Monday, July 10, 2006


... is a specific type of message presentation directly aimed at influencing the opinions of people, rather than impartially providing information. Literally translated from the Latin gerundive as "things which must be disseminated," in some cultures the term is neutral or even positive, while in others the term has acquired a strong negative connotation. Its connotations can also vary over time.

For instance, in English, "propaganda" was originally a neutral term used to describe the dissemination of information in favor of a certain cause. Over time, however, the term acquired the negative connotation of disseminating false or misleading information in favor of a certain cause. Strictly speaking, a message does not have to be untrue to qualify as propaganda, but it may omit so many pertinent truths that it becomes highly misleading.

In English the term propaganda overlaps with distinct terms like indoctrination (ideological views established by repetition rather than verification) and mass suggestion (broader strategic methods). In practice, the terms are often used synonymously. Historically, the most common use of the term propaganda is in political contexts; in particular to refer to certain efforts sponsored by governments, political groups, and other often covert interests.

Individually propaganda functions as self-deception. Culturally it works within religions, politics, and economic entities like those which both favor and oppose globalization. At the left, right, or mainstream, propaganda knows no borders; as is detailed by Roderick Hindery. Hindery further argues that debates about most social issues can be productively revisited in the context of asking "what is or is not propaganda?" Not to be overlooked is the link between propaganda, indoctrination, and terrorism. Mere threats to destroy are often as socially disruptive as physical devastation itself.

Purpose of Propaganda

The aim of propaganda is to influence people's opinions actively, rather than merely to communicate the facts about something. For example, propaganda might be used to garner either support or disapproval of a certain position, rather than to simply present the position. What separates propaganda from "normal" communication is in the subtle, often insidious, ways that the message attempts to shape opinion. For example, propaganda is often presented in a way that attempts to deliberately evoke a strong emotion, especially by suggesting illogical (or non-intuitive) relationships between concepts.

An appeal to one's emotions is, perhaps, a more obvious propaganda method than those utilized by some other more subtle and insidious forms. For instance, propaganda may be transmitted indirectly or implicitly, through an ostensibly fair and balanced debate or argument. This can be done to great effect in conjunction with a broadly targeted, broadcast news format. In such a setting, techniques like, "red herring", and other ploys are often used to divert the audience from a critical issue, while the intended message is suggested through indirect means.

This sophisticated type of diversion utilizes the appearance of lively debate within, what is actually, a carefully focused spectrum, to generate and justify deliberately conceived assumptions. This technique avoids the distinctively biased appearance of one sided rhetoric, and works by presenting a contrived premise for an argument as if it were a universally accepted and obvious truth, so that the audience naturally assumes it to be correct. By maintaining the range of debate in such a way that it appears inclusive of differing points of view, so as to suggest fairness and balance, the suppositions suggested become accepted as fact

The method of propaganda is essential to the word's meaning as well. A message does not have to be untrue to qualify as propaganda.

In fact, the message in modern propaganda is often not blatantly untrue. But even if the message conveys only "true" information, it will generally contain partisan bias and fail to present a complete and balanced consideration of the issue. Another common characteristic of propaganda is volume (in the sense of a large amount). For example, a propagandist may seek to influence opinion by attempting to get a message heard in as many places as possible, and as often as possible. The intention of this approach is to a) reinforce an idea through repetition, and b) exclude or "drown out" any alternative ideas.

Famed public relations pioneer Edward L. Bernays in his classic studies eloquently describes propaganda as the purpose of communications. In Crystallizing Public Opinion, for example, he dismisses the semantic differentiations (“Education is valuable, commendable, enlightening, instructive. Propaganda is insidious, dishonest, underhand, misleading.”) and instead concentrates on purposes. He writes (p. 212), “Each of these nouns carries with it social and moral implications. . . . The only difference between ‘propaganda’ and ‘education,’ really, is in the point of view. The advocacy of what we believe in is education. The advocacy of what we don’t believe in is propaganda.”

The reason propaganda exists and is so widespread is because it serves various social purposes, necessary ones, often popular yet potentially corrupting. Many institutions such as media and government itself are literally propaganda-addicts, co-dependent on each other and the fueling influence of the propaganda system that they help create and maintain. Propagandists have an advantage through knowing what they want to promote and to whom, and although they often resort to various two-way forms of communication this is done in order to make sure their one-sided purposes are achieved.

Types of Propaganda

Propaganda shares techniques with advertising. In fact, advertising can be thought of as propaganda that promotes a commercial product, though the word "propaganda" more typically refers to political or nationalist uses, or promotion of a set of ideas. Propaganda also has much in common with public information campaigns by governments, which are intended to encourage or discourage certain forms of behavior (such as wearing seat belts, not smoking, not littering, or so forth). Again, the emphasis is more political in propaganda.

