Source: Outlook Afghanistan
Propaganda is communication aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause. As opposed to impartially providing information, propaganda in its most basic sense, often presents information primarily in order to influence its audience. Propaganda often presents facts selectively (lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or gives loaded messages in order to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. The desired result is a change of the attitude toward the subject in the target audience to further a political agenda.
Propaganda is generally an appeal to emotion, not intellect. It shares techniques with advertising and public relations, each of which can be thought of as propaganda that promotes a commercial product or shapes the perception of an organization, person or brand, though in post-World War II usage the word propaganda more typically refers to political or nationalist uses of these techniques or to the promotion of a set of ideas, since the term gained a pejorative meaning, which commercial and government entities could not accept.
Propaganda has become more common in political contexts, in particular to refer to certain efforts sponsored by governments, political groups, but also often covert interests. Roderick Hindery argues that propaganda exists on the political left, right and in mainstream centrist parties.
Hindery further argues that debates about most social issues can be productively revisited in the context of asking “what is or is not propaganda?” Not to be overlooked is the link between propaganda, indoctrination and terrorism/counterterrorism. He argues that threats to destroy are often as socially disruptive as physical devastation itself.
Propaganda also has much in common with public information campaingsn by governments, which are intended to encourage of discourage certain forms of behavior (such as wearing seat belts, not smoking, not littering and so forth). Again, the emphasis is more political in propaganda. Propaganda can take the form of leaflets, posters, TV and radio broadcasts and can also extent to any other medium.
Journalistic theory generally holds that news items should be objective, giving the reader an accurate background and analysis of the subject at hand. On the other hand advertisement evolved from the traditional commercial advertisements to include also a new type in the form of paid articles or broadcasts disguised as news.
These generally present an issue in a very subjective and often misleading light, primarily meant to persuade rather than inform. Normally they use only subtle propaganda techniques and not the more obvious ones used in tradition commercial advertisements. If the reader believes that a paid advertisement is in fact a news item, the message the advertiser is trying to communicate will be more easily believed or internalized.
The propagandist seeks to change the way people understand an issue or situation for the purpose of changing their actions and expectations in ways that are desirable to the interest group. Propaganda, in this sense, servers as corollary to censorship in which the same purpose is achieved.
Not by filling people’s minds with approved information, but by preventing people from being confronted with opposing points of view. What sets propaganda apart from other forms of advocacy is the willingness of the propagandist to change people’s understanding through deception and confusion rather than persuasion and understanding.
Propaganda is a powerful tool in war; it is used to dehumanize and create hatred toward a supposed enemy, either internal or external, by creating a false image in the minds. This can be done by using derogatory or racist terms, avoiding some words or by making allegations of enemy atrocities. Most propaganda wars require the home population to feel the enemy has inflicted an injustice, which may be fictitious or may be based on facts. The home population must also decide that the cause of their nation is just.
It is also one of the methods used in psychological warfare, which may also involve false flag operations. The term propaganda may also refer to false information meant to reinforce the mindsets of people who already believe as the propagandist wishes.
The assumption is that if people believe something false they will constantly be assailed by doubts. Since these doubts are unpleasant, people will be eager to have them extinguished and are therefore receptive to the reassurances of those in power. For this reason propaganda is often addressed to people who are already sympathetic to the agenda. This process of reinforcement uses an individual’s predisposition to self-select agreeable information sources as a mechanism for maintaining control.
Propaganda may be administered in insidious ways. For instance, disparaging disinformation about the history of certain groups or foreign countries may be encouraged or tolerated in the educational system. Since few people actually double-check what they learn at school, such disinformation will be repeated by journalists as well as parents, thus reinforcing the idea that the disinformation item is really well-known fact, even though no one repeating the myth is able to point to an authoritative source.
The disinformation is then recycled in the media and in the educational system, without the need for direct governmental intervention on the media. Such permeating propaganda may be used for political goals by giving citizens a false impression of the quality of policies of their country, they may be incited to reject certain proposals or certain remarks or ignore the experience of others.
Dilawar Sherzai is the permanent writer of the Daily outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at [email protected]