Propaganda is a form of communication aimed towards influencing the attitude of the community toward some cause or position by presenting only one side of an argument. Propaganda statements may be partly false and partly true. Propaganda is usually repeated and dispersed over a wide variety of media in order to create the chosen result in audience attitudes.
As opposed to impartially providing information, propaganda, in its most basic sense, presents information primarily to influence an audience. Propaganda often presents facts selectively (thus possibly lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or uses loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. The desired result is a change of the attitude toward the subject in the target audience to further a political, religious or commercial agenda. Propaganda can be used as a form of ideological or commercial warfare.
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 in fact 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. Grey propaganda is propaganda without any identifiable source or author. A major application of grey propaganda is making enemies believe falsehoods using straw arguments: As phase one, to make someone believe “A”, one releases as grey propaganda “B”, the opposite of “A”. In phase two, “B” is discredited using some strawman. The enemy will then assume “A” to be true.
Nothing says that you can’t appreciate a good piece of propaganda, and maybe even believe the messages within it. However, don’t be fooled into doing something you do not wish to do or conned into believing something that is not true. This is the reason why it is essential to understand what propaganda is and how it works.
There are many techniques commonly used in the dissemination of propaganda.
BANDWAGON: The basic idea behind the bandwagon approach is just that, “getting on the bandwagon.” The propagandist puts forth the idea that everyone is doing this, or everyone supports this person/cause, so you should support it, too. The bandwagon approach appeals to the conformist in all of us: No one wants to be left out of what is perceived to be a popular trend.
TESTIMONIAL: This is the celebrity endorsement of a philosophy, movement or candidate. Athletes are used to promote sports equipment, for example. Movie stars, television stars, and rock stars are sometimes used to support political causes or candidates or commercial products. Idol worshippers of these celebrities will sometimes foolishly believe and support things and people or buy the products endorsed by these famous people.
PLAIN FOLKS: Here the candidate or cause is identified with common people from everyday walks of life. The idea is to make the candidate/cause come off as grassroots or just like everyone else.
TRANSFER: Transfer employs the use of symbols, quotes or the images of famous people to convey a message not necessarily associated with them. In the use of transfer, the candidate/speaker attempts to persuade us through the indirect use of something we respect, such as a patriotic or religious image, to promote his/her ideas. Religious and patriotic images may be the most commonly used in this propaganda technique, but they are not alone. Sometimes even science becomes the means to transfer the message.
FEAR: This technique is very popular among political parties and PACs (Political Action Committees) in the world. The idea is to present a dreaded circumstance and usually follow it up with the kind of behavior needed to avoid that horrible event.
LOGICAL FALLACIES: Applying logic, one can usually draw a conclusion from one or more established premises. In the type of propaganda known as the logical fallacy, however, the premises may be accurate, but the conclusion is not.
GLITTERING GENERALITIES: This approach is closely related to what is happening in TRANSFER (see above). Here, a generally accepted virtue is usually employed to stir up favorable emotions. The problem is that these words mean different things to different people and are often manipulated for the propagandists’ use. The important thing to remember is that in this technique the propagandist uses these words in a positive sense. They often include words like: democracy, family values (when used positively), rights, civilization, love, friendship, etc.
NAME-CALLING: This is the opposite of the GLITTERING GENERALITIES approach. Name-calling ties a person or cause to a largely perceived negative image.
People often think of propaganda as something negative, as in a con or a lie. However, propaganda really does not have anything to do with negative or positive. It is a technique. The word propaganda refers to any technique that attempts to influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes or behavior of a group in order to benefit the sponsor.
The important thing to remember whenever you listen to the news on television, read a newspaper or magazine article, watch a commercial or read an advertisement, or listen to the speech of a politician or well-known person endorsing himself, some philosophy, or product is to use your own powers of reasoning. You were given brains to think so you must use them to decipher what is true and what has been carefully devised to manipulate you. If it seems to be unreasonable or ridiculous in your mind and thinking, then it probably is. Use the media as a source of general information and then decide for myself what is really going on.