In Praise of Passion


Kerov writes:

The nature of propaganda is to use emotion to bypass rationality. That, to me, qualifies it as a "bad thing" generally.
In my post on propaganda, I mentioned that propaganda is a tool that can be used for good as well as evil. This is a concept that the "great generation" largely accepted, but we "baby boomers" and "post-boomers" have never been required to understand. After the jump, I'll explain why appealing to emotions is so important, both in words and with a classic cartoon...

The aptly titled "great generation" was born and raised in the Great Depression, and as soon as that lifted, they were thrust into a World War that threatened freedom and peace between nations in a way that the world had never faced before. Today, we've endured hardships and faced challenges, but nothing like the ones our grandparents faced. How did they motivate themselves to make those sacrifices and answer the challenges? Here's a hint... They didn't do it with reason alone.

This is a cartoon made by the Disney Studios in 1943 to explain why both reason and emotion are so important. (Leonard Maltin only gets it half right in his introduction.)

Why do we contribute money to Haiti when an earthquake devastates their country? There isn't much of a logical reason... Haiti isn't really all that important to us strategically or economically. They'll probably never be in a position to return the favor. Why not just let them sort it and go about our own business?

Because we feel an emotional link to people who are suffering. Soulless corporations flourish with lots of "bottom line common sense" but no sense of altruism, and they make billions of dollars in profits. Why is that a bad thing? Isn't that what they're supposed to do? You and I both know the answer to that question. The problem with this world isn't that there isn't enough logic. The problem is that there isn't enough compassion. Logic won't cut it alone in each of our own lives either. There are a million things that make sense to do. I have a whole laundry list full of logical things to do in my own life- more than I'll ever get around to doing. Guess which ones I actually go out and do? Reason may be the reason to do things, but passion is what makes things actually happen.

Why do we admire Carl Sagan? Is it because he was factually accurate? No, it's because he was able to convey a passion for science to us. Walt Disney, Gandhi, M. L. King... people with passion move mountains. In my own small life, I've tried to follow my own passion and share it with others. Sure, it makes total sense to have an archive and museum dedicated to animation, but until I had the passion to quit my job and start building it, it didn't happen. If it wasn't for the passion of hundreds of dedicated volunteers, our collection wouldn't include 50,000 high resolution images and over 5,000 digitized animated films. Passion makes things happen that would never have happened otherwise.

If I get any idea across to you, gentle readers of Boing Boing, in my two week stint as guestblogger here, let it be this... BELIEVE in what you do- really feel it in your heart- and then go out and do it.

P.S. I just appealed to your emotions as a call to action. Feel free to call me a propagandist!


  1. Passion is not the opposite of Reason, and propaganda is not an unbiased tool, like a wrench or something. Compassion IS logical; we help Haiti because we understand (reason) that all humans are in the same boat, that we could have been born Haitian instead of whatever else, that an earthquake or some other natural disaster could hit our home too. This isn’t some illogical, crazy random feeling that we just happen to all have- there’s a Reason why all of us bind together to help during a huge disaster, a very obvious, logical one.

    We do not need propaganda to help Haiti; the Reason why we should help is so obvious to most, it bears little discussion (though I just explained it anyway.) Our emotions are a logical reaction to these ideas; when we SEE people suffer to that degree for something that is not, at all, due to their doing, the logical reaction is how we’re reacting. Propaganda is, by nature, ILLOGICAL. It tries to get us to do something that makes no sense to do, using Emotion as the trump card. Appealing to the masses, appealing to emotion… all the classic propaganda tactics are illogical, unreasonable, and unhealthy. Carl Sagan et al never did this; yes, they were passionate, but you’re confusing passion with blind emotion. Carl Sagan’s passion was logical, which is why he never had to resort to putting up a poster of a hot, half-naked girl holding a telescope between her legs saying “SCIENCE MAKES ME HOT!” And if he had, that wouldn’t have been a good thing.

    The end doesn’t justify the means. Propaganda is negative- always, inherently, by definition. Passion is appealing, but Hitler was passionate, too. It’s only through reason that we can figure out who to listen to and who to ignore.

    1. You repeatedly confuse “logic” and “reason” with “empathy.” Empathy is the capability to share another being’s emotions and feelings. The part of our intellect that says “those people are suffering through no fault of their own” is reason, the part that says “so DO something about it!” is emotion.

