Propaganda is communication that is primarily used to
influence Influence or influencer may refer to: *Social influence, in social psychology, influence in interpersonal relationships **Minority influence, when the minority affect the behavior or beliefs of the majority *Influencer marketing, through individua ...
an audience and further an agenda, which may not be
objective Objective may refer to: * Objective (optics), an element in a camera or microscope * ''The Objective'', a 2008 science fiction horror film * Objective pronoun, a personal pronoun that is used as a grammatical object * Objective Productions, a Briti ...
and may be selectively presenting facts to encourage a particular synthesis or perception, or using
loaded language Loaded language (also known as loaded terms, emotive language, high-inference language and language-persuasive techniques) may be rhetoric Rhetoric () is the art Art is a diverse range of (products of) human activities involving cr ...
to produce an emotional rather than a rational response to the information that is being presented. Propaganda can be found in news and journalism, government, advertising, entertainment, education, and activism and is often associated with material which is prepared by governments as part of
war effort In politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions In psychology, decision-making (also spelled decision making and decisionmaking) is regarded as the Cognition, cognitive process resulting in ...
political campaign A political campaign is an organized effort which seeks to influence the decision making progress within a specific group. In democracy, democracies, political campaigns often refer to election, electoral campaigns, by which representatives a ...

political campaign
revolutionaries A revolutionary is a person who either participates in, or advocates a revolution. Also, when used as an adjective, the term ''revolutionary'' refers to something that has a major, sudden impact on society or on some aspect of human endeavor. D ...
, big businesses, ultra-religious organizations, the
media Media may refer to: Physical means Communication * Media (communication), tools used to deliver information or data ** Advertising media, various media, content, buying and placement for advertising ** Broadcast media, communications deliv ...
, and certain individuals such as soapboxers. In the 20th century, the term ''propaganda'' was often associated with a manipulative approach, but historically, propaganda has been a neutral descriptive term. A wide range of materials and media are used for conveying propaganda messages, which changed as new technologies were invented, including paintings, cartoons, posters, pamphlets, films, radio shows, TV shows, and websites. More recently, the digital age has given rise to new ways of disseminating propaganda, for example, bots and algorithms are currently being used to create computational propaganda and fake or
biased news Media bias is the bias of journalists and news producers within the mass media in the selection of many events and stories that are reported and how they are covered. The term "media bias" implies a pervasive or widespread bias contravening Jour ...
and spread it on social media.


''Propaganda'' is a modern Latin word, ablative singular feminine of the gerundive form of , meaning 'to spread' or 'to propagate', thus ''propaganda'' means ''for that which is to be propagated''. Originally this word derived from a new administrative body of the
Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptised Baptism (from the Greek language, Greek noun βάπτισμα ''báptisma'') is a Christians, Christian ...

Catholic Church
congregation A congregation is a large gathering of people, often for the purpose of worship. Congregation may also refer to: *Church (congregation), a Christian organization meeting in a particular place for worship *Congregation (Roman Curia), an administrat ...
) created in 1622 as part of the
Counter-Reformation The Counter-Reformation (), also called the Catholic Reformation () or the Catholic Revival, was the period of Catholic Church, Catholic resurgence that was initiated in response to the Protestant Reformation, also known as the Protestant Revol ...
, called the '' Congregatio de Propaganda Fide'' (''Congregation for Propagating the Faith''), or informally simply ''Propaganda''.Diggs-Brown, Barbara (2011
''Strategic Public Relations: Audience Focused Practice''
p. 48
Its activity was aimed at "propagating" the Catholic faith in non-Catholic countries. From the 1790s, the term began being used also to refer to ''propaganda'' in secular activities. The term began taking a pejorative or negative connotation in the mid-19th century, when it was used in the political sphere.


