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‘Propaganda can have a darker side’: Beware Ghanaians!

Sun, 29 Apr 2012 Source: Badu, K.

Apparently, the Rwandan genocide, the Bosnian conflict, the Holocaust (the appalling crime against Jews) and the devastation that befell the Americans’ on September 11 2001, were all facilitated by propaganda. Thus, it behoves discerning Ghanaians to disassociate themselves from any form of propagandistic measures that might end up in melancholy.

"With the help of a skilful and continuous application of propaganda, it is possible to make the people conceive even of heaven as hell ." (Adolf Hitler). Oxford English dictionary defines propaganda in its most neutral and simple sense as, “the persuasive dissemination of particular ideas or material disseminated by the advocates or opponents of a doctrine or cause”. In other words, “propagandism” is the systematic propagation of a doctrine or information reflecting the views and interests of those propagating such information or doctrine. While propaganda was first prosecuted as an international crime during the Nuremburg Trials, it was not officially prohibited by international law until the adoption of Article 20 of the international Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1966.

Some connoisseurs contend that a message can be classified as propaganda if it “suggests something negative and dishonest”. The meaning of propaganda traces its roots to the “Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide”- a committee of Cardinals founded in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV to oversee the spread of Catholicism abroad, by any means necessary. Consequently, the word propaganda came to mean the concerted effort to spread any belief Propagandists are associated with. Thus propaganda is regarded as "a deliberate attempt to alter or maintain a balance of power that is advantageous to the propagandists."

Inasmuch as the purpose of propaganda may be as benign as the encouragement of party supporters by leaders’ to resist any form of violence, or show patriotic pride, propaganda can also have a darker side. For example, wars, crimes and genocides against humanity are arguably expedited through the use of propaganda aimed at securing popular support for illegal, violent action. This can be witnessed continued in the past and in the modern era. We can attest to the Nazi propaganda which preceded the Holocaust, the Radio and Television propaganda which preceded the Rwandan Genocide and al-Qaeda propaganda which preceded the attacks on ‘World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001. Thus, we can deduce that propagandistic measures could spell doom for a nation.

It is generally understood that the right to free expression is not an absolute right, neither in national nor international jurisprudence. This right, like others, may be restricted to protect and balance other rights and interests. Nevertheless, it is the complexion and the degree of these restrictions that is frequently contended in extant human rights and security jurisprudence. Two known restrictions on the right to freedom of expression are: The prohibition of advocacy of any national, racial or religious hatred; and the prohibition of propaganda. Albeit, the prohibition of propaganda is not innately contrary to the right to freedom of expression; the two must exist together.

Interestingly, while propaganda for genocide is codified as an international crime, the propaganda for the incitement to aggressive war is not. However, incitement to commit an illegal act is in itself illegal under international law. Incitement, instigation, abetment and solicitation are all common to various criminal codes world-wide. These are generally considered "inchoate offense[s]" or "a step toward[s] the commission of another crime, the step itself being serious enough to merit punishment”. In the English common law for instance, there are three general inchoate offenses: 1) attempt; 2) conspiracy; and 3) incitement.'' Incitement conveys a "general label to cover any use of words or other device by which a person is requested, urged, advised, and counselled, tempted, commanded, or otherwise enticed to commit a crime."

Despite the evils associated with propaganda, political parties in Ghana are resorting to propagandistic measures to win favours from the populace. The last time I checked, the ruling party in Ghana had propaganda secretary. How bizarre? Is this individual a “celebrated” liar? If we require a propaganda secretary in this day and age, then may the Jehovah God help Ghanaians. It is “bang out of order” for any political party in Ghana to resort to unnecessary “spinning”. , considering the apocalypse of such praxes. It is important that our politicians discuss issues that may move the nation forward, and refrain from lies, crude caricature and tempestuous insults which can only spell doom for the nation. It is fair to say that we can only improve our socio-economic standard of living if policy makers come up with expedient policies, but not by hurling dirty insults onto each other. Thus, I would entreat all politicians to end political inebriations and start ‘hitting the ground running’. Caveat: Ghana is the only country we have; therefore, we cannot and must not allow the lunatic fringe of political parties to bring hell upon us! God bless Ghana!

K. Badu, UK.

Columnist: Badu, K.