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Author Topic: The 22 Techniques of Mass Media Propaganda (long)
Daruma28
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Adapted from a StrategyPage article on "Information Warfare."

In some cases, I changed the examples to show that these techniques are applied by right AND left wing media organizations (where the StrategyPage article primarily focused on left wing propaganda).

I think it's propaganda in and of itself for an article to point out propaganda techniques widely employed by EVERYBODY in the mass media, and only focus on the left.

In some cases I left the examples alone, in others, I added what I thought were other good examples of the techniques used by the rightwing media as well to further their aim of propagandizing the public.

# 1. Guilt By Association

This is used to damage someone's reputation by associating them with an unattractive person or organization. It doesn't matter if there is an actual association or not.


# 2. Backstroke

Systematically belittling the goals of the subject of the article as the goals are being listed. For every step forward for the subject, the propagandist pulls the reader back.

Ex. - "The military says they've been making real progress in rebuilding Iraq, but to date over 2000 US soldiers have been killed by a popular insurgency and the latest polls show that the majority of Iraqi's want the US occupiers to leave the country."


# 3. Misinformation

This is a subtle technique, it involves reporting information in such a way that the final message of the story is not true, it's what the propagandist wants you to believe.

Ex. - In the middle of an economic recovery, certain news organizations selectively use cherry-picked economic numbers to paint a negative view of the current economy. Another example, when Congressmen Murtha called for quick troop withdrawl from Iraq, the right wing media reported that Murtha was calling for an "Immediate" withdrawl of troops. Murtha in fact called for a six month process.


# 4. Over Humanization

It is a perfectly valid technique to tell a story by focusing on the real people who the story impacts. However, this is also an easy technique for manipulation when a propagandist tries to mask an issue by making anyone who has a valid disagreement look evil due to all the human suffering talked about in the story.

Ex. Micheal Moore's long, lingering shot on the greiving, sobbing mother of a dead soldier in Farenehit 9/11 is a good example, as well as the right wing's focus on the IN Utero suffering of a fetus during an abortion when debating abortion rights.

# 5. Name Calling

This is officially the oldest trick in the book. It is cheap and easy means of dehumanizing an opponent and reducing the person's public personae to mere caricature.

Ex. - Democrats that call President Bush "Shrub" and Republicans that call Senator Clinton "Hitllary"


# 6. He Said, She Said

This is a technique whereby the author can say something they know isn't true, or isn't fair, but they want to say it anyway.

ex. - Project USA is a group which claims to support reasonable levels of immigration. They've put up billboards with Department of Statistics information which states that the US population will double within 50 years. The billboards have pictures of children of different races with the words "The population of the US will double within this child's lifetime. Stop it congress". Some people say this is hate speech. Note: a statistic (the fact that the US population will double at current levels of immigration) cannot be hateful. This is just a numerical fact, like saying water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The author knows this is an unfair statement, but wants to say it anyway. That's why she says "some people say", rather than "I say".


# 7. Unproven "Facts"

This is when a writer is frantically trying to "prove" a position and they begin to quote "studies", "reports", and "experts" as "proving" this or that, but they never mention the study's name, location, where copies can be found, or the conditions specific to the experiments.

Ex. - Whenever a report says "Studies show..." without refernecing the who, what, when, where and why of the study.

# 8. Lying

Sometimes complete lies are told when the writer believes they can get away with it.

ex. - Dan Rather and Mary Mapes attempts to pass of forged documents as "evidence" that George Bush went AWOL from the TANG, or Newsweeks false story of "flushing Korans down the toilet" at Guantanamo.


# 9. Telling the Truth For a While

To throw people off the track, biased news services will give good accurate reporting for a while, usually when it no longer matters, then they will stick it to you the next time your guard is down. The best way to recognize this technique is to simply remember who the biggest transgressors are. You must understand that if someone lies or tries to manipulate a story once, they will do so again. They will never be non-biased. They will, however, say something fair from time to time. This is due to the fact that if they were biased every time they spoke, they would soon run out of credibility completely.

# 10. Not Talking at all about Something

Fostering bias by ommission is a very common technique.

Ex. - Gun Control advocates will often cite statistics that can be construed as negative for gun ownership, -- i.e. household accidental deaths -- while failing to even hint at statistics of crimes prevented or stopped and self defense cases by gun owners.

# 11. Subtle Inaccuracies/Dismissive Tone

Misstating a topic, often a serious one, and pretending any objecting or concerned view is silly, unrealistic, or just not necessary. The next time you're reading an article which seems to speak childishly of a serious issue, you should be aware that in all probability the author doesn't fail to understand the seriousness of the issue, rather they may be trying to further an opposing agenda.

ex.- This is one of Ann Coulter's favorite techniques. She frequently calls liberals "treasonous." This technique is also a favorite of Maureen Dowd's and her frequent editorials referring to the Bush administration by childish names like "the Bushies" to try and present the administration's policies and statements as childish and simplistic.

