Government Propagandizing and Proselytizing

NYT, 16 Jul 2022: Putin Aims to Shape a New Generation of Supporters, Through Schools, subtitled, “Sweeping changes in the curriculum will soon cast the Russian president as a pivotal historical figure and mark an end of openness to the West.”

Print title (front page of Sunday’s paper): “Putin’s Mission to Indoctrinate Schoolchildren”

This isn’t new, of course; many countries, especially the right-wing ones, do this, have always done it. Suppress outside news, inculcate the children, glorify the motherland. (The supreme current example is North Korea.)

The reason it rings a bell because this is what the MAGA right is now doing in the US, at least in some states. Control the school curricula, ban discomforting books, ban which words teachers can say, control what children learn about the world. Home-schoolers have been doing this for decades. Trump’s followers have been told not to believe the media, not to believe their own eyes, only believe what Trump tells them. Sounds very familiar. The article opens:

Starting in first grade, students across Russia will soon sit through weekly classes featuring war movies and virtual tours through Crimea. They will be given a steady dose of lectures on topics like “the geopolitical situation” and “traditional values.” In addition to a regular flag-raising ceremony, they will be introduced to lessons celebrating Russia’s “rebirth” under President Vladimir V. Putin.

And, according to legislation signed into law by Mr. Putin on Thursday, all Russian children will be encouraged to join a new patriotic youth movement in the likeness of the Soviet Union’s red-cravatted “Pioneers” — presided over by the president himself.

Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian government’s attempts at imparting a state ideology to schoolchildren have proven unsuccessful, a senior Kremlin bureaucrat, Sergei Novikov, recently told thousands of Russian schoolteachers in an online workshop. But now, amid the war in Ukraine, Mr. Putin has made it clear that this needed to change, he said.

They’re making progress now! Hear the children parrot what they’ve been told about the war in Ukraine, according to this ninth-grader:

“They suddenly started repeating everything after the television,” Irina said in a phone interview alongside her mother, Lyubov Ten. “They suddenly started saying that this is all deserved, that this had to happen. They couldn’t even attempt to explain this to me.”

Irina said that when she challenged her friends about Russian war crimes in Bucha, they shot back: “It’s all propaganda.”

Of course all cultures take measures to preserve their identity and traditions. Those measures spill over into propaganda when, by objective external standards, these cultures or their governments are *lying*.

The US has done this kind of thing for decades as well (especially about Vietnam); it’s hard to say which side’s lies about war actions have been worse (though of course we in the US will say those in the USSR/Russia are worse… but they would say the same about us… but we’re right and their claims are propaganda!). More troubling is that it’s precisely this kind of thing that, even if true, the patriots never want to be exposed. The homeland is perfect, its past must have no blemishes, no hint of these things (e.g. CRT or the 1619 Project) must ever be exposed to our children, who must never have any doubts about their righteous place in the greatest nation on Earth.

And in the US this kind of thing is as true for religion as for politics. Thus does religious privilege steadily encroach on secular values. It was only in the 1950s when conservatives, panicked by Soviet communist, got “In God We Trust” on American currency and “one nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. (Which pledge of course is another example of steady social conditioning.) Naive conservatives think those phrases have always been there, just as they think the founders intended a Christian nation, despite all the evidence to the contrary.


Which brings us to…

NYT, Pamela Paul, 17 July 2022: In the Face of Fact, the Supreme Court Chose Faith

Print title (in today’s paper): “For This Court, Justice Isn’t Blind. Faith Is.”

This is about the high school football coach who made a show of praying on the 50-yard-line after games. The Supreme Court said no-problemo. Gorsuch claimed his prayer, in the middle of the football stadium, was “private,” “personal” and “quiet.”

Paul: “It was nothing of the kind.”

But this court’s right-wing majority is following the dictum of our Trumpian age: Objective truth doesn’t matter. Subjective belief — specifically the beliefs of the court’s religious-right majority — does. The Kennedy decision wasn’t based on the facts but on belief in the face of facts. Moreover, those six justices are determined to foist their beliefs on the rest of the country.

Are these people familiar with Matthew 6:5-8? (They have no excuse not to be but I’m sure they can rationalize the discrepancy away.) As I said in my post 8 days ago: Apparently sincerity trumps evidence and rationality. And subjectivity, objective truth.

The obvious point, which Christians either don’t realize, or don’t care about:

In allowing for greater “religious expression,” the court curtailed the liberty of those whose prayers take other forms, Americans who practice non-Christian faiths and people who do not practice religion at all. Kitsap County is home to a variety of religions, including Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism and Baha’ism. A coach-led Christian prayer on the playing field is necessarily exclusionary.

Christians seem intent on defying the actual diversity of the American population. Paul concludes,

Such intolerance mirrors the strong-arming intentions of the Supreme Court’s conservative majority. Unhappy with what much of the country believes, the court’s right wing chooses to believe what it would like and foists the results on the rest of us. Just like Coach Kennedy, they’re out to proselytize.

This entry was posted in Politics, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.