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Propaganda isn’t anything new in the world. It’s a history since pre & post medieval wars when, however, its use was confined to around battlefields only. But with passage of time, & advent & advancement of science & technology, it assumed looming proportions reaching out to larger populations of several countries, at a single time, to garner their support for a political cause or a point of view that the propagandist promotes through its propagandistic-tools. The object of mobilizing support for its position on a political or other issue is achieved by the propagandist by using media & mass media like radio news, TV news, talk shows, newspaper reports, press releases, advertisements, internet, social networking channels, etc. The propagandist produces documentaries, movies & even drama serials to publicize its agenda of propaganda. During WW1, both Central Power & Allied Power used propaganda against each other which was repeated during WW2 by German-Nazis & Allied Forces by dropping propaganda leaflets from aero-planes, distributing propaganda posters, using “clandestine” radio stations emitting “black propaganda” against one another. It continued during Cold War, Afghan-War, Vietnam & Gulf Wars & still continues in the world wherever insurgencies & civil wars exist, and long pending political conflicts on the UN Charter like Kashmir & Palestine remain unsettled till date.  “The failure to settle international disputes peacefully is to be ascribed to the powerful industrial countries manufacturing and selling arms” apparently for huge monetary objectives. (Albert Einstein, Ideas & Opinions, (1988) page 106).

Propaganda is also used by a country against people who raise a voice against its wrong policies of broken promises, betrayals & those seeking justice to end the injustices done to them by that country. The propagandist-country uses it as a State policy against “any country that supports” such voices of justice raised by the suffering people living there.

What is propaganda?

Propaganda is basically an information, verbal, written, pictorial, or in any other shape that is disseminated to “target audience” to arouse their emotional, NOT RATIONAL, response for a “particular cause”. The information may be a bundle of lies or distorted & twisted facts concerning a nation or some people or party repackaged as “true facts” but far less connectable with “real facts” on ground of that nation or people or party. The information may be in the shape of doctored or loaded videos & audios played on mass media channels to vilify the “enemy”, lionize the “traitors” & demonize the “heroes”. It is done systematically to “shape the perceptions, manipulate thinking & direct behaviour to achieve” emotional response towards a “particular agenda” in the mind of, & pursued by, the propagandist.

Who do propaganda?

The propagandist may be an individual or a group of individuals like politicians representing a country or its media or organisation/s or reporters or anchorpersons or all of them having taken the task of furthering the agenda of the propaganda-country with which they are associated & hugely paid & benefitted for such association.  (See the Independent, dated 6th October, 2016: the Pentagon hired a UK-based PR firm to produce and disseminate videos during the Iraq War).

Why propaganda is done?

Propaganda is essentially a psychological mechanism that influences attitude, behaviour & response of the “target group” toward the propagandist’s agenda, in the present context political, generally hidden.  For example, if a country that has “illegal control” of a territory, it would certainly make use of propaganda machinery to justify it. The people of the controlled-territory would reject the justification & control. But the partisan-media of the controlling-country would support its control over the controlled-territory in the following ways: (1) The media, if entirely biased will not report at all on “actual happenings” in the controlled-territory, so, they will be doing “voluntarily” a complete news blackout of the controlled-territory lest it harms the “position” of the controlling-country over the controlled-territory at its national & internationally level.  Or, (2) if they report, they will report only distortions, fabrications, spread lies & deceptions about the “ground reality” of the controlled-territory. In this propaganda campaign, every possible voice within & beyond the controlled-territory will be vilified & downgraded in electronic & print media, talk shows on radio & TV satellite channels, magazines, etc. The specific programmes will be conducted on “daily basis” on radio & TV during prime times directed against the “target audience” of listeners & viewers to malign & disparage the controlled-people & their “supporters” for questioning & ending “illegal control”. Propaganda is done to undermine the morale & break the will of the people “resisting & rejecting” tyranny & oppression.

Most wicked form of:

Most wicked and vicious technique in the propaganda is “creative deceit” where propaganda-country through its hired hyper biased media twists & distorts the facts pertaining to self-devised “enemy”, be that a nation or a population, cashing on any kind of weakness within that enemy, and “deliberately” concealing all of its own weaknesses & excesses done to that enemy. This is an artifice invented & employed just to deceive under TV & radio shows, titled in such a manner as to cultivate more & more interest among the masses to listen, watch & see them, as by comparing its “heroics” vis-a-vis “demons” of that enemy, posturing itself as “Rama” while others as “Ravana”, reporting “hank-dory position” here & “chaotic” there.  People known for their “herd instinct” who remain glued to radio & TV channels during these “propaganda-programmes” get the maximum exposure to its persuasive-influence. By “creative deceit” technique, the propagandist among masses creates “group think mentality” that subscribes to the set of ideas & opinions, positions & policies, of the propagandist-country on a given political issue. This group think, therefore, never allows & accepts the ideas or opinions of others who may be their “own” countrymen, co-community members, well wishers & friends. The glaring example is overwhelming hyper-Hindu nationalists channels about Others.