# 12. A One-One Punch

Pretending to represent two sides, but one side gets a couple of great lines , the other side gets a lame line.

ex. - This is an extension of Liberals chief complaint about FoxNews' show, Hannity and Colmes. Hannity is a polished, eloquent and polished looking broadcaster, while Colmes appears wimpy, squeamish and fairly weak proponent of Democrat ideas and arguments, and is regularly outmatched by Hannity during verbal debate.


# 13. Volume

This is related to Coordination, it is merely a deluge of the same story line everywhere, until it becomes dominant, and the media's view of it becomes the dominant view.

Ex. - The NYT ran Abu Ghraib front page stories for 32 straight days. The LA Times for 26 straight days. Both papers pushed hard to make the connection of the abuse that happened their with official US interrogation policy. Now Abu Ghraib is often implied or referred to as official policy of prisoner abuse, despite repeated denials by the administration and the prosecution and punishment of the principal actors in the abuse incidents.

# 14. Coordination

This occurs when a number of like minded journalists all report the same angle at about the same time.

ex. - See incessant Abu Ghraib coverage by the NYT and LAT in #13. Another example would be the right wing media's overwhelming crticism's of Bush's nomination of Harriet Meiers to the Supreme Court.

# 15. Fogging an Issue/Total Nonsense

Sometimes certain groups have an interest in making sure that as few people pay attention to an issue as possible. A good propagandist can write a long, nonsensical article for the purpose of confusing the majority of readers.

Ex. - See any book written by Noam Chomsky. (Especially for KidA [Big Grin] )

# 16. 2,3,4 Technique

Mentioning only one side of an issue 2, 3, or 4 times in an article, each time pretending you are about to present the opposing side, but you never do. Then the article suddenly ends and the reader feels bombarded, outnumbered and alone. In reality the opposing view is by definition held by many people, the author merely refused to present the side of the argument he or she disagrees with.

Ex. - "The decision to seal off an additional 4 million acres was a controversial one. Barbara Oaks of Centerville says "There are great advantages to sealing the area off". Many in town feel the same way, less traffic means less pollution, less damage to the area, and less noise. However, not everyone agrees with her. The most common complaints don't address the additional benefits of closing the forest, such as increased education opportunities for area children. Not many opportunities like this afford themselves year round, and keeping the area closed will guarantee the educational hikes around the perimeter can continue. Many longtime residents feel that closing all 4 million acres will be a burden. But don't tell that to Steve Longmont. "I hope they close even more" Steve told our interviewers. "There's no good reason for heavy travel through the whole forest, and I'd like to see the place prohibited". Several area polls show a large number of people in favor of closing the area. Keeping the forest closed is what is best for the town."

# 17. Preemptive Strike

This is when the writer "attacks" the reader viciously at the very outset of the article with the "acceptable" view of the topic. The writer tries to "beat it into" the reader.

Ex. - One of the best examples I can think of is the reporting on SSM - often times opponenets of legalizing SSM are portrayed as hate-filled bigots or extreme religious zealots, and are portrayed in that light by biased writers in favor of SSM when writing about it.

# 18. Framing the Debate

Setting an argument around two "alternatives" which you would prefer, rather than the true alternatives.

Ex. - The debate over how much funding to give to the project continued. Some are arguing for a reduced amount, while others want to see a much higher contribution level. The needs for both a lower budget and a higher budget have been laid out and defended in the debate brochure, which all members of the decision making body have been reading over for the last three days. (Note: the correct decision was to stop the project completely, it accomplishes nothing and the people running it are stealing the money, but you weren't offered the choice of stopping it.)

# 19. Token Equal Time

Sometimes a weak, tiny understatement is added to a propaganda piece, apparently so the writer can pretend they had been fair. This technique is quite common, it consists of an article written with entirely one point of view, then at the end a meager statement from the opposing view is printed, it is immediately refuted, then the article either ends or continues on with the preferred point of view.



# 20. "Interpreting" A Statement

Have you ever seen a writer say that someone said something, then what the person said followed, but it didn't look anything like what the writer claimed was meant?

# 21. Withholding Information

If a story has a character involved that may have information that would cause the reader to discount the point the writer wants to make, the writer simply omits the controversial information to present the character with more credibility.

Ex. - "A Canidate for the US Senate is opposed to the appointment of Condoleeza Rice to Secratary of State; Says she is unqualified." If one were to find out that the candidate was in fact David Duke, his criticism would be viewed by the reader in a much different light.

# 22. Distracting or Absurd Metrics

With this technique, the writer attempts to drag the reader into a debate about what the reader is even seeing. This is usually used when the propagandist is falling behind and must hurry to destroy correct understanding of events.

