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Propaganda is a form of communication aimed towards influencing the attitude of a population toward some cause or position.
Propaganda is information that is not impartial and used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, often by presenting facts selectively (perhaps lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or using loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than a rational response to the information presented.
While the term propaganda has acquired a strongly negative connotation by association with its most manipulative and jingoistic examples, propaganda in its original sense was neutral and could refer to uses that were generally positive, such as public health recommendations, signs encouraging citizens to participate in a census or election, or messages encouraging persons to report crimes to law enforcement.
Propaganda is a modern Latin word, the gerund form of propagare, meaning to spread or to propagate, thus propaganda means that which is to be propagated. Originally this word derived from a new administrative body of the Catholic Church (congregation) created in 1622, called the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide (Congregation for Propagating the Faith), or informally simply Propaganda. Its activity was aimed at "propagating" the Catholic faith in non-Catholic countries.
From the 1790s, the term began being used also for propaganda in secular activities. The term began taking a pejorative connotation in the mid-19th century, when it was used in the political sphere.
Defining propaganda has always been a problem. The main difficulties have involved differentiating propaganda from other types of persuasion, and avoiding a biased approach ("what they do is propaganda, what we do is education"). Garth Jowett and Victoria O'Donnell have provided a concise, workable definition of the term: "Propaganda is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist." More comprehensive is the description by Richard Alan Nelson: "Propaganda is neutrally defined as a systematic form of purposeful persuasion that attempts to influence the emotions, attitudes, opinions, and actions of specified target audiences for ideological, political or commercial purposes through the controlled transmission of one-sided messages (which may or may not be factual) via mass and direct media channels. A propaganda organization employs propagandists who engage in propagandism—the applied creation and distribution of such forms of persuasion."
Both definitions focus on the communicative process involved — or more precisely, on the purpose of the process, and allow "propaganda" to be considered objectively and then interpreted as positive or negative behavior depending on the perspective of the viewer or listener.
According to historian Zbyněk Zeman, propaganda is defined as either white, grey or black. White propaganda openly discloses its source. Grey propaganda is ambiguous or non-disclosed. Black propaganda purports to be published by the enemy or someone besides its actual origins.
Propaganda shares techniques with advertising and public relations, each of which can be thought of as propaganda that promotes a commercial product or shapes the perception of an organization, person, or brand. In post–World War II usage the word "propaganda" more typically refers to political or nationalist uses of these techniques or to the promotion of a set of ideas.
Propaganda was often used to influence opinions and beliefs on religious issues, particularly during the split between the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant churches. Propaganda has become more common in political contexts, in particular to refer to certain efforts sponsored by governments, political groups, but also often covert interests. In the early 20th century, propaganda was exemplified in the form of party slogans. Also in the early 20th century the term propaganda was used by the founders of the nascent public relations industry to refer to their activities. This usage died out around the time of World War II, as the industry started to avoid the word, given the pejorative connotation it had acquired.
Literally translated from the Latin gerundive as "things that must be disseminated", in some cultures the term is neutral or even positive, while in others the term has acquired a strong negative connotation. The connotations of the term "propaganda" can also vary over time. For example, in Portuguese and some Spanish language speaking countries, particularly in the Southern Cone, the word "propaganda" usually refers to the most common manipulative media — "advertising".
In English, propaganda was originally a neutral term for the dissemination of information in favor of any given cause. During the 20th century, however, the term acquired a thoroughly negative meaning in western countries, representing the intentional dissemination of often false, but certainly "compelling" claims to support or justify political actions or ideologies. This redefinition arose because both the Soviet Union and Germany's government under Hitler admitted explicitly to using propaganda favoring, respectively, communism and Nazism, in all forms of public expression. As these ideologies were repugnant to liberal western societies, the negative feelings toward them came to be projected into the word "propaganda" itself. However, Harold Lasswell observed, as early as 1928, that, "Propaganda has become an epithet of contempt and hate, and the propagandists have sought protective coloration in such names as 'public relations council,' 'specialist in public education,' 'public relations adviser.' "
Roderick Hindery argues that propaganda exists on the political left, and right, and in mainstream centrist parties. 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/counterterrorism. He argues that threats to destroy are often as socially disruptive as physical devastation itself.
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 and 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 (imposed by law) 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 evolved from the traditional commercial advertisements to include also a new type in the form of paid articles or broadcasts disguised as news. These generally present an issue in a very subjective and often misleading light, primarily meant to persuade rather than inform. Normally they use only subtle propaganda techniques and not the more obvious ones used in traditional commercial advertisements. 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.
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.
More in line with the religious roots of the term, it is also used widely in the debates about new religious movements (NRMs), both by people who defend them and by people who oppose them. The latter pejoratively call these NRMs cults. Anti-cult activists and Christian countercult activists accuse the leaders of what they consider cults of using propaganda extensively to recruit followers and keep them. Some social scientists, such as the late Jeffrey Hadden, and CESNUR affiliated scholars accuse ex-members of "cults" who became vocal critics and the anti-cult movement of making these unusual religious movements look bad without sufficient reasons.
Propaganda is a powerful weapon in war; it is used to dehumanize and create hatred toward a supposed enemy, either internal or external, by creating a false image in the mind. This can be done by using derogatory or racist terms, avoiding some words or by making allegations of enemy atrocities. 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 (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. 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 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.
