Propaganda & Mass Persuasion: Just what is propaganda?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Just what is propaganda?

After completeing the first 4 reading assignements for this course, it seems that propaganda, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. I counted 8 definitions in chapter 1 of the book "Propaganda and Persuasion", at least a dozen in the Lasswell article, and I gave up trying to decide how many were in the other 2 articles in the packet handed out on day 1 of the course. Some of the definitions led me to believe that the person(s) giving the definition were themselves being infuenced by propaganda. It's almost enough to make me believe in Transcendental Idealism. The definition that seems the best fit for my present state of semi-enlightened cynicism is put forth by Jowett and O'Donnell in their book on page 7:
"Propaganda is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist."
There, that seems sinister enough for an overworked, overtaxed, underpaid schlub like me. We live in country whose government uses the word 'freedom' in every other sentence to convince us how lucky we are to live here , yet bombards us daily with propaganda in order to subvert that freedom (of thought) to occomplish the ends of our elected officials. What a country!


Blogger A. Mattson said...

A thoughtful post. Yes there are numerous definitions, and yes, they often reflect the politics or ideology of the analyst.

The definition you have selected is clearly an attempt be as neutral and objective as possible. It's a good working definition.

All nations, including our own manipulate symbols and ideas to unify the population in support of an ideology or regime. Is there a nation or government that does not practice this? Would it be possible to rule without these techniques of mass persuasion?

2/06/2008 11:03 PM  

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