Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Propaganda 101: How To Defend A Massacre | Current Affairs

Posted by M. C. on June 9, 2018


An introductory course in massaging your crimes and dehumanizing your enemies…

If you are a human being, as you probably are, you might think it would be difficult to explain away the massacre of several dozen people. And you might think that it would be difficult to get justifications for mass murder printed in one of the world’s leading newspapers. You would, however, be mistaken. Propaganda defending murder is both simple to produce and alarmingly common in major media outlets.

In order to understand how people can defend acts that should shock the conscience, today we’re going to examine and dissect a particularly galling example. Last week, 60 Palestinians were killed, and 1700 wounded (including being permanently disabled) by the Israeli military during the Nakba protest, when Palestinians attempted to breach the fortified wall surrounding Gaza. Much of the news coverage in the New York Times was already disturbingly one-sided, and the paper ran a front-page story on how Palestinians’ deaths made Israelis feel (they “hoped every bullet was justified”) while suggesting that Gazans exploit their own suffering for “political” ends (it’s a place “where private pain is often paraded for political causes”). But yesterday, the paper topped itself, running an op-ed from Jewish Journal editor Shmuel Rosner entitled “Israel Needs to Protect Its Borders. By Whatever Means Necessary.

Rosner fully justifies the massacre, with no apologies, regret, or second thoughts. He believes the killing of these Palestinians was correct, and that they deserved to die. Now you might, as I do, think this attitude is so self-evidently barbaric that even to debate it is to surrender a little bit of one’s humanity. But Rosner’s position is not a fringe one, and the good liberals at the New York Times consider it within the boundaries of reasonable discourse, so unfortunately we have not yet achieved the kind of world in which such thinking is “self-evidently” immoral. (This reflects very badly on all of us.) I’d like, then, to go through Rosner’s argument paragraph by paragraph, to show how he constructs his defense of murder, why it might be persuasive to people, and why it fails and should horrify everyone.

Let’s begin:

ROSNER: It is customary to adopt an apologetic tone when scores of people have been killed, as they were this week in Gaza. But I will avoid this sanctimonious instinct and declare coldly: Israel had a clear objective when it was shooting, sometimes to kill, well-organized “demonstrators” near the border. Israel was determined to prevent these people — some of whom are believed to have been armed, most apparently encouraged by their radical government — from crossing the fence separating Israel from Gaza. That objective was achieved.

A few notes about what Rosner does here. First, he says that while it would be “customary” to sound apologetic about a massacre, he will avoid the “instinct” to be “sanctimonious” and admit that Israel had a “clear objective,” which it “achieved.” I put these words in quotes because each serves a particular function: “customary” makes it sound as if regret over deaths is mere arbitrary tradition rather than a humane reaction to suffering, “instinct” suggests that being saddened by suffering is irrational sentimentality, to be contrasted with cool reason. “Sanctimonious” suggests that feeling bad when your country murders people is mere self-interested virtue-signaling instead of the basic response of a moral human being. “Achieving objectives” is bureaucratic language, business language, a softer way to describe Israel’s actions that sounds rational (far more so than “shooting people through the neck,” which is what actually happened). We see, then, that in propaganda, as many words as possible should be carefully shaded in order to leave the impression that one is simply being reasonable and cool-headed, as opposed to the touchy-feely saps who cry when they see people being shot.

Propaganda Suggestion #1: You are not ideological, you are just following Reason where it leads you. Those who disagree with you are soft, irrational, emotional, feminine.

Be seeing you



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