America is awash with harmful and dangerous propaganda, but few people understand what it is, how it works and what can be done to overcome it. This article examines the nature, structure and intent of propaganda so readers can increase awareness and discernment.
According to The Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University, “Since propaganda and public relations both share the goal of using mass communication to influence public perception, it can be easy to conflate the two. Propaganda, however, traffics in lies, misinformation, inflammatory language, and other negative communication to achieve an objective related to a cause, goal or political agenda.”
Britannica affirms this thought by defining propaganda as “dissemination of information – facts, arguments, rumors, half-truths or lies – to influence public opinion.”
The Oxford English Dictionary states that it is “the systematic dissemination of information, esp. in a biased or misleading way, in order to promote a political cause or point of view.”
Modern propaganda was defined by Edward Bernays (1891-1995) in the early 1920s. Bernays is credited as being the “father of public relations”, but many of his ideas came from his uncle, psychiatrist Sigmund Freud. Neither were friends of society.
According to Bernays,
“Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society (propaganda) constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country… we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”