Propaganda Techniques

“Propaganda” is a modern Latin word dating from the 1622 title Congregatio de propaganda fide, or “Congregation of the Propaganda.” They were a committee of Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church, established by Pope Gregory XV, and charged with the care and oversight of foreign missions.

“Propaganda” came to refer to any association, systematic scheme or concerted movement for the propagation of a particular doctrine or practice. While its negative connotation dates back at least to 1842,1 it became far more negative during the Nazi era and World War II. Afterwards, Edward Bernays coined the far friendlier and innocuous term “Public Relations” to replace it. For that, and for his work in the field of both propaganda and public relations, Bernays is known as “the father of American public relations.”

Propaganda is still an evocative word, bringing to mind images of dictatorships, hate campaigns and wartime misinformation. In its negative form, it is used daily in virtually every country. In its more innocuous forms of advertising and public relations, it is a ubiquitous, omnipresent multi-billion dollar industry which saturates our media and is a primary driver of the wheels of commerce.

The ideological goal of propaganda

The goal of propaganda is to control what people believe, to define their unquestionable truth. Hence propaganda is about ideology, which may be political, economic, religious or philosophical.

All ideologies use propaganda – often called “public relations” or merely “information” – when they promote their ideas as being the “real” truth while denigrating other belief systems as evil, bad, or just plain wrong.

The hidden quality of propaganda

Well-designed propaganda is hidden; recipients perceive it and think of it as the simple truth. The messenger is not seen as manipulating or persuading, and the subject matter becomes the unexamined norm.

Propaganda is thus covert persuasion of large groups of people.

On the other hand, if the target audience comes to see themselves as victims of manipulative machinations, they will feel betrayed and tend to rebel against the manipulator. This rebellion may be open or, when threatened and opposed by power, it may be forced to be covert.

Basic conditions of propaganda

Successful propagandists must be in positions of power, with significant control over mass-communication media. This can include presidents, governmental officials and media moguls. At smaller scales, they can be company bosses, teachers and parents. The controlling person must feel the need to convince the group to believe or perceive something in some particular way.

1. Oxford English Dictionary, 1971. New York. Oxford University Press

Common Propaganda Techniques

What follows is a collection of common Propaganda Techniques. These are specific methods of application of the fundamental Nine Principles of Propaganda. * – One the seven techniques recognized by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis in 1937.
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Word games

False Connections

  • Stereotyping: Classify the other side negatively.
  • * Testimonial: The testimony of an independent person is seen as more trustworthy.
  • * Transfer: Associate the leader with trusted others.

Special Appeal

  • Astroturfing: Creating the illusion of grass roots activity.
  • * Bandwagon: Pump up the value of ‘joining the party’.
  • * Card-stacking: Build a highly-biased case for your position.
    * Plain Folks: Making the leader seem ordinary increases trust and credibility.
  • Sockpuppeting: Using faked, non-existent people to support a cause.


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Category: Special Appeal
See also: Bandwagon, Card-stacking, Plain Folks, Sockpuppeting

Creating the illusion of grass roots activity.

Targeted campaigns are designed to look like local, grass-roots activity. The term originated in 1985 when, after receiving a huge amount of mail on the same topic, Senator Lloyd Bentsen said, “…a fellow from Texas can tell the difference between grass roots and AstroTurf…this is generated mail”.

The intention is to persuade people to accept the promoted view and join in (bandwagon effect) or set up their own “grassroots” group in support.

Social media (Twitter, FaceBook, etc.) is almost designed for astroturfing, bandwagons and sockpuppets, with easy promotion of catchphrases, re-tweets, trending hashtags, and friending by strangers. Overseas writers can do the writing and “sockpuppet” Facebook and Twitter accounts for very low costs.

The traditional press can be manipulated with supplied stories and images. Events can be staged using paid actors, sympathizers, and members of the public invited under false pretenses. Leaflets can be distributed.

Indirect astroturfing can be done by financing others who are already engaged in the issue. They do the work and build the “grassroots” organization while you direct from the background. When industry finances scientific research which supports their products, this is a form of astroturfing.

Use exaggerations such as “everyone,” “the people,” “real Americans” or “always.” Avoid mention of contradictory evidence.

Astroturfing creates the illusion that many people: share a particular hardship, hold a particular view, support a particular politician, are active on a particular local issue, dislike particular opponents, or love a particular product.

A politician raises the public’s awareness and approval of him by highlighting a supposed problem organizing a rally, and creating a “false flag” opposition group which invades the rally to garner publicity.

Paid petitioners collect signatures in support of candidates, amendments, propositions. The petitioners get the undecided to sign by arguing “put it before the voters and let them decide.”

On-line information services give higher visibility to businesses paying a fee. Business pay for favorable reviews and negative reviews of competitors, often via intermediary public relations companies.

