A comprehensive list of media that a propagandist might use would be many pages long. It would include newspapers, magazines, radio, television, film, handbills, posters, billboards, speechmaking, whispering and rumormongering campaigns, flags, street names; monuments, commemorative coins and postage stamps, Rhodes, Fulbright, and Soviet Friendship scholarships, awards and prizes, the composition of novels, plays, comic strips, poetry, and music “with a message,” and all human groupings from the dead and the family through advertising and public relations firms, churches and temples, pressure groups, parties, and “front organizations” to the propaganda organizations (overt and covert) of nations, international coalitions, and universal international organizations.
Since World War IT there has been a strong drift, in the practice of propaganda, away from attempts to “saturate” mass audiences with large quantities of simplified slogans. The new trend is toward the far more discriminating choiceof those media to whose messages the intended reactors are thought to be especially receptive. This focusupon “placing the shots” instead of ir.discriminately bombarding the reactors is due in part to findings of behavioral research.
Numerous controlled observations and experiments on the “media habits” and “source preferences” of given reactors have established two views: 0) most persons tend to resist messages that reach them through media they do not especially trust and enjoy; (2) the most effective media, as a rule, for messages other than the simplest of commercial propaganda are not the impersonal mass media but rather those “reference groups” with which the individual feels strongly identified and in which he feels that he is at home and is surrounded with a certain degree of intimate emotional response and personal protection. First and foremost of these is, of course, the family. But many other organizations may perform quasi familiar functions–for instance, the small club of cronies, the church, the trade union. the businessmen’s luncheon club, the clique or gang, the communist cell. If the propagandist can influence the leadership of such “a reference group, he may establish a “social relay point” that can vastly amplify the meaningfulness and acceptability of his message far more effectively than a huge number of broadcasts, leaflets, or billboards, and at much lower cost. Hence a great deal of research has been devoted in recent years to the identification of such reference groups. One important stratagem is the Programming of mass media contents .e.g, newspapers or broadcasts) in such ways that instead of using scattergun
techniques on undifferentiated mass audiences they carry material that is considered likely to interest specified reference groups (and especially the elites and “opinion leaders” among these) and to be relayed by them, in their own ways and on their own initiative, to other sets ofreactors.