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propaganda

Propaganda and Persuasion, 5th ed., by Garth S. Jowett and Victoria O'Donnell (Sage, 2011)

Definition:

The spreading of information and ideas to advance a cause or discredit an opposing cause.

In their book Propaganda and Persuasion (2011), Garth S. Jowett and Victoria O'Donnell define propaganda as "the deliberate and systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognition, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist."

See also:

Etymology:

From the Latin, "to propagate"

Examples and Observations:

  • Rhetoric and Propaganda
    "Rhetoric and propaganda, both in popular and academic commentary, are widely viewed as interchangeable forms of communication; and historical treatments of propaganda often include classical rhetoric (and sophistry) as early forms or antecedents of modern propaganda (e.g., Jowett and O'Donnell, 1992. pp. 27-31)."
    (Stanley B. Cunningham, The Idea of Propaganda: A Reconstruction. Praeger, 2002)


  • "Throughout the history of rhetoric, . . . critics have deliberately drawn distinctions between rhetoric and propaganda. On the other hand, evidence of the conflation of rhetoric and propaganda, under the general notion of persuasion, has become increasingly obvious, especially in the classroom, where students seem incapable of differentiating among the suasory forms of communication pervasive now in our heavily mediated society. . . .

    "In a society where the system of government is based, at least in part, on the full, robust, give-and-take of persuasion in the context of debate, this conflation is deeply troubling. To the extent that all persuasive activity was lumped together with 'propaganda' and given the 'evil connotation' (Hummel & Huntress 1949, p. 1) the label carried, persuasive speech (i.e. rhetoric) would never hold the central place in education or democratic civic life it was designed to."
    (Beth S. Bennett and Sean Patrick O'Rourke, "A Prolegomenon to the Future Study of Rhetoric and Propaganda." Readings in Propaganda and Persuasion: New and Classic Essays, ed by Garth S. Jowett and Victoria O'Donnell. Sage, 2006)


  • Examples of Propaganda
    "A massive propaganda campaign by the South Korean military drew an ominous warning from North Korea on Sunday, with Pyongyang saying that it would fire across the border at anyone sending helium balloons carrying anti-North Korean messages into the country.

    "A statement carried by the North’s official news agency said the balloon-and-leaflet campaign 'by the puppet military in the frontline area is a treacherous deed and a wanton challenge' to peace on the Korean Peninsula."
    (Mark McDonald, "N. Korea Threatens South on Balloon Propaganda." The New York Times, Feb. 27, 2011)


  • "The US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.

    "A Californian corporation has been awarded a contract with United States Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US armed operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, to develop what is described as an 'online persona management service' that will allow one US serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based all over the world."
    (Nick Fielding and Ian Cobain, "Revealed: US Spy Operation That Manipulates Social Media." The Guardian, March 17, 2011)


  • The Aim of Propaganda
    "The characteristic that propaganda is a form of mass media argumentation should not, in itself, be regarded as sufficient for drawing the conclusion that all propaganda is irrational or illogical or that any argument used in propaganda is for that reason alone fallacious. . . .

    "[T]he aim of propaganda is not just to secure a respondent's assent to a proposition by persuading him that it is true or that it is supported by propositions he is already committed to. The aim of propaganda is to get the respondent to act, to adopt a certain course of action, or to go along with and assist in a particular policy. Merely securing assent or commitment to a proposition is not enough to make propaganda successful in securing its aim."
    (Douglas N. Walton, Media Argumentation: Dialectic, Persuasion, and Rhetoric. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007)


  • Recognizing Propaganda
    "The only truly serious attitude . . . is to show people the extreme effectiveness of the weapon used against them, to rouse them to defend themselves by making them aware of their frailty and their vulnerability instead of soothing them with the worst illusion, that of a security that neither man's nature nor the techniques of propaganda permit him to possess. It is merely convenient to realize that the side of freedom and truth for man has not yet lost, but that it may well lose--and that in this game, propaganda is undoubtedly the most formidable power, acting in only one direction (toward the destruction of truth and freedom), no matter what the good intentions or the good will may be of those who manipulate it."
    (Jacques Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes. Vintage Books, 1973)
Pronunciation: prop-eh-GAN-da
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