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Category: Special Appeal
See also: Astroturfing, Sockpuppeting

Pump up the value of “joining the party.”

The term ‘bandwagon’ originated when the Temperance Movement drove a wagon around town picking up drunks. Climbing “on the wagon” meant giving up alcohol. Later politicians literally hired a band, put it on a wagon, paid handsome men and pretty women to sit on the wagon or walk with it, drove it through the streets, and made people feel that a good time would be had by anyone who joined in the fun.

Make it appear that many people have already joined the cause; they are already having lots of fun and will be rewarded. Join now for more fun, more pay, more power, more free prizes. The right people, the good, honest, moral, and religious people are all joining.

Music, noise, color, bunting, crowds and excitement. Make them want to join or regret missing out. People need to belong to something; they don’t want to miss ‘golden opportunities.’

Comment from the Institute for Propaganda Analysis
“The propagandist hires a hall, rents radio stations, fills a great stadium, marches a million or at least a lot of men in a parade. He employs symbols, colors, music, movement, all the dramatic arts. He gets us to write letters, to send telegrams, to contribute to his cause. He appeals to the desire, common to most of us, to follow the crowd. Because he wants us to follow the crowd in masses, he directs his appeal to groups held together already by common ties, ties of nationality, religion, race, sex, vocation. Thus propagandists campaigning for or against a program will appeal to us as Catholics, Protestants, or Jews…as farmers or as school teachers; as housewives or as miners.

With the aid of all the other propaganda devices, all of the artifices of flattery are used to harness the fears and hatreds, prejudices and biases, convictions and ideals common to a group. Thus is emotion made to push and pull us as members of a group onto a Band Wagon.” (Miller, Clyde. (1937). Propaganda Analysis, NY: Institute for Propaganda Analysis)

A political party holds a rally or parade featuring music, shouting & flag-waving.

A religious cult puts on public events which current members must attend and actively recruit new members.

The politician tells the people what they believe and they support him because of these beliefs: “You know already,” “you believe,” “I don’t have to tell you,” “you know this is true.”

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The Big Lie

Category: Fundamental Principle, Word Games
See also: Card-Stacking, Character Assassination, Name Calling, Slogans, Stereotyping

So large it must be true.

Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it. – attributed to Adolf Hitler

Make a claim that is so outrageous that people will assume that it cannot be a lie, and so accept it as truth.

Strongly assert the lie. Massage available data to “prove” the lie as being true. Reframe vigorous denial as proof of guilt.

Everyone lies in small ways; everyone knows this and watch out for such lies. Few people have the audacity or mendacity to tell big lies, then repeat and defend them, support them with additional lies, and then expect people to believe them. When we encounter this, we are psychologically disarmed and think, “This must be true, no one could lie like this.”

Accuse those about whom you lie of lying about you. Spread “peremptory lies” to discredit others before they have a chance to defend themselves or accuse you.

Be first to throw the mud; it will stick. Always accuse, never doubt, never admit to lying or error. Many people remember and continue to believe your false charges because “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” When presented with proof of falsehood, many people quickly believe the initial lie more strongly.

Many conspiracy theorists, proud of their “skepticism,” accept low-probability unsupported big lies while rejecting high-probability supported facts.

“You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!”
– Matthew 23-24 New American Standard Bible

The politician accuses his opponent of taking bribes, buying votes, sex crimes, membership in a secret cabal to seize power or destroy morality and freedoms, and of falsely accusing himself of lying. The accused wastes time and money fighting the charges.

When Obama was sworn into office, he DID NOT use the Bible but instead the Kuran… Chain email, 12-20-07

“Not a cough in a carload.” – Old Gold cigarette slogan, 1920s

We know where they [weapons of mass destruction] are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.  — Donald Rumsfeld, Sec. of Defense, Mar’2003

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Category: Special Appeal
See also: Astroturfing, Sockpuppeting

Build a highly-biased case for your position.

In gambling or in magic card tricks, accomplished card manipulators have the ability to “stack the deck,” even as they shuffle the cards, and cause certain cards to appear (or not appear) when and where they want them.

Card-stacking is the intentional biasing of an argument, presenting only supporting evidence, burying or discrediting opposing evidence. Always exaggerate your own position. Mention only your own supporters, never the opposition.

“Cherry-pick” your facts, using only those seeming to support you, ignore contradicting facts. Present opinion as fact.

Accidentally show up at events and push to the front. Jump to the front of the parade.

People find statements presented as evidence, even when it’s even completely false or only opinion, to be especially persuasive, People forget that supporting evidence presented may be vastly outweighed by contradictory evidence not presented.

Comment from the Institute for Propaganda Analysis
“Involves the selection and use of facts or falsehoods, illustrations or distractions, and logical or illogical statements to give the best or the worst possible case for an idea, program, person, or product.” (Miller, Clyde. (1937). Propaganda Analysis, NY: Institute for Propaganda Analysis)

A preacher “proof-texts” his comments by citing biblical quotations which support him and ignores any quotation contradicting him.

