Wednesday, 27 January 2010


After discussing the history of propaganda and relevance of the term ‘propaganda’ in the current scenario, this blog particularly focuses on five key elements of propaganda. There are some common tactics which are used by the propagandists to make their propaganda more effective, it can be through the use of imagery or by repeating the same message over and over again. Thus, as a public relations student, I thought it is imperative to learn and educate myself on some of the key elements of propaganda.

1. Control the media: For any propaganda to survive and flourish, media needs to be controlled. This applies specifically in the case of war. For example, during Iraq War 2003 the key tactic was to embed 600 journalists with the troops. Embedded journalists rely heavily on the army for their food, shelter and protection and therefore, this is a good opportunity for the propagandist country to get their message across. Thus, by controlling the flow of information, the desired objectives can be achieved.

2. Emotional appeal: Propaganda generally has a human face. It has an emotional appeal in order to gain public support. For example, Kevin Moloney in his book Rethinking Public Relations mention that Hill & Knowlton was shown to be involved in false stories about Iraqi troops removing 312 babies from incubators in Kuwait in October 1990, just before US involvement in the Gulf War. The motive behind this could have been to show that the enemy is evil and nasty and thus appeal to the hearts and minds of people to gain their support and trust.

3. Keep off certain issues and Imagery: The aim is to divert attention from troublesome issues and reveal only partial facts. As U.S. Senator Hiram Johnson said in 1917 “The first casualty when war comes is Truth”. Imagery is a very important element of propaganda especially when language can be a barrier. Images and pictures provide a realistic angle to propaganda and the impact of such messages is usually quite strong. For example, 100 cameras were embedded during Iraq War propaganda and military videos were distributed to the media to propagate the message. Apart from this, posters were used to convey a strong and bold message. (Some of the classic examples of such posters are attached with the blog,

4. Simplicity and Repetition: Professor David Welch on the BBC website points out that the Nazi propaganda is a classic example of how to achieve political ends through propaganda. It mentions that the Nazi propaganda for the masses was simple, and had a great appeal to the emotions. To maintain its simplicity, the propaganda put over just a few main points, which were repeated many times.

5. Legitimacy: Anup Shah in his blog War, Propaganda and the Media explains those who promote the negative image of the “enemy” may often reinforce it with rhetoric about the righteousness of themselves; the attempt is to muster up support and nurture the belief that what is to be done is in the positive and beneficial interest of everyone. Moloney (2006) mention that the slogan for the First World War was ‘The war to end all wars’, thus, the aim behind the creation of this slogan could be to generate some hope and justify the inevitability of a war.

Videos: (Source: Youtube)

War Made Easy: How Presidents & Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death

Nazi Propaganda

Other Related Links:

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