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 grey 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 insidious ways. For instance, disparaging disinformation about the history of 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.
In the Soviet Union during the Second World War, the propaganda designed to encourage civilians was controlled by Stalin, who insisted on a heavy-handed style that educated audiences easily saw was inauthentic. On the other hand the unofficial rumours about German atrocities were well founded and convincing.
Corporate propaganda refers to propagandist claims made by a corporation (or corporations), for the purpose of manipulating market opinion with regard to that corporation, and its activities. Just as the use of these products and services can provide pluses which outweigh the minuses to society and individuals, their advocacy may function more positively than negatively.
Common media for transmitting propaganda messages include news reports, government reports, historical revision, junk science, books, leaflets, movies, radio, television, and posters. Less common nowadays are letter post envelopes examples of which of survive from the time of the American Civil War. (Connecticut Historical Society; Civil War Collections; Covers.) In principle any thing that appears on a poster can be produced on a reduced scale on a pocket-style envelope with corresponding proportions to the poster. 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. Propaganda campaigns often follow a strategic transmission pattern to indoctrinate the target group. This may begin with a simple transmission such as a leaflet dropped from a plane or an advertisement. Generally these messages will contain directions on how to obtain more information, via a web site, hot line, radio program, etc. (as it is seen also for selling purposes among other goals). The strategy intends to initiate the individual from information recipient to information seeker through reinforcement, and then from information seeker to opinion leader through indoctrination.
A number of techniques based in social psychological research are used to generate propaganda. Many of these same techniques can be found under logical fallacies, since propagandists use arguments that, while sometimes convincing, are not necessarily valid.
Some time has been spent analyzing the means by which the propaganda messages are transmitted. That work is important but it is clear that information dissemination strategies become propaganda strategies only when coupled with propagandistic messages. Identifying these messages is a necessary prerequisite to study the methods by which those messages are spread. Below are a number of techniques for generating propaganda:
The field of social psychology includes the study of persuasion. Social psychologists can be sociologists or psychologists. The field includes many theories and approaches to understanding persuasion. For example, communication theory points out that people can be persuaded by the communicator's credibility, expertise, trustworthiness, and attractiveness. The elaboration likelihood model as well as heuristic models of persuasion suggest that a number of factors (e.g., the degree of interest of the recipient of the communication), influence the degree to which people allow superficial factors to persuade them. Nobel Prize–winning psychologist Herbert A. Simon won the Nobel prize for his theory that people are cognitive misers. That is, in a society of mass information people are forced to make decisions quickly and often superficially, as opposed to logically.
Social cognitive theories suggest that people have inherent biases in the way they perceive the world and these biases can be used to manipulate them. For example, people tend to believe that people's misfortune (e.g., poverty) is a result of the person and downplay external factors (e.g., being born into poverty). This bias is referred to as the Fundamental Attribution Error. Self Fulfilling prophecies occur when people believe what they have been told they are. Propaganda frequently plays upon people's existing biases to achieve its end. For example, the illusion of control, refers to people's seemingly innate desire to believe they can and should control their lives. Propagandists frequently argue their point by claiming that the other side is attempting to take away your control. For example, Republicans frequently claim that Democrats are attempting to control you by imposing big government on your private life and take away your spending power by imposing higher taxes while Democrats frequently argue that they are reigning in big corporations that are attempting to influence elections with money, power and take away your job, health etc. ... According to bipartisan analysis, these claims are frequently untrue.[not specific enough to verify]
Role theory is frequently used to identify an idea as appropriate because it is associated with a role. For example, the public relations firm Leo Burnett Worldwide used the Marlboro Man to persuade males that Marlboro cigarettes were a part of being a cool, risk-taking, cowboy rebel who was fearless in the face of threats of cancer. The campaign quadrupled sales of their cigarettes. Of course, smoking has nothing to do with being a cowboy or a rebel. This is a fantasy but the campaign's success is consistent with the tenets of role theory. In fact, the three actors who played the Marlboro man died of lung cancer.
The 20th century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.
First presented in their 1988 book Manufacturing Consent: the Political Economy of the Mass Media, the propaganda model views the private media as businesses selling a product — readers and audiences (rather than news) — to other businesses (advertisers) and relying primarily on government and corporate information and propaganda. The theory postulates five general classes of "filters" that determine the type of news that is presented in news media: Ownership of the medium, the medium's Funding, Sourcing of the news, Flak, and Anti-communist ideology.
The first three (ownership, funding, and sourcing) are generally regarded by the authors as being the most important. Although the model was based mainly on the characterization of United States media, Chomsky and Herman believe the theory is equally applicable to any country that shares the basic economic structure and organizing principles the model postulates as the cause of media biases. After the Soviet Union disintegrated, Chomsky said terrorism and Islam would be the new filter replacing communism.
The epistemic merit model is a method for understanding propaganda conceived by Sheryl Tuttle Ross and detailed in her 2002 article for the Journal of Aesthetic Education entitled "Understanding Propaganda: The Epistemic Merit Model and Its Application to Art". Ross developed the Epistemic merit model due to concern about narrow, misleading definitions of propaganda. She contrasted her model with the ideas of Pope Gregory XV, the Institute for Propaganda Analysis, Alfred Lee, F.C. Bartlett, and Hans Speier. Insisting that each of their respective discussions of propaganda are too narrow, Ross proposed her own definition.
