From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Propaganda is a specific type of message presentation, aimed at serving an agenda. Even if the message conveys true information, it may be partisan and fail to paint a complete picture. The primary use of the term is in political contexts. A similar manipulation of information is well known, e.g., in advertising, but normally it is not called propaganda in the latter context.
North Korean propaganda showing a soldier destroying the US Capitol
In late Latin, propaganda meant "things to be propagated". In 1622, shortly after the start of the Thirty Years' War, Pope Gregory XV founded the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide ("congregation for propagating the faith"), a committee of Cardinals to oversee the propagation of Christianity by missionaries sent to non-Christian countries. Originally the term was not intended to refer to misleading information. The modern political sense dates from World War I, and was not originally pejorative.
Propaganda shares many techniques with advertising; in fact, advertising can be said to be propaganda promoting a commercial product. However, propaganda usually has political or nationalist themes. It can take the form of leaflets, posters, TV broadcasts or radio broadcasts.
In a narrower and more common use of the term, propaganda refers to deliberately false or misleading information that supports 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. In this sense, propaganda serves as a corollary to censorship, in which the same purpose is achieved, not by filling people's heads with false information, but by preventing people from knowing true information. 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.
Anti-Japanese propaganda from the United States from World War II
Propaganda is a mighty weapon in war. In this case its aim is usually to dehumanize the enemy and to create hatred against 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. More in line with the religious roots of the term, anti-cult activists accuse the leaders of cults of using propaganda extensively to recruit followers and keep them.
Examples of political propaganda:
In an even narrower, less commonly used but legitimate sense of the term, propaganda refers only to false information meant to reassure people who already believe. The assumption is that, if people believe something false, they will constantly be assailed by doubts. Since these doubts are unpleasant (see 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.
Propaganda can be classified according to the source. White propaganda comes from an openly identified source. Black propaganda pretends to be from a friendly source, but is actually from an adversary. Gray propaganda pretends to be from a neutral source, but comes from an adversary.
Propaganda may be administered in very insidious ways. For instance, disparaging disinformation on foreign countries may be 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 a definite authoritative source or facts. The desinformation is then recycled in the media and in the educational system. For instance, in English-speaking countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States, many people are persuaded that countries such as France don't have presumption of innocence because they apply the "Napoleonic Code", ignoring the fact that the laws concerning criminal procedures have been rewritten several times since Napoleon's days and that even in Napoleon's days, there was no legal presumption of guilt (only little rights for the defense compared to nowadays' standards).
Such permeating propaganda may be used for political goals: by giving to citizens a false impression of the quality or uniqueness of their country, they may be incited to reject certain proposals or certain remarks, or ignore the experience of others.
U.S. propaganda poster (National Archives)
Propaganda has been a human activity as far back as reliable recorded evidence exists. The writings of Romans like Livy are considered masterpieces of pro-Roman statist propaganda. The term itself originates with the Roman Catholic Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (sacra congregatio christiano nomini propagando or, briefly, propaganda fide), the department of the pontifical administration charged with the spread of Catholicism and with the regulation of ecclesiastical affairs in non-Catholic countries (mission territory). The actual Latin stem propagand- conveys a sense of "that which ought to be spread".
Propaganda techniques were first codified and applied in a scientific manner by journalist Walter Lippman and psychologist Edward Bernays (nephew of Sigmund Freud) early in the 20th century. During World War I, Lippman and Bernays were hired by the United States President, Woodrow Wilson to participate in the Creel Commission, the mission of which was to sway popular opinion to enter the war on the side of Britain.
The war propaganda campaign of Lippman and Bernays produced within six months so intense an anti-German hysteria as to permanently impress American business (and Adolf Hitler, among others) with the potential of large-scale propaganda to control public opinion. Bernays coined the terms "group mind" and "engineering consent", important concepts in practical propaganda work.
The current public relations industry is a direct outgrowth of Lippman and Bernays' work and is still used extensively by the United States government. For the first half of the 20th century Bernays and Lippman themselves ran a very successful public relations firm.
Nazi poster subtly comparing Hitler to Jesus Christ. Text: "Long Live Germany!"