A politician happens to show up at a conference, local political meeting, business or school opening, thereby getting free publicity and making people think he supports their cause or enabled the benefit to the community.

A politician tells the people what they want to hear: he’ll bring them jobs, better food, better housing, better education, lower taxes, more freedom and fewer criminals.

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Character Assassination

Category: Word Games
See also: Big Lie, Card-stacking, Glittering Generalities, Name-calling

Discredit, defame, demonize, dehumanize, ad hominem attacks, slander.

Attack the person; show them to be bad and unworthy. Any of the “four Ds” below may be used (as well as additional methods):

  • Discredit them. Show their arguments and decisions are weak and they are incapable in their work.
  • Defame them. Damage their good reputation and name.
  • Demonize them. Turn them into bad people whom everyone hates. Use ad hominem and smear attacks until anything they do or say is considered bad.
  • Dehumanize them. Treat them as a “thing.” Frame them as sub-human without values.

Mud sticks. Slanders, even after being disproven, remain foremost in the listener’s mind. Invent skeletons in the closet. Lack of evidence can be twisted into proof of their conspiracy. Charges and slanders are more compelling when included within a story.

My opponent, a godless Communist, is part of a conspiracy so successful that they have hidden all traces of their subversion of the government and legal system.

 An “extremely credible source” has called my office and told me that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud. – Trump tweet 8-6-12

“He’s not a war hero. He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” – Trump speaking in Iowa 7-18-15 DEFAME

“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes…Blood coming out of her…wherever.” – Trump on Megyn Kelly after GOP debate 8-14-15 DEBASE PANDER

“Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?! I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?” – Trump on Carly Fiorina, Rolling Stone interview, 9-9-15

“Excuse me, I have given my answer, lyin’ Ted.”  – Trump at GOP debate, 3-3-16

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.  – Trump’s Campaign Announcement 6-16-15

Arthur Scargill, a trade union leader, was discredited by Margaret Thatcher’s tactics during the 1980s miner’s strikes, where the strikes failed to have any serious economic effect. She was then able to close most mines without further protest.

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Category: Other
See also: Big Lie, Card-stacking, Character Assassination, Name-calling

Denialism is the avoidance of uncomfortable truth, plus the attempt to spread beliefs to cause others to not accept the truth. Denialism can be found when a person:

  • Blindly believes that something is not true.
  • Realizes that something may be true, but avoids uncomfortable thoughts about this.
  • Knows that something is true, but denies this truth in conversation with other people.

It can take many forms, including:

  • Avoidance of information that might prove the truth.
  • Avoidance of talking about the subject with others; steering the conversation away from this.
  • “Cherry picking,” – selectively seeking evidence that can be used to sow doubt and dismiss any other evidence of the truth.
  • Claiming contrary knowledge or experience.
  • Claiming that the truth is a result of a conspiracy theory.
  • Quoting “experts” who have denied or doubted the truth.
  • Using other coping mechanisms to avoid having to face the truth.
  • Actively campaigning against the truth.
  • Attacking the person or organization promoting the truth.
  • Using logical fallacies in arguments against the truth.
  • Reusing disproven lies to audiences unfamiliar with them
  • Using wide-scale propaganda against the truth.
  • Removing funding from bodies that seek the truth.
  • Seeking to punish those who promote the truth, including through legislation.

Common areas subject to denialism include climate change, war crimes, AIDS, evolution, food science, medicine, smoking, environmental pollution, crimes within your group or groups you support.

A country’s ruling body realizes that addressing climate change will be expensive and could impact the economy and business. Politicians hence use a propaganda campaign and remove funding from climate change research.

Denialism is common in politics when accepting the truth means accepting that your political ideology is wrong, or where such acceptance would lead to actions that are politically inconvenient or costly. The same is true in cultures and religions.

Denialism is different from a simple denial in its systemic and almost religious approach, typically seeking to eradicate significant historical events or scientific findings. In this, it often aims to change the beliefs and actions of an entire society.

So what?
When you have a truth that is being denied, seek to present evidence in forms and in situations where those you would persuade cannot deny it.

When you are faced with denialism about a big and important topic, get organized and expect a long and difficult battle.

Denial is supported by an emotionally-based belief system, difficult to weaken even with incontrovertible evidence. Such denial is often integral to their core self-image.

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Four Methods used in Fake News

Category: Other
See also: Big Lie, Information Management, Milieu Control

Fake news is often within the more accurate news and is of particular interest to those who find it useful for various means. In this, fake news can be considered as being information that seems plausible but contains significant factual errors.

There are many other methods used by fake news and “clickbait” headlines, such as making the message personal (eg. “You will want to know this”). In general, though, we need to be constantly aware of fake news. If we tweet fake news and outright lies to people, they may later reveal the falsehood and disprove the lie. If you are proven to be an alarmist, conspiracy theorist or sloppy with the facts, we can look foolish, so it makes sense to check the facts before passing things on.