To appropriately discuss propaganda, Ross argues that one must consider a threefold communication model: that of Sender-Message-Receiver. "That is... propaganda involve[s]... the one who is persuading (Sender) [who is] doing so intentionally, [the] target for such persuasion (Receiver) and [the] means of reaching that target (Message)." There are four conditions for a message to be considered propaganda. Propaganda involves the intention to persuade. As well, propaganda is sent on behalf of a sociopolitical institution, organization, or cause. Next, the recipient of propaganda is a socially significant group of people. Finally, propaganda is an epistemic struggle to challenge others' thoughts.
Ross claims that it is misleading to say that propaganda is simply false, or that it is conditional to a lie, since often the propagandist believes in what he/she is propagandizing. In other words, it is not necessarily a lie if the person who creates the propaganda is trying to persuade you of a view that they actually hold. "The aim of the propagandist is to create the semblance of credibility." This means that they appeal to an epistemology that is weak or defective.
False statements, bad arguments, immoral commands as well as inapt metaphors (and other literary tropes) are the sorts of things that are epistemically defective... Not only does epistemic defectiveness more accurately describe how propaganda endeavors to function... since many messages are in forms such as commands that do not admit to truth-values, [but it] also accounts for the role context plays in the workings of propaganda.
Throughout history those who have wished to persuade have used art to get their message out. This can be accomplished by hiring artists for the express aim of propagandizing or by investing new meanings to a previously non-political work. Therefore, Ross states, it is important to consider "the conditions of its making [and] the conditions of its use."
Primitive forms of propaganda have been a human activity as far back as reliable recorded evidence exists. The Behistun Inscription (c. 515 BC) detailing the rise of Darius I to the Persian throne is viewed by most historians as an early example of propaganda. The Arthashastra written by Chanakya (c. 350 – 283 BC), a professor of political science at Takshashila University and a prime minister of the Maurya Empire in ancient India, discusses propaganda in detail, such as how to spread propaganda and how to apply it in warfare. His student Chandragupta Maurya (c. 340 – 293 BC), founder of the Maurya Empire, employed these methods during his rise to power. The writings of Romans such as Livy (c. 59 BC – 17 AD) are considered masterpieces of pro-Roman propaganda. The most well-known originator of Roman historiography was Quintus Fabius Pictor (3rd century BCE). His style of writing history defending the Roman state actions and using propaganda heavily eventually became a defining characteristic of Roman historiography. Another example of early propaganda is the 12th-century work, The War of the Irish with the Foreigners, written by the Dál gCais to portray themselves as legitimate rulers of Ireland.
Propaganda during the Reformation, helped by the spread of the printing press throughout Europe, and in particular within Germany, caused new ideas, thoughts, and doctrine to be made available to the public in ways that had never been seen before the 16th century. The printing press was invented in approximately 1450 and quickly spread to other major cities around Europe; by the time the Reformation was underway in 1517 there were printing centers in over 200 of the major European cities. These centers became the primary producers of both Reformation works by the Protestant Reformers and anti-Reformation works put forth by the Roman Catholics.
Propaganda as generally understood, is a modern phenomenon that emerged from the creation of literate and politically active societies informed by a mass media, where governments increasingly saw the necessity for swaying public opinion in favour of its policies. A notable example was perhaps during the Indian Rebellion of 1857, where Indian sepoys rebelled against the British East India Company's rule in India. Incidents of rape committed by Indian rebels against English women or girls were exaggerated to great effect by the British media to justify continued British colonialism in the Indian subcontinent. At the time, British newspapers had printed various accounts about English women and girls being raped by the Indian rebels. It was later found that some of these accounts were false stories created to perpetuate the common stereotypes of the native people of India as savages who need to be civilized by British colonialists, a mission sometimes known as "The White Man's Burden". One such account published by The Times, regarding an incident where 48 English girls as young as 10–14 were supposedly raped by the Indian rebels in Delhi, was criticized as a false propaganda story by Karl Marx, who pointed out that the story was reported by a clergyman in Bangalore, far from the events of the rebellion.
Gabriel Tarde's Laws of Imitation (1890) and Gustave Le Bon's The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1897) were two of the first codifications of propaganda techniques, which influenced many writers afterward, including Sigmund Freud. Hitler's Mein Kampf is heavily influenced by Le Bon's theories.
Abolitionists in Britain and the United States in the 19th century developed large, complex propaganda campaigns against slavery. Stampp says that, "Though abolitionists never argued that the physical treatment of slaves had any decisive bearing on the issue of the morality of slavery, their propaganda emphasized (and doubtless exaggerated) cruelties and atrocities for the purpose of winning converts." Blight says,
Halttunen argues that the pornography of pain was an essential part of developing a humanitarian sensibility in Britain and the US. She notes, "The index of Theodore Dwight Weld's compilation American Slavery as It Is (1839) clearly demonstrates that project's focus on torture: A is for Arbitrary power, cruelty of, B is for Branding with hot iron, C is for Chopping of slaves piecemeal, D is for Dislocation of bones, E is for Ear-cropping."
