Propaganda has been used by governments for years to help shape how people think and feel. In modern times, even corporations now use propaganda to help shape public opinion. Whenever you buy into a marketing slogan, you are essentially falling for a type of propaganda. The following examples of propaganda will help you learn what to expect and how to spot propaganda when you see it.
How Propaganda Works
In essence, propaganda is a type of communication that is used to influence how a group of people think. It is used to change their decisions or opinions on a specific product, cause, subject or issue. While scientists use data to back up their influential reports, propaganda is not bound by the facts. While many propaganda techniques will use some facts, they often use just a part of the facts that happen to fit in with what the organization’s goal is.
To replace the remaining facts, they use emotions and sentimental messages to get people to feel a certain way. They are essentially trying to hijack the emotional center of the brain so that you make an emotional instead of a rational decision. Propaganda can come in many different varieties, but every type of propaganda is designed to influence your thoughts, opinions or decisions.
Types and Examples of Propaganda Techniques
While the way the propaganda looks can vary greatly, there are seven basic types of propaganda that a government or organization can use. These types of techniques are known as name calling, glittering generality, plain folks, bandwagon, transfer, card stacking and testimonial. To learn more about how these types of techniques work to shape public opinion, read on.
1. Name Calling
Some propaganda techniques focus on being positive and playing up the benefits of a certain decision or way of thinking. Name calling is not one of them. At the very least, this propaganda technique tends to be quite negative. It can event become derogatory or offensive. The goal of name calling is to paint a rival or an opponent in a bad light. This might be through negative or derogatory names. A good example of this type of propaganda can be found in politics. In recent political theater, President Trump has called his opponent “Crooked Hilary.” He gives other people names like “low-energy Jed” or “rocket man.” All of these are examples of name calling in propaganda.
This type of propaganda is extremely common in reality shows and political campaigns. It can also happen in campaigns against a certain idea. If you look at a PETA advertisement, you can often find this type of propaganda. Livestock raising is labeled with attributes like inhuman, cruel or murderous. Social campaigns like anti-child abuse or anti-domestic violence campaigns may use words like beast or monster.
Keep in mind that just because a campaign uses propaganda does not mean that they are necessarily wrong. There is a lot of research (and certainly personal experiences) that show how terrible domestic violence and child abuse are. The propaganda in these campaigns is meant to sway people’s opinions, but that does not mean that the campaign itself is not based on facts.
2. Glittering Generalities
This is a way of manipulating someone’s psychological or emotional outlook. While the last technique focuses on the negative, this one, as the name suggests, focuses on the positive. It plays up positive words to make something sound even better than it might actually be. You hear these glittering generalities a lot in recruitment ads for the armed forces. They focus on how patriotic the armed forces are and say things like “You are fighting in defense of democracy.” The goal of this campaign is to make people feel good about making such a positive decision like enlisting in the armed forces.
3. Plain Folks
In the United Kingdom, the government created something known as a nudge unit. The goal is to nudge people through psychological means to follow laws and do the right thing. This unit famously created a better way of getting people to lower their speeds. They found that changing the speed tracking device from blinking numbers to a sad face for speeders actually got people to stop speeding. In another case, they sent out letters about taxes that said things like, “90 percent of your neighbors have already paid their taxes. Have you?”
This last example is a good example of plain folks propaganda. The goal of this type of propaganda is to make you think that a certain belief is what the common man believes. In the nudge unit’s case, they wanted people to know that most people had already paid their taxes, which nudges the person toward wanting to pay as well and be like everyone else. You also see this type of propaganda in inoculation drives. The ads use models and actors who look like other people. These actors emphasize the benefits of the drive and make the target audience feel like it is something that everyone is doing.
This is another technique that uses the herd mentality to get a target audience to feel a certain way. The goal of the bandwagon technique is to make people feel like they are going to be left out if they do not vote a certain way, feel a certain way or do something. You see this kind of propaganda a lot with marketing campaigns. They want you to feel like you are going to be the only one not wearing the latest shoes or driving a hybrid car, so you naturally want to buy one.
It makes sense that people would want to do what the majority is doing because it is generally a safer choice. This technique works because it makes people feel like they are a part of the crowd and just doing what everyone else is doing.
This type of technique is when you transfer a (generally) negative connotation from one person or idea to another one. This happens a lot in politics when mid-term elections come up. The opposition party tries to identify all of the majority party with the president or an especially unpopular politician. This can also happen with products and marketing campaigns.
6. Card Stacking
This type of propaganda involves leaving out certain facts and painting an idea in the most positive light possible. The campaign works to pick the most positive facts and leave out all of the negative ones. For example, many no-fat products spent a lot of marketing dollars advertising how healthy their foods were because they had no or low fat. They never mentioned that the majority of these engineered, no-fat foods replaced the fat with high amounts of sugar to get the same good taste.
You can also see card stacking with credit card companies. Think about every ad you have received for a new card. The bold phrases and biggest writing is always devoted to the 0 percent introductory rate, the frequent flier miles or the amazing benefits of the card. The processing fees or standard interest rates are in smaller writing or on a back page so that you only focus on the most positive facts.
This type of technique tends to use a celebrity. The celebrity says how great the idea or product is and focuses on the benefits of a product. The company wants to make you feel like you will be just as attractive, healthy or smart if you buy the product like them. Many, many products use testimonials of some sort to market their product.