View propaganda with an open mind

Thursday, May 1, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:43 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 4, 2009

It was not the typical night at the movies. No popcorn. No soft drink. In fact, the two movies are available only on the Internet. Both movies are intense and claim the genre of “documentaries.” Both concern violence and the “word” of G-d. Both are propaganda. Both need to be watched with an open mind.

“Finta,” by Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, is the vision of an angry politician on how the Qur’an shapes the beliefs of all Muslims towards violence.

“Schism,” by Saudi businessman Raed al-Saeed, is the response of an angry Muslim on how the Bible shapes the beliefs of all Christians toward violence. But ...

al-Saeed told National Public Radio’s Caryle Murphy, “Anybody can take any holy book — even ... the Holy Bible — out of context and make it look, sound evil.” al-Saeed is not anti-Christian, anti-West or anti-U.S. but he does understand propaganda and how easy it is to defile any religion. And he is right.

Both movies show how religious texts, the Qur’an and the Holy Bible, and by extension the Torah, can justify the holy wars between Muslims and Christians and, by extension, Jews.

We have been fighting religion-based wars since the beginning of time, myth and awe, with the language migrating into our politics. President Bush’s misstatement (even if some believe it was purposeful) did not help things, calling the war against terror a “crusade.”

We distrust and disavow “them” because they look different, sound different and pray to a different deity than “we” do. I do not believe the morals of Western or Eastern beliefs include violence for violence sake. But many hold fast to the idea of a vengeful god, one that is not tolerant of indiscretion and non-belief. al-Saeed is right; violence, war and terror are found in almost all holy writings. I cannot say all; I have not read them all – yet.

As war entered the 21st century, the battlegrounds moved to the Internet as the avenue for propaganda. Each side, and it does not matter which side you address, is guilty of disinformation, of myopia, of ethnocentrism and of elitism that harkens to the great propaganda of World War II and the National Socialist German Worker’s Party – the Nazis. Instead of the movie theaters showing newsreels and “documentaries” made by the great film directors, such as Leni Riefenstahl, we now turn our computers on and watch the propaganda in the comfort of our homes. Propaganda is no longer just a government-sanctioned tool but is now open to the citizen zealots. Of anarchists.

And no longer restricted to the West. We sit nightly in front of our televisions, watching Tibetan monks battling the Chinese government for control over a once proud and independent country. We listen as the words of the Dalai Lama, a man of pure peace, are twisted and turned into hate by the People’s Republic of China. The rioting monks of Tibet have not claimed the words of the Dalai Lama as their inspiration. That is the claim of the People’s Republic of China, and if you ask a citizen of China about the “truth,” you will more than likely hear the party’s line, for in China you get only one vision of the “truth.” That is propaganda.

Facts are facts and for the most part indisputable. Yet our interpretations of those facts, our personal truths, are shaped and manipulated by the Internet, media, religion, government, family, etc. The “facts” need to be addressed and interpreted in an objective manner, only then applying to our personal morals and “truths” to clear our vision.

I do not have an answer to “what is the truth?” The late Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, once said, “You must open your ears to open your mind.”

David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. He welcomes your comments at

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