Propaganda is the spread of information or ideas with the purpose of influencing feelings or actions. Propaganda is always biased and can be negative or positive, but usually has a negative connotation.
Common Examples of Propaganda
- Building a mental image – A politician will present an image of what the world would be like with immigration or crime so that the voters will think of that image and believe that voting for him will reduce that threat.
- Overstating participation – The concept of “Get on the Bandwagon” is appealing to a huge number of people by finding common threads, like religion, race, or vocation. The theme here is “everyone else is doing it, and so should you.”
- Building false images – Presidents try to appear to be “common folks” but they really aren’t. Examples are Bill Clinton eating at McDonald’s or Ronald Reagan chopping wood.
- Generating fear – Fear is generated to change people’s behavior. An ad will show a bloody accident then remind people to wear their seatbelts.
- Promising happiness – Selling happiness is a concept used in ads, such as a well-liked actor will explain why you need to buy a product in order to solve a problem.
- Creating a false dilemma – An example of false dilemma is where two choices are offered as if they are the only two options. For example, a president saying in order to reduce the deficit, we have to either tax the wealthy more or ask seniors to pay more for Medicare.
- Using slogans – If a slogan is repeated enough times, eventually the public will come to believe it.
- Appealing to tradition – Good feelings are generated by the thoughts of certain goods and actions, and are frequently included in advertisements such as: “Baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet.”
- Misquoting – By taking a quote out of context a false impression can be given to the reader or listener. For the film Live Free or Die Hard, Jack Mathews was quoted as saying, “Hysterically…entertaining.”. The real quote is, “The action in this fast-paced, hysterically overproduced and surprisingly entertaining film is as realistic as a Road Runner cartoon.”
- Name calling – An example of name calling in propaganda would be: “My opponent is an alcoholic”
- Assertion – This is presenting a fact without any proof, as in “This is the best cavity-fighting toothpaste out there.”
Propaganda and Wars
Propaganda is part of war, both in the past and in current times. Here are examples:
- In 2013, Iran showed pictures of their new stealth fighter flying over Mount Damavand in Northern Iran. It was soon discovered that it was photoshopped.
- During the McCarthy Era, mass media tried to convince everyone that Communists were taking over the United States.
- Alexander the Great intimidated an army by leaving armor and helmets that were very large when they retreated. This made them look like giants.
- In Vietnam, Americans took Vietnamese fishermen to an island and showed them a resistance group. When they returned, the fishermen told everyone and the Vietnamese spent a lot of time and effort trying to eliminate this fake group.
- The United States dropped leaflets over Iraq telling people that Saddam Hussein was responsible for their suffering.
Generalities in Propaganda
Glittering generalities are words that appeal to people on an emotional level and are commonly used in propaganda.
Since propaganda is rampant in politics, here is a list of generalities that are used often by politicians:
- Common sense
- Hard working
Now you have seen many examples of propaganda and can better understand how it works to spread information and influence people.