Book Review: “Stalin, Man of the Borderlands” by Alfred Riebel

Stalin is a person who’s role in history cannot be underestimated. Being a leader of the biggest country, he greatly influenced and directly shaped the course of the early twentieth century. Not surprisingly many historians’ attention was drawn to him, and many different books and articles were written about him and his life. However, there are still many blank pages left and many disputes unsettled, particularly in regard to Stalin’s early years and to the development of his personality. The main reasons for the existence of these blank pages and disputes, as it seems to me, comes from the inability of historians to avoid bias towards or against Stalin due to the very controversial nature of his decisions and actions, and also in the lack of reliable, accurate and complete primary sources due to the high efficiency of Soviet censorship. Alfred Rieber’s article “Stalin, Man of the Borderlands”, being a highly valuable work with an unusual approach, was also affected by these same problems—bias and sources’ unreliability.  (more…)

Language: an Instrument of Manipulation

Language is one of the main means of transmitting information. Of course, language does not literally transmit all the information in the original form. It rather gives, through words, enough information for people to be able to get impression about the subject and create their own picture. Language is a unique tool because it allows exchange of not only factual information and knowledge but also of thoughts, opinions and attitudes corresponding the information. And language is important because, if it was used persuasively, the thoughts, opinions, and attitudes of the author could be imposed onto the audience provoking the reaction needed for the author. Thus, language can be used not only as a tool of communication, but also as a delicate instrument of manipulation at first affecting the audience’s attitude and then provoking the desirable reaction. (more…)

Review: Kwame Anthony Appiah, The Case for Contamination, NYT, 01 Jan 06

The Theory of “Cultural Imperialism” Evil: Wrong and Shameful

The third part of the “Case of Contamination” essay starts with a clarification of the preservationists’ theory of a world system of capitalism, with the center in Europe and the United States, promoting and obtruding its values and views through media. The preservationists claim that media-cultural imperialism of the West manipulates, “structures consciousness”, and brainwashes minds of people through advertising, and through the messages in movies and telenovelas broadcasted all over the world. However, as Appiah states, recent studies provide information contradicting the claim. Thus, according to surveys people respond to these “cultural imports” through the prism of their cultural context. If the information received doesn’t fit their cultural insight, they will not bluntly accept it. They see what they want to see and interpret information according to their culture; or they may accept the ideas and use them for their own needs, so that the ideas may even be turned against their originators, or else they may simply reject everything.