What form does propaganda take today?
At a basic level propaganda ‘means to disseminate or promote particular ideas’ (Jowett and O’Donnell, 2015:2) however, it is a largely contested phenomenon and definitions differ across fields of study.
Propaganda ‘today’ takes many forms which vary across platforms of communication, the agent/institution producing the propaganda and the context in which the propaganda is being delivered.
The advent of the Internet has contributed to the changing forms of propaganda. Whilst historically the principal forms of propaganda included books and newspapers and the radio and television, the internet is now arguably the primary disseminator of propaganda. The huge access to the internet, the intrinsic ability to distribute media to millions of people globally and the relative lack of regulation has resulted in the expansion of propaganda across the web. Social media networks, blogs, video sharing sites and unregulated news channels all present new forms for individuals, groups, institutions and governments to distribute propaganda. These sites also provide communication channels which can be used to critique action and ideas but to also organise physical protests, demonstrations and even terrorist attacks in an unparalleled way.
It must be noted however, that some countries heavily censor Web sources and actively ban some social media platforms. These counties include North Korea, China and Iran (Jowett and O’Donnell, 2015). This is significant as it limits the forms in which propaganda can be distributed by individuals and constrains the amount of agents who can produce propaganda.
It must also be noted that today, many forms of propaganda are positive, in contrast to forms of propaganda associated with times of war or repressive states. Higham notes ‘it is also about alerting people to the risk of disease, about making sure children learn how to cross the road safely and about building a legitimate sense of purpose amount the citizens of democracy’ (Higham as cited in Jowett and O’Donnell, 2015;3). This suggests that not only are the forms of propaganda changing but so too, is the way it is valued in society.
Jowett, G.S and O’Donnell, V. (2015) Propaganda and Persuasion. Sixth Edition, Sage: London