An isosceles Triangle
(1974) During my senior year in high school in West Palm Beach, Florida we were presented in Social Studies classes with a mandated curriculum entitled Americanism vs Communism. Teachers were required to sign a loyalty oath to teach this class when it was first instituted in 1961.
I believe this was unique to Florida for the fact that Cuba represented such a Cold War threat and the Castro regime was so frightening to Americans that they feared students might be subverted by Castro loyalists in the Cuban community. Not to mention the fact that ninety miles away, Russian weapons of mass destruction lay.
Even at seventeen and missing the draft for Vietnam by a year, I was subjected to this lesson in propaganda delivered as propaganda. If you did not get this data through another curriculum, I will outline it.
Americanism vs Communism
Part of the brainwashing was the section specifically covering the seven main propaganda techniques identified by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis. Please allow me to refresh you on these insidious tactics plus additional techniques refined by America’s Media Complex.
Assertion is commonly used in advertising and modern propaganda. An assertion is an enthusiastic or energetic statement presented as a fact, although it is not necessarily true. They often imply that the statement requires no explanation or back up, but that it should merely be accepted without question. Examples of assertion;
The assertion that Saddam Hussein had WMD and the invasion of Iraq was an enthusiastic “thumbs up” or “Slam Dunk” or “Mission Accomplished”
The assertion that we [America] will be heralded as liberators in Iraq
Bandwagon is an appeal to the subject to follow the crowd, to join in because others are doing so as well. Bandwagon propaganda is, essentially, trying to convince the subject that one side is the winning side, because more people have joined it. The subject is meant to believe that since so many people have joined, that victory is inevitable and defeat impossible. Since the average person always wants to be on the winning side, he or she is compelled to join in. However, in modern propaganda, bandwagon has taken a new twist. The subject is to be convinced by the propaganda that since everyone else is doing it, they will be left out if they do not. The term jumping on the bandwagon may have been attributed to PT Barnum who was attributed as saying “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Examples of bandwagon;
Examples in slogan;
Be Part of the Action.- US Coast Guard
We’re Looking for a Few Good Men- Marine Corps
Example in actions:
H.J.Res. 114; Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002
Though, this is a common technique, it has morphed to another variation. This would be hiding among the crowd as to not stand out for criticism.
3. Card stacking:
Card stacking, or selective omission, is one of the seven techniques identified by the IPA, or Institute for Propaganda Analysis. It involves only presenting information that is positive to an idea or proposal and omitting information contrary to it. Card stacking is used in almost all forms of propaganda, and is extremely effective in convincing the public. Although the majority of information presented by the card stacking approach is true, it is dangerous because it omits important information. The best way to deal with card stacking is to get more information. Example of card stacking; Kucinich Articles of Impeachment (crimes of G. W. Bush)
Creating a Secret Propaganda Campaign to Manufacture a False Case for War Against Iraq.
Falsely, Systematically, and with Criminal Intent Conflating the Attacks of September 11, 2001, With
Misrepresentation of Iraq as a Security Threat as Part of Fraudulent Justification for a War of
Misleading the American People and Members of Congress to Believe Iraq Possessed Weapons of
Mass Destruction, to Manufacture a False Case for War.
Misleading the American People and Members of Congress to Believe Iraq Posed an Imminent Threat
to the United States.
Illegally Misspending Funds to Secretly Begin a War of Aggression.
Invading Iraq in Violation of the Requirements of HJRes114.
Invading Iraq Absent a Declaration of War.
Invading Iraq, A Sovereign Nation, in Violation of the UN Charter.
Failing to Provide Troops With Body Armor and Vehicle Armor
Falsifying Accounts of US Troop Deaths and Injuries for Political Purposes
Establishment of Permanent U.S. Military Bases in Iraq
Initiating a War Against Iraq for Control of That Nation’s Natural Resources
Here, important information is intentionally omitted to further enhance the argument for impeachment. Kucinich failed to include that the President may not have been legally elected which would render the argument for impeachment moot. Though this is somewhat tongue in cheek, it does have some legal merit. Kucinich also lists articles that may have no basis for criminal prosecution but adds them for additional negative generalities.
4. Glittering Generalities:
Glittering generalities was one of the seven main propaganda techniques identified by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis in 1938. It also occurs very often in politics and political propaganda. Glittering generalities are words that have different positive meaning for individual subjects, but are linked to highly valued concepts. When these words are used, they demand approval without thinking, simply because such an important concept is involved. Examples;
World Trade Center – “our freedom was attacked.”
Al Qaeda – “Terrorists want to harm our country.”
“Support our troops.”
Example one suggests we keep our freedom in large tall office buildings, when in fact we keep it in shoe boxes in our closets. Example two suggests that harming random Americans is not the goal but indeed to damage real estate. Example three is very vague. To support our troops we should continue to keep them in harms way? Maybe we should rally and chant “kill, kill, kill, as they search out and destroy Muslim extremists and Sunni rejectionists? It might mean we are to send them crutches. War bonds might have been purchased if they were still around as this was the origin of support for war efforts.
5. Lesser of Two Evils:
The “lesser of two evils” technique tries to convince us of an idea or proposal by presenting it as the least offensive option. This technique is often implemented during wartime to convince people of the need for sacrifices or to justify difficult decisions. This technique is often accompanied by adding blame on an enemy country or political group. One idea or proposal is often depicted as one of the only options or paths. When confronted with this technique, the subject should consider the value of any proposal independently of those it is being compared with. Example;
“We can win in Iraq or we can cut and run.”
This indicates two choices. Either we vote for more troops and money to fund the surge or if we don’t we are leaving in a cowardly manner. It leaves out several other options but is presented as two extremes only. What is a win? Does the referee blow his whistle? Does someone get their hand raised by a ring judge? In this example the game is won or we are defeated in shame.
6. Name Calling:
Name calling occurs often in politics and wartime scenarios, but very seldom in advertising. It is another of the seven main techniques designated by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis. It is the use of derogatory language or words that carry a negative connotation when describing an enemy. The propaganda attempts to arouse prejudice among the public by labeling the target something that the public dislikes. Often, name calling is employed using sarcasm and ridicule, and shows up often in political cartoons or writings. When examining name calling propaganda, we should attempt to separate our feelings about the name and our feelings about the actual idea or proposal. Examples;
Anti-American, Freedom hating, Socialist, Godless, Satanic, Warmonger, Zionist, Elitist, War criminal, Fear monger, Foreigner, Pinko, Commie, Subversive, Redneck, Freeloader, Fascist, Nazi, Axis of evil, Rejectionist, Extremist, Conspirator, Evil Regime
Suddam Hussein was anti-American, a threat to Democracy and a fascist dictator prior to invasion. Bush called Iraq one component of the axis of evil (Iran, N. Korea and Iraq) This connection brought together the audience who were prejudiced against, China, Korea, Vietnam and Asia in general from previous wars, likely attracting military veterans and families. When appealing to old enemies and new, Bush was able to create not only the need to invade Iraq but set the stage for Iranian concerns as well. As we saw after his disputed re-election in 2004 he focused much attention to Iran as a secondary consideration for invasion. By tying them together, he created more support had he not connected them to the Axis of Evil. This was very effective use of the name calling technique.
Simplified name calling; evil, corrupt, liar, ignorant, failure, criminal, killer
Used frequently and effectively in repetition during speeches or conversations. Reinforcement by repetition is used often in advertising.
7. Pinpointing the Enemy:
Pinpointing the enemy is used extremely often during wartime, and also in political campaigns and debates. This is an attempt to simplify a complex situation by presenting one specific group or person as the enemy. Although there may be other factors involved the subject is urged to simply view the situation in terms of clear-cut right and wrong. When coming in contact with this technique, the subject should attempt to consider all argument and determine who is the enemy by action. As with almost all propaganda techniques, the subject should attempt to find more information on the topic if possible. An informed person is much less susceptible to this sort of propaganda. Wag the Dog scenarios or False Flag operations could make this difficult to discern. Examples;
Those who would harm America
Example one indicates a large group of individuals. For example China imports have hurt and killed people. OPEC has reduced oil production. The Wall street firms have mismanaged our money and the list goes on. This puts us at odds with a large portion of the world. This is a similar example of a generality.
Example two does not define the enemy. Islam is widely practiced as a religion of submission to God and of peaceful ideology. Extremists include bleeding heart liberals and Neo-Conservatives. Our enemy may be Islamic radical terrorists bent on violence to achieve their objectives but it certainly can’t include the membership of Islamic fundamentalists.
8. Plain Folks:
The plain folks propaganda technique was another of the seven main techniques identified by the IPA, or Institute for Propaganda Analysis. The plain folks device is an attempt by the propagandist to convince the public that his views reflect those of the common person and that they are also working for the benefit of the common person. The propagandist will often attempt to use the accent of a specific audience as well as using specific idioms or jokes. Also, the propagandist, especially during speeches, may attempt to increase the illusion through imperfect pronunciation, stuttering, and a more limited vocabulary. Errors such as these help add to the impression of sincerity and spontaneity. This technique is usually most effective when used with glittering generalities, in an attempt to convince the public that the propagandist views about highly valued ideas are similar to their own and therefore more valid. When confronted by this type of propaganda, the subject should consider the proposals and ideas separately from the personality of the presenter. Example; Joe (the plumber)
Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher – McCain campaign
The problem here lies with the fact that Wurzelbacher was represented as the average man who was concerned about the tax increases under then, Sen. Obama’s plan that would increase his liability tax for earnings over $250,000.00 a year. That would indicate Mr. Wurtzelbacher not to be the average Joe, as the average US income per capita is around $37,000.00. Sen. McCain’s campaign who tried to use this plain folk technique with the aid of Mr. Wurtzelbacher, who would later become disenfranchised with the McCain campaign and also caused the Senator some embarrassment. Most candidates use the specific names of plain folks who in speaking on specific issues have raised concerns that many Americans share. If Betty Carter is out of work and single mom she represents a segment of America that is challenged to meet financial responsibilities. This personalizes the candidates to each member of this group and gives the voter a feeling that this person feels their pain, even though the candidate may be considered elite, have considerable wealth and have no knowledge of the day to day life of these people.
Example: President Clinton goes to McDonalds and orders fries while campaigning demonstrating his common folk addiction to junk food. He is not aware that people have to eat the dollar menu food in order to stay within their budgets.
Misfires: G.H.W. Bush visits a Penny’s department score to buy socks but has to be told how to handle the transaction, likely due to the fact his wardrobe has been selected or made to order by private fittings.
G.W. Bush claims that “I know how hard it is to put food on your family,”. Here we see another example of being so out of touch that you cannot even phrase it correctly. He possibly had to be rehearsed to understand the concept of this well known phrase to “put food on the family table”
As generous Americans we also cannot fathom the lifestyle of the average Joe in Darfur or Somalia. The use of plain folks propaganda is necessary in today’s politics since the perception of wealthy elitism controlling the branches of government.
9. Simplification (Stereotyping):
Simplification is extremely similar to pinpointing the enemy, in that it often reduces a complex situation to a clear-cut choice involving good and evil. This technique is often useful in swaying uneducated audiences. When faced with simplification, it is often useful to examine other factors and pieces of the proposal or idea, and, as with all other forms of propaganda, it is essential to get more information. Examples;
Barack Hussein Obama II
Obama II was born to Christian mother, Ann Dunham and an atheist father Barack Obama Sr. yet due to his namesake or given middle name he has labeled as a Muslim. This type of simplification is often used as a groups, races or religions. Once again ‘Islamic terrorists’ to the uneducated public indicates that Islam represents terror. When the Irish Republican Army was involved in terror activities, they were not being identified in MSM as Irish terrorists or Catholic extremists.
Suddam Hussein and the invasion of Iraq often compared to the need to invade Germany and occupied France.
This comparison appeals to our sense of honor, duty, patriotism and neglects
the fact that at the time of invasion Hussein had not attacked another sovereign country nor invaded their borders but the comparison brings the audience into the emotional and moral side of the statement often foregoing any intelligent critique.
Testimonials are another of the seven main forms of propaganda identified by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis. Testimonials are quotations or endorsements, in or out of context, which attempt to connect a famous or respectable person with a product or item. Testimonials are very closely connected to the transfer technique, in that an attempt is made to connect an agreeable person to another item. Testimonials are often used in advertising and political campaigns. When coming across testimonials, the subject should consider the merits of the item or proposal independently of the person of organization giving the testimonial. Persuasion by celebrity is one of the most commonly used propaganda [testimonial] in Main Stream Media (MSM) For example, Fox News uses several including; testimonial, transfer, pinpointing the enemy, card stacking and glittering generalities. Then they present it with attractive females, pseudo-intellectuals and unleash it on the uneducated simplistic audience. When MSM generously invites contrary or alternate opinion in a debate forum it usually involves name-calling consisting of stereotyping or comparative association. Examples;
A visually attractive female pundit delivers an opinion or assessment on a MSM broadcast. She delivers an expressly conservative and hawkish view or solution to a military or defensive strategy. In the opinion she renders words such as “weak, cowardly, failure, defend and protect” in her assessment. This is directed at the male population who personalizes these adjectives and reacts subconsciously to this subtle personal attack of their manliness, pulling these viewers towards her femininity sexually and or questioning their masculinity or alpha male tendencies.
During a broadcast, an actor celebrity presents himself as a 911 conspiracist. Though the viewer has not investigated or rationalized the theory, they accept it based on their emotional attraction or critique of the actors ability in his or her profession. In commercial advertisements “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV” is followed by product endorsement for a pharmaceutical product to the viewers. In this case the actor states before hand he is not medically trained. If Charlie Sheen had said he was not on the 911 commission, an engineer, scientist, explosive expert or eyewitness beforehand, would it have diminished his argument? Most certainly so.
Transfer is another of the seven main propaganda terms first used by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis in 1938. Transfer is often used in politics and during wartime. It is an attempt to make the subject view a certain item in the same way as they view another item, to link the two in the subjects mind. Although this technique is often used to transfer negative feelings for one object to another, it can also be used in positive ways. By linking an item to something the subject respects or enjoys, positive feelings can be generated for it. However, in politics, transfer is most often used to transfer blame or bad feelings from one politician to another of his friends or party members, or even to the party itself. When confronted with propaganda using the transfer technique, we should question the merits or problems of the proposal or idea independently of convictions about other objects or proposals. Examples;Comparing your opponent to Adolph Hitler or a group to Al Qaeda alt. Comparisons of a candidate to President Ronald Reagan or John F. Kennedy
MAIN STREAM MEDIA has refined these techniques to include others that tend to leave the public confused, in chaos, uninformed and subdued.
Ad nauseam – repetition so consistent to the point we accept it without thought “CNN – The best political team on television”
Authority – The introduction of curriculum vitae so impressive we assume authority regardless of accuracy, motives and intent of the authority e.g. “Commenting on the Israeli Gaza situation we have Dr. Jones, Professor of Linguistics at MIT”
Scapegoating – The introduction of face saving lie or villain explain a failure of the authority or action in question. e.g.. Saddam Hussein and 911.
Misinformation – The introduction of forged information, falsehoods and omissions of facts the authority is trying to discredit. e.g. Nigerian Yellowcake Uranium and Saddam Hussein’s WMD intelligence and the subsequent memos that stated it was unreliable intelligence or forgeries
Half Truth (context, misquote) – Manipulating quotes or statement that may contain some truth or by omitting portions, punctuations etc. the content is intended to deceive the public.
“Israeli officials ordered blockades of humanitarian aid to the West Bank”
“Israeli officials ordered blockades of humanitarian aid to the West Bank until they could assure there were no weapons moving through to that region”
This material may seem academic to many, but a refresher in these techniques when looking at the broadcasting, publishing and internet sources we access regularly, clearly identifies the use of these tools in unrestrained and common practice. My family watched Walter Cronkite until his retirement in 1980. Whether he was or was not deservedly the most trusted man in America and whether the news that was fit to report came from his CBS nightly reports one thing is for sure. Most of the anchors today are not fit to report the news, most of the news is not fit to print and in the words of Cronkite himself. “I think we’ve got a bunch of thugs here, Dan.”