- What are the different tools of propaganda and how have th...
What are the different tools of propaganda and how have they been used by governments in the recent past?
Information or Propaganda?
In the age of 'spin', can all communications by governments be
dismissed as propaganda? A more plausible allegation seems that
while some forms of government communications - like public
information campaigns - are aimed by and large at simply informing
the public, most - government advertising, speeches, pre-election
campaigns - are a mix of information and propaganda. One context
where propaganda is a key concern is during times of war and
conflict. This essay takes the examples of the Gulf War in
1991 and the run up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 as two cases
where the US government used propaganda to achieve its own
political objectives. It aims to establish the most common
techniques of propaganda used by governments, and highlight how
they have been put into practice recently using the US in two
different situations as a case study.
In 1937, the Institute of Propaganda Analysis (IPA) - founded by
journalists and social thinkers in the US to educate the American
public about propaganda and its use - defined propaganda as:
The most widely used tactic during wartime is using the element
of 'fear'. US government warned the world of Iraq's
WMDs and the danger they presented in1991. More recently, it linked
Iraq with international terrorism, claiming that Saddam would
not have hesitated to supply or use these weapons against
other nations, and 'disarmament by force' is was the only solution.
The idea here is to 'scare people and [offer] a specific
recommendation for overcoming the fear-arousing threat…[to be]
perceived as effective for reducing the threat…'
Information Vs. Propaganda
The propaganda tactics listed by the IPA fit perfectly in the
nature of wartime communications by the US government during the
Gulf War in 1991 and leading up to the invasion of Iraq by a US-led
coalition in 2003. According to Peter Knightly, award-winning
investigative journalist, government communications reek with
propaganda as they go through the four stages of preparing a nation
for a war - from presenting the crisis as irresolvable through
peaceful means and demonising the enemy and its leader, to accusing
it of atrocities - often fabricated to evoke emotion response. The
devices of propaganda do not apply as extensively to other forms of
government communications such as public information
campaigns. While pre-election and policy campaigns may use
the 'Plain Folks' and 'Bandwagon' devices of propaganda, wartime
government communications remain the most complex mix of
information and propaganda.