Political propaganda

Автор: Пользователь скрыл имя, 21 Января 2013 в 15:17, курсовая работа

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In the modern world political propaganda as a persuasive form that influences human behaviors, has been changed humongously due to the process of globalization and technological revolution. It has become a useful tool for governments to legitimate their power and direct people`s activities. Thus, it should not be fought, but rather be developed.

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In the modern world political propaganda as a persuasive form that influences human behaviors, has been changed humongously due to the process of globalization and technological revolution. It has become a useful tool for governments to legitimate their power and direct people`s activities. Thus, it should not be fought, but rather be developed.

 Although throughout the history propaganda has acquired negative meaning, nowadays it has undergone some changes due to technological and communication advance and has become an important criterion for success.

The purpose of this research paper is to describe the development of political propaganda through history and show that it is a powerful tool for governments to achieve success and maintain public peace. Through the paper you will get assured that despite it is important to recognize propaganda from real information, however, it should not be fought.

The paper consists of three parts. The first part reveals the concept of propaganda and then roots of propaganda, showing briefly its development and role throughout the history. The second part is focused on the existing forms and techniques of political propaganda in the modern world. The third part is based on modern political propaganda: disclosing negative and positive impacts of propaganda it will show the necessity of its development in the 21st century.







Propaganda is as old as people, politics and religion. People always wanted and want to persuade others about them and, if they have the power, they will use everything they have to persuade everyone. The term 'propaganda' first appeared in 1622 when Pope Gregory XV established the Sacred Congregation for Propagating the Faith (Congregatio de Propaganda Fide). Propaganda was then as now about convincing large numbers of people about the veracity of a given set of ideas.

             Propaganda is often defined as the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause or a person. However to define exactly what is propaganda is a difficult task. There is no agreed definition of it. To attempt to define propaganda we have to face theories we hold about propaganda.

  • For Franklin propaganda has the same features as information.
  • Schumpeter said that propaganda refers to any statement emanating from a source that we do not like, that is why propagandists do everything possible to hide the source.
  • Drescher argues that propaganda conjures up images of governmentally inspired lies. This approach is too categoric and unilateral.1

From the above mentioned we can see that to define exactly what is propaganda is a difficult task, as through history it was used in different times, in different ways for different situations. Today political propaganda is an important governmental tool used mainly for political campaigns especially before any elections to make particular influence on public conscious . In this sense which is dominating in the modern democratized world propaganda is a tool to overcome rivalry and get victory.


  To understand what changes propaganda has gone it is important to study political propaganda in different stages of history.  Propaganda is considered to be a modern political art, but the Romans were masters of 'spin'. Roman Empire was occupying huge territories. One question may arise from each of us. How did Rome's leaders communicate their power and their policies to a massive and diverse empire? All empire-builders have to justify what they do to themselves, to their own people, and to those they dominate. Is not difficult to observe that propaganda has its decisive role here. The Romans projected it successfully through literature, inscriptions, architecture, art, and elaborate public ceremonial.

For example, Julius Caesar, in his famous account of the Gallic Wars of the 50s BC, provided readers at home with a blood-curdling description of the Germanic tribes he encountered in battle: ''The various tribes regard it as their greatest glory to lay waste as much as possible of the land around them and to keep it uninhabited. They hold it a proof of a people's valour to drive their neighbours from their homes, so that nobody dare settle near them. No discredit attaches to plundering raids outside tribal frontiers. The Germans say that they serve to keep young men in training and prevent them from getting lazy.''2 In this way, we can see that Julius Caesar was imposing on people`s conscious,making them want to become stronger than Germanic tribes, it was becoming a form of motivation for roman people.


