My last article on Social/Cultural Conditioning naturally leads into a discussion about Propaganda.
While Social Conditioning is concerned with the life-long process of molding people’s thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors to what society and peer groups want them to be, propaganda can be viewed as the continual fuel to keep those minds and emotions in line. And specifically, to condition people to follow the desired directives of those in power “selling” the message.
Most of us, it seems, grew up with the indoctrination that propaganda was something used only by the evil Nazis, Communists, and Fascists in the early-to-mid 20th-century to brainwash their citizens into supporting maniacal dictatorial control.
No way did propaganda ever apply to us here in the Land Of The Free – the United States of America! Right? Not only would our government never consider its use (because they look out for the best for its citizens), but residents of the USA are much too smart to fall for it. Right?
If only that were true.
It’s time for American citizens to arise from their indoctrinated stupor.
What is Propaganda?
At the time of the drafting of this article, Wikipedia tells us:
Propaganda is information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view. Propaganda is often associated with the psychological mechanisms of influencing and altering the attitude of a population toward a specific cause, position or political agenda in an effort to form a consensus to a standard set of belief patterns.
An excellent definition as referenced in The Propaganda Project:
“Propaganda is the deliberate and 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”
What are the primary attributes and qualities of Propaganda?
- deliberate manipulation of information
- deliberate selective presentation of facts (half-truths, incomplete truths)
- deliberate misrepresentation of facts – misinformation & disinformation (distraction via outright lies)
- deliberate omission and/or distortion of facts (half-truths, or less)
- deliberate loaded language to trigger emotional, rather than rational, responses – appealing primarily to knee-jerk emotional reactions (which the general public – the mob – shows themselves to regularly embrace)
- deliberate focus on forming opinions rather than increasing knowledge
- deliberate intention to avoid a free exchange of ideas (emotionally-triggered reactions rather than thoroughly inform)
- attempt to influence people to believe a certain ideology whether that ideology is right or wrong
- and of utmost importance: deliberately pounding these manipulated messages at you repetitively – – over and over and over again. The more you hear it, the more you will believe it to be factual and self-evident.
“See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in . . . to kind of catapult the propaganda.” – George W. Bush, May 24, 2005
And all of it – – its entire intention – – is to indoctrinate, manipulate and mold beliefs.
Think of it as a battle for men’s minds – a form of Psychological Warfare.
It’s all about influence, persuasion, indoctrination, manufacturing consent, controlling information to shape what is held as unquestionably “true” (media and education), all done in a covert approach to control large groups of people.
Some History of Propaganda
It’s believed that propaganda has been in use since the Greeks, specifically by anyone attempting to persuade others to adopt the beliefs they’re propagating; particularly those in power desiring belief and support. The Greeks studied rhetoric and prided themselves in their logical oratory abilities.
The term didn’t get coined though until 1622 when the Catholic church created a group called Congregatio de Propaganda Fide (Congregation for Propagating the Faith). This group’s purpose was to spread (propagate) the Catholic faith with their missionary work in non-Catholic locations.
Since the break-up of feudalism it’s most likely been in use by politicians in every country in order to keep their populations in line and supporting the leadership’s desired policies.
My main concern for this article is with modern propaganda – the proliferation of its use since the early 20th century. The word “propaganda” didn’t take on a hugely negative connotation until its use in WWI by the Creel Commission wherein deceit was used to whip up citizen support for the United States entering World War I.
The golden age of propaganda is considered to be the time-frame leading up to and including WWII. All sides of the war used propaganda to foment patriotism and support for their war policies. Each country had their own departments for propaganda (or whatever euphemistic name they gave it).
Since WWII, propaganda’s use has progressed to become almost a sure-fire science of psychological manipulation
Propaganda: Isn’t it Education?
Propaganda theoretically differs from “education” because an educator should objectively present information in an unbiased nature to their students – sharing all sides of an argument, all evidence and information, and encouraging students to critically think about what is presented. Unfortunately, this doesn’t really happen in education, but that’s an article for another time.
This brings up a notable point, in that some propagandist may actually view themselves as educators – purveyors of truth and fact – when, in fact, they are only presenting “education” that is extremely slanted and biased to their belief structure.
By the same token, those hearing the propagandist’s message may believe it to be the most solid truth, because the information presented by the “educationist” confirms their own biased beliefs – making them True Believers.
Propaganda then, is about manipulative persuasion, and education (true education) is about fully informing the student from all aspects of a topic. That’s quite a difference.
“The real struggle is not between East and West, or capitalism and communism, but between education and propaganda.” – Martin Buber
“The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate the truth.” – Garry Kasparov
Who Are Propagandists?
