Meatball 1 finds good stuff, like Finding Weakness in Jihadist Propaganda by
MAJOR Timothy R. King, all of which you should read. It’s a 58-page .pdf, so before anybody’s eyes glaze over, let’s focus on MAJ King’s first chapter:
WHAT IS PROPAGANDA?
A notional understanding
Lies, distortions, fabrications, exaggerations, disinformation, spin, and censorship are words that typically describe propaganda. If propaganda is synonymous with these terms then it is unethical and wrong. These terms are however, examples of a mere notional understanding of propaganda. According to our own Joint Doctrine, propaganda is “propaganda. Any form of communication in support of national objectives designed to influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes, or behavior of any group in order to benefit the sponsor, either directly or indirectly“4. The civilian equivalent is similar; according to Dictionary.com, the definition of propaganda is “The systematic propagation of a doctrine or cause or of information reflecting the views and interests of those advocating such a doctrine or cause“5. By these accounts, propaganda is neutral. Do we misunderstand propaganda because of propaganda? Why does it have such a bad reputation? Is there anything unethical about the propagation of a cause by using information that reflects the views of the advocate? By JP 3-53 and Dictionary.com’s definitions, it is fair to say that we all are exposed to countless propaganda messages every day. Television programming and advertisements, radio commercials, political campaigning, print ads, “pop-ups” on our computers and junk mail are just a few forms of propaganda we encounter daily – and, it is completely acceptable. Does persuasive information become propaganda simply because it comes from the government? What about when the nation is at war – do the ends justify the means? What if the message is morally right and factually true – is it still propaganda? The issue with propaganda is that propagandists have shown little regard for truth in the construction of their persuasive messages and those we label as propagandists have an opposing ideology to ours. In war, one’s patriotic message is another’s wartime propaganda; it is perception and perception is reality.
Skipping on down to Ethics:
According to Stanley Cunningham, in his book The Idea of Propaganda: A Reconstruction, propaganda is pseudo-information with an important philosophical shortfall. His book is reliant on epistemology and ethics; he concludes that propaganda as unethical. He argues that propaganda is inherently unethical because is exploits information, poses as knowledge, generates belief systems, skews perceptions and systematically disregards epistemic values12. He also sites (but disagrees with) a propaganda neutrality thesis13. The neutrality thesis puts the ethical onus on the propagandist – not propaganda itself. Sort of like the adage of: “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. If the neutrality thesis is right then the ethical onus falls on the ideology, not the process of communicating it. Cunningham argues epistemologically that propaganda cannot be knowledge because of its selective use of truth and its ability to alter beliefs14. Academically, his argument is compelling but the practical application of the argument makes the philosophical definition irrelevant. Philosophical debates seeking consensus in understanding the concept of knowledge cannot even agree on the definition of “truth”15. In the larger sense, it seems folly to be epistemologically concerned with the use of information that seeks to change minds as compared with other mind-changing kinetic methods such as direct combat.
Propaganda Techniques written by Henry Conserva is another interesting work on propaganda. Conserva’s background is in education and debate. As a debating coach, he armed his team with a practical knowledge of propaganda. By educating his debate team on the techniques of propaganda, the team could develop better arguments against it16. Conserva defines propaganda as a “… communication of a point of view, moral, amoral or immoral with the ultimate goal of the recipient of the view voluntarily accepting the propagandist’s view.”17 Conserva’s views then are in keeping with JP 3-53 and Dictionary.com. He regards propaganda with certain neutrality but acknowledges that the intentional biases preclude it from being true information. He summarizes by explaining that propaganda causes the reader to suggest, imply and assume; propaganda discourages reflection, reason and understanding.18 Propaganda is biased information that intendeds to persuade the recipient to accept the propagandist’s views. Conserva proclaims that the natural enemy of propaganda is education. If propaganda is so flawed and educated people recognize it as so, then why is it effective?
According to Cunningham, propaganda is effective not only because it simplifies the information (making is indiscernible to the intellectually lazy) but also because we are absolutely inundated with the messages. There are so many propaganda messages, many appearing as information, the victim of propaganda has little time apply to finding the real truth19. Additionally, much propaganda appeals to the prejudices and pre-established attitudes of the recipient. In other words, propaganda tells the recipient what he wants to hear. Preconceived notions and culturally installed biases reinforce propaganda. Propaganda reinforces what we already believe and forms a “safety net” for our norms. It allows us to legitimize our beliefs and it verifies our values are correct. Propaganda allows the individual to think collectively, with safety in numbers20. Cunningham suggests that the victims of propaganda have complicity in propaganda. The propagandee is not an innocent victim; he develops an appetite for the emotionally charged messages and, with acceptance, becomes a willing participant in their own oppression.21 Wartime propaganda feeds on emotions like hate, fear and patriotism – messages that support the individual’s emotions can bolster the passion of the people. Propaganda of all sorts has become so prolific that it becomes difficult to discern where it is and where it is coming from.
Categories and techniques
Perhaps the most useful section of Stanley Cunningham’s book is his categorization of propaganda. Chapter four of Cunningham’s book explains the nine basic categories of propaganda: Agitation, Integration, White, Black, Disinformation, Bureaucratic, Counterpropaganda, Hate, and Deed22.
Agitation Propaganda – A form of propaganda that calls attention to a social or political problem. Agitation propaganda uses a variety of emotional messages to generate outrage, fear or anger.
Integration Propaganda – A form of propaganda that calls for unity to a cause or group. Integration propaganda calls for people to join a movement.
White Propaganda – propaganda that uses facts and truthful messages in a persuasive manner. Although is relies on truth, it is presented in a biased manner.
Black Propaganda – the reverse of White Propaganda. Black propaganda relies on lies, or erroneous information.
Disinformation – information that is intentionally designed to be misleading. Disinformation is designed to propagate rumors and assumptions.
Bureaucratic Propaganda – the use of reports and statistics to convey a point of view. Bureaucratic propaganda masks itself as legitimate scientific findings.
Counterpropaganda – counteractive propaganda designed to nullify or reverse an opponent’s propaganda message. Counterpropaganda inadvertently provides feedback to the original propagandist.
Hate Propaganda – a form of agitation propaganda that assigns blame for the problem on a person, race, or nationality. Perhaps the most prolific form of propaganda in the twentieth century. A major goal of hate propaganda is to demoralize the enemy.
Propaganda of the Deed – symbolic acts that rely on media attention to convey the message. Deeds follow the adage “actions speak louder than words”. Through the use of video and photography, Deeds transcend language barriers.
Go read the whole thing. We can do distance learning, too. Remember Hate Propaganda and use it on BDS-afflicted moonbats.