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Techniques of a Defined Propagandist: The War on Ideas

Updated on August 21, 2011

The "Art" of Propaganda. . .

Propagandists use certain techniques to discredit their rivals, victims, or people they simply don't like. With a certain level of awareness, any person could potentially notice the techniques used by a propagandist. This will allow you to evade the baits, traps, and pitfalls set up by propagandists. Recognition of the tactics commonly used by propagandists will enable individuals to no longer become victims of propaganda, but even more importantly, prevent people from being misled into following the wishes of a propagandist and essentially becoming the evil which they fear.

Of note, it's important to understand that propaganda doesn't discriminate. Anyone is capable of propaganda. Anyone is equally capable of enabling propaganda. And any society has probably made use of propaganda at some point in their history.

On a personal note, I will state that I consider propaganda a form of psychological violence. I consider the violence from propaganda of far greater potency than any physical violence. With that said, let's have a look at some of the techniques:

"Reporter" goes fishing for labels: What are you a socialist, anarchist, a libertarian?

Labeling: Often involves inappropriately throwing around blanket terms in an attempt to discredit anyone who resists your arguments. Usually the propagandist makes use of sensitive words/terms that have been demonized by society. Ironically enough, the demonized word most likely involved the use of previous propaganda. Propagandists who make use of labeling never challenge the message per say, instead they throw a label on the messenger in attempts to discredit them. It's a technique that's unfortunately far too effective presently as I write this article.

Examples of labeling include discrediting a person due to his/her economic beliefs, even though the subject matter of economics has nothing to do with the subject matter at hand. For example, yelling out the word "commie" or socialist in attempts to discredit an individual in an argument. Another good example of labeling is discrediting people by throwing around their religious beliefs or lack thereof. Accusing people of "terrorism" who disagree with the status quo has also been a timeless and shameful example of the labeling technique used by propagandists.

Mirror-Labeling: A newly growing phenomenon in our era is the use of "mirror labeling." Mirror labeling fits essentially the same purpose as labeling. Mirror labeling involves making the use of the word "anti." followed by the label. It's essentially a form of labeling that can be used interchangeably. For example, calling someone "anti-American" for disagreeing with American foreign policy is a good example of mirror-labeling. Essentially, the person yelling "anti-American" is labeling you a terrorist for disagreeing with him or her.

We create the enemy. We decide how strong or how weak the enemy will be to fit our purposes.
We create the enemy. We decide how strong or how weak the enemy will be to fit our purposes.

Distortion: Distortion is the process used by propagandists to make their enemies seem more powerful or weaker, as the propagandist deems fit for the situation. The idea behind distorting in this fashion is to "rally your followers," so they can be united in crushing your enemies.

If your enemy is weak, then making your enemy seem stronger than reality is beneficial to the propagandist. This is beneficial to the propagandist because a seemingly strong enemy cannot be overlooked, while a weak enemy can.

If your enemy is strong, the propagandist runs the risk of demoralizing his followers by telling the truth. So instead, he deliberately underestimates the enemies’ potency to increase the moral of his troops.

A clever propagandist understands that uniting numbers in a committed cause against a perceived enemy is paramount to his lust for power. Distorting your enemy's potency from high or low is a method to finely tune this process, making it all the more effective.

Forget it, after all, we can always imagine how things could be worse!
Forget it, after all, we can always imagine how things could be worse!

Deflection: Deflection involves continuously and deliberately throwing arguments off topic in attempts to deflect a sensitive topic that could potentially expose the propagandist or propaganda.

An example of such a tactic is in a debate I recently had with a certain unnamed colleague over a local issue. I point out that Halifax (my hometown) is going through a severe commercial real estate crash. If you go into the downtown area, at least 75% of the businesses are boarded up. It's a tragedy. His counter argument was as followed, "at least we're not Ethiopia." My colleague inadvertently used a deflection tactic to propagate the local economy is actually going well. In addition, he believed that his response was optimistic. We've been exposed to so much propaganda in our lives that we've been led to believe that much of it is healthy. The "it could be worse" is a classic deflection technique that's pure propaganda. Propagating and fear mongering how events could potentially be worse doesn't make the situation better.

Because bombs are not designed to kill as many people as possible within the vacinity. . .
Because bombs are not designed to kill as many people as possible within the vacinity. . .

Downplaying: This is a technique used by the propagandist to euthanize or marginalize his criminal activities. For example, torture becomes "moderate physical pressure." The use of disproportioned force upon a mostly innocent civilian population is referred to as "collateral damage." Invading sovereign nations in the name of conquest, which pose no threat to your nation, is referred to as "fighting a war on terror."

Character Assassination: Character assassination involves attacking the messenger while ignoring the message. The propagandist engages in character assassination in attempts to shame or ridicule anyone who dissents. Often a clever propagandist will make use of character assassinations by engaging in thinly veiled personal attacks. If the propaganda technique is successful, often the entire discussion degrades into the intricacies of the personal life of the person who is opposing the propagandist.

Threatening: This is a technique used by the propagandist to silence opponents. Effective propagandists rarely threaten directly though. Instead, the successful propagandist will threaten when the opportunity presents itself behind closed doors. The threats are often varied. Examples include threats against a person's career, reputation, health, family, and even their own life.

Scapegoat: A technique used by the propagandist so blame can be misdirected at an unrelated or artificially constructed source. The idea is to assign blame upon a "boogeyman" or villain, so as to deflect any potential anger away from the propagandist and onto the source the propagandist deems expendable, irrelevant or completely fictionalized.

All minds who dissent shall be sent to the asylum and diagnosed accordingly.
All minds who dissent shall be sent to the asylum and diagnosed accordingly.
You're indebted to the state and its military.
You're indebted to the state and its military.

Doctoring: This is a clever technique used by the propagandist to dismiss his rivals by making the widespread populace believe they're of weak mental health. Usually the technique may carry a hidden eugenic agenda. A simple example is accusing your opponent of being crazy. The propagandist may even come up with a slew of fabricated illnesses in attempts to suitably "diagnose" all of his rivals.

Culture of Uneducated Indebtedness: This technique is the ultimate goal of any propagandist. The idea is to successfully convince the populace that they're indebted for life to the propagandist. Not only does the propagandist hope that the population will feel indebted, but that any dissent will be quickly quelled by the mob who subsequently view the dissenter as being ungrateful for all the perceived privileges being offered.

An example of such a technique being successfully implemented is when an individual is critical of the military and then subsequently suppressed by the argument that he or she owes their freedom to the military and thus the state. The argument is hypocritical to say the least and completely false. Freedom is a birth right, NOT a privilege. Everyone is born free, from there, the rest is up to society and your parents. Freedom can only be taken away, freedom is never given.

-Donovan D. Westhaver


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    • profile image

      elvis precious 5 years ago

      This one says it all,is super duper!!!

    • Hollie Thomas profile image

      Hollie Thomas 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      As I read this hub I could think of clear examples of propagandists and their tactics,both in my personal life and also here in the forums. A very clever examination of propagandists and their strategies.

    • BobbiRant profile image

      BobbiRant 6 years ago from New York

      Boy, this one says it all. All of this is true, good luck getting people to pay attention though. Everyone jumps on the bandwagon and says: "Yeah, that's right. That's exactly what you are." So much propaganda now being used to control society and for the most part it works. No one seems to care, they are so saturated with it from birth. Good hub.