Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Patriot

You'd find it hard to imagine today but I used to be something of a patriot. When I recall the patriot I used to be I don't think of him as naive or blinkered by jingoism, far from it, in fact,I remember him as principled individual with respect for all culture. A funny thing happens when the foundation of secure nationhood rots away from beneath you feet though, you stop thinking of yourself as part of a collective entity, when that happens your individual well-being and ambition become your chief preoccupation. Ceasing to be a patriot must be a gradual process I suppose, in truth if I look back and examine events in detail I think that probably true for me but I chiefly cite one particular period for destroying the faith I had in my nation. That period being the Yugoslavian conflict and my nations concomitant role in that conflict.

One of the misconceptions about propaganda is that it's universally effective. This isn't true as I've tried to explain on several occasions, the latest being a comment to a YT video here, (look for knockoffnigei) only a minority ever fully buy into propaganda. That minority is usually some where below 20% of the general population, the weak-minded and easily lead, maybe that percentage will increase if the population is under unusual stress, desperation breeds weak minds but on whole most people can see though obvious rhetoric. The real strength of propaganda is exercised through its pervasiveness, if a doctrine can seed itself into the media and political life of a nation it has the effect of pacifying opposition, most people don't want to risk airing opinions that seem controversial. In extreme cases this is manifested as moral panic where opposition to a doctrine is suppressed through fear of being ostracised and the threat of concrete sanction.

Such was the case with the war in Yugoslavia, the case for war was almost universally promoted in the media, so much so that anyone examining the period through a historical perspective could be forgiven for assuming that the war received universal approval amongst the British public. This was not the case, whenever the subject was broached in conversation, which was infrequently, the majority of people would tentatively express grave trepidation and concern over the enterprise. Not only did they express opposition or scepticism about the case for war, there was a good deal of awareness of the issues and historical context of the conflict, the very same contextual material that was absent from the media at the time. Of course if anyone who supported the war overheard or was party to such a conversation, some sort of verbal confrontation was likely. Such a confrontation would likely be marked by an aggressive and vociferous attempt to shame dissenters into acquiescing. The weak minded are frequently emboldened by the assurance propaganda affords them, more often than not they're successful in muting opposition, the pacifying effect I mentioned earlier.

So the war continued apace and escalated way beyond anything foreseen by our foolish leaders, no act of hostility seemed beyond justification, the Chinese embassy bombing, the assassination attempt on TV journalists all dismissed with easy platitudes. That's when the patriot in me died, he couldn't take being the baddie, the guy in shiny boots and skull adorned cap. I don't think it was just me either, quite a few people left the country at the time, maybe some were so sick of the shame.

No comments:

Post a Comment