      Our emotions evolved out of the logical needs of a social species, yes. But when you feel compelled to help a person who your intellect tells you will never be able to return the favor, that’s not a logical response. It’s an emotional one.

  2. Propaganda is, by nature, ILLOGICAL. It tries to get us to do something that makes no sense to do, using Emotion as the trump card.

    That isn’t true at all. Propaganda is simply a tool to motivate people to action by appealing to emotion. Whether or not it’s logical depends on the purpose behind the call to action. The purpose can be either good or bad… or logical or illogical. It’s not always a negative thing. You’re defining the word “propaganda” in terms of your own emotional reaction to it.

    Human beings are not exclusively logical- they aren’t even mostly logical. It would be terrifically inefficient and downright inhuman to only communicate with each other without emotion.

    1. This doesn’t make any sense to me whatsoever. If you’re appealing to emotion and not reason, you’re being illogical. That’s not to say that we can’t react emotionally to something, or that our emotions don’t enter into our response, but the APPEAL is still separate from that. Again, Carl Sagan might be the greatest guy with the most noble of intents, but if he uses his hot-girl-straddling-a-telescope poster to get me to listen to him, that is a NEGATIVE thing, even if, as you claim, it’s for a “good purpose”. You’re basically saying the ends justify the means, which is untrue. This isn’t my emotional reaction, it’s simply a fact. Trying to persuade someone to come around to my point of view by making them feel sad, or angry, or embarrassed is not good. It’s never good. It might “get the job done” in the short term, which is why people often resort to this kind of thing, but in the long term, it’s people doing “the right thing” for the wrong reason, which ends up being the wrong thing.

      The problem, of course, is that no one has a patent on what “the right reason” is. All we can do is argue our case and hope we’re right. So the minute you justify your tactics with the excuse that “it’s for a good cause”, no matter how seemingly in the right you are, you’re still going down the wrong path. People are rarely logical, maybe, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the one thing that separates them from other creatures. We all have the capacity to reason, and should use it more, not less.

      I’m not ignoring empathy. Empathy is what allows us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. This doesn’t have anything to do with trying to persuade someone by appealing to their emotions. You appeal to their intelligence with a logical argument, which, if they understand correctly, then would invoke their empathy.


      a commercial with lots of shots of starving african kids and sad music, asking me to give money: propaganda. Lame. Wrong. Not good.

      a commercial explaining the situation that millions of kids find themselves in, and offering a functional program as a solution, which requires my financial contribution: Logic. Reason. Good. My empathy is invoked, yet the commercial didn’t skip my brain and go for my gut.

      result, I ignore the former and join the latter. Is that so crazy?

      1. You appeal to their intelligence with a logical argument, which, if they understand correctly, then would invoke their empathy.

        In other words, an appeal that is designed to provoke an emotional response.

        Look, nobody is saying reason is bad or unnecessary- just that it isn’t the whole equation.

      2. Sagan used emotions all the time. “Hot chick straddling telescope” is only one way of appealing to emotion. Doesn’t it occur to you that wonder and amazement are emotions just as being turned on are? “A far more glorious dawn awaits!”

        Someone appealing to you emotionally does not have to involve your crotch. It can be as simple as showing a victim of a calamity and saying “Please donate now.” Is that wrong in your book? Because that’s propaganda as surely as the evil examples that everyone seems to focus on.

        1. Well, it’s a fine line, isn’t it, as to what, exactly, is the tool for persuasion. Since “propaganda” is difficult to define, apparently, maybe we should all figure out what is meant by it. If you simply mean “any form of communication intended to persuade someone to a specific point of view” then I would argue that almost everything, if not everything, we communicate counts as propaganda- in which case, it’s a pretty useless word. A more useful definition straight from wikipedia:

          Garth Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell have provided a concise, workable definition of the term: “Propaganda is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist”

          That, to me, makes a lot more sense if we’re to even discuss the word. The minute you are deliberately trying to shape and manipulate is the minute you cease to be honest with yourself and your audience. e.g. Michael Moore, who may be fighting for causes I believe in, god bless him, but has no problem omitting and shaping things to make his point of view more persuasive. I like some of his movies and have no problem with what he does creatively- after all, it’s a MOVIE, not a news report- but his films are better as conversation-starters than evidence in a court of law. Sagan expressed his emotion, and yes, we relate to and are attracted to his passionate, muppet-like delivery. But take a look at the different techniques of propaganda, and find one justifiable instance where Sagan resorted to such cheap tactics- appealing to the masses? Appealing to our sense of fear? Stereotyping? Appealing to authority? No, he always used reason; even if his emotions colored his presentation, they never got mixed into the arguments he was proposing, which were still sound. With propaganda, the tactic IS the argument. It’s inherently illogical.

