|What is Propaganda?|
Propaganda, simply put, is the manipulation of public opinion. It is generally carried out through media that is capable of reaching a large amount of people and effectively persuading them for or against a cause. The exact meaning of propaganda is constantly debated, however, and no specific definition is completely true. Some argue that any persuasive communication is propaganda, while others hold that propaganda specifically alters political opinions. However, it is doubtless that propaganda is material which is meant to persuade or change public opinion, and though it often varies in form and technique it always serves the same purpose. Propaganda is communication for the purpose of persuasion.
Propaganda, although it has existed almost indefinitely, has grown immensely during the past few centuries. Although evidence of intentional propaganda can be traced back as far as ancient Greece, the advent of communication media on a larger scale has exponentially increased its usage. After the invention of the printing press, it became possible to quickly and easily produce posters and books. Prior to this development, however, the majority of propaganda was spread by word of mouth. The printing press enabled the propagandist to quickly produce mass amounts of posters with one intended effect, a form of propaganda much less risky and difficult than oral communication.
More recently, propaganda was again bolstered by the invention of the radio. The ability to communicate orally with large amounts of people in a very small amount of time also helped the development of propaganda. Also, the beginning of radio also saw the beginning of advertising as we know it today, which is another form of propaganda. Before radio, it was almost impossible to communicate directly with many people in such a short amount of time. Admittedly, direct communication through print was possible, but very few people actually read ads. Radio opened up a whole new world of advertising. The invention that has impacted propaganda the most, however, is the television. The ability to visually communicate over long distances rapidly increased both the amount and the effectiveness of propaganda. Advertising as well as political propaganda was rapidly accelerated for this new medium.
Also, in more recent years, the introduction of the Internet and long-distance communication as enabled further increases in propaganda. In an age where we are increasingly bombarded by propaganda from a variety of media, it is increasingly important to recognize and understand propaganda and its effects.
Although the word propaganda has a negative connotation, propaganda itself is not necessarily bad. Propaganda is an attempt to change opinions by persuasively presenting new ones. The propagandist attempts to alter the opinions of his subjects or viewers by convincing them of the validity of their own. In order of accomplish this, he or she uses a variety of methods and techniques. It is important to recognize these techniques and examine the purpose of the propaganda before making decisions based on it. The purpose of propaganda is to change opinions, but more importantly to influence your decisions. By understanding the purpose of the propaganda and the method being used, one can go a long way toward making effective independent decisions.