PROPAGANDA: THE MAIN TOOL OF THE OBAMA CAMPAIGN

April 11, 2012

As opposed to impartially providing information, propaganda, in its most basic sense, presents information primarily to influence an audience. It often presents facts selectively (thus possibly lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or uses loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. The desired result is a change of the attitude toward the subject in the target audience to further a political agenda. Propaganda can be used as a form of political warfare.

In 1937, Edward Filene helped establish the Institute of Propaganda Analysis to educate the American public about the nature of propaganda and how to recognize propaganda techniques.

Filene and his colleagues identified the seven most common "tricks of the trade" used by propagandists. Little did they know they were revealing the tricks of the current Administration's re-election campaign.

The IPA and the Obama Re-election campaigns seven techniques are:

  • Name Calling
  • Glittering Generalities
  • Transfer
  • Testimonial
  • Plain Folks
  • Card Stacking
  • Band Wagon

These techniques are designed to fool us because they appeal to our emotions rather than to our reason.

Furthermore, the techniques identified by the IPA have been refined by Aaron Delwich in his website, Propaganda where he discusses various propaganda techniques, provides contemporary examples of their use, and proposes strategies of mental self-defense.

Name Calling: Propagandists use this technique to create fear and arouse prejudice by using negative words (bad names) to create an unfavorable opinion or hatred against a group, beliefs, ideas or institutions they would have us denounce. This method calls for a conclusion without examining the evidence. Name Calling is used as a substitute for arguing the merits of an idea, belief, or proposal. It is often employed using sarcasm and ridicule in political cartoons and writing.

When confronted with this technique the Institute for Propaganda Analysis suggests we ask ourselves the following questions: What does the name mean? Is there a real connection between the idea and the name being used? What are the merits of the idea if I leave the name out of consideration? When examining this technique try to separate your feelings about the name and the actual idea or proposal.

Glittering Generalities: Propagandists employ vague, sweeping statements (often slogans or simple catchphrases) using language associated with values and beliefs deeply held by the audience without providing supporting information or reason. They appeal to such notions as honor, glory, love of country, desire for peace, freedom, and family values. The words and phrases are vague and suggest different things to different people but the implication is always favorable. It cannot be proved true or false because it really says little or nothing at all.

The IPA suggests a number of questions we should ask ourselves if we are confronted with this technique: What do the slogans or phrases really mean? Is there a legitimate connection between the idea being discussed and the true meaning of the slogan or phrase being used? What are the merits of the idea itself if it is separated from the slogans or phrases?

Transfer: Transfer is a technique used to carry over the authority and approval of something we respect and revere to something the propagandist would have us accept. Propagandists often employ symbols (e.g., waving the flag) to stir our emotions and win our approval.

The IPA suggests we ask ourselves these questions when confronted with this technique. What is the speaker trying to pitch? What is the meaning of the thing the propagandist is trying to impart? Is there a legitimate connection between the suggestion made by the propagandist and the person or product? Is there merit in the proposal by itself? When confronted with this technique, question the merits of the idea or proposal independently of the convictions about other persons, ideas, or proposals.

Testimonial: Propagandists use this technique to associate a respected person or someone with experience to endorse a product or cause by giving it their stamp of approval hoping that the intended audience will follow their example.

The IPA suggests we ask ourselves the following question when confronted with this technique. Who is quoted in the testimonial?  Why should we regard this person as an expert or trust their testimony? Is there merit to the idea or product without the testimony? You can guard yourself against this technique by demonstrating that the person giving the testimonial is not a recognized authority, prove they have an agenda or vested interest, or show there is disagreement by other experts.

Plain Folks: Propagandists use this approach to convince the audience that the spokesperson is from humble origins, someone they can trust and who has their interests at heart. Propagandists have the speaker use ordinary language and mannerisms to reach the audience and identify with their point of view.

The IPA suggests we ask ourselves the following questions before deciding on any issue when confronted with this technique. Is the person credible and trustworthy when they are removed from the situation being discussed? Is the person trying to cover up anything? What are the facts of the situation? When confronted with this type of propaganda consider the ideas and proposals separately from the personality of the presenter.

Bandwagon: Propagandists use this technique to persuade the audience to follow the crowd. This device creates the impression of widespread support. It reinforces the human desire to be on the winning side. It also plays on feelings of loneliness and isolation. Propagandists use this technique to convince people not already on the bandwagon to join in a mass movement while simultaneously reassuring that those on or partially on should stay aboard. Bandwagon propaganda has taken on a new twist. Propagandists are now trying to convince the target audience that if they don't join in they will be left out. The implication is that if you don't jump on the bandwagon the parade will pass you by. While this is contrary to the other method, it has the same effect: getting the audience to join in with the crowd.

The IPA suggests we ask ourselves the following questions when confronted with this technique. What is the propagandist's program?  What is the evidence for and against the program? Even though others are supporting it, why should I? As with most propaganda techniques, getting more information is the best defense.  When confronted with Bandwagon propaganda, consider the pros and cons before joining in.

Card Stacking: Propagandist uses this technique to make the best case possible for his side and the worst for the opposing viewpoint by carefully using only those facts that support his or her side of the argument while attempting to lead the audience into accepting the facts as a conclusion. In other words, the propagandist stacks the cards against the truth. Card stacking is the most difficult technique to detect because it does not provide all of the information necessary for the audience to make an informed decision. The audience must decide what is missing.

The IPA suggests we ask ourselves the following question when confronted with this technique: Are facts being distorted or omitted? What other arguments exist to support these assertions? As with any other propaganda technique, the best defense against Card Stacking is to get as much information that is possible before making a decision.

You now have in your possession the "tricks of the Obama Re-election Campaign's trade."  Since it now appears that Mitt Romney will be the GOP nominee, watch as the Obama Campaign pour tens of millions of dollars in smear commercials and campaign speeches, using all seven techniques, in the attempt to bring him down to a mere piece of drek.


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