Promotional-Propaganda

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(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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The current concept map encompasses almost the entire history of Propaganda from the beginning of recorded time to the present day and the current study of propaganda in small groups.  However, because this is such a vast subject, the map has missed many areas, including the Greek and roman “origins” as well as several others.  I will cover as much as I am able to here and add these topics to an updated map at a later date.

Propaganda, in spite of its Catholic Church origin, existed long before the word was created by them and coopted by everyone else.  With the Greek use of sculpture, painting, and oratory, propaganda vehicles have existed since the very beginning to influence public opinion.  With the Greek as well as later Roman empires, Graffiti was also pervasive within the city-state limits to influence public opinion propaganda from the small group propaganda and a personal perspective.  Graffiti is still pervasive everywhere in the world on a local level with the same local powers attempting to legislate its illegality and paint over it.  Small group graffiti propagandists use walls where they find them, utilizing another temporary canvas to reach their audience.  It is interesting to not that the graffiti propaganda of the roman era still survives today. Can you see the relationship that graffiti-propaganda has to the early and later incarnations of advertising-propaganda posters that inundate our daily lives?

The writing of history, whether it be religious or government-patriotic, is primarily written by victors and is nothing more than propaganda.  Take a look at your American history books that trumpet the history of pure white patriarchal landowners and slave owners who are painted as pure and patriotic and coincidentally fail to mention their slave owning, their patronizing of women, their exclusion of people of colour and women from the right to vote for more than a hundred years.  This is just the surface, but patriotic propaganda helps the medicine go down more easily, and if repeated oft enough, it becomes “fact” that is not questions, and when repeated as “fact” the mere pawns of our society, local school teachers, parents, “journalists”, and other local “leaders” repeat the party line as unintentional propaganda, leaving the harsh criticism to scholars who study history at such depth and to opposition leaders who are imbued with their own propaganda that they believe is “fact” as well.

The media, except for the time when attempts to create “legitimacy and objectivity” in their institution, have always been biased towards the powers that be that own and control them and the individual biases of the reporting staff.  A deeper look at the American Revolutionary War, reveals, several fine examples of newspapers, broadsheets, and posters utilizing political and wartime propaganda to paint the rebellious colonists as put upon and sainted.  This is the history that has been handed down to us for better or for worse and most of us believe it as “fact”.  Get beyond the idea of right and wrong and one begins to see propaganda everywhere.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does depend upon your perspective of what is done with the propaganda in question.  Fast forward almost a few hundred years to Edward Bernays writing of Crystallizing Public Opinion in 1923 and Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels’s use of that very text on the German population, and one realizes very quickly that it doesn’t matter which side your on.  Propaganda is used in a myriad of ways to benefit the power in question.  In the case of the Nazi’s, it didn’t matter that Bernays was a Jew.  The information was too valuable to dismiss. The bottom line, then, and now, was, that as long as there was an element of perceived truth in the propaganda itself and it was repeated often enough, it was effective.

But let’s not forget that because of the actions of Bernays’ on behalf of George Creel’s U.S. Government sponsored Committee on Public Information, propaganda was introduced in the World War I propaganda posters as something that the Germans were perpetuating but not the U.S. government.  Thus propaganda became a dirty word to the people of the U.S.  While it may be a negative term elsewhere in the world, it remains a dirty word here as something that an enemy does but not “our side”.  After the way, Bernays sincerely attempted to return propaganda to neutral ground but failed each time, possibly because the propaganda was so very effective and the word was newly introduced and foreign during that war.  So what to do. Bernays realized he had to find another phrase to get the job done (though he did write another book, Propaganda, in 1928 that fell on deaf public ears but a very attentive corporate public).  So Bernays created another term for himself:  Public Relations Counsel.

Thus, public relations begat publicity, advertising, marketing, promotions and a host of other euphemisms that mean the same thing, any association, systematic scheme, or concerted movement for the propagation of a particular doctrine or practice, whether deliberate and intentional, or unintentional in the case of the media repeating things as “facts” and school teachers repeating things as “facts” based on the writing of school history books by victors and the dominant culture.  We see this most recently and most prominently in the “teaching” of the fall of the Twin Towers in New York City and the other plane crashes that occurred on the eleventh of September 2001 when not all information has been released to the general public and possibly not even to academic scholars to assess the facts surrounding the incidents.  In fact, in spite of the conspiracy theory association, there may even be some suppressing of information to serve the propaganda agendas of one or several parties.

In the case of small group propaganda which most concerns us here, I am specifically interested in advertising-propaganda, marketing-propaganda, publicity-propaganda and several similar varieties of propaganda, including personal-propaganda.  These propagandas include the intentional, defined as deliberate, premeditated propaganda that has a spokesperson that knows exactly what he is doing in his attempts to sway those around him, as well as the unintentional, where individuals in a group subconsciously influence each others, body modification tastes, as well as musical tastes, for example.