Who produces propaganda? Propagandists can be found in the Political, Academic & Corporate consumerism world. It’s spread throughout our pervasive media to trigger irrational emotions and influence opinion and beliefs.
According to Encyclopedia Brittannica, they are highly skilled and trained in history, psychology, politics, social sciences, survey research, and statistical inference.
Traditional forms of media such as newspapers, posters, radio, and television have been hugely boosted in the last decade by social media and the internet. Social media is an incredible way to spread propaganda in a VERY rapid fashion.
Propagandist can be causally referred to as “Spin Doctors” – although that term seems to have a much less sinister title as they truly deserve.
When it comes down to it, if someone can control public opinion then they have all the power. A government cannot have power if it does not have the support of the public. In order to gain support of the public, propaganda is used to promote the government and the ideals behind it.
Propaganda – Its use for War
Fomenting war seems to be where propaganda is most widely used. A set of simple steps ensures the population is drawn in to total support for war:
- Run continuous “news” stories in the papers, magazines, television and social media about the evils of the perceived far away “enemy”.
- Paint the “enemy” as lying, viscous, sub-human animals without a shred of morality (whether true or not)
- Fabricate whatever atrocities you need to get the desired irrational, emotional reaction from the populace (whether any of it has even a shred of truth to it). The slaughter of women and children are particularly effective (whether true or not). Remember: None of the people you’re propagandizing can possibly verify if any of your stories are true; they’re not personally there in some god-forsaken country and can’t validate any of the stories you create.
- Remind the people about your military strength.
- Remind them that you’re on the side of a higher power and moral standards. Your side is just and righteous.
- Continually present “experts” to the public to back the substance and ideals of your propaganda narrative. Play on people’s inherent obedience to authority in all avenues of power – media, academia, military and government representation.
- Stir up good old patriotism with its unquestioned emotional appeal.
- Wash, rinse, repeat – ad infinitum – escalating the fabrications until you have the populace foaming at the mouth to destroy the “enemy.”
- If the continued hammering of the above doesn’t do the trick soon enough for your tastes, plan a convincing False Flag to seal the deal!
“In order to bring a nation to support the burdens of maintaining great military establishments, it is necessary to create an emotional state akin to war psychology. There must be the portrayal of an external menace. This involves the development to a high degree of the nation-hero, nation-villain ideology and the arousing of the population to a sense of sacrifice. Once these exist, we have gone a long way on the path to war.” – John Foster Dulles, US Secretary of State
“Of course the people don’t want war. But after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.” – Herman Goering at the Nuremberg trials
Propaganda – Its use in Academia
The world worships science, and science is academia. Academia, due to hierarchy and tenure, can shove certain flawed paradigms on to the public, as well as lesser academicians in their employ who must tow the line or be ostracized if they don’t push the latest/greatest “approved” paradigm.
A future article about paradigms and their stifling of progress is also in the works. Suffice it to say, paradigms are the only accepted “truth” at government-funded universities, high schools, middle and elementary schools.
Any studies into the realm of knowledge and information that is outside (and/or opposing) the accepted paradigm must be pursued in an auto-didactic manner (self-education) or it is never learned. In fact, how is one supposed to even realize there are other viewpoints beyond the accepted paradigm? Most people feel that if it isn’t taught in the school they attended then it can’t be relevant or true. They have been entirely propagandized as to what is and isn’t education.
But always remember . . .
Who supplies the dollars for academic funding? Who fuels the very engine of academia? Who supplies the grants and funding to pursue the so-called “pursuit of truth”? Government and corporatism. Can we naively believe that a university who obtains hundreds-of-thousands or millions of dollars in grants will ever produce research results in opposition to the interests of those funding them?
The government and corporate grants are going to get the results they desire – or the grants (and payrolls of the academicians) dries up. It’s as simple as that. Follow the money. The money drives the results. Only a naive adolescent could believe otherwise.
Propaganda – Its use for Advertising
Effective advertising makes use of psychological triggers (as does all propaganda). Advertisers have known for decades how to trigger certain psychological reactions in us to buy their product. They also have progressed to the point of successfully creating “brand evangelists” – getting consumers to proselytize the company’s brand to everyone in their social group.
There are published books that share the methodology the corporate world uses to increase sales and indoctrinate consumers. A few of the most direct ones:
- Mind Control Marketing by Mark Joyner
- Triggers by Joseph Sugarman
- Hypnotic Writing by Joe Vitale
Some of the psychological ploys advertisers use against us include: conformity to group norms (herd mentality), obedience to authority, celebrity endorsements, Zeigarnik Effect (attraction/curiosity of an unfinished story), cognitive dissonance, convincing us that “wants” are “needs”, framing, false claims (deception), storytelling, involvement/ownership, guilt, fear, greed, hopes/dreams, laziness (something for nothing), social status, exclusivity/scarceness, repetition. Essentially – sell everything with emotional manipulation.
