Design and Research 2: Propaganda

Today, we swallow information on the Internet without even thinking about whether it is worth checking. The media pushes us to certain values and opinions under the guise of curiosities or information that does not concern us, which we accidentally saw on the internet. Based on this, we build a pattern and an image about a topic without realizing that in reality, it could be the complete opposite. People are not inclined to actually verify information; it takes time and energy. Depending on how much time we spend online, our brain is still digesting this information, even if we are not consciously aware of it. The media manipulate the status quo with ease, because who will check every piece of data seen on the Internet? Another question – is it even possible? What could then be said about important information the masses should see and which emotionally touches almost every person?

Propaganda is the systematic dissemination of facts, arguments, rumors, and other information, including deliberately false information, in order to influence public opinion. The word comes from the name of a Catholic organization created in 1622, the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide (Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith). Propaganda is also seen as a pre-planned and purposeful spiritual influence on the audience, the purpose of which is to attract the audience to the side of the one who conducts the propaganda, that is, to control thinking and behavior. Ultimately, propaganda is a collection of certain structures, and fragments of symbols that influence human perception and behavior.

Generally speaking, propaganda theories were also the first theories to focus on the media, its content, influence, etc. researchers tried to explain how the media can use this or that information by influencing people, as a result of which they learn certain points of vision. At the time, the simplistic stimulus-response theory of mass communication dominated, according to which the media could deliver stimuli to each person in a certain way that would be equally perceived by all recipients and cause them to have similar or congruent reactions. The power of propaganda is related to the vulnerability of human consciousness, and not to the characteristics of specific messages. A crisis or political conflict is potentially dangerous, as it leads to mass psychoses and exacerbates people’s susceptibility to propaganda. There is also the opposite view that a successful propaganda campaign must have a long, carefully designed strategy, during which it is necessary to create certain symbolic images and teach people to associate the required emotions with them.

Why do we need propaganda? What are its main goals for today? Propaganda is one of the main means of political manipulation. Propaganda cannot be compared to advertising. Advertising is closer to self-presentation or to the informational genre. Advertising primarily affects people’s emotions. Propaganda affects both the emotions and the minds of people. Accordingly, propaganda can be negative or positive. Positive propaganda seeks to communicate certain beliefs to the consumer in an understandable way. The purpose of positive propaganda is to promote social harmony and education of people in accordance with generally accepted values. As an example, campaigns for the protection of the environment also often use propaganda mechanisms to convey information. There’s nothing wrong with that, as a lot of people started to think about it now. Problems begin when the mechanisms of influence that are involved in propaganda are used for the selfish purposes of politics.

How to save yourself from the influence of propaganda? We are idle to check every information that is around us. Plus, you need a huge amount of knowledge to critically evaluate it, and this is one of the main ways. The only thing we can do is to critically analyze, and perceive everything and not believe in one source. Build the perception of various topics based on several sources. Unfortunately, our brain will still build an imagination about the world even if the source is not checked, so if you have not verified the information, try not to spread it further. So we can stop influencing others with an opinion that is not based on verified information and transfer it further like a virus.

When I thought about how to fix this problem, I came up with the idea of creating a program that will check the information for us. Agree when we have a notification that the information in this article is subject to propaganda, we will perceive the content in a completely different way. Uniting programming and theoretical knowledge about propaganda that will be collected from various examples, we can get a fairly useful tool. The only question is how to use it. Since in order to check the information for veracity, I would need an incredibly large database that would be independent and renew itself on different sources, which in its essence should involve artificial intelligence. Unfortunately, I definitely don’t have enough time for such a version, so I decided to make a demo version as an example. I will collect a database of the most common propaganda techniques with different slogans. The program will have to check the text for sensitive content and look for words that provoke emotions. So in the first version, I will be able to make warnings for users when absorbing all sorts of content.

Propaganda is a tool that allows you to manipulate large masses of people. Everyone is subject to it in one way or another. The conclusion is quite simple. Do not believe everything that is written on the Internet. Do not believe even some of the theses given in this article. My goal is to prevent you from creating an alternate universe in your head. This way we can protect ourselves and others from obvious manipulation in the first place.

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