TOP TEN INSIGHTS ON LEARNING ABOUT PROPAGANDA
1. One Solid Definition for Propaganda? I Think Not.
In the first week of our Propaganda online class, we discovered that there can be several ways we define propaganda. It does not have one solid definition. Instead, there are several definitions which have developed with time. Propaganda has developed and changed throughout the years, and therefore changing the definition.
In his book on Communist propaganda techniques, John Clews describes propaganda as “the vogue word” of the twentieth century. Harold Lasswell believes that certain definitions given now are not helpful because they perpetuate the misleading belief that propaganda has to do with good or bad, and right and wrong. On the other hand, David Welch gives the definition of Propaganda as, “Modern political propaganda can be defined as the deliberate attempt to influence the opinions of an audience through the transmission of ideas and values for the specific purpose, consciously designed to serve the interest of the propagandists and their political masters, either directly or indirectly.” David Welch. “Powers of Persuasion.” History Today 49 (August 1999): 24–26.
What I’ve learned with this is that propaganda is changing overtime, especially since our technology has increased as well. It is almost mandatory for Propaganda to change, seeing that everything around it is, therefore giving it more resources. Since the concept of Propaganda as changed, the definition will as well.
Propaganda shifted from war to scientific research. Propaganda before World War II was all about politics and that was really it. Now it is based more on what is going on social and the environment around us. The intent of Propaganda has always stayed the same, to persuade an audience to think a certain way. Now with more research and evolving minds, Propaganda needs to “stay with the times”.
2. Is Lying The New Truth In The 21st Century?
During the course of our online class, we always turned to our lives today when it came to learning about Propaganda. We turn this back to our current president Trump. In our online activities we watched a video located here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nknYtlOvaQ0#action=share , where obvious lies are seen as great propaganda. Although many lies mentioned by this man are obvious, for some reason they are still highly effective. We argue to even call this Propaganda at this point. Trump has been a true example of that. He continuously lies knowing that somehow with these lies he will cause a group of people to change their mind.
Edward Bernays, an Austrian-American pioneer in the field of Propaganda and public relations states in his novel, “In the present structure of society, this practice is inevitable. Whatever of social importance is done to-day, whether in politics, finance, manufacture, agriculture, charity, education, or other fields, must be done with the help of propaganda. Propaganda is the executive arm of the invisible government” (Bernays pp.19-20). Edward confirms that no matter what is being spoken about, especially in the media, it needs to be done with Propaganda, and I believe that what Trump is doing is exactly that. He is sticking to the Propaganda no matter how ludicrous he may sound, it is still effective.
3. Not Everything You See Is What It Seems
Fake news was not a term mentioned we would some years back, but now it has become part of our democracy. According to newyorker.com, “Only in the twentieth century, as the United States became a complex modern society with mass media and professional journalism, did people begin to worry about the fake-news problem, and when they did they usually came down either on the side of restricting democracy or restricting the media”. As society evolved, and began to include more people in it, the term “fake news” became more of a concern.
When cable television and the radio came along, the libertarian idea of that everyone should have access to all types of information, fake news became more evident. Since we have access to all information and opinions, we then have access to misinformation as well. Information that is inaccurate. In the New Yorker article about fake news, it also talks about how to fix the problem of spreading it. In order to prevent it we need to think of the government and it as an institution to do so.
I can say that it is really hard for me to believe something I see online or on the big screen. More and more lies have been revealed, and having a president who is the prime example of producing fake news is terrifying. I’ve also learned to detect fake news after this online course. I am guilty of believing some things that were not true in the media just because a “leader” or person in power was the one who produced it.
4. Our Journalists Need Training
According to Lexicon of Lies: Terms For Problematic Information By Caroline Jack, misinformation “is information whose inaccuracy is unintentional”. Caroline mentions that misinformation can be spread when journalist misinterpret or fail to verify a source. Since many journalist are competing against each other to provide the public with information they have the right to receive, it makes it harder for them to stick to the full truth. They publish articles very quickly in order to make sure its out before another company does.
In the article it gave the bombing of the Ariana Grande concert as an example. It mentions that shortly after the bombing attack, the Daily Express right quickly tweeted that the shooter was outside of the local hospital, but the information was not true. They did this in order to be the first resource of information for the public, and get it out before anyone else, but it turned to be a example of misinformation.
