Propaganda is the dissemination of information that is politically charged to promote a certain viewpoint. It’s usually state-sponsored.

I have long felt that a lot of children’s literature consists of different, albeit at times benign, forms of propaganda.

One thing I’m still processing from the international storytelling festival in Iran is an offhand comment someone made about the first story of the festival.
I got a terrible feeling even as the lady began. It’s funny how I can almost sense what a story is going to be about.
And Yup, it was a story about little Elan, that three year old Syrian boy who was found on the beach drowned.

Image result for elan syrian boy

I don’t want to post the picture of him drowned. I must prefer this one of him alive.
I was not a pretty sight blubbering in the third row as the lady recounted the story. Elan had looked exactly like one of my grandsons!
The audience of young school girls had grown very silent.
I always feel incredibly guilty when I’m reminded of the struggles people are going through around the world. We are so darn fortunate and but for the Grace of God go I!
It was tough! So heavy!
And yet the tears were cathartic. I had forgotten, kind of, about poor little Elan! Life goes on and all that kind of nonsense.
So later on that day, I was at a table talking with two others and someone made the comment that the audience had been too young for that kind of story and at first I agreed.
But now…I’m not so sure.
We in the West shelter kids because we feel such happenings are too much for them but for kids there, are they too much?
Elan died off the coast of Turkey, next door to Iran.
These kids live under the specter of threats and hostility from Israel and the U.S.. The U.S. has either invaded or has bases in every country that surrounds Iran.
So is such a story appropriate under the circumstances?
I dare say it is. It’s certainly comforting.
And from my previous trip to Iran I noticed something about Iranian society. Maybe it’s because they’re Shia and they, to this day, blame themselves for the historic slaughter of the Prophet’s grandsons (peace be upon him) at Karbala.
Iran is a very martyr oriented society.
They have the graves of martyrs near their places of worship and they regularly venerate their sacrifices. Without the sacrifices of their dead they would never have survived the onslaught of Western forces.
So the lady told Elan’s story in a martyr format.
I found it deeply moving.
Then this gentleman, whose opinion I respect, said the offhand comment, “I’m going to say something controversial.”
We both waited for him to continue.
He said, ” I thought it was propaganda. ”
I was shocked.
But I respected his opinion so much I waited for him to continue.
He said, ” They could have played something like that in the Third Reich! ”
I said quietly, “Well isn’t a lot of children’s literature these days propaganda? ”
He agreed.
And somehow we changed the subject.
But I kept thinking about it.
Why is it propaganda when Muslims do it and high theatre when the West wallows in the triumphs of the past???
Look at the movies Dunkirk and The Finest Hours!
I think the thing about propaganda is that it’s designed to elicit a very specific reaction. Mostly patriotism and the nobility of a cause.
Doesn’t that describe Dunkirk and The Finest Hours???
I must confess I haven’t watched the latter but I have watched Dunkirk and yes I think it’s a form of propaganda. Yes it deals with the desperate situation the Allied troops were in yada yada yada, but what is the ultimate point of it?
Isn’t it to admire the sacrifices made much like the Elan story sums up the desperate plight of people suffering next door for them?
Isn’t the charge of propaganda harsh???
And yet accurate?
Maybe that’s why I’m so angry with the characterization. Surely I wouldn’t be angry if there was no truth to the charge.
And ultimately doesn’t this point to a double standard???
It often feels like it’s fine if westerners make propaganda, don’t you know because ours is ever so much more subtle. It’s ART!!!
For a long time I’ve been thinking about why the middle east , the native community and colonized countries are still in such poor shape even decades after their colonial masters have left.
Never mind that the colonial powers left in place a divided region with one community set against another, and a power vacuum just waiting for a strong-armed dictator to fill. Never mind that in Canada and other western countries the white overlords developed a continued infrastructure in the case of the native community that were meant to hold them back.

It doesn’t explain why these communities still can’t get their act together.
It’s my theory that a country being colonized is like being raped on a large scale.
It’s easy for us to say it’s time to get over it, harder for them to do so because they’re still traumatized. Still trying to appear civilized.
Do I still respect the guy who made the remark???
Yeah kind of.
Does that mean I’m trying to appear civilized? God I hope not!!!
He’s entitled to his opinion.
But I disagree with his characterization.
I think he just doesn’t understand.