More often than not the reason for propaganda is clear enough. All of us on the ‘Yes’ side of last year’s Scottish Referendum argument certainly learnt that particular lesson in spades. For a while the British Establishment tried to convince the Scots that they were adored children who would break their doting parents hearts were they to choose to up sticks and leave home. Not surprisingly the Scots saw all the way through these honeyed words and as the big day drew closer the general mood was one of ‘away and shite’.
Most of us figured they wanted to keep us for our oil, even though they went on and on and on about the fact that our oil is rubbish oil. Unlike Norwegian oil. Unlike Saudi oil.
Maybe they protested a little too loudly about just how rubbish our oil was. After all, memories of similarly vehement denials were rather too fresh in everyone’s mind. A mere decade had passed since Bush and Blair promised us all that oil had nothing whatsoever to do with their sudden need to invade Iraq. Of course it didn’t. Absolutely not and how dare anyone suggest otherwise. Communist bastards. Of course it had nothing to do with oil. It was all about WMD and saving the poor beleaguered Iraqi people from a life of misery and hell.
So something new was required and it was required in a big hurry as the referendum D Day drew ever nearer. And so it was that the Establishment propaganda machine was fired up and set free. And my oh my, didn’t they ever fire off both barrels! All of a sudden the airwaves were packed full with terrifying visions of a desperate post nuclear Scotland where all the children were riddled with rickets as Ethiopan levels of starvation engulfed the blighted mountains and glens. No more NHS. No more pensions. A wide open door for immigrants and terrorists and Vladimir Putin’s invading armies.
It was all alarmist bullshit of course but the sheer volume of it all proved to be enough to scare the Bejesus out of enough already scared pensioners for the Establishment to win the day.
It was propaganda that made total sense.
Most propaganda makes total sense and then things change and the we can all see it for what it actually was.
One minute Nelson Mandela is a wicked, wicked terrorist who is rightly locked up for ever and a day. The next minute he is a world treasure who every leader yearns to get a selfie with.
Martin McGuiness went from IRA monster to respected Deputy First Minister in what felt like a blink of an eye.
It will be interesting to see how long it takes for the Establishment to re-write the script about Abu Qatader. For years he has been branded as a cold eyed murdering swine with the long beard to prove it. Theresa May almost broke into a celebratory brake dance when she finally managed to put him on a plane back to Jordan. And now? Well now things are getting interesting. Now it seems that ISIS and Al Queda have fallen out big time and Abu Qatadar has taken to the internet to rail against the new enemy. As far as the man with the long beard is concerned, ISIS are a bunch of Nazi gangsters who are interested in nothing more than rape and pillage. Millions of wannabe jihadists are tuning in to hear what he has to say. I wonder how long it will be before we decide to claim him as a national treasure who learnt valuable lessons during his years in the UK when he claimed all that lovely housing benefit.
However there are times when the motivation for blatant propaganda are not so clear. Check this out.
Last week Lesley and I went into Dumfries High School for two mornings to talk to all the P7’s from the primary schools who will be feeding the new first year intake. The idea was for them to get the chance to spend a day in the frightening new world of the big school. A good idea. There were obviously lots of kids about the place.
How many? I guess there must be about 1200 pupils in the High School itself to which were added about 150 primary school day trippers. Let’s say 1350 in all.
There were basically no fat kids to be seen. This is something that I find increasingly fascinating. I spent quite a lot of time in schools across Dumfries and Galloway doing drug and alcohol talks. Every time I walk the corridors I keep a look out for fat kids. And every time I get the same result.
Basically no fat kids.
There tend to be one or two in primary schools, but next to none in high schools. And yet the TV, radio and newspapers are constantly filled with horror stories about the explosion of childhood obesity that is threatening to tear down the NHS over the years to come. Obesity is the new smoking. Sugar is the new heroin.
The years to come will be ravaged by type 2 diabetes and heart disease and ninety five stone behemoths being lifted through the roof by cranes and manoeuvred into specially reinforced ambulances. Every night there will be yet another documentary about super-fat people in Dewsbury who spend every penny of their exorbitant benefits on an endless diet of McDonalds and Coke.
And of course a constant procession of grave faced doctors and politicians and life coaches will explain that the reason for this new plague of fat kids are the hundreds of thousands of feckless parents who force feed their offspring from dawn till dusk with chocolate and chicken nuggets.
So why are there no fat kids in the world beyond the shock docs and the prurient pages of the tabloids? Maybe it is only Dumfries and Galloway that lacks the headline number of super fat kids. Maybe without our knowing it, we are the last region in the western world to be home to fit youngsters.
