The Media and the Use of Propaganda in War

Essay by strateonHigh School, 10th grade April 2004

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In researching the existing literature pertaining to the issue of the media and propaganda, there must first be proper definitions for the terms 'propaganda' and 'media' in the context of politics and war. Next follows an analysis of the different articles and works already undertaken on the subject of the media's role (as a propaganda tool) and the effectiveness of this specific form of propaganda. Thereby also concerns several pending questions regarding the different human perspectives of propaganda that is spread by the media. Lastly, there is the review of literature in relation to propaganda as a whole.

Definitions of the media and propaganda

In identifying the topic scope, the term 'media' refers to the plural of the word 'medium' (Pearsall 1999). In this context, the 'media' is defined as 'the main means of mass communication in forms of television, newspapers and the radio.' (1999: 884).

Petley states, that the term 'propaganda' refers to 'the deliberate use of newspapers, television and other media to influence people's attitudes (2000:26).

Petley also states that propaganda is '[used] often [by] employing lies and distortion'. Pratkanis and Aronson share similar views on Petley's statement, suggesting the idea of propaganda being carried out 'through manipulation of symbols and of our most basic human emotions' (1992:13).

Literature on the media and propaganda

In researching existing works regarding the use of the media to spread propaganda in war, we have seen the different perspectives of the authors. Dietz suggests that propaganda is a literary war tool, serving similar purposes as the Nazi's arsenal of weapons (1934: 299). However, Dietz defines propaganda as '[a way] to communicate the nature and content' to the people 'in the most simple and understandable way'. This acts as a contrast to Delwiche's material (2002), which suggests that propaganda is a manipulative tool...