Technically, any message designed to sway a large group to your way of thinking is propaganda. And propaganda can be used for either good or evil. Both the Nazis and the Allies used propaganda. Microsoft, Apple, and Linux all use propaganda. All advertising is propaganda. News broadcasts, even at their most impartial, are propaganda. Many Everything2 writeups are propaganda. A whole lot of the stuff you tell people, from your friends and family to your employer to the cop who stops you for speeding, is propaganda.

You can't avoid it.

German band, best known for their 1985 electronic album "A Secret Wish" which was recorded with members Ralf Dorper, Suzanne Freytag, Claudia Brucken and Michael Mertens. Andreas Thein had been a founding member with Dorper but left between the first single and "A Secret Wish." These were released on the Zang Tuum Tumb label, along with a remix album "Wishful Thinking."

Claudia left at the end of 1985 due to conflicts between her marriage and the band, and due to a contractual problem with ZTT the band could not release anything until 1987. By that time Ralf and Suzanne had found other things to do and Michael went on with Betsi Miller singing; Derek Forbes on bass; Brian McGee on drums. This lineup released a 1992 album "1234" on Virgin Records.

As of late 1999 the news seems to be that Michael, Claudia, and Suzanne are working on a third Propaganda album.

Propaganda, n.

Propaganda can simply be defined as any piece of information(factual or otherwise), that acts as a means to indoctrinate, or sway the reader to the propagandizer's cause. Propaganda has been an incredibly effective tool throughout history, used as a means to either bring the glorius light of truth to the blind masses, or, more often, to persuade the masses to support another canidate. This was the case with the Weirmar Republic being slandered by the National Socialists in pre-WW2 Germany, with the help of a retarded Dutchman, of course.

As Jet-Poop has so elegantly mentioned in the above writeup, we as a populace are bombarded with propaganda on a daily basis. In such a case, the most frequent, yet least potent(or so we think) of this indoctrination would have to be commercial advertising. It's constantly around us. Even if you don't have a single television in your home! It's all around you, seeping in the walls. Now, I think it would be almost paranoid to construct some kind of conspiracy theory at this point, but isn't there an interestingly perceived correlation between the rise in consumerism and the rise in general political apathy?

Of course at this point, you can say a number of things. "You're full of shit!", "Isn't that a little presumptuous?" or the perrenial favorite here on E2, "You're ideas have occured to others.", well do you want a fuckin' cookie or somethin?

I mean, we're moving into a new millenium, we stand on the threshhold of what could be marvelous technology. It's. All. Right. There. But, I don't see the technology being used for human embetterment, why? Because the developers of said marvelous technologies are what you call a private corporation, which is bent doing what? Making profit.

Now, you can believe whatever far-out theories on the future of mankind you want, but I've always been a person of the "corporatist" school of thought. Namely, that within the next 50 years or so, corporations will be their own countries, with private armies, lifetime contracts and corporate funerals(ala Cyberpunk in general).

Boy, and this started out as a simple blurb about propaganda.

But anyways, to get to the point of this writeup, isn't it an interesting possibility to consider that just perhaps, all this commercial white noise we're constantly bombarded with is an attempt to draw our minds away from the sad realities of life (That is what pop culture was meant for, after all. To shield consumers from the angst of daily life, making them better shoppers, better workers, etc). But why would they do something like that? Why wouldn't they want us to face reality, and hence seek a real improvement of our lifestyles, not just "more toys". These are the chains that bind us. Now, I don't really think this is all some kind of constructed conspiracy to enslave us with material comforts. It's more like, over the years, this is the way the organics of corporate policy have just evolved. And I gander, now that it's in this state, why wouldn't they harness the benefits? We're all entrenched in this invisible war for more goodies.

I think, if enough people got together and focused their energy on the improving of humanity in general, that is, if we all really wanted it to happen, we could make things better for everyone(there's that goddamn altruism again). You know, forgoe our own gluttony and just share the wealth. That is, if you really wanted everyone, every-single-human-being and lower-lifeform-alike, to really be contented, you'll have to sacrifice some of your own. Of course, doing this would probably involve overthrowing corporate and govermental rule...

I just read a short essay by Anne Morelli, a renown historian from Belgium about wartime propaganda. (Principes élémentaires de propagande de guerre, editions Labor).

The book, too short to be boring (about 100 pages), and well written, was publish just a few days after the start of the retaliation against the talebans and Bin Laden's Al Qaeda. It is a explanation of the ten commandments of wartime propaganda, published by Arthur Ponsonby. Morelli takes one chapter for each commandment, and compares the points with examples picked in recent and less recent history principally WW I, WW II, and the operations in Kosovo.

  1. "We do not want war"
  2. "The other side is the only one responsible for the war"
  3. "The enemy has the devil's face"
  4. "We are defending a noble cause and not some particular interests"
  5. "The enemy provocates atrocities; if we goof it's never voluntarily."
  6. "The enemy uses unauthorized weapons"
  7. "We have nearly no losses, the enemy's are huge"
  8. "Artists and intellectuals support our cause"
  9. "Our cause has a holy character"
  10. "Those who doubt propaganda are traitors"
Unfortunately, the book was my baby brother's late Christmas present, and I gave it prior to summarize. Illustration is straightforward, and is left as an exercise for the reader.
"In the long run, illusions will aggravate what they provisionally obscure." - Reinhold Niebuhr, The Structure of Nations and Empires (1959), p. 216
"As I observe the facts, I realize that man is terribly malleable, uncertain of himself, ready to accept and follow many suggestions, and is tossed about by all the winds of doctrine." - Jacques Ellul, from his introduction to Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes (Vintage, 1962), p. xv.
Ellul's sociological survey of state propaganda - its methods, goals and consequences - remains a foundational classic on the topic even after half a century. Only Edward L. Bernays' Propaganda (1928) is more widely cited, and deals more with the mechanics of manipulation than wider questions of ethics or democracy; PR is one thing, after all, manoeuvring an entire polity something else. Or is it?