Negative lies
Spreading negative lies about opposing individuals and groups increases their chance of failure when their supporters believe the lies and abandon them, perhaps to avoid being tainted by the same brush. Negative lies are a form of attack, seeking to diminish the other person and reduce their credibility and status. When we believe people lie, we conclude they cannot be trusted, and so we avoid any association with them.

Positive lies
Spreading positive lies about individuals and groups that you support increases their chance of success when people accept your fake news as truth. This is the reverse of negative lies: as you knock down opponents, you build up your candidate (or yourself). In this way, the person you support then becomes a direct replacement, filling the “trust hole” created when the previously trusted person is rejected.

Uncertainty and doubt
Creating uncertainty and doubt in the minds of others makes them unsure of what to believe or what to do. They often become inactive and do nothing. They may take a “wait and see” attitude, decide this is a “he said, she said” situation, or falsely equate unsupported opinions or “someone said” statements with supported facts.

We may “clutch at straws” like a drowning man, or seek certainty elsewhere. Just as we replace the opposing candidate with ours through the use of lies, we may replace uncertainty about the other person with certainty about our own candidate.

We may also use uncertainty to fend off criticism, for example by denying even what is obvious. Just a small seed of doubt can be enough to help your candidate wriggle off the hook of criticism as it provides a possibility of them being right.

Building status
Acting to build credibility and otherwise increase the social status of the spreader of the fake news can be very effective, for example by suggesting they have access to information that perhaps others do not. Status is a key indicator and source of power. As much status as you can give your candidate, the more power you effectively create for them.

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Glittering Generalities

Category: Word Games
See also: Astroturfing, Euphamisms, Name-calling, Slogans

Use power words to evoke emotions.

Generalization is a common process where we take one thing – word, idea, process – and apply it to other things. When “glittering” they sound good but are vague, amorphous, without solid substance. The more people believe vague and glowing statements, the less they see the need for reason and evidence.

If people are taken to a place where they accept vague statements, then suggestion can be used to replace rational argument and clear evidence.

Attractive yet vague words sound good in speeches and documents, but actually say nothing concrete. Poetic devices – alliteration, assonance, imagery, metaphor, meter, simile, repetition, that turn your words into memorable and effective poetry.

Rhetorical devices – anaphora, antithesis, chiasmus, parallelism – are memorable and carry emotional appeal.

Intangible nouns can express vague ideals to stir the soul, yet but state nothing specific: courage, dignity, duty, fame, freedom, godly, honor, integrity, justice, liberty, love, moral, patriotism, and respect. Such words appeal to generally approved values and by themselves can elicit strong emotion and approval.

Such words and devices, in the mouth of a practiced speaker, can have an hypnotic effect of an audience, putting them into a light trance, lower their intellectual defenses, and heighten their emotional susceptibility. Nouns, when intangible, nouns give the sense of concrete meaning (e.g. “family values” – what family or individual doesn’t have some sort of value?). Lacking true substance, they paint pictures in broad strokes yet still be believed.

Comment from the Institute for Propaganda Analysis
We believe in, fight for, live by virtue words about which we have deep-set ideas. Such words include civilization, Christianity, good, proper, right, democracy, patriotism, motherhood, fatherhood, science, medicine, health, and love.

For our purposes in propaganda analysis, we call these virtue words “Glittering Generalities” in order to focus attention upon this dangerous characteristic that they have: They mean different things to different people; they can be used in different ways.

This is not a criticism of these words as we understand them. Quite the contrary. It is a criticism of the uses to which propagandists put the cherished words and beliefs of unsuspecting people.

When someone talks to us about democracy, we immediately think of our own definite ideas about democracy, the ideas we learned at home, at school, and in church. Our first and natural reaction is to assume that the speaker is using the word in our sense, that he believes as we do on this important subject. This lowers our “sales resistance” and makes us far less suspicious than we ought to be when the speaker begins telling us the things “the United States must do to preserve democracy.

The Glittering Generality is, in short, Name Calling in reverse. While Name Calling seeks to make us form a judgment to reject and condemn without examining the evidence, the Glittering Generality device seeks to make us approve and accept without examining the evidence. In acquainting ourselves with the Glittering Generality Device, therefore, all that has been said regarding Name Calling must be kept in mind…” (Miller, Clyde. (1937). Propaganda Analysis, NY: Institute for Propaganda Analysis)

On this auspicious day, we herald the dawn of a new morning, when freedom flows again across America, when family values are again held in the highest esteem, when the bells of liberty again ring from sea to shining sea, when the clouds of godlessness are dispelled by the winds of wisdom, and God again smiles upon you, his chosen people.

