Years ago, I read about a British tank column entering a German city in 1945.
Everything was rubble and, as the tanks rumbled through the ruins, the captain in the leading tank saw a woman in hysterics on the steps of what had once been her house.
As his tank passed, she screamed at him, “If you’d surrendered in 1940 none of this would have happened.”
He didn’t know what to make of it but it haunted him, what could she mean?
It wasn’t the British that started the war: Germany invaded Poland, then Holland, Belgium, and France, Britain was left on its own fighting for its life.
Like that tank captain, I wondered what she meant, what reality was she living in?
Eventually I found out, reality from her side wasn’t what reality was from our side.
The reality for the Germans was that they’d been cheated and disgraced by the Versailles treaty, after WW1 they’d had everything taken away by the greedy French and British, made to apologise and pay for the entire war, they’d been humiliated.
Because of that, their economy crashed and their people starved in awful poverty, all caused by having to repay vast amounts of unfair debt for the war.
But with hard work they rebuilt their country and reunited with other German people who’d been separated from them by the treaty.
The French and British tried to stop them, which meant war.
But they beat both countries in a fair fight and everyone agreed to stop fighting, except the British who kept bombing Germany and wouldn’t agree to make peace.
That’s what she meant by “If you’d given up in 1940 none of this would have happened”.
From her perspective the Germans were the victims and the British were the warmongers.
That’s what the leaders of Germany told their people, so that was their reality.
Of course the leaders of Britain told us the opposite, so that was our reality.
So which was the true reality – in fact is there a true reality?
Or is there, as philosophers from Socrates to Sartre insist, no definitive reality.
Just random things happening and various interpretations of it?
Of course, history is basically different versions of facts, that’s why historians argue about it.
Politicians, in order to make sure we follow them, must appear to be right, that’s why political leaders use propaganda to portray their particular version.
I’ve always thought advertising was like propaganda.
But I was talking to someone who was horrified at hearing advertising called propaganda.
They believe that propaganda is lies whereas advertising presents the truth.
They believe that ‘brand purpose’ is helping to make the world a better place.
Well, the dictionary defines propaganda as: “The manipulation of information to influence public opinion.”
It seems to me that could be a definition of advertising.
The difference is that advertising is honest propaganda: everyone knows what we’re doing: we’re entertaining you in order to sell you stuff.
The motto of the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) is: Legal, Decent, Honest, and Truthful.
Which is the way advertising ought to be, people know it’s not the ‘absolute truth’ so we make it a bit of fun, something to enjoy.
The dishonest part about ‘brand purpose’ is they pretend it’s true.
They try to make people believe they don’t want to make money out of us, that they set up their company in order to benefit mankind.
That they’re not just trying to sell a product, they’ve got a far higher motive.
That they’re in business mainly for our benefit, not for theirs.
That’s worse than propaganda.
That’s a lie.