On Tear Gas Monday: How to turn a section of the public into a virtual propaganda arm of the government


I woke up to find so many Facebook updates with the phrase ‘Tear Gas Monday’ or TGM. This is in response to CORD’s protests against IEBC in Kenya. The protests are scheduled for every Monday, probably, until IEBC commissioners are thrown out of office, as the opposition says. These protests have been characterized by police brutality and excessive use of banned and poisonous tear gas.

The phrase ‘Tear Gas Monday’ awoke the keyword INTERNALISATION in mind. In psychology, this word means ‘installing’ objects/ideas into the ego in such a way that it becomes integral to a person’s sense of self. When fully internalized, a person grows to fully own these concepts, even consider them normal. In sociology, it is how a person accepts a set of norms and values, and how they shape the person’s inner self. Both versions are drawn from Lev Vygotsky’s work. Now if we can jump to political science, propaganda does the job of ‘installing’. Propaganda usually starts from the government (and the political system) but after some time it grows to become a part of society.

In a country such as the United States, propaganda has grown past the government, it now happens without government censorship or coercion. The ‘truths’ in propaganda have become an internalized belief system, and this is what makes it possible for media personnel, or what we call ‘global media houses’, to be enthusiastic spokespersons in pushing US propaganda, and give it a naturalness that often lacks in crude propaganda that is created and pushed by the government. The ignorant masses of course do not recognize the media’s propaganda role and accepts the self-image of the media as an independent, adversary, truth-seeking entity that helps the public to exert meaningful control over politics. Noam Chomsky says that once propaganda is internalized by the public, deviations and dissent are derided as foolishness or pathology, and should be excised.

When writing about Yugoslavia, Raju Thomas says that in such situations, where propaganda has been internalized and institutionalized, “the media can be used to display a form of hysteria that helps mobilize the public in support of whatever forms of violence the government wishes to carry out”. In essence, the public and media becomes “a virtual propaganda arm of the government”. Now if I’m to map this onto the Kenyan scenario, it is exactly what it means when you hear the public use terms like ‘Tear Gas Monday’ etc.

If this internalisation continues, and things like extreme cases of brutality become more accepted as normal, the media and public would have created a perfect environment for the government to develop and implement structures of disinformation, right in front of the public’s eye and the public will not see.

In the end, you can gain who wins and who loses – the government, media, or public.

2 thoughts on “On Tear Gas Monday: How to turn a section of the public into a virtual propaganda arm of the government

  1. I received the below email today. I have no idea how I got signed up to your blog. I’ve never heard of it before today. If, by chance, it was you who chose to add me, then please don’t do that to people. It’s disrespectful. If, however, it was someone else playing a trick or something, then it’s good that you know about it and can be mindful there might be others like me.

    All the best with your blogging. I’ll unsubscribe myself.

    ________________________________

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