i. inoculating against the effects of propaganda

Clearly in the late 1930s, there were folks out there who thought propaganda could be dangerous. A private organization with an ambitious agenda, the Institute for Propaganda Analysis in New York, took on the Olympian task of trying to identify propaganda strategies and develop a scientific approach to its detection, along the lines of disease detection and prevention.

Concerned about the difficulty of finding truth, particularly in a media-saturated wartime environment, the Institute issued a statement called the "Ten Commandments of Propaganda" in 1937. Designed to be a manual of strategies used by writers of propaganda, the Institute offered what it believed was the strategy of the propagandist:

1. Divide and conquer
2. Tell the people what they want.
3. The bigger the lie, the more people will believe it.
4. Always appeal to the lowest common denominator.
5. Generalize as much as possible.
6. Use "expert" testimonial.
7. Always refer to the "authority" of your sources.
8. Stack the cards with "information."
9. A confused people are easily led.
10. Get the "plain folks" onto the "bandwagon."

The Institute identified seven basic propaganda devices:

  • Name-Calling: Giving an idea a bad or negative label, leading its audience to reject and condemn it without examining it further.
  • Glittering Generality: Associating something with a word that has virtuous associations, leading its audience to accept and approve it without examining any further evidence.
  • Transfer: Shifting the authority and prestige of something respected or revered to something else in order to make it more acceptable or associates disapproving language with something the propagandist wants an audience to reject.
  • Testimonial: Invoking the words of someone either respected or despised to state that a particular idea, product, or person is good or bad.
  • Plain Folks: Suggesting that the speaker and his ideas are good and right because they are "of the people": the "plain folks."
  • Card Stacking: Layering an array of facts or falsehoods in a complex web of logic in order to make the best (or worst) case for an idea, program, or person.
  • Bandwagon: Implying that everyone is doing something and that folks need to "jump on the bandwagon" and follow the crowd.



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