Everything is contingent upon public opinion

“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

– Marcus Aurelius

Effectiveness is determined by the capacity of a psychological weapon to successfully influence the public opinion that it ultimately shapes and motivates.

Public opinion, which governs both politics and the outer world, is the outcome of democracy.

Public opinion serves as the foundation for political decision-making in democratic nations.

However, totalitarian regimes employ violent means to incite and mould public sentiment. New public opinions are formed and promptly enforced under a dictatorship.

State governments have historically been influenced by public sentiment.

As Seneca had previously stated, “Public opinion determines everything.”

False propaganda

Propaganda represents the most extensively employed tool in the realm of public opinion manipulation.

Psychological warfare is the deliberate use of propaganda to undermine an adversary, often supported by military, economic, or political resources as needed.

In broad terms, the objective of such propaganda is to undermine the adversary’s determination to engage in combat or opposition, and on rare occasions, to win his allegiance to one’s cause.

An additional function of propaganda is to strengthen the resolve of resistance combatants or allies.

Psychological warfare encompasses techniques such as brainwashing, which are employed to manipulate the personalities and convictions of captives of war.

As I have previously demonstrated, psychological warfare is not a novel concept; rather, it has a lengthy history.

In contrast, contemporary scientific advancements in communications, including high-speed printing and radio, along with substantial progress in public opinion analysis and the forecasting of mass behaviour, have transformed psychological warfare into a more systematic and prevalent tactic in both strategy and tactics, as well as a more substantial component of warfare.

In the majority of contemporary armies, specialised personnel are stationed and authorised to engage in psychological warfare.

These units comprised a substantial proportion of the American military forces deployed during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, in addition to the German and Allied armies throughout World War II.

To counteract a guerrilla insurrection in Malaya during the early 1950s, British and Malayan government forces airdropped leaflets containing offers of protection to those who surrendered.

Depicted by Marxist theorists and practitioners, revolutionary guerrilla warfare, including Mao Zedong during the Chinese Civil War, Ho Chi Minh and his successors in Vietnam, Fidel Castro, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, and their adherents in Latin America, psychological warfare was considered an indispensable element of military strategies, inseparable from conventional operations.

In contrast to its conventional role as a supplementary and secondary concern within mainstream Western military systems, there is a growing demand to consider psychological warfare an essential component of warfare.

Audience information and propaganda analysis are customarily components of professional psychological warfare operations.

An examination of the overall flow of mass communications through the target audience, as well as the nature and effectiveness of one’s own and competing propaganda, constitute propaganda analysis. Audience information provides specifics regarding the intended recipients of propaganda.

Propaganda by War

War propaganda is an exceptional form of special warfare that potentially exerts a more profound psychological influence than any other.

Having served for five years in the military, I can attest to the influence of propaganda.

Propaganda is a structured endeavour involving the distribution of beliefs, facts, and concepts that are scientific, political, religious, ideological, or otherwise.

In psychological parlance, it is the dissemination of information with the intention of generating predispositions towards a particular way of behaving; propaganda messages and information influence the actions of individuals.

Methods of influencing public opinion towards a particular objective are the focus of propaganda.

Although the message itself holds paramount significance in propaganda, it is equally imperative to contemplate the source, the characteristics of the message, the attributes of the recipient, and the mode of transmission employed to convey propaganda messages.

Prior to implementing war propaganda, those responsible must ascertain the intended audience and the objectives it aims to accomplish.

They must then conduct research on the target audience, paying special attention to the group’s vulnerabilities to address its greatest concerns, fears, and frustrations, in addition to any cultural nuances or sensitivities.

Based on these findings, a concept of propaganda aimed at that demographic is formulated, which comprises the optimal presentation time and location, the most effective message, the most effective transmission method, and the origins of the message.

Based on current events in the military and politics, individuals who exhibit traits such as extreme complacency, authoritarianism, emotional instability, aggression, rigidity, and intellectual, social, and emotional immaturity are most susceptible to manipulation.

Nonetheless, it is equally imperative to exploit the parallels between them and discern the underlying motivations that propel their present conduct, be it apprehension regarding malnutrition or acquisitive prosperity.

Because people are more likely to believe a message originating from a trustworthy source, the origin of the communication is also critical.

Simply imposing your will on individuals whose views are most comparable to your own is, without a doubt, the simplest course of action.

The propaganda message should possess qualities of comprehensibility, allure, captivation, and influence.

It is necessary for the intended recipient to recognise the message, understand it, acquiesce to it, retain it, and not disregard it before providing a response.

Alternatively stated, the message must influence behaviour.

The intensity, uniqueness, incompleteness, and mobility of the communication all capture the attention of the recipient.

Additionally, the message should be reiterated, competing ideas should be eliminated, simplification should be achieved, as many promises should be made as possible, and prevalent attitudes should be supported rather than the original source of the message.

In addition, with the strongest justifications conceivable, the purpose and entire content of the message must be concealed for as long as possible.

Words must perform miracles even when people are going insane and the circumstances are dire.

Propaganda via the press

Email, radio, television, and rumours are among the various media platforms utilised in propaganda.

The following transmission transmitters are the most widely used:

  1. Radio broadcasts: The quickest transmission of information occurs via radio.
  2. TV series and films: The visual-emotional impact of television makes it a potent medium.
  3. Written communications, including press caricatures, flyers, posters, and graffiti;
  4. Propaganda teams, comprised of premeditated collectives of individuals who exert personal influence over the opinions and perspectives of others;
  5. Effective psychological and promotional strategies;
  6. Rumours are a perilous instrument that is commonly utilised in military propaganda.
  7. Depending on the circumstances and demands, additional strategies are often implemented, including obtaining confessions from prisoners or beingg the surrender of soldiers’ families or children.

Propaganda Today

Mass media function as a conduit through which information and messages are transmitted, amusing, and informing the public.

Additionally, it informs individuals of the values and standards that establish their position in society.

Therefore, propaganda exacerbates animosity among different social classes.

Amidst the pervasive influence of media in contemporary society, the mass media functions as the principal conduit and platform through which progressive goals are disseminated and propaganda is executed.

Contemporary media platforms, such as movie posters, radio, television, mobile handsets, and posters, can now be utilised to disseminate propaganda to specific populations.

Social media platforms have evolved into potent propaganda tools because of their widespread adoption. A multitude of countries employ social media platforms to effectively disseminate propaganda.

The Economist reports that the number of “organised disinformation campaigns” increased from 27 in 2017 to 81 in 2020.

Another reason why social media is useful for disseminating propaganda is that it enables users to filter content to retain the information they desire while removing that which they do not wish to see and to reach a large audience with minimal effort.

By disseminating “junk” news, ordinary citizens, government agencies, and politicians can all leverage the platform’s user-friendliness to advance their causes.

Politically motivated individuals and organisations continue to employ bots extensively to facilitate communication.

It is pertinent to enquire:

What insights can be gleaned from this behaviour regarding broader societal norms and beliefs?

Moreover, from computational propaganda, what can we discern regarding the contemporary political communication culture?

This post was written by Mario Bekes