All Art is Propaganda

Article by Julie A. Pascal

The last week or so there seems to be a rash of commentary to the tune of “all stories are message stories” or “everything in life is political” or a few other variants of the same idea that it’s impossible to separate message from art or even life.

On the surface of it, it appears obviously true.

Until one examines what these statements are meant to answer.

And what they’re meant to answer is an expressed wish for a break from the preaching or the politics, to have a moment of rest and human to human interaction that isn’t a fight.   How terrible is that?

Today I saw a headline (the article was an incoherent mess) that stated that “My identity is political.”

And that’s the problem, isn’t it. If your identity is political, then someone asking for a truce, for a break in the fighting, perhaps for some neutrality and a fun adventure, has attacked and threatens your very identity. And how sad is that? How diminishing! Worse, if one person’s identity is political, then so is everyone else’s identity.   Clearly, there’s no way around it.

If everything about life is political so that it’s impossible to have a non-political venue, and if identity is political so that one ceases to exist outside of a political context, what is there left?

There is nothing left.

But certainly all art and even all existence has a relationship with the rest of the world that includes the political. Certainly all stories ever written have a message. Certainly every person born has a context. Certainly nothing that we write or even hope to write is message-free.

So what’s the hubbub, bub?

Would it help clarify if instead of the word “message” we used the term “propaganda”?   That’s usually considered a bad word. Rhetorically it suggests lies, but literally it doesn’t mean lies, it simply means that the goal of changing opinions is foremost and every other element takes a subordinate role.

Are all art and all stories, always and forever, propaganda? Or can we find a way to separate in our minds a story, a novel or a painting, or even someone’s identity, from the need to wage an ideological war?


Julie Pascal is the editor for the Planetary Anthology, Jupiter. Submissions will be open for the month of January. Send stories as an attachment with a subject line of “Jupiter anthology – Story Title” to [email protected]. Include your name and contact information with email in the attached document.

Stories should be heavy on the themes of leadership and power, fatherhood, the god or mythology of Jupiter, or science fiction based on or around the planet Jupiter. Word count is not strictly limited but 8K-10K words is a nice length.   Don’t skip the part where something happens.