(For those that see the similarity to the previous Propaganda and Goffman’s Face to Face Interactions, this is the same paper with a major overhaul of the introduction and a minor rewrite of the body with one concept deleted due to confusion. I am taking this paper to a few conferences this year to wow the intellectuals. There will be additional updates to this paper as it is the subject of my thesis)
Propaganda is everywhere. It permeates and smothers every aspect of our individual lives, and most of us don’t seem to notice what we see when our friends wearing logoed shirts, hats, and clothing, talk with us about favorite musical artists, technological devices, and even what they ate for lunch from the fast food restaurant around the corner. We engage in propaganda in small groups subconsciously and unintentionally. Propaganda existed in the United States before its introduction as a word during World War I, and it existed long before its creation by the Catholic Church in the seventeenth century to propagate their faith and to counter the negative effects of Protestant Reformation propaganda. Public relations, promotions, publicity, advertising, marketing, and other words are all derivative synonyms for propaganda. Samuel Adams, P.T. Barnum, and Harry Houdini were all propagandists. Adams used propaganda to promote the independence of the colonies from the British Empire. Barnum and Houdini used propaganda to promote their entertainments to the American and international consumer public.
Edward Bernays, who is generally believed to have built the public relations industry into the behemoth it is today, introduced propaganda to the U.S. public as a word during World War I. He introduced it in the posters promoting U.S. military efforts, in effect stating that the Germans were using propaganda against the people of the United States but that the U.S. was telling them the truth. However, Bernays found it difficult to neutralize the term after the war. “. . . Propaganda got to be such a bad word because of the Germans using it. So what I did was to try and find some other words, so we found the word (sic), counsel on public relations.” (Kelsall & Curtis, 2002). From its transformation into public relations, promotions, publicity, advertising, marketing, and other words, industries, and job titles were derived. And we have even recently added Internet social commerce to this family of related activities.
But what is propaganda exactly? Intentional propaganda is propaganda as most people consider it. It is “the systematic propagation of information or ideas by an interested party, esp. in a tendentious way in order to encourage or instil a particular attitude or response.” (Oxford English Dictionary CD-ROM Edition: propaganda, 3.). It is defined by external indicators, visible or audible, whether that is a symbol in the form of a logo, trademark, or a proper name associated with a particular entity immediately recognized by an individual or a group as a brand, product, service name, proper name, or idea that immediately reminds that individual or group of that entity, calling it to their mind, causing that individual or group to act upon it in some way. It implies a preexisting relationship or knowledge by a signifier (the individual) of a signified (the symbol). That individual usually has a preexisting knowledge of what the symbol means, its understood shorthand symbology.
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