Propaganda: noun: information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.

The word “propaganda” did not initially have a negative connotation; the negative association with propaganda came about as the word was used extensively during World War II.

Today, propaganda is still widely used in business, politics and healthcare, and is something of which individuals need to be aware.

The true author of Propaganda was Edward Bernays (literally; the title of his book in 1928 was Propaganda.) By observing what was used during the First World War, Bernays outlined how to “regiment the public mind.”  This is the same man responsible for smoking among women. It wasn’t until Chesterfield applied his advertising techniques that women began smoking in numbers. Bernays was the master of using propaganda to sway entire populations to think a certain way, behave a certain way and—most assuredly—vote a certain way.

Just think of the today’s catch phrases used by media talking heads! While dining out with my sister, I actually got loud and argued with her, because she blurted out a summary of a political candidate that was sheer propaganda. I asked her why she thought that about this person; and honestly, she was so surprised at my outburst she couldn’t reply.  I accused her of being guilty of simple regurgitation of what she had heard others say. I made it clear that I was not a fan of this person myself, but I had become painfully aware of these subliminal messages that turn us all into thoughtless robots.

Advertisers use subtle propaganda all the time. Did you ever feel you just had to have a 50-cent corndog from Sonic? I even quoted the commercial when I took a bite and said, “There’s a hot dog in here!”

If you don’t drive a Lincoln you just aren’t as cool as Matthew McConaughey.  And what about my all-time favorite: “Ask your physician if (fill in the blank the name of medication) is right for you.”

We are manipulated at every turn—from the pulpit to the radio to television to newspaper. We are assaulted in the movies and television shows we watch.  I was watching a show the other day that is supposedly conservative. The family had just come home from attending church, and the matriarch was upset because the pastor confessed to having a problem with pornography addiction. It soon became obvious through subsequent conversation that everyone else in the household viewed pornography—every one but her. The subtle way they made this seem natural and all encompassing concerned me, because I realized that the writers of this episode were attempting to convince those who were watching that pornography is natural and all encompassing!

The little bit of time I watched (I turned it off once I realized the viewing audience, myself included, was being manipulated) I did not hear about how pornography contributes to human trafficking, or the impact on the lives of those in the industry.  The sex industry is rife with social concerns, but let’s promote it further by using a supposedly conservative sit-com to manipulate otherwise “sexually up-tight” Americans into thinking that “everyone does it”. Really?

That is misleading information to promote the idea that pornography is natural, everyone watches it and it’s no big deal. That is propaganda.

One would hope that the world of medicine would be immune to propaganda, but not so. Even the term “healthcare” is propaganda; it has molded people’s thinking more toward “health” than illness. However, physicians are trained to recognize and treat illness and disease.  We are also trained to treat individuals, not societies or populations.  But the concept of “healthcare” is more community based, more global, if you will.

The trend toward “health” as opposed to “illness” causes us to marginalize the diseased and concentrate on the healthy. If you want to create a society of only healthy individuals, to reduce the cost and burden of the few very unhealthy, you can use propaganda to change the opinion of an entire society.  For example, while recognizing that the concept of a “wounded warrior” will stir the empathy of most people, we marginalize these same veterans and they will die while waiting in line for their chance for treatment. Organizations like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) prey on the sympathy of people with these heart-wrenching advertisements, asking for money to help save the lives of dogs. But, they do not even believe in pet ownership, and actually destroyed animals that were orphaned from Hurricane Katrina instead of sending them on to be adopted!

These same subtle forms of propaganda are being used by our biggest organizations within the medical world and are working hard to manipulate physicians and patients alike into buying the concept of “healthcare” vs. medical care. Developing guidelines based on population statistics—and going beyond encouraging physicians to follow these same guidelines by actually tying physician compensation to the adherence of the guidelines—is one excellent way to lead physicians by the nose and get them to do things they ordinarily would not do.

How do you get people to give up their rights? By scaring them into feeling insecure. They will then clamor for more and more security. We will stand in line for hours to be pawed at and have intimate pictures taken of us in order to fly a couple of states away. We will get out of our cars and allow searches of our vehicles without a warrant, because we are afraid of being shot or incarcerated. We will continue to purchase online—in spite of having our identity stolen once or twice—because of convenience. We will allow our every move to be monitored, because we don’t want terrorists to blow up our schools and hospitals.

Do me a favor, get a copy of Enemy of the State and watch it.  I don’t care if you saw it when it came out in 1998. Watch it again. Watch V for Vendetta. See if you can find where propaganda was used against the people. Read Atlas Shrugged. Open your eyes to how we are being manipulated for most of our waking hours by all forms of media. Is there any subtle “nudging” in your television shows, your news programs, your book club books, your magazines, newspapers or in commercials? If you start looking for it, you will find it.

Start asking “why.” If someone tells you “Right to Work” is bad for Missouri, ask why. Then if someone else tells you it is good for Missouri, ask why. You may have to do some research.  Follow the money.  If the big money is being thrown into only one side of an issue, you should try to find out WHO and WHY.  Why did all the big insurance companies, big hospital systems and big physician groups enthusiastically support the Affordable Care Act? Follow the money, both going in AND going out. Why did Missouri lawmakers readily and easily agree to Anheuser Busch InBev’s supported legislation to allow them to put in coolers for package liquor sales? Follow the money, both going in AND going out.

I know; I’m conspiracy minded. I tell people this up front. I am used to name calling, since I am a Christian (originally a derision), a Methodist (again, originally a derision), a libertarian (“those people are plum crazy”) and a believer in the free market, EVEN IN MEDICINE!! The best way to get people to stop listening to those who buck the “status quo” is to marginalize them, call them names.  Please keep this in mind the next time someone says, “So-and-so? He’s (fill-in-the-blank).” Smile and recognize the propaganda machine is at work!