Berry and Alford argue, "Detailed accounts of white slaveholders maliciously whipping bondwomen, stripped of their clothing, gave abolitionist propaganda an eroticism that conflicted with white society's sexual and literary standards. Drawings and stories revealed that enslaved women, stripped partially or completely naked, were whipped....The images of enslaved women historically characterized as immoral, promiscuous, and animalistic were inconsistent with white American values of womanhood." Kennicott argues that the largest and most effective abolitionist speakers were the blacks who spoke before the countless local meetings of the National Negro Conventions. They used the traditional arguments against slavery, protesting it on moral, economic, and political grounds. Their role in the antislavery movement not only aided abolitionist propaganda but also was a source of pride to the black community.
The first large-scale and organized propagation of government propaganda was occasioned by the outbreak of war in 1914. In the war's initial stages, propaganda output was greatly increased by the British and German governments, to persuade their populace in the justness of their cause, to encourage voluntary recruitment, and above all to demonize the enemy.
At the start of the war, Emperor Wilhelm II expanded its unofficial propaganda machinery, establishing the Central Office for Foreign Services, which among other duties was tasked with propaganda distribution to neutral nations, persuading them to either side with Germany or to maintain their stance of neutrality. After the declaration of war, Britain immediately cut the undersea cables that connected Germany to the outside world, thereby cutting off a major propaganda outlet. The Germans relied instead on the powerful wireless Nauen Transmitter Station to broadcast pro-German news reports to the world. Among other techniques used to keep up the morale of the troops, mobile cinemas were regularly dispatched to the front line for the entertainment of the troops. Newsreels would portray current events with a pro-German slant. German propaganda techniques heavily relied on emphasizing the mythological and martial nature of the Germanic 'Volk' and the inevitability of its triumph.
British propaganda during World War I — called "an impressive exercise in improvisation" — was hastily expanded at the beginning of the war and was rapidly brought under government control as the War Propaganda Bureau (Wellington House), under the overall leadership of journalist Charles Masterman. The Bureau began its propaganda campaign on 2 September 1914 when Masterman invited 25 leading British authors to Wellington House to discuss ways of best promoting Britain's interests during the war. Those who attended included William Archer, Arthur Conan Doyle, Arnold Bennett, John Masefield, Ford Madox Ford, G. K. Chesterton, Henry Newbolt, John Galsworthy, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, Gilbert Parker, G. M. Trevelyan and H. G. Wells. Several of the writers agreed to write pamphlets and books that would promote the government's point of view; these were printed and published by such well-known publishers as Hodder & Stoughton, Methuen, Oxford University Press, John Murray, Macmillan and Thomas Nelson.
After January 1916 the Bureau's activities were subsumed under the office of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. In May 1916 Masterman began recruiting artists, including Muirhead Bone, Francis Dodd, Eric Kennington and others, to paint pictures of the war in France and the home front. In early 1918 it was decided that a senior government figure should take over responsibility for propaganda and on 4 March Lord Beaverbrook, owner of the Daily Express newspaper, was made Minister of Information. The British effort soon far surpassed the German in its quality and ability to sway the public mood both at home and abroad.
A variety of propaganda methods were used by the British during the war, with emphasis on the need for credibility. Written forms of distributed propaganda included books, pamphlets, official publications, ministerial speeches or royal messages. They were targeted at influential individuals, such as journalists and politicians, rather than a mass audience. Pamphlets were distributed to various foreign countries, primarily the United States: - these pamphlets were academic in tone and factual in nature, distributed through unofficial channels. By 1916, 7 million copies had been circulated by Wellington House in various languages.
British propagandists also sought to influence the foreign press, by providing it with information through the Neutral Press Committee and the Foreign Office. Special telegraph agencies were established in various European cities, including Bucharest, Bilbao and Amsterdam, in order to facilitate the spread of information.
Recruitment was a central theme of domestic propaganda until the introduction of conscription in January 1916. The most common theme for recruitment posters was patriotism, which evolved into appeals for people to do their 'fair share'. Among the most famous of the posters used in the British Army recruitment campaign of World War I were the "Lord Kitchener Wants You" posters, which depicted Secretary of State for War Lord Kitchener above the words "WANTS YOU".
One major propaganda avenue was the use of atrocity stories. These aimed to mobilise hatred of the German enemy by spreading details of their atrocities, real or alleged, and was used extensively by Britain, reaching a peak in 1915, with much of the atrocities related to Germany's invasion of Belgium. One of the first significant publications to be produced by the Bureau was the Report on Alleged German Outrages, in early 1915. This pamphlet documented atrocities both actual and alleged committed by the German army against Belgian civilians. Other atrocity stories included the fate of the nurse Edith Cavell and the Sinking of the RMS Lusitania. These had a significant impact both in Britain and in America, making front-page headlines in major newspapers.