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Naldiin
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I like this, most importantly because it acknowledges that both sides of any debate are usually (always?) involved in proganda and BS on some level. The trick is learning to weed out the garbage from the useful information.

Very nice indeed.

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Pelegius
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Yes, the media do use these tricks, as do political people. But, it was always thus, and always thus will be. Propaganda comes so naturaly to a human that many do not even realize that they think in it.
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roper66
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Hey Daruma, you forgot #23. Statistics.

Over 75% of statistics are made up on the spot.

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Kit
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Geez roper, get a good source. It's 83% of all statistics that are made up on the spot.

Duh!

[Razz] [Big Grin]

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Zyne
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And, when it comes to stats, 99% of Americans are so terribly bad at math they don't understand the first thing about statistics, so who cares!

Anyway, I think these 22 things are a good list of common errors with persuasive writing / persuasive presentation. If you want to be good, and be respected and believed, don't do those things / don't trip those traps.

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Rallan
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And they missed #24 as well. Pooh-poohing statistics [Smile]
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roper66
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quote:
And, when it comes to stats, 99% of Americans are so terribly bad
Maybe that's why lotteries are so hugely popular.

Lotteries are a tax on people who are bad at math [Wink]

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Zyne
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I pay my stupidity tax (play the lottery) regularly. That's my retirement plan!
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KidA
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quote:
# 15. Fogging an Issue/Total Nonsense

Sometimes certain groups have an interest in making sure that as few people pay attention to an issue as possible. A good propagandist can write a long, nonsensical article for the purpose of confusing the majority of readers.

Ex. - See any book written by Noam Chomsky. (Especially for KidA [Big Grin] )

What?? Are you telling me that Noam Chomsky is anything less than the ultimate paragon of trustworthiness and rational humanism? I must don my beret, sharpen my goatee, dress in black and drown my sorrow in a huge cup of soy latte....

Actually, my one quibble with this selection is that the Chomskinator is not a professional news reporter, nor an editorial-writer, but rather (as concerns his non-scientific output) an author of argumentative essays, which are supposed to be longer and more in-depth. And I don't see how he can represent a mass media organization.

Does this, then, bring us to a rule #25 - "Character assassination by categorical misplacement"? [Razz] This would encoumpass holding someone to account for positions, orgazinations, or political movements with which they are not associated. Like saying that Chomsky must explain why he "supports" communist regimes, f'rinstance.

But if your charge is that his prose is sometimes bone-dry, and harder to digest than Grandma's Xmas fruitcake, well, you got me there. He ain't exactly Montaigne.

[ December 10, 2005, 07:52 PM: Message edited by: KidA ]

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scifibum
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There's some overlap with other items on the list, but perhaps this is a distinct technique nonetheless: Strategic choice of diction. Choosing to describe the favored position with elevated or intellecutal-sounding langauge, but representing the opposing side with more pedestrian language.

Fictional example: The educational reform proposal is supported by an elite cadre of activists, including the celebrated author Noel Pintaro. The plan did not receive universal support, however. The meeting was protested by a few local folks who showed up in pickup trucks and yelled during the talks.

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Lewkowski
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"The educational reform proposal is supported by an elite cadre of activists, including the celebrated author Noel Pintaro. The plan did not receive universal support, however. The meeting was protested by a few local folks who showed up in pickup trucks and yelled during the talks. "

I'd view that as a bash on the cadre of activists. Using the word "elite" and "activist" isn't a good idea. It gets the impression that they view themselves as "superior" or elitist. When it comes down to it, most people would rather support the ignorant guy in the pickup then some ivory tower asshole with a stick up his but whining about something.

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Cytania
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Daruma, yes your points do overlap and range from fairly minor distortions to major infractions; but hey that's politics. One of the fictions of the 20thC was 'fair and unbiased' news reporting. This notion still carries some weight in the US since your journalists are quite serious and dedicated (UK newspapers are full of opinion, gissip and innuendo).

The classic case of disinformation is the Watergate scandal. You only get one side of the story in 'All The Presidents Men' as that film concentrates on the journalist's search. What was going on in parallel was Nixon using every trick in book to minimise, distract from, distance himself from Watergate; when all the time he knew the truth. Study the master liar at work.

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Daruma28
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quote:
Study the master liar at work.
Nah. Bill Clinton bores me already.
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Cytania
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Ah, young Apprentice Bill, he showed great promise particularly 'It depends what you mean by the word 'is'?'.

Alas he never delivered a really whopping great fib. Our hopes must lie with Mistress Condi. Now her efforts in Europe are truly economical with the truth...

May the false be with you ;-)

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javelin
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quote:
Alas he never delivered a really whopping great fib.
quote:
I never had sex with that woman.
Thank goodness that isn't a really whooping great fib or anything. [Roll Eyes]
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