Propaganda was conceptualized as a form of influence designed to build social consensus. In the 20th century, the term propaganda emerged along with the rise of mass media, including newspapers and radio. As researchers began studying the effects of media, they used suggestion theory to explain how people could be influenced by emotionally-resonant persuasive messages.
Harold Lasswell Harold Dwight Lasswell (February 13, 1902December 18, 1978) was an American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of ...
provided a broad definition of the term propaganda, writing it as: “the expression of opinions or actions carried out deliberately by individuals or groups with a view to influencing the opinions or actions of other individuals or groups for predetermined ends and through psychological manipulations.” Garth Jowett and Victoria O'Donnell theorize that propaganda and
persuasion Persuasion or persuasion arts is an umbrella term of Social influence, influence. Persuasion can attempt to influence a person's beliefs, Attitude (psychology), attitudes, intentions, motivations, or behaviors. Persuasion is studied in many di ...

are linked as humans use communication as a form of
soft power In politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, groups, or other forms of Power (social and political), power relations between individuals, such as the distr ...
through the development and cultivation of propaganda materials. In a 1929 literary debate with
Edward Bernays Edward Louis Bernays ( , ; November 22, 1891 − March 9, 1995) was an American pioneer in the field of public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an individual or an organization ...
Everett Dean Martin Everett Dean Martin (July 5, 1880 – May 10, 1941) was an American minister, writer, journalist, instructor, lecturer, social psychologist, social philosopher, and an advocate of adult education. He was an instructor and lecturer at The New Schoo ...
argues that, "Propaganda is making puppets of us. We are moved by hidden strings which the propagandist manipulates." In the 1920s and 30s, propaganda was sometimes described as all-powerful. For example, Bernays acknowledged in his book ''
Propaganda Propaganda is communication that is primarily used to Social influence, influence an audience and further an Political agenda, agenda, which may not be Objectivity (journalism), objective and may be selectively presenting facts to encourage a pa ...
'' that "The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of."


Primitive forms of propaganda have been a human activity as far back as reliable recorded evidence exists. The
Behistun Inscription The Behistun Inscription (also Bisotun, Bistun or Bisutun; fa, بیستون, Old Persian Old Persian is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages (the other being Avestan language, Avestan) and it is the ancestor of Middle Persian ...

Behistun Inscription
(c. 515 BC) detailing the rise of
Darius I Darius I ( peo, 𐎭𐎠𐎼𐎹𐎺𐎢𐏁 ; New Persian New Persian ( fa, فارسی نو), also known as Modern Persian () and Dari (), is the final stage of the Persian language Persian (), also known by its endonym An endonym ( ...
to the
Persian Persian may refer to: * People and things from Iran, historically called ''Persia'' in the English language ** Persians, Persian people, the majority ethnic group in Iran, not to be conflated with the Iranian peoples ** Persian language, an Iranian ...

throne A throne is the seat of state of a potentate or dignitary {{Short pages monitor Propaganda can also be turned on its makers. For example, postage stamps have frequently been tools for government advertising, such as North Korea's extensive issues. The presence of Stalin on numerous Soviet stamps is another example. During the Third Reich,
Hitler Adolf Hitler (; 20 April 188930 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician who was the dictator of Nazi Germany, Germany from 1933 to 1945. Adolf Hitler's rise to power, He rose to power as the leader of the Nazi Party, becoming Cha ...
frequently appeared on postage stamps in Germany and some of the occupied nations. A British program to parody these, and other Nazi-inspired stamps, involved airdropping them into Germany on letters containing anti-Nazi literature. In 2018 a scandal broke in which the journalist Carole Cadwalladr, several whistleblowers and the academic Dr Emma Briant revealed advances in digital propaganda techniques showing that online human intelligence techniques used in
psychological warfare Psychological warfare (PSYWAR), or the basic aspects of modern psychological operations (PsyOp), have been known by many other names or terms, including Military Information Support Operations (MISO is a traditional Japanese cuisine, Ja ...
had been coupled with psychological profiling using illegally obtained social media data for political campaigns in the United States in 2016 to aid Donald Trump by the firm Cambridge Analytica. The company initially denied breaking laws but later admitted breaking UK law, the scandal provoking a worldwide debate on acceptable use of data for propaganda and influence.


Persuasion in Social psychology

The field of social psychology includes the study of
persuasion Persuasion or persuasion arts is an umbrella term of Social influence, influence. Persuasion can attempt to influence a person's beliefs, Attitude (psychology), attitudes, intentions, motivations, or behaviors. Persuasion is studied in many di ...

