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French World War I propaganda against Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany
It doesn't stop
at the water's edge

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As usual
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No, this is not about the Russian girl group of a similar name (Пропаганда). Or the German '80s popstars. Or the album by the band Sparks.
There is no nonsense so errant that it cannot be made the creed of the vast majority by adequate governmental action.
Bertrand Russell[1]

Propaganda is the use of media and other information sources in order to affect or control the perceptions and behaviour of a population. Frequently information presented is wholly or partially incorrect, or misrepresented in order to convey a specific, pervasive message.

The aim of propaganda is not to inform, but to guide thought. In this regard, propaganda may be separated from simple advertising in that advertising largely attempts to extol the virtues of a product or service in order to attract commerce, propaganda is a much more pervasive attempt to mold public opinion for a variety of reasons. However, propaganda shares many techniques in common with advertising, such as repetition, reliance on famous spokespeople and messages cloaked in advertisement.

Political movements of all types have used propaganda widely, despite sometimes dramatically opposing ideologies. 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.[2][3][4]

The term goes back to 1622 where it meant the spread or propagation of the faith 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.[5] Even then it wouldn't be seen as threat to democratic ways of life until the 1930s,[6] 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.

Propaganda techniques[edit]


  • 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 (1929) — 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 crown jewel 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. ) The last film in the series, 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 then a figurehead.


The arts are often employed as a medium for presenting propaganda.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]