The IPA's "HOW TO DETECT PROPAGANDA" ~~
This famous pamphlet
was composed in the 1930s to help people analyze the particular rhetorical devices
that constitute "propaganda" in the hopes that such knowledge would
help us hold politicians more accountable for the kinds of manipulations they
tried to get away with. Powerful propaganda was in the air back then. Dangerous
nationalists like Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin, waiting there in the wings
Would people in those societies have been as vulnerable, as gullible as they
were if they'd had this kind of knowledge about how they were being manipulated?
The writers of this pamphlet were attempting to inform their American readers
about propaganda, in part, to protect them from being vulnerable to its effects.
A few questions
we want to ask and answer based on this article are:
- How does the
Institute for Propaganda Analysis define propaganda?
- What are the
propaganda tools to look out for?
We can answer those
two questions up there fairly easily.
How does the
IPA define propaganda?
Propaganda, defined by the IPA, means deliberately designing messages so that
people will be influenced to think or act in predetermined ways, in ways the
propagandist prefers. That is, it's an instrument of persuasion meant to get
people to form rash judgments. Why rash? Because they're not based on rational
thought or inquiry, just bald feeling. In this broad sense, you can see how
advertising is "propagandistic," but properly understood, "propaganda"
is a term usually reserved for those who wield it, or want to wield it, in an
organized way for political purposes. Despite their similarities advertising
and propaganda are different. There's a qualitative difference between using
persuasion to get you to purchase a pair of jeans and using persuasion to get
you to elect a person to office, to give that person enormous power. The difference
is that the success or failure of the persuasion advertisers use will affect
individuals, whereas political persuasion potentially affects millions. So,
while some of the techniques are the same, the effects are not.
What are the
propaganda tools to be on the lookout for?
The propaganda tools discussed in the IPA pamphlet are "NAME CALLING,"
"GLITTERING GENERALITIES," "TRANSFER," "TESTIMONIAL,"
"PLAIN FOLKS," "CARD STACKING," and "BAND WAGON."
It would help to give some of these new names, I think.
Say something nasty about someone. Use broad strokes and never fill them in.
Get your audience rushing to judgment without providing any evidence. "He's
a pen-pushing bureaucrat." "He's a liberal." (That didn't used
to be a bad name!) "He's a terrorist." (Ah, we don't want to admit
it, but that's name calling. One person's terrorist is another person's "freedom
Generalities. Use virtue words. Use the same broad strokes, and never
fill them in. Get your audience, once again, to rush to judgment without examining
any evidence. "He's a good American." "We're for family values."
Glittering generalities are feel-good words that will make people feel warm
and fuzzy without making them think too hard, or think at all.
To make something more palatable, set it next to something we like a lot.
Get us to feel good about it by the power of association. "Transfer"
that good feeling we have about this thing or idea to that thing (or idea).
Get your audience to completely confuse the two as much as possible. (The
flag = "America's New War." Several TV news stations have helped
us associate our patriotism, our need to bond together, our team spirit, our
rallying around the flag, with feeling okay about our "new war."
Display somebody whom a lot of people respect or idolize and ask them to take
that person's word for it, whatever it is. ("Mayor Guilliani says he
is definitely going to vote for so and so, so what do you think of that?")
Go out and be among the people, doing and saying the things that ordinary
people do. Talk like them. Dress like them. Eat like them. Laugh like them.
Get the people to believe you are just like "one of them." Visit
the factory and press some flesh with the machine operators if you really
want their votes (and all the other working class folks out there watching
on the evening news.)
"Stack the cards" or "arrange the deck" of facts against
the truth. Use under-emphasis and over-emphasis. Suppress facts that don't
support your side. Dodge questions, avoid issues, evade facts. Even lie if
you have to. Use censorship, distortion. Omit things. Offer false testimony.
Create a diversion, raising new issues when you want something forgotten.
Draw a red herring across the trail to keep nosy inquisitors off your trail.
Make the unreal appear real and the real appear unreal. Encourage half-truth
to masquerade as the whole truth. Use as much sham, hypocrisy, and effrontery
as you can get away with! (Ask the American people and the rest of the global
community to believe Iraq was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S.
without presenting credible evidence.)
The Band Wagon.
Encourage everyone to conform, to follow the crowd, to join in the parade,
to get that fellow feeling of belonging to the group. Hey, don't you know
"everybody's doing it," so what's your problem? Get with the program!
Hop on! Flatter and pander and play on people's prejudices, biases, convictions
and ideals-work their emotions until they join. (Don't you support our war
in Iraq yet? What do you mean you think this was the wrong war? That's not
what all the rest of us good people think!)