If we look at propaganda as a whole, it is basically a biased version of spreading information or ideas to the masses. Let us go over this MarketingWit post where we will understand the concept in detail along with some examples.
Propaganda is a form of communication used to manipulate the ideas of the audience. It is rarely, if ever, impartial, and presents information in a manner to influence or swing public favor and opinion for or against the subject of propaganda. Its use can promote a response in an otherwise rational thought process, that is the result of emotional thinking rather than logic, and its power, when communicated well, is tremendous―so much so that it’s even been used in political warfare.
Propaganda examples are rife in everyday life, though much information exists of its use during both World War in the form of posters, images, and slogans that were communicated to the masses through media campaigns and the words of policy makers and politicians.
Before we look at some examples, let us first understand the different techniques of using propaganda to influence feelings and/or actions.
Simple Examples to Understand the Concept
Among the various ways these techniques have been used in the past, their application is most widely seen in politics, and the communication of what a given government wanted its people to perceive. Most of it was an appeal to emotion, and not rational thinking or intellect. Having said that, it need not always involve a negative connotation, and there exists a thin line between how it is used today and what many of us believe is advertising or public relations. In fact, many techniques used in marketing campaigns are similar to those used in creating one in the first place―after all, what does an advertising campaign aim to do other than create a desire to buy the product, by influencing the perception of a given buyer?
The Indian Revolt of 1857
One of the glaring examples of British propaganda can be seen in the Indian Revolt of 1857, or the Sepoy Mutiny, as it was called by the British. The British media, in order to garner public opinion in favor of its continued rule in India, reported instances of many British women and children being raped by Indian rebels. There was little evidence to support this theory, as was later proved, but the accounts in the media, false though they were, helped in justifying the continued oppression of the Indians, by painting the natives as savages and barbarians, who needed ‘civilizing’ by the European colonials.
In the years leading up to his ascension of power, Hitler used the print media through the Nazi daily Völkischer Beobachter and Der Angriff, to generate propaganda to great effect by raising anti-Jew sentiments among Germans, laying the foundation of what would later lead to the genocide of more than 6 million Jews throughout Germany and Europe. These papers, among others, blamed the Jews for stealing German land, kidnapping small children and for promoting ‘barbaric practices’ such as circumcision. As Nazism gained movement and widespread support, it was extended to all forms of media and means of communication. So successful was this campaign that these sentiments allowed the systematic destruction of millions of men, women, and children, on the basis of rationalizing the quest for world dominance by what was a supposedly ‘superior’ race. In the case of children, whose minds are unhampered by prejudice and preconceived notions, it is a tool of even more potency, and liable to cause significant impact―this tool was used throughout Hitler’s campaign in the promotion of anti-Semitic sentiments among school going German children.
The Afghan War
Another, more recent example was the war in Afghanistan, where American strategy involved invoking sympathy of the Afghans by stressing the nefarious aspects of The Taliban and portraying Americans as ‘friends’. This was mainly done in order to garner public support and opinion, in an effort to overthrow the Taliban government and gain a foothold in its stronghold. It involved the dropping of thousands of leaflets across Afghanistan, offering rewards for the capture of the Al Quaeda chief Osama bin Laden, and promising American support and aid. Propaganda is viewed as an exceedingly important tool, and defense strategies and tactics use it extensively in their operations within enemy and home territory, with modifications, depending on the outcome they hope to achieve. The United States Psychological Operations (PSYOPS) has divisions within the army, navy and air force, their primary objective being to bring about behavior favorable to US aims and objectives. These PSYOPS units used it along with other strategies and tactics to achieve this goal, as was the case in the Afghan war – sowing the seeds of discontent among the locals to garner sympathy and further the American cause.
The examples tend to exhibit negative instances particularly when shown as tactics in psychological warfare, however it would be an exercise in ignorance to say that all propaganda is necessarily unsavory. Although it generally uses a biased view, to influence the minds of people, in many instances, it can be used to further reasonable causes, for example, in generating awareness, or action for issues needing urgent intervention or citizen’s efforts – the environment, greenhouse gases and global warming for instance. In such cases, certain examples seem to lean more towards the ‘good’ in their goal, though a school of thought will tout the honor of honesty as the best policy in all cases, no matter how noble the aim. As for kids, the examples are scattered through the pages of world history, though it needs unbiased teaching to impart fair knowledge of the practices used perhaps by your own country, in politics and warfare. It needs an exceptionally rational pattern of thinking to escape being subjected to propaganda as we are, in everyday instances peppered through life. In today’s world, with information (not always correct or factually backed, but information nonetheless), available at the click of a button, it becomes increasingly difficult to extract truth from someone’s opinion, or propaganda for all practical purposes.