Propaganda can take the form of leaflets, posters, TV, and radio broadcasts and can also extend to any other medium.

In the case of the United States, there is also an important legal distinction between advertising (a type of overt propaganda) and what the Government Accountability Office (GAO), an arm of the United States Congress, refers to as "covert propaganda."

Journalistic theory generally holds that news items should be objective, giving the reader an accurate background and analysis of the subject at hand. On the other hand, advertisements generally present an issue in a very subjective and often misleading light, primarily meant to persuade rather than inform. If the reader believes that a paid advertisement is in fact a news item, the message the advertiser is trying to communicate will be more easily "believed" or "internalized."

Such advertisements are considered obvious examples of "covert" propaganda because they take on the appearance of objective information rather than the appearance of propaganda, which is misleading. Federal law specifically mandates that any advertisement appearing in the format of a news item must state that the item is in fact a paid advertisement.

Propaganda, in a narrower use of the term, connotates deliberately false or misleading information that supports or furthers a political cause or the interests of those in power. The propagandist seeks to change the way people understand an issue or situation for the purpose of changing their actions and expectations in ways that are desirable to the interest group.

Propaganda, in this sense, serves as a corollary to censorship in which the same purpose is achieved, not by filling people's minds with approved information, but by preventing people from being confronted with opposing points of view. What sets propaganda apart from other forms of advocacy is the willingness of the propagandist to change people's understanding through deception and confusion rather than persuasion and understanding. The leaders of an organization know the information to be one sided or untrue, but this may not be true for the rank and file members who help to disseminate the propaganda.

Employing Propaganda

Propaganda is a mighty weapon in war. In this case its aim is usually to dehumanize and create hatred toward a supposed enemy, either internal or external. The technique is to create a false image in the mind. This can be done by using special words, special avoidance of words or by saying that the enemy is responsible for certain things he never did. Most propaganda wars require the home population to feel the enemy has inflicted an injustice, which may be fictitious or may be based on facts. The home population must also decide that the cause of their nation is just.

Propaganda is also one of the methods used in psychological warfare, which may also involve false flag operations.

The term propaganda may also refer to false information meant to reinforce the mindsets of people who already believe as the propagandist wishes. The assumption is that, if people believe something false, they will constantly be assailed by doubts. Since these doubts are unpleasant (cognitive dissonance), people will be eager to have them extinguished, and are therefore receptive to the reassurances of those in power. For this reason propaganda is often addressed to people who are already sympathetic to the agenda. This process of reinforcement uses an individual's predisposition to self-select "agreeable" information sources as a mechanism for maintaining control.

Propaganda can be classified according to the source and nature of the message.

White propaganda generally comes from an openly identified source, and is characterized by gentler methods of persuasion, such as standard public relations techniques and one-sided presentation of an argument.

Black propaganda is identified as being from one source, but is infact from another. This is most commonly to disguise the true origins of the propaganda, be it from an enemy country or from an organization with a negative public image.

Gray propaganda Is propaganda without any identifiable souce or author. In scale, these different types of propaganda can also be defined by the potential of true and correct information to compete with the propaganda.

For example, opposition to white propaganda is often readily found and may slightly discredit the propaganda source. Opposition to gray propaganda, when revealed (often by an inside source), may create some level of public outcry. Opposition to black propaganda is often unavailable and may be dangerous to reveal, because public cognizance of black propaganda tactics and sources would undermine or backfire the very campaign the black propagandist supported.

Propaganda may be administered in very insidious ways. For instance, disparaging disinformation about history, certain groups, or foreign countries may be encouraged or tolerated in the educational system. Since few people actually double-check what they learn at school, such disinformation will be repeated by journalists as well as parents, thus reinforcing the idea that the disinformation item is really a "well-known fact," even though no one repeating the myth is able to point to an authoritative source. The disinformation is then recycled in the media and in the educational system, without the need for direct governmental intervention on the media.

Such permeating propaganda may be used for political goals: by giving citizens a false impression of the quality or policies of their country, they may be incited to reject certain proposals or certain remarks, or ignore the experience of others.

^ Excerpts from: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Now that you've read the primer.

Molding Opinion Through the Undisclosed use of Third Parties.

SourceWatch verification.

As an American I find this offensive, and I am afraid for the future of America when a political party can so casually undermine the founding principal that a free press is a necessary Constitutional guarantee.

It's something Joseph Goebbels would do...


Anonymous Vlas said...

Look up operation Mocking Bird. You're in for a shock if you didn't know about it yet :)

7:00 AM  

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