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AP: Half-Truisms
So I am insanely excited about the fact I am two payments away from completely paying off my student loans. For a 30-something, this is an event tantamount to one's wedding day or the birth of one's child, except weddings and children are damned expensive and the eradication of loan debt means HOLY SHIT I WILL HAVE EXTRA CASH FOR A CHANGE. I imagine this joy is similar to what it must feel like to win the lottery.

So what to do with this new fluidity of funds? Like most people who are moderately insane, I'm starting to give consideration to celebrating my newfound financial freedom by incurring even MORE educational debt by going back to grad school again. Partly because I want to thwart Killer's ritual call of "doctor" with "what?" ("That's DOCTOR She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed to YOU"), but mainly because I'm very interested in propaganda. As a subtle influence that seeps into every facet of life, it's interesting to see how propaganda both has and hasn't changed over time, exploring the science behind how it works and the artistry behind how to work it well, and looking historically at how propaganda influenced popular opinion to shift world events. I've often stated that more damage can be done with a well-placed paragraph than the contents of an entire military arsenal, and I hold that to be accurate - the study of propaganda techniques and application through the centuries shows how far reaching those tactics remain even generations later.

Throughout the past few weeks, a quote from an old Doctor Who episode kept coming to mind:

"You know the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the facts to fit the views. Which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering."

This seemed especially timely considering the recent talk of "false news" and "alternative facts."1 What I didn't realize until yesterday was the line that had been ping-ponging around in my head the past few weeks aired 40 years to the day before Kellyanne Conway made her extremely concerning comments on Meet the Press this week. Creepy coincidences aside, the quote touches on some very key points to how propaganda helps ideas become ingrained and take root: alter "facts" to fit the views of the ones you're trying to convince, show them their views are the "right" views, nurture those beliefs, and build on them and their trust until you get that audience believing and doing whatever you want them to do. If it sounds Orwellian, that's because it is, and the fact I see more and more of this rhetoric coming out tells me how important it is to scrutinize and fact-check sources. And before anyone starts leaving me tweets about how many Americans get their news from Facebook, read this article that explains what last May's report from Pew Research really said. Shifty statistical interpretation and sound biting fall under that propaganda umbrella, too!

At any rate, the decision of whether or not to continue further in formal education is obviously not a done deal yet. As with most of my endeavors, the first step is gauging what specific topic I want to delve into and come up with a study proposal, then start looking at schools which may be willing to oversee my foray into madness, and then figure out how to secure funding to go where I need to go and access what I need to get my hands on. I'm not as worried about forming a faculty committee, as I already have a few ideas of people who would be incredibly useful and whom I would love to work with again, but narrowing my focus is the biggest task before deciding if I want to proceed.

And that means lots of reading and going down proverbial rabbit holes in search of adventure.


*****

WHAT I'M CURRENTLY READING: Mark Stein, American Panic: A History of Who Scares Us and Why
THREE THINGS I'M LISTENING TO ON REPEAT: The Offspring, Come Out And Play; Hootie and the Blowfish, Hannah Jane; Dead or Alive, You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)

1: There's no such thing as "alternative facts." There are either facts, or not facts. A false statement is not an "alternative fact," it is a lie. Don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise, and don't ever allow ridiculous rhetoric like that to pass - that's how little lies pave the way to bigger, darker, much more consequential ones.
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