Propoganda and its types

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Propaganda can be referred to as an organized effort to influence and control the views, behaviors or action of other people through arguments, signs, memorials, music, attire, badges, coins etc. There is a difference between propaganda and a normal discussion. Propaganda is planned to achieve a certain objective/s and used for manipulation. The propagandists purposefully chose certain facts and reasoning and try their best to portray them in an effective manner even if they have to omit, misrepresent and twist some important facts. They may even tell lies in order to attract the attention of people into accepting or paying attention only to their propaganda and no other matter.   

In 2014, Garth S.Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell wrote a book “Propaganda & Persuasion” in which a comprehensive definition was mentioned and they defined propaganda as a careful, measured and organized effort to mould and influence the opinions and thoughts and steer their behavior in a certain direction in order to get a response which helps them in achieving the objective of propaganda. Moreover, propaganda is an effective tool to manipulate the thoughts of people. Since the 19th century, the politicians, the rivals and special interest groups have used propaganda in order to promote their agendas. The purpose of propaganda is to point out the good and bad aspects and characteristics of a notion, an individual or a law. For example, propaganda was deployed by Hitler, in a period that followed after the end of First World War, in order to spread his anti-Semitic thoughts and his plans for Germany. The US also used propaganda with the intent of elevating the public’s morals and encouraging them for enlistment. The term “propaganda” originates from Vatican. There is an expression “congregatio de propaganda fide”, which mean “The congregation for the propagation of the faith”, was put to use in favor of the catholic faith as a reaction to the “Protestant Reformation”. Since long, propaganda has been used and there is no place where it is not deployed. All kinds of mass media, such as print and electronic media, advertisements etc. are sources of propaganda. In mostly wars, wartime propaganda has been used to influence and Alexander the Great can probably be regarded as the first person to use war propaganda. He had to retreat in a battle, but he also understood that if he indicated that he was not powerful and had to pull back then it would not be beneficial for him, therefore, he found the solution in the form of propaganda and deployed it to frighten his rival army and he even prepared large armor and helmets to portray his army as the army of giants and put them on groun so that it would scare his rival army and they would not follow his army.

Wartime propaganda was also used in Vietnam in order to divert the efforts of Vietnamese. This type of propaganda involved abducting and blindfolding the Vietnamese fishermen and then transferring them to an Island where these fishermen were informed that it was done by a resistance group “The Sacred Sword of the Patriot League”. Later on, upon their return to main land, these fishermen circulated rumors about this group, due to which, the Vietnamese directed their activities against a group which was not even real.   

 Adolf Hitler is one of the famous propaganda experts who deployed war propaganda and succeeded in persuading his country of the National Socialism beliefs which eventually led to the Holocaust and the Jews were trounced in the process. Hitler even expressed his abhorrence for Jews in a political statement in 1945 and even called on people to stick to their beliefs even after his death. He further said that it is wrong to say that no one, including him, wished for war in 1939 and the people responsible for it are the international statesmen who were Jews including other people operating in order to further the interests of Jews. At the end of his political testament, he instructed his government and people to keep the race laws and fight ruthlessly against the Jews. This propaganda by Hitler in the promotion of National Socialism and disgust for Jews made people in favor of his army and country, hence the Second World War started. Whole Germany was filled with propaganda posters which said “Führer, we will follow you” and the purpose of all of it was to bring Germans to his side. A substantial amount of money, time and energy was spent in the propaganda of First World War which made it possible to carry out more propaganda afterwards. The Second World War produced three important kinds of propaganda, which were either used in wartime or internally in a country for advertisement, giving a new meaning to propaganda and telling about the ways to carry it out and if we come across it, we might not even realize what we are seeing.     

Both Axis and Allies used white propaganda in their countries through millions of leaflets. Planes were used to drop these leaflets in both the enemy and friendly countries. The intent, purpose and propagandist of this propaganda were no secret because of the material mentioned in it. This type of propaganda is used by propagandists to call on their own people for support in war and that how can they play their part. This type of propaganda also contains statements from the happy prisoners of war who talk about the very good life in the country (where they are prisoners) and this method was utilized for a long time even in the Persian Gulf War.  The classification of propaganda is carried on the basis of techniques which it deploys in the formation of its logic and these classifications of propaganda are called white propaganda, black propaganda and grey propaganda. Although, incongruities exist while explaining them, however, Garth S. Jowett and Victoria O, Donnell have explained them in “Propaganda and Persuasion” as:White Propaganda: The source of white propaganda is well-known and it usually carries correct information and it is designed in a convincing way in order to tell the audience that the sender is the upright one having the finest thoughts and political beliefs. Black Propaganda: It is regarded as the work of a false source. It is used to circulate untrue things, concoction and artifices. Gray Propaganda: It has the qualities of both the white and black propaganda. We may not very well know its source. The reliability and truthfulness of its information are dubious.

Areeja Syed
Areeja Syed
Author is pursuing MPhil in International Relations from COMSATS University Islamabad. Her area of research focuses on International Security, Strategic issues and Public Diplomacy.

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