Before the United States declared war in 1917, it established a propaganda department along similar lines. President Woodrow Wilson hired Walter Lippmann and Edward Bernays to participate in the Creel Commission, which was to sway popular opinion in favor of entering the war on the side of the United Kingdom. The Creel Committee provided themes for speeches by "four-minute men" at public functions, and also encouraged censorship of the American press. Starting after World War I, propaganda had a growing negative connotation. This was due in part to the 1920 book "How We Advertised America: the First Telling of the Amazing Story of the Committee on Public Information that Carried the Gospel of Americanism to Every Corner of the Globe" in which the impact of the Creel Committee, and the power of propaganda, was overemphasized. The Committee was so unpopular that after the war, Congress closed it down without providing funding to organize and archive its papers.
The war propaganda campaign of the Creel Committee "produced within six months such an intense 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."
Russian revolutionaries of the 19th and 20th centuries distinguished two different aspects covered by the English term propaganda. Their terminology included two terms: Russian: агитация (agitatsiya), or agitation, and Russian: пропаганда, or propaganda, see agitprop (agitprop is not, however, limited to the Soviet Union, as it was considered, before the October Revolution, to be one of the fundamental activities of any Marxist activist; this importance of agit-prop in Marxist theory may also be observed today in Trotskyist circles, who insist on the importance of leaflet distribution).
Soviet propaganda meant dissemination of revolutionary ideas, teachings of Marxism, and theoretical and practical knowledge of Marxist economics, while agitation meant forming favorable public opinion and stirring up political unrest. These activities did not carry negative connotations (as they usually do in English) and were encouraged. Expanding dimensions of state propaganda, the Bolsheviks actively used transportation such as trains, aircraft and other means.
Joseph Stalin's regime built the largest fixed-wing aircraft of the 1930s, Tupolev ANT-20, exclusively for this purpose. Named after the famous Soviet writer Maxim Gorky who had recently returned from fascist Italy, it was equipped with a powerful radio set called "Voice from the sky", printing and leaflet-dropping machinery, radio stations, photographic laboratory, film projector with sound for showing movies in flight, library, etc. The aircraft could be disassembled and transported by railroad if needed. The giant aircraft set a number of world records.
Bernays, a nephew of Freud, who wrote the book Propaganda early in the 20th century, later coined the terms "group mind" and "engineering consent", important concepts in practical propaganda work. He wrote:
The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.
We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.
The file Century of the Self by Adam Curtis documents the immense influence of these ideas on public relations and politics throughout the last century.
Lippmann, in Public Opinion (1922) also worked on the subject, as well as the American advertising pioneer and founder of the field of public relations Edward Bernays, a nephew of Freud, who wrote the book Propaganda early in the 20th century.
According to Alex Carey, one distinctive feature of the 20th century was "the professionalizing and institutionalizing of propaganda", as it became an increasingly prominent, sophisticated, and self-conscious tactic of both government and business.
After the defeat of Germany in the First World War, military officials such as Erich Ludendorff suggested that British propaganda had been instrumental in their defeat. Adolf Hitler came to echo this view, believing that it had been a primary cause of the collapse of morale and the revolts in the German home front and Navy in 1918 (see also: Dolchstoßlegende). Later, the Nazis adapted many British propaganda techniques during their time in power. Most propaganda in Germany was produced by the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. 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, theatre, film, literature or radio.
Hitler met nearly every day with Goebbels to discuss the news, and Goebbels would obtain Hitler's thoughts on the subject. Goebbels then met with senior Ministry officials to pass down the official Party line on world events. Broadcasters and journalists required prior approval before their works were disseminated. Along with posters, the Nazis produced a number of films and books to spread their beliefs.
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World War II saw continued use of propaganda as a weapon of war, building on the experience of WW1, both by Hitler's propagandist Joseph Goebbels and the British Political Warfare Executive, as well as the United States Office of War Information.
Within the USA, the British Security Coordination activities worked to counter pro-German sentiment, and isolationist opinion. The British broadcast black propaganda through fake German-language radio stations to Europe.
The Reichs Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda used English language broadcasts - such as Germany Calling - broadcast to the UK. Presenter William Joyce - a British fascist - gained the nickname "Lord Haw-Haw" from the popular press.
The West 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, which were, 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.
In 1948, the United Kingdom's Foreign Office created the IRD (Information Research Department), which took over from wartime and slightly post-war departments such as the Ministry of Information and dispensed propaganda via various media such as the BBC and publishing.
Its main targets were in the Third World. However, it was also set out to "be of use to" British media and opinion formers. As well as supplying material to the BBC World Service, secret lists were compiled of approved journalists and trade unionists to whom material was offered, if not always accepted.
Possibly its most notorious "project" was the joint operation with the CIA to set up Encounter magazine, edited by Stephen Spender from 1953 to 1966. Spender resigned after it emerged that the Congress for Cultural Freedom, which published the magazine, was being covertly funded by the CIA.
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. (This was done so that messages meant to be received by the other government could be heard, while the average listener could not understand the content of the program).
When describing life in capitalist countries, in the US in particular, propaganda focused on social issues such as poverty and anti-union action by the government. Workers in capitalist countries were portrayed as "ideologically close". Propaganda claimed rich people from the US derived their income from weapons manufacturing, and claimed that there was substantial racism or neo-fascism in the US.
When describing life in Communist countries, western propaganda sought to depict an image of a citizenry held captive by governments that brainwash them. The West also created a fear of the East, by depicting an aggressive Soviet Union. 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.
