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.


I submit the following.

1) Irena Sendler 2) risked her life 3) and suffered grievous injury 4) for a cause 5) that is generally accepted today as noble and just.  6) She was mentioned as a potential candidate for the Nobel peace Prize. 7)  Most reasonable people today, being familiar with her story, would probably think her deserving of a major prize that recognizes heroic and self-sacrificing contributions to human dignity and justice 8) (which is not the stated criteria of the Nobel peace Prize). 9) Al Gore 10) was a joint Nobel Prize recipient 12) "for [his efforts to build up and disseminate" information about 13) a theory (probably better termed a hypothesis at this point) 14) that is controversial in the political and scientific communities and is generally favored by the American political Left and generally frowned upon by the American political Right 15) thus making it a partisan subject.  16) Gore has done this at no apparent risk to himself 17) except perhaps loss of some money or reputation among political opponents. 18) Whether this activity sufficiently meets the criteria established by the Nobel Prize Committee is both a natural and fair subject for public debate 19) even though the Committee of course has the final word.  20) If the Committee is, in the estimation of some members of the public, willing to deviate (in public opinion) so far in its standards as to award the prize to Gore, 21) then, if it is not to seem arbitrary, and to comport with this same public opinion, 22) it should have been willing to deviate so far as to award the prize to Irena Sendler, 23) especially since the Committee has often in the past awarded the prize to recipients expressly because of their personal sacrifices to help further the cause of  human rights, 24) such as Mother Teresa in 1979, Lech Walesa in 1983, and Liu Xiaobo in 2010. 25) If many of the above statements are accepted as unspoken assumptions, 26) Then most or all of the statements of the original chain letter accurately reflect the sense of injustice that the letter is designed to enkindle.  Furthermore, A) You assume, without offering any evidence other than a subjective critique of the structure and content of the chain letter, that this is nothing more than an intended cheap political shot. For instance, you offer no corroborating evidence of intent, and you apparently assume that the author is a member of the Political Right. B) You commit the same error you claim to find in the chain letter--namely, confusing emotion with morality in to elicit particular response to your editorializing: You appeal heavily to the logic of parsing and examining the truth of assertions because you at least implicitly accept that this is a preferred (and thus better  [value judgment, morality]) way of looking at writing and the world, even though you  denounce the chain letter in emotional and hyperbolic terms as "unbelievably nasty"  and "very sleazy." C) You subtly mis-state the language of the chain letter, thus using a approach that you condemn in the letter itself--i.e., subtlety--to accomplish the same general objectives of the chain letter, i.e., propaganda, viz: "Irena is proof enough that the world is not uniformly wicked." At no point does the chain letter state the world to be "uniformly" wicked. This comes across as an attempt by you to directly refute a stated falsehood that was not, in fact, stated in the letter. D) The sentence that follows your mis-statement, viz., "This email is proof enough that some people are [wicked]," is an ad hominem attack on the letter's putative author in response to a bias you have perceived but by no means proven. E) Your condemnation of someone for partisan reasons is itself at least, apparently, just as partisan as that which you condemn.

I JUST got a message very similar in MY inbox...and was immediately sucked in by the recounting of Ms. Sendler's heroic life....but then there was the strange "clang" of the following lines.

-----------------------------"Al Gore won, for a slide show on Global Warming. Later another politician, Barack Obama, won for his work as a community organizer for ACORN."---------------------------

Were these lines added to this story in order to USE this noble woman's memory to denigrate two specific polititians? If so, SHAME!  The more I think about it, this is OBVIOUSLY what is going on here!

Yes. And the "Acorn" reference is just as bogus as the "slide show" thing. Obama did not win the prize for community organizing, he did not work for Acorn, Acorn didn't do the stuff it was accused of doing... the chain goes on and on...

Ken, I loved reading your article.  I find your wording, facts and opinions very refreshing!  Well done.


Facebook has the story of both Irene and Al Gore incorrect. It's a sloppy story that demeans her bravery and the bravery of those who worked with her during the war, whilst belittling the work of Al Gore and theIPCC.


As lists of nominees are not revealed for 50 years we won't know if she was actually nominated. 

This is how the best propaganda works... With a little bit of truth and a lot of spin. 

The noble peace prize is a prize that liberals give other liberals for doing liberal things. That being what it is about then al should have won. Its about as fare as the grammey or the emmeys and just about as important. 

Propaganda??? Pot, meet kettle.

I agree with the post mostly but I can not find anywhere that the Noble Peace prize has a criteria for something within the past two years. Alfred Noble never left any exact instructions in his will.