Propagating emotional responses for supporting the cause

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Recommended reading: Lines and Colors’ post on Propaganda:

It’s commonly thought that “propaganda”, a technique of spreading misinformation, or slanted opinions, for the purpose of manipulating opinions, has been utilized primarily by oppressive regimes like Imperial and Nazi Germany in the early part of the 20th Century or the Soviet Union or Communist China in the latter part.

That in itself is a form of propaganda, which can be, and often is, utilized by Western democracies. Propaganda is simply a technique, not a set of values. It can just as easily be employed in a “good” cause as an “evil” one.

What distinguishes propaganda from information, aside from the fact that it is often disinformation, is that it is calculated to appeal to the emotions and circumvent rational judgment. One of the key features of propaganda is that it most often (almost always, in fact) taps into the power that images have to reach us on an unconscious level.

(h/t JB)

11 Replies to “Propagating emotional responses for supporting the cause”

  1. Many of your posters depict war bond drives, or military recruiting activities in the U.S. Propaganda? Perhaps. However, I question the inclusion of posters which may serve a motivational role without the element of misinformation. What is inaccurate about a poster encouraging enlistment in the U.S. Navy during WWII? Additionally, what is misinformational about reminding Americans that during times of war it is their duty to support the effort by purchasing war bonds?When I think of propaganda, I think of the old Nazi posters that reminded people that the Jew is descended from a large number of ethnic groups, and the poster concludes that “Der Jude ist ein Bastard.” Or, I think of the posters of the Glorious Leader Mao, encouraging “struggle” against the American Capitalist Invader. I don’t recall invading China, regardless of what MacArthur may have wanted. I think that this is the misinformation you refer to in your definition of propaganda, but I do not see that in many of the example posters you provided. I would separate propaganda from patriotism along the lines of accuracy and/or misinformation, as your definition suggests.

  2. Warpiper,All of the posters above propagate an idea. Promoting patriotism or an agenda, they invoke an emotional response. However, emotions are not required for propaganda. As the author of the blog post I cited wrote, “Propaganda is simply a technique, not a set of values.” Nor is disinformation or misinformation.
    Enlistment posters are a superb example of propaganda to elicit action based on an emotional connection with the audience. At once, they address the crowd and touch individuals within the crowd. It is not necessary to qualify the message to determine if its propaganda. Also, do not conflate the purpose of a particular information campaign. The Nazi selection of the Jews and the U.S. selection of the “Nips” went beyond patriotism and toward a specific kind of action. (Watch early WWII war movies about the Pacific Campaign and consider that 44% of all American soldiers in WWII would “really like to kill a Japanese soldier” while only 6% had the same enthusiasm toward the Germans).
    Case in point is the current (and any past) presidential campaign, but instead of posters it’s commercials on TV and the web. Both campaigns clearly fall into propaganda, but one is tugging on the emotions a lot more than the other with divisive consequences. (By the way, check out this poster.)
    DJH,
    Who says I’m trying to sell one or the other? Propaganda is a broad tool. Propagating ideas is central to public diplomacy and strategic communication. DipNote is a means to share information, to correct (or create) perceptions, just as any public affairs activity is. The difference with the current conceptions of public affairs and SC / PD is PA operates reactively with limited engagement and with a kind of sterility based on the notion it can inform without influence (why are they informing again?)
    As far as the Air Force, if forced to pick a service, I think that’s perhaps the worse selection (apologies to some of my readers). The AF has little experience directly engaging foreign audiences. The Navy has a much deeper appreciation of SC / PD as every port call is a local engagement rife with messages. The Army is getting better as have the Marines who, by virtue of being a smaller force that is expeditionary by nature, better understands the Special Forces idea of operating “by, with, and through” locals, an inherently PD mindset.

  3. I think you’re following up on my “why are they informing” or engaging the public. In this case, “they” is not DipNote in particular, but public affairs in general. If you don’t care about public opinion, you don’t care about affairs with or in public and you don’t setup a shop to engage the media or John (or Joan) Q. Public.In your comment, by “they” do you mean DipNote? If you mean the DipNote team, I don’t agree with your assessment, but I’m not sure that’s who you mean by “they.”

  4. Dipo Note is on your blog roll and your trying to sell strategic communication and not propaganda? Air Force should run the US military.

  5. Why? Why ask why(yes, I like bud), they have no audience because they are informing based on what? Is it Congress limiting foreign service terms? Is it the new president won’t appoint enough of them as is tradition? They are informing because they are a problem. Most people don’t want to deal with problems, they want discourse. Their problems are the basis for that, not what is happening in the world or what their group does, which is very little but create problems because they don’t want discourse. They simply want their pay checks and no one should bother them or they may lose that.If I need to deal with their problems instead of get answers which are very basic, all’s I have to say is Air Force should run the world. They will not exchange information.
    Afghanistan did real well with the special forces, but they also used non military people and that mistake was very big. They had to buy into Kennedy and his special forces PC.

  6. Why ask why, drink bud dry?Yes, they is them, the dipnote and others. The problem sis they won’t even answer basic questions. Yes, they should close. I don’t see why they are paid.
    I think your trying to explain to me, but I really am not sure what you mean by close up shop, they’re paid either way. I’m sorry that Air Force is not liked, maybe it’s the UFO issue? They have great living conditions. Is this what you mean, Air Force?

  7. You guys should work with the Russians on Georgia. Americans are gang bangers. Good luck, bye(you win).Just so you know you guys can’t get ahead because your not that smart, really everyone checked.
    Air Force rules!

  8. In response to your comments to DJH that: “The difference with the current conceptions of public affairs and SC / PD is PA operates reactively with limited engagement and with a kind of sterility based on the notion it can inform without influence (why are they informing again?)”Would it be fair to say that public affairs seeks to inform — which potentially results in influence — but does not seek to influence? Do you believe there is a difference between the two?

  9. landm, the issue is one of the admission of intent. It is fair to say public affairs seeks to inform but it should be acknowledged that they do so for a purpose. The influence is not proactive, but reactive or inculcating, but it is still to influence the conversation by promoting or defending some entity, or countering alternative narratives of the same. There is a difference and that difference is ignoring that to inform is to influence. To speak is to inject an opinion or a viewpoint or simply additional data, information, knowledge into the conversation.In the case of countering, PA will get out “in front” of a story to try to shape it – influence the audience – for their advantage. The tools of SC/PD, which include sustained engagement, building narratives, and appreciating that influence and inculcation is taking place by all sides, are anti-thetical to the hardcore public affairs who take the position that people should be left to make up their own mind. This is noble, except it assumes the competitor isn’t actively promoting an alternative view. The individual can and should still decide on their own, but with a full picture.
    It might be fair to say that PA provides data to create information to be distilled by the listener. SC/PD provides information and seeks to help the listener transform it into knowledge.

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