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Information Management

Category: Word Games
See also: Big Lie, Card-stacking, Character Assassination, Glittering Generalities, Name-calling, Slogans, Sock-puppets, Stereotyping

Knowledge is power.

First, collect information assiduously. Garner knowledge from whatever source that can be found or created.

Propagandist information gets sourced from many places, including:

  • Life histories: Burrowing into the past of target people, digging for dirt and other useful information.
  • Dumpster diving: Exploring the “rubbish” that others throw away for private information.
  • Unwitting spies: Making friends with the friends of target people and then carefully pumping them for information.
  • Infiltration: Paying spies to get into the target camp and get close to their leaders.
  • Video evidence: Incriminating or otherwise useful videos and photos of the target.
  • Social Engineering: Grooming and impersonating target employees to get critical access.

Propagandists lie but hate lies used against them. Check that the information you have is truth, rumor or lies. Even lies can be useful especially when spoken by others, but it helps to know what is true and not.

Effective propaganda information management is most importantly about “spinning” the information such that it has maximum effect. Particular spinning methods include:

  • Amplification: Make small things seem large.
  • Downplaying: Make big things seem small.
  • Distortion: Make half-truths seem true and truths seem wrong.
  • Statistics: Blind them with impressive-looking numbers.
  • Lies: Simply spreading untruths.

Careful timing can magnify the power of propagandist messages, for example releasing critical information as a politician is coming up for re-election, or so soon before an election that they cannot respond or voters who believe the lie can’t change their minds back again.

Political Action Committees now specialize in such spin as they are not directly tied to any particular candidate and hide behind anonymity. They can use “black propaganda” (tightly concealed origin, with very few knowing the source) and “gray propaganda” (source is not generally known but not as actively concealed, so the propagandist can claim not to be hiding anything).

Astroturfing and sockpuppeting are additional methods for disseminating spin.

“Radio Free Europe” provided cold war communist bloc companies with information about their own countries’ activities. It appeared to be independent but was run by Western governments.

Many organizations create apparently “independent” websites which “tell the truth” about themselves or their products, including: cults, religions, political organizations, revolutionary or terrorist groups, corporations, health foods, quack medicines, treatments or medical devices, naturopathy and homeopathy, science denialists.

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Milieu Control

Category: Word Games

See also: Big Lie, Card-stacking, Character Assassination, Glittering Generalities, Name-calling, Slogans, Sock-puppets, Stereotyping; Lifton’s Brainwashing Processes

Control the means and content of communication.

The key principle is to work in lower levels of human motivation: beliefs, dogmas and protocols; the need for social inclusion, belonging, esteem. It utilizes the promise and threat of “You are either with us or against us,” implying rejection or even harm for those who are against.

This is a broad approach to control people through control of their environment, including what is communicated and how.

Methods of milieu control include:

  • Defining dogma, the unquestionable truths.
  • Establishing protocols, the rules by which specific activities must be completed.
  • Using innuendo, making subtle criticisms or threats.
  • Use of slang and jargon that only the initiated will understand (thus creating a secret code).
  • Subtleties of pronunciation that further influence and help identify the converted.

Religions often base dogma on holy texts, though these are often interpreted for everyday life by the clergy.

Protocols in groups often include initiation ceremonies and punishments for transgression of rules.

The American Alt-Right movement created its own vocabulary: Beta, Crybaby, Cuck, Cuckservative, Dark Enlightenment, Human Biodiversity, Libtard, Masculinist, Multiculturalism (negative), Neoreactionary or NrX,  Political Correctness (negative), Snowflake, Social Justice Warrior or SJW (negative), White Genocide, Whiny.

 “Over time it’s going to be important for nations to know they will be held accountable for inactivity….You’re either with us or against us in the fight against terror.” – George W. Bush, 11-6-01

“I think you would have riots. If you disenfranchise those people, and you say, “Well, I’m sorry, but you’re 100 votes short, even though the next one is 500 votes short,” I think you would have problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.” – Trump on CNN, 3-16-16

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Category: Word Games
See also: The Big Lie, Character Assassination, Euphamisms, Slogans, Stereotyping

Debase, Defame, Dehumanize
Laugh at your targets. Criticize their lack of values. Denounce their ideals. Take their words and actions out of context; blow them up to drown their denials, making them seem like admissions of guilt. Use other double-binds such that whatever they say or do only mires them more deeply.

Continually refer to them with a trivializing name (e.g. “little Marco,” “ugly Carly”) with a smirk and a laugh, and your audience will laugh with you, glad to see others, and not themselves, demeaned.

Randomly attack and denigrate someone, especially an innocent guy-next-door. When no one feels safe, they will support your attacks because it means they are not being attacked. This is emotional terrorism: when no one feels safe they are easily controlled. They flock to the attacker to avoid being targeted.

Denigrate the strong and powerful. You are not afraid of them. They are hollow and wrong, you are right.

