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 wicked...it'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 wicked...it'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.

Comments

Also well said!!!! You are so right.

Ahem... that should be "You are so Right" there I think ;)

Thank you for writing this! I just saw it facebook - apparently it's still being sent around - and it infuriated me. It's obvious what the agenda of the person who wrote it is, and it's demeaning to the memory of Irena Sendler that they would use her story as a way to get their own anti-liberal baloney out there. I hate this sort of thing. People really, really, REALLY need to be taught critical thinking skills!!!!! Thanks again!!!!

I quite agree elletea. Critical thinking skills are badly needed, and should be the primary purpose of a high school education.

Thanks for your well-written dissection of this story.  I, too, received this on my Facebook page.  The story of Irena is fascinating but I found the addition of the Obama and Gore comments unnecessary.  As a conservative, I just shake my head when I read stories that have been changed by other "conservatives".  I don't think it's fair to assume this was written by a right-winger.  I could just as easily doctor a story to fit a left-wing agenda to make liberals look silly.  I'm sure there are people that are not above sabotage.  Though the story could have been written by anyone, left or right wing, it falls to the reader to do more research to get the facts.  I'm certainly no fan of the president or any liberal.  But I don't think it does anything to further the dialogue when people blindly forward false information.  I found your blog on the story with a Google search to satisfy my skepticism.  Thanks for your diligence.  I try to do my part and clean up such claims.  If folks would just use Snopes the internet would be far less polluted.

Thanks for your comment, Keldog. I wish there were more conservatives out there who are as careful about what they pass on as you are.

I do, unfortunately, think that it is fair to assume that this email was created, not only by a conservative, but by a very sophisticated conservative propagandist.

The reason is that 99% of the readers of this email will accept it on face value, the propaganda is done so well. If a liberal were writing such a thing just to make conservatives look stupid, he or she would surely have done it in such a way that the stupidity would be more obvious.

Ken

They would also probably be attacking someone other than Al Gore as well. Favorite punching bag for the right wing gets slammed in an email for getting a Nobel prize... email is also used to attack Obama on his Nobel win in many instances... yeah probably not too many "lefties" out there putting a lot of time into derogatory Al Gore gifs. Just a thought. Nice attempt to redirect that back at the ones being attacked there by Keldog... subtle, reaaaaal subtle. "Maybe you attacked yourselves... coulda been anyone really...". Riiiiight... *groans and facepalms*

First, what a relief that there are rationale minds who question, research, and share.  Next - the misleading and manipulative e-mails that are forwarded are scary in that many of the recipients just believe them and keep forwarding them (and recycling them).  But a counterpoint e-mail never shows up in my e-mail.  I have to research and find my own answers.  The above comments and this blog are helpful in thinking things through - but how come no "chain" e-mails that are counterpoints to specious claims of fact are sent out?  How come there was no chain e-mail: "Don't be duped.  There is an e-mail circulating that makes a connection between a holocaust heroine, global warming, and the Nobel committee that is disconnected from facts.  The requirements to receive a Nobel prize are . . . so the claim and implication is wrong that Irena was qualified to receive a Nobel prize.  Her works deserve respectful recognition and it is an insult to use her achievements to make a polical point against Al Gore."  Or something similar. I'd like to encourage those who write in a blog to set the record straight also send a counterpoint e-mail to "reach everyone on your group distribution list . . . ."

I agree with your concern, but I would point out that you don't have to have a blog to write an email. You are also welcome to link people back to the article in any email you send out--in fact, I would consider that a favor, as well as an efficient means of accomplishing your goal.

Thanks!
Ken

Plus chain letter type things involve people thinking they are passing on information to justify or promote their own views. Who wants to send out an email saying "Yeah, I was a dipshit, disregard previous email!"? Normally not going to happen for the most part.

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