Monday, January 26, 2009

Beginning the Analysis: A Primer

To begin a conversation on technical analysis is key in hacking propaganda. Graphs, counters, and excersizes are the propaganda hacker's best friends. Using today's technology it is even possible to get statistics on propaganda without having to read or view any of the direct propaganda being thrown out on the daily news streams. Most of all, for us to create a standard of categorization and analysis will enable us to show the intentions behind a piece without trying to counter it using propaganda ourselves. The biggest problem for a propaganda hacker is that there's no current way to provide information about a piece of propaganda without making one's own propaganda to counteract it. If this counteraction is to a piece of propaganda deep rooted in what Ellul calls "pre-propaganda" then it's almost impossible to counteract.

What are the categories of propaganda? Let's take a good look at what propaganda can be categorized into. There have been hundreds of people who have commented on this subject throughout the years and we are going to use some of their findings to create a primer or a base for analyzing propaganda objectively.

The Ellul Index

Jacques Ellul provides us with one of the most complete and knowledgable propaganda categorizations that we know today. In this light, I have created the Ellul Index of which to measure an article / TV show / communication by in order to get a general idea of the intention of the piece or article of propaganda which we are analyzing. Ellul has broken propaganda down into four effective pairs of overlapping categories. An article can be seen as one or the other of the options in each of the pairs, with a total of four options.
The Ellul Index categorizes an article as follows:
  1. Political vs. Sociological
  2. Agitation vs. Integration
  3. Vertical vs. Horizontal
  4. Irrational vs. Rational
Each of these pairs brings to light a different dimension of article being analyzed.

Political vs. Sociological: Political is delivered by a definite body of individuals like pressure groups, governments, parties and administrations for definite goals whereas Socialogical is diffuse. Political focuses more on distinguished and precise methods and goals, often released by the group itself whereas Sociological is more virus-like, spreading diffusely as a climate of opinion and is quite hard to spot because it's almost imperceptible and does not have the appearance of being propaganda at all. Political spreads to it's direct audience with little replication, but Sociological is more of an organized attempt to ballon the propaganda to it's largest possible reach and change an individual's environment thus changing the individual and his core belief system.

Agitation vs. Inegration
: Agitation is more visible than integration, it normally is revolutionary in nature, but can be used by anyone including governments whereas Integration is a propaganda of conformity. Agitation breeds hatred and is much more subversive whereas Integration is more unifying and reinforces the individual's place in their society. There are examples in history that point to what happens when a group does not switch it's Agitation propaganda to Integration propaganda at the right time, and the results are disasterous often leading the society to breakdown from violence.

Vertical vs. Horizontal
: Vertical comes directly from one person or a leader and is aimed at the people like Nazi propaganda whereas Horizontal is made within the masses and allows individuals to condition eachother like the Obama campaign and most political or government propaganda in America. Vertical is created by the leader groups and uses all of the tools and technical means to dominate the masses through calls to spontaneos action contrasted by Horizontal wherein the masses educate eachother through the grouplike connection that exists, only using the leader as an animator or the originator of said propaganda.

Irrational vs. Rational
: Irrational plays on the irrational desires and tendencies of human nature often existing in the subconcious so that rationalization of the message must occur in the individuals conscious mind whereas Rational propaganda is usually targeted at intellectuals using the help of true facts to appear genuine and scientific. Often times, rational and irrational are almost indistinguishable because rational propaganda is met by an unwillingness to look at the numbers and just assume rationality of an article. In rational propaganda the individual finds himself convinced by an emotional feeling rather than by demonstration of facts, thus turning science into scorcery. Many examples of Irrational technique can be found in Edward Bernays' works.

Using Jacques Ellul's categorization of propaganda, along with some of his other analytics like the use of myth (will be covered in a later entry), will allow the propaganda hacker to more fully understand the intention of any article of propaganda. It is important to pick up a copy of his book simply entitled "Propaganda" which you can order from Amazon or look for at your bookstore.

The Aristotelian Rhetoric Index (AR Index)

Aristotle breaks rhetoric down into three divisions that point to the speaker's plot of oratorical attack. The speaker's intentions can be seen through the knowledge of their technique using this index as a startoff point. Each of these contexts or categories have sub-contexts that the speaker can use in order to drive their point into the heart of the people:
  • The Political context: aims to get a public policy accepted and focuses mainly on the future
  • The Forensic/Courtroom context: forensically deals with placing guilt or innocence of a specific party focusing mainly on the past
  • The Ceremonial context: eulogizes or censors some person or party focusing mainly on the present
It is easy to see the overlap of these categories, but one should see them as a list to be checked rather than a selection of one over the other. We will be looking into the categorizations of speakers that Aristotle uses in later entries, but if you are interested in knowing more about what this great propagandist knew about speaking to the people to illicit your intended response, pick up a copy of "Rhetoric" or look for it on your favorite search engine. Often times it's available in full on internet copy. Although an older view of propaganda, it's important to note that modern Propagandists study Aristotle and the other great masters of rhetoric in order to build up their technique.

Building a System for the Hacker

In order to systematize forming a precise and structured analysis of any piece or article of propaganda, we need a standard method. I am proposing building a system of categorization for this analytical process. The first two categorization techniques in the system are using the aforementioned examples of categorization. The individual pieces of the system comprised as a whole should give an adequate idea, to any person who understands it, of what the intent of an article is.

The system should provide simple categorization symbols to quickly reference the information it encompasses. Using the Ellul Index, we can say for example that an article is: PAVI (Political, Agitation, Vertical, Irrational) on one side of the board and SIHR (Sociological, Integration, Horizontal, Rational) on the other extreme, with about 16 different variations on what the letters can be in their categorical placement. Each letter represents a different setting in each category defined by ellul. Using the Aristotle Rhetoric (AR) index, the piece can be analyzed in a slightly different method where each category has a measurement of amplitude of expression and usage of technique in that category. For an AR index example, using a scale of 1 to 10, we can say that an article context is: P:10 F:5 C:2 meaning that on a scale of 1 to 10, the article ranked 10 on the political context, 5 on the Forensic or Courtroom context, and a 2 on the Ceremonial index representing a percentage based share of space in the article, the highest ranking usually being the main context of the article.

Using this type of system along with many other methods for categorization will allow the propaganda hacker to share within a quick glance, clues as to what the intention behind the curtain of an article might be.

There is obviously more to categorizing propaganda than just Ellul or Aristotle, but this primer serves as a first draft entry into the discussion of Propaganda Hacking. I invite your comments on this post, and whatever else you may have to contribute to the conversation. There are large gaps left from this entry in the full story of analysis of propaganda that I will be filling in with later entries, but feel free to let your ideas fly.

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