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Propaganda And Persuasion September 18, 2007


Propaganda And Persuasion
Garth S. Jowett and Victoria O’Donnell,

War propaganda is that branch of public relations devoted to manipulating people’s attitude toward a war or war in general, rather than engaging in open dialogue. It includes both pro-war propaganda, by governments and war industrialists, and anti-war propaganda by pacifists or enemy sympathizers. What makes it propaganda isn’t the sincerity or insincerity of its originators but its methods of media manipulation, going beyond lies to misdirection, loaded vocabulary, staged events, and fallacious demagoguery, all of which can be justified/rationalised by a ‘good’ cause, whether patriotic or idealistic.
War propaganda is used to confuse and demoralise enemies and also to influence public opinions in friendly countries. Often, a nation at war uses propaganda to influence its own citizens. According to British scholar F.M. Cornford, “Propaganda is that branch of the art of lying which consists in very nearly deceiving your friends without quite deceiving your enemies.”
Propaganda versus democracy is frequently debated in political science – there is a natural tension between government, which must keep secrets sometimes, and the right of the governed to know what is going on and consent.

Terrorism as propaganda
From SourceWatch

Terrorism and propaganda have each taken many forms throughout history, but terrorism as propaganda may have become one of the most destabilizing and dangerous phenomena afflicting 21st century society.
Military campaigns have often sought to inspire fear in enemy soldiers as part of the battle for “hearts and minds.” Most military campaigns, however, use fear as a secondary tactic within a war whose ultimate objective is seizing or destroying the enemy’s territory, weapons, material resources and physical ability to wage war. Terrorism, by contrast, is a tactic often employed by political actors that have no hope of physically vanquishing their enemy. Instead, its goal is to defeat the enemy psychologically through the systematic, calculated use of violence and threats of violence.
Terrorism originally refered to actions taken by governments, not sub-national actors. It refered to a government policy designed to instill massive fear in the populace through mass killings in order to maintain state power. The “reign of terror” launched by the Jacobin government during the French Revolution is the classic example of terrorism in it’s original sense. As the term has evolved terrorism has come to be applied more to sub-national actors instead of states, an inversion of what it originally meant.
During the twentieth century, terrorism gradually evolved, becoming more deadly and indiscriminate as its adherents sought to maximize the psychological impact of their actions. According to Jerrold Post, director of the Political Psychology Program at George Washington University, sophisticated terrorist groups actually have a vice president of media relations and give out handbooks dealing with how to attract maximum media attention. Speaking at the U.S. National Press Club on February 12, 2003, Post detailed a study showing that terrorist activities in Northern Ireland attacks tended to occur on Thursday afternoons between 5:00 and 6:00. “Post said the reason is the deadline for Friday papers, that traditionally carry supermarket coupons and sales ads, is 6:00 p.m.,” explained O’Dwyer’s PR Daily. “Any terrorist act committed before 5:00 p.m. would give journalists time to analyze the act and report it in context. After 5:00 p.m. all there’s time to do is rip the current headline and put in the terrifying headline that the terrorists want to be seen, said Post.”



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