Nobody likes propaganda and nobody wants to make it. But what if you’ve got something you really want to say? I don’t think the trick is keep your agendas and ideologies in the back-seat like troublesome children. Instead, learn to make art in which your ideologies and agendas have a place of their own without taking over and dominating your work.
Learning to clearly and creatively communicate things you care about (religious, social, political, etc.) is an art in and of itself. So is learning to create doorways for others to enter into meaningful engagement with meaningful topics.
The question for you, as a creative, eventually ceases to be “What you are allowed to talk about or engage with?” and becomes “How well can you treat, illuminate, critique or celebrate the things that move you?”
This is an excerpt from my book Title Pending, which is available now for pre-order.
I think that I know what you’re saying, but anytime you create something with the intention to change people’s minds, you’re creating propaganda. Propaganda, by itself, is neither good nor bad. After all, an anti-smoking ad is technically propaganda, but it’s for a good cause. When you encourage people on your blog and Facebook to help the needy, you’re using propaganda. You’re not lying nor being disingenuous, but you are using language in an effective manner to bring about change.
Unfortunately, the word has a negative connotation to it, as it’s thought of as being dishonest by its very nature. I think that what’s best is to go with the master of understanding propaganda, George Orwell, and follow his five rules:
1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6. Break any of these rules sooner than saying anything outright barbarous.
Of course, I realize that as a songwriter, it’s probably not practical for you to always follow those rules (in your songs, at least. Maybe in your blog.) Perhaps songwriting, by its very nature, is propaganda. But maybe there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that.
Six rules that is.