Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position.
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 agenda. Propaganda can be used as a form of political warfare.
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 benign or innocuous, such as public health recommendations, signs encouraging citizens to participate in a census or election, or messages encouraging persons to report crimes to the police, among others.
The English term is an 18th century coinage, from the Latin feminine gerund of propagare "to propagate", originally in Congregatio de Propaganda Fide "Congregation for Propagating the Faith", a committee of cardinals established in 1622 by Gregory XV. In its turn, the word propagare is related to the word propages, "a slip, a cutting of a vine" and refers to the gardener's practice to disseminate plants by planting shoots.
Defining propaganda has always been a problem. The main difficulties have involved differentiating propaganda from other types of persuasion, and avoiding an "if they do it then that's propaganda, while if we do it then that's information and education" biased approach. 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 — 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.
Propaganda is generally an appeal to emotion, not intellect. It 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, though 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, since the term had gained a pejorative meaning, which commercial and government entities could not accept. The refusal phenomenon was eventually to be seen in politics itself by the substitution of "political marketing" and other designations for "political propaganda".
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 describe 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 used to describe 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.
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 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. See also: black propaganda, marketing, advertising.
Main article: Propaganda techniques
Common media for transmitting propaganda messages include news reports, government reports, historical revision, junk science, books, leaflets, propaganda films, radio, television, and posters. Less common nowadays are letterpost 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, et cetera (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(Main article: Social psychology (sociology)) or psychologists(Main article: Social psychology (psychology)). 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 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. The self-fulfilling prophecy relates to people's tendencies to stick with their original theories even when evidence proves their theories are incorrect. This tendency is sometimes referred to as confirmation bias (see list of cognitive biases. 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 
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 (see Marlboro Man). 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 all died of lung cancer (see Marlboro Man.
This is a very brief overview of a very large field of psychology and sociology.
Herman and Chomsky's propaganda model
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.
Ross' epistemic merit model
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 other 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."
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- Cunningham, Stanley, B. The Idea of Propaganda: A Reconstruction. Westport, Conn.: Praeger. (2002)
- Ellul, Jacques. Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes. Trans. Konrad Kellen & Jean Lerner. New York: Knopf, 1965. New York: Random House/ Vintage 1973
- Jowett, Garth S. and O'Donnell, Victoria. Propaganda and Persuasion 4th edition. Thousand Oaks, Sage Publications, Inc. 2006. ISBN 1-4129-0897-3.
- Kingsbury, Celia Malone. For Home and Country: World War I Propaganda on the Home Front (University of Nebraska Press; 2010; 308 pages). Describes propaganda directed toward the homes of the American homefront in everything from cookbooks and popular magazines to children's toys.
- Lasswell, Harold D.. Propaganda Technique in World War I. Cambridge, Mass: The M.I.T. Press. (1971)
- Le Bon, Gustave, The Crowd: a study of the Popular Mind (1895)
- MacArthur, John R.. Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War. New York: Hill and Wang. (1992)
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- Linebarger, Paul M. Psychological Warfare. International Propaganda and Communications. ISBN 0-405-04755-X (1948)
- Pratkanis, Anthony & Aronson, Elliot. Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company. (1992)
- Rutherford, Paul. Endless Propaganda: The Advertising of Public Goods. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. (2000)
- Rutherford, Paul. Weapons of Mass Persuasion: Marketing the War Against Iraq. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. (2004)
- Snow, Nancy. Propaganda, Inc.: Selling America's Culture to the World. New York, NY: Seven Stories Press. (2010)
- Sproule, J. Michael. Channels of Propaganda. Bloomington, IN: EDINFO Press. (1994)
- Stauber, John, and Rampton, Sheldon Toxic Sludge Is Good for You! Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1995.
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- Kosar, Kevin R., Public Relations and Propaganda: Restrictions on Executive Branch Activities, CRS Report RL32750, February 2005.
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- Sam Keen Faces Of The Enemy PDF eBook
- PR Watch
- Is Government Propaganda Legal? Well...
- Propaganda Critic: A website devoted to propaganda analysis.
- Manufacturing Consent by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky
- How Americans are propagandized about Afghanistan by Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com
- Holmes, Jamie. "US military is meeting recruitment goals with video games – but at what cost?", Christian Science Monitor, December 28, 2009. Retrieved on 2010-07-09.
- Documentation on Early Cold War U.S. Propaganda Activities in the Middle East by the National Security Archive. Collection of 148 documents and overview essay.
- Sacred Congregation of Propaganda from the Catholic Encyclopedia
- World War II propaganda leaflets: A website about airdropped, shelled or rocket fired propaganda leaflets. Some posters also.
- Canadian Wartime Propaganda - Canadian War Museum
- Northern Vietnamese Propaganda from the U.S. Vietnam War. The largest collection of North Vietnamese propaganda available on-line.
- "North Korea's art of propaganda", BBC, July 29, 2007: images of North Korean propaganda posters
- CBC Radio's "Nazi Eyes On Canada" (1942), series with Hollywood stars promoting Canadian War Bonds
- America at War, a digital collection of World War II–era American propaganda pamphlets and additional material
- Over 400 posters from World Wars II & II (searchable facsimile at the University of Georgia Libraries; DjVu & layered PDF format)
- "Propaganda." The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia.
- Psywar.org's large collection of propaganda leaflets from various conflicts
- Pyongyang Chronicles
- WWII: Intense Propaganda Posters - slideshow by Life magazine
- US Central Command (CENTCOM) archive of propaganda leaflets dropped in Iraq
- Stefan Landsberger's Chinese Propaganda Poster Pages
- Bytwerk, Randall, "Nazi and East German Propaganda Guide Page". Calvin College.
- US Navy recruiting posters archive
- Tim Frank Collection of WWII Propaganda Leaflets, Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library
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