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“”There is no nonsense so errant that it cannot be made the creed of the vast majority by adequate governmental action.
Propaganda is the use of media and other information sources in order to affect or control the perceptions and behavior of a population. It is best known for its frequent insidious attempt to sell ideas or policies through politically rich marketing so people accept or support ideas to which they would otherwise be resistant or skeptical. However not all propaganda is designed to manipulate and it can sometimes be open and transparent encouraging common and popular goals. In the early 20th Century propaganda as a term was synonymous with government marketing and did not have an inherent negative connotation. It's origins date even further back to religious marketing by the Catholic church.
Propaganda is designed to influence emotion, hence the factual accuracy of the content is of little or no relevance. Propaganda is more versatile than advertising because it is not always about encouraging consumerism, name-recognition, and brand loyalty. Rather, it can be used to create and associate negative emotions with opponents. Individual pieces of advertising and propaganda share techniques including repetition, reliance on famous spokespeople, musical and lighting cues, and disguising content as innocuous information.
Religious and political movements of all types have used propaganda widely. For example, in World War II, the Allies, Soviets and Nazis, all very different in their ideologies, all used propaganda to a great degree during the course of the conflict and after.
The term goes back to the Thirty Years War (1622) and originally meant the spread or propagation of the Catholic faith
against filthy Protestant Heresy but wasn't applied to secular matters until the 1790s and didn't pick up its negative connotations until the mid-point of the 19th century. Even then it wouldn't be seen as threat to democratic ways of life until the 1930s, and during World War II become pejorative in common usage...ironically thanks to the Why We Fight Propaganda films shown to soldiers and then the public.
Like many words, it has fallen victim to the euphemism treadmill – meaning, sometimes we only call that which we disagree with propaganda. The rest is considered PR (Public Relations), marketing or awareness spreading.
- Big Lie – The more outrageous the lie, the better.
- Mixing lies and misrepresentation to make any falsehoods sound even better.
- Experts for hire – Pay them enough, and they will say anything.
- Front group – Often going by the euphemism "think tank" these days.
- FUD – "Manufacturing doubt."
- Firehosing – Just lie ad infinitum and don't even attempt to bother with the truth or keep things straight. The goal is to undermine truth and turn it into just another political view.
- Limited hangout – Revealing only a small portion of facts relevant to a scandal or position in order to defuse criticism.
- Historical revisionism - rewrite history
- Slanted History - a biased retelling of actual events to support a position.
- Ratfucking – Many of the "dirty tricks" pioneered by the Tricky Dick administration.
- Stovepiping – Cherry-picking unvetted information.
- Whataboutism – And you are lynching Negroes
Agitprop is a particular kind of propaganda designed to arouse intense, even violent, emotions within people who are exposed to it. It is a portmanteau of the Russian words for "agitation" and "propaganda," and the term originated in the Soviet Union, whose information bureau was originally called the Department for Agitation and Propaganda.
- Malleus Maleficorum (hammer of evil-doers), a work first published in 1487 in Germany, that exposed the alleged monstrous evil-doing of sorcerers and facilitated the brutal treatment of real and imagined witches and warlocks in early-modern Europe and the Americas.
- A Discovery and plain Declaration of the Sundry Subtill practices of the Holy Inquisition Of Spain (1567) under the pseudonym Montanns — collection of real (mostly pre-1500) and imagined excesses of the Spanish Inquisition.
- The infamous 1903 The Protocols of the Elders of Zion — repackaged as the banking conspiracy to take over the world.
- Tanaka Memorial (1927) — this fit so well with Japan's actual actions from 1931 to 1937 that in some areas (such as China) it is still presented as an actual document. No evidence that it ever really existed has been found.
- Dasein ohne Leben aka Existence without Life (1939) — one of the many films used to confuse voluntary euthanasia with state-sanctioned mass murder. Destroyed in early 1945, it was reconstructed for the BBC documentary Selling Murder: the Killing Films of the Third Reich
- Der Ewige Jude a.k.a., The Eternal Jew (1940) — The biggest, most foul-smelling turd in the sewer that is Nazi antisemitism.
- Frank Capra's Why We Fight series (1942-1945) is filled with distortions, half-truths, omissions, and outright lies (In The Battle of Russia (1943) the joint treaty with Russia that allowed the conquest of Poland is not even mentioned. Nor is the oppression the Russian people suffered under Stalin mentioned. ) A similar film (but not part of Why We Fight despite being directed by Frank Capra) Know your Enemy — Japan (1945), can't seem to make up its mind if the Emperor was directly responsible or that he was little more than a figurehead. This issue is unresolved to this day.
The arts are often employed as a medium for presenting propaganda.
- Edward Bernays
- Frank Luntz
- Nationalism in history textbooks
- Public relations
- Propaganda Critic
- Psy War, an archive of wartime propaganda
- della Quercia, Jacopo. "6 Mind-Blowing Achievements in Propaganda", Cracked Magazine website, 21 April 2010.
- Propaganda and Persuasion by Garth S. Jowett and Victoria O'Donnell