This short story is about a TV show/broadcast used as propaganda. I read it in an anthology in the 70s/80s.

The TV show presenter tells the audience how to think. Everything is black and white, good or bad.

The hero of the story asks a child (maybe his son) how he will know if a war is 'a just war' and the child replies that the TV show character will tell them.

The story ends with some kind of coup or revolution and the TV show is taken over. The new/updated/replaced presenter starts to talk about flowers 'some like shade, some like sun...' and goes on to discuss how things are different (shades of grey).

I was sure it was Philip K. Dick but I cannot find it.

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This sounds like the Philip K. Dick short story "The Mold of Yancy" (1955). In that story, the government of Callisto creates the person of Yancy and uses him to guide the population's thoughts on any number of topics. A group of people come up with carefully-crafted, folksy stories for him to tell the population so that they fall into line without realizing they're being controlled by the government.

Earth surreptitiously investigates and discovers this. With the aid of one of the disaffected "Yance-men", Sipling, they subtly alter Yancy's personality and presentation to break the population's conformity.

To demonstrate the mushy views of war the people are being inculcated with, Sipling asks his son about war.

Promptly, the boy answered: "War is bad. War is the most terrible thing there is. It almost destroyed mankind."

Eying his son intently, Sipling demanded: "Did anybody tell you to say that?"

The boy faltered uncertainly. "No, sir."

"You really believe those things?"

"Yes, sir. It's true, isn't it? Isn't war bad?"

Sipling nodded. "War is bad. But what about just wars?"

Without hesitation the boy answered: "We have to fight just wars, of course”


"Well, we have to protect our way of life."


Again, there was no hesitation in the boy's reedy answer. "We can't let them walk over us, sir. That would encourage aggressive war. We can't permit a world of brute power. We have to have a world of-" He searched for the exact word. "A world of law."

One of the ways that they subvert Yancy's promulgation of conformity and demonstrate that differences are acceptable is to use Yancy's established love of gardening to show that different plants like different things, and, by analogy, so do people.

"Yes," Yancy repeated, "it's really hot. Too hot for those primroses - they like shade” A fast pan-up showed he had carefully planted his primroses in the shadows at the base of his garage. "On the other hand," Yancy continued, in his smooth, good-natured, over-the-back-fence conversational voice, "my dahlias need lots of sun."

The camera leaped to show the dahlias blooming frantically in the blazing sunlight.

Throwing himself down in a striped lawnchair, Yancy removed his straw hat and wiped his brow with a pocket handkerchief. "So," he continued genially, "if anybody asked me which is better, shade or sun, I'd have to reply it depends on whether you're a primrose or a dahlia." He grinned his famous guileless boyish grin into the cameras. "I guess I must be a primrose - I've had all the sun I can stand for today."

  • @PaulWhite You can read it at archive.org.
    – user14111
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 21:34
  • I didn't know about this story. It strikes me as interesting that Dick reused the character/concept of Yancy in his book "The Penultimate Truth", as an artificial leader of nations. Commented Apr 13, 2023 at 8:42

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