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

Submitted by Ken Watts on Fri, 10/23/2009 - 17:37

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.

Thanks for your comment--I double-checked this fact, since my original post took the word of the nominators.

Here is the relevant quote (emphasis mine):

"The whole of my remaining realizable estate shall be dealt with in the following way: the capital, invested in safe securities by my executors, shall constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind."

You can find the source here.

-Ken

You seem to have missed the entire point of my post. I quite agree with your high opinion of Irena Sendler. My post was not in any sense a comparison of her with anyone--let alone Al Gore.

It was a criticism of dishonest, misleading, and manipulative propaganda which is disrespectful to Irena Sendler and the remarkable work she did.

-Ken

The shot is cheap in part because the comparison is bogus. She was never up for the prize in any serious way because she didn't qualify under the rules. They never said Al Gore deserved it more--which is the implication of the propaganda email.

As to what Al Gore did, if the oil companies and other special interests don't manage to block his efforts until it is too late, he will have contributed to saving the lives of my great-grandchildren, and yours if you have any.

I completely understand that if you are under the spell of the propaganda, and still in denial about climate change, there is nothing that will convince you of that.

Still, it should be fairly easy to recognize that there is no connection between this wonderful woman and Al Gore, and that pretending there is one just to make him look bad is, indeed, a cheap shot.

She also didn't get an Academy Award. Are you "discusted" that anyone would defend giving an Academy award to Daniel Day Lewis?

Stop and think. She did not qualify, under the same rules that apply to everyone, for the Nobel prize. Not because what she did wasn't good enough (It was.) and not because she didn't sacrifice enough (She did.), but because the prize is for work done during the previous year--which was not when she did what she did.

Consequently, she was not in the running. Gore was in the running, and whatever you or I may think, the prize committee thought his work was important enough to merit the prize.

Their decision had nothing to do with Irena Sendler. They did not pass her over, to award the prize to Gore, anymore than the Motion Picture Academy passed her over to give an award to Lewis. She didn't qualify for the academy award or for the peace prize because they don't apply to what she did.

The entire point of this propaganda piece is to confuse your thinking on this point, and it seems to have succeeded.

The propagandist believes that you are so stupid that you will think there was some sort of decision made to give the prize to Gore, rather than Sendler.

There wasn't.

Her work was not within the last year.

The prize is for work within the last year.

No one decided not to give her the prize.

No one decided not to give her an Oscar.

This whole thing was trumped up to fool people who aren't bright enough to figure that out.

And it is offensive to me, even if it isn't to you, that this brave and heroic woman's story should be ripped out of context and used to demean Gore or anyone for political purposes.

What she did deserves more respect than that.

A note to my other readers: While I prefer not to delete comments, and rarely do so, I do feel it is important that people who read the daily mull are not misled regarding simple facts.

The above comment is full of misinformation. I won't point out every piece, but, as an example, Al Gore never claimed to have invented the internet. That "claim" appeared in a newspaper article and was afterward attributed to him repeatedly by his political opponents during his run for president.

On the other hand, the actual inventers of the internet have publicly said that without his help in getting the necessary laws passed the internet as we know it would not exist.

This happened at a time when almost no one else in the political world recognized the importance of the medium the commenter above is using to villify Gore.

As to "snidely focussing on...minutiae..." I will let my more intelligent readers decide that question for themselves.

Ken