Author Neni

19.08.2020 16:10

2+2=5 - How Propaganda Works

tools of propaganda

Illustration: Mariam Kanchaveli


ThroughTheNews is dedicating a series of items to propaganda. What is it and why are we concerned with it? We will try to explain it in a structured, comprehensive way. We will be covering traditional and emerging means of influencing individuals. Make sure to stay with us for more content about the past, the present, and the future of propaganda.

Propaganda has come a long way. It has always coexisted with society and has gradually refined and developed the tools of manipulation. 

A couple of  centuries ago propaganda was spread through posters, newspapers, public speeches and only reached a certain part of society. Nowadays, in the Information Age, there is a variety of propaganda tools and the scale of their influence is also much broader.

Regardless of the fact that propaganda tools developed rapidly, the aim has remained the same by its nature : Propaganda still remains a powerful tool of manipulation; it has emotionally impacted the targeted groups and forced them to unconsciously adopt certain issues. 

 Here is an overview of some of the most used tools in propaganda: 

‘’I want you’’ - The most powerful visual manipulation

‘’I want you for the U.S army’’, one of the most famous  propagandistic posters in world history is often regarded as a symbol of the U.S.A.

The poster first appeared in 1917 as a cover of the ‘’Leslie’s Weekly’’ with the title ‘’What are you doing for preparedness?’’. Then there was the time when America declared the war against Germany. The purpose of the poster wasn’t only the call to join the army, although the message was for all Americans to make their own contribution to this war.

Uncle Sam’s pointing finger, the expression on his face, the gestures, and the color combination turned out to be successful. In 1917-1918, more than 4 million copies were reprinted. 

Propaganda posters use psychological manipulation techniques to evoke strong emotional feelings among people. This is a complex issue and involves several factors: body language, colors, symbolism, general context. Nowadays the key elements are much more sophisticated and taken to a high level. This is the best way to send short and concise messages and receive a reaction.

In the Information Age the posters have been replaced by digital visuals. They’re easily produced and can quickly gon viral on the Internet. It’s almost impossible to monitor and censor them. That’s why most posters contain hate speech, racist and xenophobic messages. Nowadays due to high demand, posters are used as a way to distribute political narratives. One of the best examples in recent history is the iconic poster with Obama titled ‘’HOPE’’. The simple slogan became the formula of success for Obama in the presidential election of 2008. 

Propaganda in movies 

Movies have a very special role in changing behaviors. While we are watching the movies,we may not even realize how much power the propaganda has over us. That was the main reason why the Soviet Union used the cinema so actively throughout the 20th century. 

Any details detected in the movie may have a propagandistic implication: Symbolism, certain actions, soundtracks or dialogues. Although, it can be said that in most cases, propaganda movies now have a positive connotation. Film directors often use the indicated methods to speak up about abort drug legalization, LGBT rights or eliminating racial discrimination.  

Throughout the long history of cinema, many films had a propagandistic idea. One of the very famous movies - Rocky - is a good example of that. The final match between Rock and Russian Ivan Drago is more than a fight between champions. It has a symbolic concept. The episode is related to the Cold war and shows us the confrontation of good against the evil. Drago is the symbol of the evil power that tries to humiliate America’s dignity. 

Art, vandalism or propaganda?

Street art is one of the best modern tools of propaganda. It has become more and more to express one’s attitude toward certain issues in that manner. In most cases street art is placed in heavily populated areas and is viewed by many people. Recently, street art has become the main tool of protest against political agendas. 

In 2019 street art played an enormous role in spreading anti-American propaganda in Iran. The protest was arranged against the United States withdrawal from the nuclear deal and imposition of sanctions under Donald Trump.

The Iranians’ concern about this issue was reflected in street art. The tone of the murals was very harsh and provocative. In Tehran, the image of the Statue of Liberty is a popular street art, which unlike its original version has a skull instead of the face, and the light in the torch is gone. 

Cyber propaganda 

On average, more than 3 billion people use social media every month. Social media platforms are no longer just a mechanism for sharing information, but a source of misinformation and manipulation. 

A few years ago, Trolls and Bots were used only on Facebook or Twitter. Nowadays we can also find them on Instagram, WhatsApp and Tiktok. Cyber propaganda is also an issue of political interest. Statistically, 87% of countries actively use bots, mostly to spread misinformation. The clearest example is Russia - in 2019, Twitter deleted 1,152 accounts held by the “United Russia” Party.

In recent years, social platforms work together to expose bots, trolls and propaganda narratives. However, with the development of technologies it becomes more and more difficult to fight against them.  


Can propaganda be an authoritative mechanism against reality? Yes, it can. The impact of propaganda might be so extensive that under it we may believe that 2+2=5, although logic tells us otherwise. 

Through manipulation, propaganda is able be an antagonist tool toward freedom and integrity. The best illustration of how the human mind can turn in conditions of restriction of liberty is Orwell’s 1984. He describes a dystopian world where every diverging word, feeling or idea is forbidden. The Big Brother is always watching us, trying to eliminate any individual expression. He actively uses the media for brainwashing and spreading the idea of the ruling party.

The book showed us how powerful the media could be. 53 years after the book’s publication, the media has  grown into an even more dangerous and influential weapon. 

Many people today see the resemblance between Orwell’s book and modern reality. ‘’1984’’ is happening now, today. Big Brother is now replaced by social media which controls our activities or comments online.

Hungry for more? Stay tuned for the next item. Meanwhile, take a look at the previous edition of propaganda ThoughTheNews. 

Usama bin laden

Usama bin laden

Good job

13.09.2020 22:22


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