The term Propaganda assumed immense significance during the First World War but it is known that societies have made use of propaganda whenever there were common interests. In his book Propaganda and Empire, McKenzie (1984) has highlighted the extreme importance of the 19th century ideological constructs. He has suggested that the durability of the term has assisted the development of hurdles in the economic progress of the UK during the 20th century. This aspect has become an important part of debates in the post colonial period.
While investigating and evaluating the foundation of such ideologies, McKenzie (1984) examined children’s literature, school text books exhibitions, radio, films and theater. He concluded that as a consequence of imperial propaganda, the middle classes were able to achieve economic advantages under the garb of idealistic processes. In this process, morality was substituted by mercenary motives and enhanced adventure and romance for military and political aggressions. Thus, it became a significant change of past imperialist urges that matched the revised concepts of colonial settings (Lambert, 1938).
Across the entire middle ages till the modern period, there has been immense reliance on propaganda and no society has refrained from it. For instance the constant conflicts amongst the monarchy and parliament in Britain has been a historic struggle whereby propaganda has always been used. Propaganda has been used as a weapon in the American independence movement, while it was also liberally used during the French Revolution. The maximum use of propaganda was made during the First World War, and both communists and fascists were aggressively involved in revolutionary propaganda after the war ended.
After having captured power, both sections attempted to grab territories that extended further than their national boundaries, through the use of propaganda. In the modern world, man’s creativity has perfected means of communication that extends the impact of ideas and information in quickly spreading the required appeals. Nevertheless, the technological developments can be constructively used for the creation of peace and international welfare. However, leaders such as Mussolini and Hitler chose to use this medium for inhuman and selfish objectives and thereby created a negative icture of propaganda in the modern world (Herman and Chomsky, 1988). The development of politics in the modern world has stimulated the impacts of propaganda and is now considered an essential element of political campaigns in democratic systems. Propaganda now appears to be an essential part of the democratic process because the candidates seeking nominations are expected to appeal to the voting constituencies through strong promises and planned programs. After being elected, politicians have to appeal to the electorate for their opinion on suitability and dependability of their efforts and policies.
It thus becomes necessary for political parties to engage in propaganda to justify and explain their course of action to the public. During peace time, democratic governments mostly engage in propaganda in making people aware of the available services and in creating popular support for themselves. Recent developments such as globalization have expanded the scope of propaganda because under circumstances of mass consumption and mass production, propaganda techniques have transformed in creating involvement of different entities such as employees, consumers, interest groups and the public at large (Farrell and Smith, 1967).
Hate propaganda creates harm to people by negatively impacting their dignity and feeling of self worth. In addition, it harms society as a whole as it obliterates social accord and leads to discriminatory practices and violence, thereby leading to the creation of a hostile atmosphere amongst those that are besieged in the same society. Hate propaganda works in dehumanizing people in the targeted groups and in degrading and stigmatizing them, thus creating the required illusions in making such groups to be perceived as enemies by other groups.
There are several examples in the modern world whereby propaganda has led to the creation of hostile climate that made people to tolerate exclusionary behaviors. In most of these instances, hate speeches have preceded large scale physical persecution. Propaganda is largely used in diluting the significance of crimes that are carried out against targeted people and creates a sense of social acceptance for such crimes. This was exactly what happened in the case of the Holocaust in Germany and the genocide in Rwanda. In fact, propaganda is the initial stage that marks the beginning of genocide.
In Rwanda, there was restricted propaganda to start with that was directed against the identified groups and then the crimes moved on to more methodical propaganda, then on to hate speeches through state sponsorship and eventually to inciting hate amongst the masses that resulted in publicly maintained mass crimes. Leonard Doob (1966) holds that it was easy for Goebbel to carry out his propaganda while the German army was achieving victories in Greece, Norway and Poland but it became very difficult after Germany started suffering defeats at the hands of the Allied forces.
Rommel was routed in North Africa, there were attacks on Italy and Sicily, Germany was defeated at the hands of the Russians, and Allied forces bombed German territories. The overall invasions by the Allies made Goebbel’s propaganda efforts less effectual in terms of impact. German morale began weakening only after the Allies assumed a superior position in the war outcomes. Propaganda certainly has long term impacts and is known to take years before the results surface, creating difficulties for regulating (Katz, 1954).
