As world society advanced, so too did the use of propaganda. Much of what we associate with the first examples of artistic expression was essentially propaganda. The leaders of early civilizations used art to portray themselves as godlike.
When the Protestant Reformation began, the Roman Catholic Church formed the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith to counter the movement away from Catholicism. The term propaganda came from this effort.
Every advance in technology increased opportunities for the spread of propaganda. The printing press made it possible to disseminate information at a scale previously impossible. New developments in communication such as the radio and movies added more impact to the effectiveness of propaganda.
It didn’t take long for those aspiring to leadership positions to see the value of propaganda. Adolf Hitler had a Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, who used propaganda to encourage fear and hatred. Others used propaganda in a more hopeful way with promises of prosperity.
Propaganda has been used as a call for action, especially during challenging times. The “I Want You” posters were used to encourage young men to enlist for military service during World War II. Films of atrocities were often used to create outrage and action.
With the widespread availability of television, propaganda became a daily part of our lives. Advertising borrowed heavily on propaganda practices to sell products. The fear tactics of the Nazi regime morphed into a fear of not belonging unless you bought a given product.
Propaganda wasn’t always negative in its desire to affect public opinion. Many of our social justice reforms were effective portrayers of propaganda to bring about needed change. Propaganda is designed to influence public opinion, either for the good or bad.
It was the availability of computers, the internet, and social media that advanced propaganda to an entirely new level. Essentially everyone could become a purveyor of propaganda.
Propaganda has now become a threat to our way of life. It has become a force in how we think of morality. Hatred has become acceptable. Despair has replaced hope. Grievances have become a political force. Acceptance of others has become a sign of weakness. Our spiritual beliefs are now being compromised by propaganda.
Just imagine what it will take to reverse the doom cycle of propaganda. That’s going to be hard to do as a result of our ever-increasing understanding of how to change our brains through propaganda. (See Propaganda: What We Know from Neuroscience)
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“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” – George Orwell (author)