          To answer your question, yes, if you literally show a picture of someone who’s a victim of a calamity, and then ask for money, that’s propaganda, and I don’t think anyone should blindly send them a check. Send me money because of this picture? In fact, there’s plenty of those scams going on right now with Haiti, and the only thing we have to distinguish them from the legit donations are our brains that can ask the question “how is sending this person money going to alleviate the implied problem?”

          I’m not negating emotions, I’m simply clarifying their place in all this. Mr. Animation Archive is not examining things close enough, and committing a common error, assigning passion and emotion to where it doesn’t belong. Of course life would suck without either of those. I’m passionate about everything I do- but I try to make sure my passions are founded in something more than just the chemicals that are flowing inside my body at any given time.

    2. I have to agree with this comment here. It is essentially playing with our emotions in order to get it’s point across and to get us to agree with it.

      That video made Hitler look bad. He looks bad to US, but to many Germans, he looked like the good guy. With words alone, Hitler could get people to agree with him. And all he had to do was get up to a podium and yell, cry, smile, wave his arms in the air. And in places like the US, they just had to tell us that the Nazi’s wanted to take our freedom away.

      That’s why it’s always good to hear two standpoints, so you no longer run on emotion fed to you just by one source, but you start to use reason. Because a lot of times, the story you are getting is biased. You may be getting facts, but little do you realize, they do a little prying into your emotions.

      That’s one reason why I do not like watching newscasts such as Fox and MSNBC. You always see people on their shows debating and discussing issues, many arguing and getting emotional about it. How do they fill 24 hours of news casting when all the people want is facts?

      If Cuba, Iran or North Korea was destroyed by an Earthquake, do you think Americans would step in and help? Would our TVs be filled with “Help the people of North Korea”? I highly doubt it..

  3. Well, I generally agree with you; sympathy, stirring images, and the like can certainly be used for good, and emotion definitely has a role to play in society at large.

    OTOH, I think you shortchange rationality. You say that the reason companies behave badly is because they’re all rationality. I don’t believe that. As an example, I’d point to Google; I use their search many times a day, and many of their other services. They constantly offer new services (eg. maps changed my life, if only a little), and it’s all free, aside from ads–which are as unobtrusive as they can be.

    Point being, they really seem to put their users first, rather than wringing them dry. I have no cause to hate them, and every cause to appreciate them. And look where it’s got them! I think companies that take the latter approach to money making focus far too much on short-term gains and stock prices; they, not Google, are behaving irrationally (see, for example, the RIAA litigating itself into irrelevance, or Enron gaming their financial reports into oblivion).

    Same goes for Haiti. If you want to be cynical, you could say that there’s a rational reason to help them because if we don’t, they could become another failed state full of angry young men; we’ve seen where that can lead. To be a little less pessimistic, helping out your fellow man is perfectly rational, and is in fact the basis of society. A strong, healthy, economically-viable Haiti is better for everyone. Think what we’d have lost if we (really ‘you had’, I’m not American) had abandoned France, Germany, Japan, or Korea after WW2.

    I think that such a limited notion of rationality is wrong, and may even be harmful if it leads to bad behaviour due to the mistaken idea that ‘rational’ == ‘selfish and short-term’.

  4. I have decided to not give any money to Haiti, yet. But I have noted in my calendar to do it in 2012. When everybody have forgotten about the calamities I will find an organization that has done good and help them to do a little more.

  5. The summation of the Disney cartoon perfectly states the relationship of reason and emotion in a person’s life.

    (When I said “corporations” in the post, that was shorthand for the concept of soulless corporations. I didn’t mean all corporations. I’ve fixed my wording to clarify that. Thanks.)

  6. I’m reminded of the story on NPR’s “Radiolab” about a man who damaged the part of his brain responsible for emotion. Some people might imagine that living in a Spock-like, objective, logical state might lead to a more productive and efficient lifestyle but in reality it was the opposite. Simple things like going to the grocery store became hours-long endeavors because without the emotional part of the brain he couldn’t make simple decisions like “which of these 30 near-identical brands of toothpaste should I buy?”