Misinformation contribute to fake news and pose a risk to brands and their audiences. The only difference with misinformation and disinformation is that misinformation is done without the intention. The journalist may not know that the information is inaccurate. It is very important for companies to know the risk this may put on their brand.
5. Fake It Until You Make It
Another topic that was quite interesting during our online course was the topic of sponsored content. This topic is very relatable to our current life today. Sponsored content is a form of content marketing that is typically created by the publisher that distributes it. Today many people make their money by simply posting a picture holding a product with a caption that explains how great the product is and how it works.
In doing this, people begin to rebrand themselves. For example, people try to position themselves as entrepreneurs when they are actually not, just to catch people’s attention. Being an entrepreneur is seen as an honor, therefore people will try to display that. Many people are bought into faking it until they make it. People were using this to strategy to get to where they wanted to get to before, but it was used in a more classified manner.
When individuals would use this strategy, they would not claim to be somebody, but they claim to be in the journey of becoming it. Now people do this in the open. They do this while people are watching. For example, many upcoming rappers will give their audience the idea that they have “made it” as a rapper by putting pictures of their accomplishments and use stereotypes of rappers, but in reality they are not this. They do this in order to gain respect, and get the attention of the right people until they actually become a rapper.
Buying followers is another way to earn credibility. You do this to gain credibility so that in turn, brands will reach out to you and used you as a product for their product. Gaining followers provides you with a better chance of making more money. The more followers you have, the more brands would like to work with you.
Here are two YouTube videos that speak more on the “Fake it till you make it” topic.
6. Thank You Garth And Victoria
One very important aspect that I learned during the duration of this course was analyzing propaganda. We read an article called How To Analyze Propaganda by Garth S. Jowett and and Victoria O’Donnell. This article goes into detail about ten steps to analyzing propaganda. The article can be accessed here: http://www.ffri.hr/~ibrdar/komunikacija/seminari/How%20to%20analyse%20propaganda%20(Chapter6).pdf
The 10 steps are, the ideology and purpose of the propaganda campaign, the context in which the propaganda occurs, identification of the propagandist, the structure of the propaganda organization, the target audience, media utilization techniques, special techniques to maximize effect, audience reaction to various techniques, counterpropaganda, if present, and effects and evaluation.
In the article it states, “Propaganda is a deliberate and systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist.Its systematic nature requires longitudinal study of its progress. Because the essence of propaganda is its deliberateness of purpose, considerable investigation is required to find out what the purpose”. This is telling us that there is a need for these 10 steps to truly understand what is being displayed at hand. In order to understand propaganda, following these steps will give you a more clear image of what it actually is.
After reading the article, we filmed a Flipgrid where we chose one of the steps and spoke about it and we gave an example. The one I chose was music in propaganda which is music that combines sound and language and is repeated until it becomes familiar, and in turn making it effective. I gave the example of a transportation company called “San Miguel Transportation” that had an ad on the radio and always played the same song that went along with their brand name. My little brother and I would always sing the song because it was so catchy. One day someone needed a bus to travel with in order to get to their destination, and since the song was stuck in my head, I was able to provide the name quickly.
7. The Scary Truth
Week 10 of Professor Hobbs’ online Propaganda class was definitely an interesting one. This topic, without even going into detail about it, already caught my attention. To begin, it is almost frightening to admit that social media is used as a recruitment platform for terrorism groups. In the article, “War Goes Viral” it states that, “Social Media has empowered ISIS recruiting, helping the group draw at least 30,000 foreign fighters, from some 100 countries, to the battlefield of Syria and Iraq”. Now that is some scary stuff. To know that a place where you scroll through everyday is being used as a recruitment ground s terrifying. Imagine having your own children on that and not knowing that they may be a victim as well.
After reading some articles in the week 10 activity session, I decided to look into what is being done in terms of these terrorist group and Twitter. I found an article that spoke about the actions that Twitter took after the video of the beheading of the American journalist James Foley was disseminated. The article, The Evolution of Terrorist Propaganda. The Paris Attack and Social Media stated that Twitter began to take a more aggressive approach to these terrorist accounts, especially ISIS. They suspended thousands of ISIS supporter accounts and are carefully looking for more terrorist associated accounts to suspend. This is to show that Social Media is like just like currency. It is so useful and many times even needed, but it has two sides to it, it can be used for good and can be used for bad.
