April 18th 2020

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Justice at last: Cardinal Pell set free

EDITORIAL Australia needs an economic reset after covid19 crisis

CANBERRA OBSERVED The very young can still be 'taken care of' during the covid19 outbreak

RURAL AFFAIRS A national disgrace: Our great land sale

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Use detention centres to help deal with covid19

GENDER POLITICS Do we really need to ask, what is a woman?

REFLECTION A chance for a change of heart: Covid19 as Memento mori

FAMILY Who let the kids out? The stay-at-home parent and covid19

ECONOMICS The oil cartel: The lesson for other industries from OEC

HEALTH Lessons from the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic

CULTURE AND SOCIETY There is a war: The battle in and for hearts

ASIAN AFFAIRS What makes China different is not the Chinese but the CCP

HUMOUR Locked down in Covi Town

MUSIC Great, er, swan songs

CINEMA+TV Staying in; staying sane

BOOK REVIEW Not our Robin Hood

BOOK REVIEW At home among others




CARDINAL GEORGE PELL FREE: The commentary file

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There is a war: The battle in and for hearts

by A.B. Stuart

News Weekly, April 18, 2020

“There is a war between the rich and the poor, a war between the man, and the woman,” Leonard Cohen sang in 1974. He continued to croon: “There is a war between the left and right, a war between the black and white, a war between the odd and the even.”

I’m not entirely sure what he was on about – perhaps something to do with the unsettledness of the present age or the conflict that modernity had brought – but, regardless, the song has stuck. With its catchy tune, it is effective propaganda – for whatever it was it sought to propagate.

This was said by 20th-century Polish martyr St Maximilian Kolbe.Another prominent figure of the 20th century, 40 years Cohen’s senior, had this to say about wars: “The real conflict is the inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the hecatombs of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?”

Dissident Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn conveyed the same idea more simply in 1973, when he wrote in The Gulag Archipelago: “But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”

There is then, the one grand old war, between good and evil, which rages in the heart of man, but there is also a war among men for these hearts and minds, and that war is the Propaganda War.

If we leave aside for the moment the direct intervention of God, we see the necessity for men to act as propagating agents of God’s truth. For example, Jonah is directed to preach to the Ninevites.

Thus, the need to propagate a given message remains, at least as long as an opposing one exists. Hence, there is a parry and thrust, that when not involving actual swords, takes the form of words being thrown back and forth. Sometimes you have both, and breathless sledging intermingles with the clash of steel.

In the liberal democracies of the West, where sword-fighting is discouraged, almost as much as an appearance of placid heterogeneity and tolerance are encouraged, then comes, and with great force, the propaganda.


Propaganda is the “spreading of ideas, information, or rumour for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). It was first derived as a term to refer to a congregation of cardinals, the Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide, who were tasked with the management of spreading the Catholic faith in missionary lands.

Time has tarnished the word and almost pigeonholed it as the production of official media by overtly lying states committed to nefarious ends. Thus one thinks of the Nuremberg Rallies or Soviet posters, but less so of the Morning Drive program or the prayers of the faithful that are recited at church on Sunday.

It should come as no surprise that religion employs propaganda; but that religion employs ineffective propaganda is a newer phenomenon; and that certain religions employ the use of propaganda that is contrary to its own historical aims and indeed survival, is one of the strange symptoms of our confused and war-torn world.

“But can’t one just speak the truth?” Sure, one can. The issue is that there are those who obfuscate the truth, and thus the side of truth must also employ propaganda, if only to level the playing field in the cause of truth. If it makes the medicine easier to swallow, it might do to label propaganda that is honest and on the side of the truth as “counter-propaganda”, but this seems an unnecessary complication if one is willing to accept that propaganda can be good.

By its very definition, propaganda is at least as good as the Great Commission – for what were the disciples asked to do if not to spread “ideas [Christianity], information [Gospel] for the purpose of helping … an institution [the Church] or a cause [salvation] or a person [Christ]”?

Christians are called to be propagandists, and those who do not wish the Christian faith and commensurate ideas to propagate, must physically destroy them, or become propagandists themselves, or otherwise support propagandists who represent their own ideas.

Propaganda may be seen as little pieces of an argument over time, but the argument is presented in a wide array of mediums, and as it often does not have a ready opposing interlocutor, is largely free to use whatever methods do not restrict it externally or internally.

Anything that is spread about and seeks to position someone is propaganda. The Lord of the Rings was a literary masterpiece, but it was also propaganda, but of a noble kind, for it sought to communicate the beauty of the human spirit and the created world – things that most people can get behind. Anzac Day ceremonies are propaganda, good inasmuch as they remember the virtue and sacrifice of our forebears and foster a legitimate love of country among the people.

