Commenter Brian M asks: Is it mere propaganda, or do editorial pontificators really believe the piffle they rewrite?Everything that Mr. Boyd says is important and true, but I do think he neglects to explain that the question results from an erroneous premise made evident by the or. Why should we presume mutual exclusion? Isn't it not only possible, but likely, that editorial pontificators "really believe the piffle they rewrite" which is, nevertheless, propaganda. In our ironic age of Rosie-the-Riveter graphic tees and old Soviet posters appropriated as style, it is easy to forget that propaganda is not ironic and is meant to be believed. The propaganda of the past often seems corny and unbelievable to us, but that too is a matter of style. The home décor of 1981, its thick carpets and bad wallpaper and weird mirrors, now appears hokey and unsophisticated, but it didn't appear that way at the time. Kirk's old Enterprise now appears to us like a relic of a primitive past, but in that past it appeared as a vision of a more distant future.
Whether or not they believe what they say, we mustn't lose sight of the fact that in any system of concentrated power there are penalties and rewards for saying some things versus others.
To call it "mere propaganda" is implicitly to accord propaganda a lower place in the hierarchy of information. It implies that propaganda is inherently less believable than, what? The Truth? Real Journalism? I would tell you that the "hard news" of the non-editorial pages in our major newspapers is equally propagandistic, if not more so, than the opinion-page chin-strokers.
It is tempting to look at the various monsters who rule this strange, satanic country and to think that they can't really believe this vicious nonsense, to think that Fred Hiatt or Bill Keller or Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama are, in private, mere sociopaths; intellectually aware that they are tromping around the world eating babies for the pleasure of their dark masters even as they whistle a lot of bullshit about democracy or freedom or whatever. In the case of Barry and Hilly, that may be partially true, but in the case of the world's newspapermen, I suspect not. If they do not "really believe the piffle," then they at least believe that they believe it.