Propaganda 101: I.Q. TEST (Living Waters Tract #209)

This little gem is published by Living Waters Publications and portrays a very simple, albeit headache inducing, visual phenomena that involves the way that the brain processes glyphs. The front has a highly stylized word that may take a few moments to decipher.

“The answer is ‘Eternal Life’ (‘Eternal’ is hidden in the ‘L’ of Life—see Romans 6:23).” I guess it is, as you can see in the scan of the card the actual word hidden on the inner curve of what is an “L” upside-down and an “h” if oriented otherwise. We have to trust the message on the back as to what exactly those blobs say, their font is so small that they greek into the ink bleed. Does this mean that it reads “Death Lanrete” when right side-up?

Then the propaganda starts.

First, the reader is subjected to what in propaganda jargon could be called a “framing sentence.” The point of this is to set the frame of mind of the reader to the singular context that the propagandist wants: “Here is another intelligence test.”

What follows isn’t exactly what it says on the tin.

“Answer Yes or No OUT LOUD: 1/ Is there a God? 2/ Does God care about right and wrong? 3/ Are God’s standards the same as ours? 4/ Will God punish sin? 5/ Is there a Hell? 6/ Do you avoid Hell by living a good life?”

At this point the savvy reader will realize that this is not a test of intelligence. It’s not even a proper test of knowledge. It is a memory test for the particular dogma of the Living Waters Publications editor who prepared this text. A person who answers most of these differently than the answers given immediately afterwards is no more or less intelligent than anyone else for their answers.

Here the propaganda makes the assumption that the reader knows what it’s talking about. It’s reaching out to someone who is culturally Christian. Mostly in the phrase “Is there a God?” I find myself bemused by the phrase. It’s a lot like saying, “Is there an Elaine?” The question is pandering, but only with its capital letter—I guess that “Is there the God?” just doesn’t have the same ring, we just don’t speak that way; and they wanted to avoid saying “Is there a god?” or “Are there gods?” This goes back to pandering to assumed knowledge. A pagan, Hindu, or other polytheist would snicker at this line.

The “correct” answers are, of course, amusing in of themselves. There is a God who cares about right and wrong; but doesn’t have the same “standards” as we do… Invocation of threat of Hell. I understand they’re working under a lot of pressure to fit this 10-point font paragraph onto the back of a business card, but I’m not impressed.

“You can’t afford to be wrong. Find out the truth – ask God to forgive your sins, then trust in Jesus Christ. He took your punishment by dying on the Cross for you. Then He rose from the dead. Read the Bible daily and obey what you read… God will never let you down.”

Another feature of religious propaganda is the use of designed jargon; these are often words coherent only to the culture of the religion. First there’s elements from Christian mythology: the Cross, Jesus Christ, death and resurrection of the former. Then there’s the jargon word “sin” which is only meaningful in the frame already set up based on the assumptions of the Living Waters dogma.

Did anyone else notice that the word “Cross” got a capital? Symbolism and semiotics lay at the heart of a lot of social propaganda but are also central to cultural context. In this case the tract editor is trying to connect with the implied cultural Christianity of the reader by using a shared symbol. It’s not just any mundane crucifix used by the Romans to torture and murder people, no, it’s the specific device used to torture Jesus.

Is it just me who felt their skin crawling when they saw “Read your Bible daily and obey what you read”? Do the people who edit these tracts actually read their Bible? I only have one thing to say to this: What is an Amalekite and if I ever meet one must I really murder him or her? Who in their right mind in this day and age would obey such a command?

Further: Obey? Bob the Angry Flower “Submission Channel” much? SUBMIT. SUBMIT. SUBMIT.

And finally, my favorite part of this review. The very last line of the tract:

“God will never let you down.”

Never gonna give you up
Never gonna let you down
Never gonna run around and desert you
Never gonna make you cry
Never gonna say goodbye
Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you.