  7. Although I’m sympathetic to the basic message (appealing to people’s passions shouldn’t be discounted), you have begged the question (the logical fallacy, not the common use of that idiom).

    That is, you argued by saying something like “donating to haiti is good, you donate to haiti because of emotion, therefore emotion is good”. On its face, it seems that you only assumed that helping Haiti is good (which few would dispute). However, as part of your argument you explain that the *reason* we think helping Haiti is good is those aforementioned emotions, thus begging the question.

    Yup, this *is* propaganda :>

  8. It’s interesting that such an impassionated and fascinating video takes such a left turn at the end toward nationalism and the same appeals to pride that are condemned mere seconds earlier. Did anybody else notice this?

  9. Why do we contribute money to Haiti when an earthquake devastates their country? There isn’t much of a logical reason… Haiti isn’t really all that important to us strategically or economically.

    My reason for helping others is 100% logical and your focus on “strategy” (you are imprecise here – military strategy?) and economics is extremely illogical.

    Logic and Reason lead me directly to the Categorical Imperative.

    Propaganda is only necessary because huge numbers of people are completely incapable of independent reasoning. The Stanford Prison Experiment and the Milgram Experiments are entirely repeatable and have been repeated. Many people simply cannot think for themselves within the confines of existing human authority structures; this lack of self-actualization leads to the need for propaganda. Not everyone can figure out for themselves how they should behave.

    It’s nothing to damn or celebrate. It is reality. Humans are not really born equal, despite the need to treat them as equally as possible under law. Trig Palin is not equal to Gary Heidnik.

    1. “Compassion IS logical; we help Haiti because we understand (reason) that all humans are in the same boat…” –das memsen
      “My reason for helping others is 100% logical” — anonymous commenter

      Your decision to help others cannot be 100% logical – you simply can’t remove emotion/morality from the decision. Here is a dissection of a non-emotional, illogical argument for helping Haiti:

      -All humans help all humans (false)
      -Haitians are humans
      -I am human
      -Conclusion: I will help Haiti (illogical)

      Let’s try tweaking that first premise:

      -Some humans help some humans (true, but conclusion is logical fallacy)
      -All humans *should* help all humans (invokes morality/empathy)

      If anyone can offer a sound logical argument for helping others that does not invoke morality (and thus, emotion), I will reverse my stance. Since your reasoning is 100% logical, it’s conclusion should be invariant when you change the circumstances of who you’re helping…

      1. All arguments start from some kind of premise / assumption that we have to agree upon- even in things as concrete-seeming as science. Scientific laws are constantly updated as new factors that question the assumptions arise. This doesn’t discredit logic, it simply discredits our “objectiveness” and reminds us that there are a lot more factors floating around than we’re aware of.

        Morality is not emotion, though we might get emotional discussing it. The basic argument for why you’d want to help someone else is simply:

        -All humans are vulnerable. No human being can survive solely on its own. Even the most independent-seeming of human creatures is still dependent on other humans for it’s health.
        -I am human.
        Conclusion: If I am to survive, I need the assistance of others.
        -You are human.
        Conclusion: if you are to survive, you need the assistance of others.

        take this to the macroscopic conclusion:
        if we (collectively) are to survive, we need our collective assistance.
        as well as the other end of the scale:
        -if no one assists, no one survives.

        the more people assist each other, the more people survive.

        Since human life is a lot more complex than that, the logic gets more complex as well. “Survival” isn’t really the whole picture, as merely surviving isn’t what we really need, but I’m not going to try and paint a complete picture of human life in a blog comment.

        Point being, helping each other makes SENSE. You don’t need to play a violin soundtrack, scare me, or show me that everyone else is donating money for me to be convinced of helping out. And no one should be helping out for those “reasons”, either.

        1. Well done, das memsen. Or did you crib that from Kant?

          Antinous is right; logic is just a tool that should be used in the service of fulfillment (happiness is how he phrased it, but I like my word better). But some people believe happiness/success/fullfillment is a zero-sum game – that they must grind others into poverty to achieve riches, that they must inflict cruelties on others to gain pleasure, that happiness only exists in contrast to suffering. These people say the same words Antinous has said, yet, they aren’t talking about the same thing I’m talking about, what they call happiness/success/fullfillment is what I call perversion.

