First I want to have a look at Wikipedia’s definition of propaganda, to clarify the object I am going to deal with in this text and my following posts…
“Propaganda is a concerted set of messages aimed at influencing the opinions or behaviors of large numbers of people. As opposed to impartially providing information, propaganda in its most basic sense presents information in order to influence its audience. Propaganda often presents facts selectively (thus lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or gives loaded messages in order to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. The desired result is a change of the cognitive narrative of the subject in the target audience to further a political agenda.
Propaganda is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist.
—Garth S. Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell, Propaganda and Persuasion”
I rather dislike Wikipedia for some of it*s failures, but for now I will bow my head before them… this is a nice and short definition! If I should intend to accuse anybody of propaganda, I had to show, that he:
1) Changes information (means a direct lie) to encourage a certain reaction and opinion
2) Reduces information (means to focus information) to encourage a certain reaction and opinion
I will not try to deal with the big media stations of our time – I*ll leave it up to you, to decide yourself, if your media is fulfilling one or both of these two options.
Just a word of explanation, to clarify my own intention and opinion. Propaganda is not an action, that can only be used by dictatorships, or similar forms of government – this is the everyday option to lead the masses in the correct direction in every form of system and in every nation.
To add some more precise information: Every war is in need of an propagandist action, as war never is a popular step, you have to find ways, to MAKE it a popular action – you have to create an enemy. The easiest form of propaganda is to focus on all well known (by your people) negative information about the enemy – partially to recherche new negative information to add it and (as the most aggressive form of propaganda) to spread lies about the enemy and sell them as the one and only truth.
The standard way of dealing with information, that threatens the perspective you wish to create, is to censor them, to bring them down, to damage their reputation or to accuse them of being a collaborator of the enemy.
—> Information: I encourage you to do your own research and to compare the use of propaganda in the different forms of systems we know up to now – I would enjoy your opinion on this topic and would be pleased, if you could point out mistakes in my explanations.
Spoiler: You may for example compare the propaganda done by Nazi-Germany, communist Russia and the USA after, before and during WW2 – I found this piece of information to be very interesting. <—
What you read above is more or less my standard definition of propaganda, that never has been something special to me, as (I think) we all got – to a certain degree – used to it and knew, that this happens.
Especially during my experiences on the internet I found, that this definition is solely focusing on national propaganda and for this reason incomplete. If you simply watch big media sites like YouTube, you will find nearly all forms of propaganda, spread by nearly all forms of religious groups, all forms of political groups and sometimes – even by persons without any direct extraordinary orientation.
I found myself thinking, that the most common form of propaganda is non-national propaganda – used by common people.
You could say, that these persons are simple carriers of the information given to them and I encourage you too, that you point out that this is true – but I myself compared the official given information of the mainstream media (concerning this and that topic) with the thinking and actions of these individuals and found the following:
A lot of the information is indeed based on excerpts of the mainstream media – these excerpts/quotations/information are selected precisely to focus the message (for example of the video) on a clearly layed out conclusion… Every form of information, that does not lead to this conclusion (even if it is directly linked to the original message) will be ignored.
Many of the propagandists tend to use direct lies, where the truth is not leading to the wished target (compare for example the conspiracy theories on 9/11).
I also found the fact interesting, that individuals, that will add a comment to these videos, which is not providing the wished form of information, will be marked as spam – deleted or be accused of not knowing anything about the truth – being for example accused of supporting the true enemy.
You may agree, that this is more or less according to the definition above – but let me point out again, where this is propaganda:
1) Focus on “bad news” – bringing “bad news” which are not well known to attention.
The difficult thing to divide propagandist efforts from journalistic material, is the natural purpose of propaganda to look as if it was, well researched and entirely based on facts. But a clear sign for me is, that the information, that is given, is not just a journalistic effort, but leading to a certain conclusion, or trying to encourage strong emotions… The second and more obvious sign is, that the given information is not containing any contrary opinions – if a video is repeating the same information again and again and serving a certain purpose instead of providing knowledge, it*s time to examine it (for me).
To focus information on a certain target or opinion is the most common and basic operator of propaganda.
2) Direct lies – Spreading false information – taking original information out of context
is the most extreme, but even the most dangerous form of propaganda. One has to chose the lie carefully and has to think about the possibility, that people will try to examine the information, to show that it is not true.
The easiest way to deal with this is (already said this) to throw some dirt on them, but as this is also the most powerful tool to modify the thinking and feeling of other persons, one should be careful to not lie too obvious – there should not be any doubt, that he/she is speaking the truth…
You are used to that too, as all of us lied in our lifetime, but when acting as a propagandist you have to be even more careful.
3) Shocking audio and video content – modification of text, audio and video material – The use of media in another context – creating a threat through music and images
These is not new at all, but as the abilities of media have grown, the tools for this task have also. The basic target of propaganda is to invoke emotions… besides the intellectual information, you will find music, pictures and excerpts of speeches, which emotionally are creating a threat – this is serving a certain issue… it is to prepare you to believe the information. To make you believe, that you have to defend yourself through the new given knowledge and against the new enemy.
The message itself CAN be believed, but doesn*t have to be believed -
Whether you, for example, believe in the 9/11 conspiracy or not is not interesting – If you FEEL threatened after watching such a video – in fact threatened by the USA and believe them to be the enemy… the mission of the video is accomplished.
To be fair and to give an example for the American reader too… If you heard about the weapons of mass-destruction in Iraq… did you believe it? I say you don*t have to. The basic message is “Iraq is a threat!” if you believed that one – the task of the information is fulfilled.
And to calm down both groups… I don*t judge these, or you – one has to think about this him/herself – Whether you like it or not is your decision – what I want to say is, think about information very hard before you believe it.
Some of the commentators will defend this information, as if they were defending their own life, they will get angry, thread or insult every opposition.
Indeed some of the videos I am referring to, even made it to encourage myself to feel in a certain way. I would recommend, that this is not underestimated, as some of these are true masterpieces of their art (if you can think the same way of these is up to you).
To give an interesting example (without providing too much material myself) – you may for example compare:
As this movie is taken down very often, I will add the name here, which you have to search for, to find it on Youtube.
[Zeitgeist - the movie]
A very good example, as it is using every operator I talked about. (You may have fun to watch it with this thought in mind – you may even have fun to examine my own text to find out if you can identify propagandist material – and I*m sure some of you will do that (if this text will get any comments anyway) )
My Personal Disclaimer:
These are MY thoughts on certain topics, but I don*t claim, neither that I am the first one to realise it, nor that I am speaking THE TRUTH – as this term is abused in so many ways…
I strongly encourage you, to distrust information, until you’ve examined it yourself. This is including MY information. I welcome you to point out my mistakes and to share your opinion. But I hope, that you will be fair on me and will not insult me for my perspectives.
However – there is no doubt for me, that there exist more intelligent persons on this planet than me, who know more about these topics – If you are one of these persons… I would feel honoured, if you could share your point of view with me.
I allow you to use excerpts of my texts for your own projects, if you wish to, but I don*t allow you to change my message (means to ABUSE my texts.)
As I am very interested in these topics, I am planning to add posts where I will try to examine Anti-American (AA) propaganda and my understanding of the “Age of informational warfare” more closely.
Thanks for reading Cern4m (My blog can be found here.)