Sunday, September 25, 2016

Propaganda - Can it work?

So I was working on my world and wanted to make certain that the small river (large creek?  medium sized stream? whatever!) that supplies water to half of my world’s biggest city (Brinston - pop. 800K) was legitimately supplying enough water so that it made sense.  So I was wandering the internet, as I am known to do, and I chose the UN’s site on water.  I expected the standard BS of how we need to conserve water, but I was struck by how they laid out their propaganda.  I offer it up here as an example of how you can use these tactics in your own world:

First, they start by telling you that of all the water in the world, only 3% of it is fresh water, and sea water is (paraphrasing their terms) useless to humans.  OK, let’s just ignore that because it’s silly, but moving on.  Did you see what they did?  They took water, probably the most plentiful thing we can think of (besides air) and started to make it seem rare.  Wow!  Only 3% of the water is of any use to us.  But wait, there’s more!

Then they tell you that 2.5% of the world’s water is locked up in the ice caps and glaciers.  So that is apparently useless to humans as well.  You thought water was common?  Well, only 0.5% that’s 0.005 is of any use to us.  All of a sudden, this thing that seems so common is starting to feel rare.  They never mention how much is out there that is useful (I’ll get to that later).  By only focusing on what is theoretically useless to us, they have made this enormously plentiful resource sound scarce.

Then, they tell us that every human needs two liters a day to survive.  I am at least happy that they didn’t go with the whole “drink a gallon of water a day” mantra, and honestly if you’re eating fruits and vegetables you don’t need even two liters, but let’s pretend that two liters is right.  They then compare two liters per day to the 215 cubic meters of water used every year by every person in the USA.  Did you see the subtle change there?  daily use to annual use.  If you’re not paying attention, you could make the misstep of thinking that those are apples to apples numbers when in fact they’re grape seed to grapefruit numbers.  They also lay out how people in Mali only use 4 cubic meters a year, so us horrible folks in the USA must be monsters!  or maybe we just don’t live in a desert.  Maybe we chose not to live in a desert on purpose!  Not counting all you folks in LA who apparently have purposefully chosen to live in a desert.

So what are the facts?  Well, there are places in the world where there is not enough clean, drinking water.  The USA (certainly my part of the USA) is not one of those places.  Since we do not have tanker ships sailing drinking water from the USA to other places, my usage of water in the USA has absolutely no impact on the people of Mali.  None.  I can stop drinking water, I can stop watering my grass, I can stop flushing the toilet.  Who do I help?  NO ONE!

But if you fall for their propaganda, you now think that water is scarce, and we spoiled Americans are using up far too much of it.  We need to conserve some for the people of Mali!!  But you’re not that dumb.  You’d never fall for that.  I had hoped people were smarter than that, but they aren’t.  An entire generation of college students (you might be one) has been raised being told that we should conserve water, conserve water because the people of the Middle East don’t have enough.  That really is the same as “Eat everything on your plate!  There are kids starving in China.”  My consumption or lack of consumption in North America has no impact on starving children in China, just as my consumption or even waste of water has no impact on the people of Mali.

Just to lay everything out there, let’s do some math.  168,000 cubic meters of water goes over Niagara Falls every minute.  For those of you not good with metrics, that’s 168,000,000 liters per minute (168 million).  So that’s 10 Billion liters an hour and 242 Billion per day (Big B).  Assuming there are 7B people in the world and they all need 2 liters a day, Niagara Falls churns more than 17 times the amount of fresh water needed by the entire world.  That’s Niagara Falls.  I’m not talking about the Amazon or the Mississippi or the Danube.  Now I don’t want to live in upstate New York or southern Ontario.  I have nothing against this region, but I don’t suffer winters like that anymore.

So the issue isn’t water or water conservation, but instead water distribution.  But that’s not what the propaganda told you.  They showed examples of industries who were reducing their water consumption, as if a paper mill’s consumption of water in Finland had anything to do with anything.

Look - I have no idea why the UN or the various governments around the world (USA strongly included) want to trick people into thinking that water is scarce.  I don’t get the logic.  Maybe they’re just pushing for some guilt because our ancestors were smart enough to move to where the water was.  But what did they do, and what can you copy:  It’s not what you say - Everything they said was a fact, possibly spun, but by some measure factual.  It was what they didn’t say!  They didn’t tell you that any river in the world could produce enough drinking water.  They didn’t tell you if the cubic meters of water attributed to Americans including hydroelectric power plants.

Think I’m cherry picking?  Just watch the news tonight.  What gets reported, but far more importantly what did not get reported.  (You can usually figure that out from the internet.)  The MSM picks and chooses which stories you get to hear about.  They balance their ratings with their political agendas.  The UN only has to consider its political agenda.  Because I want this to be about how world designers can use propaganda in their game worlds, I am not going to go through any lists of suppressed news stories, but there are a lot of them out them, and no, I don’t own a tin foil hat.

How do you use this?  The one that jumps out at me is precious metals and gems.  If someone made it clear to the people exactly how much gold there was in your fantasy world, people would probably be overwhelmed.  But if you tell them that 6,000x more iron is mined every year compared to the total amount of gold ever mined, WOW gold looks scarce again.  Or that some mining operations are currently sifting through a tonne of gold to get 5 grams.  WOW, right?  (Those seem to be true on Earth, but your world really should be different - Fletnern is or the whole 1=10=100 gold/silver/copper doesn’t work.)  And who needs to make gold seem scarce?  The gold miners!  The same would be true of any precious substances, up to and certainly including diamonds.  and don’t forget magical ingredients

See, it really was about fantasy worlds!  But seriously, in real life - don’t get taken in by the lies of omission; you really are smarter than that!

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