Under these circumstances the public is easily incited towards genocide. Propaganda also dampens public conscience, thereby enhancing the development of social willingness to cope with inhuman treatment. It modifies people’s usual reactions and leads them to accept instead of condemning the discriminatory behaviors. Propagandists use speech and oratory to influence people to their viewpoints and create an environment in which the championed oppression is accepted. Propaganda also makes aggression legitimate through messages that things have to be done relative to the targeted people.
However, direct incitement is not sufficient for genocide to occur because mostly it is based on a pre-planned ideology that is consented to by a programmed population. In an environment that is already swamped with the anti-group propaganda, whereby inter group tensions remain high, the very suggestion to kill members of the targeted group is enough to encourage violent actions. This eliminates the need to call for direct violence. In regard to economic problems or political or social disturbances, such propaganda becomes more efficient.
In these circumstances people become detached from specific facets of society and thus are unable to evaluate the truth about what is being conveyed. This allows propagandists to spread false information and create facts that meet their objectives (Brown, 1963). For example, the Nazis created anti Jew propaganda to such an extent that it became a state sponsored concept. Nevertheless, the Nazis relied on the implementation of their propaganda on the basis of linguistic casuistry that existed before hand.
They were aware of the existence of popular anti Semitic sentiments amongst the public and thus succeeded in clearing the way for carrying out the Holocaust, which implies that a long drawn propaganda was carried out in creating such circumstances. Propaganda can take different forms and is disseminated through different means such as pamphlets, books, films, TV, radio, public meetings and government sponsored programs. In recent times, the internet is being increasingly used to disseminate propaganda.
Simple and comprehensible arguments are used by propagandists through whom the emotions of people are targeted in building disdain relative to rationalized arguments of dissenting nature. Propagandists are mostly captivating speakers and have the ability to effectively use colorful and logical language through the employment of symbols, images and suggestive narratives. Similarly, racist propaganda is framed in the same way with the objective of touching the emotions of people by using examples that they can relate with (Holsti, 1983).
The theme of the propaganda is repeated again and again through the use of all media forms. Exclusionary rhetoric is used with the objective of creating intellectual and emotional lack of sensation. In being spread through the different forms of media, the given messages become highly omnipresent, whereby the truth becomes self evident. Through publications, the Nazis were able to influence majority of the people about the existence of problems relative to Jews, which were obviously extremely difficult to resolve. The message was spread that the Jews were behind all the evils that existed in the world.
It was made evident that this was Germany’s misfortune that it had so many Jews and it was thus better that all Jews were wiped away (Knightley, 2004). Using stereotypes enhances the level of acceptance of the audience as the images appear to be familiar amongst the public. The Nazis related classification of Jews through inflated physical qualities. Propaganda was made to the extent that Jews were spiders, rats and cockroaches and they were described in weird ways and then attempts were made to link them with the historical events of the period (Fraser, 1957).
Another example is of Rwanda where the Tutsis were labeled as killers, thieves and liars as well as being biologically different from the Hutus. The objective of propaganda is to create a reversed pattern of allocating the burden of proof that forces the targeted groups to adopt defensive positions. It also aims at generating a feeling of constant fear whereby people are forced to become careful with the targeted groups. With the spreading of fear, propagandists are able to get more supporters.
It was made evident that the Tutsis wanted to hold authority over the country so that Tutsi monarchy was restored. In the contemporary world, control is asserted on people automatically through the spaces that they live in. People go through specific rituals in their daily lives; such as submission, consumption and leisure activities because the current world appears to be designed for these purposes. Hitler cannot be said to be the only expert in propaganda because it is used with equal effectiveness in the modern world.
In fact propaganda is used as a weapon that is returned with counter propaganda. However, there is a clear contrast in the propaganda carried out by dictators and propaganda that is initiated by democratic governments. The rules of his dictatorship were provided for by Hitler in his book Mein Kampf. Hitler specifically believed that if one wishes to tell a lie, he should go ahead in telling the biggest lie repeatedly, which will make people to believe it as truth. He wrote that the bigger the lie, the more efficient it will prove as a weapon.
He went on to say that one should not be fooled into assuming that all leaders have to be influenced into coming to his side. The propaganda should be directed against the masses and not against the intelligentsia because intellectuals will oppose the untruth but the uneducated masses will start believing the information as true. The grasping power of the larger masses is limited and their ability to understand is less, while their memory does not stretch too far.