          What a wonderful conversation thread this is… thank you for starting it, ASIFA. It looks to me like people are struggling to convey their own evolving understanding of the universe, instead of simply trying to shout down and deride others’ views. Antinous and das memsen as Bodhisattvas!

          I shall limp happily away from Omelas now.

  10. Bah. False Dichotomy Post has a False Dichotomy. There is no opposition here. There is not even a true division here. Every rational act is rooted in an emotional place (such as the desire to be “correct”). Every emotional act is rooted in a rational place (such as the instinct to survive and pass on your genes).

    When people appeal to rationality, usually what they want is for everyone to settle down and stop freaking out, in order to come to a more constructive conclusion. Humans, perhaps alone amongst the beasts, have realized that freaking out can do a lot of harm. That is, the survival instinct isn’t always the best thing to ensure your survival. Passion alone isn’t always going to get you where you’re going. But if you stop freaking out and look at he situation without screaming and ranting, you can perhaps direct your passions to where they will do some good.

    All the donations to Haiti would be completely pointless if someone wasn’t on the ground organizing people and forces. You need both things. It’s not an either/or choice.

  11. Propaganda is the spread of information, ideas or cause. What you are really discussing is the method of spreading that information. And whether it is okay to convey this information in a way that doesn’t appeal to your rationality but through some other pre exisiting idea of sex, patriotism, desires, xenophobia etc. Basically the idea of advertising?

    Carl Sagan appeals only to your rationality, intellect and sense of wonder and it is backed up by specific examples, reasoning and logical deductions that are mostly freely available to you. You will never hear him spin an unfounded idea that is not based upon a tower of information. The fact that he is passionate about the ideas he wants to spread serves to spread them faster.

    The manner in which you appeal to people and the idea behind your appeal is important, and i think there should always be a logical and rational reason behind it. (Of which compassion is one of those)

  12. Emotions are not causeless. They’re instant readouts of your evaluation of the situation you’re in. If you think a situation is unfair, the emotion is anger, and you’ll probably get mad long before you’re able to fully verbalize why you think it’s unfair.

    The trick is, once you’ve gotten one of these instant readouts, check your instruments. Measure your subconscious twice, cut once.

  13. Empathy is what allows us to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. This doesn’t have anything to do with trying to persuade someone by appealing to their emotions.

    Empathy is a very powerful emotion for propagandists to appeal to. So is love, respect and trust. Evoking these sorts of emotions isn’t an “evil trick”. It’s a way to convey the righteousness of a cause.

    1. You’re making the argument that evoking emotions to bypass reason is not evil because you have excellent purposes to harness all those emotions to.

      In other words, you argue first that the end justifies the means, and second that your ends are better and more worthy than the ends to which your unsuspecting victims had their emotions harnessed before you came along.

      I disagree.

      The history of propaganda is full of evil purposes, to which emotions were attached by people who believed in them. The (outstanding) documentary Century of the Self showcases several of these, my favorite being the way propagandists pushed women into smoking.

      I have some personal interest in this matter, having lost my mother to smoking. I can trace a direct line from the propaganda that pushed my mother to believe smoking is somehow cool (when she was a defenseless minor) to the devastation of my family when she died, at the age of 46.

      Now, that’s an extreme example. Not all propaganda causes the death of unsuspecting victims. But since it is a tool, let’s examine it as a tool. What is propaganda designed to do? It is designed to help people make decisions – by overriding their current belief system by force of powerful emotion.

      It seems to me that overriding people’s beliefs by force is a low and underhanded activity, which is tolerated at the peril of any democracy.

  14. I’d argue that propaganda is anything BUT illogical. Its inherent purpose is to persuade an individual or population to act or think in a certain way, i.e., to redirect the path of logic. Propaganda makes an end goal (an action or thought) “make sense” or justifiable.

  15. Logic is irrelevant.

    — Seven of Nine

    Logic is a tool, nothing more. If it doesn’t advance the cause of happiness, then it’s a tool being wasted or misused.

  16. What I am trying to figure our is why Walt Disney is even mentioned in the same sentence as Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi. There is no comparison on any level.