George Orwell's novels Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four are virtual textbooks on the use of propaganda. Though not set in the Soviet Union, these books are about totalitarian regimes that constantly corrupt language for political purposes. These novels were, ironically, used for explicit propaganda. The CIA, for example, secretly commissioned an animated film adaptation of Animal Farm in the 1950s with small changes to the original story to suit its own needs.
During the Cuban Revolution, in 1955 Fidel Castro stressed the importance of propaganda in his struggle both against Fulgencio Batista and the United States, saying, “Propaganda is the heart of our struggle. We must never abandon propaganda.”
Propaganda was used extensively by Communist forces in the Vietnam War as means of controlling people's opinions. Radio stations like Radio Hanoi were in an integral part of North Vietnamese propaganda operations. Communist Vietnamese politician Mai Chi Tho, commenting on the use of propaganda, stated:
"Ho Chi Minh may have been an evil man; Nixon may have been a great man. The Americans may have had the just cause; we may not have had the just cause. But we won and the Americans were defeated because we convinced the people that Ho Chi Minh is the great man, that Nixon is a murderer and the Americans are the invaders... The key factor is how to control people and their opinions. Only Marxism-Leninism can do that."
Propaganda was used to create fear and hatred, and particularly incite the Serb population against the other ethnicities (Bosniaks, Croats, Albanians and other non-Serbs). Serb media made a great effort in justifying, revising or denying mass war crimes committed by Serb forces during these wars.
According to the ICTY verdicts against Serb political and military leaders, during the Bosnian war, the propaganda was a part of the Strategic Plan by Serb leadership, aimed at linking Serb-populated areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina together, gaining control over these areas and creating a sovereign Serb nation state, from which most non-Serbs would be permanently removed. The Serb leadership was aware that the Strategic Plan could only be implemented by the use of force and fear, thus by the commission of war crimes.
Croats also used propaganda against Serbs throughout and against Bosniaks during the 1992-1994 Croat-Bosniak war, which was part of the larger Bosnian War. During Lašva Valley ethnic cleansing, Croat forces seized the television broadcasting stations (for example at Skradno) and created its own local radio and television to carry propaganda. They also seized the public institutions, raised the Croatian flag over public institution buildings and imposed the Croatian Dinar as the unit of currency. During this time, Busovača's Bosniaks were forced to sign an act of allegiance to the Croat authorities, fell victim to numerous attacks on shops and businesses and, gradually, left the area out of fear that they would be the victims of mass crimes. According to ICTY Trial Chambers, in Blaškić case, Croat authorities created a radio station in Kiseljak to broadcast nationalist propaganda. A similar pattern was applied in Mostar and Gornji Vakuf (where Croats created a radio station called Radio Uskoplje). Local propaganda efforts in parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina controlled by the Croats were supported by Croatian daily newspapers such as Večernji list and Croatian Radiotelevision, especially by controversial reporters Dijana Čuljak and Smiljko Šagolj, who are still blamed by the families of Bosniak victims in Vranica case for inciting massacre of Bosnian POWs in Mostar when broadcasting a report about alleged terrorists arrested by Croats who victimized Croat civilians. The bodies of Bosnian POWs were later found in Goranci mass grave. Croatian Radiotelevision presented Croat attack on Mostar as a Bosnian Muslim attack on Croats in alliance with the Serbs. According to ICTY, in the early hours of May 9, 1993, the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) attacked Mostar using artillery, mortars, heavy weapons and small arms. The HVO controlled all roads leading into Mostar and international organisations were denied access. Radio Mostar announced that all Bosniaks should hang out a white flag from their windows. The HVO attack had been well prepared and planned.
During the ICTY trials against Croat war leaders, many Croatian journalists participated as the defence witnesses trying to relativise war crimes committed by Croatian troops against non-Croat civilians (Bosniaks in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbs in Croatia). During the trial against general Tihomir Blaškić (later convicted of war crimes), Ivica Mlivončić, Croatian columnist in Slobodna Dalmacija, tried to defend general Blaškić presenting claims in his book Zločin s pečatom about alleged "genocide against Croats" (most of it unproven or false), which were considered by the Trial Chambers as irrelevant for the case. After the conviction, he continued to write in Slobodna Dalmacija against the ICTY presenting it "as the court against Croats", with chauvinistic claims that the ICTY cannot be unbiased because "it is financed by Saudi Arabia (Muslims)".
In the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, psychological operations tactics 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 Osama 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."
Both the United States and Iraq employed propaganda during the Iraq War. The United States established campaigns towards the American people on the justifications of the war while using similar tactics to bring down Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq.
The Iraqi insurgency's plan was to gain as much support as possible by using violence as their propaganda tool. Inspired by the Vietcong's tactics, insurgents were using rapid movement to keep the coalition off-balance. By using low-technology strategies to convey their messages, they were able to gain support. Graffiti slogans were used on walls and houses praising the virtues of many group leaders while condemning the Iraqi government. Others used flyers, leaflets, articles and self-published newspapers and magazines to get the point across.
Insurgents also produced CDs and DVDs and distributed them in communities that the Iraq and the US Government were trying to influence. The insurgents designed advertisements that cost a fraction of what the US was spending on their ads aimed at the same people in Iraq with much more success. In addition, a domestic Arabic language television station was established with the aim of informing the Iraqi public of alleged coalition propaganda efforts in the country.
