Conceptually sound, but examples are dated af
Below I’ve extracted the main contents of a British propaganda memorandum prepared before the Second World War.
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The document reference is PRO, INT1/724. Memorandum by the International Broadcasting and Propaganda Enquiry, 21 June 1939.
- In a stratified society persuade the dominant group.
- To convince the educated minority, propaganda must be subtle and indirect (Mark Antony’s speech is a perfect example of cautious propaganda) on the feeling-its-way principle. (Hitler’s method is the opposite).
- As regards the masses of people, appeal to their instincts and not to their reason.
- Propaganda should fit the pre-conceived impressions, [super racist example that adds nothing removed]
- In propaganda we should concentrate on a definite object to fit pre-conceived ideas.
- Evils against which propaganda is directed should, if possible, be personified (e.g., the scarification by the German Press of President Bones). [Ed: In Rules for Radicals this is stated as: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”]
- Essentials of propaganda method are as follows:
(i) Repetition (and from topical angles).
(li) Colour (abstractions to be avoided in favour of personalities).
(iii) A measure of the truth, or at any rate keeping the lie just in front of the ultimate revelation (the case of the Sudeten Germans).
(iv) Building round a slogan (“that scrap of paper”)
(v) Propaganda should be directed towards a specific objective (pick out key people and study them hard). Then proceed to groups, e.g., during the War the German concentrated on persuading the U.S.A. Congress to stop sales of munitions to all combatants. Similarly, allied propaganda might exploit the minorities in Germany and racial groups abroad.
- The motive should be concealed. This does not exclude overlapping with open propaganda. Thus the doctored speeches of foreign statesmen reproduced in Germany are a contemporary example of such overlapping. (Again patriotic societies abroad subsidised by armament firms have been found to launch campaigns “for bigger defence forces.” Again, war scares send up armament shares).
- Timing. For example, Lloyd George’s Saturday afternoon speeches provided hot news for the evening papers, secured full Sunday publicity, and an extra lot on the Monday. Again, propaganda concerning luxury goods would, for example, concentrate on places where trade is booming whilst it is a well-known practice to hold up bad news until it can be counter-balanced by good news.
- One of the best declarations of successful timing was the British declaration during the late war making cotton unconditional contraband. This regulation was issued just when the U.S.A. press was full of the sinking of the ‘Arabic,’ and had no time for more important matters.
- The general sequence of propaganda is:
i) Do the ground-work;
ii) Then the mass attack;
iii) Clear up the remainder.
- In propaganda a judicious reticence is as important as positive emphasis.
- One of the aims of propaganda is to awaken the social conscience. For this purpose the assistance of the psychologist cannot be ignored.
- According to Hitler, propaganda should use basic ideas and should address itself solely to the masses.
- One should give clarity and precision to half-formed and nebulous ideas that are shaping the public mind. The introduction of fresh ideas is harder.
- Under censorship conditions rumour assumes gigantic proportions. Hence whispering campaigns.
- A useful device is to get a neutral to state our national case.
- The ideal function of propaganda is to win popular support for a cause by captivating the emotions and flattering the reason of the public. (i.e. men llke to think that they are acting according to reason even if in reality emotion and other non-rational forces are, as so often, much stronger determinants). Popular propaganda should subtitute emotion for reason under the guise of facilitating the process of reasoning.
- Propaganda is a machine for generating and maintaining enthusiasm. Propaganda should therefore:
i) never be dull.
ii) never be offensive to its audience.
- Intellectual reasoning should be as objective as possible. Propaganda is, by its very nature, subjective. It is subjective because:
(i) A specific object (e.g. national victory in a war) should inform all its arguments, methods of presentation, etc.
(ii) Propaganda should appeal largely to non-rational elements which are more susceptible to subjective than to objective influence. (e.g. Issues should be presented in personalized form as far as possible). The subjective approach usually has greater dramatic appeal than the objective.
- The highest art in propaganda is to maintain the appearance of impartiality while securing the wholehearted adoption of the view propagated.
- As regards fundamentals many people are vainer and idler than they imagine or admit. Propaganda should take notice of this.
- One of the German failures last time was the use of statistics in amorphous and detrimental masses.
- In the German Propaganda Memorandum for Spain (1935) it is said that it is better fo influence smaller rather than larger Spanish news agencies. Larger ones would demand more money and would not be such unquestioning allies. There is nothing more effective than a good news agency for influencing public opinion. “It is, so to speak, the skeleton, while commenting and reporting are the flesh. Only the two together can make a live body capable of doing the work.”
- Experience has tended to prove that in public meetings addressed to local audiences a speaker carries more weight thought local reputation than through national eminence.
- It is reported from one source that during the Great War it was found that one good poster would do the work of about twenty public meetings.
- In Mein Kampf it is stated that the colour combination which produces the greatest psychological reaction is red, black, and white. (Hence the German national colours.)
Philip M. Taylor (1981): Techniques of persuasion: basic ground rules of British propaganda during the Second World War, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, 1:1, 57 – 66