Google Dictionary defines Propaganda as:
information, esp. of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.
When we live in a world in which we are inundated by information of all sorts, it is difficult, at times, to distinguish the messages we encounter from one another. What are the meanings of the messages presented, and are they given to inform, or to manipulate?
Given our definition of propaganda we can say:
1. Propaganda is a message intended to sway opinion.
This message may be intellectual, such as a series of statements presented as facts to sway beliefs or logical processes to the desired conclusion. The message can also be emotionally-driven. An example of this might be a photograph of an event, shown in conjunction with happy (or scary) music to frame the image in the desired emotional context.
This basis is fairly broad; almost any work of art, philosophical argument or religious ideology could be described in these terms. The movie King of Kings gives a version of the story of Jesus Christ, portraying him as a miracle worker, savior, and martyr, with beautiful camera work, and a soundtrack to support this story.
Jeffrey Hunter -Before taking on the Star Trek pilot…he took on Pontius Pilate.
Is it propaganda?
Let us explore some of the other facets of the subject.
2. Propaganda is created or sponsored by those who will benefit by this change of opinion.
In the Author’s modest opinion, King of Kings, and most other stories and art forms are not propaganda, per se, because the changing of opinion does not directly benefit the instigator of the message. Can one consider it a one-sided version of the christian mythology? Yes. Does the spreading of this message contribute to the power or monetary benefit of its producers? Unless they were paid by the baptism, it would be hard to make that argument.
However, if the film was bank-rolled by XYZ church, showed Christ preaching in XYZ synagogues, and teaching XYZ-specific doctrine, the argument might be substantiated.
3. Propaganda can be true, but tends to be selective in it’s presentation of the truth.
Propaganda, to be effective, must be believed. To be believed, it must be credible. To be credible, it must be true.
Hubert H. Humphrey
I find that Whitehouse.gov and it’s twitter feed are often perfect examples of propaganda.
It gives examples how the Affordable health Care plan has helped certain individuals. These examples may very well be true. However these truths are shown out of context, without mention of any negative consequences that the law or White House policy may have.
4. Propaganda, to be effective, must be appealing.
Propaganda does not deceive people; it merely helps them to deceive themselves.
Somewhere in the message, there has to be something that people want to hear.. It might appeal to people’s irrational fears (or exacerbate their rational ones). It may confirm their suspicions, reinforce their biases, or appeal to their fantasies or desires. Giving people a message that they want to hear makes you their ally, and empowers you to motivate them to action.
The New Messiah, complete with full body halo. Suck on it, Hunter!
I will be posting future articles that review different works of propaganda, as well as some cinema that examines propaganda as a method of persuasion and control.