What is Propaganda? – Organisation for Propaganda Studies
Propaganda – the coordinated attempt to influence large or small numbers of people to some idea and/or action – is among the most ancient genres of human activity, and has been integral to religion, social control, commerce, education, and conquest for millennia. The term ‘propaganda’ originated in 1622 from a Christian commission for the ‘propagation of the faith.’ The Roman Catholic ‘Propaganda Fide’ emerged as a key institution, missionary ministry, and center for specialized ideological and administrative training in response to the threat of the Reformation.
Propaganda is not usually understood as a consensual, two-way, process of persuasion among equals. However, it also involves far more than lying. Rather, it is a complex and frequently subtle manipulative process in which a power centre of one sort or another leads an individual or a group of people to believe something, or, perhaps without believing, to act in a particular way, that goes against free will or genuinely informed consent. Propaganda techniques frequently involve linguistic and visual communication (e.g. advertising campaigns) that make emotional and/or rational appeals in order to manipulate beliefs and behaviour. Fears and desires may are typically exploited and, importantly, both incentives and threats can become part of propaganda campaigns. Meanwhile, forms of deception involving lying, omission, distortion and misdirection are also frequently found in propaganda campaigns.
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