Most propaganda in Germany was produced by the Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda ("Promi" in German abbreviation). Joseph Goebbels was placed in charge of this ministry shortly after Hitler took power in 1933. All journalists, writers, and artists were required to register with one of the Ministry's subordinate chambers for the press, fine arts, music, theater, film, literature, or radio.
The Nazis believed in propaganda as a vital tool in achieving their goals. Adolf Hitler, Germany's Führer, was impressed by the power of Allied propaganda during World War I and believed that it had been a primary cause of the collapse of morale and revolts in the German home front and Navy in 1918 (see also: November criminals). Hitler would meet nearly every day with Goebbels to discuss the news and Goebbels would obtain Hitler's thoughts on the subject; Goebbels would then meet with senior Ministry officials and pass down the official Party line on world events. Broadcasters and journalists required prior approval before their works were disseminated. In addition Adolf Hitler and some other powerful high ranking Nazis like Reinhard Heydrich had no moral qualms about spreading propaganda which they themselves knew to be false, and indeed spreading deliberately false information was part of a doctrine known as the Big Lie.
Nazi propaganda before the start of World War II had several distinct audiences:
Until the Battle of Stalingrad's conclusion on February 4, 1943, German propaganda emphasized the prowess of German arms and the humanity German soldiers had shown to the peoples of occupied territories. In contrast, British and Allied fliers were depicted as cowardly murderers, and Americans in particular as gangsters in the style of Al Capone. At the same time, German propaganda sought to alienate Americans and British from each other, and both these Western belligerents from the Soviets.
After Stalingrad, the main theme changed to Germany as the sole defender of Western European culture against the "Bolshevist hordes." The introduction of the V-1 and V-2 "vengeance weapons" was emphasized to convince Britons of the hopelessness of defeating Germany.
The United States and the Soviet Union both used propaganda extensively during the Cold War. Both sides used film, television and radio programming to influence their own citizens, each other and Third World nations. The United States Information Agency operated the Voice of America as an official government station. Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, in part supported by the Central Intelligence Agency, provided grey propaganda in news and entertainment programs to Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union respectively. The Soviet Union's official government station, Radio Moscow, broadcast white propaganda, while Radio Peace and Freedom broadcast grey propaganda. Both sides also broadcast black propaganda programs in periods of special crises.
The ideological and border dispute between the Soviet Union and People's Republic of China resulted in a number of cross-border operations. One technique developed during this period was the "backwards transmission," in which the radio program was recorded and played backwards over the air.
In the Americas, Cuba served as a major source and a target of propaganda from both black and white stations operated by the CIA and Cuban exile groups. Radio Habana Cuba, in turn, broadcast original programming, relayed Radio Moscow, and broadcast The Voice of Vietnam as well as alleged confessions from the crew of the USS Pueblo.
One of the most insightful authors of the Cold War was George Orwell, whose novels Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four are virtual textbooks on the use of propaganda. Though not set in the Soviet Union, their characters live under totalitarian regimes in which language is constantly corrupted for political purposes. Those novels were used for explicit propaganda. The CIA, for example, secretly commissioned an animated film adaptation of Animal Farm in the 1950s.
PsyOps leaflet dropped in Afghanistan. Text: "The Taliban's reign of fear is about to end."
In the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, psychological operations tactics (PsyOps) were employed to demoralize the Taliban and to win the sympathies of the Afghan population. At least six EC-130E Commando Solo aircraft were used to jam local radio transmissions and transmit replacement propaganda messages.
Leaflets were also dropped throughout Afghanistan, offering rewards for Usama bin Laden and other individuals, portraying Americans as friends of Afghanistan and emphasizing various negative aspects of the Taliban. Another shows a picture of Mohammed Omar in a set of crosshairs with the words “We are watching”, presumably to convince individuals and groups that resistance is futile.
Saddam Hussein pictured as a decisive war leader in an Iraqi propaganda picture
A number of techniques are used to create messages which are persuasive, but false. Many of these same techniques can be found under logical fallacies since propagandists use arguments which, although sometimes convincing, are not necessarily valid.
