Source Book For Social Psychology

Propaganda: The Manufacture of Opinion

Kimball Young

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The modern extension of the range of public interest and action has made for profound changes in the control of opinion. So long as a person's scope of interests and activity does not stretch beyond the neighborhood or village, he can observe and make some judgments himself regarding matters of common concern. When, today, as a citizen of a federal government, or even as the citizen of a commonwealth, he is called upon to make political decisions which touch the world beyond his immediate visual and auditory sensibilities, that is, beyond the world of immediate perception, the whole question of facts and information, the bases upon which he must construct his opinions and form his judgments, becomes altered. The ordinary citizen of the United States can not have first-hand information on the situation in Central America, in China or in Europe. He has to depend on secondary and even tertiary sources for his knowledge. This leaves open great possibilities of misrepresentation, distortion and deliberate suppression of facts. It even permits the manufacture of events and situations for the avowed purpose of prejudicing the attitudes and judgment and hence the actions of the populace.

It was the World War which introduced us on a broad scale to the functions of propaganda. Each of the belligerent nations established bureaus for propagating their own particular points of view. Such books as Creel's How We Advertised America and Brownrigg's Indiscretions of a Naval Censor indicate something of the control of information during the war. Lasswell's work Technique of Propaganda During the World War is a most valuable source of information, revealing, as it does, the scope and method of propaganda throughout the world during the years 1914-1918.

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Propaganda in the sense of proselyting has been in vogue in the spread of religious dogmas for ages, especially in Christian countries. But modern means of controlling ideas and information has made possible its extension into political, economic, and social fields hitherto undreamed of. Sometimes this propaganda is disguised under the more polite title of "publicity." Yet it should not be imagined that the results of propaganda and publicity are necessarily nefarious. Health campaigns, many educational and other reform movements use methods essentially propagandist in nature. Our purpose in this chapter is not to discuss the ethical aspects of this type of thing but rather to reveal the social psychological mechanisms involved.

The first paper from Dunlap gives a short statement of the nature of propaganda. The paper by Dodge goes into the psychology of propaganda in considerable detail. He shows particularly the function of emotional appeals in the spread of propaganda. The logic of feeling is employed to change opinions and attitudes and thus bring about a change in behavior. The selection from Strong deals both with the psychological factors in propaganda and also with the appeal to the instinctive-emotional drives of individual behavior.

In the fourth paper Dunlap summarizes six rules to consider in the spread of propaganda, while in the paper following, Lipsky points out that all forms of propaganda are best put over by means of organizations. If the purpose of these is disguised, however, the effect is much greater.

In another selection from Strong the relation of propaganda to social control is revealed.

Kent's paper shows how the newspaper's political policies are controlled in the interests of special groups. And Bernays illustrates from the case of Lithuania what can be done to arouse and to influence public opinion on a situation through the clever use of publicity or propaganda. Ellwood's paper shows how the churches may use publicity in the interests of their dogmas, while the paper by Larrabee indicates in detail the place which the motion picture may play in the spread of ideas and opinions.

The final paper from the writer's own collection describes in detail the method by which a minority group of college students incited and put over a campaign for funds with which to construct a student union building. The attention to every item in social control which

( 784) is revealed in his paper shows that college education often extends to fields not given a place in the formal curriculum.

Mention may be made in closing of the growing power of the radio as a factor in the spread of propaganda. We are not yet fully aware of the extent to which the radio is being employed by advertisers, special-interest groups and governmental agencies in their efforts to control public opinion. This is a powerful weapon the full measure of which we have not yet secured.

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