Propaganda is a method of communication that is intended to shape the outlook of a society towards a particular source or situation that benefits an individual or the group as a whole. It also includes information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely as well as the diffusion of information that is used to influence the community’s views. Propaganda is used as a tool of manipulation, but it can also be a pervasive factor in modern day social and political organizations. “A message that is intended primarily to serve the interests of the messenger; this is the basic definition of propaganda.” The term originally emerged in 1622 when Pope Gregory XV established the Sacred Congregation for Propagating the Faith. At that time propaganda was about convincing large numbers of people about the veracity of a given set of ideas. Rulers throughout history, including Pericles, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar, used propaganda as a tool of persuasion to get citizens on their side, resulting in their success as leaders.
There are several distinctive forms of propaganda, which are used by different branches in the government or even in a single company, with the ultimate goal of swaying an opinion. One type is integration, which is important because a society cannot be successful without the unspoken support of its citizens. Governments are the main users of this because they need the support of the citizens, especially in times of war. Several rulers and leaders try to unite their country or even cities as one, which is a positive use of propaganda and can result in a more successful and advanced society. There is also racial and denial propaganda, which was used by Adolf Hitler when he discriminated against the Jewish people. When propaganda is used to dishearten and baffle enemy societies or troops it is called psychological warfare. If propaganda is not practiced accurately it could fail miserably. “Effective propaganda must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.” Techniques of persuasion are used everywhere and for that reason they are effective. In the United States of America propaganda is sometimes thought of as a concept of lying or deception. In Latin countries where the word means something along the lines of advertising, it is not associated with negative things.
Advertising is a form of propaganda that is used in the world today; it is not exactly all lies but it does not show flaws and flatus. It is a one-way story of what someone perceives history to be. Pericles, a Greek orator and leader during the Golden Age and the Peloponnesian War, used propaganda in elaborate speeches and in an extraordinary funeral oration that moved and motivated his people. Pericles was born in 493 BCE into a rich aristocratic family, like many successful rulers. He was described as an aloof Olympic figure; he was a patron of learning and the arts and masterminded the construction of the Parthenon. At the age of 13 Pericles was evacuated from Athens during the Battle of Salamis in the conflict against Persia, which exposed him to war at a young age. Pericles was elected as general thirty-two times in Athens and was loved by all his people. In 431 BCE, which was the end of the first year of the Peloponnesian War he composed one of the most famous models of oratorical persuasion in history. After the first year of the war Pericles held an elaborate funeral for all those that died. He made a speech that honored the Athenians killed in battle, which helped strengthen the survivors in their continued fight. Many say that Pericles’ Funeral Oration is the one of the best expressions of the ideals of democracy ever. His speech intended to inspire his army to continue fighting though many had died. Pericles only mentions the superior qualities of his army and the advantages of the democracy that he had set up. He made their enemy city, Sparta, look like a terrible place to live because of their rigid totalitarianism where each part of its resident’s lives was regulated. He spoke to his people, the Athenians, about the virtues of their city and how it competed with the oppression of Sparta. He created strong propaganda, even though a lot of what he said was the truth. “Our constitution is called a democracy because power is in the hands not of a minority but of the whole people. When it is a question of settling private disputes, everyone is equal before the law. Just as our political life in our relations with each other…
Here each individual is interested not only in his own affairs but in the affairs of the state as well.” He bonded his city and made it a necessity for everyone to be involved. Pericles was a smart man but he could not have done it without his authority and strength. Pericles knew that if he could not have a way to spread his ideas, they would be of no use at all. However, later rulers were able to implement propaganda in different and better ways. Alexander of Macedon was called “the Great” for many reasons, but specifically because he used skillful political propaganda to encourage his army and to promote himself, which benefited his society as a whole. His father was Philip II, a great military and political leader, but Alexander did not want to live in the shadow of his father’s achievements. So he made a name for himself by creating a Hellenistic empire. He did this by controlling Macedon, Greece and conquering the mighty Persian Empire. Alexander claimed that he was the son of Zeus as propaganda to make it look like he was born from the gods. One of Alexander the Great’s first acts was to visit Troy, which was the site of the great victory of the Greeks. This was propaganda itself, showing that he was going to accomplish what the Greek people did prior to his time. Alexander used propaganda to expand his empire. He invaded Persia in 334 BCE, and decided that after King Darius was killed that he would take over his empire. When Darius was stabbed by his own kinsman during Alexander’s conquest of Persia, he was discovered by a Greek solider named Polystratus, who comforted him in his dying moments. Soon after this rumors started forming about how it was actually Alexander who stood by him as he passed. “It was also said, by the Greeks, that before his death Darius bequeathed his empire to Alexander. But this is, surely, just the crowning example of Greek propaganda.” Alexander and the Greeks made it seem like in his dying moments all Darius wanted to do was give his empire to someone who deserved it.
