Propaganda

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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.
Bertrand Russell[1]
The point of modern propaganda isn't only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.
—Gary Kasparov[2]

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 that 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. Its 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.[3][4][5]

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.[6]:48-49 Even then it wouldn't have been seen as a threat to democratic ways of life until the 1930s,[7] and during World War II became pejorative in common usage… ironically thanks to the Why We Fight propaganda films shown to soldiers and then the public.[8]

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.

Types of propaganda[edit]

Propaganda comes in three major flavors: white, grey, and black. White propaganda openly discloses its source and intent. Grey propaganda has an ambiguous or non-disclosed source or intent. Black propaganda purports to be published by the enemy or some organization besides its actual origins.

Propaganda often works by both presence (filling the space) and absence (of what existed before).[9]:108

Propaganda techniques[edit]

Agitprop[edit]

Agitprop

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.

Examples[edit]

  • Malleus Maleficarum (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 MemorialWikipedia (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 a.k.a. 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[10]
  • 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 Capra) Know your Enemy — Japan (1945),[11] 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.
  • Mao’s little red book (Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung), produced by the People’s Liberation Army during the tenure of Lin Biao,Wikipedia[12] it was originally meant for internal circulation within the armed forces, but during the Cultural Revolution and its associated cult of Mao, it became a household item (because not owning it might not be a good idea, cf. Mein Kampf) and thus is now one of history's most printed books.[13]

Art[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Art

The arts are often employed as a medium for presenting propaganda. Art can be used as propaganda to great effect, so much so that even the right-wing dipshit Jordan Peterson collects communist propoganda.[14] In the 1960s and 1970s, Chinese art students created much of the classical Maoist propaganda that is famous across the world, although in recent years said style has given way to badly Photoshopped posters of tanks, planes and soldiers, etc.

This isn't unique to communist nations, during the Japanese colonialist period, many woodblock prints were also produced, they echo the artistic quality seen from other ukiyo-e prints (named Senso-e, 戰爭絵).[15] If one looks past the political message and simply values the art then it's mainly harmless… unless the person is a lamb to the slaughter.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Passages from An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943).
  2. The point of modern propaganda isn't only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth. by Gary Kasparov (11:08 AM - 13 Dec 2016) Twitter (archived from Marcy 7, 2020).
  3. German Propaganda Archive Calvin University.
  4. Revolution by Design: The Soviet Poster International Poster Gallery (archived from January 4, 2007).
  5. Produce for Victory: Posters on the Home Front, 1941–1945 National Museum of American History.
  6. Strategic Public Relations: Audience Focused Practice by Barbara Diggs-Brown (2011) Cengage Learning. ISBN 053463706X.
  7. Institute for Propaganda Analysis Source Watch.
  8. See the Wikipedia article on Why We Fight.
  9. Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present by Ruth Ben-Ghiat (2021) W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0393868419.
  10. Selling Murder: The killing films of the Third Reich (Sep 7, 2016) YouTube.
  11. Know your Enemy — Japan by US National Archives (Jul 29, 2016) YouTube.
  12. How the west embraced Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book: At the peak of its popularity, Mao's bible was the most printed book in the world. It attained the status of a sacred, holy text during the Cultural Revolution, and retains its place among western devotees. by John Gray (23 May 2014; updated 02 Jun 2014 9:57am) The New Statesman.
  13. Who, What, Why: What is the Little Red Book? (26 November 2015) BBC News.
  14. Who’s the Real Ideologue? On Jordan Peterson’s Communist Art Collection: Why does the ‘men’s rights’ guru to the alt-right surround himself with Soviet-era memorabilia, which he doesn’t even class as art? by Rachel Wetzler (16 AUG 18) Frieze.
  15. Goto Yoshikage: The Phoenix Castle ArtJapanese.com (archived from September 23, 2021).