26 Ocak 2011 Çarşamba


Propaganda means “an organized mass persuasion with a hidden intention”. In order to reach hidden intention, a propagandist could use pictures, drawings, graphs, exhibits, parades and songs. In today’s world, the word propaganda carries a negative meaning, but its dictionary meaning refers to spreading of ideas that could be positive or negative. Recent experiences make propaganda as an undesirable thing, a frightening word. The Second World War (1939-1945) played a major role in the transformation of the propaganda into negative word. German Nazi Party used propaganda to mobilize German masses against the entire Europe, United States, Soviet Russia and humanity for their imperial aims. Consequences of the war were detrimental. Over 50 million people were killed and even more people got injured due to aggressive German propaganda. For Nazis, propaganda was a matter of life and death so that they established the Ministry of Propaganda headed by Joseph Goebbels, the dark master of propaganda. In this assignment I aim to discuss purposes of modern propaganda with special reference to Walter Lippmann and Noam Chomsky’s “bewildered herd” conception.
It is not an easy thing to define the purposes of propaganda. In my point of view, propaganda is an essential and vital instrument for the survival of any state in the history, today or in the future. In nation states, like Germany, France and Italy nation-builders wanted to unify their society by creating historical, educational and linguistic ties. History is a very important instrument for a society and the most known ways of propaganda were found in the nation’s history understanding. Turkish state-building project is a typical example of this, which took place in the 1920s and 1930s. With the establishment of the Turkish Republic, Turkish history education was based on pre-Islamic history of Turks in addition to the history of Islam in order to eliminate the 600 years old effects of Ottoman Empire. Turkish History Thesis and Sun Language Theory were fantastical theories about the history of Turkish nation and Turkish language in order to provide self-confidence to the people of new Turkish Republic and to weaken their ties with the Ottoman past.
Another important purpose of propaganda is war propaganda. War has four dimensions. “It is a combination of military, economic, political, and propaganda pressure against the enemy”[1]. War propaganda has both internal and external aspects. Looking at internal aspect, war propaganda uses patriotic feelings of the nation and attracts them to fight against enemy. Analyzing external aspect, war propaganda should demoralize the enemy and decrease the enemy’s fighting capacity. In the last Iraqi War, United States was distributing post cards, which emphasizes the warfare superiority of the United States and tries to show that the collapse of Saddam Hussein regime will be the beneficial for the Iraqi people. With these postcards, American army affected Iraqi people psychologically and directed them to realize that they have no chance against American army and the collapse of the ancient regime would be better for the people. Iraqi regime and Saddam Hussein also tried to use propaganda in order to affect Iraqi masses especially by giving religious messages. Saddam said; “We are Muslim people and they were Christians and this war is a holy war”. Lippmann and Chomsky mentioned that the vast majority of the society did not participate in decision-making process, their only function was spectate, they voted for one leader in election time and after election they were abolished from the politics. According to them, ‘bewildered herd’ is controlled and diverted by mass-media. In this process, social engineering was made by selective information and misinformation. According to Chomsky, sovereign class consisted of statesmen, politicians and it could easily control people by using media.
Most important problem with the propaganda in the modern age is “bewildered herd”. With the improvement of the mass media, persuasion of masses has become a critical but also an easier job to do. The last Iraqi War is also a typical example of “manufacturing consent”. In relation with bewildered herd conception, Chomsky stated that the elite minority in democracies that rule the country can engage in propaganda activities to get support of people lacking qualified information. So, in order to legalize their activities the ruling elite can create false news and socially engineer the consent of their people. For example U.S.A. officials tried everything to make support American invasion of Iraq. They claimed that Iraq under the control of Saddam Hussein had chemical weapons which could be dangerous for the security of American society. The invasion had happened but no chemical weapons were found in Iraq. This shows us how propaganda constitutes an important place even in democratic regimes.

[1] Edward Boehm What is Propaganda? “Behind Enemy Lines; W.W.II Allied/Axis Propaganda” THE Wellfleet Press, 1989
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