Alexander later went to India in 326 BCE where he fought a local king, Porus and conquered his territory. When Porus finally surrendered, Alexander generously restored his kingdom to him, and added to it to the lands of his enemies. “Chivalrous propaganda aside, the message of the massacre was clear to the other rajahs and maharajahs of India. Alexander was much better to have as a friend than an enemy.” Additionally, “this overwhelming victory against a local petty king would be trumpeted to the Greek world by Alexander’s propaganda department as scarcely less than the conquest of India.” Alexander proved to everyone that he was a strong and fair ruler by using propaganda and he created a name for himself that was greater than his father’s and rulers prior to his reign. Julius Caesar was an outstanding example of a ruler who used propaganda to sway the public’s opinion of him and to make his conquests and battles appear greater than they were. Julius Caesar was born into a wealthy family on July 12, 100 BCE. When he came into power the Roman Republic was faltering, as there had been a civil war prior to his ruling between Sulla and Marius. There was a lot of poverty, and the senate was not functioning well. Caesar kept himself in power by gaining two allies. His first ally was Crassus, who was a very rich and helped Caesar financially. His second ally was Pompey, who was a military leader. Together the three men formed a triumvirate that ruled Rome. One of Caesar’s first conquests was to go north and fight in Gaul to bring that territory into the Roman Empire. When he won a battle against the northern tribes, a triumphal arch to commemorate his conquest was built. Whenever Caesar completed something successful he always had something made for himself. These statues and monuments stayed in Rome, to show that he was groundbreaking man. He even later placed a statue of himself among the statues of the seven great kings that ruled 400 years before him, to show that he was their equal. He also collected his triumphs in essays on the Gallic Wars.
He sent these back to Rome, writing in the third person, and only speaking of the positive things he was doing at war, claiming, “people willingly believe what they want to believe.” Caesar knew that he was deceiving people because they could not see what was actually going on in the wars. While he was in Gaul, Crassus died and then their triumvirate was down to two. Julius Caesar was at first hailed as the champion of the people, but this was only a step towards supreme power, possibly in the form of masked dictatorship. When he got back to Rome, Pompey tried to further turn the senate against Caesar. The two then launched into another civil war, which Caesar eventually won. He was a great soldier and was appointed dictator for life in 44 BCE. Under Caesar’s rule he wanted to redesign and rebuild the Roman Empire. He expanded Roman citizenship to include Spaniards, Gaul’s and Greek’s, who had supported him, to show that if everyone everywhere respected him he would do great things for them, which helped to establish his power. Though the people of Rome liked Caesar, the landowning aristocrats disliked him, because they thought that he was planning to abolish the Roman Republic and set himself up as a divine ruler. This was true because, his adopted grandnephew and heir claimed he was the “son of a god” which made the people of Rome consider him to be divine. Caesar cut down the power of the members of the senate to increase his own. Julius knew how to snatch his opportunities when he had and them, and took advantage of them. His most famous quote “I came, I saw, I conquered,” really represents his strength and authority, which will be remembered forever. While Caesar’s use of propaganda helped to cement his power in Rome, throughout history there have been moments where propaganda has been used negatively. Propaganda is not always positive, and it can be used to accomplish terrible things. The German leader Adolf Hitler was a convincing case of propaganda that went wrong, as he tried to enforce something unethical on the society he ruled. In World War II Hitler used racial and denial propaganda to discriminate against the Jewish people.
