Lincoln On Liberty

Kevin Portteus, Lincoln’s Birthday Reflections His insights on liberty and tyranny still ring true today.

“Lincoln recognized and eloquently denounced tyranny, seeking to restore the nation to its foundation in “the laws of nature and of nature’s God,” which he recognized as the only sure foundation for liberty, equality, and justice. He also understood, in a way that few American statesman ever have, the tyrannical impulse that underlay the affirmative defense of slavery…

“Lincoln asked, “What will convince them? This, and this only: “Cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right.” The opponents of slavery must abandon their opposition, turning their backs on their basic moral principles, and wholeheartedly adopt the ideology of slavery as a positive good.  No one may be allowed to question slavery.  The North must enthusiastically participate in the recovery of fugitive slaves, which it had hitherto resisted.  In the end, the free constitutions of the Northern states must be repealed, and slavery must be nationalized.”

Portteus is drawing from Lincoln’s Cooper Union Address. Here is a fuller quote of Lincoln’s words.

Abraham Lincoln November 1863“…what will convince them? This, and this only: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly – done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated – we must place ourselves avowedly with them….

“…Demanding what they do, and for the reason they do, they can voluntarily stop nowhere short of this consummation. Holding, as they do, that slavery is morally right, and socially elevating, they cannot cease to demand a full national recognition of it, as a legal right, and a social blessing.

Nor can we justifiably withhold this, on any ground save our conviction that slavery is wrong. If slavery is right, all words, acts, laws, and constitutions against it, are themselves wrong, and should be silenced, and swept away. If it is right, we cannot justly object to its nationality – its universality; if it is wrong, they cannot justly insist upon its extension – its enlargement. All they ask, we could readily grant, if we thought slavery right; all we ask, they could as readily grant, if they thought it wrong. Their thinking it right, and our thinking it wrong, is the precise fact upon which depends the whole controversy. Thinking it right, as they do, they are not to blame for desiring its full recognition, as being right; but, thinking it wrong, as we do, can we yield to them? Can we cast our votes with their view, and against our own? In view of our moral, social, and political responsibilities, can we do this?

Portteus draws the clear and very powerful analogy to the persecution and prosecution of those who stand for marriage and thus against its redefinition.

“…Today, the LGBT movement maintains that its liberty requires and allows the criminalization or ruin of anyone who disagrees, such as bakers, florists and photographers who refuse to service same-sex nuptials.

“As with slavery, acquiescence in the new morality is not enough. Wholehearted support is required.  As Lincoln noted, “Silence will not be tolerated. We must place ourselves avowedly with them.”

“This is the tyrannical impulse: The desire to reshape society and crush dissent, all in the name of a liberty that claims for itself the freedom to deprive others of their freedom.”

Lincoln closed with these words that are fully applicable to us today.

Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored – contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man – such as a policy of “don’t care” on a question about which all true men do care – such as Union appeals beseeching true Union men to yield to Disunionists, reversing the divine rule, and calling, not the sinners, but the righteous to repentance – such as invocations to Washington, imploring men to unsay what Washington said, and undo what Washington did.”

And let us consider Lincoln’s encouragement and exhortation in these last sentences and take them to heart.

“Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.

Forming Illusions For Power

To think that two and two are four

And neither five nor three

The heart of man has long been sore

And long ‘tis like to be.

– A. E. Houseman, Last Poems, xxv

Propaganda is a planted lie designed as a means to the end of power. Lies create a false reality, and propaganda is intended to form the illusion that two and two are no longer four. This false perception of reality is designed to provoke specific responses of emotion that will be strong enough to lead to actions that will have consequences the propagandist can use to gain power.

Lie → Responses → Actions → Consequences → Power

Propaganda forms illusions to gain power.

You can still find the word propaganda used in a neutral sense and taking on a benign or malignant meaning from its context, but after its use during the 20th century, the word has become tainted in its implications.

The Institute for Propaganda Analysis (IPA) was established in the United States in 1937 because of concern over increasing propaganda within the country:

“…for the purpose of assisting the public to detect and analyze propaganda. The IPA conducted research into the methods by which public opinion is influenced, published analyses of current problems, and promoted the establishment of study groups in public schools for detecting propaganda. It published a monthly bulletin, Propaganda Analysis, from 1937 to 1941. The organization was dormant during World War II and in 1950 all formal operations ceased.”

In a 1939 publication, the IPA wrote:

“If American citizens are to have a clear understanding of conditions and what to do about them, they must be able to recognize propaganda, to analyze it, and to appraise it. They must be able to discover whether it is propaganda in line with their own interests and the interests of our civilization or whether it is propaganda that may distort our views and threaten to undermine our civilization.

“Propaganda more than ever is an instrument of aggression, a new means for rendering a country defenseless in the face of an invading army. While it has been used in a halting way for centuries, within the past few years we have seen it prepare the way for Hitler to seize the Saar, Austria, the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia. It is called a new instrument of aggression because development has given it an effectiveness never before experienced in the history of the world.

“Never before has there been so much propaganda. Never before have there been so many propagandas of such great importance to the lives of all of us. And never before have there been such powerfully implemented propagandas. The modern news-gathering systems of the newspapers and the gigantic radio broadcasting facilities of the world have made the chief differences, but refinements in propagandist methods have kept pace.

“As generally understood, propaganda is opinion expressed for the purpose of influencing actions of individuals or groups. More formally, the Institute for Propaganda Analysis has defined propaganda as “expression of opinion or action by individuals or groups deliberately designed to influence opinions or actions of other individuals or groups with reference to predetermined ends.””

In the eyes of some, the IPA’s work is now considered simplistic, but it provides an excellent foundation for building understanding of propaganda, and I’ll be going through their key definitions. The IPA’s hammer and nails have lain forgotten and unused, but even these ‘simplistic’ tools can render harmless much of today’s propaganda.

Propaganda is a planted lie used to shape perception of an individual or group or event. The lie is substituted for reality, and this maligning of truth is designed to be the first domino to fall and begin a cascade of planned consequences.

Propaganda is a planted lie used to shape a perception of reality. The propagandist never stops at swaying the individual. Persuasion is not his final goal. Propaganda is an illusion designed to make the first domino fall in a cascade of events with planned consequences that will be a means to the end of power.

The propagandist is forming illusions for power.
Helen MacInnes, Neither Five Nor Three. Poem via America’s Marxist Media by David B. Jenkins.
“The Fine Art Of Propaganda; A Study of Father Coughlin’s Speeches” by The Institute for Propaganda Analysis, Edited by Alfred McClung Lee & Elizabeth Briant Lee, and published in 1939 by Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York via Phil Taylor’s Web Site, The Institute of Communications Studies, University of Leeds, UK.