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A Most Dangerous Disease - Propaganda

A Most Dangerous Disease – Propaganda

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Seven Techniques of Propaganda

Propaganda is biased or wrong information used to promote a particular political or business cause or point of view. Propaganda is both overt and subtle and is all around us. It affects even the strongest minds, and uncovering the facts is very difficult.

The Institute for Propaganda Analysis (“IPA”) was set up in the US in 1937 to “To teach people how to think rather than what to think.” The IPA initially focused on US domestic propaganda issues, but its lessons are now widely learned and useful.

The IPA identifies the seven most frequently used propaganda techniques that we need to be aware of and look out for. These seven are:

  1. Name-Calling

    When someone links a person or idea with a false and misleading name. Thus, if I call you a Nazi, even though you have no connection with Nazis – the damage is done.

  2. Glittering Generality

    When a general but highly positive word is used to describe a bad situation or idea. Thus, many countries are named with the words such as “Democratic People’s Republic of…” even though most people would find it extremely hard to find democratic elements or structures in these nations.

  3. Transfer

    When a symbol of positive authority is used to try and influence our thinking about an issue. For example, an advertisement might show an actor looking like a senior Doctor. The actor is selling some product, but we get fooled into thinking it has the approval of the medical fraternity.

  4. Testimonial

     This is similar to “transfer,” but a specific respected person (say a celebrity or famous sportsperson) is used to say that an idea or product is good. We then believe that the idea or product must be correct or worth buying.

  5. Plain Folks

     This is often used by politicians, many of whom are well off but dress in ordinary clothes – in India, wearing simple farmers’ clothes. They hope that they convince us that they are “one of us” – simple ordinary people in this way. Yet, in private, these same politicians wear the most expensive of suits and watches!

  6. Card Stacking

     The online APA Dictionary explains this as “a technique of persuasion that attempts to influence opinion through deliberate distortions, as in suppressing information, overemphasizing selected facts, manipulating statistics, and quoting rigged or questionable research.

  7. Band Wagon

     This occurs when politicians or advertisers try and convince us that everyone supports them. They show us pictures of thousands of supporters. In this way, they are saying – everyone agrees with me – so should you.

There are, of course, other methods used by propaganda activists. But unfortunately, once people get affected by this disease of propaganda, it is complicated to cure them. However, without an awareness of the techniques of propaganda used by politicians and dictators, democracies cannot survive. 

The IPA says:

“It is essential in a democratic society that young people and adults learn how to think, learn how to make up their minds. They must learn how to think independently, and they must learn how to think together. They must come to conclusions, but at the same time, they must recognize the right of other men to come to opposite conclusions. So far as individuals are concerned, the art of democracy is the art of thinking and discussing independently together.”

© Kaikhushru Taraporevala

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