Hitler was born in 1889 in Austria and he came from an extremely poor family. He loved giving orders and being controlling from a very young age. At 15 he joined the German army and he was given the job of dispatch-runner. He was given many awards, but he only reached the rank of corporal. In 1918 he was blinded in a mustard gas attack, though after his eyesight recovered, he became depressed and would cry for days. Once again Hitler’s efforts ended in failure. Many Jewish people at this time believed that everyone should be treated as equals; Hitler did not feel the same way and saw socialism as part of a Jewish conspiracy. He later became a spy for the German army and worked his way up the system. He eventually redefined socialism by putting the word ‘National’ before it. He said that only people with “German blood” should be treated equally. He called Jews and other non-Germans “aliens”. Hitler became the dictator of Germany. He took away people’s rights of Jewish citizenship, and there was no more immigration of people who were not German. In the 1920s and 1930s he and his group, the Nazis, rose to power using nationalism and anti-Semitism, he placed Jews in concentration camps. Here, he tortured them and removed them from their families. He shaved their head and burned numbers into their arms. Hitler quickly showed that propaganda was going to play a part in his party’s success. Before his rise to power he wrote a book called the Mein Kampf, all about this propaganda, in which he stated: The masses find it difficult to understand politics, their intelligence is small. Therefore all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points. The masses will only remember only the simplest ideas repeated a thousand times over. If I approach the masses with reasoned arguments, they will not understand me. In the mass meeting, their reasoning power is paralyzed. What I say is like an order given under hypnosis.
He believed that people were not intelligent and would do whatever he wanted them to. He convinced many people to follow his ways and do the unethical thing. Hitler appointed Joseph Goebbels as his propagandist. His job was to make sure no one that was in Germany could read or see anything that was hostile or damaging to the Nazi campaign. He created the Reich Chamber of Commerce in 1933, which made sure that any books, art, music, radio, film, and newspapers were checked by a Nazi to make sure there was nothing negative in them about the party. If there was nothing negative about the Nazis then the people being discriminated against could not report anything and a rebellion could not break out. Hitler, along with Goebbels, also organized public book burnings where they would burn books that did not match the Nazi way of life symbolizing that these books were wrong. Hitler also played his speeches in coffee shops and on loud speakers on the street, so that everyone could have his ideas ingrained into their minds. Hitler committed suicide in his shelter in Berlin on April 30, 1945, while he in war with the United States. He had killed millions of people, including six million Jews in the Nazi genocide. Even though in present day Hitler’s ideas are frowned apron and un-ethical there are still many people still following his ways and the effects he had on many people and their families are still felt today. Pericles, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar, and other groundbreakers in the past utilized propaganda as a tool of marketing to persuade citizens to side with them, ensuring their accomplishments as leaders. Many say that propaganda is a negative instrument used for damaging and destructive acts but it has proven to work for so many great rulers in the past and present. Elizabeth Drew, an American political journalist says, “Propaganda has a bad name, but its root meaning is simply to disseminate through a medium, and all writing therefore is propaganda for something. It’s a seeding of the self in the consciousness of others.” Every form of writing is propaganda because not all writing is the truth; it is someone’s perception of the situation.
Though propaganda was more blatant in the past, in today’s world it can be spread faster and in more ways than it had before, but this is not always a good thing. In January 2011 there was a revolution in Egypt because of poverty, widespread unemployment, government corruption and a dictator like government by their president of thirty years, Hosni Mubarak. The people of Egypt decided to start a non-violent protest to make changes in the government. They used Facebook and Twitter as their main outlet to the rest of the world, showing footage to persuade outsiders to see what was going on in their country and help their campaign. It showed everyone what was going on, and that innocent people were being killed just for simple things like, leaving their own homes at night. A video of a man lighting himself on fire became viral overnight on YouTube, and Americans started to reach out to Egypt. It created a movement, and a call to action. Once the Egyptian government realized that the Internet was making the people stronger they shut it down. This was a sign of propaganda because it symbolized the power of Mubarak’s dictatorship. Whenever the rebels made an effort he would just stop it in its tracks, which caused the people to become madder and revolt. He had shut down their only method of communication with the outside world. The Egyptians eventually overthrew Mubarak but he did not go down without a fight. Twenty-five people were killed and at least 200 were wounded. In the twentieth century propaganda can be spread through television, radio, magazines, and newspapers, which reach a huge group of people everywhere. Though propaganda can be seen by more people in a short period of time today, it is also easier to fight against it in modern society. While it worked very well in ancient times, today, the human race is too bombarded by diverse ideas coming from different directions. In history rulers had strict motifs and they were the only ones using propaganda, but today propaganda can be found in news, politics and even in a video someone uploaded to YouTube. “Propaganda is a soft weapon; hold it in your hands too long, and it will move about like a snake, and strike the other way.”
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