Plaque Panthers

June 22, 2007

Toronto’s Emergency Services supports its troops. Or does it? No one’s really sure, and it’s turned into an interesting debacle amongst Torontonians, as well as within my own psyche.

A recent article from the National Post states that “Support Our Troops” decals, which have been placed on many Emergency Services vehicles in the GTA, will be removed as a response to the mass pants-shitting of Torontonians over the municipal government’s publicly assumed stance on the war in Afghanistan.



Now that Mayor David Miller has agreed to have the decals removed with each EMS vehicle’s quarterly inspection, there is another segment of citizens that feel the gesture is a “slap in the face” to those who support the war, and even more so, those who have family and friends fighting abroad.



Mayor Miller says in a letter that he, as an individual, supports those fighting overseas and dying, but feels that after witnessing the deep divide that Canada’s role in the war has caused amongst its citizens, EMS and the municipal public sector as a whole shouldn’t have a role in what really amounts to war PR. (Yes, that is my own interpretation of what he said.)



It brought me back to when we started sending soldiers out there by the hundreds. I had very mixed feelings about siege. At first I thought “Well, of course I support the troops. These are good kids out there. They have families and friends that love them, and they’re dying every single day, for a cause they believe is worthy. Who can’t get behind that?” But, then I thought “Well, I certainly don’t support the military action as a whole. And supporting one’s troops is often misconstrued as being sympathetic towards policy itself.” (And I believe that, in ways, it is.)


I found myself in a sort of ethical dilemma, and couldn’t figure a way out of it—or at least a firm stance to take on it. Then I read this quote from Mr. Noam Chomsky:


The point of public relations slogans like “Support our troops” is that they don’t mean anything… That’s the whole point of good propaganda. You want to create a slogan that nobody’s going to be against, and everybody’s going to be for. Nobody knows what it means, because it doesn’t mean anything. Its crucial value is that it diverts your attention from a question that does mean something: Do you support our policy? That’s the one you’re not allowed to talk about.”



And so it goes. I feel that Mr. Chomsky has eloquently defined my dilemma in a way that no amount of critical thinking on my part could. Upon reading this I went a step further to determine that by creating a PR slogan so powerful, yet empty in any real meaning, and garnering mass-approval for its supposed message, you effectively eliminate a huge wave of political dissent via indecisive pacification. Not that dissent is non-existent—any eavesdropped casual conversation will tell you resistance to policy is alive and well—it’s just not as loud and obnoxious as it would be if we didn’t have these weasely, albeit smart politicians creating propaganda that blurs, shortens and packages the truth into something we can all bite into and swallow without getting physically ill.



One of my favourite artists, Sage Francis, expresses the same sentiment in a more condensed, but no less powerful way:


“You support the troops?

By wearing yellow ribbons?

Just bring home my mother fucking brothers and sisters!”



Karl Rove, the Deputy Chief of Staff to the President of the United States of America, who was previously a direct marketing consultant, has perfected the art of modern propaganda. He’s the mastermind that brought us such memorable moments as “War on Terror!” and “Mission Accomplished!” amongst many others that escape me at the moment. Again, all designed to simplify and distort the complicated and often unpopular truth to rally behind in droves.


The bigger problem is that there is no such thing as truth. At least not for you or me. We can sit down and analyze and dissect source after source, after source, and then compare the information, but at the end of the day, it’s the major media outlets with swelling political biases, from all parts of the spectrum, that are delivering the “facts”. Again, there is no truth. There is only what we believe. The truth, unfortunately, is reserved for a handful of powerful elites. It’s always been that way, and it’s never going to change.


And I think that the only way to loosen the shackles of that saddening evidence is to be aware of it.


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