To cite a recent intentional and unintentional propaganda example, I attended the recent Final Four free concert in Centennial Park in downtown Atlanta.  What I witness was a variety of propagandas inundating me everywhere I walked and everywhere I looked.  There were Coke Zero signs, there were people wearing Final Four t-shirts and reinforcing their support with loud raucus discussions in support of their team, and there was even Flo Rida on stage talking about and singing about the wonders of Coke Zero (I was pretty pleased with this reinforcement of Flo Rida as an intentional propagandist.).  The observations that I made on Facebook were similar in that the advertising-propaganda on the side panels were encouraged as “likes” with one’s friends encouraging friends to “like” products and companies by example.

My discussions with two musical artists and one publicity-propagandist yielded some interesting results.  Granting this was my first foray into sociological interviewing, my first interview may have to be rescheduled at a later date for additional in-depth questions because I did not obtain any new information that I did not already have from previous experience in the local unsigned musical community and industry.  However, during the second and third interviews, I was able to dig a little deeper. What I discovered is that the people I interviewed actively practicing intentional propaganda on a small group level do not have any formal education in this area.

In the case of the second musical artist, he is also an active musical fan who has been recording music since his early teens.  Once he realized that he wanted to begin performing and recording for an audience larger than his bedroom, he looked at the bands that he admired and considered successful and studied their promotional-propaganda tactics, asked a lot of questions to determine what would work best for him and read a lot of promotional-propaganda literature to self-teach himself.  In addition, he believes that the more Internet coverage he has the more publicity-propaganda he can obtain for his musical project.  Towards that end, he has a presence on several web sites, including Twitter, Facebook and Bandcamp (a music-hosting and selling web site). Before his last tour, he also deliberately had the van that he would be using for his tour painted with his likeness and his web site name, thus becoming a mobile advertising-propaganda vehicle wherever he traveled.  I discovered that, with at least this musical artist, lack of funds to support a big budget advertising-propaganda campaign, he became very creative with what he could do. He even enlisted local bands with a following on his tour to engage in promotional-propaganda prior to his arrival.

In the case of the professional promotional-propagandist, she learned promotional propaganda in much the same way but from the inside, becoming an intern at a major label, concentrating on radio promotion only, seeing the segmentation that she cited as the reason the industry failed later.  She engaged in promotional propaganda first hand and was given free reign to promote bands however she could, but was forced to stop short when she was informed that the good bands that she loved did not have a lot of money invested in their success as there were in other bands.  Thus the propaganda engagement at the major level was based upon the investment that the label had in the band rather than the talent that the band possessed.  At a smaller label, she was allowed a little freer reign since there was a smaller budget and creativity was emphasized above all.  Now as an Independent Publicity-Propagandist, she selects artists that she likes, facilitating her ability to engage in the necessary promotional-propaganda with as much sincerity as possible.

While this is by no means a complete interpretation of what can and could be an infinite concept map of and interpretation of a propaganda article and thesis, my focus at the moment is on small group propaganda, the intentional and the unintentional that occurs within the musical community between musicians and bands and fans as well as between fans discussing favorite songs and albums in small groups in physical space as well as virtual space.  This study begins here and it never ends as there are infinite aspects of this topic that I will uncover and discuss.

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Most of the visual data that I selected was deliberate, from my collection of photos taken over the last several years for my Internet Radio web site, www.radiocasbah.com, and from the front page of my Facebook feed relating to musicians that I know and the ever-present promotional-propaganda on the Facebook side panel.  The only errant photo was the photo used from Subjectivity, Role, Access, Ethics.  The subject of that paper did not lend itself too readily to the photos that I have since none were ever taken as I interviewed the various musicians I interviewed since 2005.

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facebook2While I made my observations of musical artists’ publicity-propaganda on my Facebook page feed over a week ago, I observe this activity daily in my personal life so these observations are ongoing and continuous.  Facebook is just the latest, but not necessarily the greatest addition to self-promotional-propaganda.  There are thousands of platforms on the Internet that all foster this ethic.

Facebook allows for small group conversations around all sorts of topics, fostering these small group gatherings through the avenues that are used to advertise on Facebook through the “Likes” of individual, band, product, and even company web pages.  Daily, hourly, this happens, and it happens often enough where I see multiple friends talking about a product or service (defined as the above page “likes”), “liking” it and telling additional Facebook friends.  This is promotional- and advertising-propaganda in small groups, specifically unintentional propaganda.  While this has always happened in public spheres, the Internet has made it more visible and has caused corporations to reassess and implement additional creative means to promote themselves.  Viral video contests sponsored by these corporations are another means of promotional-propaganda from person to person.

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This is an observation from the main page of my Facebook feed.

This is an observation from the main page of my Facebook feed.

While I completed this observation on 18 and 19 February, I observe this phenomenon daily on the Internet and in the external world.  I have observed all varieties of propaganda in the everyday for far longer than Facebook has been around, Facebook exemplifies what is most fascinating about this phenomenon:  the example of unintentional propaganda of an artist’s performance at a Renaissance Faire and the unintentional propaganda “like” of a large music information web site on the top right. Both are examples of small group propaganda in the social network sphere.  They appear on the pages of the companies in question, and they appear on the artists’ pages themselves.

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