What is propaganda? In the dictionary, propaganda is defined as, “ ideas, doctrines, or allegations so spread: now often used disparagingly to connote deception or distortion.”(Webster’s 1078) This is just the basic definition, but what is propaganda is still being debated. Some say that all pervasive communication is propaganda, while others states only dishonest messages should be considered propaganda. These definitions all agree on one thing, the spreading of information in order to influence the public opinion and to manipulate other people's beliefs about the opposing side is, propaganda.
The first use of propaganda wasn’t in WWI, it was used centuries before, by the Roman Catholic Church. Found by Pope Gregory XV in 1622, the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide (Congregation for Propagating the Faith) was established for missionary work through out Europe. (“Propaganda”, 568) Its first modern use was in the 1900’s, when V. I. Lenin, who realized the importance of propaganda, led the revolution that established the Communist control of Russia. He categorized it into two types of persuasion, propaganda and agitation. He defined propaganda as the use of historical and scientific arguments to convince the well-educated minority, while agitation was the use of half-truths and slogans to arouse the masses, which he considered incapable of understanding complicated ideas. During WWI the Allies fought the Central Powers, led by Germany. All the nations distributed propaganda to support the war effort. The war has created a new department in the U.S., the Committee on Public Information, or the CPI. The committee distributed more than 100 million posters and publications designed to increase support for the war. (World, 825) After WWI, Adolf Hitler established his dictatorship in Germany through the Nazis’ effective use of education, motion pictures, press, and radio, still one of the most famous examples of propaganda in the modern world. When WWII broke out, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain, Soviet Union, United States, and other Allies all used propaganda widely. Two types of propaganda were used. First, the covert propaganda, this propaganda were mainly used by the allies to fool the enemies and to feed them with false information. The other is the overt propaganda, which was focused on mass propaganda for the public. Perhaps the most infamous of all propagandist was Joseph Paul Goebbels, head of the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda of the Nazi Party.
There are many techniques to form propaganda. The most common one is the using of words. This technique involves the use of name calling, glittering generalities, and euphemisms. Name-calling is the use of words to link a person, or idea, to a bad symbol. Here are some examples: Betray, Collapse, Consequences, Corruption, Crisis, Decay, Deeper, Destroy, Destructive, Devour, Endanger, Failure, Greed, and Traitors. Glittering generalities is just the reverse, it wants the audience to accept their ideas using words. Civilization, Christianity, good, proper, right, democracy, patriotism, motherhood, fatherhood, science, medicine, health, and love are good examples of glittering generalities. Euphemisms are the use of words to make other words less harsh and more pleasant. For example, in the 1940’s, U.S. changed the name of War Department to “Department of Defense”, the MX-Missile is named the “Peacekeeper”, civilian casualties were called “collateral damage”, and murder was called “liquidation”. The next technique is called False Connections. It is the divided into two subcategories, transfer, and testimonial. In transfer, propagandist tries to use things people believe and trust in to support their argument. For example, he might get the support of a church to represent in behalf of their goal and therefore transferring its authority and believers to their campaign. This could cause the audience to accept something that otherwise would be rejected. Testimonial is a technique that is often used the right way and often being misused. Testimonial is being defined as a statement made from a source to construct an argument. This technique can be used correctly is the source of the argument is qualified to do so. For example, “The scientists at the institute found this brand to be the most nutrient of all other brands of cereals.” A company hiring celebrities or some well-known figure, which are mostly unqualified of making the statement, to promote their products, is the most commonly misuse of testimonial. The next technique is call Special Appeals, which is