. Social psychologists can be Social psychology (sociology), sociologists or Social psychology (psychology), psychologists. The field includes many theories and approaches to understanding persuasion. For example, communication theory points out that people can be persuaded by the communicator's credibility, expertise, trustworthiness, and attractiveness. The elaboration likelihood model, as well as heuristic models of persuasion, suggest that a number of factors (e.g., the degree of interest of the recipient of the communication), influence the degree to which people allow superficial factors to persuade them. Nobel Prize–winning psychologist Herbert A. Simon won the Nobel prize for his theory that people are cognitive misers. That is, in a society of mass information, people are forced to make decisions quickly and often superficially, as opposed to logically. According to William W. Biddle's 1931 article "A psychological definition of propaganda", "[t]he four principles followed in propaganda are: (1) rely on emotions, never argue; (2) cast propaganda into the pattern of "we" versus an "enemy"; (3) reach groups as well as individuals; (4) hide the propagandist as much as possible." More recently, studies from behavioral science have become significant in understanding and planning propaganda campaigns, these include for example nudge theory which was used by the Obama Campaign in 2008 then adopted by the UK Government Behavioural Insights Team. Behavioural methodologies then became subject to great controversy in 2016 after the company Cambridge Analytica was revealed to have applied them with millions of people's breached facebook data to encourage them to vote for Donald Trump. Haifeng Huang argues that propaganda is not always necessarily about convincing a populace of its message (and may actually fail to do this) but instead can also function as a means of intimidating the citizenry and signalling the regime's strength and ability to maintain its control and power over society; by investing significant resources into propaganda, the regime can forewarn its citizens of its strength and deterring them from attempting to challenge it.

Propaganda Theory and Education

During the 1930s, educators in the United States and around the world became concerned about the rise of anti-Semitism and other forms of violent extremism. The Institute for Propaganda Analysis was formed to introduce methods of instruction for high school and college students, helping learners to recognize and desist propaganda by identifying persuasive techniques. This work built upon classical rhetoric and it was informed by suggestion theory and social scientific studies of propaganda and persuasion. In the 1950s, propaganda theory and education examined the rise of American consumer culture, and this work was popularized by Vance Packard in his 1957 book, ''The Hidden Persuaders.'' European theologian Jacques Ellul's landmark work, ''Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes'' framed propaganda in relation to larger themes about the relationship between humans and technology. Media messages did not serve to enlighten or inspire, he argued. They merely overwhelm by arousing emotions and oversimplifying ideas, limiting human reasoning and judgement. In the 1980s, academics recognized that news and journalism could function as propaganda when business and government interests were amplified by mass media. The propaganda model is a theory advanced by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky which argues systemic biases exist in mass media that are shaped by structural economic causes. It argues that the way in which commercial media institutions are structured and operate (e.g. through advertising revenue, concentration of media ownership, or Access journalism, access to sources) creates an inherent conflict of interest that make them act as propaganda for powerful political and commercial interests: First presented in their book ''Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media'' (1988), the propaganda model analyses commercial mass media as businesses that sell a product – access to readers and audiences – to other businesses (advertisers) and that benefit from access to information from government and corporate sources to produce their content. The theory postulates five general classes of "filters" that shape the content that is presented in news media: ownership of the medium, reliance on advertising revenue, access to news sources, threat of litigation and commercial backlash (Propaganda model#Flak, flak), and anti-communism and "fear ideology". The first three (ownership, funding, and sourcing) are generally regarded by the authors as being the most important. Although the model was based mainly on the characterization of United States media, Chomsky and Herman believe the theory is equally applicable to any country that shares the basic Political economy, political economic structure, and the model has subsequently been applied by other scholars to study media bias in other countries. By the 1990s, the topic of propaganda was no longer a part of public education, having been relegated to a specialist subject. Secondary English educators grew fearful of the study of propaganda genres, choosing to focus on argumentation and reasoning instead of the highly emotional forms of propaganda found in advertising and political campaigns. In 2015, the European Commission funded Mind Over Media, a digital learning platform for teaching and learning about contemporary propaganda. The study of contemporary propaganda is growing in secondary education, where it is seen as a part of language arts and social studies education.


