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.
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:
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:
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
- 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.
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
- Bandwagon: Implying
that everyone is doing something and that folks need to "jump
on the bandwagon" and follow the crowd.