Top 10 Insights on Learning about Propaganda
Updated: May 2, 2019
When learning about propaganda, not only will you pick up a lot of interesting/crucial information, but you will learn in ways that you do not normally learn. Having almost completed my first class about propaganda, I thought I would reflect on the course and provide my top ten insights to keep in mind when learning about propaganda.
1. Propaganda is everywhere.
Before taking this class, when I thought about propaganda, I mentally pictured the stereotypical World War II ‘We Want You’ poster. Come to find out, propaganda does not have to come in printed paper form. Propaganda can come anywhere. Radio broadcasts, television shows, and the social media we use on a daily basis all house propaganda. The messages being sent by propaganda can be subliminal, they do not have to be as obvious as Uncle Sam and just because we do not register something as propaganda does not mean it is not impacting us. For our Leap 2 assignment, my partner Hannah and I analyzed two pieces of propaganda that portrayed women and media, one from the past (1950s) and one from modern day. The modern-day advertisement we reflected on was an advertisement for Diet Pepsi in a new ‘skinny’ can. A woman with perfectly done hair and makeup is seen daintily drinking out of the can using a straw. Our Leap 2 discussed how this advertisement was subliminally sending the message that women have to meet a certain beauty ideal to be accepted by society. Choosing a woman to drink from the new can design is a commentary on the ideal that women should not only have their hair and makeup done, but be skinny. This advertisement can be dangerous because is further aids in the societal pressure on women to conform to these ideas. View our infographic for this assignment here.
2. Propaganda can come from trusted sources.
A great example of this statement is Fox News. During Week 9, we learned about networked propaganda and were assigned to annotate a video about Fox News and Partisan Propaganda. Just because information is coming from a news network does not mean it is 1) unbiased or 2) true. Fox News has recently drawn attention to themselves due to their association with President Trump. Many are calling this news channel ‘state TV’ for our President and his administration. There is an obvious collaboration between this network and the President. This makes the information being broadcasted by the network extremely bias and ultimately unreliable. The fact that our President is in cahoots with news networks and is making previously trusted sources now not trustable is a scary reality that we are currently facing. Learn more about Fox News here.
3. Almost everything we read/see is produced with some form of bias.
Chances are, anything you read on the internet, especially on social media, is being portrayed with some form of bias, however slight it may be. During our Zoom meeting on April 2nd covering partisan propaganda, the class was introduced to AllSides. AllSides is an online media network whose mission is this: “AllSides frees people from filter bubbles so they can better understand the world — and each other. By providing balanced news, issues and civil dialogue from all sides of the political bias spectrum, AllSides heals polarization and improves our democratic society” (allsides.com). This site acknowledges that it is almost impossible for the news being distributed these days to be unbiased. As a solution to this issue, AllSides provides bias ratings for all of their news articles and shares news articles from the left, right, and center perspective so that the public can read all and formulate their own opinion on the news at hand. Because our generation pulls most of our news from social media, it is important to keep in mind that the important we are consuming is most likely bias and to take in everything we read with a grain of salt. View the AllSides website here.
4. Propaganda does not have to be negative.
Before taking this class, a word that I was quick to associate with propaganda was ‘manipulation’. I associated propaganda with trying to make a falsehood appear to be true and the promotion of information that was not factual. Yes, propaganda is meant to change (aka manipulate) the viewer’s opinion on a situation/event/etc. Propaganda, however, does not have to be based on falsehood. All any form of propaganda does is present new information or a different perspective on a situation to an intended target audience. Propaganda will only influence your perspective if you allow it to. An important tidbit of knowledge that I learned from taking this class is that if you are aware that something/someone is trying to influence you, you are more likely to not be as strongly influenced. Since enrolling in this class, I have been more skeptical of everything I read on my phone because I now know that 1) it is probably bias and 2) its purpose is to get me to think a certain way or believe a certain piece of information that may or may not be true. Propaganda can be positive and can be used as a beneficial tool. Propaganda that is meant to deceive will only be a negative influence if the viewer enables it to be.
5. Propaganda can be used to evoke change.
Propaganda can be used as a tool to promote social change or to create awareness for an issue at hand. During week 12 of the class, we explored public interest propaganda. We were assigned to watch a video for class called “From One Second to the Next”. This video, or piece of propaganda, was sponsored by Sprint with the purpose of raising awareness about the dangers of texting and driving. Sprint, a popular cell phone service provider, sponsored this video with the goal of changing the way the viewers see texting and driving. By sharing testimonials from individuals on both ends of texting and driving accidents, an emotional reaction is evoked and ideally, change of perspective occurs. Although Spirit, does not legally have the responsibility to attempt to evoke this type of change, they do it as a form of public service announcement. Propaganda is a great way to raise awareness for social issues and create positive change. Watch Sprint’s impactful video here. After watching this video, we were asked the question of if corporations should be expected to raise awareness for issues of public concern. With the large social platforms that many corporations have it is easy for them to provide their audiences with public service propaganda. If a change can occur for the better, why not promote this type of propaganda?
