Propaganda

prop⋅a⋅gan⋅da

–noun

1. information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.

2. the deliberate spreading of such information, rumors, etc.

3. the particular doctrines or principles propagated by an organization or movement.

Propaganda is used to spread ideas that further a cause.  Whether it be a political, commercial, religious, or civil causes; propaganda methods and approaches can be used to influence the way people view it.     

Propaganda is used to

-manipulate the viewer’s emotions and reason,

-alter the viewer’s psychological state, whether it be to instill fear, a sense of safety, or anything in between

-persuade the viewer to believe in something or someone,

-convince the viewer to buy an item

-influence the viewer to vote a certain way

Techniques

Name-Calling

Name-calling is an ancient system.  The Latin term: ad hominem, means “to the man.”  Propagandists use this technique to attach a negative label to a person or thing.  An attacker can use name-calling to damage their opponent’s campaign without having to support their own platform.  A party using this method tears their opponent down rather than build themselves up by explaining what they believe in.  Sarcasm and ridicule are frequent accomplices of name-calling.  Examples of name-calling include commie, yuppie, or flip-flopper.  A more subtle form of this method involves the use of words that hold negative connotations.  Examples of these negatively charged words are radical, cowardly, thrifty, and counter-culture. 

Bandwagon

Everyone else is doing it so why won’t you?  The Bandwagon technique relies on the fears of criticism people harbor.  Many would rather conform to the majority than be vulnerable to criticism, and being part of the majority instills a sense of safety because the majority normally wins.  Bandwagoning engages the idea of safety in numbers and “keeping up with the Joneses” desires of many people.  The “inevitable victory” variation invites those not yet on the bandwagon to join in on the road to certain victory.    

Black and White Thinking

“You are either part of the solution or you are part of the problem.”

Black and white thinking is a method of propaganda that involves the presenter insisting that the audience make one of two choices.  Insisting on a binary choice over-simplifies complex issues.  This technique, mainly used in extreme cases, is used to polarize issues and negate all attempts to find common ground. 

Card Stacking

This name comes from the idea of stacking a deck of cards in your favor.  By using slanted messages (omitting key facts and unfavorable statistics) propagandists lead viewers to half-truths in order to manipulate their choices.  Due to the missing information, the conclusion the viewer comes to is not an accurate one, but it is the one the propagandist wants.  The legal term for this method is fraud. 

Glittering Generalities

We believe in, and live by certain words that hold a great impact, and which we have deeply set ideas about.  This technique relates “glad words” that have strong emotional ties to a person, product, or idea.  Glittering generalities are appealing words, but do not offer any sort of solid argument.  Words such as courage, liberty, patriotism, motherhood, and honor are examples of these glad words.  Glittering generalities use these glad words in general statements that cannot be proved or disproved, hence creating optimistic-sounding fluff.  These key words have legitimate uses, but when they are sprinkled on for emotional effect, they become tools of the propagandist.

Plain Folks

The plain folk, or common man propaganda method works to convince the viewer that the propagandist’s position reflects the position of “regular people.”  The presenter will use ordinary language and mannerisms to convince the viewer that they are an average person.  Politicians often engage this propaganda technique when beginning a speech with “my fellow citizens.” 

Testimonial

The testimonial approach banks on viewers being influenced by a popular figure (be it celebrity, politician, professor, etc.) that they “know” and like.  This person may either openly advocate for the cause, or something they say may be taken out of context.  The favorable image of this well known figure becomes associated with the cause/idea/person, causing the viewer to shift their ideas to line up with those of the idol. 

Transfer

Also known as association, this technique attempts to tie a person or idea to the prestige of a positive and powerful symbol.  The method of transfer is often highly visual.  Flags are symbols of power that often evoke an emotional response, so using a country’s flag as the backdrop for a political event, makes the implication that the event is patriotic.  This technique can also have the opposite, damaging effect when images associated with negative feelings are used.