Manipulation: Media and Propaganda
“Propaganda is neutrally defined as a systematic form of purposeful persuasion that attempts to influence the emotions, attitudes, opinions, and actions of specified target audiences for ideological, political or commercial purposes through the controlled transmission of one-sided messages (which may or may not be factual) via mass and direct media channels. A propaganda organization employs propagandists who engage in propagandism—the applied creation and distribution of such forms of persuasion.“
– R.A. Nelson, A Chronology and Glossary of Propaganda in the United States, 1996
“Propaganda is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behaviour to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist.”
– Garth S. Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell, Propaganda And Persuasion
“What separates propagandism from “normal” communication is in ways by which the message attempts to shape opinion or behavior, which are often subtle and insidious among other characteristics. For example, propagandism is often presented in a way that attempts to deliberately evoke a strong emotion, especially by suggesting illogical (or non-intuitive) relationships between concepts or objects (for instance between a “good” car and an attractive woman or a sex symbol).”
It’s clear that if media or talk shows wants to support the government, they don’t need to say it clearly… they can use subliminal messages or simply evoke a strong emotion on you. Do you want to know how to manipulate your mind? From Wikipedia:
A number of techniques which are based on social psychological research are used to generate propaganda. Many of these same techniques can be found under logical fallacies, since propagandists use arguments that, while sometimes convincing, are not necessarily valid.
Some time has been spent analyzing the means by which propaganda messages are transmitted. That work is important but it is clear that information dissemination strategies only become propaganda strategies when coupled with propagandistic messages. Identifying these messages is a necessary prerequisite to study the methods by which those messages are spread. Below are a number of techniques for generating propaganda:
- Ad Hominem: A Latin phrase which has come to mean attacking your opponent, as opposed to attacking their arguments.
- Appeal to authority: Appeals to authority cite prominent figures to support a position, idea, argument, or course of action.
- Appeal to fear: Appeals to fear seek to build support by instilling anxieties and panic in the general population, for example, Joseph Goebbels exploited Theodore Kaufman‘s Germany Must Perish! to claim that the Allies sought the extermination of the German people.
- Appeal to Prejudice: Using loaded or emotive terms to attach value or moral goodness to believing the proposition. For example, the phrase: “Any hard-working taxpayer would have to agree that those who do not work, and who do not support the community do not deserve the community’s support through social assistance.”
- Argumentum ad nauseam: This argument approach uses tireless repetition of an idea. An idea, especially a simple slogan, that is repeated enough times, may begin to be taken as the truth. This approach works best when media sources are limited and controlled by the propagator.
- Bandwagon: Bandwagon and “inevitable-victory” appeals attempt to persuade the target audience to join in and take the course of action that “everyone else is taking.”
- Inevitable victory: invites those not already on the bandwagon to join those already on the road to certain victory. Those already or at least partially on the bandwagon are reassured that staying aboard is their best course of action.
- Join the crowd: This technique reinforces people’s natural desire to be on the winning side. This technique is used to convince the audience that a program is an expression of an irresistible mass movement and that it is in their best interest to join.
- Black-and-White fallacy: Presenting only two choices, with the product or idea being propagated as the better choice. (e.g., “You are either with us, or you are with the enemy”)
- Beautiful people: The type of propaganda that deals with famous people or depicts attractive, happy people. This makes other people think that if they buy a product or follow a certain ideology, they too will be happy or successful. (This is more used in advertising for products, instead of political reasons)
- Big Lie: The repeated articulation of a complex of events that justify subsequent action. The descriptions of these events have elements of truth, and the “big lie” generalizations merge and eventually supplant the public’s accurate perception of the underlying events. After World War I the German Stab in the back explanation of the cause of their defeat became a justification for Nazi re-militarization and revanchist aggression.
- Common man: The “‘plain folks’” or “common man” approach attempts to convince the audience that the propagandist’s positions reflect the common sense of the people. It is designed to win the confidence of the audience by communicating in the common manner and style of the target audience. Propagandists use ordinary language and mannerisms (and clothe their message in face-to-face and audiovisual communications) in attempting to identify their point of view with that of the average person. For example, a propaganda leaflet may make an argument on a macroeconomic issue, such as unemployment insurance benefits, using everyday terms: “given that the country has little money during this recession, we should stop paying unemployment benefits to those who do not work, because that is like maxing out all your credit cards during a tight period, when you should be tightening your belt.”
- Demonizing the enemy: Making individuals from the opposing nation, from a different ethnic group, or those who support the opposing viewpoint appear to be subhuman (e.g., the Vietnam War-era term “gooks” for NLF soldiers), worthless, or immoral, through suggestion or false accusations.
- Direct order: This technique hopes to simplify the decision making process by using images and words to tell the audience exactly what actions to take, eliminating any other possible choices. Authority figures can be used to give the order, overlapping it with the Appeal to authorityUncle Sam “I want you” image is an example of this technique. technique, but not necessarily. The
- Euphoria: The use of an event that generates euphoria or happiness, or using an appealing event to boost morale. Euphoria can be created by declaring a holiday, making luxury items available, or mounting a military parade with marching bands and patriotic messages.
- Disinformation: The creation or deletion of information from public records, in the purpose of making a false record of an event or the actions of a person or organization, including outright forgery of photographs, motion pictures, broadcasts, and sound recordings as well as printed documents.
- Flag-waving: An attempt to justify an action on the grounds that doing so will make one more patriotic, or in some way benefit a group, country, or idea. The feeling of patriotism which this technique attempts to inspire may not necessarily diminish or entirely omit one’s capability for rational examination of the matter in question.
