Art and Propaganda

Like many words, “art” has many definitions.

When someone says it’s “not art,” they often mean it’s not good art, or it’s not what they value about art, etc. People generally agree on the artistic merits of classical forms of art but disagree on modern forms.


Portrait-Face-Painting-Odilon-Redon-La-Cellule-dOrThe art world is a separate monster. It’s not necessarily about the art itself. Like money is a cultural narrative, the art world is a group of people agreeing on the value of something that often has no intrinsic value. Much of this  value and narrative is tied into attracting social connections, sexual and otherwise.

Of course this competition for social status, by way of art creation and appreciation, is elitist. If everyone loved “art,” then how would art appreciation make a person stand out as an attractive mate or make a person feel better about oneself?

The literary word has not escaped from this art world umbrella. “Literary fiction” has suffered the most from this elitism.

As for “propaganda,” this is a loaded term, and anything with a viewpoint could be called propaganda. I prefer to think of propaganda as anything that is trying to make a group of people believe something that is mostly false to manipulate behavior.


The Witness

The Witness

In college, they accused my short stories of being propaganda. When I asked them what my message was–What was I trying to make them think?–they didn’t know. People are often suspect of strong opinions stated simply. Even statements of fact can make some people uncomfortable in the context of art.

Tarot-Death-Cups.jpgSadly, if art has something to say, there will always be people accusing it of being propaganda.

There is a lot of “art” that tries to fake depth by not taking any stand on anything. Meaninglessness is not a great type of art, in my opinion. For many people, this type of art gives them a chance to think; for me, I think just fine without encountering meaninglessness.

I love art that gives me something to bounce off of. If I have to bring everything to it, what am I really getting out of the exchange?

What is some of your favorite art? What art have you read that challenged your assumptions about the word?


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About wesleymccraw

I’m a speculative fiction writer. My first book is The Forgiving. You can buy it at Amazon.

3 responses to “Art and Propaganda”

  1. LionAroundWriting says :

    Well worded post.
    Opinions are rarely wanted on the open market so to speak. I find the UK is terrible for elitist, one upmanship type thinking, machiavellian-lite much of the time.
    A lot of people especially millenials dont get propaganda, or the subtle way images and videos are flipped for a purpose.
    Anyway, art is possibly the last bastion of expression, in all its forms, and hopefully will always be cherished for what it is and interpreted with open eyes and mind.

    • wesleymccraw says :

      Thanks for reading and thanks for commenting. Art gives me hope. It takes vulnerability to truly engage in art (and in life). This will always take courage. It’s easier to remain jaded and removed, but that numbness isn’t what people hunger for. People hunger for the truth and a vital life. That will always break through the lies. Or at least I would like to believe so.

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