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Is Propaganda a Technique or a Phenomenon ?

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Name: Firas Sawan 

Student ID# 6487815 

Coms 361 Midterm Paper 

Date: 20/02/2015  

Prof: Denis Murphy 

Is Propaganda a Technique or a Phenomenon ?  


                    One of the most powerful tools for asserting upon a specific cause in today's world conceals itself within what is known as propaganda. Although "there is no settled definition of the term propaganda, the use of this word is as current as ever" (Marlin 2013, 3);  it implies the use of persuasion, emotions and communication practices in order to win mass opinion over an alternate cause. Propaganda is a set of techniques, used either for good or malicious purposes, in which the monopoly of means and ends is employed to present a vague blend of truth and perjury, a complete set of lies, or in some cases the truth; it is a device that aids in presentation, rather than a subject matter.

                   As a result of recent technological advances, it is easier today than ever before for propaganda to assert itself in our lives as a very efficient technique of swaying popular opinion in a predetermined direction. Propaganda as a technique employs various methods of technology, such as television, Internet, media and social networking sites to aid in the dissemination of certain ideas and causes. The Institute of Propaganda Analysis sheds light on some of the most commonly used techniques by propagandists; such as symbol association or name calling. Here a propagandist may associate rival groups, ideas, beliefs or institutions that they would like to denounce, with negative or emotionally charged words and symbols. This is presented in a way that persuades the audience to navigate away from these groups and ideas solely on the basis of this negative association rather than looking at the evidence provided. A propagandist may also use the fear factor as a technique to win popular opinion. This entails presenting a potential threat and then proceeding to recommend a specific and detailed behavior of the way the audience should act. The fear technique gambles on the possibility that the audience will perceive the recommendation as an effective method of addressing the potential threat and convince them that they are capable of performing that behavior.  An example of utilizing the fear technique in contemporary politics is presented by Aaron Delwich where he mentions that occasionally "a politician agitates the public's fear of [threats, such as] immigration or crime, and proposes that voting for [their party] will reduce the threat"  (Delwich, Propaganda).  


                   In an article published in 1937, The New York Times stressed that "what is truly vicious is not propaganda [itself], [rather the] monopoly of it" (Snow 2014, 4).  This insinuates that what determines whether a propaganda will be classified as good or bad is the intent behind the techniques used in disseminating the ideas that make up that propaganda. Testimonials can serve as an example of a technique which can be used to spread a harmless cause.  This method works by "[associating] a respected person or someone with experience to endorse a product or cause by giving it their stamp of approval" (Valerio, Propaganda) keeping in mind their goal in convincing the audience to follow that persons' example. Propaganda may also be regarded as a technique in which vague statements and words that are associated with the ethics, morals and beliefs of a certain audience are utilized. A propagandist may present a cause under notions of freedom, desire for peace, and family values while refraining from providing the complete truth, and thus affirming specific ideas with the help of repetition and advertising.



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