Irena Sendler and Al Gore: the Propaganda Machine Is at it Again

Patriot Notes

IT'S BEEN A WHILE SINCE my last post about a propaganda email, but the one I received today deserves some comment.

It's both subtle and unbelievably nasty.

It begins with a very sweet picture of an old woman smiling, and reads, in part:

Look at this lady - Let us never forget!

The world hasn't just become's always been wicked. The prize doesn't always go to the most deserving.

Irena Sendler
There recently was a death of a 98 year-old lady named Irena.
During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist.
She had an 'ulterior motive'.
She KNEW what the Nazi's plans were for the Jews (being German).
Irena smuggled infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried and she carried in the back of her truck a burlap sack, (for larger kids).
She also had a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto.
The soldiers of course wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking covered the kids/infants noises.
During her time of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2500 kids/infants.
She was caught, and the Nazi's broke both her legs, arms and beat her severely.
Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she smuggled out and kept them in a glass jar, buried under a tree in her back yard.
After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived it and reunited the family.
Most had been gassed. Those kids she helped got placed into foster family homes or adopted.
Last year Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize.
She was not selected.
Al Gore won --- for a slide show on Global Warming.

The second half of the email—almost as long as the part above—declares that it is a "memorial chain" designed to help make sure that the world never forgets the Holocaust.

It goes into some detail about the horrors of the Holocaust, and urges the readers to do their part by continuing the memorial chain.

So what's wrong with that?

The answer, of course, is that there is nothing at all wrong with a chain letter designed to remind people of the Holocaust—and certainly nothing wrong with a chain letter designed to spread the story of this brave woman.

There is, however, something terribly wrong with using both our emotions about the Holocaust and our admiration of Irena's courage and love to make two cheap political shots look high minded and moral.

If you look at the structure of the email, you'll notice that it is, quite intentionally, not what it seems:

  1. Opening thesis statement: The world hasn't just become's always been wicked. The prize doesn't always go to the most deserving.

    This tells the reader, up front, what the email is really about.
  2. Irena's story.

    This is told as background information to the claim in the thesis.
  3. The punch-line: Last year Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize. She was not selected. Al Gore won --- for a slide show on Global Warming.

    As is common with these propaganda pieces, the punch-line leaves the actual conclusion implied. If the reader has to make the connection for his or herself, he or she is more likely to believe it.

    The conclusion we're supposed to draw has several parts:
    1. Al Gore didn't deserve the peace prize.
    2. Irena did deserve the peace prize.
    3. Al Gore got the peace prize for reasons that are "wicked" in some sense.
    4. The Nobel Committee is somehow implicated in all of this.
    5. The Nobel Committee and Al Gore are thus on the side of "wickedness", along with the Nazi's, and Irena and the reader on on the side of goodness, along with the author of the email.
    6. Which brings us full circle to explain the opening thesis.
  4. After the punch-line, and after those subtle conclusions have been thoroughly implied, a long bit about the holocaust is added.

    This is designed to do three things:
    1. Distract the readers from the message that has just been planted, before they have time to question it,
    2. Solidify the connection between the readers and the author—what kind of person isn't going to agree that the Holocaust was horrible?
    3. Motivate the readers to send this viral message on to its next victims.

      In the process, the email suddenly transforms itself from a story about how "The prize doesn't always go to the most deserving" and a cheap shot at Al Gore, to a high-minded "memorial chain" about the holocaust.

It's a very subtle, and very sleazy, little piece of brainwashing.

The readers are left with the vague impression that there are two sides to the world—good people, like themselves, who pass on "memorial chains" and care about people like Irena, and "wicked" people, like the Nazi's and the Nobel Peace Prize Committee and Al Gore.

Most readers won't even know that a criteria for the Peace Prize is being involved in significant activities during the past two years, and that therefore she didn't even qualify by the basic rules, at the time.

Most readers will believe the email's silly allegation that Gore won the prize for his slide show.

After all, that's what he's most famous for.

They won't bother to find out that it was for all of his "efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."

Was the slide show, and the book, part of that? Sure. And that's bad because...?

But the worst thing about this email is the disrespectful attitude the author takes toward Irena's heroism and the victims of the Holocaust.

If the author wants to take a cheap shot at Al Gore, or the Nobel Committee, that's fine.

But it's not fine to use this woman's courage, or the sorrows of holocaust survivors, as a screen for cheap propaganda tricks.

People have real emotions about these things, and it's not appropriate to use those emotions to manipulate them for slick political ends.

Irena is proof enough that the world is not uniformly wicked.

This email is proof enough that some people are.

At least, that's what I think today.


