When I first thought of writing this article, my original idea was to accuse Zimbabwe state-controlled media of spewing shameless propaganda – which not only sought to sow seeds of hatred and division in the nation, but also posed a grave danger to national peace and security.
Indeed, the fact that these disgraceful lies and unpardonable vitriol are a reckless experiment – which pits the people of Zimbabwe against each other, with the real potential of igniting civil conflict – is undeniable.
Nevertheless, to call the horrific and insufferable rubbish we are daily bombarded with by state-controlled media, “propaganda”, is in itself a gross injustice and insult to the word.
As much as today, the term “propaganda” is most often used in reference to political statements, but the word comes through its use in a religious context.
The Congregatio de propaganda fide (“Congregation for propagating the faith”) was an organization established in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV as a means of furthering Catholic missionary activity.
The word “propaganda” is from the ablative singular feminine of “propogandus” – which is the gerundive of the Latin “propagare”, meaning “to propagate.”
The first use of the word “propaganda” (without the rest of the Latin title) in English was in reference to this Catholic organization.
It was not until the beginning of the 19th century that it began to be used as a term denoting ideas or information that are of questionable accuracy as a means of advancing a cause.
Nonetheless, the basic definition of “propaganda” is a concerted set of messages aimed at influencing the opinions or behavior of large numbers of people.
As such, strictly speaking, every media outlet on the face of the planet is in the business of spreading propaganda.
Whether these are aimed at informing, or misinforming, or disinforming – all this can be defined as propaganda, as long as the objective is to influence the opinions and behavior of large numbers of people.
We have all encountered this in our lives – as long as we have read, listened to, or watched, any media – most recent incidents being the global awareness on the COVID-19 pandemic (and, the subsequent highly controversial vaccine campaign), as well as the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
However, a common denominator with any form of propaganda is the science and art of how it is packaged and presented.
Yes, it is a most complicated and complex art and science – which involves a deep understanding of how the human mind functions, societal norms, as well as our experiences, education, environment and even genetics – as these form our beliefs and attitudes.
In turn, these beliefs influence our behaviour, and determine our actions – consequently, those widely accepted beliefs become part of our culture and, in many ways, shape the society we live in.
To achieve this, obviously this demands the employment of sophisticated and complex mechanisms – most usually, psychological tools, that seek to capture the core of the human mind.
One of the most commonly employed psychological methods is to ensure that messages transmitted are shaped to bypass or manipulate the frontal lobe – which is responsible for higher cognitive functions, such as decision making, memory, emotions, impulse control, problem solving, social interaction, and motor function.
That is why most people who are influenced by propaganda appear not to thoroughly question or dispute whatever they are fed, as such an ability would have been skillfully skipped.
Experts in the field of propaganda may also play on the emotions of people (also controlled by the frontal lobe) – for instance, spreading the fear of death and dying due to a pandemic, so that these terrified people become desperate for a solution, thereby readily accepting any such panacea offered.
Furthermore, as the frontal lobe plays a critical role in social interaction – it becomes much easier to manipulate the population by use of social conformity, in order to play upon their desire to be part of the group, and fear of being different or perceived as the “odd one out”.
Nonetheless, there is one fundamental element for the achievement of propaganda goals – BELIEVABILITY!
There is absolutely no point in embarking on a path of propaganda if the message is not to be believed, or can not be believed, or simply unbelievable.
That is why, for instance, in trying to convince the majority of the world’s population to take the COVID-19 vaccine, and even to encourage some measure of mandatory vaccinations – there was need to incorporate renowned and well-respected scientists to buttress the assertion that the only “scientifically proven” and available means to curbing this pandemic was via these jabs.
As already the frontal lobe would have been manipulated through the instilling of the fear of death and dying – even when these supposedly “credible” scientists do not proffer a shred of verifiable and indisputable evidence to this effect, except a bunch statistics that are meant to show that after administering vaccines within a particular community, there was a marked decrease in severe illness and deaths, as well as those largely detected with COVID-19 being the unvaccinated.
Nevermind that data and statistics can never be used a conclusive determinant of anything – and, can be interpreted in any number of ways, as a myriad of other factors can be considered.
Which is why you may ask a person – “what is really meant when a vaccine is said to have an efficacy of 75%” – and, despite believing that taking the jab will protect them from infection, they still can not articulately explain.
Or, when a purported anti-bacterial soap or detergent is claimed to kill 99.99% of germs – what exactly does that mean?
However, this has seldom hindered the process of propaganda – since, the basic tools of ensuring that a significant portion of people are convinced of a certain belief, would have been meticulously and skillfully used.
That, then, brings me back to our own Zimbabwe.
What we notice in state-controlled media can never be classified as propaganda – due to the glaring absence of anything that resembles the tools mentioned above.
Let us look at the most recent allegations that the past weekend’s violent and barbaric attack on Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) supporters in the city of Kwekwe – whilst being addressed, at a rally, by their leader Nelson Chamisa, at the hands of suspected ruling ZANU PF thugs, resulting in one person being killed – was all stage-managed and faked by the opposition party.
In sprite of the clear non-existence of any form of evidence, or attempts at employing proven scientific propaganda tools that seek to influence the manner in which the Zimbabwean citizenry thinks, believes, and behaves – the claims were nothing more than outrageous and laughable, only managing to portray the ones peddling these falsehoods as clowns at best, and fools at worst.
This would be the same as, if I were to appear on television, adamantly insisting to be a white person, and accusing my enemies of spreading misinformation about my being actually black – whilst at the same time blaming the station of working in cahoots with those enemies in changing my appearance on television, in order to appear black!
Who would appear the big idiot in this instance – considering that viewers would already know me as being black, and no shred of evidence available to explain how these “enemies”, with the collusion of the television station, managed to change my skin colour to appear black, if truly I had been white?
What we have witnessed in Zimbabwe, especially at the behest of the ruling establishment, has been pure madness of the highest degree.
No one in their right mind can ever believe the nonsense that is spewed in our state-controlled media – on account of the utter lack of substance, intellect, and even the necessary science and art behind normal propaganda.
We all know that Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels was famed for saying, “repeat a lie often enough and it becomes truth”!
Well, that was nearly a hundred years ago, when the flow of information was severely restricted, without the plethora of media and communication tools present today – and, I am sure he did not, by any stretch of the imagination, mean foolish unintelligent brazen lies, as have been insulted upon our intelligence by Zimbabwe’s ruling elite.
Surely, no matter how often the people who know me are told that I am white – they will never, at any time, come to believe that, maybe just maybe, he is indeed white.
Similarly, regardless the number of times Zimbabweans are repeatedly told that the brutal and heinous attack on CCC supporters on Sunday, February 27, 2022, was stage-managed by the opposition party itself – with even some of their own agreeing to be beaten up and killed – no one will ever buy such a lurid story.
Anyone who does, deserves a one way ticket to the loony bin!
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org