Ten things you need to know about
by Nancy Snow
1 - Truth is not the absence of propaganda;
propaganda thrives in presenting different kinds of truth, including
half truths, incomplete truths, limited truths, out of context
truths. Modern propaganda is most effective when it presents information
as accurately as possible. The Big Lie or Tall Tale is the most
2 - Propaganda is not so much designed
to change opinions so much as reinforce existing opinions, prejudices,
attitudes. The most successful propaganda will lead people to
action or inaction through reinforcement of what people already
believe to be true.
3 - Education is not necessarily the best
protection against propaganda. Intellectuals and "the educated"
are the most vulnerable to propaganda campaigns because they (1)
tend to absorb the most information (including secondhand information,
hearsay, rumors, and unverifiable information); (2) are compelled
to have an opinion on matters of the day and thus expose themselves
more to others' opinions and propaganda campaigns; and (3) consider
themselves above the influence of propaganda, thereby making themselves
more susceptible to propaganda.
4 - What makes the study of propaganda
so problematic is that it is generally regarded as the study of
the darker side of our nature; the study of their evil versus
our good. Those whom we consider evil thrive in propaganda, while
we spread only the truth. The best way to study propaganda is
to separate one's ethical judgments from the phenomenon itself.
Propaganda thrives and exists, for ethical and unethical purposes.
5 - Propaganda seeks to modify public
opinion, particularly to make people conform to the point of view
of the propagandist. In this respect, any propaganda is a form
of manipulation, to adapt an individual to a particular activity.
6 - Modern forms of communication, including
mass media, are instruments of propaganda. Without the monopoly
concentration of mass media, there can be no modern propaganda.
For propaganda to thrive, the media must remain concentrated,
news agencies and services must be limited, the press must be
under central command, and radio, film, and television monopolies
7 - One must become aware of propaganda,
its limitations, its strengths, its influence, and its persuasive
qualities, if one is to master it. To say that one is free of
the influence of propaganda is a sure sign of its pervasive existence
8 - Modern propaganda began in the United
States in the early 20th Century. During World War I, the mass
media were integrated with public relations and advertising methods
to advocate and maintain support for war. The Creel Committee
established the first American publicity campaign to spread and
disseminate the gospel of the American way to all corners of the
9 - In the United States, private commercial
propaganda is as important to notions of democracy as governmental
propaganda. Commercial appeals to the people through advertising,
which plays on irrational fantasies and impulses, are some of
the most pervasive forms of propaganda in existence today.
10 - Propaganda in a democracy establishes
truth in the sense that it creates "true believers"
who are as ideologically committed to the democratic progress
as others are ideologically committed to its control. The perpetuation
of democratic ideals and beliefs in the face of concentrated power
in propaganda institutions (media, political institutions) is
a triumph of propaganda in modern American society.
Compiled by Nancy Snow, Ph.D. - Source:
Jacques Ellul, Propaganda
Nancy Snow page