Thanks, Geoff--I appreciate your irony, but am a little bit afraid that some other readers may not get it, so for their benefit: Geoff's comment is a response to another comment above, and is intended ironically.

This is not a comment - I'm not giving any views.  I am just passing on facts.  I have seen a lot of comments about Irena Sendler and Al Gore, and no-one seems to have checked if Al Gore was awarded the Peace Prize "for a slide show".   I checked and I found that in 2007 Al Gore was awarded A SHARE of the Peace Prize.  And it wasn't for "a slide show". The other half of the Prize was awarded to the International Panel on Climate Change. 

Al Gore was awarded the Prize in recognition of twenty years or so of environmental work.  The IPPCC was awarded its share for gathering together all the knowledge of scientis around the world, so that we really know the position on climate change and how it will affect the planet.   (Small detail here - black-backed gulls were an endangered species in England, until the North Sea started getting warmer, and the result has been an influx of crabs that used to live near Portugal but have now moved north.  They've suddenly provided the gulls with a feast, and the gull population is recovering.  Climate change brings winners as well as losers.)  

The Nobel Peace Prize is not an award for good works, but "to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."  The Nobel Committee thought that climate change could cause friction between nations and knowing as much as possible about it would enable us to understand it and, hopefully, not blame other countries for problems caused by it.  

But, as you can see, there is no way that Irena's work meets the criteria laid down by Alfred Nobel.  The people who nominated her seem to have misunderstood the Prize.  Surely some other more relevant award could have been proposed that would honour her and do justice to her work? 

Thanks Genie. Well said.

The e-mail I received also claimed that Obama received his noble peace prize for his work as a community organizer with ACORN.  Of course this is not true.  A quick google check at the noble peace web site shows the facts.  I find it very frustrating when I see these emails being forwarded to me from a friend.  I have no doubt that he (and most of the others that forward these emails) are well intentioned but, unfortunately he has been fully indoctrinated into this brainwashing cult that is so damaging to our culture. This brainwashing propaganda machine is non-stop.  I appreciate you posting this article but unfortunately the people who read and understand this are not the same people that are forwarding these propaganda (junk), e-mails.  The authors of these emails understand how to tie emotional feelings (anger and fear usually) to some false premise.  Even if the reader "the mark" eventually understands that the facts are wrong, the feeling about the conclusions remain. I hope you continue to challenge these corrupt e-mail.

It's very sad to me that right-wing propagandists have such disrespect for their base, and that the tactics appear, so often, to work.

Thank you for your comment.

Well said! And I completely agree. It's very upsetting. Happily, I still think the truth will prevail, ultimately. 

I disagree with the evaluation of the article here.  The article is not meant to demean anyone and their accomplishments, but merely a demonstration of how the values and morals have changed so dramatically in this world.  What is wrong is right and what is right is considered wrong, the Bible predicts.  Evolution has nothing to do with a growing amount of evidence that supports it, but that it condradicts the Bible and that disproves it immediately, regardless of the evidence supporting it.  I beleive God makes the theory of evolution attractive to test the faith of people, and those who are weak in faith will beleive the God-belittleing theory of evolution.  The Bible cannot be humanly proven and is truly an unbeleivable book, which is why God gives great faith to beleive.  The Bible is also prophetic, and it has predicted with amazing accuracy the events that take place.  I wonder how so many people can be deceived by scientists predicting global warming and what the earth will be like hundreds of years from now, as well as teaching in college classrooms what the earth was like billions of years past, when they can hardly predict the weather accurately for tomorow.  

Propaganda exists on both sides, right and left. Do you not think that Obama and the Obama camp spread propaganda to make themselves look better and their opponents worse? Of course people on the left are clearly the ONLY intelligent people that can tell when propaganda is being spewed..hah. There are sheep on both sides. People believe whatever reinforces their already exisiting beliefs. Most people do not check facts. I'll give you an example. Recently someone went to a public beach in California and began asking people to sign a petition to "support Obama's cause for repealing the Bill of Rights". Plenty of blind Obamite sheep signed the petition. If you think you are only fed propaganda by the right then I fear you have been severely misled.

Actually, I have both conservative and liberal friends, and I am sorry to say that my mail box receives several hundred right-wing propaganda pieces for every one liberal piece. And so far, I have not been able to find (and I have been actively looking) a single liberal propaganda email which was based in lies or misleads. When I do the fact checking, they always check out. On the other hand, the right-wing emails almost always have straight-forward lies or misleads in them, as this one does.

I wish that weren't the case. One of my favorite writers and thinkers, William F. Buckley Jr., was a conservative, and he never had to resort to that kind of tactic--so I know it isn't necessary.