For many people “propaganda” has a strong negative connotation. That is, it is considered as a dishonest, deliberate distortion of facts solely for advancing the devious aims of the propagandist. While this term is difficult to define and experts duffer, they generally agree that propaganda can also be used for positive honest goals that benefit the recipients. That is, the word in itself is neutral, neither positive or negative. They also agree that it is used to advance the author’s point of view or position on an issue.
That is there is no attempt to consider opposing views or present a balanced perspective. Besides common words, devices such as photos, graphs slogans and symbols can be used especially to try to evoke a desired emotional response. However an appeal to reason can be made as well. The aims o the propagandist can be open and obvious. or concealed such as in subliminal advertising. Propaganda can benefit both governments and their populations by boosting morale and therefore effective fighting in war.
Propaganda can also be used in an indirect way to try to stimulate sales for a company. For example, a company may boast about sponsoring a specified charity. The intent of this is to encourage the public to think of them as good corporate citizens and therefore by extension their product must be good as well. Another device used by companies such as Nike is to hire star athletes such as Usain Bolt to endorse their products. Propaganda however does have limitations. It must fit in with popular desires and its’ allegations can be proven false by actual events.
Furthermore, the characteristics of the recipients can dilute the effectiveness of propaganda. Also its’ effectiveness can be enhanced or diminished by the use of other means to advance cause such as violence, bribes, and passive resistance used either in conjunction with or in lieu of propaganda. Finally, the ability of propaganda to influence public opinion can be severely diminished if there is an equally strong and well articulated opposing view. This is noted especially in the current right to abortion debate between the so called “right to life” and “pro choice” camps.
Other examples illustrating the above points are as follows. Hitler was able to rise to power because of the German masses chafing at their post World War I impoverishment and the humiliation of the Versailles Treaty. However when Germany began to lose World War II, it was difficult for Propaganda Minister Goebel to boast about the invincibility of German forces and morale fell. Although unsuccessful plots against Hitler himself accelerated. The effectiveness of propaganda can be negated by changes in population demographics.
Consider recent developments in Iran for example. Although not yet a true democracy, there is strong evidence in the street demonstrations that the state is losing its’ grip on the hearts and minds of its’ increasingly well educated population exposed to Western ideas through the internet and other means. Characteristics of groups such as strong religious views can be resistant to contradictory propaganda, as has been shown in Russia and elsewhere devices such as bribes can undermine the values of state propaganda.
Part 2 This part of the essay requires the write to review 5 presidential commercials to determine the “trick of the trade” used in each one. The 7 tricks described are 1)name calling,2)glittering generality, 3)transfer 4) testimonials, 5) “plain folks” 6) card stacking and 7) band wagon. For each commercial I will identify a) the candidate, b) the year and c) the title. In each case I will then state the trick used and how, and why I feel it is effective. 1)Stevenson-Kefenauer, 1956, “How’s That Again, General”.
Trick –“plain folks”. The ad refers to the cost of living and prices of basic commodities. , everyday “bread and butter” issues important to average people. It alleges that Eisenhour failed in his promise to keep prices down when he was in office 2) Johnson, 1964,”Merely Another Weapon” Trick “Transfer”. The ad showing an atom bombe explosion implies that Goldwater in his remark that this is merely another weapon, would not take extremer care in its’ use as the public demands.
It is effective as it plays on the publics’ cold war fear of the USSR. 3Nixon, 1972 “McGovern’s Turnaround” . Trick “Name Calling”. That is calling McGovern a “flip flopper”. This is effective because it lists the issues he allegedly changed his mind on along with the visual image of his rotating head. 4 Bush, 1988. “Tan Ride”. Trick- “Car Stacking”. It lists numerous weapons systems allegedly opposed by Dukakis, ignoring any he supported.. It is effective as it implies Dukakis would make America unprepared for possible war.
5)Obama, 2008, Trick- Testimonials by Famous People”. In this commercial McCain is quoted as saying “the fundamentals of the economy are strong”. Obama effectively used McCain’s statement to ridicule him as it flies in the face of the perception of most people given the market turmoil, job losses and foreclosures, etc.
References 1). American Historical Association- The GI Roundtable Context. – What is Propaganda? 2). Museum of The Moving Image- The Living Room Candidate- Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952- 2008.