What exactly is propaganda? It is the use of mass communication with the purpose of influencing an audience. Propaganda usually takes the form of news reporting or newsreaking to promote a specific political opinion or agenda. It usually aims to manipulate the populace into supporting a specific political choice by presenting them with newsworthy information. This news will always be biased towards the interests of the ruling party in power.
Now we know what is propaganda we can move on to a real example to understand its effects. During the Gulf War many people claimed that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction. The United States Government put out statements claiming that Iraq had WMDs and there were videos showing civilians being killed in custody. Both statements were completely false. There were no WMDs, nor were there videos showing the mass killing of civilians. This propaganda was used for a psychological operation to support the war and the lies that accompanied it.
In the movie “Lucky Number Slevin” a character says, “You’ve seen pictures of the bunker that they are building over there, haven’t you… It’s all fake. There is nothing there”. In essence this is what is propaganda. A propagandist creates a scenario or targets an audience, uses manipulative tactics to influence their beliefs and creates a story in which their target audience can see a situation that confirms their already-held opinions. When the event that was produced is verified by sources other than the propagandist their story bears merit.
The German Propaganda Ministry would send out leaflets describing the actions of the German soldiers and homes that were being damaged by enemy fire. German soldiers were said to be “lucky” for having such good protection from the Americans. The British War Office (BAO) also used propaganda as a weapon to further promote support for their cause. The British Government was also accused of what is propaganda, but what is propaganda to the Germans was propaganda to the British public and the British Army, so it is debatable.
The United States also had its fair share of examples of what is propaganda. Most newspapers in the USA were openly collaborating with the US Government and disseminating news stories to their readers in line with government policy. Many examples of what is propaganda included the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the “axis of evil” label, which seemed to be attached to anyone Germany, Russia or Japan, but not the US. The term “axis of evil” is a clear example of propaganda with a capital “O” and has no truth to it at all. The same can be said for “Vets” which obviously refers to the German veterinary services.
The newspaper industry also had a hand in what is propaganda. Most newspapers used the New York Times as their main propagandist, using all kinds of tactics to get their target audience to focus on the topic at hand. An example of this includes how the newspaper used stories on the death of a prominent leader but never once mentioned that the death was from natural causes. Most often, this kind of propaganda never directly mentions who is doing the spreading the information to their target audience.
Propaganda by its basic definition was first used during World War II by the German Propaganda Ministry and they would go around calling people to their radio station and disseminating propaganda just like the USA would have the ADFL do. Even after the war ended and the US did not go into a direct war against the German Empire, the SS still managed to spread propaganda through organizations such as the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe. One example of this is when the British released propaganda films about the Luftwaffe (its main opponent) to the public; you know, the ones that Hitler tried to destroy.
Nowadays we see that many companies are spreading information to their target audiences, often hidden behind Internet advertisements. Companies such as Google use tags, abbreviations and jargon that are commonly used in the web to describe what a particular page or ad might be about. For example, the term “brick” is commonly used within the Internet to describe something that has to do with a building. This type of subtle advertising is referred to as “voxel advertising” which simply means that the message the company is trying to convey is being conveyed through images, rather than words. We see this happening in television advertising, where advertisers will often show certain images relevant to what the target audience is looking for while explaining what their product or service is all about.