Big media propagates its own messages. On the internet, if people repost on blogs they are propagating it themselves.
> Propaganda is about propagation of a meme, but where does it start? And how do you distinguish fact from fiction when the self-identified news networks intermingle news with opinions masquerading as facts?
I dunno. That's a good one. Now I know since I am one of the smartest .000000000001% of people in the United States (because I read Hacker News and engage in thoughtful discussions like this) I have the ability to identify the rational arguments made by independent sources when held up against the drivel from mass media. But you make a good point as the average american would probably be too stupid to make such discernments. They couldn't reason their way out of a box.
In all seriousness, if you pound a rational argument equally as hard as an irrational one, the rational one I believe will always have the advantage. That's how you distinguish fact from fiction and it's predicated on the fact that the average person is intelligent enough to be rational. Yea people will head for the light that shines the brightest but they'll still try to head towards the one that looks less like a train heading towards them.
Overall it's the emotionally-charged argument that usually prevails over the rational, unfortunately. That's why mass-marketing firms focus primarily on emotional appeals -- they appeal to a larger percentage of the audience.
If it does win over the rational argument it's because it's being repeated and pounded more into their heads than the rational one.
You can't fight reality. Even the dumbest of the dumb will try to turn if they keep hitting a wall. But with all things being equal, the rational argument will have the advantage.
Take religion as an example. Its message is extremely appealing which is why some people make logical leaps to accept it but despite that it's still had to morph and mold to fit science/reality over the centuries it has existed.