Therefore, Hitler believed that it was advantageous to use the benefit of ignorance, which meant that it was a better option to let people remain ignorant. However, it is quite different in a democratic system because propaganda is molded by the system of governance that prevails in the society at any given time. Democratic systems are different because authority moves up from the ground level and is much reliant on people. Democracy is increasingly effective in relation to the extent to which people remain informed about the events during peace and war times.
However, people in democracies do have the wisdom of understanding the need for a minimum level of censorship on security grounds. In some ways, democratic principles clearly provide for carrying out propaganda because the government plays an important role in keeping public opinion enlightened to the extent that they are provided with access to information and to a larger scope of independent interpretations about events. Unless this basic condition is met, a democratic system will not function efficiently.
This simple process determines the fundamental concepts of governing principles relative to propaganda as practiced by democratic governments. People in Germany were literally blind folded by the Nazis to the facts and truth of what was happening. In contrast to the beliefs and practices of Hitler, democratic nations are required to include the truth in their propaganda otherwise the system will not work effectively. Sooner or later, a free society will discover the truth despite any system of official distortion or suppression.
Whenever it has been found that propaganda is distorted or deceitful it does not remain effective because propaganda in democracies has to comply with the rights of citizens to know of the truth, irrespective of the fact that such information may be extremely unpleasant. The strategies of truth comply with the values of maintaining the basic principles of a democratic system. This becomes a hard headed and practical policy to effectively deal with allies as well as adversaries in the national and global front.
According to Jowett and O’Donnell (2011), propaganda was used by the church in the early years in propagating Christ’s Gospel. Propaganda was later institutionalized, while in the modern world, it is being used through media campaigns. A major issue in discussions relating to propaganda is the role played by the mass media in contemporary societies and determining whether such patterns actually reflect social realities in the broader sense. The issue also arises whether the ruling elite that controls them removes the truth that should be made public.
Actually, the media has the ability to do both, which depends on the ways in which reality is understood. Conversely, if it is assumed that the media does not cover up facts, the actions of politicians that represent citizens are simply replicated by the mass media. But these activities may be falsified by the politicians and under these circumstances it cannot be said that the mass media manipulates in a democracy because the democracy itself appears to be a pretense.
If different meanings are given to the political establishments, mass media does appear to provide false pictures to the citizens. This can be seen in situations when real politics can be seen in terms of the political activities of people whereby they get involved in collective struggles in different areas pertaining to social, economic and political actions rather than actions of politicians. This misrepresentation by the mass media is effected by means of demonstrating lesser importance of such activities through misrepresenting, marginalizing or by just ignoring them totally (Doob, 1966).
In the modern world, success or failure of a propaganda campaign is determined by the extent to which news is manufactured in filtering out information through different methods in order to get high level of consent towards government agendas. In this context, Ellul (1973) has put forth ideas relative to a two way process through which mass media and social reality can be seen as being dependent on each other, whereby one encroaches on the other. This aspect becomes more pertinent from the practicality of the hypothesis that reality cannot be understood as something that is outside to the ways in which it is created.
For instance, watching television is viewed as realistic in view of the fact that people’s knowledge of facts comprises of observations that are actual realities. At the same time, the perspective of reality depends upon the ways in which media function varies in regard to political, economic and social systems. The mass media plays an important role in measuring the success and failure of propaganda campaigns. The mass media allows for openness and accountability in modern government systems.
However modern democratic systems are quite complex because the mass media does help the government machinery but it has the ability to create obstructions for the government. Politicians can make use of media manipulation because TV now serves as an important means to create a culture of scandals that leads to political strife and opposing political strategies. It thus appears that scandals and government activities relative to political practices and politicians eventually over shadow and do away with public discussions.
It is true that propaganda strongly impacts the behaviour of people, it must be remembered that there are many other ways in which people’s behaviors and actions can be impacted. Many other forms of inducement are used by different entities in making people to agree and comply with the given objectives. There are several examples across history when force has been used in controlling people, while techniques such as passive resistance, bribes and boycott have been used in achieving outcomes that are not achieved through propaganda and other means. Other than propaganda, food, bullets and bribes are the means that have been used by authorities to make citizens to demonstrate particular patterns of behaviour and systems of persuasion and suggestions.
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