One of the most important sources in my research is a book by Jacques Ellul called Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes. This book identifies many various uses of propaganda throughout history and successfully attempts to categorize something that until this book’s publication had no precedent for its organization. This is a great source for anyone looking into government control of the public’s opinions, propaganda in general, acts of rebellion, or topics about fake news. However, attempting to tell you about the entire book in around 500 words would be an impossible feat, so I will instead focus on the first chapter which is all about the characteristics of propaganda.
The first chapter of this book is split into three parts: external characteristics, internal characteristics, and categorization of propaganda. The first part, or the external focus of propaganda, tells all about how propaganda is mainly concerned with shaping an individual psychologically by essentially creating beliefs on a certain topic through imperceptible techniques such as subliminal messaging and continuous repetition. It goes on to talk about how the constant presence of messages about a certain opinion or concepts eventually gain presence in the minds of individuals which causes propaganda to be such an effective way of getting others to agree with your point of view on an idea even though they might not have agreed with you at first.
The second part of this chapter focuses on internal characteristics of propaganda. This section of the book is written more for the creators of propaganda as it demonstrates what they need to know in order to launch a successful propaganda campaign. It talks all about understanding the environment that surrounds the “propagandist” and how those who create propaganda shouldn’t attempt to create something out of nothing, but use the ideals and beliefs already existing in a certain part of society to their advantage by linking the public’s views and beliefs to their own.
The third part of this chapter is the most interesting part to me as it expands on the categories of propaganda and the individual goals of each type of it. Ellul talks about his eight categories for propaganda including political propaganda where the focus is on achieving political gains (kind of self-explanatory), sociological propaganda where the goal is to as Ellul puts it, “the presentation of an ideology by means of sociological context.” He also discusses agitation propaganda which is essentially propaganda of hatred (example would be Nazi propaganda of the Jews in WW2) and integration propaganda which is propaganda meant to unify or stabilize a country or group of people. Moreover, he discusses vertical propaganda and horizontal propaganda. Vertical propaganda is essentially the elevating of a leader above the masses (as shown by propaganda in North Korea or China) where horizontal propaganda is used to unify people as equals in a community where everyone is treated with fairness and equality. Lastly, he talks about irrational and rational propaganda. Ellul specifies how irrational propaganda is essentially the use of myths or symbols to appeal to emotions whereas rational propaganda uses facts and statistics to appeal to emotions.
This source has greatly helped be develop my own ideas behind propaganda and helped me further my research greatly by providing a great starting point. It has allowed me to see case studies in many novels that I have read in class and use a proven classification of propaganda techniques to better explain the reasoning behind each example of propaganda that I find in my research.