I doubt it.
You can check it out for yourself. Kids are hardly a hidden secret when all is said and done. They go to school at nine in the morning and they come out at three in the afternoon. The next time you are out and about at either of those two times, have a look for yourself. Run the rule over the hundreds of kids pouring out of the school gates and I guarantee you there will be hardly a fat one in sight.
So where are all the fat kids? Are they hidden away? Or are they mere propaganda? When I was at school I was one of the fat kids. It wasn’t great and it lasted until I was about 15. But I most certainly wasn’t on my own. In every class of 35 I ever sat in there were at least seven or eight fat kids like me. Sure we were still a minority, but not a small minority. In ten years of talking to at least 2500 kids a year I have never once been in a class where there have been more than two fat kids. And two is seriously rare.
Once you actually take the trouble to look, it becomes immediately clear that today’s kids are massively less fat that we used to be. Why? Well I figure that being a fat kid in 2015 must basically be a living hell. We used to get bullied back in the day but there was no Facebook back then. Never before has being fat been deemed to be such a crime. If you want to get ahead and make it, there is no room for any extra pounds. Just look at the way our politicians starve themselves in order to make their way up the ladder. Alex Salmond. Nicola Sturgeon. George Osborne. Theresa May. It’s a long, long list. In fact it is basically all of them. Eric Pickles was the last of the Mohicans and it was hardly a surprise when he was dumped.
In fact can you think of a single world leader who is carrying any extra timber? Or TV personality? Or actor? Or singer?
But this doesn’t begin to explain why the politicians and the media have joined forces to make up millions of fat kids when in fact there are hardly any at all. It is indeed very perplexing propaganda. Even more perplexing is the fact that we all seem so happy to lap it up and believe every word when all we have to do is to stand outside any school at 3 o clock in the afternoon to see it for the lie it is.
Maybe the beating heart of this enormous and blatant lie can be found deep inside the NHS. And maybe this is where the clouds start to clear. Many people now see the NHS as our new national religion and for centuries religion has tended to be the source of the most far fetched lies. Check out the creationists in America who have spent $30 million on a museum where they have a life size depiction of Adam and Eve in the company of dinosaurs. According to the Museum of Creation, Noah’s flood happened a mere 4000 years ago and every archaeologist and scientist who says otherwise is a bare faced liar.
Every religion is home to some pretty tall tales. Virgin births and all that. So if our new religion is indeed the NHS, then it shouldn’t come as any great surprise if they are telling the same kind of vast porkies that churches have fed us for hundreds of years. As a rule of thumb, the back story to most religious tall tales tends to be born out of cold hard cash. The coffers are forever hungry and a good narrative is always required to persuade the Sunday morning faithful to give more than they can really afford. The likes of St Peters or Westminster Abbey or the Blue Mosque don’t exactly come cheap. And you need a healthy bank account to keep all of those Bishops and Cardinals and Imams in the lavish style they have always been so accustomed to.
The NHS is also an eye-wateringly expensive religion. The UK is home to sixty million souls and a million of us work for the NHS. It is now the world’s third greatest employer after the Chinese Army and the Indian Railways. And when all is said and done, it is one hell of a gravy train. GP’s earn twice as much as MPs. Six times more than the rest of us. The top managers of hospitals and health boards earn the kind of salaries that the Prime Minister can only dream of.
And the pensions……
Most religions shake us down for cash with a pretty simple message. Cough up or you’re going to burn in hell. Forever. As in eternity. Remember how much it hurt when you burnt your finger with a match? Well just imagine what it will be like if you burn for ever and ever and ever.
Maybe a tenner on the collection plate isn’t such a bad idea after all.
It seems the NHS is using a similar playbook. There is always a new crisis and it is always worse than the last crisis. We need more and we need it now! And if any politician wants to stand a chance to getting elected, they have to repeat the mantra of just how much they love the NHS. It is a bit like anyone who wants to be the American President having to go on and on about how religious they are and how they just love God every bit as much as America.
All British politicians are required to tell us every day how much they love the NHS and how they will always give the NHS every penny it asks for. So when the NHS warns us about a tidal wave of childhood obesity, we don’t bother to check if they are telling the truth or not. I figure if they were to tell us that they needed another five billion a year to compensate for the fact that the world is flat we would write out the cheque without giving it a second thought.
And so it seems that the gravy train will continue to trundle its merry way along the tracks whilst we wring our hands with worry about all those millions of made up fat kids.
What a dumb, daft world we live in.
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