Simply saying propaganda is neutral and we only need to use it for good fails because much of what constitutes the “good” is contingent upon any number of factors – preconceptions and ideology, social class, education, political and economic power – that must be examined in order to understand propaganda as a social force actualized in the real world. Propaganda is embedded with value and largely becomes, due to unequal social relations which exist, a tool for the powerful, who are the principle operators and owners of the channels of mass communications, if not the primary influencers of them. The value-neutral approach overlooks this social (mal)distribution of power and, in doing so, helps to reinforce and reproduce this reality of inequality.
In the following examination, I will relate the stories of three Englishmen, each from different historical eras, who made the annual pilgrimage, forbidden to all non-Muslims, and entered the city of Mecca in the heart of the Hijaz. This pilgrimage is known in Arabic as the Hajj, and the travels of the men, separated by two hundred and fifty years, reflect an evolving and interconnecting relationship taking place between England and Arabia in particular, and Europe and its developing notions of the Orient in general.