Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Propaganda Analysis Primer: Part 2

This entry continues yesterday's entry: Beginning the Analysis: A Primer. So far we have covered the Ellul Index and the AR (Aristotelian Rhetoric) Index, for a more information about them see the last entry. In this entry we're going to talk about other forms of measuring using some of the categorization methods and propaganda techniques of Orwell, Bernays (a propagandist like aristotle), and other compiled categories. We'll discuss Ellul's definition of pre-propaganda and learn how to percieve it as it's coming in. I'll also be giving you an example of the analysis process using a U.S propaganda piece from 1950, (Height of McCarthyism movement,) released by Coronet Films about "Communism".

Let's talk first about Ellul's view on what is Pre-propaganda and the effects and usage of pre-propaganda and "myth". Ellul writes that no direct propaganda can be effective without pre-propaganda, which creates images, ambiguities and stereotypes apparently without any particular purpose. Pre-propaganda's initial objective is to prepare a person for a specific action. Ellul goes on to say, "It proceeds by psychological manipulations, by character modifications, by the createion of feelings or stereotypes useful when the time comes." Often propagandists use the technique of "myth" in their pre-propaganda campaigns. In his 1964 book, The Technological Society, Ellul explains "myth" as, "an all-encompassing, activating image: a sort of vision of desirable objectives that have lost their material, practical character and have become strongly coloured, overwhelming, all-encompassing, and which displace from the conscious all that is not related to it. Such an image pushes man to action precisely because it includes all that he feels is good, just, and true." Ellul goes on to say that eventually the myth will take possession of a mind, consecrating his life to it. Ellul says, "that effect can be created only by slow, patient work by all the methods of propaganda, not by any immediate propaganda operation."

The myths that I have found, including Ellul's myths are: Youth, the Hero, Progress, Science, Happiness, the Proletariat, the Furher (the leader or guide), and Society. Each of these myths can be seen in almost every "society" that we find ourselves as human beings in today. How many commercials are concecrated to the look of youth as equal to the look of beauty? How many times have there been movies and comics, and books about heros, (and superheroes,)? Did you know that Superman says you can Slap a Jap? How many times does the newspaper mention progress of this and progress of that as a society? Notice that things mostly stay the same for you from day-to-day life? Let's not even begin on the rest, because Pre-propaganda is a system that functions so naturally, if you really take the time to look within yourself, you'll see and remember the examples and images, stereotypes and ambiguities placed into your mind by pre-propaganda. Perhaps the most unnerving thing about these myths is the fact that they are Integrative, Sociological, Horizontal, and Irrational placing all myths at the extreme of virtual imperceptivity in the Ellul Index. As an exercise, try to look for and uncover conversations, commercials, and advertisements that play off of the myths implanted in your mind. It's not all too difficult, usually all one needs to do is bring up a conversation with a friend about the current war.

Another type of pseudo-prepropaganda as discovered by Orwell cover the use of techniques that collapse certain ideas or entire concepts and scenes into one word, or a simple phrase that is constantly thrown in the ear of the people of a society. This phrase or word usually has another meaning before the propagandist skews or spins it to change the meaning slightly. The word spreads through the people like wildfire and they use this word, themselves, with much regularity, to a point where everyone has forgotten the original meaning of the word. The word may even be re-written in the new releases of the dictionaries of the time. An example of today would be the word "terrorist." which will not be covered, but here's a link to a blog entry about this. Orwell calls this technique "DoubleSpeak". He even actually created a quarterly release detailing the use of DoubleSpeak. A good example of DoubleSpeak are the words "downsizing" and "layoff". These create a communication bypass in rationalization. There is now actually a dictionary of American DoubleSpeak created by Paul Wasserman which covers quite a large use of DoubleSpeak. Wasserman explains each word or term used and it's original meaning, sometimes citing examples of how it's used otherwise. He defines doublespeak as meaning "distortions and obfuscations and marketplace flim-flam." Doublespeak is not only used by the government controlled media, but almost all forms of commercial media. Here's an example of doublespeak excerpted from his dictionary: "Backward Country: This is not politically correct, and is a term banned in many educational publications, with developing country used in its place. The World Bank uses the acronym LICUS (low-income countries under stress) and the British government refers to those at the bottom of the heap as 'fragile.'" In the systematic analysis of an article of propaganda, it is important for the hacker to look out for and take note of the use of doublespeak and the original meaning of the doublespeak being used. This will point to clues about the original meaning behind vertical propaganda as well as horizontal.

