Methods: Psychological manipulation.
Emotional manipulation: Almost all propaganda techniques are a form of manipulation, most often emotional manipulation. Emotions are used to counter logical and critical thinking. Emotions usually override reason. Human insecurities are amplified and exploited. The propaganda appeals to the tribalist, authoritarian and narcissist feelings of the people. Perception management, public relations, etc. Propaganda has become a scientific way of manipulation of the population.
Repetition: An important principle of propaganda is repetition. Repetition gives a message credibility. It functions as a form of positive feedback. Repetition by apparently disparate and supposedly credible people, creates an alternative reality, which becomes regarded as containing an element of truth. Repetition is the secret to successful propaganda.
Reinforcement: Through repetition by different sources the propaganda gets reinforced. Propaganda is often repeated in the media by people with authority and respectability. The media function as an echo chamber for propagandistic ideas. Combined with the psychological mechanism of conformity, it is basically impossible to not be influenced by it. It is inescapable. One becomes convinced that every normal person believes the propaganda. So the propaganda is experienced as truthful information.
Social proof and conformity: This is closely related to reinforcement. One tries to convince the population that the majority of the people believes the propaganda. This can be done via manipulated polls or through mythical concepts like the silent majority.
Corruption of language: The use of language influences how a subject is viewed. Language conditions our thought, shapes our outlook, and defines our worldview. Language can be used to discredit other views. Propaganda uses language to prevent people from thinking clearly. As a result the categories of thought and standards of judgment are ruined. One cannot think clearly about reality, if one does not have the words to describe it. Words are used to hide reality. The words function like a fog. Truth and falsity become inseparably mixed and distorted. Language sets the parameters of thought and public debate. The use of euphemisms, obfuscation, derogatory words, etc. frame the image of reality. They are forms of manipulation and camouflage, to make bad things look good or vice versa. Propaganda is used to distort the meaning of words. Who dares to be against progress, modernity, efficiency, professionalism etc.?
Rationalisation: Explaining failures away. Failures can be problems and scandals. Legislation and regulation is often deliberately obscure. This protects politicians and bureaucrats from the public. When the process of governing is incomprehensible, manipulation and propaganda are easy and effective. Facts and scandals that cannot be reconciled with the correctness of the ideology occur. So it must be explained, and minimized, and excused. Some failure occurred because of a few bad apples, because of some evil person, because of something happening out of the blue. Never can it be admitted that there is something intrinsically wrong with society or how it is organised. There is never systemic fraud, collusion or criminality amongst the elites.
Delegitimising criticism and dissent: By using nationalism and patriotism one makes criticism and dissent almost impossible. Propaganda creates a manichaean worldview. The authorities are good and therefore dissenters are irresponsible, evil or irrational. Criticism and dissent is deligitimised and equated with support for an extreme enemy. Believing the propaganda makes one feel morally superior and a responsible member of society. Criticism is considered unpatriotic, blasphemy, heresy, terrorism, evil or madness.
Rumors and smear campaigns: Any possible dissenter will be attacked through a smear campaign in the press. If necessary, this goes to the level of hysteria. Anything goes. The most common tactics are:
- Marginalisation: The dissenter and his ideas are ignored by the press.
- Guilt by association: One tries to associate and connect the dissenter with somebody or something that every normal person considers beyond the pale.
- Character assination: Through mockery, scorn, ridicule and personal attacks the dissenter is made to seem unstable or evil.
- Misrepresentation and distortion: The ideas of the dissenter are deliberately misrepresented and distorted. This makes it easy to attack these ideas as obvious insane or evil.
Secret information: So-called intelligence information is almost always wrong. Political decisions are rarely based on intelligence. Intelligence is primarily used as a propaganda tool to manipulate the population. It provides a justification to the public for actions that are not in the interest of the people. Usually, the public is gullible and pliable enough, to accept these justifications on authority. Intelligence is used after the fact, to justify decisions that have already been made by the elites.
Leaked information: Often the population is manipulated by government officials that anonymously leak or reveal classified or secret information to journalists. Journalists always assume the leaked information to be true. Hence the leaked information automatically is considered to be a fact. The task of the journalists is not to tell people the truth. Their task is to tell people what certain high level officials want them to hear, i.e. the spin of the leaked story. It allows officials to manipulate the people and their perception of reality.
Authority: Effective propaganda requires more than only spreading disinformation and lies. The audience should also be prevented from hearing the truth. One ensures that people only accept information that comes from respectable sources. Alternative sources of information are therefore thoroughly discredited. They spread disinformation, are biased, are associated with an enemy, etc. One makes the audience feel morally superior and generates mistrust of alternative information sources. One makes sure that people think that alternative sources of information are run by evil or crazy people. One makes people feel ashamed of taking alternative sources of information seriously. This effectively closes the mind of the people. Religions do this, the war on drugs does this, the war on terror does this, the fear of communists is based on this. One makes people emotionally attached to the ideology, by telling them that only they have the correct ideas and are therefore morally superior to people who believe otherwise. It is an appeal to the narcissistic feelings of people. Then avoidance and the mechanisms of cognitative dissonance do the rest.
Orthodoxy and respectability: Statements by authorities are often repeated. As a result such ideas become respectable and mainstream. Dissident claims of minority groups go unheard in the public sphere. They are often dismissed as evidence of irrationality. They are ridiculed as being conspiracy theories. Thus they are placed outside the realm of what is considered to be reasonable. They are, by definition, uncivil, and thus beneath contempt. Once a certain space or style of argument is identified as civil, the implication is that dissenters from it are uncivilized. Civility becomes a synonym for orthodoxy; incivility designates unorthodox ideas or behavior. Radical ideas can thus be dismissed as unrealistic, without serious discussion. Respectability and civility usually is the same as deference to the powerful.
Self-righteousness and narcissism: The orthodox interpretation of reality is respectable. Accepting the orthodox view makes one feel good about one-self and the society one lives in. Problems will either be soon solved or are caused by scapegoats. Propaganda encourages self-righteousness of the orthodox and contempt of dissenters. It encourages narcissism.