Propaganda Techniques

What is Propaganda?

Propaganda is the biased use of information to influence an audience or to further a specific agenda. It is a form of persuasion that employs many different techniques.

 

Why do I need to know this?

By having an understanding of how propaganda is used, you’ll have a better chance to evaluate information and to defend against such techniques.

The following is a compilation of propaganda techniques that have been identified by the research of social psychologists, along with brief descriptions and examples.

 

Ad hominem

A Latin phrase that has come to mean attacking one's opponent, as opposed to attacking their arguments.

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Appeal to authority

Appeals to authority cite prominent figures to support a position, idea, argument, or course of action.

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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 revanchism.

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Black-and-white fallacy

Presenting only two choices, with the product or idea being propagated as the better choice. (e.g., "You're either with us, or against us....")

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Cult of personality

A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media to create an idealized and heroic public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. The hero personality then advocates the positions that the propagandist desires to promote. For example, modern propagandists hire popular personalities to promote their ideas and/or products.

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Dictat

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 authority technique, but not necessarily. The Uncle Sam "I want you" image is an example of this technique.

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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.

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Framing

Framing is the social construction of a social phenomenon often by mass media sources, political or social movements, political leaders, or other actors and organizations. It is an inevitable process of selective influence over the individual's perception of the meanings attributed to words or phrases.

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Guilt by association 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 that 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. This is a form of bad logic, where A is said to include X, and B is said to include X, therefore, A = B.

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Half-truth

A half-truth is a deceptive statement that includes some element of truth. It comes in several forms: the statement might be partly true, the statement may be totally true but only part of the whole truth, or it may utilize some deceptive element, such as improper punctuation, or double meaning, especially if the intent is to deceive, evade, blame, or misrepresent the truth.

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