8. What Are We Watching Really?
My favorite section, was definitely the section about entertainment propaganda. This is something I see every single day. If it’s not television, it is in movies, or even in music. Entertainment Propaganda is an easy way to aim a certain message to a big audience. There are popular films known to be pure propaganda such as "American Sniper" and "White House Down".
Although Propaganda films are very popular, there is also propaganda in even animated films such as "The Simpsons". This movie portrays an “ideal” family where each person as a “common” role and characteristics. For example, the dad is the typical father who is into sports and coffee, and the mother is a stay at home mom. This film targets not only a young audience, but the older as well.
Something unfortunate that I learned about entertainment propaganda is that people are depicted and teared apart for the entertainment of others. For example, in this course we read about Palestinians and how they are demonized and depicted in a unjust manner. Even famous actors like Adam Sandler play roles that represent Palestinians in a negative manner. Having people’s favorite actors play this role makes it even harder for them to realize that there is something wrong being done. Individuals are blinded by the entertainment industry and do not realize that they are hurting real human beings. After learning about this, I want to change something about my intake of entertainment propaganda. If I see something that is truly demonizing a group of people, I stand for them and let people know what is REALLY being said and done in these shows and movies.
9.Scaring People Into Believing
Scare tactics are seen throughout the history of propaganda. A scare tactic is a strategy used to persuade and manipulate the opinion of the targeted audience by causing fear or alarm. A scare tactic is an appeal to fear which falls under the category of logical fallacy. Fear in this case in this case is not reason based, but it is a sort of method that tries to persuade its reader or viewer to accept a view based on it’s emotional pull.
We see people use scare tactics in a variety of ways. For instance, a parent might scare their child into cleaning their, because if not done, Santa won’t give them any gifts. This same strategy has been used in political propaganda. The U.S government specifically used scare tactics during World War II to persuade white Americans to “do the right thing” One example of this is a poster that was created depicting a man driving a car with Hitler next to him saying, “When you ride alone, you ride with Hitler”. This ad was devised to scare people into joining a “car sharing club” because the U.S government wanted to conserve gasoline for the war.
10. It’s Not ALL Bad
It seems that many people people automatically think negatively when the word propaganda is brought up. Yes, it has and is still being used in a negative manner, but it also is used to benefit some as well. The last week of the class activities, we watched a short film called, “One Second to the Next” where real life people spoke about their experience with texting and driving. Some were the victims and others were the cause. They all spoke about their perspective on the the topic and their real life stories. The message the video was trying to portray was not to text and drive, and the dangers of it.
We see many negative aspects of Propaganda such as fake news, and misinformation, and demonization of certain groups, but one thing we can say is that there are some benefits with propaganda. The message this short film delivered was important, and very necessary. There may be some people who need to hear another individual’s story in order to make the right decision. In this case, power is being used for good.
Here is a link to my video on my top 3 insights : https://spark.adobe.com/video/ZfBLU87eyWgsq
Ata, Iasmin Omar. “The Anti-Palestinian Propaganda You Don't Know You're Consuming.” The Nib, 18 Jan. 2019, thenib.com/depictions-of-palestinians-in-media.
Berger, J.M. “The Evolution of Terrorist Propaganda: The Paris Attack and Social Media.” Brookings, Brookings, 28 July 2016, www.brookings.edu/testimonies/the-evolution-of-terrorist-propaganda-the-paris-attack-and-social-media/amp/.
Bernays, Edwards L. “Propaganda.” Whales, www.whale.to/b/bernays.pdf.
Brooking, Emerson T., and P. W. Singer. “War Goes Viral.” The Atlantic, The Atlantic, 11 Oct. 2016, via.hypothes.is/https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/11/war-goes-viral/501125/.
“Fake It 'Til You Make It: Influencer in Der Schweiz | Bytes/Pieces.” YouTube, 11 Oct. 2017, youtu.be/K90QjwjSZXY.
Jack, Caroline. Lexicon of Lies: Terms for Problematic Information. datasociety.net/pubs/oh/DataAndSociety_LexiconofLies.pdf.
Lemann, Nicholas. “Solving the Problem of Fake News.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 19 June 2017, www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/solving-the-problem-of-fake-news.
Voa. “Mission and Values.” VOA, VOA, 21 Apr. 2019, www.insidevoa.com/p/5831.html.
Jowett, Garth S., and Victoria O'Donnell. How To Analyze Propaganda. www.ffri.hr/~ibrdar/komunikacija/seminari/How%20to%20analyse%20propaganda%20(Chapter6).pdf.