- Glittering generalities: Glittering generalities are emotionally appealing words applied to a product or idea, but which present no concrete argument or analysis. A famous example is the campaign slogan “Ford has a better idea!”
- Intentional vagueness: Generalities are deliberately vague so that the audience may supply its own interpretations. The intention is to move the audience by use of undefined phrases, without analyzing their validity or attempting to determine their reasonableness or application. The intent is to cause people to draw their own interpretations rather than simply being presented with an explicit idea. In trying to “figure out” the propaganda, the audience foregoes judgment of the ideas presented. Their validity, reasonableness and application may still be considered.
- Obtain disapproval or Reductio ad Hitlerum: This technique is used to persuade a target audience to disapprove of an action or idea by suggesting that the idea is popular with groups hated, feared, or held in contempt by the target audience. Thus if a group which supports a certain policy is led to believe that undesirable, subversive, or contemptible people support the same policy, then the members of the group may decide to change their original position.
- Oversimplification: Favorable generalities are used to provide simple answers to complex social, political, economic, or military problems.
- Quotes out of Context: Selective editing of quotes which can change meanings. Political documentaries designed to discredit an opponent or an opposing political viewpoint often make use of this technique.
- Rationalization: Individuals or groups may use favorable generalities to rationalize questionable acts or beliefs. Vague and pleasant phrases are often used to justify such actions or beliefs.
- Red herring/Chewbacca Defense: Presenting data or issues that, while compelling, are irrelevant to the argument at hand, and then claiming that it validates the argument.
- Repetition: This type of propaganda deals with a jingle or word that is repeated over and over again, thus getting it stuck in someones head, so they can buy the product.The “Repetition” method has been described previously.
- Scapegoating: Assigning blame to an individual or group, thus alleviating feelings of guilt from responsible parties and/or distracting attention from the need to fix the problem for which blame is being assigned.
- Slogans: A slogan is a brief, striking phrase that may include labeling and stereotyping. Although slogans may be enlisted to support reasoned ideas, in practice they tend to act only as emotional appeals. Opponents of the US’s invasion and occupation of Iraq use the slogan “blood for oil” to suggest that the invasion and its human losses was done to access Iraq’s oil riches. On the other hand, “hawks” who argue that the US should continue to fight in Iraq use the slogan “cut and run” to suggest that it would be cowardly or weak to withdraw from Iraq. Similarly, the names of the military campaigns, such as “enduring freedom” or “just cause”, may also be regarded to be slogans, devised to influence people.
- Stereotyping or Name Calling or Labeling: This technique attempts to arouse prejudices in an audience by labeling the object of the propaganda campaign as something the target audience fears, hates, loathes, or finds undesirable. For instance, reporting on a foreign country or social group may focus on the stereotypical traits that the reader expects, even though they are far from being representative of the whole country or group; such reporting often focuses on the anecdotal.
- Testimonial: Testimonials are quotations, in or out of context, especially cited to support or reject a given policy, action, program, or personality. The reputation or the role (expert, respected public figure, etc.) of the individual giving the statement is exploited. The testimonial places the official sanction of a respected person or authority on a propaganda message. This is done in an effort to cause the target audience to identify itself with the authority or to accept the authority’s opinions and beliefs as its own. See also, damaging quotation
- Transfer: Also known as Association, this is a technique of projecting positive or negative qualities (praise or blame) of a person, entity, object, or value (an individual, group, organization, nation, patriotism, etc.) to another to make the second more acceptable or to discredit it. It evokes an emotional response, which stimulates the target to identify with recognized authorities. Often highly visual, this technique often utilizes symbols (for example, the Swastika used in Nazi Germany, originally a symbol for health and prosperity) superimposed over other visual images. An example of common use of this technique in America is for the President’s image to be overlayed with a swastika by his opponents.
- Unstated assumption: This technique is used when the propaganda concept that the propagandist intends to transmit would seem less credible if explicitly stated. The concept is instead repeatedly assumed or implied.
- Virtue words: These are words in the value system of the target audience which tend to produce a positive image when attached to a person or issue. Peace, happiness, security, wise leadership, freedom, “The Truth”, etc. are virtue words. In countries such as the U.S. religiosity is seen as a virtue, making associations to this quality affectively beneficial. See “”Transfer“”.
There were studies about propaganda and its relationship with media, which lead to manipulation of information against democracy!
“The 20th century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.” (Noam Chomsky)
“During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf repeatedly claimed Iraqi forces were decisively winning every battle. Even up to the overthrow of the Iraqi government at Baghdad, he maintained that the United States would soon be defeated, in contradiction with all other media. Due to this, he quickly became a cult figure in the West, and gained recognition on the website . The Iraqis, misled by his propaganda, on the other hand, were shocked when instead Iraq was defeated. WeLoveTheIraqiInformationMinister.com
In November 2005, The Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, alleged that the United States military had manipulated news reported in Iraqi media in an effort to cast a favorable light on its actions while demoralizing the insurgency. Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a military spokesman in Iraq, said the program is “an important part of countering misinformation in the news by insurgents”, while a spokesman for former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the allegations of manipulation were troubling if true. The Department of Defense has confirmed the existence of the program. The New York Times published an article about how the Pentagon has started to use contractors with little experience in journalism or public relations to plant articles in the Iraqi press. These articles are usually written by US soldiers without attribution or are attributed to a non-existent organization called the “International Information Center.” Planting propaganda stories in newspapers was done by both the Allies and Central Powers in the First World War and the Axis and Allies in the Second; this is the latest version of this technique.”Full text here.