Bohemian Rhapsody, the critically acclaimed 2018 film about Freddie Mercury and the band, Queen, is propaganda, finely tuned and effective propaganda, which seemed to try to normalise a certain amount of degeneracy and overreaching for fame.

Unplanned, a pro-life film that came out in 2019 about the journey of Abby Johnson, a one-time Planned Parenthood employee, struck me as very goodly propaganda. It didn’t have the outreach, publicity or budget of Bohemian Rhapsody, but it was an effectively made film that would challenge a neutral viewer and reinforce the conviction of pro-life viewers.

What isn’t propaganda? It is those things that we do and consume that do not seek to or otherwise actively influence our own or other people’s ideas. Eating a banana wouldn’t usually lie within the realm of propaganda. But if you were to organise your friends to eat bananas outside of Parliament, to communicate your belief that the state was becoming a banana republic, then we might have ourselves some banana-eating propaganda.

When we eat out at a burger joint because of a voucher we received in the mail, then propaganda is at play. Even when we make an effort to have roast lamb on Christmas day, year after year, there is an element of propaganda.

To obviate the risk of the word descending into meaninglessness, let us remind ourselves that there is a clash of worldviews between certain groups and, because for the most part we live in the same area and are not allowed to physically annihilate each other, there are two options for the eventual triumph of one or other worldview: a) to propagandise your opponent and neutral actors; b) to give birth to more children and ensure that they are not propagandised away from your worldview.

If you do a) and b) at a combination that is faster than your opponents, your worldview will gain ascendancy in your region (ignoring external factors). The Propaganda War is concerned with a) and a good portion of b).

In the Propaganda War, all are soldiers. Soldiers fight, first, by choosing, to the degree they are able, what propaganda they consume, and second, to the degree they are able, what propaganda they produce. The second part of the equation is highly dependent on the first. If you are surrounded by opposition propaganda, it is very likely that you will be unfit to generate effective propaganda for your own side.

The soldiers that produce propaganda are many and varied, but have traditionally been teachers, poets and priests. Leonard Cohen and Alexander Solzhenitsyn are both poets. St Maximilian Kolbe was a priest. Today, Miley Cyrus and Banksy are both poets. Oprah is a priest. Teachers are mostly still teachers; but it would appear that they are increasingly being denied freedom to choose their propaganda, with ideological university settings and a national curriculum. Each side seeks to have its message reign supreme, and the government is not averse to using its regulatory power to aid in its propaganda efforts.


If we accept the idea that a propaganda war is raging in our midst, then we have three options: fight, flight or surrender. Surrender is tantamount to death, sometimes literally, if we look at the abortion and euthanasia victories of those propagating the culture of death. It is therefore not a viable option to those who retain a sense of honour or dignity.

The idea that one can largely flee from the opposing propaganda and its negative consequences aligns in a way with Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option. The hope here is that the decadent city of man collapses before it can locate and eliminate one’s independent community.

This strategy may be worthwhile, if not without risk – but there will still remain souls in the City of Man that need tending to and find they cannot withdraw for whatever reason. This means that it is inevitable that there will be those who are obliged to fight. If one is to live in the world, to live in our brave new ideologically diverse cities, where Big Business and Big Government dominate the messaging, then one must fight.

The fight is not hopeless. It is a product of our fallen nature, opposition propaganda and ignorance, to think it so. The opposition first wants to convince us that there is no fight. Once we realise there is a fight, they want us to believe we cannot win, so that we give up. If we can get past these doubts and insecurities, we can begin properly to wage war, and our victories inspire further victories.

Behind the watershed events of Trump and Brexit is a build-up of dissatisfaction with globalist progressive neoliberal thought, dissatisfaction that could not have spread as widely without, first, the real negative consequences of such ideas; and, second, the propaganda that explained and exposed those real negative consequences. Examples of such negative consequences are the destruction of decent manufacturing jobs by free trade agreements, and the dilution of cultural identity through mass immigration.

When a real negative consequence is experienced, people will start to search for an answer. Cue the propaganda. In the past, before the advent of online-media sharing platforms, this process was not so immediate or independent. To print or publish in traditional forms requires a certain amount of organisation and resourcing – unfortunately, in modern times, few organisations still exist that actively and honestly represent the common man.

The common man, in his pursuit for a home and a livelihood that he and his family own and are in control of, has very few friends in the form of organised and resourced institutions. Big Business and Big Government are seldom on the side of him and his family. The United Nations has bigger fish to fry and shake hands with, and the religious bodies of the West have in many places completed abandoned their flocks, for either fear or outright ineptitude. When you see Rochester Cathedral opened for games of mini-golf, as it was in 2019, you get a sense that all is not well.