At this point, it is highly recommended that you pick up a copy of Propaganda by Edward L. Bernays, written in 1928. Bernays is one of the pioneer propagandists of the 20th century and has proven all of his methods work and work well. He is the person responsible for the connecting his uncle Freud's work in psychology to the marketing world, along with the help of Anna Freud, his cousin. Together, they shaped the minds and habits of Americans in a lasting way. They literally created things such as "The American Dream", life styles, the entire practice and study of Public Relations, and many of the nuances and subtle persuasive tactics used today by governments around the world. Anna Freud was Mother of the Freudian psychoanalytic movement and when asked what her reason was for creating psychoanalytic splinter groups, she responded that nothing was as important as the movement, with the implication that even the truth was regarded as secondary to the movement. This is a tell tale sign of a propagandist. A hacker seeks to reveal the truth rather than obscure it. A good example and view of the lifestyles system from present day can be seen here.

It is important to realize the targeting techniques that go into a propagandists work, in order to be able to tell who the propagandist is targeting with their message. Some example targets that are widely used are: the working class, the intellectual, and the sportist (fans of modern sports [irrespective of different sports in different countries]) along with many other overlaping categorizations of targets. When a hacker knows the target, it is much easier to then extract other information about the intentions of an article of propaganda.

In order to tone and sharpen one's analytical abilities, one must first use some examples of how to use this system of propaganda analysis. An example I've chosen is a simple start.


Here's how I would rate it on both indexes, plus other extended info:
Ellul Index: PAHR
AR Index: P8-F10-C3
Notes: Irrational Undertones, Forensic placing guilt (hypocritical)
Tags: nationalism, counterpropaganda
DoubleSpeak words: freedom
Myths Used: American Way, Hero, Progress (American), The Proletariat

Notice the use of the question mark symbolism in the movie? Notice the use of facts to provide rational logic, the hypocricy of talking about the communist propaganda methods when this itself is a mind-molding propaganda campaign. Notice the finger pointing, notice how it seems like they're talking about the America of today in it's War on Terror "outright military aggression to extend their power."

I will be including more examples in later posts, as well as more methods for analyzing and categorizing propaganda so that you and other propaganda hackers can easily share information and ideas about discoveries you've made in the field. Please feel free to give your comment or example in the comments sections below.


  1. I don't agree on one point. Heros and Myths and then pointing the fact that Superman says it's OK to slap a Jap. Sure it might have been OK back in the 50s 60s and so on because we had just defeated them in WWII. So society accepted language like that. I'm sure you would never find that in a current issue. Does society create heros? I don't think so. Superman was never a real hero and I doubt even to a young mind he was real. Maybe we hoped we could have superman like powers or wished someone like him exsisted in real life to help solve crime and world problems. You can label it propaganda if that is your definition but there has to be a market for it and there has to be a desire for it to exist. If you recall or have exposure to other comic books that had real life heros and adventurers also existed. Are war heros a myth? You tell them that. Me, I just admire the hell they have gone through and out of instinct and love and devotion gave their life or sacrificed themsleves to help others. Are firemen and policemen heros? Is the single mom or dad raising their kids heros or myths created by your so called double speak?

    Why do we admire real heros? Because we are brainwashed to do so? I serously doubt that. I believe it is because there is in each of us an honorable admiration and a desire to be a hero ourselfs. That we have the fortitude to be a hero ourselves when needed.

    If there is no one to look up to and admire then there is no means by identifying self, no yard stick to measure one self. Then we do become the mind numbed roberts depicted by Orwell and others.

  2. You've actually pointed to a couple of good things in your response.

    First thing I want to clarify is that I am not saying anywhere in my posts that propaganda is brainwashing. Brainwashing is a psychological technique that is like propaganda, and even uses propaganda, but I consider it to be separate, opposite the popular view propaganda that it's all just brainwashing.

    This also allows me to patch up a hole you found in my logic, and maybe just my clarity. I am not saying that war heroes are a myth. I am not even saying that these things I mention are a myth. What I mean by the use of myth in propaganda is a general thing, concept, or image in our minds and the minds of the people in our society. This is not saying that there are no true heroes, or that there is no true society. The myth of the hero is not referring to a specific hero, or real heroes altogether, but your original association of what it is to be good, and just, and outstanding in your society. This is something that is played upon by propagandists. I used superman in the example to show an older usage of this type of myth. The fact that he was not a real character was what probably helped confuse my meaning. Superman, for many people of that generation was the epidomy of a hero. Children wanted to be like him, as they do with all heroes. On the other end of things, since superman was not a real person, he could be easily used as a tool to help play upon the myth of the hero in powering war propaganda.

    To be clear again for other readers... I am in no way saying that anyone who is truly a hero is not. I am refraining from being subjective in my content and I will say no such type of thing. This is set up to be an objective look and study of propaganda and how to hack it.

    This conversation is not about whether or not heroes exist or are even inherently a good thing. I am also refraining from using any judgement of good or bad in this.

  3. Further, I will also say that I am not calling anyone specifically, nor any person or group of people a Myth. It's a psychological reference, not a blame or anti-hero campaign or some other biased thing one may imagine. My purpose here is to bring people together, not to separate. I look at both Propagandists and Propaganda Hackers as artists and masters of technique. To further draw conclusions like I'm anti-this or anti-that, is pointless, and you will not find evidence of it in my work.