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The Watering Hole - Conversations on 21st. Century religion.

Fighting Propaganda

Don't let yourself be fooled by propaganda - Parts 8 - 10 of 10


Propaganda is the primary way people create polarization in our society. It avoids full exposure in favor of promoting agendas. There are a variety of ways of doing it, and this series explains how it is done so that you can recognize it for what it is.

Outright lies (disinformation). - 8 of 10.

Propagandists have little reservation about telling outright lies. If propagandists are not able to dig up enough dirt or contrary information on other ideas or people, they simply make it up. Yes, this is exactly what they do.

For example, if I write, "My aunt was sober today," I have said nothing negative - it's a positive statement and factually true. The implication is that she has had sobriety problems. If she has not had sobriety problems, the statement is true, but disinformation and deceptive.

Propagandists are typically not so subtle. They imply investigations and misconduct have happened, when they haven't. Remember, calling someone a thief is highly motivating against that person. So in a political campaign, propagandists may state that the other candidate is a thief, often without any background information.

Even worse, some propagandists write completely bogus stories about others and circulate them, often without a source name attached. People are more inclined to believe these negative things than they are positive things. I see one or two bogus stories a week. The first thing I look for is a credible source and a date. If it's negative information, it is automatically suspect.

Disinformation campaigns are used by political candidate supporters and special interest group members, and even religious group members, to undermine the authority and integrity of those they oppose. It commonly isn't just one person creating the material, but several, and sometimes they are not even associated. These campaigns usually have the effect of solidifying the base, creating polarization.

- Dorian

Next: It establishes bogus arguments. - 9 of 10.

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It establishes bogus arguments. - 9 of 10.

Propagandists lie to you in other ways simply by creating arguments that aren't real, but make you think they are the good guys.

The false choice: "If we don't go to war with that country, we are cowards and will be overrun." This appeals to emotion and sounds logical. This argument posits that there are only two solutions to this problem: War or our destruction. It doesn't bother to list political pressure from other countries, a show of force, restrictions, embargos, economic sanctions, isolation, UN condemnation, and diplomacy, all of which may be other very valid choices that can escalate as needed to change another countries threat.

The straw man: "That country has weapons of mass destruction and is very dangerous and their saber rattling means they are going to use those weapons against us soon." This appeals to emotion, while seeming factual. We know from the second War against Iraq that sanctions were working, there were no weapons of mass destruction, and the only thing rattling was Sadam Hussein's mouth.

Advertisers establish bogus arguments by making statements like, "If she loves you, she buys you diamonds," like if you don't buy him diamonds, particularly at a certain store, then you don't love him. One could equally say, "If they have a guilty conscience for cheating, they buy you diamonds." The advertising statement is simply meant to catch husband and wife in a false argument so that you buy diamonds, which are marked up times 10 their cost and highly profitable.

Politicians and moralists often cite circumstances that have weak evidence, and make dire predictions about terrible things that are going to happen if we don't take action now. This supports their agenda and raises their popularity among people who think like them. In reality, either the consequences of inaction are often weak, or do not happen at all.

Can you identify the problem in this argument: "We think things have to go this way. If you don't agree with us, then you are the problem because you refuse to work with us."

Next: Recognizing propaganda - summary. - 10 of 10

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Recognizing propaganda - summary. - 10 of 10

You can recognize propaganda by the following:

If it is simply appealing to people's emotions, doesn't ask you to think about an issue, is negative, is trying to smear others, it is probably propaganda.

If it only promotes one side of an argument, and doesn't address issues thoroughly, it is probably propaganda.

If they are telling you results from a survey, study, or research that hasn't been peer reviewed and replicated, it is probably propaganda.

If they are drawing important implications from a correlational study, advising you to change your lifestyle, be very careful. Correlations are not cause and effect studies, and evidence from similar studies may go back and forth for years before finally understanding what the cause is.

