Propaganda Techniques

Essay by tahira October 2002

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Have you ever seen a TV commercial portraying a disastrous automobile accident, and then it reminds you to wear your seatbelts? Believe it or not, that's using a technique in propaganda called the fear appeal. Propaganda is more widespread than people imagine. Propaganda is being used to sell goods from the baby food you feed your child to the TV commercial "Spoiled Milk," you laughed at last night. There are many techniques that a propagandist can use to seduce you. Some of the best-known styles in propaganda are Plain Folk, Name-Calling and Glittering Generality. Hidden in places and in ways you might not notice, these messages have been carefully designed to influence your opinions, emotions, attitudes, and behaviors. Most importantly, these messages have been designed to benefit someone, and that someone may not be you!

Plain Folks is the method by which a speaker attempts to convince his audience that he and his ideas are good because they are "of the people," the "plain folks."

Politicians, labor leaders, businessmen, and even ministers and educators win our confidence by appearing to be people like ourselves-"just plain folks among the neighbors." In elections, propaganda has played an important role in who was elected. Bill Clinton presents himself as an average American by eating at McDonalds and reading trashy spy novels. This really applies to the American public because many people eat at McDonalds and read novels. Bob Dole presents himself as an "all American boy" from the Heartland. In election years, candidates especially show their devotion to little children and the common, homely things of life. Speakers go to country picnics; they attend service at the old frame church; they pitch hay and go fishing; they show their belief in home and family. In short, propagandists would win our votes, business, or...