To achieve their aim of a moderate, pro-western Iraq, US authorities were careful to avoid conflicts with Islamic culture that would produce passionate reactions from Iraqis, but differentiating between "good" and "bad" Islam has proved challenging for the US.
The US implemented black propaganda by creating false radio personalities that would disseminate pro-American information, but supposedly run by the supporters of Saddam Hussein. One radio station used was Radio Tikrit. Another example of use of black propaganda is that the United States paid Iraqis to publish articles written by US troops in their newspapers under the idea that they are unbiased and real accounts; this was brought forth by the New York Times in 2005. The article stated that it was the Lincoln Group who had been hired by the US government to create the propaganda. However, their names were later cleared from any wrongdoing.
The US was more successful with the Voice of America campaign, which is an old Cold War tactic that exploited people's desire for information. While the information they gave out to the Iraqis was truthful, they were in a high degree of competition with the opposing forces after the censorship of the Iraqi media was lifted with the removal of Saddam from power.
In November 2005, the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times alleged that the United States military had manipulated news reported in Iraqi media in an effort to cast a favorable light on its actions while demoralizing the insurgency. Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a military spokesman in Iraq, said the program is "an important part of countering misinformation in the news by insurgents", while a spokesman for former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the allegations of manipulation were troubling if true. The Department of Defense confirmed the existence of the program.
The extent to which the US government used propaganda aimed at its own people is a matter of discussion. The book Selling Intervention & War, by Jon Western, argued that president Bush was "selling the war" to the public.
President George W. Bush gave a talk at the Athena Performing Arts Center, at Greece Athena Middle and High School, Tuesday, May 24, 2005, in Rochester, New York. About halfway through the event, Bush said: "See, in my line of work, you got to keep repeating things over and over, and over again, for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."
People had their initial reactions to the War on Terror. While the United States' official stance was to remove Saddam Hussein's power in Iraq with allegations that his government held weapons of mass destruction or was related to Osama Bin Laden, over time the Iraq war as a whole has been seen in a negative light. Video and picture coverage in the news has shown shocking and disturbing images of torture and other evils being done under the Iraqi Government.
Every year, a state-owned publishing house releases several cartoons (called geurim-chaek in North Korea), many of which are smuggled across the Chinese border and, sometimes, end up in university libraries in the United States. The books are designed to instill the Juche philosophy of Kim Il-sung (the father of North Korea)—radical self-reliance of the state. The plots mostly feature scheming capitalists from the United States and Japan who create dilemmas for naïve North Korean characters.
DPRK textbooks claim that US missionaries came to the Korean Peninsula and committed barbarous acts against Korean children, including injecting dangerous liquids into the children and writing the word "THIEF" on the forehead of any child who stole an apple for missionary-owned orchards in Korea.
Drug cartels have been engaged in propaganda and psychological campaigns to influence their rivals and those within their area of influence. They use banners and narcomantas to threaten their rivals. Some cartels hand out pamphlets and leaflets to conduct public relation campaigns. They have been able to control the information environment by threatening journalists, bloggers and others who speak out against them. They have elaborate recruitment strategies targeting young adults to join their cartel groups. They have successfully branded the word narco, and the word has become part of Mexican culture. There is music, television shows, literature, beverages, food and architecture that all have been branded narco.
Propaganda is used by the Communist Party of China to sway public and international opinion in favor of its policies. Domestically, this includes censorship of proscribed views and an active cultivation of views that favor the government. Propaganda is considered central to the operation of the Chinese government. The term in general use in China, xuanchuan (宣傳 "propaganda; publicity") can have either a neutral connotation in official government contexts or a pejorative connotation in informal contexts. Some xuanchuan collocations usually refer to "propaganda" (e.g., xuānchuánzhàn 宣传战 "propaganda war"), others to "publicity" (xuānchuán méijiè 宣傳媒介 "mass media; means of publicity"), and still others are ambiguous (xuānchuányuán 宣传员 "propagandist; publicist").
Aspects of propaganda can be traced back to the earliest periods of Chinese history, but propaganda has been most effective in the twentieth century owing to mass media and an authoritarian government. China in the era of Mao Zedong is known for its constant use of mass campaigns to legitimize the state and the policies of leaders. It was the first Chinese government to successfully make use of modern mass propaganda techniques, adapting them to the needs of a country which had a largely rural and illiterate population. In poor developing countries, China spreads propaganda through methods such as opening Confucius Institutes, and providing training programs in China for foreign officials and students.
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Vladimir Putin's Russia has been reviving the Soviet-style Propaganda traditions, as well as developing new methods of propaganda, for domestic purposes, aimed at sustaining the popularity of the regime and its leader among Russian voters, and foreign purposes—that is, building a positive image of the Kremlin abroad. Additionally, Russian authorities orchestrated a propaganda campaign with the aim of promoting a version of the country's history for political purposes. The campaign include school textbooks and the film industry. It stresses the exceptionality of Russian historical development and is geared to endowing the figure of Vladimir Putin. Russia also developed a cult of personality around president Putin, known by some as Putinism.
