Category Archives: propaganda

Agitation Propaganda: Projection and Subversion

In my writing, I aim for civil, principled conversation across ideological, political, and religious boundaries, respecting differences and aiming for consensus where possible. I am grateful for the many who join me (often with far greater eloquence and influence) in such peacemaking. But I would be remiss not to expose two tactics of the enemies of freedom: projection and subversion. These are the twin towers of agitation propaganda (known as “agitprop”) and have flourished for a century in communist and fascist societies. (One note here: the extreme Left (communist) and extreme Right (fascist) differ in some particulars but share similar roots of totalitarian control over people and societies, along with philosophies favoring particular groups [Party members or a particular race] over others.)

Projection is when one group accuses another of the very actions they are doing themselves. For example, a group of students, in the name of freedom and safety, calls for the firing of a professor that disagrees with their philosophies. Another form of projection is deflection: when individuals or groups ignore difficult questions and merely repeat their slogans. For example, a pro-choice activist was asked what she thought of recent remarks by her governor concerning his support of late term abortion and even infanticide (“Make the baby comfortable while the mother and physician decide what is best.”). Rather than answering with revulsion, support, or even a nuanced middle ground, the activist just shouted, “You want to deprive women of their access to healthcare and return to the days of the coat hanger.” This happened four times as the question was repeated. Religious adherents are declared intolerant when they refuse to support alternative lifestyles contrary to their tradition. This is projection – for the accuser is her or himself intolerant of the religious point of view (or wants it confined to private spaces!).

Subversion appears as the true agendas of groups are revealed. White nationalists and Nation of Islam adherents want to subvert the Bible, the Constitution, and a positive history of improving race relations and create completely segregated nations. Many Marxists are happy to use capitalistic and democratic means to achieve communalistic and undemocratic ends. They also combine projection and subversion when they accuse some of their own of not being revolutionary enough! Such was the case in the French, Russian and Chinese revolutions, where millions died for not being radical enough. Think about these historical illustrations:

  • The Nazis burn the Reichstag (parliament) building, blame the communists, and use it as an excuse to kill and imprison thousands (projection and subversion).
  • Lenin spoke of his need for capitalistic “useful idiots” to fund his revolution (subversion).
  • Closer to home, “Rules for Radicals” author Saul Alinsky advocates to creating chaos and dissatisfaction (subversion) and making sure no other peaceful solutions get in the way the radical agenda.
  • Radical Islam promotes deception and temporary truces with opponents as part of the long play for domination (subversion). Anyone who does not honor their Prophet is pronounced a blasphemer and subject to severe penalty, even as they claim victimhood status (projection).
  • And today, several extremist groups in the USA are calling for an end to nuclear family, and end to free enterprise, and overturning particular religious influences (subversion), as well as declaring all their opponents’ oppressors (projection).

May we examine our hearts and choose advocacy over mere accusation and acceptance of complexity over childishness. Let’s keep projection and subversion far away as we pursue peace and justice.

There are Answers: If We have Courage

This is the beginning of a series entitled, “There are Answers: If We Have Courage.” We will examine what many regard as intractable and unsolvable issues. We will fearlessly look at economic justice and the future of work, tax reform, immigration, Middle East policy, human identity, including gender, sexuality and transhumanism, racial tensions, religious freedom, academic and intellectual liberty, political polarization and principled compromise and global/local culture and life.

As always, we will distill insights from as many perspectives as possible – within the bounds of axiomatic principles and critical thinking. Conservatives may balk as the complexities of institutional transformation are evaluated. Liberals will worry that emphases on personal responsibility and certain enduring values will reverse gains in liberty. Good! We need deliverance from narrow ideological agitation propaganda.

In this essay, two issues foundational to all the rest will be examined: 1) the crisis of human identity/nature (anthropology); and 2) the crisis of objective knowledge and truth (epistemology). Without clarity on who we are and what we can know, all dialogue devolves into subjective opinion, with any critical comments deemed intolerant or a microaggression. Without such clarity, human freedom is confined to certain private experiences and life is increasingly controlled by a totalitarian state, since people “need help and cannot care for themselves.”

What does being human mean? Diverse philosophical and religious traditions answer this question in a variety of ways, from accidental evolutionary materialism to bearing the image of God. Are we merely highly evolved animals or divinely-crafted beings called to steward the rest of creation? Is human nature defined by physical processes alone or in there a unique interaction of body and spirit, brain and mind? In addition to our basic identity, are humans (like most of nature) either male or female or is there an almost infinite spectrum of identities?