Self-propaganda is a form of propaganda that refers to the act of an individual convincing them-self of something, no matter how irrational that idea may be. Self propaganda makes it easier for individuals to justify their own actions as well as the actions of others. Self-propaganda works oftentimes to lessen the
cognitive dissonance In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance is the perception of contradictory information. Relevant items of information include a person's actions, feelings, ideas, beliefs, Value (ethics), values, and things in the environment. Cognitive d ...

cognitive dissonance
felt by individuals when their personal actions or the actions of their government do not line up with their moral beliefs. Self-propaganda is a type of Self-deception, self deception. Self-propaganda can have a negative impact on those who perpetuate the beliefs created by using self- propaganda.


Of all the potential targets for propaganda, children are the most vulnerable because they are the least prepared with the critical reasoning and contextual comprehension they need to determine whether a message is a propaganda or not. The attention children give their environment during development, due to the process of developing their understanding of the world, causes them to absorb propaganda indiscriminately. Also, children are highly imitative: studies by Albert Bandura, Dorothea Ross and Sheila A. Ross in the 1960s indicated that, to a degree, socialization, formal education and standardized television programming can be seen as using propaganda for the purpose of indoctrination. The use of propaganda in schools was highly prevalent during the 1930s and 1940s in Germany in the form of the Hitler Youth.

Anti-Semitic propaganda for children

Nazi Germany Nazi Germany, (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") officially known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945, was ...

Nazi Germany
, the education system was thoroughly co-opted to indoctrinate the German youth with anti-Semitic ideology. From the 1920s on, the Nazi Party targeted German youth as one of their special audience for its propaganda messages. Schools and texts mirrored what the Nazis aimed of instilling in German youth through the use and promotion of racial theory. Julius Streicher, the editor of ''Der Sturmer'', headed a publishing house that disseminated anti-Semitic propaganda picture books in schools during the Nazi dictatorship. This was accomplished through the National Socialist Teachers League, of which 97% of all German teachers were members in 1937. The League encouraged the teaching of racial theory. Picture books for children such as ''Trust No Fox on his Green Heath and No Jew on his Oath'', ''Der Giftpilz'' (translated into English as ''The Poisonous Mushroom'') and ''The Poodle-Pug-Dachshund-Pincher'' were widely circulated (over 100,000 copies of ''Trust No Fox''... were circulated during the late 1930s) and contained depictions of Jews as devils, child molesters and other morally charged figures. Slogans such as "Judas the Jew betrayed Jesus the German to the Jews" were recited in class. During the Nuremberg Trial, ''Trust No Fox on his Green Heath and No Jew on his Oath'', and ''Der Giftpilz'' were received as documents in evidence because they document the practices of the Nazi's The following is an example of a propagandistic math problem recommended by the National Socialist Essence of Education: "The Jews are aliens in Germany—in 1933 there were 66,606,000 inhabitants in the German Reich, of whom 499,682 (.75%) were Jews."Hirsch, Herbert. ''Genocide and the Politics of Memory''. Chapel Hill & London: University of North Carolina Press, 1995. p. 119.

See also

* Agitprop * Big lie * Cartographic propaganda * Fake news * Incitement * Misinformation * Music and political warfare * Overview of 21st century propaganda * Political warfare * :Propaganda by country * Propaganda model * Public diplomacy * Psyops * Sharp power * Smear campaign * Spin (propaganda)



