Report: Disinformation and Democracy

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"For propaganda is a communicative process of persuasion, and persuasion remains an integral part of human discourse in peace as well as in war. (...) propaganda is a process unique to human communication regardless of time, space and geographic location." (Taylor, Munitions of the Mind, preface p. X)

The word propaganda is coming from the Catholic Church. In the 17th century the word was used in the fights against the Protestant Reformation (see Taylor, Munitions of the mind, p. 3).

Propaganda is using words - of course. But it furthermore uses a huge variety of tools for putting through its purpose. Some of them are: hymns, marches, parades, flags, colors, uniforms, all the typical insignias of the military are pieces of propaganda. And it is no coincidence that the standardization of the uniforms for the army were an invention of Louis XIV, for whom everything seemed to be theatre, a play, a game and all of that was taken into the huge propaganda-system that had to keep his prestige up high.

Propaganda makes us think and act in a way we probably would not have chosen to without its influence. Still, in most cases the degree of influence is impossible to know. Studies proving the efficiency of propaganda are doing nothing else but guessing in big parts. But it is efficient, that we know for sure. This is true for commercial advertisements as well as for political propaganda. Short messages are the most effective form of propaganda, look at posters for elections or at advertisements for any product.
The best or most effective propaganda is that which is wanted by the people. If propaganda meets the needs of the people then it has good chances to be extremely effective. And of course those needs can be "educated", as Jacques Ellul mentioned already in 1957, in his book Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes.

Political will suffers from the urgency of spreading propaganda. The will to change something - even if it was for the better - is hopelessly lost, if their is no prestige or aura around an idea. A certain amount of disinformation and propaganda is the perfect tool to get ideas through.

So, actually, what is the difference between disinformation and propaganda?
One difference is that the first one is directed at reason whereas propaganda also touches emotions, most of the time even prefers to influence emotions.

browse Report:
Disinformation and Democracy
-3   Disinformation - A Definition
-2   The Inflation of Disinformation-Messages
-1   A non-history of disinformation
0   Propaganda
+1   The history of propaganda
+2   The ancient Greek
+3   The Egyptians ...
Philip M. Taylor
Munitions of the Mind. A history of propaganda from the ancient world to the present era. Manchester 1995 (2nd ed.)
This book gives a quite detailed insight on the tools and tasks of propaganda in European and /or Western history. Starting with ancient times the author goes up till the Gulf War and the meaning of propaganda today. In all those different eras propaganda was transporting similar messages, even when technical possibilities had not been fairly as widespread as today. Taylor's book is leading the reader through those different periods, trying to show the typical elements of each one.