Wednesday, November 17, 2004

What is propaganda? 

The term 'propaganda' means many different things to many different people. While some, most notably filmmaker John Grierson, view it as a positive tool for advocacy and education, for others it suggests negative connotations such as mind-control, lies and brainwashing.

For the purpose of this website, propaganda will be generally defined as the systematic deception of a certain group with the aim of affecting their actions, beliefs or understandings in such a way that conflicts with their would-be reasoned actions or beliefs were they to be justly and suitably informed.

With such a definition, however, some are tempted to assume that all manipulation, and subsequently all forms of art and media, is propaganda. This is not the case. All films manipulate their audience into accepting and, to a certain extent, believing the narrative of the film when in fact it has been fabricated through the manipulation of time and space during the editing process. But if the overall message of the film is not intending to deceive its viewers into accepting something known to be false, then no propaganda is involved.

In the same sense, just because something is subjective doesn’t mean that it is propaganda. An article presenting a writer's point of view is just that, unless the author is trying to mislead the reader into accepting something known by the author to be untrue or harmful to the reader. Similarly, not all persuasion is propaganda as one may often attempt to persuade another into accepting something which you are convinced is true and which you think would benefit them in believing as well.

Propaganda generally aims to reinforce existing beliefs within a society and attempts to incite an audience to action or at least into acceptance of the action being taken by the propagandist.

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