  17. Reading these comments I remember a story of how the Nazi party used reason to trick intellectual Germans into compliance. They would start disscussions on how hypothetically they would change their previous strategies from WW1 to win the war. In short, they had a pure “chess” mentality and buried there minds in the strategic details. It should also be asked how would a German living at that time use reason to justify betraying his/her own country?
    I feel the detached ironic and “reasonable” atheistic of this blog sometimes misses the point.

  18. What I am trying to figure our is why Walt Disney is even mentioned in the same sentence as Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi. There is no comparison on any level.

    Walt Disney had the passion to take animation to places it had never gone before. Then he did the same for amusement parks. But Walt Disney’s greatest legacy is that he gave us the will to put a man on the moon. He did that by motivating the emotions and desires of the nation. There are some stories that aren’t told in history books. This is one of them.

    Read this article for more details on Disney’s involvement with the efforts to put man on the moon… The Future of the Past

    1. Aren’t we over-simplifying things just a tad? Cultural sensibilities have changed, but the ability to dream- or the quality of dreams- hasn’t. We know too much today to believe in the naive tales of 50’s visions, just like they knew too much in the 50’s to believe in the ideas put forth by people in the 1800’s. You can be a Disney fan, and that’s fine, but a) to say he gave us the will to put a man on the moon, as if, without him, people wouldn’t have done this anyway…? Compared to what Ghandi taught humanity..?

      To each his own, I guess. I’ll take 2001 over the Jetsons, at any rate.

      More to the point, Disney’s creative endeavors only qualify as propaganda if a) their main thrust was to convince people to support the space race regardless of the cost and b) he resorted to the techniques of propaganda to do so (argumentum ad hominem, etc.) Which could be debated forever, of course, but I certainly don’t get the idea that either of these are true when I watch those animations. More than anything, they’re celebrations of the imagination, which, while certainly inspiring, are only appealing to our emotions indirectly. Their first stop is our minds and imaginations, our ability to appreciate creative, interesting visual ideas.

      This is becoming more about semantics than anything, but I really wish people were more careful with such wild declarations as “propaganda can be good!” when this is clearly untrue. “Being passionate about something can be good!” sounds a lot more accurate. Let’s leave propaganda to the ad agencies and politicians.

      1. You’re assuming that each generation knows more than the one that preceded it. I don’t believe that. I think each generation has its own way of looking at the world. It’s all a matter of perspective.

        Scientists like Ernst Haeckel saw the world as highly organized with patterns that repeated themselves over and over. Today, many scientists see the world as being essentially chaos and randomness. Was Haeckel wrong? Not necessarily. He identified an aspect of reality that modern science isn’t interested in.

        There is definitely an aspect of propaganda that current generations have never experienced. We haven’t experienced the hardship of the Great Depression, which was addressed and assuaged by Roosevelt’s propaganda campaign of “The New Deal”. We haven’t experienced the horror of a war that encompasses big chunks of the known world, and threatens the rest. That war was completely justified and necessary and propaganda was instrumental in pulling the American people together to make the sacrifices necessary to win it.

        Sometimes I think Nixon did a lot more than just lie and cheat. I think he made a whole generation cynical and distrusting of institutions that are essentially at the service of all of us. If you don’t trust the government, and you don’t trust religion, and you don’t trust your neighbor, how are you going to convince them to change for the better?

        I know how. You do it by focusing on constructive uses for the tools we have at our disposal instead of distrusting the tools.

  19. Either you’re rather subtly attempting to demonstrate the very thing you are describing, or your post contains a series of statements of “fact” without anything rational to back them up.


    Why do we admire Carl Sagan? Is it because he was factually accurate? No, it’s because he was able to convey a passion for science to us.

    No, incorrect. I admire him for his ideas, which I find rationally coherent. That he can express them in an appealing way merely means that he and I both had to do less work for me to come to appreciate them in the first place.

    Why do we contribute money to Haiti when an earthquake devastates their country? There isn’t much of a logical reason… Haiti isn’t really all that important to us strategically or economically.

    There are plenty of logical reasons. In fact, if you do some reading you’ll find that there are studies suggesting that helping others may well be an evolutionary advantage which has allowed us to rise to the top of the tree. And you ignore ideas such as reciprocity, whilst subscribing to an irrational conception of the nation state when assessing whether “Haiti” (NB: abstract concept) is important to “us” (NB: abstract concept).

    This is a concept that the “great generation” largely accepted, but we “baby boomers” and “post-boomers” have never been required to understand.

