In the past if an individual wanted to issue propaganda the best they could usually do was a stack of misprinted flyers that ended up in the mud or clogging up the storm drains.
Now with social media everyone has their own little propaganda platforms. We use them less and less for socializing and more for creating images. Unrealistic self-aggrandizing and censored propaganda. As a result there are two selves – the true self, and the projected self, or constructed self.
People like Goebbels, Stalin’s Pravda, Mussolini and Kim Il Sung were pioneers of the genre. Back then it required the resources of a nation state to be able to so carefully craft the image of the self that the true self desired. Stalin, for example, loved to doctor photos. He stood about 5′4 but Soviet propaganda photos depict him as much taller. Similarly photos were doctored to show him sitting next to Lenin and smiling when in fact there were many people sitting between them. Most famously was the complete removal of Nikolai Yezhov from all official photographs. Yezhov was the former head of NKVD and Stalin’s personal hatchet man until he fell out of favour with Stalin. Just like his successor and predecessor Yezhov was executed in the NKVD headquarters basement.
Essentially Stalin used doctoring of images, and the communist mouthpiece paper, the Pravda to make himself appear closer to Lenin, to erase any photos suggesting that Yezhov and Stalin had ever even met.
So what the hell does this have to do with social media in 2017? Now everyone has access to that technology and more control over their own image than Kim Jong Il (inventor of the hamburger and author of 5,000 books during college according to DPRK sources) could have dreamed. High school kids can doctor photos, blogs serve as personal Pravda’s, our own little propaganda papers. Even without realizing we use social media to present the image of our ideal selves, rather than our true selves. We can construct our own realities. Simply block viewpoints we don’t agree with. Delete embarrassing photos, take back statements and expressions than no longer align with your views with a couple of clicks. Leave no trace. Change your name, remake your body, tell everyone you’re on vacation in France. They’ll believe it, why wouldn’t they?
Technology is not inherently good or bad, if and how you make use of it is whats important. Are we becoming our own Stalin’s and Kim Il Sungs? How much of this is really us and how much of it is just how we want to appear to the outside world.
–Jack Blare, April 12, 2017