Propaganda is spreading of rumors, false or correct information, or an idea in order to influence the opinion of the society. It may advance an idea or bring into disrepute an opposite idea. In literature, writers use propaganda as a literary technique to manipulate the public opinion for or against one idea or another. In history, we can search a plethora of literary works used as propaganda to shape the public perceptions, and direct their behavior to get a response. Generally, propaganda is a technique for convincing people, misleading in nature and promotes a viewpoint or a political cause.
Popular Examples of Propaganda
- US dropped leaflets as propaganda campaign in Iraq to let the people know that Saddam Hussein was the real culprit, who caused problems for them.
- People use name-calling as propaganda, such as “My enemy is a drug addict.”
- During the era of McCarthy, mass media attempted to persuade public as propaganda that Communists had become very powerful and they would take over US.
- Slogans or shibboleths can work as propaganda, when those repeat several times, eventually public start believing in them.
- Selling happiness has become popular concept in ads, and serves as propaganda such as famous celebrities explain to the public why they need to purchase the product because it would solve their problems.
Examples of Propaganda from Literature
Propaganda played a very important role in Russian Revolution. George Orwell wrote his novel Animal Farm after this revolution and used anti-communist propaganda as its major theme. The author has manipulated the speech of a character, Squealer that is a pig and portrayed as Napoleon’s spokesperson. One example of his propaganda is to get the support of other animals, when he uses manipulated speech for disapproving Snowball’s part in uprising revolt after his banishment from the farm. He uses the stupidity of animals for his benefit and plays with their minds by describing a different side of events happened in the Battle of the Cowshed.
We can notice another example of propaganda in this novel, when pigs twist the rules and seven commandments for their own advantages. The original rule reads as, “No animal shall be killed by any other animal” which they changed into “No animal shall be killed by any other animal without cause.”
(From Animal Farm by George Orwell)
Adam Johnson’s novel The Orphan Master’s Son deals with the themes of identity, state power and propaganda in North Korea. The story is about two men from North Korea who revolted against tyrannical government of their country. Through their story, the readers get the impression how the North Korean leaders are selfish, as they kidnap their people, steal their money and cheat them.
(From The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson)
Many critics consider some historical plays of Shakespeare as Tudor propagandas, as they depict civil war dangers and commemorate Tudor dynasty’s founders. Similarly, in his play Richard III, Shakespeare uses propaganda when we see Richard shapes the readers’ perception and convinces other characters in the play to win their sympathies when he declares his deformity is the root cause of wickedness in his character. Hence, he makes use of deformity as propaganda and controls, injures and manipulates other people for his personal gain.
(From Richard III by William Shakespeare)
In William Golding’s Lord of Flies, author introduces concept of beast and use propaganda by his character Jack, who plans to take control of totalitarian government. He uses propaganda by manipulating the cognition of the young boys, frightens them about the existence of beast in that area, accuses Ralph who does not carry out his duty of providing protection to the children, and consequently takes the charge of new tribe where he would follow his tyrannical rules.
(From Lord of Flies by William Golding)
Function of Propaganda
We can easily find the use of propaganda technique in mass media advertising, politics and literature. It is a very popular technique in academic commentary, and is taken as an interchangeable form of communication. The primary function of propaganda is to persuade the readers and mold their perceptions about a particular cause. In addition, it aims at getting response of respondents and let them adopt a certain action, because merely securing a commitment or assent would not be enough for making this technique successful, and securing its purpose. Often, it assists in promoting policies. Besides, propaganda serves as an effective weapon to rouse people by making them realized about their vulnerabilities and frailties instead of comforting them with illusions.