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Understanding Propaganda

Pratkanis and Aronson, 1991


Every day we are bombarded with

one persuasive communication after


another. These appeals persuade
not through the give-and-take of
argument and debate, but through
the manipulation of symbols and of
our most basic human emotions. For
better or worse, ours is an age of
propaganda."

Defining Propaganda
~ No holds barred use of
communication to create
specific beliefs and
expectations
~ Origin: Roman Propaganda
Fide an effort to suppress
Protestant Reformation

From the perspective of Mass


Society Theory

Mass Society theorists saw media as


disruptive forces
This negative connotation also brought
media as the focus of attention in terms of
propaganda devices
American political brass felt threatened by
negative propaganda by late 1930s
Censorship as a solution posed significant
dilemma
Theorists roped in to develop a social
structure to resist propaganda

Spread of Nazism and


Communism

Theorists believed in power of public

education
Claims refuted as more people turned to
Nazism and Communism totalitarian
leaders who promised social justice and jobs
Rallies in US to celebrate Hitler and Stalin
Ushered another era in the US The Era of
White Propaganda a strategy that used
propaganda techniques to fight bad
propaganda and promote objectives
considered good by elites

Early interpretations
Secret to effective propaganda
A) simplify a complex issue
B) repeat the simplification over and over

again
(Fritz Hippler, Head, Nazi Germanys Film
Propaganda Division)

More Interpretations
Effective Propaganda is covert
Features massive orchestration of

communication
Emphasizes tricky language designed to
discourage reflective thought
(J. Michael Sproul, 1994 Channels of
Propaganda)
End justifies the means
Reliance on disinformation to discredit the

opposition

The Theory of Propaganda


(Snowball, 1999)
US Theorists proposed three kinds of
propagandai) White Propaganda (discussed earlier)
ii) Black Propaganda Deliberate and
strategic dissemination of lies
iii) Gray Propaganda Transmission of
information or ideas that might or might
not be false. No effort is made to
determine their validity.

Mass media as Propaganda


devices

1.
2.
3.
4.

Mass Media seen as practical means of mass


manipulation
Concept of Engineering of Consent (Term
coined by Edward Bernays, Father of Modern PR)
Strong Examples
Hitlers total control over radio
Radio and movies propagated propaganda
messages -1920s
The Eternal Jew, film by Fritz Hippler
http://www.jewtube.com/video/1386/Adolf-HitlerExpand-Speech-English-Subtitles

Joseph Goebbels

(Hitlers

Propaganda Chief)

It would not be impossible to prove


with sufficient repetition and
psychological understanding of the
people concerned that a square is
in fact a circle. What after all are a
square and a circle? They are mere
words and words can be molded
until they clothe ideas in disguise.

Origin of Propaganda
Theories
Behaviorism
Freudianism
Magic Bullet Theory (e.g.

Orson Welles Radio Show)

Propaganda Theories
Harold Laswells Propaganda Theory
When conflict escalates to an irreparable
level in a society, the entire public could
become psychologically unbalanced and
vulnerable to manipulation
Lippmans Theory of Public Opinion
Formation Agreed with Laswell that
public were vulnerable to propaganda and
required some control mechanism/agency
implied media control

John Deweys Reaction to Early


Propaganda Theories
Rejected magic bullet notions
Asserted that rudimentary public education

was capable to resist propaganda


messages
Newspapers should serve as vehicles for
public education and debate, teach critical
thinking skills, structure public discussions
Believed in media being integrated into the
communities and not as external agencies

Woodrow Wilson and


Propaganda

http://www.firstworldwar.com/posters/usa.h

tm

Modern Propaganda Theory

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Edward Hermans five elite-supporting


filters in modern-age propaganda
Ownership
Advertising
Sourcing
Flack
Medias belief in the miracle of the
market