From the New American Webster Handy College Dictionary, Revised and Expanded Edition: ideas disseminated to support a doctrine
From the American Century Thesaurus: 1. agitprop, disinformation, newspeak, rumors, lies. 2. advertising, promotion, publicity, public relations, puff, fanfare.
From Wikipedia.com: 1. the systemic propagation of a doctrine or cause or of information reflecting the views and interests of those advocating such a doctrine or cause. 2. material disseminated by the advocates or opponents of a doctrine or cause: wartime propaganda. 3. propaganda Roman Catholic Church. A division of the Roman Curia that has authority in the matter of preaching the gospel, of establishing the Church in non-Christian countries, and of administering Church missions in territories where there is no properly organized hierarchy.
From Encyclopedia Farlex.com: Systemic spreading… of information or disinformation, … usually to promote a religious or political doctrine with the intention of instilling particular attitudes or responses. As a system of spreading information it was considered a legitimate instrument of government, but became notorious through the deliberate distortion of facts or the publication of falsehoods by totalitarian regimes, notably Nazi Germany.
The word comes from the activities of a special sacred congregation of the Roman Catholic Church…which sought to spread the faith and recruit members.
In the US in the 1980s, the term ‘public diplomacy’ was introduced. Government-sponsored reports and articles were presented to the media as independent sources…
…black propaganda (a pack of lies), grey propaganda (half-truths and distortions), white propaganda (the truth).
Propaganda has been practiced since the earliest times, but modern mass media has made it much easier to appeal to wide domestic and foreign audiences…
You might be wondering why I just put you through so many definitions of the same word – propaganda. It is because I am endeavoring to better understand the term, its use, and the affect it has had on our culture. From there, I want to examine how the government, media, and entertainment industries are using propaganda to influence our points of view. The answers to all of these issues are crucial to our understanding of the opposition and the formation of a reasoned and honest rebuttal. As a political artist, I well understand the power of a strong and succinct image, that, through repetition, becomes an influential icon. In this way, the arts have become one of the most powerful influences on the American people and culture, with few of us aware of how it happened.
Ask yourself a couple of questions. How did you form your personal philosophy? What influences led you to the formation of those beliefs? Did you verify facts, or merely accept ideas at face value? Are you even aware of where you got the information, or when you first formed your beliefs? If you cannot answer these questions satisfactorily, it is time for you to do some research. I am not here to change your mind, or convince you that I am right. You must make those decisions for yourself. What I am here to do is accumulate the information I need to better understand how to explain and promote the concept of Liberty, why it is preferable to the nanny state of big government, and how I intend to use my art to spread this message. Finally, I am encouraging all artists who share my views to step up and join the fight.
This is propaganda. I will not lie to you, and you are free to leave at any time. I hope, however, that you will verify my assertions and form your own opinions.
How Can Art Affect Public Perceptions, Opinions and Philosophy?
Art affects people on many levels. First and foremost, it affects the viewer by appealing to their individual aesthetic preferences. We may not know why we like a piece of art, only that it appeals to us. This visual connection may be a result of color, composition, shape, balance and a myriad of other elements, alone or in various combinations. Some work appeals to us merely because it is pretty. Other pieces illicit an emotional reaction. Our attractions vary with our beliefs and personalities, as much as with the merits of the work we are viewing.
The iconic nature of modern graphic design, and its influence on the fine arts, has become a useful and often subtle tool of the modern propagandist. We are so immersed in the realm of digital and printed media, that we are often exposed to ideas and marketing on a subconscious level. In the younger generations, the need to fit in and be considered cool makes their demographic particularly susceptible to an underlying idea or agenda. Good art, skillfully employed, can reduce a complex concept to a simple image that is easily understood and successfully promotes a particular concept or belief. Depending on the subtlety or brazenness of the image, the viewer may not even realize they are looking at anything more complicated than a cool graphic. Subtle works of art are often more successful because the message they are promoting goes unnoticed on a conscious level. In this way, ideas are perceived as truth without questioning motives, availability of facts, or opposing points of view. The success of this type of propaganda is increased by repetition which serves to reinforce the formation of the desired opinion. I am going to focus entirely on the cultural and political aspects of propaganda, particularly on the influence it has on the way people think and act. I believe the influence of ideas and philosophy has the most lasting and significant impact on our culture. Art is, quite possibly, the most affective tool for the dissemination of ideas.
When used by the individual artist, these expressions of philosophy and opinion fall firmly within the realm of free speech. When sponsored by the government, they become manipulative propaganda. Regardless of the intended use of the art in question, the intended outcome of its use, or the projected benefit, it is not an appropriate endeavor for government. There is too much room for abuse and factual inaccuracy or manipulation and insufficient objective scrutiny to maintain unbiased representation. More importantly, government funding of the arts is an inappropriate use of tax money, regardless of its intended use.
How has Art Been Used for Propaganda Purposes?
Prior to WWII, the word propaganda did not necessarily have negative connotations. With the enactment of Joseph Goebbels’ campaign of mass influence and indoctrination, the term became synonymous with State sponsored art. The Nazis used propaganda in many forms, but their use of posters may have had the most lasting effect on the German population. By creating iconographic imagery, easily understood, posted repeatedly in public places, the population of Germany was led to believe things that were often outright lies. This success has led to the subsequent proliferation of political art through modern times.
The reason propaganda came to be viewed as dishonest after WWII, is the way in which it was used by Goebbels. His principles for the use of propaganda advocated the manipulation and censorship of facts. He set very strict terms regarding creation and dissemination of propaganda, and actively limited the kind of information available for release to the public. According to these principles, repetition is vital to the success of a propaganda campaign. Propaganda was to be used to maintain a level of anxiety in the general population in order to make them more amenable to government influence. It appears as though our own government has learned a few things in this regard.
