To paraphrase Ezra Pound, the artist is the antennae of the race, and the purpose of art is to wake people up. If art is to awaken people, then what puts them to sleep? In my view, propaganda.
Being fond of analogies, I see artists as white magicians who wake people up, and propagandists as black magicians who ensorcel them and try to put them to sleep. Both types do what they do through the use of words.
Pound also wrote, “One ‘moves’ the reader only by clarity.” This is true, for good or bad. Even propagandists are clear; they just appeal to our worst instincts, such as the desire to mass murder people and seeing ‘the enemy” as the Other (i.e., evil) and the Scapegoat.
The artist sees through the propagandist.
Good art, you can say, is a blessing, and bad art a curse. I consider propaganda, and most especially political propaganda, to be nothing but bad art. Such a bad art is in fact immoral, indeed criminal.
Both types of art (and both are actually sciences) are based on an understanding of human nature. The difference is that the good artist tries to look at the whole nature of man, while the propagandists only look at part – the primitive animal part.
That primitive animal part, more than anything else, looks upon itself as Good and others as Evil. Propaganda, in fact, is based on the belief in a purely good and a purely evil, while the true artist knows in humans it does not exist: everyone is some shade of grey. The political propagandist is always a Manichee.
In actuality the propagandist is like a bad doctor making a bad diagnosis and proposing a cure that only does not work, but makes things worse. They wish to leave people in the fog and the outer darkness.
In fact, any artist is a doctor who diagnoses and prescribes cures. As always, some are bad doctors with inaccurate diagnoses and worthless cures, and others are just the opposite.
There is another way to tell the artist from the political propagandist: the use of metaphor. Aristotle once said, “The apt use of metaphor, being as it is, the swift perception of relations, is the true hallmark of genius.”
The political propagandists, bad artists and incompetent doctors that they are, can only engage in the crudest and most transparent of metaphors; the enemy is an ape, a pig, a monkey. They, the enemy, are “evil incarnate,” as if evil is a thing instead of a reification.
These black magicians are always Manichees who use bad metaphors.
Political propagandists, incompetent doctors and black magicians, sin against the well-being of a nation, and of people’s souls. Language, which can be the casting of spells, can also be the most powerful instrument of perfidy. All bad artists, propagandists, are then, perfidious.