Recognizing types of propaganda techniques makes them less effective

Propaganda: “The spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause or a person.”

We live in a time when information is politicized. Smerconish.com’s “Techniques of Propaganda,” tells of seven propaganda techniques. They can open our eyes to see what is hidden in plain sight.

Bandwagon: “Everyone is doing it, so you should too.” This technique is found in ads and political statements. Psychological pressure is applied to the natural human desire to be part of the group, to be accepted, to fit in. It’s likely there has been a time in your life when you were pressured to conform to a viewpoint or face ostracism.

Card Stacking: “Highlighting good information and leaving out the bad.” Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, the president or a child, we all have used this approach. I remember when my two children were ages 4 and 6. They had gotten into a fight. I walked in and asked each separately what had happened. Their statements pointed out why their position was just and their sibling’s was wrong. I remember thinking at the time that my children were destined to become lawyers. Their arguments were so persuasive. They were effectively using card stacking without even understanding this natural human tendency to filter information, so it makes one point of view look good and the other bad.

Plain Folks: “The product (or the politician) is for people just like you.” President Donald Trump is a master of this approach. Even though he is a billionaire, he was elected because he has a gift for sensing intuitively what his much poorer supporters want to hear and then saying what they are thinking. They roar with approval at phrases like: “Lock her up!” or “Build the wall!” not because they actually believe that that’s what should be done, but because he is expressing their thoughts.

The Testimonial: ”If a celebrity likes it, then you should, too.” This technique is used in advertising. When actor Matthew McConaughey drives a Lincoln, he’s viewed as cool and sophisticated and part of the elite, and people who drive a Lincoln therefore fit in that same category.

Politicians also use this technique. If a popular politician is viewed as in favor of some cause, then his followers will also be in favor of it. Devotees of either political party believe what they do, not necessarily because they have really studied an issue like climate change, but because their party states that it is an important issue. It’s not that the political party is taking a stand on an issue because their supporters believe in it. Research has demonstrated this phenomenon.

Glittering Generalities: Advertisers use terms like “best,” “great,” “new and improved.” Politicians use terms like: “human rights,” “justice,” “freedom” and “Make America Great Again.” These words are never really explained. They leave it up to individuals to define the terms. The marketeer or candidate is putting a spin on his “product” to make it desirable or meaningful.

Name Calling: “Socialist,” “patriot,” “stupid,” “war hero.” The use of this technique has increased exponentially since the 2016 election. Several letters-to-the-editor have used the word “socialist” without ever defining what the term actually means in real life. Police, the military, environmental laws and water and sewer systems are all examples of socialism, but are rarely considered when the epithet “socialist” is used.

Transfer: “Invoking something revered like Jesus or the U.S. (this can also be negative, like comparing someone to Hitler or Stalin).” Both sides of the political spectrum use these phrases frequently to denigrate the beliefs of the other side. The problem arises when these terms are used; reason goes out the window and emotion comes rushing in. People become irrational because these words often elicit awe or fear.

These propaganda techniques find their way into our politics, our advertising and our speech. Hopefully, by making visible what has been invisible, we can become more discerning and thoughtful. We can become truly educated and much more aware of our emotional tendencies.

As Jesus so aptly stated, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

More in Opinion

Crucial element to good governments

What makes good government? What makes bad government? We all have experienced… Continue reading

Snohomish woman on 17-day fast to spotlight orcas’ plight

At nearly noon on April 1, Lanni Johnson sat in a fold-up… Continue reading

Are sheriffs above the law?

Washington voters have spoken on I-1639. Sheriffs need to set the stage to follow their oath of office - and enforce the law.

Our country, post-Mueller report

It was to my great relief that the Mueller report did not… Continue reading

Teaching, training tomorrow’s leaders, workers

Legislature urged to fully fund our community and technical colleges

Democrats are in charge but GOP is helping steer the debate

Republicans see their role as fixing or foiling bad bills. Democrats’ tax bills are their new target.

Libraries are places of connection, community pride

A public library is often considered the heart of the community, providing… Continue reading

What tax raising idea will win out in March budget madness?

Democrats, who control the House and Senate, are set to release spending plans and revenue packages.

Sometimes, the smaller things matter more than the big picture

Recently I took a group of senior citizens to tour the Amazon… Continue reading

Why not change the name to match the location?

To Lakeside Industries, As a longtime resident of Renton, I’m concerned about… Continue reading

Gov. Inslee and the Supreme Court

In 2015, after another session without procuring a key weapon in his… Continue reading

Political parties often bring trouble

Political parties “are likely, in the course of things, to become potent… Continue reading