If it is trying to discredit the researcher or research when it has been peer reviewed and replicated, it is probably propaganda.

If their message is simply sound bytes and slogans, it is probably propaganda.

If it quotes authorities, these quotes should be checked for accuracy and context, it is likely to be propaganda.

If it warns you of dire consequences if you allow something to continue or happen, it is likely to be propaganda.

If it is telling negative stories about other people, it is probably propaganda. Check them for authenticity.

If it sets up arguments that limit choices, such as "We have to chose X because Y is a disaster," it is probably propaganda.

If it creates doubtful facts as arguments, it is probably propaganda. Fact check thoroughly.

Some people are very clever and pretend to give thorough coverage of an issue, while leaving out pertinent facts and distorting the importance of others. These people are snakes in the grass. If they claim to be an expert, their information and opinions should be checked against other experts. Don't trust anyone, not even experts.

In summary, propagandists are simply liars who deceive and manipulate you to get you to support their cause. They do not have your best interests at heart. They can't be trusted, so when you identify someone creating propaganda, you know you can't trust this person or group. This often applies to those who spread the propaganda also, although many people do it because they are unwitting dupes.

I have worked with attitude change since 1978. I was also the marketing manager for two companies, and work with focus groups for crafting market selling messages. I am exposed to the craft of the nation's top persuaders. I know very well how messages work to change opinions - I see it work first hand in focus groups (which I have to keep confidential). While advertising is not so much of a problem, I personally believe that propaganda, and the resulting polarization, are the most serious challenges the world has ever faced. I try to inform. I despise propaganda.



First of the series of 10 - articles 1 - 3.

Articles 4 - 7.

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It misquotes authorities. 7 of 10

Propagandists trick you into thinking famous or authoritative people spoke in their favor about an issue.

Authority figures speak volumes. But they never said a lot of things you think they said. At the start of this series I wrote, "George Washington and Albert Einstein shared the view that propaganda is the most harmful challenge affecting our nation. If you believe this, you just became the victim of propaganda." Washington and Einstein are two of the more popular figures through history to attribute sayings to... that they never said. Einstein is often used to both support and oppose religious belief and belief in God. Even his own words are twisted to mean something that he didn't mean.

On Facebook, every day you are likely to see a new picture of some famous or authoritative person, with a caption printed on it of some pithy saying. Most of the time, the person never said these things. Nearly daily you see posted on email or Facebook a quote from some famous or authoritative person. Sometimes it builds on something they said, and often they never said it at all.

One of the anchors of opinion and attitude change is the use of authority. People tend to believe authority figures much more than others. So propagandists use this to trick you into believing what they want you to believe by attributing words to these people, knowing that you aren't likely to check them.

Some propagandists will even misquote or reinterpret religious writings to try to put the power of religion behind what they think. The Ku Klux Klan was infamous for this.

If it seems the propagandist wants to discredit every agency, like all government agencies, or all news agencies except maybe a favorite, they are definitely spreading propaganda. The entire world is not against anyone, and no agency is that good at keeping such a conspiracy secret. Only paranoid schizophrenics believe the entire world is against them and lying to them.

Various agencies use saturation techniques to sway public perceptions. The old saw applies, "If you tell someone something ten times, they will believe it." A recent study by the Annenburg Institute of the University of Pennsylvania, shows the effect of violence in TV shows and audience perception of real crime. Real crime went down, but violence on TV went up, and public perception became more fearful of crime. The study begs the question, "How much influence does notoriously biased TV news have on the perception of people about reality in politics and social issues?" Something as small as a slight smile by a newscaster, when reporting on a specific candidate, has been shown to influence elections. What effect does saturation for and against certain political parties or candidates have?

Those with the money do the saturation of public opinion. For example, reportedly a recent conference for leading Republicans, hosted by the multi-billionaire Koch Brothers, included the following conference topics: "Drive the National Conversation," and "Leverage Science and the Universities." Source.

Next: Outright lies (disinformation)

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