Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Monday, April 21, 2008

Art and Propaganda

In the last few months there have been news stories on the U.S. running information operations (IO) using comics as a platform in Iraq and Philippines. On the U.S. homefront there is a recent counter-IO effort within toy departments. One particular activist is using plastic toy soldiers to spread an anti-war message within shops (via Juxtapoz). The art is pictured below:

Some thoughts on this ...

The first is artists as actors in cultural warfare. There was another interesting article recently on reality, art, and social activism (it's a fairly postmodern account and came via 3quarks daily). It raises a number of ideas about artists as creators of propaganda. One quote talks about the cultural cold war:

My own view is that we are living out the legacy of the cultural cold war, during which the CIA intervened to promote Abstract Expressionism (in particular, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko) against a realism of politically committed European artists (such as Pablo Picasso).
It goes on to talk about political art:
It is conventional wisdom to see artists as double agents crossing back and forth between art and society. But in our increasingly mediated world, where it can be argued that social processes have an aesthetic dimension, it is much more difficult to locate areas of personal and social life that are unaffected by art. The question is not about artists entering into social reality, since they are already in it, but about their making choices that involve commitment and which do not always lead to market success and the Turner Prize.
I'd imagine there will also be artists who choose to also commit to other persuasive art campaigns e.g. military-led IO, public relations for corporations and so on. That's of course assumes that these groups see artists as important actors in information campaigns.

There also seems to be ethical problems with the deliberate targeting of children with propaganda. I can't flesh out my ideas on why this is so. Although, something seems dodgy about campaigns to persuade individuals who don't have the mental tools to critically think about the content they are seeing or hearing (alternatively maybe the target audience is the parents or older peers?). This is similar in line to the idea of social networks of control. Both the military and art-activist information operations are networks of control. They are both trying to persuade a young audience to a particular point of view and are trying to link the members into existing ideological networks. Perhaps teaching logic and critical thinking to children will become increasingly important to help weed out the IO campaigns thrown about from the propagandists on all sides.


G said...

hmmmmm, I can see a number of problems with my last paragraph, hence why I couldn't get my head around it. Two things to think about off the top of my head:

1. Lack of critical thinking tools isn't limited to children.

2. Deductive logic doesn't create new information (inductive logic does). A facet of info ops is provide new angles or new info for people to be aware of. A quick thought experiment .... if a person is only using deductive logic consistently against info ops then the deducer may not be learning anything new at all and could end up just as ignorant as a non-deducer.