Truth and propaganda

I’ve got lots of half-finished posts which for one reason or another I never got around to completing. This one covers old ground – many bloggers have tackled TfL’s “encouragement” of cycling already, as have I. But I like the propaganda parallels between TfL with the GDR, so I’m putting this out there anyway. (Though it’s not my intention to trivialise the situation of GDR citizens back then, or suggest that TfL are as bad as the SED or anything.)

In May 1989 the citizens of the GDR (East Germany) voted in national elections. This was the result:

East German ruling party-owned newspaper Neues Deutschland reports election results, May 1989. 98.5% voted for the incumbent government!

East German ruling party-owned newspaper reports the election results of May 1989

98.85% of votes cast were in favour of the government candidates – that is, almost everybody voted for the ruling dictators.

Six months later, this happened:


Elections in the GDR were not anonymous, and anybody voting against the government’s list of candidates would find themselves receiving attention from the feared secret police.

The government-run newspaper report didn’t show the truth.

Although it would be silly to compare life in the GDR to life in London, I think there are some similarities in how the government provides us with information:

TfL's "Freedom" campaign poster

(Photo credit: sludgegulper on Flickr)

This is also a lie.

The truth looks like this:

Bikes, motorbikes and cars – not a pleasant cycling environment

Some citizens keeping their wits about them, recently.

What makes TfL believe that yet another propaganda campaign is going to increase cycling rates? They can tell the public about how great cycling is (or, indeed, that the government has the support of the majority of the population) but everybody knows that it’s false.

The thing about the “Freedom” campaign which made me laugh is how desperate it is, showing a cycling environment which simply doesn’t exist in the UK (outside of a few small areas, at least). For most people, the scenes shown in the posters have no relevance to the world they live in – just like the newspapers of the GDR. It feels like the authorities have given up actually trying to improve conditions, and have instead resorted to insisting that things are fine when they’re really not (like the GDR government did).

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Truth and propaganda

  1. Lying by omission, we might say. Funnily enough, there was a time, way back when, when TfL rejected the prudence of introducing a comprehensive, city-wide cycle network to a minimum level of functioning in case it gave people “the wrong impression”.

  2. For me its the same with car advertising. Adverts full of empty roads with a single car being driven at lightening speed, and the guy always gets a girl. I have no idea who this girl is but she just appears.

    Cycling adverts have to be wary of emulating the car ones. They instead have to focus on the many benefits (health, money, time).

  3. A posted video I saw yesterday was an alarm AGAINST cycling — a particular “improved” intersection saw incessant red-light-running autos, as if the lights weren’t even THERE.

    One basic constant MUST be enforced — traffic rules/laws apply to EVERYONE.

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