So, how does art come into play? Obviously, the use of graphics requires creative talent. Artists, being some of the more emotional members of society, might very well have a better understanding of how to manipulate others. A well placed graphic, the right splash of color or use of contrast, severe cropping or juxtaposition of opposing objects will easily lead the viewer to form a desired opinion. Some will agree because they already possess the same view, with the added bonus of feeling like part of something larger than themselves. Some will be swayed because they were on the fence about the issue, but now feel like an insider because they are clever enough to ‘get it’. Some will dismiss it as crap because they disagree. Others will be offended because they not only disagree, but see the potential for manipulation of those who don’t have all the facts and will readily accept what they perceive to be popular opinion.
In our current political climate, artists have found their voice and a market for works depicting their own political views. As an individual expression, this is a powerful tool for political activism. Whether or not you agree with the artist, you should be able to respect their right to free speech. When sponsored knowingly and, worse, encouraged by the NEA, it is comparable to the actions of Goebbels. There is no instance where it is appropriate for the government to fund art, particularly that which promotes a specific agenda. When the government or a tax funded agency in their employ embarks on a propaganda campaign, they seldom give voice to the opposition.
As artists, I believe we have a duty and responsibility to put forth an opposing points of view. We need to combat lies and misrepresentations with verifiable facts and expose the treachery of blindly following ‘approved’ ideas and agendas. Because the State has been engaged in this campaign for generations, with the willing participation of their supporters, it is time that those of us who still hold the individual supreme stand up and make our voices heard. We now face a turning point in the history of America, where we can succumb to the whims of the State and willingly accept bondage, or lead the way to a Liberty Revolution with the purpose of restoring America to a Constitutional Republic. Mrs. Pelosi says “Are you serious?”; I say Yes Ma’am, I Am.
As Conservatives, what should we be promoting through our art? Self-reliance, personal responsibility, a return to the principles of individual liberty and limited government. Freedom over tyranny. The challenge will be to create a successful propaganda campaign without compromising our principles to emotional reactions and misrepresentation of facts. We need to play the game as they say, but on our own terms. We must always remain honest and present all of the facts. We must define our principles clearly, then promote them effectively and repeatedly in ways that are quickly and easily understood. This is one of the reasons I am so concerned with getting more artists on board with the Liberatchik project. We have the ability to make a lasting and significant impact in this war of ideas, but our strength will be in our numbers.
Art, regardless of genre, has the ability to reduce complex concepts to easily grasped ideas, raise people and ideas to the status of icons, reach wide audiences through a variety of means; often with the added bonus of creating a spirit of belonging and the perception of empowerment. It is my goal, through my personal art and my efforts here at Liberatchik to promote the ideas of Liberty and individual integrity. I believe that America is a great country and patriotism is not a stigma. There is nothing selfish in taking pride in one’s accomplishments. I hope that America will one day return to a truly free nation, because it has not been so in my lifetime. I want to leave it better than I found it. My art is my tool for shaping that
Conservative Principles of Propaganda
I have already laid out the reasons why Conservatives need to engage in an active campaign to influence American culture. I have given the historical significance and impact of propaganda on the population at large, as well as the ways in which Liberals have subverted our culture and marginalized any opposition within the art and entertainment industries. Finally, I have given examples of the ways in which they have succeeded and the reasons for their success. Now, I am giving you the ammunition to fight back.
The following points are written from the perspective of a painter. However, they can be adapted to work for any genre of art. Musicians would apply the techniques to their lyrics, poets to their verse, filmmakers to their sets and imagery, etc…
Conservative Principles of Propaganda
1. a. Above all else – be honest
b. Back up your assertions with facts – always
2. Build up a positive message as well as shedding light on the tactics of the opposition. People need something positive to encourage them to stay the course, and constant complaining does nothing to change the situation
3. Create Iconography
a. Reduce complex ideas and philosophy to symbols
b. Make imagery memorable
c. Simplify icons for easy reproduction by everyone – they should be reduced to designs that anyone can copy regardless of skill level and talent, while maintaining the integrity of the image
4. Recruit and Network
a. Use grassroots activism techniques to spread the message and promote your iconography – Anystreet is a good source of tactical information for activism and networking.
b. Involve as many like-minded people as possible, but don’t be pushy. If you approach someone who is not interested, respect their right to disagree.
c. Teach others how to reproduce the icons and use them effectively – this is also a great opportunity for networking and building our own art community.
5. Try to foresee ways in which the opposition will use propaganda techniques to discredit and marginalize our message – be proactive rather than reactive.
6. Do not engage in name calling, emotional exchanges or campaigns in which facts are ignored to boost the effectiveness of your message. This only gives ammo to our detractors.
7. Use verifiable statistics, correct representations of numbers and demographics, and concrete facts to improve general understanding of your message. Many people simply have no idea what we mean by promoting Liberty.
8. a. Repeat themes often, but not to the point over-saturation
b. Use subliminally influential methods to promote ideas through iconography, such as merchandising (posters, t-shirts, etc.)
Our main focus is the promotion of the following philosophy:
*Individuality and Liberty promote a more fair system than collectivism
*Individual judgment and reason is more productive than collective regulation
*We must revoke our sanction of a system that intends to destroy our Liberty and Individuality
Now get out there and raise some hell!
Additional sources of information and articles:
Goebbels’ Principles of Propaganda
The Art of Propaganda
Some of the links provided inspiration for portions of this essay, others are direct sources of historic and philosophical references.