Americans need to be freed from Thanksgiving propaganda
The presidential turkey pardon has been a light-hearted annual event that has informal roots beginning with President Abraham Lincoln and was formalized in 1989 under President George H.W. Bush. The absurdity of the event has manifested to the point where turkeys are now housed in a luxury Washington D.C. hotel the night before their pardon. The spectacle has become so amusing and comical that it is hard to see this for what it is—presidential propaganda.
The sight of turkeys at a lavish hotel is truly a viral meme made for the social media age—this is by design and serves the presidential administration. But this is hardly a laughing matter when children were sleeping on the floor this year, under foil blankets, at the southern U.S. border. The brilliance of this turkey pardon is that it can make you forget about the human rights violations that are taking place in the United States, which underscores the powerful, and often covert nature, of propaganda and related political memes. Another way of reading this meme is: those who are friends of the president, and the United States, will be richly rewarded…and please remember you could always be slaughtered if he changes his mind.
The history of the turkey pardon is not always innocent. President Ronald Reagan made use of this political meme when he joked about pardoning a turkey to deflect media attention and the potential that he might clear his aides who were involved in a national scandal. And in 2018, a FOIA request shows how U.S. state media broadcaster Voice of America, which is funded by congress, targeted President Trump’s turkey pardon via paid Twitter ads to countries such as Mexico, Afghanistan, and Iraq. One might wonder why the US government would pay to promote what is seen as a quirky holiday tradition around that world. That’s because this tradition is veiled propaganda and it is no joking matter.
For those who think the turkey pardon is just for fun, and that it’s good to have a laugh, it is important to remember that this pardon is taking place while the President of the United States is under an impeachment inquiry. The pardoning of these turkeys will be carried by the same independent news networks who have provided critical coverage of the president, which will distribution this propaganda far and wide. Americans and people around the world will see President Trump commit what may be seen as an act of kindness even though the entire event is constructed and serves no real value.
The presidential turkey pardon is no doubt good for these turkeys, but this has been rightly dubbed as fake by animal activists because it is ultimately propaganda. The turkey pardon effectively shapes public opinion in a positive fashion towards the president and this does not help to hold him accountable or serve those at the southern border who desperately need compassion.