Regardless of worldview, most people through most of history have not questioned the unique nature of human beings and the basic binary realities of male and female identity, albeit with a variety of opinions of erotic affections and actions.

Going forward, our American and global experiments in ordered liberty rooted in truth and virtue rest on humankind being uniquely endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights and responsibilities. Anything less than this and we devolve into arguments over blood and soil, raw scientism or fantastical speculations on human/machine singularity.

What about our foundations for knowledge? Until a half-century ago in the West, a basic correspondence theory of truth allowed for both cohesiveness and spirited debate, unity of essential facts and diversity of interpretations. No one argued whether certain events actually happened, though their impact and interpretation made for lively discussion. Today, we are told that there is no objective “there” – all we can do is interpret stories and hopefully find some convergence with shared narratives and opinions. Former President Obama’s two (!) pre-presidential autobiographies are perfect examples of ideological fabrication. Why do we need his “composite” portraits of friends and mentors? Why can we not have access to his records and writings? Why? Because history no longer stands on its own – it must serve the purposes of political advocacy. Beyond historical narrative, our epistemic crisis has fueled the same subjectivism for private and public morality, gender confusion and even allowed some to question full freedom of conscience and speech!

The uniqueness of being human and the knowability of the world are essential for grounding all arguments over justice and truth, love and human flourishing. Instead of marginalizing philosophical traditions, we should rediscover the wisdom of ancient texts and the goodness of contemporary research and synthesize these insights, so we can have a basis for social cohesion.

Our future as a nation – indeed as a human race – rests on this.

One Moment Changes the World

One moment can change the world. Billions of human decisions are made every day across the globe. On the surface, most are innocuous or mundane, from changing a diaper to going to work. Sometimes they are history-altering, such as protests in the Ukraine or stock market crashes or rallies.

Sometimes unforeseen changes begins with a simple decision. St. Francis begins to rebuild an church one brick at a time…and a movement still vibrating begins. John Wycliffe begins translating the Bible into English and now billions can read the Scriptures in their own tongues. Bartolomeo de las Casas protests slavery and the long road to Emancipation begins. William Wilberforce stays in politics and fights for the end of slavery and scores of other causes for 50 years.

The challenges of the USA compel action, but voices of change are quickly drowned out in a sea of agitprop polemics. The current levels of hypocrisy and self-deception, short-term thinking and political manipulation are unprecedented in our history. It is not only the elites that are to blame. Millions of people are consciously or unconsciously capitulating to a fatalism of inaction. The gulf between professed principles and actual practices in widening daily. Consider:

  • “Everyone” loves the concept of a balanced budget. But no one will even begin with small cuts in over bloated salaries.
  • Immigration should be guided by law, but anyone supporting a modicum of regulation is a racist or xenophobe.
  • Millions are looking for work, but unwilling to labor in fields or service jobs.
  • Leaders decry the influence of lobbyists, then join their ranks as they depart “public service.”
  • Amoral anarchy is lamented as millions quietly engage in vicarious games and entertainment venues.
  • Tobacco is social evil number one…but billions of tax dollars flow from its consumption and we are making a worse mistake with “medical” marijuana. 
  • We advocate a healthy lifestyle, then pass out condoms to middle-school kids and offer “4th meal” fried food at midnight (to all the consumers of “medical marijuana.”)
Lamenting these and other evils, from abortion to divorce, redefinitions of marriage and family, educational outcomes and government intrusions into religion is easy – changing minds, hearts and wills in not.
Cries for spiritual awakening are the best start…and may they grow in intensity and sincerity.
Calls for activism and voting are helpful.
Maybe there is one more step…or millions of steps…that can propel lasting change. Perhaps each of us can have one moment that changes the world.
Our one moment arrives unexpectedly. It is veiled in other apparently “normal” decisions. Our moment dawns as we decide each day to love God supremely, love our neighbors unselfishly through our work and demonstrate in deed and declaration the veracity of the first principles that make for a flourishing life and society. If millions of “ordinary” people embark on a devoted and disciplined pathway of reverence for God, respect for all people, rigorous self-examination and right practices in their private and public life, the world will change. 
Some may emerge as leaders, even historic figures. Others will be agents of change one relationship at a time. Instead of continual lamentation, let’s ceaselessly labor for the common good. Instead of captivity to edutainment, let’s learn the proven pathways that yield prosperity for future generations. Instead of immediate pleasure, let’s infuse principles that allow the next generation to flourish.
One moment changes the world – it is our decision today.