Manipulation and propaganda

Appearances: Appearances in decoration, dress and monumental buildings are used to impress the people. Works of art are commisioned to glorify the elites and their achievements. Rituals, uniforms, flags etc. are used to signify dignity, prestige, legitimacy, authority and wealth. These appearances make the authorities seem respectable and trustworthy. This can be seen as part of a confidence trick. Propaganda is the art of substituting appearances for reality.

Creation of pseudo-events: Specific events like speeches, press conferences or leaks of secret information are organised. This allows (government) officials to influence and manipulate the people. These events are organised with the active cooperation of journalists.

Central control of the flow of information: Propaganda, censorship, controlled mass media and secrecy all are necessary to control the flow of information in society. Once the the flow of information is controlled, it is easy to manipulate the people.

Capture of attention: People have only a finite amount of time to spend on information. Therefore people have to select what they devote their attention to. By creating many seemingly important events, one captures the attention of the people. In this way one can direct the attention of the people away from the things that really matter. The people are kept busy with irrelevant events. As a consequence they do not notice the really important events.

Keep people unaware: Persuasion is not the goal of most propaganda. Allowing people to deceive themselves and to remain asleep is the goal. Propaganda gives explanations of events. These are the explanations that are mainstream and approved by the authorities. Propaganda is most effective, if it is hidden, disguised as information. The purpose is the reinforcement and reaffirmation of the group identity. The reinforcement of the view that society and its leaders are just. Therefore dissent and criticism must in some sense be bad. It encourages the people to suppress their own doubts about society. It makes people feel morally superior, because they are part of a just and superior society. It helps people to quiet feelings of guilt about their own actions.

Strategic ignorance or plausible deniability: Strategic ignorance or plausible deniability allows both the elites and their followers to pretend not to be aware of certain wrongdoings. Propaganda enables denial, willful blindness and other forms of self-deception.

Influence public opinion: Propaganda is used to control the thoughts and to manage the perceptions of the people. Propaganda and disinformation are effective because of information assymmetry. The general public has not enough political, scientific and other specialist knowledge. Therefore it can easily be manipulated. Rhetoric can be used to mask reality. It makes it for people impossible to have a clear and true grasp of reality. Experience of reality gets deformed by propaganda.

Influence public behaviour: Once the thoughts, perceptions and beliefs of an individual are controlled, one controls his behaviour, actions, habits and responses. In short one can deceive and manipulate the people. It is important that people believe, that the system is just and serves their self-interest.

Stability: Propaganda is essential for the stability of a hierarchical society. It is used to keep people unaware of social injustices, elite failures, etc..

Ideology: Pervasive propaganda influences everything. It is inescapable. It is impossible to obtain information that is not contaminated by propaganda. Hence one cannot get a true overview of reality. The only context one has consists of propaganda. The perception of reality is ideological.

Constructivism and self-deception: The effectiveness of propaganda shows that (social) reality, as it is experienced is largely a social construction. This construction of reality does require an active participation of the population to deceive it self.

Manichaeanism: Propaganda simplifies reality by establishing a clear distinction between the good and the bad. The authorities always have the best intentions. They are always competent. The critics and enemies are always totally bad.