6.4.2.4 Propaganda Techniques

In his book Propaganda, Bernays defined it as the “conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses”.  People don’t always realise that they are being manipulated; they can be persuaded to support people and policies that are not necessarily working in their best interests.

One propaganda technique is the endless repetition of snappy slogans.  For example, the slogan “take back control” was effective in the campaign to persuade Britain to leave the EU in a ‘Brexit’; It was incorporated in the Vote Leave campaign website identity.  Slogans were extensively used in the 2016 American presidential election, for example in the Presidential Candidate Donald Trump Rally in Sarasota, Florida: “make America great again”, “drain the swamp”, “build a great wall” and “crooked Hillary Clinton”.  These slogans have to be endlessly repeated, for maximum effect, but they risk trivialising political debate – as pointed out in a Guardian article: ‘Strong and stable leadership!’ Could Theresa May’s rhetorical carpet-bombing backfire?.

Slogans are crude (but effective).  The Institute for Propaganda Analysis paper, Propaganda Techniques, describes several other ways of exerting influence – including making false connections, being selective about the truth and creating fear.  Politicians can use any of these techniques, and they can personally use the Internet to continuously reinforce their messages – with a stream of tweets, for example (6.4.2.6).

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This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3a book, © PatternsofPower.org, 2020.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/6424a.htm