Propaganda is the relatively deliberate manipulation, by means of symbols (words, gestures, flags, images, monuments, music, etc.), of other people’s thoughts or actions with respect to beliefs, values, and behaviours which these people (“reactors”) regard as controversial. The elements of deliberateness and manipulativeness distinguish propaganda from merely casual communication or the “free” exchange of ideas.
These elements also distinguish propaganda from education whereas the propagandist presents a prefabricated argument or a single set of symbols, the educator aims to present “all” sides of an issue and leaves mainly to the audience the decision concerning the truth (if any) of the claims presented and the values (if any) at stake. Inasmuch as some communicators and some audiences regard as controversial what others regard as self-evident truth, it follows that under some conditions one man’s “propaganda” may be another man’s “education.” Propaganda.
The term “propaganda,” in most of its modem usages, apparently derives from the shortened name, “the Propaganda,” of the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide (Congregation for Propagation of the Faith), a standing committee of cardinals in charge of missionary activities of the Roman Catholic church since 1622. Hence, to many Catholics the word may have, at least when referring to ecclesiastical utterances, a responsible and respectable connotation that it lacks in many other contexts. Something similar is the case, in communist circles, at least, when the term “propaganda” is used with the special definition and meanings given it by Lenin in a collection of writings published in 1929 as Agitation and Propaganda.
In that book, which continues to furnish much of the basis for communist reasoning and practice on the subject, Lenin distinguished between (1) “Propaganda,” which he defined 88 the reasoned use of arguments from philosophy, history, and science to influence the educated and reasonable few, and (2) “agitation,” by which he meant the use of emotional slogans, “Aesopian” parables, and half-truths to influence the uneducated, the semi-educated, and the unreasonable. Thus, to the disciplined communist who follows in his Agitprop activities the theory and rules laid down by Lenin, the use of “propaganda” in Lenin’s sense is highly commendable and unqualifiedly honest. A related term is “propaganda of the deed.” This means the performance of a nonsymbolic (e.g., coercive or economic) act, not primarily for its military or economic effects but primarily for the symbolic effect it presumably will have on some reactor for instance, staging the ‘ public torture of a criminal for its presumably deterrent effect on others or giving economic “foreign aid” with more of an eye to influencing a recipient’s opinions than to building his economy.
Diplomatic negotiation, legal argument, commercial bargaining, and advertising obviously are likely to include considerable elements of both “propaganda” and “propaganda of the deed” as here defined. History. Use of the term, and the concept behind it, became common after the Vatican established in 1633 the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide (Congregation for Propagating the Faith), devoted to missionary work. In more recent times the word has acquired pejorative connotations in most countries, with notable exceptions: Nazi Germany, with its Ministry of Enlightenment and Propaganda; and the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, with their official agitation and propaganda (“agitprop”) services. Elsewhere at the present time, to call someone a propagandist is to discredit him or her 88 a source of communication. Yet efforts to influence other persons include countless activities not regarded in this light, among them what is ordinarily called EDUCATION. The grade-school teacher, for example, is expected to influence pupils to become good citizens.To distinguish propaganda from such other, more accepted activities, popular definitions of propaganda generally make use of three subjective and seldom clear-cut criteria.
First, the attempt to influence is described as biased. But this attribute raises difficulties. What is bias? Teachers consider the version of history they teach to be true and that taught in another country or by someone in a different tradition to be subject to distortion, Those who reject the propaganda designation adhere to a doctrine of truth acceptable to themselves or to others in a given society during a specific historical period. Second, the attempt to influence is considered to be motivated by personal gain. This allows propaganda to include such prominent contemporary activities as ADVERTISING, PUBLIC RELATIONS, political campaigns, LOBBYING, even courtship. Any communicator, however, is likely to gain by the act of communicating, whether it be the salary paid, the boost to the ego, the admiration of peers, or the support rendered the IDEOLOGY or regime one admires. Thus the attribute of personal gain, like that of bias, has only limited usefulness.