* * * * * * * * * * * *

Further reading


* Altheide, David L. & John M. Johnson. ''Bureaucratic Propaganda''. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1980. * Edward Bernays, Bernays, Edward. ''Propaganda''. New York: H. Liveright, 1928. (See also version of text at website ''www.historyisaweapon.com'': "Propaganda.") * Borgies, Loïc. ''Le conflit propagandiste entre Octavien et Marc Antoine: De l'usage politique de la uituperatio entre 44 et 30 a. C. n.''. Brussels: Latomus, 2016. * Brown, J.A.C. ''Techniques of Persuasion: From Propaganda to Brainwashing''. Harmondsworth: Pelican, 1963. * Noam Chomsky, Chomsky, Noam & Herman Edward S. ''Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media''. New York: Pantheon Books. (1988) * Chomsky, Noam. ''Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda''. Seven Stories Press, 1997. * Cole, Robert. ''Propaganda in Twentieth Century War and Politics: An Annotated Bibliography''. London: Scarecrow, 1996. * Cole, Robert, ed. ''Encyclopedia of Propaganda''. 3 vols. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1998. * Combs James E. & Nimmo Dan, ''The New Propaganda: The Dictatorship of Palaver in Contemporary Politics''. White Plains, N.Y. Longman. (1993) * Nicholas J. Cull, Cull, Nicholas John, Culbert, and Welch, eds. '' Propaganda and Mass Persuasion: A Historical Encyclopedia, 1500 to the Present'' (2003) * Cunningham Stanley B. ''The Idea of Propaganda: A Reconstruction''. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2002. * Cunningham Stanley B. "Reflections on the Interface Between Propaganda and Religion", in ''The Future of Religion'', eds. P. Rennick, S. Cunningham, & R.H. Johnson. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Pub., 2010, pp. 83–96. * DelHagen, Jacob M. ''Modern Propaganda : The art of influencing society, individuals, and the news media through digital communication.'' 2016 * Dimitri Kitsikis, ''Propagande et pressions en politique internationale'', Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 1963, 537 pages. * Jacques Ellul, Ellul, Jacques, ''Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes''. (1965). *Hamilton, John M. (2020) ''Manipulating the Masses: Woodrow Wilson and the Birth of American Propaganda''. Louisiana State University Press. * Hale, Oron James. ''Publicity and Diplomacy: With Special Reference to England and Germany, 1890–1914'' (1940
* Jowett, Garth S. & Victoria O'Donnell. ''Propaganda and Persuasion'', 6th edn. California: Sage Publications, 2014. A detailed overview of the history, function, and analyses of propaganda. * Lohrey, Andrew, ed. ''Taking the Risk out of Democracy: Corporate Propaganda versus Freedom and Liberty''. Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1997. * Randal Marlin, Marlin, Randal. ''Propaganda & The Ethics of Persuasion''. Orchard Park, New York: Broadview Press, 2002. * McCombs, M. E. & D. L. Shaw. “The agenda-setting function of mass media”, ''Public Opinion Quarterly'' 36, no. 2 (1972): 176–187. * Moran, T. "Propaganda as Pseudocommunication", ''Et Cetera'' 2 (1979): 181–197. * Nelson, Richard Alan. ''A Chronology and Glossary of Propaganda in the United States''. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996. *Oddo, J. (2018). ''The Discourse of Propaganda: Case Studies from the Persian Gulf War and the ‘War on Terror’''. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press. * Pratkanis, Anthony & Elliot Aronson. ''Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion''. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company, 1992. * Rutherford, Paul, ''Endless Propaganda: The Advertising of Public Goods''. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. (2000) * Rutherford, Paul, ''Weapons of Mass Persuasion: Marketing the War Against Iraq''. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004. * Shanahan, James, ed. ''Propaganda without Propagandists? Six Case Studies in U.S. Propaganda''. Hampton Press, 2001. * Shaw Jeffrey M., ''Illusions of Freedom: Thomas Merton and Jacques Ellul on Technology and the Human Condition''. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock. (2014) * * * Sproule J. Michael, ''Channels of Propaganda''. Bloomington, IN: EDINFO Press. (1994) * * Stauber, John & Sheldon Rampton. ''Toxic Sludge Is Good for You! Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry''. Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1995.

Essays and articles

* John H. Brown (scholar), Brown, John H.. "Two Ways of Looking at Propaganda" (2006) * Garcia, Hugo. "Reluctant liars? Public debates on propaganda and democracy in twentieth-century Britain (ca. 1914–1950)", ''Contemporary British History'', vol. 33, no. 3 (2019), pp. 383–404. * Kosar, Kevin R., Public Relations and Propaganda: Restrictions on Executive Branch Activities, CRS Report RL32750, February 2005. {{Authority control Propaganda, Barriers to critical thinking Deception Political communication Public opinion