What Are the Seven Techniques of Propaganda?

by Morgan Crouch

During World War I, the use of propaganda emerged along with the rise of modern media outlets. Propaganda--spreading ideas, information or rumors for a political purpose--was refined into an art. In 1937, Edward Filene helped establish the Institute of Propaganda Analysis. The goal of this institution was to help educate the American public and to understand the techniques by which propaganda is spread. Filene and his fellow researchers identified seven techniques used by propagandists.

Name Calling

Using negative or discriminatory words, propagandists arouse suspicion and prejudice. The goal is to create an overall dislike of a group of people, so verbally attacking their beliefs, institutions, leaders or religion is fair game. Name calling is often used in ridiculing cartoons or writing.

Glittering Generalities

Using slogans or simple catchphrases, propagandists make generalized statements attractive to their audience. Usually these statements involve ideas of love, honor, glory, peace, family values, freedom, patriotism--anything general enough to inspire pride. These statements usually say very little, so they cannot be proved or disproved.

Transfer

A transfer associates a revered symbol with an idea the propagandist wants to promote. If an idea can be linked with, say, a flag, it has a greater chance of winning popular approval. The stir of emotions makes it difficult for people to clear their minds and think critically.

Testimonial

A testimonial makes an association between a respected or authoritative person and the cause. The hope is that the respected person will lead others to follow his ideas. It is similar to a celebrity endorsement of a product.

Plain Folks

The goal of this technique is to convince the audience that the spokesman is like them and shares their woes and concerns. Using plain language and mannerisms, he is able to build trust by his followers.

Bandwagon

This technique capitalizes on the human drive to be part of a crowd, a member of the winning team. By creating the illusion that widespread support exists, the propagandist hopes those who are on the fence will join the cause. If they refuse, this technique seeks to make them feel isolated.

Card Stacking

By using only those facts that support their ideas, propagandists can make it seem that their way is the only correct way. The aim of card stacking is for the audience to assume these facts are conclusive. By "stacking cards against the truth," propagandists can control the beliefs of their audience.

About the Author

Morgan Crouch has been writing professionally since 2005, specializing in technical writing and copy editing. His work has appeared in a variety of websites, magazines and newspapers, including "The Bellingham Herald." Crouch holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from Western Washington University.

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