Propaganda clouds Ajax discussion

Propaganda has been one of the most effective tools of warfare of this century, so it should come as no surprise that this tool of mass manipulation has emerged in the ongoing battles around the proposed Ajax mine, wielded by both sides to varying degrees of success.

The YouTube video which emerged publicly Monday, however, is the clearest winner yet in the dubious public opinion war that's engulfed the controversial proposal. The 30-minute video, produced by a local consortium of those opposed to an open-pit mine on the outskirts of Kamloops, is a masterful example of subjective persuasion at its finest. Edward Bernays, the recognized father of "public relations" - his preferred term for propaganda - would no doubt be proud.

From beautiful opening scenes of local nature through to a rousing conclusion, the video wields fear, ignorance, faulty logic, conjecture and distortion as actors in a grand drama utterly lacking in objectivity.

Watching the video is like reading a checklist of techniques great propagandists through history have cleverly devised. There are bold assertions made without evidence, powerful use of unsettling and contradictory imagery, questionable authorities, faulty logic and many, many generalizations. Like all propaganda, the film weaves threads of truth into a larger cloak of deception, which the producers seem intent on throwing over Kamloops residents in a bid to keep us from making up our own minds.

Of course, KGHM-Ajax has fired its own propagandistic salvos in recent months. In its various responses to public appeals for answers, the company has responded in manners which no doubt can be lifted from the pages of Propaganda, one of Bernay's seminal works, which he penned in 1928. Typically, KGHM officials simplify issues and repeat those simplistic themes over and over again. It's all about jobs, they say regularly.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said the first casualty of war is truth. And as the war over the Ajax mine continues to heat, the truth appears on the edge of being lost.

How is possible to know now what's true anymore when it comes to the Ajax mine? It's not easy but as residents of Kamloops, we must try. Part of the responsibility of citizenship requires us to be informed on matters of public importance. With Ajax, it means being cautious about accepting as truthful any "facts" from either the company or those who are fanatically opponents. It also means being patient. There is better information coming. We must trust the process.

The recent video sheds no real light on the KGHM-Ajax proposal. And those opposed to the mine had best tread carefully with its dissemination, for fear of obscuring legitimate concerns in an over-reaching fog of war.

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