Closer to home, the absolutely dismal performance of Catholic high schools in passing on the faith, or at least honestly attempting to pass on the faith, ought to remind the common man how isolated he is in the propaganda war.

A few religious bodies have maintained or are restoring their integrity – and these rare institutions are often the only organised bodies that the common man can rely upon for assistance in the Propaganda War. The other few include uncompromised parties or politicians (rare) and similarly uncompromised think tanks or associations. It is a David v Goliath battle, but David won, and David can win.


As mentioned, the advent of online media has allowed the entry of many small, independent producers – both individuals, small and medium organisations – into the Propaganda War. This alone is perhaps the most decisive shift in the war. Now, soldiers of every stripe and side can access and produce propaganda.

This is helpful to the common man, because, while he cannot gain access to a television station or a newspaper, he can gain access to a blog and to podcasts and independently produced videos. This has become so problematic for the previously unchallenged warlords of propaganda (the mainstream media), that shortly after President Trump’s election, they began to clamp down on the monetisation and algorithms of some of these media platforms, in order to try to stem the supply of propaganda (by removing the financial incentive) and the progression of it (by changing the algorithm so that viewers were not directed to other related videos).

Because of the real negative consequences that people were experiencing, as well as the general interest and commentary surrounding Brexit and Trump, individuals went searching for an explanation that mainstream media was unwilling to provide (they could not give truthful information as it conflicted with the aims of the global progressive neoliberals, whose ideology they support). The content provided to them by alternative media in many places discussed honestly and openly the real negative consequences of certain ideas, and this led many to change or reinforce their ideas. In a word, the advocates of truth, or at least a more realistic explanation of things, were able to disseminate their ideas to a widespread audience. The ramifications of this opening for accessible alternative media are astounding, and it does not look like it will be reined in.


Propaganda is real and it works. People who are propagandising against the truth have a harder time, naturally. It is not easy to convince someone that a man with a beard is a woman, or that it is a good idea for the state to be in the business of killing the old and disabled. Yet we live in a world where these lies and bad ideas are enshrined in law.

The truth doesn’t need too much help – indeed, it is quite easy to convince people that a man with a beard is a man, and that a child in a mother’s womb is precious and should be protected. It just shows how effectively the opposition has fought the Propaganda War that we find ourselves in our current position.

St Augustine of Hippo said: “The truth is like a lion; you don’t have to defend it. Let it loose; it will defend itself.” The job of soldiers who are on the side of truth is to let loose the lion. The opposing propagandists are busy at work setting bars and mesh and concrete all around the great lion. We just have to set it free and, as said, it is much easier to set it free than to try to keep it caged.

One has only to remember the great fable of the Emperor’s New Clothes. It just takes a little honest speaking up in a widespread medium, and the whole charade comes crashing down.

The fight is on, then. Everyone is required to fight every day and choose the correct messaging to be exposed to. Some may be able to handle a little more of the opposition propaganda than others, but you should primarily consume the good stuff, which can be found in abundance if you make the effort to seek it out.

Those who can ought to produce propaganda on the side of the truth – be it articles, podcasts, videos, films, good liturgy, talks, memes or banana-eating ceremonies. Those with financial and other resources should support the propagandists and the production of propaganda wherever possible.

Though we may not all produce propaganda, everyone can share propaganda. The dissemination of good propaganda might even start with encouraging one’s friends to subscribe to News Weekly. It might just be passing it to a friend once you have finished reading the current issue. It’s up to all of us to get creative and do our part – there is, after all, a war going on.

“There is a war,” Leonard Cohen croons, “between the ones who say there is a war, and the ones who say that there isn’t.”

Maybe I’ve misread things, and there is no Propaganda War. Maybe it is just harmless entertainment on subscription TV, and a non-biased selection and reporting of the facts by government and commercial broadcasters, and courteous public campaigns by the government and property developers to help us realise the amazing benefits of not having children and taking out a mortgage for 30 years to buy a one-bedroom apartment.

Maybe it’s all OK? One shouldn’t be too cynical these days, after all, because things are always getting better, and GDP just keeps on going up and never mind wage stagnation or the mental-health epidemic. What you need is a “soma” holiday, or maybe just a trip to Bali, or a new car, $1,000 cash-back, a SmartPhone Z or some cheap Chinese-made consumables, or …

The Propaganda War may or may not be raging. But Alexander Solzhenitsyn and St Maximilian Kolbe remind us that there will always be a war that we cannot avoid, and must fight every day, with whatever aid and reinforcement we can get.

“There are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love.”

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm