‘Do I do Propaganda?’ by Joel Harding on 13th June 2013
Joel Harding who is quoted in my book blogged yesterday reflecting both on the book which he is currently reading and on a discussion we had during my recent research trip to DC. I have also left a reply to him in the comments. See: ‘Do I do Propaganda? on his blog ‘To inform is to influence.’ Unsurprisingly he concludes that he doesn’t do propaganda… please do read the full conversation, but my comment is reposted here below:
My comment: Thanks for this Joel! As I recall it, you were the one who brought up your blog and suggested it might be considered propaganda!
As for… ‘Some people consider propaganda as anything counter to their way of thinking.’ yes, absolutely they do, I do not. It is persuasive communication, and your blog does seek to persuade/alter behaviours, emotions or ideas.
From what I can tell, your definition of propaganda positions it as something that is untruthful by the yard stick of what you believe to be truth… but surely you are aware that ideas are deliberately shaped through many means including through use of propaganda that may not even be in the form of ‘news’ and trying to appeal to the rational/facts? Is this not propaganda? Also, what about partial truths that seek to support a skewed version of the truth and mislead us? Russia does this all the time, as does the US!
Trying to define things out of the definition of propaganda is leaves us with definitions that don’t really mean very much. I am pretty sure you would consider the propaganda films cartoons by the soviets which were fictional and designed to bestow reinforcing ideas and feelings but could not be said to provide false or true information as such, still to be propaganda? The US military/CIA uses similar methods to shape both their own and other cultures. It may not get called ‘influence’ officially but it does ‘influence’! We often neglect to call things propaganda when we do them today but call them allied propaganda when discussing the same things during WW2 – because today the targeting of those audiences is more controversial and immediate, not because the techniques are different.
See my definition in the book… My first class I teach begins by encouraging students to challenge their preconceptions about what ‘propaganda’ might be – what an array of different propaganda comes from those they might agree with… the left, the right, and different interest groups, rights campaigners etc… and that propaganda may not be lies and is more convincing when it uses the truth… propaganda is a broad range of activities… what makes propaganda right or wrong is whose interests are represented within it, where it bestows power, the intentions behind it, the means (such as the extent to which truth is employed), and of course the outcomes.