Is Propaganda Bad?

If you’re anything like me, you see the word “propaganda’ and immediately cringe. If you’re like me, you don’t like to be manipulated or controlled. I don’t want anyone trying to propagate their ideas into my head without my permission. Even if it’s a good idea, I just don’t like it.

But, the fact is, all movies, I’ll go a bit further, all media, all conversations, all human interaction is really about the sharing of ideas. So, where does this nearly visceral reaction to being “preached at” come from?

In his article for Ars Technica called Dear Creation Museum, all science is historical science.” Here’s why, John Timmer argues one particular point of the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. The argument by Ken Ham is that there are two kinds of science: one is observable and repeatable, the other is based on already existing evidence. In other words, one is done in the lab, the other is history.

The point, here isn’t to have a religious debate on the age of the Earth. The point is, even on this technology blog, even on a tech news website, we get preached to. Timmer has a point, he makes an argument… he tries to convince.

As a part of my job as a filmmaker, I work in Hollywood. I don’t regard race, gender, sexual preferences, etc when I decide to work with someone. I only judge their qualifications to do the job I need done. If they have yet to do something publicly noteworthy, then their primary qualifications are a question of character and drive.

Enter Miles Maker. He’s a producer and friend. He’s black. I don’t care that he’s black. I wouldn’t even bring up the fact that he’s black except that his experience as a black man forced me to look at something from a different light.

I watched the movie Birth of a Nation. I just saw it as a piece of movie history. But, thanks to Miles, I now see how racist it is in its portrayal of black people. It’s still a piece of movie history, but now it has more context. 

I listened to Miles and he changed the way I see things.

This has happened many times, though, not always with Miles. Sometimes it’s my wife. Sometimes it’s long debates with ALGORITHM’s production coordinator, Serafina Kernberger on how women are treated in Hollywood.

Sometimes it’s watching movies like The Monuments Men, a movie that obviously has an agenda beyond simply telling a good story. George Clooney to remind us, in several speeches, that art is culturally significant. Without the things we create, we have no context in which to understand our experiences. Is it a good movie? I leave that to your judgement.

In The Monuments Men, Clooney makes the argument that great art is worth dying for. I wonder, how many people would die for the questions computer/human interaction are asking. How many people know what those questions are?

ALGORITHM is my attempt to add to the cultural conversation. Technology is pushing us as humans to ask questions fundamental to who we are… as a species, and where we want to go. It’s my attempt, not to preach, but to propagate those questions. They are vital questions that need to be addressed, or in some cases readdressed.