6. Propaganda and discussion go hand-in-hand.
The best learning tool provided to me in this class was the weekly video discussions. I now know that I learn very well through discussion. Often during our weekly meetings, we were presented with a video or website or some sort of platform that presented us with new information. We would then discuss with each other our opinions on what was just presented to us. Hearing other people’s perspectives provided me with a more rounded opinion on the topic. Everyone thinks very differently and seeing other people’s perspectives on the same situation enables you to think in a way you would not normally. During our online class on April 9th, we were presented a video about the content moderators whose job it is to determine what stays up on the internet and what comes down. Social media gives us the power to post anything we would like at any time. Some people try to share some really disturbing stuff. There are people out there who filter through this disturbing content for a living. The discussion we had after watching this video was very beneficial to me. We were asked our opinions on how much filtration our media should receive. Hearing the opinion of others on this topic helped to share my own and see outside perspectives that I would not normally have seen. Watch the video posted by BBC here. It is eye opening.
7. The question is still up for debate: How much filtration does mass media truly require?
One question that we were asked during class that I continually think about the right answer to is this: How much should our media be filtered? This is a very important question and one that this class opened up my mind to. Everyone should think about this question. The globalization and digitalization of our world has made it so easy to spread information. Social media can very easily be used as a weapon when put into the wrong hands. Take the terrorist attack in New Zealand for example. The shooter used social media as a weapon by live streaming the attack for everyone to see. Others viewing the live stream were able to share it with others before it was taken down. It is events like these that emphasize the importance of media filtration. However, as previous discussed in the sixth statement of this listicle, implying this filtration can also be taxing. Having the job of scanning the dark web for anything just disturbing enough to be filtered off of the internet is a horrible job. The video shared by BBC providing insight on the lives of the people do this job exposes the mental taxation and suicide rates associated with the individuals who work these jobs. Media filtration is such a complex issue, that I is hard to come up with an answer as to how much control over it there should really be.
8. Propaganda changes overtime based on society's perception of the current ideals.
Something I have learned from taking this class is that propaganda is very much influenced by society’s perception if what the current ideals should be. Again, take my Leap 2 for example. My partner Hannah and I analyzed two pieces of propaganda portraying women in media; one from the 1950’s and one from modern day. These pieces of propaganda were great indications of the idealized roles for women in society at the time. In the 1950’s, the idealized role for women was that of the happy homemaker who was dependent on their husband, weak, and not even close to self-reliant. Once we move to the 2000’s the role of women shifts. Now, women are seen as individuals who need to be held to a high societal standard. They have to physically fill a cookie cutter mold and be put together at all times. These societal roles are clearly represented in the pieces of propaganda that were analyzed. You can view our infographic here.
9. Propaganda is best learned through first-hand experience.
The best way to learn and understand propaganda is to view it for yourself and experience the impact it can have first-hand. The Mind Over Media website is a great learning tool to expose yourself to the different forms of social media that are out there. You can click here to access the site. This site is a great indication of how propaganda is everywhere and comes in many shapes and forms. Everyone is influenced by propaganda whether or not they even register that they are. We are exposed propaganda everywhere we go. The best way to learn about it is first to become aware and second understand what it is trying to do or the message it is trying to convey. It is very easy to emerge yourself into the world of propaganda because it is already a part of our daily lives. Embracing propaganda and learning more about it can provide countless insight to pretty much any issue that our society is facing.
10. Just because someone in a position of power is spreading propaganda, does not mean that propaganda is true.
An essential takeaway from learning about propaganda: our president can and does lie to us. Nobody in a position of power has to tell the truth, as sad as it may be. People in positions of power often use propaganda for their own personal political gain. A fantastic example of this is President Trump and his fight to build a wall on the border between the United States and Mexico. Trump has spread many falsehoods about immigration and the people coming into our country in an attempt to further his cause and support/rationalize his reasoning as to why a wall is necessary. A great example of a direct false statement that President Trump has made we provided to us for analysis during our midterm exam. News articles were published about immigrants from Honduras, trying to enter the US, burning the American flag. An example headline read, “The illegal caravan of immigrants are flying the Honduras flag as they burn the American flag as they march towards the USA wanting asylum! They are not asylum seekers! They are invaders.” This was all a lie. The pictures of the burning American flag were from an anti-Trump rally in 2016, not from immigrants trying to enter our country. These types of malicious lies are dangerous and create prejudices for those who are uneducated about how inaccurate these articles truly are. To view the article I am referencing click here. False information like this is always being spread across the internet and is even more dangerous when it is spread by someone in a position of power, like our President.
View my SparkVideo here.
“Balanced News via Media Bias Ratings for an Unbiased News Perspective.” AllSides, 29 Nov. 2018, www.allsides.com/unbiased-balanced-news.
“From One Second To The Next A Film By Werner Herzog - It Can Wait | AT&T.” YouTube, 7 Aug. 2013, youtu.be/_BqFkRwdFZ0.
Illing, Sean. “How Fox News Evolved into a Propaganda Operation.” Vox, Vox, 22 Mar. 2019, www.vox.com/2019/3/22/18275835/fox-news-trump-propaganda-tom-rosenstiel.
Post, Washington. “Fox News' Latest Fringe Theory: Robert Mueller Is More Dangerous than Vladimir Putin.” YouTube, YouTube, 15 Aug. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqVjvxMbgQI.
Three, BBC. “Policing The Web's Darkest Corners: The Internet's Dirtiest Secret.” YouTube, YouTube, 20 Mar. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=qo_EGUFIU3I.