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Realizing the power of words and images

Pearl Strachan Hurd, a British politician in the 1930s, understood the importance of words.

“Handle them carefully,” he said “for words have more power than atomic bombs.”

During the Cold War, American rock singer, songwriter and poet Jim Morrison gave another famous quote regarding propaganda.

“Whoever controls the media, controls the mind,” Morrison said.

Both statements remain relevant today.

Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist party and Josef Stalin’s Russian communists were fighting to dominate the world with their ideologies during World War II. The communist aim, Stalin said, is in “organizing, mobilizing and transforming the world of ideas ranging from religious beliefs to the sciences and arts.”

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, the German constitution guaranteed freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Through a series of decrees and laws, Hitler abolished these civil rights and destroyed German democracy.

Starting in 1934, it was illegal to criticize the Nazi government or even tell a joke about Hitler. Books categorized as un-German were banned and burned.

The Nazis centralized propaganda efforts through Joseph Goebbels’ Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. By closing down or taking over anti-Nazi newspapers and radio, it controlled all news content.

A recent study by the University of Oklahoma on the impact of images on media found that visual images demand a viewer’s attention and that photos have the ability to convey drama and emotion and realism in a way that text alone cannot.

In short, they promote ideas and beliefs.

In just the past year, we’ve seen how liberals in government and the mainstream media, through vague or misleading words and selective editing, have been using this path to shape opinions.

Three major events - the racial riots, the border crisis and the Jan. 6 rioting at the Capitol - are current examples.

Sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, thousands of people took to the streets across America last summer in a show of unity against racial injustice. Most of these protests were largely peaceful, but in some cities, like Portland and Seattle, the unrest became violent.

The Washington Post even glamorized the lawlessness, publishing a glowing profile of Portland’s protesters.

No matter how the media tried to spin the coverage in the liberally run cities swept up by violence, the unedited video showed what was really happening. It was impossible to hide video evidence of rioters assaulting police officers or burning and looting neighborhoods and businesses, resulting in 25 deaths.

Liberal politicians like Jerrold Nadler, Ayanna Pressley, Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters and their media cohorts downplayed or simply ignored the violence and spun their own narrative.

Nadler called the rioting a myth.

While discussing the upcoming presidential election, Pressley even called for more “unrest in the streets.”

Liberal Democrats have had a hard time dealing with the crisis at the southern border, especially since the dramatic escalation since Joe Biden took office. Last week, Pelosi stated that the border situation is under control and that the nation is “on a good path under the leadership of Joe Biden.”

The searing images of children being dumped over the wall and abandoned tell a much different story - one of chaos and desperation.

The power of words and images were also in full display during the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol.

In its coverage, The New York Times also called it a “mob attack,” “deadly riot” and “violent assault,” and said Trump supporters “laid siege” to the Capitol. The Washington Post talked of a “horde of rioters” and “terrifying attack.”

For months, Democratic politicians and the liberal media had been stating that five people were killed in the riots. Last week, the chief medical examiner in Washington, D.C., confirmed that two of the four deaths on Jan. 6 were ruled natural and one an accident. The one direct victim, Ashli Babbitt, a U.S. Air Force veteran from Southern California, was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer and has been ruled a homicide.

The New York Times, citing two unnamed law enforcement sources, initially reported that Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick “was struck with a fire extinguisher,” and other news outlets ran with the unsourced story. Recent evidence states he was hit with pepper spray. According to the Capitol Police, he collapsed after returning to his division office and was taken to a hospital. His conditioned worsened and he was put on a ventilator and treated for a blood clot and a stroke. He died at 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 7. The cause of death is still pending.

Many in the liberal media also used the phrase “attempted coup” in describing the events. This is controversial and dangerous since it often carries military overtones. Absent evidence that the specific aim was to take over the government, the AP, to its credit, advised against the phrase.

There was once a time when an unbiased media stood on its own and did not kowtow to the kind of rule by authoritarianism we see from this White House and from Democratic leadership in Congress.

By Jim Zbick | tneditor@tnonline.com

The foregoing opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editorial Board or Times News LLC.