The Challenges to Identify Propaganda and How to Deal With It
Few people actually double-check what they learn in school – so propaganda can be repeated by journalists, politicians, clergy, friends and family as though it’s a well known fact – when it isn’t.
And what makes it worse, the average individual has no time, money or inclination to dig in and research the “facts” and stories they’re being told. All the propagandist has to do is bring in an “expert” to support the narrative and – boom – everyone believes. Who can argue with an “expert?”
Answer: Independent thinkers, researchers and journalists – that’s who.
Propagandists are betting on humanity’s laziness, insufficient time/effort/money, and lack of exposure/influence to a large enough group of people to really make a difference.
So. . . what can you as an individual do?
First of all, understand that nearly everything you’re exposed to via television news, print media, advertising, academic proclamations, reporting of any kind on our government’s actions, as well as global economics and politics, are all propagandized (from a small to a large extent).
Second, you must decide whether you’re going to accept everything you see and hear as fact (no matter the source of media), or will you awaken to the fact that you’re being played by the narrative?
Realize that the news, education and advertising you’re exposed to is designed to mold your belief and responses to an accepted narrative/paradigm that those in power (or selling a product) want you to embrace.
If you choose to awaken, your range of response can vary from:
- Disengagement: Screw it….just stop watching the news and reading popular print and internet media. Choose not to participate in their psychological operation. Check-out and disengage. Why bother with any of it? It’s all negative energy anyway.
- Acknowledgement: Expose yourself to the media, but realize . . . none of this impacts you directly. You can’t verify any of it. No one you know can verify any of it. It isn’t impacting your daily life. It isn’t stopping you from pursuing your goals. (You do have goals don’t you?) You can’t do anything about it. It’s just a distraction. So . . . there’s nothing to be gained by embroiling yourself in the emotionally-triggered chaos.
- Awakened: Watch and experience the narrative, and consciously notice how it psychologically triggers people. Take notice the selective use of “facts”. Realize they omit facts – – they could very easily NOT be reporting on several things that defeat their narrative. Take notice of the intentional emotional manipulation. Watch carefully as the repeated narrative and stories are designed to get people to react in a very base, emotional, irrational way. Realize that the never-ending stories are designed to gain your acceptance of war, hate, division, racism, laziness, ignorance, violence, government control and waste. Notice all this, but don’t let it ruin your attitude for personal life.
- Activist: Go all-on Activist (not for the weak or faint of heart). This is typically your initial reaction once you’re awakened. Blast your friends and family with the anti-propaganda message. Blog on it. Make resistance videos. Attempt to educate the sheep. Reveal the deceit and manipulation. The problem?: Unfortunately, indoctrinated people aren’t open to finding out they’ve been duped regarding the core beliefs of their life.
The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Business men, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system, and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.
— Morpheus, The Matrix
So this effort is likely to end with you experiencing a huge amount of frustration and defeat. Pearls before swine.
The Father of Propaganda:
Who better to sum up this overview of Propaganda than the man who is considered the father of it all, and was extremely successful throughout his life working with government and corporations teaching them propaganda’s covert methodology:
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.” – Edward L. Bernays, Propaganda (1928)
Relevant quotes from those in-the-know . . .
“The oblique paradox of propaganda is that the lie in the throat becomes, by repitition, the truth in the heart” – John Grierson
“Propaganda is as powerful as heroin; it surreptitiously dissolves all capacity to think.” – Gil Courtemanche
“The purpose of propaganda is not to provide interesting distraction for blasé young gentlemen, but to convince… the masses. But the masses are slow moving, and they always require a certain time before they are ready even to notice a thing, and only after the simplest ideas are repeated thousands of times will the masses finally remember them.” – Adolf Hitler
“If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without them knowing it.” – Edward Bernays
“Propaganda works best when those who are being manipulated are confident that they are acting on their own free will.” – Joseph Goebbels
“By the skillful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make people see even heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise.” – Adolf Hitler
“It is arguable that the success of business propaganda in persuading us, for so long, that we are free from propaganda is one of the most significant propaganda achievements of the twentieth century.” – Alex Carey
Some decent online sources: (there are many others of course)
- Propaganda, Wikipedia
- Propaganda, ChangingMinds.org
- Propaganda, Encyclopædia Britannica
- Media’s Use of Propaganda to Persuade People’s Attitude, Beliefs and Behaviors, WebStanfrod.edu
- Ten things you need to know about propaganda, www.ThirdWorldTravelor.com
- What Is Propaganda? Noam Chomsky on Media, Manipulation, and Democracy, HighExistence.com