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What is Propaganda?

 

Techniques > What is Propaganda?

The ideological goal | The hidden quality | Basic conditions | See also

 

Propaganda is an evocative word that brings to mind images of dictatorships and wartime misinformation. Although not as widespread as conspiracy theorists might have us believe, it is still in use daily in virtually every country.

The ideological goal

The basic defining goal of propaganda is that it seeks to control what people believe - that is, the ideas they consider to be unquestionably true. Hence propaganda is about ideology, which may be political, religious, philosophical.

In some senses, all ideologies use propaganda when they promote their ideas as being the only real truth and denigrate other belief systems as bad, evil or just plain wrong.

The hidden quality

Another defining quality of perfect propaganda is that it is hidden, such that the recipients perceive it and communications about it as a simple truth. The subject matter just becomes what is normal and the communicator of the message is not perceived as trying to persuade or manipulate.

In brief, then, propaganda is covert persuasion of large groups of people.

At the other end of the realization scale, if people perceive themselves as victims of manipulative machinations, then they will feel betrayed and hence rebel against the manipulator. This rebellion may be open or, if the manipulator has other power (such as military), then it may become subverted and covert.

Basic conditions

For propaganda to happen, there must be a person or persons in positions of power where they have significant control over mass-communication media. This can include presidents, governments and media moguls. At a smaller scale, it also includes company bosses, head teachers and parents.

The person in control must have a need either that a significant group of people believe something to be true or perceive something in some way.

See also

Conversion, Trust

 

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