. The scary thing is that we now have an entire generation of Western intellectuals and politicians who grew up on Cold War propaganda.

All the propaganda/psy-ops frameworks that were originally developed by organizations such as the Psychological Strategy Board under Truman and Eisenhower administrations have turned out to be so successful that even the successors of those who designed them started to believe in the propaganda too. The anti-Soviet myths/”memes” contaminated academia decades ago. Many models and research papers have since been based on misconceptions that grew out of the Cold War era anti-Soviet and general anti-Communist propaganda. It all made an impact on the “common knowledge” domain, with many myths seedling roots in the education system, forming people’s values and worldviews. The narrative began to self-replicate. The narrative (which often provides a groundbase for people’s values and, therefore, identity) has become resistant to newly emerging data (the real empirical and archive data that used to be unavailable to Western researchers before the 1990s).

Their views on the Soviet/Russian history is only a part of it, evidently.

But myths and misconceptions have very little to do with real history. Without understanding the real history, we can’t predict the future. Our ability to make optimal decisions becomes compromised by our inability to model and to prognosticate, simply because we don’t understand the past processes and events correctly. Individuals who live on false memories and delusions, those who have a distorted perception of reality, like people who suffer from various forms of schizophrenia, don’t tend to do well in life (at least, on their own). Same concept applies to society. A society whose collective decision making is compromised by decades of continuous self-replicating propaganda can be dangerous, primarily to itself.

As a side note, we live in the age of nuclear weapons.

by Denis Churilov

via OffGuardian

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