Evo Morales; Big Brother?

As I walk around the streets of La Paz, I see many billboards, posters, and advertisements. I don’t have to look to hard to also see portraits of the current Bolivian president Evo Morales. It seems as though every official poster from the government is accompanied by the same blue tone portrait of the political leader. Even as I board the Teleférico, the gondola lift style mode of public transit, each carriage is adorned with his face. Although creepy to the Americans I have spoken with, I began to wonder what the Bolivians thought of the pictures. The Bolivians I asked seemed to have a different opinion however. The Bolivians I interviewed seemed to be rather indifferent to the fact his face was everywhere. It was acknowledged, but more in a “what else do you expect?” kind of way.

To me, it seemed as if it a style of propaganda, as if to remind you who was responsible for all the good things coming from the government. Yet, I lacked a context that many Bolivians had. Seeing the portrait so often made visions from George Orwell’s 1984 flash through my head. To me, it raised bigger questions concerning propaganda and a sort of conditioning that seems to occur when it happens regularly. I wonder what sort of things we see every day in the U.S. that someone else might consider to be obvious propaganda. Maybe it takes observing another culture to be able to look at your own with new eyes.

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One thought on “Evo Morales; Big Brother?

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  1. I’m glad you’re noticing how Evo Morales’ name/face is almost everywhere. How much of that is unique to his presidency (which is highly personalized), or a product of modern, presidential politics? I remember an Argentine colleague who expressed his disappointment in the US, which he thought was less “personalized” in its politics because whenever he drove across a state line or into a city (like Chicago) he was greeted with a sign with the governor or mayor’s name (and now that I’ve mentioned this, you’ll notice it more and more when you get back home!).

    But your observation about this as propaganda is correct. It’s interesting, of course, that the word “propaganda” (which is Latin based) also means “ad” in the way we use in the US. Is a politician making a speech or a rally engaged in constituency service/engagement, or propaganda? How can we tell the difference? How does that get translated into our social media saturated culture?

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