Sling mud, early and continually. Mud sticks. Studies show that even when a slander is disproven, it is remembered better than the truth. Your opponents are immoral, ugly, stupid, hated criminals.

Wartime enemies become sub-human in word and picture. World War II Germans became, krauts, huns, the bosch, sausage suckers; the Japanese became Japs, nips, slant-eyes. The Vietnamese became slopes. Police are pigs. Americans are fat-cats, greedheads, capitalists; their allies are running dogs.

Comment from the Institute for Propaganda Analysis
“Bad names have played a tremendously powerful role in the history of the world and in our own individual development. They have ruined reputations, stirred men and women to outstanding accomplishments, sent others to prison cells, and made men mad enough to enter battle and slaughter their fellowmen. They have been and are applied to other people, groups, gangs, tribes, colleges, political parties, neighborhoods, states, sections of the country, nations, and races.” (Miller, Clyde. (1937). Propaganda Analysis, NY: Institute for Propaganda Analysis)

My opponent flip-flops by the hour. You can set your watch by him. He’s a weathervane, but always pointing in the wrong direction. You can’t listen to such a weak-willed loser with no brains or guts.

I would never say my opponent is too short to serve, too ugly to look at, or too stupid to speak. Others say it, but I won’t.

America is big-hearted, unlike my opponent, who is low, mean, stingy with his own yet happy to rob you of yours. America is so great that we can allow thieves and communists to run for office, as my opponent is doing. That doesn’t mean that intelligent and moral Americans like you will ever vote for him. I know you won’t.

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Plain Folks

Category: Special Appeal
See also: Astroturfing, Bandwagon, Sockpuppeting

Making the leader seem ordinary increases trust and credibility.

Wear ordinary clothes. Not flashy, even if expensive or formal. In “informal” settings, jeans, slacks, plaid or solid color shirts, sports coat without a tie. Always be clean. Dress like your audience. When visiting the troops, look military but without displaying rank.

Use simple words, simple grammar, pauses and short sentences. Speak as if thinking up your words, on-the-spot. Use, but don’t overuse, the language of your audience. Occasionally inject minor speech errors, elisions, incorrect grammar. You may not be absolutely “of them,” but you completely understand, empathize with and support them. You are ordinary, like them, but no fool.

Act like the average man. Love mom, apple pie and America. Do chores, play with the kids and dog, exercise and eat but not too much. Act like you’re interested in and are learning from people. People instinctively trust people who mirror their body language. Look ordinary, never foolish.

When home, the politician chops wood, clears brush, mows the lawn. He dresses for church simply and respectfully. He tells the audiences that, because they’re ordinary people just like him, they think what he thinks and wants what he wants. He watches TV at night and likes the programs that are popular but don’t feature sexy material or bad language.

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Category: Word Games
See also: Category: Word Games
See also: Big Lie, Character Assassination, Name-calling, Stereotyping

Slogans need no literal meaning, only a strong emotional appeal.

Create a short phrase which energizes people into thinking, speaking or acting in the way you want. Keep it simple.

Use the slogan everywhere: speeches, posters, flyers, advertisements and so on. Use it by default as a header or footer in documents.

Expound upon it. Discuss the meaning (if any) and what people should do as a result. Use it to browbeat your opposition and legitimize your actions.

The shorter and simpler the slogan, the more memorable. They stick in your mind, perpetuating their force. Repetition hammers them home, making them easier to recall, and – when spoken by authority figures – gives them legitimacy.

The words need not make immediate sense (e.g. “family values”), but they must always seem plausible. The feeling they create is far more important than any rational meaning.

Slogans, now frequently called “memes,” compete with one another. A political contest may be decided by the better slogan. A great slogan, delivered well and well-timed, can knockout the opposition.

Slogans are everywhere: advertising taglines, political pitches, license plates, t-shirts, buttons.

Nazi Germany used subtle slogans such as ‘The Jews are our misfortune’ and ‘To each what he deserves’. In ‘1984’, George Orwell creates the slogan “War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength,” which also illustrates Orwell’s concept of “doublethink,” believing two contradictory things without discomfort. These may seem curious reversals but this is a part of the power. Each point can be argued to be true. The slogan is then used as a guiding force by the government to excuse all kinds of atrocities.

Yes, we can” – Barack Obama, 2010

“Labour isn’t working” – UK Conservatives, 1979

“Open your eyes” – Greenpeace

“As long as there is injustice in the world, there will also be Amnesty” – Amnesty International

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance” – Derek Bok (US educator and lawyer)

“Fair trade, not free trade” — (on peace button)

Keeping slogans short and simple makes them memorable, which holds them in the mind and so perpetuates their force. Repetition hammers them home, not only making them easier to recall but also, when spoken by authority figures, giving them legitimacy and requirement.

The words do not have to make immediate sense, but they should always seem plausible. The feeling they create is more important than the rational meaning.