But how does propaganda work?

As stated above, propaganda is a “persuasive message” that is sent to “target group” through radio or TV or otherwise.  It is a psychological technique to reach out to a “target group” with biased & wrong information, whatever its formulation, to get their support for the propagandist’s policy or position on an issue that the “target group” (1) either does not know or (2) knows not fully or (3) knows fully that the information conveyed to it is actually denial of its (target group’s) own policy or position on the issue, and so, the information-source is that way “ untrustworthy or biased” for the last of the “target groups”.  But still it works? Why? It does not have an immediate effect on “target group” especially in the third situation mentioned above when they know that the source of information is “untrustworthy or biased”. But the reputed psychologists like Carl Hovland & others say that when the “target group” is regularly exposed to the “persuasive messages” from the propagandist, like hearing & watching its “propaganda” talk-shows, tailored-programmes & such-like on daily basis, then the people —“target group”—-tend to get influenced & persuaded over a period of time and any knowledge that comes from that “untrustworthy or biased” source gets credibility. This is because the human memory does not remember the source –biased & untrustworthy— forever but what it remembers is the “persuasive message” that is sheer propaganda & gets persuaded by it for a desired action or behaviour or attitude or opinion towards the propagandist’s overt or covert goals.  This is called sleeper effect. To keep this effect intact on the “target” audience or viewers or listeners, or to tame them to its line on the subject, the propagandist, therefore, bombards the people through controlled transmission of one-sided Wrong Information via mass & direct media channels. More than many Indian channels with respect to Kashmir are conspicuous instances in hand.

It is for this reason that whenever “target groups” switch on the propagandist’ s radio or TV channels, they often find a venomous battery of lies, half-truths & concoctions packed in hyper-emotions, opened upon the “target groups” by war-mongers & haters, instigating black-hatred for its self-created “enemy”,  hurling abuses & insults on  him & garnering support & love for itself among “target groups”.

Lesson from media manipulation of Iraq war :

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get the pants on”.  This saying of Winston Churchill has been proven by American invasion of Iraq when a sovereign country was attacked on the pretext of its ruler, Saddam Hussein, possessing “weapons of mass destruction”, threatening the world peace. By downplaying all UN inspectors-teams’ reports that had negated such a perception against Saddam Hussein , George W. Bush , in brazen defiance  of UN Charter & undermining UN authority, went inside Iraq to simply devastate it in toto.  The government version of “weapons of mass destructions” was espoused by American-British media: Britain was only ally of Americans in Iraq War. But soon it was realized that Saddam Hussein didn’t possess any “weapons of mass destructions” and that the war was fought for a Brazen Lie that killed millions of Iraqi-Muslims & some invading American & British soldiers, too.  It is documented that George W. Bush spoke lies after lies in his public speeches to find a “justification” for Iraqi invasion by making his people believe in his lies & that the actual war theory was “weapons of mass deception” invented & employed by duo Bush & Blair to destroy Iraq. T. D. Allman in his book “Rogue State”, New York (2004) page 328, writes: “In the latest Gulf War, the great victor was media manipulation. Even when it was proven beyond a doubt that Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destructions never existed, the fact that the war had been fought for a lie no longer seemed consequential. What difference does it make, answered George W. Bush…. when it was pointed out to him that no weapons of mass destructions had been found”.  Really, what difference it has had made to the Americans & British people because they & their nations are SAFE. But see what has been done to Middle East by these “super powers” while spreading lies. What is the use of apologies tendered by Barack Obama in his first presidential campaign for “wrong Iraq war” & Tony Blair following publication of Sir John Chilcot’s Inquiry Report on Iraq War.?  The proverbial truth that might is right & the media manipulation have won war for Americans but it “has destroyed belief in America’s goodness, among hundreds of millions of people, nations and people, [who] see it the greatest threat to civilized human values and DECADES OF LIES AND INTIMIDATION COULD NOT MAKE THE IRAQI PEOPLE LOVE THEIR OPPRESSOR OR DESIRE THEIR OWN ENSLAVEMENT”.  (Ibid, pages 1-5). Can’t the uppercase-letters hold true of Others, as well, who are really treated as Others by hyper- Hindu-nationalist media.

M J Aslam is an academician & columnist.

 

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