Though many other scholars have examined the techniques of public manipulation in particular regimes (e.g. Richard Evans on Nazi Germany, Czeslaw Milosz1 on Soviet-occupied Poland, Aldous Huxley2 on post-war Britain, Morris Berman on modern corporate America), Ellul begins from the crucial premise that all governments must engage regularly in propaganda exercises; that objectively speaking, the active shaping of thought across the body politic represents an indispensible tool of government in urban, industrial society.
"The aim of modern propaganda is no longer to modify ideas, but to provoke action. It is no longer to change adherence to a doctrine, but to make the individual cling irrationally to a process ... It is no longer to lead to a choice, but to loosen the reflexes. It is no longer to transform an opinion, but to arouse an active, mythic belief." (25)
Ellul comes to this overarching view of administrative manipulation honestly; he was dismissed from his academic post by Vichy officials and enrolled in the French Resistance. He then watched as the same communication techniques of political persuasion used by an occupying totalitarian regime were adopted by a nationalist democratic government like De Gaulle's as it wrestled with separatism and post-colonial violence. When it comes to propaganda, plus ca change.

Ellul examines the methods and motives of the 'convincing state', its publications and announcements, only to conclude most governments seek not to "win over" their citizenry so much as to utilize their traditional fears and prejudices for unstated, more pragmatic ends. Goals like economic advancement, military success, civil peace or cultural diversification.
"In a society where propaganda - direct or indirect, conscious or subconscious - absorbs all the means of communication or education, propaganda informs culture and, in a certain sense, is culture." (110)
That may sound like a post-modern truism now, but fifty years ago when Ellul was first translated into English it struck Anglo-American thinkers like Neil Postman3 (Amusing Ourselves to Death), Marshall McLuhan (The Medium is the Message) and Noam Chomsky (Manufacturing Consent) as vitally important. The ascent of commercial television, glossy advertising and Madision Avenue (not to mention the Rand Corporation and public broadcasting, or the dinner-time war news from Vietnam contrasted against the Pentagon Papers) seemed to confirm subtle strands of invisible influence behind most popular culture. Arguably, one of the most important sections (pp. 115-130) describes what we now call "astroturfing", namely the role of propaganda in stimulating public demand for government intervention. That distinction is vital, given the prevailing view of what propaganda seeks to achieve.

Mistakenly, many pundits critical of government (on both the ideological right and left) hew to the vague notion that senior officials and administrators want to 'tell people what to think'. This is simply inaccurate; few senior bureaucrats spend much time considering (or caring about) general public opinion when matters of policy or statecraft are debated. However, political expedience can work wonders if public demand is engineered, provoking calls for those actions government had already planned. On that front, skillful use of sympathetic media, off-the-record sources, anonymous leaks, funded think tank research and strategic opinion polling can be crucial. That is the real power of propaganda. Or as Ellul puts it:
Democracy is based on the concept that man is rational and capable of seeing clearly ... this is a highly doubtful proposition ... Public opinion is so variable and fluctuating that government could never base a course of action on it ... Only one solution is possible: as the government cannot follow opinion, opinion must follow the government. The democratic State, precisely because it believes in the expression of public opinion and does not gag it, must shape and channel that public opinion if it wants to be realistic." (124-125)
The logic of this diagnosis, once established, leads to a succession of other unpalatable truths about democratic process: that the 'will of the people' and 'consent of the governed' is largely planned (p. 132); that education and media services offer up propaganda en masse, even if it has a generally humanist bent (p. 138); that facts, values, statistics and context are often provided by government only to muddy the thinking of citizens and voters (p. 170), and; ultimately, private life, secure communications and personal space are anathema to the propaganda efforts of the state.

That last point is worth mulling over: privacy allows an individual the rational space and objective distance necessary to cultivate skepticism of government claims (p. 191). So read on, good citizen, but be mindful. The concept of the noble lie is an ancient notion, found as far back as Plato's Republic, but consider rather the implications of ignoble truth. At its core, that is propaganda.
1 On early Communist Party efforts in 1940s Warsaw, Milosz noted dryly that "propaganda - pushed often to the point of the ridiculous - does not indicate a high degree of self-confidence." (From The Captive Mind, Vintage edition 1990, p. 35)
2 Huxley was wholly ambivalent about modern communications and the potential effects on thoughtful culture, stating that "in regard to propaganda, the early advocates of universal literacy and a free press envisaged only two possibilities: the propaganda might be true, or it might be false. They did not foresee what in fact has happened, above all in our Western capitalist democracies, the development of a vast communications industry concerned in the main with neither the true nor the false, but with the unreal." (Huxley, Brave New World Revisited, p. 295)
3 Postman argued convincingly in the early Reagan era that political discourse had devolved into a form of forced amnesia, writing that "we do not refuse to remember; neither do we find it exactly useless to remember. Rather, we are being rendered unfit to remember ... the politics of image and instantaneous news provides no such context and is, in fact, hampered by attempts to provide any. A mirror reflects only what you are wearing today. It is silent about yesterday." (Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death, 1985, p. 137)

Prop`a*gan"da (?), n. [Abbrev. fr. L. de propaganda fide: cf. F. propagande. See Propagate.]

1. R. C. Ch. (a)

A congregation of cardinals, established in 1622, charged with the management of missions.


The college of the Propaganda, instituted by Urban VIII. (1623-1644) to educate priests for missions in all parts of the world.


Hence, any organization or plan for spreading a particular doctrine or a system of principles.


© Webster 1913.

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