Propaganda 101: YOU ARE HERE (Living Waters Tract #254)

This photograph causes a cringe to tighten my spine. Reading the tract informs us that they added the…Earth…to this image in order to give a sense of scale…what it doesn’t say is that the distance is totally wrong. In fact, this tract would be ridiculously long in order to actually display the proper distance and scale of Earth vs. Sun. Being the geek that I am, I decided to take a moment and point out exactly how far off “YOU ARE HERE” is.

The diameter of the stellar body on this photograph fudges to about 8 inches (I measured it by matching the curvature to a similar object, in this case a ceramic plate.) The planet Earth has an elliptical orbit around the Sun varying in distance according to its position in that orbit, the mean distance between Earth and the Sun is 14,960,000 10^6 km; the mean diameter of the Sun is 1,392 10^6 km. That means that the Earth should be placed 8,5977 inches away! That’s 2,388.25 yards…for those Americans in my audience, let me lay this one out. To display appropriate scale of Earth to Sun the tract would have to be a length of over 23 football fields.

YOU ARE NOT HERE.

Did you know that the earth could fit into the volume of the sun over a million times? Think of it… what sort of Being could create the sun?

I don’t know if this is a red herring or a testimonial. Whatever it happens to be it’s a bunch of irrelevant hand-waving. The tract author is attempting to assert the presence of a “Being”–which is probably the Christian god–by begging the question with this thinly veiled “think about it” line. Occam’s Razor: Star formation is an observed phenomenon and is sufficiently explained by natural forces. Unless this tract is going to demonstrate a star making Being, there is not sufficient evidence to believe that the Sun was made by one.

Have you ever done that? Have you ever made a god to suit yourself (within your mind)? There is one God, and you have to face Him. Alone. On Judgment Day. That’s a scary thought.

You are making an appeal to fear. Ever done that? At this point the tract descends into the usual appeals to mythology, glitters with generalities, assertions, and more threats.

Go to [our website] and click on ‘Save Yourself Some Pain.’

More pandering.

The hook of this tract is entirely in the false visual on the front of the tract. It then uses the bad visual in order to deliver truthful but irrelevant information. This strategy is used by propagandists to create a false sense of wisdom so that they can set up the question that begs the existence of a Being that created the sun. Also: a photograph is a tangible fact–something that mythology is not. The propagandist is attempting to create a positive bias by correlating the supernatural “Being” with the observable sun. That way the reader is thinking about this Being when they enter into the parts of the tract that appeal to fear and mythology. A critical examination, however, would make it necessary to point out that’s fairly obvious that stars can form without the presence of any beings.

This tract is cute in that it attempts to include some knowledge generated by empirical science. It uses a photograph taken by NASA, which is an excellent empirical data point about our sun. (If you ignore the Photoshopped Earth being in the wrong place.)

Propaganda 101: Is Jesus Christ Your Savior? (Fellowship Tract League Tract #118)

Yes, the following really is the first line.

My friend are you saved? Saved is a Bible word, not a term thought up by man.” There are a cornucopia of errors in this single line. Saved is an English word, from Middle English via Old French sauf, from Latin salvus, safe. The Bible’s early manuscripts are written in Hebrew and Greek with some Aramaic translations. Pay attention class: see English anywhere in there? German? Anglo-Saxon? Or anything in the direct ancestry of English? No.

“Saved” is certainly not a Bible word.

It also seems to want to claim that something that is a “Bible word” is not therefore a term thought up by man. To assess this claim, however, I need an instantiation of a “Bible word” to examine. Since no definition is provided, and the only example is patently bogus, I suspect this phrase has no meaning.

Maybe the author of this tract is referring instead to the specific jargon he’s applying to the word “saved” according to usage in the Bible. If so, he really put his foot in his mouth that time.

I have been a Christian for almost twenty years, and I find that most people still do not have an understanding of God’s message of salvation.” Bad editing here, this sentence isn’t even a separate paragraph, yet it has absolutely no transition or context connection to the previous line. Except maybe that the word “salvation” happens to be a cousin of that Latin word salvus.

Plato, Aristotle, or Einstein could only think as far as their finite minds were able. They could not even solve the problems of this life, such as sickness, disease, pain, hunger, and death, let alone know anything about eternity.

And the author is about to claim that he himself has these answers? No, wait, he is but a mere messenger.

God knew we needed something to go by, so He put everything there is to know in His Bible.

Like Cre recombinase and Tre recombanaise—recently discovered enzymes used to combat HIV. No? No mention of it? Perhaps this isn’t part of “everything there is to know” or maybe it has nothing to do with “sickness, disease, [and] pain.” In the world of propaganda this is known as a glittering generality—it’s also an example of a Big Lie. To effect the Big Lie propagandists spread a particular false belief into the population, “the Bible includes everything there is to know,” repeating it ad nauseam until a large enough portion of the population believes it to be true.

The tract does not go on to clarify what it means by the above statement so we can take it at face value: it’s simply asserting a bald falsehood expecting the reader to swallow it.

So you and I, like our father, Adam, are born sinners. We have not obeyed all of God’s commandments.

This is an appeal to mythology. First time I’ve seen this specific instance! Adam is a figure in Biblical mythology touted as “first man.” Except that Adam wasn’t born a sinner, so this sentence isn’t actually consistent with Biblical mythology after all.

Your guilt as a sinner is shown by the fact that you will eventually die.

And Germans are evil because of the fact that have large noses and speak a different language. As a proud citizen of the USA you should buy war bonds to aid our soldiers in fighting the German scourge! This sort of false assertion attempts to bond two things that have no causal connection. According to this logic: plants and animals are also sinners shown by the fact that they will eventually die.

And, of course, if all else fails end the tract by threatening the reader using an appeal to fear:

Please hear this. People do not go to hell for their sins. They go to hell for rejecting Jesus Christ as their Sin Bearer, their Substitute, and the One who died in their place for their sins.