In 1933, Hitler realized the potential of propaganda and appointed Joseph Goebbels as Minister for Propaganda. As Germany prepared for and carried out World War II, he implemented a variety of forms of propaganda.  
     The Nazi propaganda machine relied mainly on symbolism. The swastika (卐), a very ancient ideogram and which is now permanently associated with the Nazis, was once a positive symbol used in many different cultures. When Adolph Hitler was made chief of propaganda for the National Socialist party he chose this commanding symbol to distinguish the Nazi Party from all other rival political groups. With great skill Goebbels began building the myth of Aryan supremacy. He always maintained that some element of truth was necessary in propaganda to provide a means of escape if his statements were questioned. This was necessary for several reasons, but primarily to serve two main Nazi agendas. First, to convince the public to fight and that it was necessary to fight. Secondly, to justified racism . German wartime propaganda utilized a variety of forms in its delivery. Much of the propaganda was implemented through the recently invented radio, as well as through speeches from the main Nazi leaders. Posters and other visual material were also widely circulated. Much other visual and printed material, such as books and leaflets, was only circulated to specific groups, such as Nazi party members or soldiers. However, almost all the propaganda was spread though a variety of media. The film “The Eternal Jew” itself compares the Jewish people to rats. By dehumanizing Jews, the Nazi leaders began to prepare for Hitler’s “Final Solution.” The Nazi leaders knew that when the deportations began it would be much easier for the German people to watch friends and neighbors shipped away if they associated them with rats or with age-old stereotypes about cheating with money


Wars have always been a good reason to use propaganda, as governments seek to persuade populaces of the justness of their cause as well as hide the horrors and failures of the front line. Misinformation and disinformation are widely used to distract people from the truth and create new realities.

Entry into the first world war was apparently accompanied with many stories of atrocities that were false. Things have not changed and more recent wars have also had more than their fair share of propaganda and false excuses. For example, one of the basic successful home messages of the World War II was that everything Germans said was a lie and everything Americans said was the truth. This gave a platform for sustaining faith in ultimate victory and cast Germany as an evil to be destroyed.  




"Propaganda has absolutely nothing to do with truth,"3 said Joseph Goebbels. After reading about the different propaganda techniques and the examples of these methods, you hopefully understand why, he said so.

              Kings, political leaders, and even advertisers have been using propaganda to influence behavior for centuries now. The techniques used may differ but the end result remains the same. Mainly used in politics, propaganda is hugely influenced by methods of influence used in public relations and advertising.

              The following types of propaganda are the ones that the Institute for Propaganda Analysis has identified as the most common types of propaganda methods.

1. Bandwagon

              Influencing people by telling them how everyone is using the same product or is true to the same ideology. This encourages people to take the same course of action.  It is a technique that is used largely during elections. Many people are often influenced to vote for those candidates or parties whom the majority seem to be supporting. These people are also often the most likely to succeed. In the United States, because of the time zone difference, results in the eastern parts are declared before polls close in the west which often influences voters in the western zones.

2. Card Stacking

                 Most companies use this technique in advertising by highlighting the positives of a product while downplaying any possible negatives or side-effects. It is truth in half.  It is a technique that is used by political parties to highlight the good that they have done for their constituency while never mentioning the negatives.

3. Glittering Generalities

                   When emotionally appealing words that make us approve and accept an idea without examining the evidence, glittering generalities are put to use. They carry conviction but have no supporting reasons to prove the same.  

                The most well-known example of this propaganda technique was its use by Adolf Hitler who would use words that were linked to ideas like freedom, pride, independence, and integrity in his speeches.. It was the use of this technique that helped him gain the mass support that he had.



4. Name Calling

The technique works in a way that is the complete reverse of glittering generalities. The technique used is such that it causes an audience to create a negative opinion about someone because of the bad opinions they hear of them. As with glittering generalities, there is no basis for the name calling.   If you have ever seen a political attack ad on TV, you've probably seen examples of name calling. These ads contain statements intended to damage the image of an opponent. Often, the bad image of the opponent is crystallized in a damaging slogan that is hammered home as the principle point of the ad.

5. Plain Folks

                   This technique works in a way to establish that the speaker is regular and ordinary and has the same views and opinions as the people he is appealing to. It creates a sense of camaraderie between the speaker and his audience which helps build belief in the idea. This is a technique that is used quite commonly during elections. Most politicians try to establish a rapport with their voter group by creating the image that they have a lot in common. Therefore, the images of George Bush wearing denims and a plaid shirt while relaxing at Camp David or Bill Clinton eating at McDonalds are all examples of using the technique. To a large extent the campaign slogan, ‘’Yes, We Can’’ endorsed by President Obama also utilized the same method.