Slogans can compete with one another. Sometimes a political contest will hinge upon who has the better slogan. A great slogan can deliver the knockout punch, particularly if it is delivered well and with good timing.

Slogans are used in many situations. Advertisers use them as taglines. Politicians use them. States use them (eg. ‘Florida: The Sunshine State’).

Nazi Germany used subtle slogans such as ‘The Jews are our misfortune’ and ‘To each what he deserves’. In ‘1984’, George Orwell creates the slogan ‘War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength’. These may seem curious reversals but this is a part of the power. Each point can be argued to be true. The slogan is then used as a guiding force by the government to excuse all kinds of atrocities.

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Category: Special Appeal
See also: Astroturfing, Bandwagon, Card-stacking, Plain Folks

A “sockpuppet” is a false identity (like a sock with a face drawn onto it and pulled over your hand), a made up person which is manipulated to appear as if they have done specific things or have a particular opinion about something.

Generating sockpuppets on the internet is easy when email addresses, social media profiles and so on can be created without having to prove who you are.

Make the sockpuppet’s personality seem real: details of life and locality, recreation, work, family. State opinions, have conversation, share recipes, favorite books and movies and clap for the leader.

Your phony community of sockpuppets, arguing and agreeing, works to subtly change the minds of readers.

Sockpuppets hide the real identity of the person using them, particularly useful when they are well known or fear criticism or attack. Backlash can occur if the creator is revealed.

Sockpuppets work because the opinions of others – especially when agreement seems wide – strongly influence us.

Sockpuppeting is also called sockpuppetry. Other variants include:

  • Ballot stuffing: Where multiple ballots are “cast” by non-existent people within a vote for something.
  • Strawman sockpuppets: Where weak comments are created that can be easily refuted. Others who might give a similar but better argument may avoid involvement.
  • Sybil Attack: Multiple sockpuppets created to influence an online network group (named after the book Sybil, about a woman with Dissociative Identity Disorder).

While the word is relatively new, the practice is old. When times are dull and circulation falling, newspapers have long faked alarmist letters that provoked storms of complaint.

Businesses create online fake positive reviews about themselves, fake negative reviews of competitors. Yelp has been widely derided for soliciting payments from businesses for rating upgrades.

Magazine ads quote slowing statements from “George W. – Spokane, WA,” etc.

A religious website posts fake stories of conversion and healing for those who have now “seen the light.”

The Russians were accused in 2017 of creating millions of “bots”(automated robot users) on Twitter to re-tweet Trump’s comments and comment favorably on them.

When circulation declined, the newspaper created false and alarming letters-to-the-editor to stimulate complaints and readership.

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Category: False Connections
See also: Big Lie, Character Assassination, Name-calling, Testimonial, Transfer

Negatively classify the other side.

Denigrate them into an unpopular stereotype. They are now “them”, not “us.” Downplay their human rights. They are threatening, unworthy, disgusting and other negative frames.

Emphasize the stereotype words and the associations you want linked to the stereotypes.

Name their leaders. Give exaggerated and distorted examples that “prove” the stereotype and so condemn all who follow them.

Stereotyping can be positive; your group – “us” – are good, perfect, wonderful and desirable people.


These foreigners who come here and take all our jobs and suck dry all the social benefits of our democratic system. These are the parasites we must purge!

“This judge is of Mexican heritage. I’m building a wall.” – Trump on CNN 6-3-16

“We have people chopping the heads off Christians, we have people chopping the heads off many other people. Not since medieval times have we seen what’s going on.” – Trump in GOP Presidential Debate, 2-6-16

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Category: False Connections,
See also: Transfer

The testimony of a seemingly independent person, even a known actor, is seen as more trustworthy.

Well-known celebrities and public personalities are trusted by their fans, even when it is known they are being paid for their testimony. Experts, clerics, police, scientists and others – even when unknown – will be respected for their title and credentials and their presumed authority is rarely questioned. Use people who are like the people whose support you need.

On stage, TV, radio, newspaper, social media and in political debates, get them to enthusiastically support you. Supply their words, if necessary, but only when they are willing.

Comment from the Institute for Propaganda Analysis
“This is the classic misuse of the Testimonial Device that comes to the minds of most of us when we hear the term. We recall it indulgently and tell ourselves how much more sophisticated we are than our grandparents or even our parents.

With our next breath, we begin a sentence, ‘The Times said,’ ‘John L. Lewis said…,’ ‘Herbert Hoover said…’, ‘The President said…’, ‘My doctor said…,’ ‘Our minister said…’ Some of these Testimonials may merely give greater emphasis to a legitimate and accurate idea, a fair use of the device; others, however, may represent the sugar-coating of a distortion, a falsehood, a misunderstood notion, an anti-social suggestion…” (Miller, Clyde. (1937). Propaganda Analysis, NY: Institute for Propaganda Analysis)

Our institute has studied this issue from all sides for years, and our findings clearly support this candidate’s position.

