Saturday, June 20, 2009

Possible Minefield Topic: Good Propaganda?

Yeah, skeptics like us usually talk about propaganda when it's obviously either a bad thing or at least being used for bad things.

But when, if ever, can we use it with a clear conscience?

I tend to think it's okay in the case of humor, when it's supposed to be obvious, as well as situations where you're dealing with a woo so thick you have to hold 'em up to a mirror in a desperate bid to provoke at least a couple neurons.

16 comments:

Infophile said...

To me, propaganda is good if, and only if, it's true and aims to represent the truth without deception. For instance, if a government is trying to drum up support for a war by pointing to how horrible the enemy was when the enemy was actually horrible (think WWII and the Nazis), then the propaganda is fine. Of course, there are plenty of ways to stretch this, like card stacking, where they only list the good points and ignore the bad, but I don't see in principle why propaganda can't be good.

Akusai said...

In principle, I agree, though the example of WWII is slightly problematic because of the racism inherent in materials that were otherwise just showing what the Nazis were actually doing. The anti-Japan propaganda was especially racist just look at any vintage Captain America comic.

MWchase said...

I recall reading a page of WWII cartoon propaganda. Including stuff like Bugs Bunny gleefully murdering hundreds of Japanese people. And there's always the whole Superman 'Slap a Jap - Buy War Bonds' thing.

Reasons to desire peace: nations at war are nations of dickheads; nations at peace, not necessarily.

Wikipedia points out that, once the term got associated with this kind of thing, it got replaced with a variety of euphemisms in the vein of 'marketing'.

But really... propaganda implies some form of dishonesty. The facts are on our side, so we have no reason not to be honest.

Akusai said...

Propaganda, in the strictest sense, just means media meant to influence people's thoughts and opinions.

It has definitely taken on a much more sinister connotation (probably because it's usually used sinisterly), but technically speaking, anytime we go out there and say something with the intent to make people think something, we're engaging in propaganda, even if we're right.

david rickel said...

I suppose you could make a case for good propaganda--perhaps it oversimplifies some arguments to the point of straw men, but overall it raises popular awareness of the topic. On the other hand it may foster expectations of unrealisitically quick and painless solutions.

I'm thinking in particular of the old Captain Planet TV show. I think this one went way too far--well into the bad propaganda camp--but I think a case could be made for something not quite so far out being a net benefit.

Anonymous said...
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Dark Jaguar said...

What does it mean to download with "incredibly weighty speeds"? This is the one thing that sticks in my mind after reading that spam.

Tom Foss said...

"Propaganda" is a term I've been slinging around a bit lately, largely in response to the glut of "documentary" films in the Michael Moore/Bill Maher/Morgan Spurlock mold. I'd like to see movies whose basic premises I agree with presented without the dishonest, irrational tactics that those films typically use.

Anonymous said...

I do not want to be "mean" here, but You need to define "Propaganda" before you "diss it".

What you MEAN when you say Propaganda is FALSE Propaganda, that is, distribution of FALSE information. Media for example is a perfect example of normal propaganda, its news, they relay this information to us because that is their job.

If you have a look at less then serious news agencies such as CNN and Fox News, you will see False Propaganda aimed to convince you of something, this kind of propaganda is usually based on lies or nitpicked information and withholding of important elements.


That is atleast the normal definition of Propaganda, in these days it seems that it has become synonymous with FALSE Information, as in "That is just Propaganda" meaning it is not True. I suspect this is because of historic reasons, either way, the original definition of the word does not go away, but one thing will always be true:

Propaganda, the way of influencing someone to a specific position, May always be True (Such as Educating once young ot understand the fact of our Evolution) or False (Indoctrinating ones young to believing the world is 6000 years old).

Anonymous said...

Yeah I was right, I had a look around and it is indeed neutral but during the last decades in the Western World it has become synonymous to False Information, that is presumably why most think it is something negative by default (and poor education nodoubt).

Tom Foss said...

I think the term "propaganda" at the very least implies some kind of one-sided slant or agenda. It may contain accurate information, but when said information is presented as propaganda, it's difficult to assess its truth value, due to the conflict of interest/one-sidedness I see inherently implied by the term.

Anonymous said...

Tom, but then you come to a problem, Who says its Propaganda?

Who makes that determination? Say "our side" is right and our intentions is not to deliver the information as "propaganda" per say, but yet people claim it to be so...

Bronze Dog said...

Propaganda involves a collection of psychological tricks and logical fallacies. It's the tactics, not the content that matters. It doesn't matter what side it's on, it's still propaganda if they use propaganda tactics.

Anonymous said...

Could you give some specifics of what is considered "Propaganda Tactics", and is everything with these in it then classified as Propaganda?

Bronze Dog said...

Wikipedia has a pretty good list of the techniques. Most double as logical fallacies, obviously.

djfav said...

I recommend reading Age Of Propaganda: The Everyday Use And Abuse Of Persuasion by Pratkanis and Aronson.