6. Testimonial

              When a famous person or a celebrity endorses a certain view, they testify to the idea or the product. This is an effective propaganda technique that often works wonders to influence an audience.  This propaganda technique is probably the most widely used and the most effective of the lot. When a celebrity endorses a certain view, it is more than likely that fans and followers endorse the same view. This technique is effectively used in politics but has even more far reaching consequences in advertising wherein celebrity power can actually increase sales and brand value.

7. Transfer

                When a product or an idea is linked with another to create the impression that they share positive attributes, the technique being used is known as transfer. This technique can be used to create positive and negative feelings about an entity.   This propaganda technique is capable of creating highly emotional responses and therefore, generally the imagery for association tends to be visual. A common example of this is the use of the flag, or even the colors red white and blue in political ads. This creates a subliminal impression of American values or patriotism that the viewer will hopefully associate with the candidate.


According to another classification methods of propaganda fall into two groups;

  • Propaganda through written form
  • Propaganda through spoken form

1. Propaganda through the written word: flyers, leaflets, party newspapers and books, advertising circulars, posters, stamps, other newspapers, stamps and postcards, banners and billboards, slides, and films.

  1. Not much needs to be said about the effectiveness of stickers. Their task is to be a constant reminder to the indifferent and to gradually unsettle them. How should they look? They should be small enough so the person applying them will have enough saliva. They should be brief (few, but vivid words). The layout should be good, with no white space at the edges where graffiti can be written. Each party member should carry such stickers with him.
  2. The flyer, with a few sentences, which is distributed on the street, has lost its effectiveness. It is soon thrown away, and its content, mostly only an announcement of a meeting, is hardly noticed. Another promising innovation is flyers with caricatures. Flyers in various colors, but with identical slogans, some with caricatures, spread through entire city districts are effective. For example:
  • Against Marxism and Reaction — the National Socialists!
  • For Freedom and Bread — the National Socialists!
  • Your greeting: Heil Hitler!
  1. The leaflet should contain a brief, easily understandable idea. It should appeal to the enemy, which demands a certain skill on the part of the writer. The most important phrases should be in bold or larger type. Tiny text, bad organization and boring material kill interest. The interest of the indifferent, from whom one cannot expect much effort, must be awakened.
  1. The brochures, which in contrast to leaflets provide the reader with more detailed treatments of various issues, suffer the disadvantage of costing sections and local groups considerable money.
  2. Posts on the internet. News items, opinions, comments on political issues can be widely spread throughout the whole world through the internet. Due to the development of  communicational means nowadays people can contact with each other from different contintents share ideas, even  arise certain problems and influence governments and find solutions to those  problems. Political leaders in their turn keep in touch with their constituencies, hold online meeting and answer people`s questions and of course spread certain ideas imposing on people`s behavour.
  3. Films. It is widely known that visual media is acknowledged as an important potential weapon of propaganda. In addition, the role of visual media in propaganda has been mentioned by some well-known people in order to demonstrate this significance of visual media. ‘Lenin remarked that ‘of all the arts, for us cinema is the most important.' Stalin described it as ‘the greatest means of mass agitation' and Trotsky called it ‘the best instrument for propaganda.'' (Taylor, 1998) At the early times of using visual media (cinema, television), using propaganda in visual media was an advantage due to admiration of technology. People had strange feelings about the visual media, and surely, meeting with a new technological miracle was a significant event for them at that time. ‘Now of course we can all watch television and see man walking on the moon, but in the 1920s this ‘universality' was seen as an amazing breakthrough.' (Taylor, 1998) Due to this signification, visual media played a big role on the implementing of propaganda

2. Propaganda through the spoken word. The power of words that is what characterizes this form of propaganda. For Hitler propaganda mass persuasion – was indispensable in coming to power and building his Third Reich. He declares, “propaganda, propaganda, all that matters is propaganda.”4 He believes “propaganda is a weapon, though a frightful one in the hand of an expert”.5 It is true that  propaganda and public speaking are indistinguishable; oratory is a crucial part of propaganda. It is the power of word that makes propaganda inseparable from oratory. To achieve a success and impact on peoples` conscious speeches should be based on a cynical analysis of his audience, that emphasized repetition, lying and emotional appeal.     