I play a doctor on television. I have this disease, I’ve studied this issue and I know that this medicine saves lives.

Y’all know me. Y’all know my music. Y’all know what I believe. I love this candidate because he thinks like me and he loves what I love about America. He’ll do right by you. I’m voting for him. You should too.

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Category: False Connections
See also: Testimony

Associate the leader with trusted others.

Find groups and people which possess high credibility; associate with them and claim you share their ideals. Join important organizations, mingle with trustworthy people. Name-drop and quote your important friends.

But you are also your own person, probably better than the best. They like and admire you. You can and will help them whenever possible. Do not overly demean them.

Comment from the Institute for Propaganda Analysis
“Transfer is a device by which the propagandist carries over the authority, sanction, and prestige of something we respect and revere to something he would have us accept. For example, most of us respect and revere our church and our nation. If the propagandist succeeds in getting church or nation to approve a campaign in behalf of some program, he thereby transfers its authority, sanction, and prestige to that program. Thus, we may accept something which otherwise we might reject.

In the Transfer device, symbols are constantly used. The cross represents the Christian Church. The flag represents the nation. Cartoons like Uncle Sam represent a consensus of public opinion. Those symbols stir emotions . At their very sight, with the speed of light, is aroused the whole complex of feelings we have with respect to church or nation. A cartoonist, by having Uncle Sam disapprove a budget for unemployment relief, would have us feel that the whole United States disapproves relief costs. By drawing an Uncle Sam who approves the same budget, the cartoonist would have us feel that the American people approve it. Thus, the Transfer device is used both for and against causes and ideas.” (Miller, Clyde. (1937). Propaganda Analysis, NY: Institute for Propaganda Analysis)

The president admitted to me the other day that he could not have done this project without my critical support.

I know more about war than the generals, more about taxes than the accountants, more about law than the lawyers, more about international relations than the ambassadors. I don’t claim this for myself. The generals and accountants and lawyers and ambassadors have told me this. They are wise, honest and decentt people, and so I believe them.

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Toffler’s Six Tools for Managing Perception

Category: Other
See also: Information Management, Milieu Control, Big Lie, Character Assassination

In their excellent “War and Anti-War,” Alvin and Heidi Toffler describe six methods used in wartime propaganda (and sometimes elsewhere). These principles, toned down perhaps, can be used in more everyday propaganda situations.

Atrocity accusations
Accuse the other side of committing acts of gross indecency and atrocities that will shock and show the enemy to be sub-human. When values are broken badly, then this legitimizes extreme punishment and revenge.


  • Bombing a religious building, school or hospital.
  • Killing innocent victims, especially old people, pregnant women, children and babies.

Hyperbolic inflations
Exaggerate what they believe or have done to make them particularly terrible. Generalize a single incident into a common occurrence, or one bad person into the representative of everyone in their group. Use emphasis to make key things stand out.


  • Taking the actions of one terrorist as representing the beliefs of everyone they claim to represent.
  • Describing injuries as “horrific” and “mortal.”

Demonization and dehumanization
Make them appear as wholly bad in all ways, without hope of redemption or conversion. Frame them as evil animals who seek only to destroy that which we hold dear.


  • Comparing them with known “demons” such as Hitler or Pol Pot.
  • Describing their actions as disgusting and abhorrent.
  • Describe actions and people as “evil,” “satanic” or “cowardly.”

Contrast what we and they believe, say and do. Show that they are not like us, putting them and us at opposite poles. Paint our people as glorious heroes, in sharp contrast to their evil villains.


  • Our people love God, they worship the devil.
  • Contrast how they dress and how this is not like us.

Divine sanction
Claim that what you are doing is either required or aligned with higher powers. Show you are more religious and that the holy people are on your side (especially if both sides are of the same faith).


  • Reinterpret the scriptures to justify your actions.
  • Proof-Text: Select scriptural passages that support you, ignore those that don’t.
  • Say you have conversed with God or a religious figure.

Use propaganda about propaganda. Show how they make things up and are deliberately trying to deceive, while our messages are based on clear evidence.

If you can destroy one piece of propaganda then you shake belief in anything else they say. Meta-propaganda is hence particularly powerful.


  • Show they have control of the media.
  • Show video footage to support one’s own claims.

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The information above came almost entirely from these three following sources. The result is a blend of the source material, making it impossible to source each word or phrase to the text from which it came or which inspired it. Some material was expanded, some rephrased, some rearranged, and some was shortened or deleted. I acknowledge my debt to them, and hope they aren’t offended by my use.

Changing Minds – Propaganda:

Propaganda – The Institute for Propaganda Analysis:

Propaganda (The Institute for Propaganda Analysis), Retrieved 6-3-18, since archived. Now located at:

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