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Harold Laswell
What is Propaganda?
Laswell defines it as “the technique of influencing human action by the
manipulation of representations.”
Shaping Dispositions
It is, he continues, the process through “which value dispositions (hatred,
or love) are organized.”
By Contrast: Education
1) Learning a technical skill (such as the ability to critically analyze
2) Inculcation of Value
History of Propaganda
Propaganda has a long history:
Pompeii: Walls covered in electoral propaganda
Frederick the Great: Sought to shape public opinion
Napoleon: Supported a friendly British newspaper
American Revolution: Committees of Correspondence
Red Cross, WWI: Targeted Bolshevik government in
Types of Propaganda
Intergroup: International Propaganda
Propaganda across borders
1) Positive
Example: Friends of the Soviet Union
2) Negative
Example: German, British WWI Disinformation
campaigns in the US
Types of Propaganda
Intragroup: Domestic (Internal) Propaganda
Propaganda within countries borders
Types of Intragroup Propaganda
1) Unity or Disunity
2) Revolutionary or Counter-Revolutionary
Propaganda and Democracy (17)
According to Laswell, the military was the first to see that the rise of
Democratic rhetoric poses problems for those interested in “eliciting
concerted action.”
“When lords fall out, commoners come into their own.”
War: Need for Collective Action
War depends on mass mobilization. To create needed public support,
political leaders who could no longer rely on obedience, sought to use
nationalist concepts.
Propaganda Strategy
The objective is to:
1) Intensify favorable attitudes
2) Reverse obstructionist attitudes
3) To win the indifferent
4) minimize opposition
Propaganda Techniques
Use of Social Objects and Culture
The success of a propaganda is tested by the selection of
modes of representing a social object that will
accomplish his ends.
Modes Shaped by Culture
Preexisting culture determines the emotional and
cognitive terrain of propaganda.