Henry Clay once said of a class of men who would repress all tendencies to liberty and ultimate emancipation, that they must, if they would do this, go back to the era of our Independence, and muzzle the cannon which thunders its annual joyous return; they must blow out the moral lights around us; they must penetrate the human soul, and eradicate there the love of liberty; and then and not till then, could they perpetuate slavery in this country!
Lincoln went on to say this about Stephen Douglas:
When he invites any people willing to have slavery, to establish it, he is blowing out the moral lights around us. When he says he “cares not whether slavery is voted down or voted up,”—that it is a sacred right of self government—he is in my judgment penetrating the human soul and eradicating the light of reason and the love of liberty in this American people.
An amoral attitude toward slavery is not the only thing that blows out the moral lights. As I thought about Lincoln’s statement I realized how true it is of so many actions and issues. Propaganda blows out the moral lights by teaching people to abandon wisdom and discern- ment. It dulls the light of reason, and it obliterates the love of liberty as it marches and conforms people into one monolithic group of robotic obedience. Propaganda usually appeals to our weaknesses and worst instincts: our fears, insecurities, avarice and suspicion, and it brutalizes our perception of our fellow human beings. In several of my propaganda posts I used quotes from the book of Proverbs. When I read the verses below, I thought how well they describe propaganda. Propaganda blows out the moral lights by obliterating truth with lies.
There are six things which the Lord hates,Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:Haughty eyes, a lying tongue,And hands that shed innocent blood,A heart that devises wicked plans,Feet that run rapidly to evil,A false witness who utters lies,And one who spreads strife among brothers.Proverbs 6:16–19
Propaganda is arrogant, it lies, it harms the innocent—and it can shed innocent blood. It comes from a heart devising wicked plans, feet running rapidly to evil, and false witnesses spreading lies and strife.
We must learn to love truth, seek wisdom, and grow in discernment. As Reagan said in his farewell speech, “And don’t be afraid to see what you see.”
1The Lincoln-Douglas Debates 1st Debate: Abraham Lincoln, Stephen A. Douglas; August 21, 1858; Ottawa, Illinois, TeachingAmericanHistory.org