Some time has been spent analyzing the means by which propaganda messages are transmitted, and that work is important, but it's clear that information dissemination strategies only become propaganda strategies when coupled with propagandistic messages. Identifying these propaganda messages is a necessary prerequisite to studying the methods by which those messages are spread. That's why it is essential to have some knowledge of the following techniques for generating propaganda:
Appeal to fear: Appeals to fear seek to build support by instilling fear in the general population - for example Joseph Goebbels exploited Theodore Kaufman's Germany Must Perish! to claim that the Allies sought the extermination of the German people.
Appeal to authority: Appeals to authority cite prominent figures to support a position idea, argument, or course of action.
Bandwagon: Bandwagon-and-inevitable-victory appeals attempt to persuade the target audience to take a course of action "everyone else is taking." "Join the crowd." This technique reinforces people's natural desire to be on the winning side. This technique is used to convince the audience that a program is an expression of an irresistible mass movement and that it is in their interest to join. "Inevitable victory" invites those not already on the bandwagon to join those already on the road to certain victory. Those already, or partially, on the bandwagon are reassured that staying aboard is the best course of action.
Obtain disapproval: This technique is used to get the audience to disapprove an action or idea by suggesting the idea is popular with groups hated, feared, or held in contempt by the target audience. Thus, if a group which supports a policy is led to believe that undesirable, subversive, or contemptible people also support it, the members of the group might decide to change their position.
Glittering generalities: Glittering generalities are intensely emotionally appealing words so closely associated with highly valued concepts and beliefs that they carry conviction without supporting information or reason. They appeal to such emotions as love of country, home; desire for peace, freedom, glory, honor, etc. They ask for approval without examination of the reason. Though the words and phrases are vague and suggest different things to different people, their connotation is always favorable: "The concepts and programs of the propagandist are always good, desirable, virtuous."
Rationalization: Individuals or groups may use favorable generalities to rationalize questionable acts or beliefs. Vague and pleasant phrases are often used to justify such actions or beliefs.
Intentional vagueness: Generalities are deliberately vague so that the audience may supply its own interpretations. The intention is to move the audience by use of undefined phrases, without analyzing their validity or attempting to determine their reasonableness or application
Transfer: This is a technique of projecting positive or negative qualities (praise or blame) of a person, entity, object, or value (an individual, group, organization, nation, patriotism, etc.) to another in order to make the second more acceptable or to discredit it. This technique is generally used to transfer blame from one member of a conflict to another. It evokes an emotional response which stimulates the target to identify with recognized authorities.
Oversimplification: Favorable generalities are used to provide simple answers to complex social, political, economic, or military problems.
Common man: The "plain folks" or "common man" approach attempts to convince the audience that the propagandist's positions reflect the common sense of the people. It is designed to win the confidence of the audience by communicating in the common manner and style of the audience. Propagandists use ordinary language and mannerisms (and clothes in face-to-face and audiovisual communications) in attempting to identify their point of view with that of the average person.
Testimonial: Testimonials are quotations, in or out of context, especially cited to support or reject a given policy, action, program, or personality. The reputation or the role (expert, respected public figure, etc.) of the individual giving the statement is exploited. The testimonial places the official sanction of a respected person or authority on a propaganda message. This is done in an effort to cause the target audience to identify itself with the authority or to accept the authority's opinions and beliefs as its own. See also, damaging quotation
Stereotyping or Labeling: This technique attempts to arouse prejudices in an audience by labeling the object of the propaganda campaign as something the target audience fears, hates, loathes, or finds undesirable. For instance, reporting on a foreign country or social group may focus on the stereotypical traits that the reader expects, even though they are far from being representative of the whole country or group; such reporting often focuses on the anecdotal.
Scapegoating: Assigning blame to an individual or group that isn't really responsible, thus alleviating feelings of guilt from responsible parties and/or distracting attention from the need to fix the problem for which blame is being assigned.
Virtue words: These are words in the value system of the target audience which tend to produce a positive image when attached to a person or issue. Peace, happiness, security, wise leadership, freedom, etc., are virtue words.
Slogans: A slogan is a brief striking phrase that may include labeling and stereotyping. If ideas can be sloganized, they should be, as good slogans are self-perpetuating memes.
Common methods for transmitting propaganda messages include news reports, government reports, historical revision, junk science, books, leaflets, movies, radio , television , and posters. In the case of radio and television, propaganda can exist on news, current-affairs or talk-show segments, as advertising or public-service announce "spots" or as long-running advertorials.