Third, the attempt to influence is portrayed 88 intentional. The propagandist presumably desires a specific outcome: to boost sales, to improve the client’s reputation, to win the ELECTION, to push the bill through a legislative body, to discredit and demoralize the enemy, possibly to marry the person courted. It is clear, however, that the motivations of many judgments and actions are not fully conscious and the consequences not fully intended. The innocent person .who praises a toothpaste, a candidate, or a philosophical doctrine is unaware of the bias but for that reason may be more influential than the deliberate professional. The attribute of intention, like the other two, contributes little by way of clarification. Use of the attributes of bias, personal gain, and intention to refine the definition of propaganda raises issues that go beyond definition problems. It raises questions concerning the epistemological, ethical, sociological, and psychological .foundatlons of behaviour in society. Since these issues cannot be universally delineated for all times and for all cultures, a clearcut definition of propaganda is neither possible nor desirable.
And the word is so carelessly used as a brand rather than a designation that sociologists, social psychologists, political scientists, and others have grown to eschew the very word in their studies, calling instead on such respectable and more neutral labels as social change, PERSUASION, attitude change, or communication itself. Practitioners have likewise avoided the ten; instead of propagandists they are public relations counsel, information specialists, or official spokespersons, who issue policy statements, news releases, reports, and white papers. But under whatever terminology, the growth of propaganda and propaganda organizations in the twentieth century has been exponential. Twentieth century. Statistical evidence reflects, in all parts of the Western world, a vast increase in advertising, public relations, and lobbying activities, and also, everywhere on the planet, an increase in radio stations (and to a lesser degree in television stations) owned, sponsored, or clearly controlled by governments ..In the 1980s, for example, there were more than four thousand shortwave radio stations seeking to reach foreign nationals; the Voice of America spoke in forty-two languages; the Soviet Union spoke in twenty-one languages to Europe, eleven to Africa, six to the Middle East, twenty to Southeast Asia, four to East Asia, three to Latin America, and one to North America.
Attached to most embassies are so-called cultural attaches who transmit, via the mass media and through lectures and other forms of persuasion, their government’s viewpoint to the people of the country where they are stationed and who facilitate contacts and exchanges toward the same end. The phenomenal growth of propaganda organizations may be partly attributable to an increase in LITERACY almost everywhere, but it seems more particularly from the conflicts between and within almost all modem societies. Both hot and cold wars have been accompanied by attempts to fortify one’s own countrymen and to weaken the enemy. Developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America have been invaded or penetrated by outside powers who have quarrelled with one another and who have sought to impose their own values or way of life on the indigenous populations. Regimes with new or authoritarian philosophies seek to resocialize their older citizens and to socialize their younger ones.
As commercial companies in Western countries have become more numerous; more diverse, and large, competition for the support of consumers and clients has grown keener.’: Multinational corporations, when they have failed to become monopolies, compete with one another in order to increase profits and the capital available for research and development. These conflicts have produced, and in turn have been facilitated by, noteworthy advances in technology, engineering, and the social sciences. During World War I direct communication with enemy forces was essayed by agents and through leaflets (including safe-conduct passes to soldiers tempted to surrender) dropped erratically from kites, balloons, and planes or shot across battle lines by special cannon. In World War IT radio played a significant role, and leaflets were more accurately and diffusely targeted from planes.
Since the late 1940s television has disseminated nationalist propaganda, and fading shortwave programmes have been supplemented by clearly audible radio communications available from satellites in space. Television viewers and radio listeners are offered almost instantaneous, simplified versions of events so that they feel informed without the opportunity to review or reflect upon what they ·have seen or heard. Transistor radios have enabled even seminomads to be reached. Plays in professional and amateur theaters and MOTION PICTURES have propaganda objectives as well as artistic merit. I Social science has contributed the PUBLIC OPINION survey to contemporary propaganda. Within determinable margins of error it is possible through interviews with or questionnaires directed to carefully selected samples to ascertain the predispositions, intentions, and actions of a population in . almost every conceivable respect. With a high yet imperfect degree of accuracy one can know in advance who will win an election or for what reasons consumers accept or reject a product. Public officials or those aspiring to be elected thus obtain insight into opinion patterns and tailor their propaganda accordingly.
The mass media, especially U.S. radio and television, are dependent on survey data to avoid being too far ahead or behind their target audiences. Systematic polls and CONSUMER RESEARCH consequently tend to replace virtually everywhere the less reliable methods of intuition, projection, or chatting with the boys and girls down the street.