by Robert Malone MD MS, Who Is Robert Malone:
The classic tome “Propaganda,” written in 1928, was an attempt to both alert the public to the power of propaganda while also allying the public’s fear of it. The overall messaging of the book now seems so naïve. One of the core themes and underlying beliefs of the book is that there are elements in society that are not corruptible.
As an example, the book ends with the thesis that newspapers are the arbiter of news, thus the editors, writers and owners are the gatekeepers ensuring the public of a fair rendition of both sides of any issue. That the idea of newspaper spreading propaganda was virtually unthinkable.
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This may have been how journalism was perceived in the past, but that is no longer the case (if it ever was). The idea that the government or a political party might buy up enough advertising space, so that a newspaper editor would think twice about running a story contrary to the government’s position, was not even a consideration. The view was that newspaper writers, editors or the owners couldn’t be bribed or converted to one cause or another seems to not enter the author’s thoughtscape. That the newspapers of today would become advocacy conduits for one set of beliefs held by the government over another set of beliefs seemed farfetched in 1928. Now it seems unthinkable that it would be any other way.
Propaganda is a form of manipulation of public opinion by creating a specific narrative that aligns with a political agenda. It uses techniques like nudging, repetition, emotional appeals, selective information, and hypnotic language patterns to influence the subconscious mind, bypassing critical thinking and shaping beliefs and values.
Propaganda is made up of truth, almost truths, half-truths, truth out of context as well as false truths. Often, its purpose is not evil but it is always meant to manipulate. This is an important concept that this classic book makes over and over again. Governments and organizations use propaganda for good and evil.
In general, propaganda is classified by colors: White, Gray and Black Propaganda.
- White propaganda is a type of propaganda where the producer of the material is clearly marked and indicated, and the purpose of the information is transparent.
- White Propaganda is otherwise commonly known as marketing and public relations.
- White Propaganda involves communicating a message from a known source to a recipient (typically the public or some targeted audience).
- White Propaganda is often mainly based on the fact, although the whole truth is often not told.
- Gray Propaganda is communication of a false narrative or story from an unattributed or hidden source.
- The messenger may be known, but the true source of the message is not.
- Material of unknown origin leaves a viewer unable to determine the creator or motives behind the message.
- An example of gray propaganda would be placing news stories in news outlets instead of buying ads to directly appeal to the intended audience.
- When using gray propaganda, a message or false narrative coming through the news media appears to be neutral, thus believable, whereas the direct appeal from someone who is clearly an opponent of the target (person or organization) would be unbelievable.
- Astroturfing, the use of fake organized “grassroots” movements to spread a message or false narrative —is an example of gray propaganda.
- Operation Mockingbird, the alleged alleged large-scale program of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that began in the early years of the Cold War and manipulated domestic American news media organizations for propaganda purposes, often employed Gray Propaganda.
- Black propaganda is designed to create the impression that it was created by those it is supposed to discredit.
- Black Propaganda is typically used to vilify or embarrass an opponent or enemy through misrepresentation.
- The major characteristic of black propaganda, when effective, is that the recipient (audience) is not aware that someone is influencing them, and therefore does not feel pushed in a certain direction.
- Black propaganda purports to emanate from a source other than the true source. This is the type of propaganda most often associated with covert psychological operations.
- Sometimes the source is concealed or credited to a false authority and used to spread lies, fabrications, and deceptions.
- Black propaganda is the “Big Lie”, including all types of creative deceit.
- Black propaganda relies on the willingness of the receiver to accept the credibility of the source. If the creators or senders of the black propaganda message do not adequately understand their intended audience, the message may be misunderstood, seem suspicious, or fail altogether.
Examples of Black Propaganda:
- Declassified documents have revealed that the British government ran a secret “black propaganda” campaign for decades, targeting Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia with leaflets and reports from fake sources aimed at destabilizing cold war enemies by encouraging racial tensions, sowing chaos, inciting violence and reinforcing anti-communist ideas.
- Office of Strategic Influence (OSI) (now renamed and restructured as “Office of Information Activities”),
- The Office of Information Activities (OIA) currently resides within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict with responsibility for policy oversight of military psychological operations activities.
- Following 9-11, the US DoD organized and implemented the Office of Strategic Influence (OSI), which maintained a mission described by The New York Times as “circulating classified proposals calling for aggressive campaigns that use[d] not only the foreign media and the Internet, but also covert operations.”[
- At the time, Pentagon officials said that the OSI was ‘a broad mission ranging from ‘black’ campaigns that use disinformation and other covert activities to ‘white’ public affairs that rely on truthful news releases.’ Therefore, OSI’s operations could include black propaganda activities.
- OSI’s operations included contacting and emailing media, journalists, and community leaders with information that would counter foreign governments and organizations that are hostile to the United States. In doing so, the emails would be masked by using addresses ending with .com as opposed to using the standard Pentagon address of .mil, and hide any involvement of the US government and the Pentagon.
With the advent of technology, particularly the internet – the ability of many different factions to use propaganda has grown exponentially.
Computational propaganda can be described as an “emergent form of political manipulation that occurs over the Internet” (Woolley and Howard, 2018, p. 3). Computational programming is used in social media – on blogs, forums and other websites that involve participation and discussion. This type of propaganda is often executed through data mining and algorithmic bots, which are usually created and controlled by advanced technologies such as AI and machine learning. By exploiting these tools, computational propaganda can pollute information and rapidly spread false news around the internet (Woolley and Howard, 2018).