    This proposition assumes its own correctness – why should we be “required to understand” that propaganda is good? I can’t find a coherent reason.

    Counter-example – look how much opposition there was to the Iraq war. It was a bad war, it should never have happened the way it did. But people learnt their lesson from Vietnam and were determined to resist the tidal wave of patriotic nonsense that they were hit with. I find that very reassuring – it’ll be a brave politician who stakes his career on the next uncalled for war.

  20. I’m really not talking about the Iraq war. I was talking about taking a stand against Nazi attacks against Eastern Europe, France and Great Britain. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the nation was thrust into a situation where the entire country had to immediately mobilize to respond. We could have spent six months hashing everything out like we recently did with the health care bill, but we didn’t have the time. Our allies needed us and we were under attack. Propaganda focused the public outrage into a productive task instead of just scattered complaining about the status quo. If you read the article linked above, you’ll get a better idea of what I’m saying.

    1. So essentially your argument is that propaganda can be good because it helps nation states achieve their quasi-arbitrary objectives without pesky things like dissent and debate from rational individuals? Interesting argument.

      You see, I believe that if Pearl Harbour happened right now, there would still be an effective social and military response even without the joys of mindless propaganda (we’d have to shut down Fox News to test this). Likewise in Europe – I think you sell the British short if you think their courage and determination was the product of some brilliant poster making and not a genuine, rational fear of, and willingness to fight against, the Nazis.

    2. In fact, aren’t you really saying that you don’t believe democracy can cope with major challenges? The people are too slow to decide. The people disagree too much. The people are too whiny and under-motivated. Much better if We use their “emotional response” to bypass their rationality and achieve what We decide is best for them before they have a chance to think about it.

      How alarming.

  21. propaganda /pr’É’pəɡ’ændÉ™/
    Propaganda is information, often inaccurate information, which a political organization publishes or broadcasts in order to influence people.

    Propaganda is not simply an appeal to emotion. It uses logical fallacies (faulty reasoning) as often as not. It is all about the manipulation and control of one group by another. Equating it to passion is dishonest and insulting to those great men you imply used it.

  22. You’ve convinced me- I’m going to buy that “Slap a Jap” poster reproduction and hang it in my living room. When my friends accuse me of being racist, I’ll explain to them how complicated and time-wasting it would have been to look at the Japanese as actual human beings, perhaps worthy of remaining alive, and how it was much more efficient to show Bugs Bunny ridiculing them so that we could drop that bomb and get this whole mess over with.

    If people were actively critical citizens, then they would more often than not elect a genuinely worthwhile person as their leader, so that in times of duress, they could trust in their leader’s actions as being well-motivated, even if they make mistakes. We wouldn’t need to resort to propaganda, because the public trust would actually be a living, healthy concept, based on a rational, logical choice of president. Decisions would be criticized and debated, but starting from the premise that they were well-intentioned, rather than, as is the case today, motivated by greed and short-sightedness.

    I’m not sure why you lump Disney’s passionate cartoons of space with WWII posters, as they are 2 very different beasts- the fact that they both elicit an emotional response doesn’t mean they are the same, unless you’re saying that Disney’s MAIN INTENT was to get the nation to accept the space race, rather than it merely being a byproduct of the viewing experience (and that his main intent was simply to explore the collective imagination of something unknown but wondrous.)

    1. I’m going to buy that “Slap a Jap” poster reproduction and hang it in my living room. When my friends accuse me of being racist, I’ll explain to them how complicated and time-wasting it would have been to look at the Japanese as actual human beings

      Not that the Japanese looked on Americans and British any differently… Momotaro’s Fighting Army.

      In order to understand all of this in perspective, you need to have a basic background in the reasons behind the second World War and the need to immediately respond to a direct attack on the United States. In general, getting a nation of people to pull together to reach a common goal is like herding cats, even with the best of rationalization. Propaganda is a tool of motivation, best used alongside rational explanation.

      But the most important thing I’m trying to get across is that both motivation and rationalization are just tools. They aren’t “good” or “bad” unless they are used for good or bad purposes. We need to trust our emotions and temper them with logic, just like we need to temper logic with compassion.

      Reasoning + Motivation = Action.

  23. Boy howdy, this sure stirred up a pot. And the comments on uTube after the cartoons are even better. You can see the little eggheads and cavemen going to town in the heads of all the contributors.

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