In order to use propaganda effectively, one has to have great command of language and recognize the power of persuasive speech. George Orwell, the author of the postwar novel, 1984, realized the dangers of propaganda and the power of persuasion. In his essay "Politics and the English language," Orwell maintained that fighting propaganda meant fighting mental laziness. One of the themes that run through 1984 is how the State uses language for political control over the people who speak it. Orwell clearly outlined what might happen in a totalitarian state in which everything the state published was propaganda. The government used a complicated doublespeak language to convey contradictory meanings in order to obscure the truth. The population was taught the language of Newspeak where every concept was expressed in only one word in order to hide nuances and prevent the people from thinking discriminately. The political party in power rewrote the past in order to control the present:





Propaganda and manipulation of reality continues to be used in large quantities in the modern world. Propaganda in the modern world has got other aims and its methods have enlarged too mainly due to the development of communicational means. Governments continue to tell their constituencies what they think they need to know. Advertisers use the whole gamut of propagandist techniques. And although some people can see the reality (and some theorize about improbable conspiracies), most people are taken in and see nothing of how they are manipulated.

Books such as Bernays' ''Propaganda'' published in 1928 still treated it as a force for good and an effective method of mass social persuasion, even though the ethics of its use varied greatly. His book starts with a sentence that would cause much concern today, yet which then seemed practical and: “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in a democratic society.”6 The dominant view of the populace then was of an uneducated, ill-informed mass whose views should be directed rather than allow them to think. Thinking on higher matters was really for managers and rulers who could decide what was best for lesser people. In the modern world though the majority of populace is well-educated and provided with wide scope of information, it is still manipulated and affected by propaganda. It is not so bad. In some extreme cases propaganda can keep people together, unite them under one idea and direct their activities.


In the USA political propaganda is vividly expressed especially before elections. All the forms of propaganda are used during campaign: slogans, posters. Rhetorics plays a very important role as well. Rich in metaphors and expressive strucuters american political leaders are able to influence on people`s conscious. New propaganda slogans were being overtly and subliminally implanted by Obama through his speeches and actions:

  • Hope you can believe in
  • Change for a better America

In the USA in the latest presidential election were widely used posters with slogans. Due to developed technology Ron Keas has produced what he proclaims to be the "world's first political campaign poster in 3-D." And it promotes the re-election of President Barack Obama. It incorporates his oil painting of Obama and adds the Lincoln Memorial and one of the President's campaign slogans, "Forward." (see the picture below)



Where ever you look television shows, movies and books they are all about the end of the world making people panic that the world is gone to end in 2012. In fact something is not true if the government is forcing it into your mind that over the years some civilizations have predicted something will happen on December 21, 2012. In many states of U.S.A. there was even declared about the end of the world, in France many occasions of suicide were reported on that day showing that people were really concerned with that. However, the end of the world is another piece of propaganda promoted by governments to deviate people from real problems connected with economic crisis and other political issues. There probably many people who listening the sensational news about the end of world ceased working harder, or fighting for his right, or taking part in demonstrations etc. Why to do all these if the worlds ends? In this way governments are manipulating on people`s conscious. It unites people on one concrete matter.















Propaganda as an inseparable part of politics plays a huge role in influencing people`s attitudes and creating new ideas. Beginning from antique times propaganda has been used for different purposes; all in all it was promoting certain ideas. With various forms and techniques like assertion, bandwagon, transfer, name calling etc. which work on human mind imposing on their activities and values, propaganda has a function of uniting people under one certain though not necessarily true idea. Possessing such kind of ability for a government of any country is a musthave to maintain country`s peace and unity.

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