On June 28, 2000, Putin approved The Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation to create "a positive perception of Russia abroad", something that has been identified as one of Russia's foreign policy priorities. Additionally, it emphasized the importance of "developing Russia's own means of influencing public opinion abroad". In 2010, it was estimated that the Russian government allocated US$1.4 billion for international propaganda that year.
Some experts and analysts believe that Russia's vision of soft power has remained practically unchanged since the Soviet period and consists of, above all else, the idea of strengthening Russia's international influence while weakening the influence of the United States through the principles of anti-Westernism and anti-Americanism. For example, Lilia Shevtsova, an expert Kremlinologist, sates that old ideas still dominate Russia's politics: "Americans cannot be trusted, Americans are guilty, Americans are hypocritical and the Americans are a threat!" Lev Gudkov, a Russian sociologist, pointed out that creating a feeling of external threat is an effective means to consolidate a society: "The specter of an enemy is an extremely powerful means for creating internal cohesiveness and solidarity with the authorities. As soon as this image of the enemy gets formed […] there emerges a powerful mechanism for consolidation on the basis of the principle us vs. them and America becomes the main villain."
In 2005, Russia launched state monitored and funded informational TV channel Russia Today (RT). The head of the Russian Federal Agency for Print and Mass Media pointed out that the main objective of the new channel is to create a positive image of Russia abroad. As of 2012[update], RT broadcasts in English, Spanish and Arabic and serves as the Kremlin's main weapon of soft power. Its reportage is consistent with the tactics chosen by official Russia: "What right do you have to criticize us? Look at what is happening in your country!" In the best tradition of propaganda, the focus puts a particular spin on the events within contrasted significantly greater coverage on events without. In many respects, RT's "support" consists of creating a rather idealistic picture of Putin's Russia, in contrast to an America drowning in poverty and crime, facing continuous class struggle and ruled by ruthless corporations. On March 6, 2014, one of RT's Washington-based news anchor, Liz Wahl, announced her resignation from the channel at the end of a live newscast citing "ethical and moral challenges" in working for a news media that "whitewashes the actions of Putin". Wahl's resignation followed an on-air expression of dissent with Russia's plans for military invasion in Ukraine by another US based anchor for RT, Abby Martin, a few days earlier.
In early 2014, during the escalation of the Russia-Ukraine conflict following the February 23rd ouster of President Victor Yanukovych, Russia began a massive propaganda campaign aiming to discredit the newly appointed interim government, inter alia, among the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine. Knowing that large parts of Eastern and Southern Ukraine relies on Russian television as a source of Russian-language entertainment and news, State-owned and government-linked Russian television channels targeted their news and commentary directly at their Ukrainian audience, and analysis have suggested that the Kremlin, in an unprecedented manner, has used the domestic Russian media to shape the political debate in a foreign country.
Posters hanging everywhere often describe unity of the working class, farmers and soldiers under the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh. Residents and students have been studying ethics and ideology of Ho Chi Minh.
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Of all the potential targets for propaganda, children are the most vulnerable because they are the most unprepared for the critical reasoning and contextual comprehension required to determine whether a message is propaganda or not. Children's vulnerability to propaganda is rooted in developmental psychology. The attention children give their environment during development, due to the process of developing their understanding of the world, will cause them to absorb propaganda indiscriminately. Also, children are highly imitative: studies by Albert Bandura, Dorothea Ross and Sheila A. Ross in the 1960s indicated that,
to a degree, socialization, formal education and standardized television programming can be seen as using propaganda for the purpose of indoctrination. The use of propaganda in schools was highly prevalent during the 1930s and 1940s in Germany, as well as in Stalinist Russia.
In Nazi Germany, the education system was thoroughly co-opted to indoctrinate the German youth with anti-Semitic ideology. This was accomplished through the National Socialist Teachers League, of which 97% of all German teachers were members in 1937. It encouraged the teaching of racial theory. Picture books for children such as Don't Trust A Fox in A Green Meadow or The Word of A Jew, Der Giftpilz (translated into English as The Poisonous Mushroom) and The Poodle-Pug-Dachshund-Pincher were widely circulated (over 100,000 copies of Don't Trust A Fox... were circulated during the late 1930s) and contained depictions of Jews as devils, child molesters and other morally charged figures. Slogans such as "Judas the Jew betrayed Jesus the German to the Jews" were recited in class. The following is an example of a propagandistic math problem recommended by the National Socialist Essence of Education:
|“||The Jews are aliens in Germany—in 1933 there were 66,606,000 inhabitants in the German Reich, of whom 499,682 (.75%) were Jews.||”|
NOAH ADAMS: The European Center for War, Peace and the News Media, based in London, has received word from Belgrade that no pictures of mass Albanian refugees have been shown at all, and that the Kosovo humanitarian catastrophe is only referred to as the one made up or overemphasized by Western propaganda.
Also, and we quote from the report, "information programs are designed to present the illegitimacy of a NATO aggression on Yugoslavia, the unanimity of the Serbian people in resisting the enemy and Serbian invincibility. All three aims are wrapped in a nationalistic code, `most powerful Western nations, killers, death disseminators, fascists, dictators, criminals, villains, bandits, vandals, barbarians, gangsters, vampires, cowards, perverts, lunatics, scum and trash who want to destroy the small but honorable, dignified, freedom-loving Serbian nation.
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