Definition of Propaganda
Propaganda is one-sided communication designed to influence people's thinking and actions. A television commercial or a poster urging people to vote for a political candidate might be propaganda, depending on its method of persuasion.
Propaganda differs (1. a democracy; like a democracy. 2. of or having to do with the common people. 3. treating other people as one's equals) from education in democratic societies. But education in a dictatorship can involve teaching children and youth by techniques, which could be classified as propaganda. Educators in democratic societies teach people how to think, but propagandists (a person who gives time or effort to the spreading of some opinion, belief, or principle) tell them what to think.
Experts disagree about what is propaganda and what is not, and whether propaganda differs from other forms of persuasion, such as advertising and political campaigning. Some look upon all biased communication as propaganda. Others believe that the method of persuasion determines whether a message is propaganda. For example, the majority of advertisers and political campaigners function openly and state their purposes truthfully. Other advertisers and political campaigners are willing to present any combination of truths, half-truths, lies, and distortions that they think will most effectively influence their audience. Some experts say all these people are propagandists. Others regard only the second group as propagandists.
Some people consider propaganda neither good nor bad. Many favour the use of propaganda to raise money for charity. Other individuals argue that the public needs reliable information to make wise decisions, and that propaganda blocks the spreading of such information. They also fear that propaganda dulls people's minds and deadens their power of reasoning. The results of some propaganda may be short term and relatively insignificant, such as the purchase of a product. Other types of propaganda can have dangerous results.
The greatest use of propaganda occurs during wartime. At such times, government propaganda campaigns urge people to save resources, volunteer for military service, support the war effort, and make sacrifices necessary for victory. Psychological warfare is a type of propaganda that aims to weaken the enemy's will to fight or belief in their government. A related technique, called brainwashing, is used against prisoners. It combines political propaganda with harsh treatment to reduce a prisoner's resistance.
Much wartime propaganda is called covert (secret) propaganda because it comes from hidden sources. For example, a propagandist might try to discourage enemy troops by sending them counterfeit newspapers reporting huge losses among their forces. Some covert (secret) propaganda is spread by people in a country who secretly support its enemies. A group of such...