Pictures, Propaganda and Public Opinion
By Faisal Amjad

Don’t Be So Quick to Believe Everything You See and Hear

Published in: World
Date: 19 / 08 / 21

So, the Taliban are back in town.

I’ve been away for a few days and therefore haven’t been keeping fully up to date with this whole Afghanistan thing as yet, apart from a few cursory glances on my newsfeed.

What I’ve constantly seen repeated as I scroll down is the plane video showing Afghanis allegedly so desperate to escape the country due to the ‘imminent despotic and brutal rule of the returning regime’. Whatever source or link people are sharing seems to have the below image or something similar.

Well, well, well. It seems this could become the iconic picture that will shape the upcoming narrative.

Remember, a picture paints a thousand words and all that. The picture represents what they want the general public to take away from the whole thing. Most people won’t go through the column inches and finer details and the brain processes and remembers images far more — so the idea is to get one picture lodged into the mind which represents the narrative you want to showcase.

Or, of course, you can go one better.

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million.”

This quote was said back in 2010 — and rather than it being hyperbole, according to Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research, one minute of video is actually worth approximately 1.8 million words, in terms of how much information can be conveyed.

Powerful, eh?

With that context, what other iconic picture comes to mind?

The whole thing reminds me of the decade long Iraq invasion, another time the US media machine needed to be in full force, dialled up to maximum strength.

The toppling of the Saddam statue was the lasting image of the whole Iraq narrative, with those ‘celebrations’ seemingly justifying the unpopular decision to go to war in the first place, giving support to the whole ‘giving the Iraqi people freedom’ from this ‘cruel dictator’ who had oppressed millions narrative.

But was this even true?

According to an excellent article done by The Atlantic, an investigation concluded that the media, led on by a U.S. military hungry for good publicity, majorly distorted the events at Firdos Square on April 9, 2003.

Peter Maass, who was at the square on that day calls the media treatment of the toppling a “disservice to the truth.”

Not only was it shot from misleading angles to suggest it was a full house instead of sparsely attended, they also preferred to focus on this feel good story as opposed to the actual truth which was armed resistance to the American onslaught. Even reporters who questioned it were simply told by their editors to shut up and do as they’re told. The US were also the ones who provided the telling props, the infamous sledgehammer and flag.

I say all this not to commentate on what is going on, there’s enough of that going on already and I don’t know enough at all. But a believer is never stung from the same hole twice, so we need to bear in mind before we share and jump to any conclusions that we are dealing with masters in deception, masters in marketing, masters in propaganda and to question everything.

“O you who believe! If a Faasiq (evil person) comes to you with any news, verify it, lest you should harm people in ignorance, and afterwards you become regretful for what you have done” [al-Hujuraat 49:6]

In a post-truth world, even if our eyes and ears tell us something, we should still proceed with extreme caution in what we choose to believe.

Faisal Amjad

About the author

A lifelong learner, avid reader and passionate writer, I am the founder of KNOW and a serial entrepreneur.
I am a huge believer in personal development and am also the co-founder of Muslim CEO.

Stay in the , subscribe to our newsletter.