Modern propaganda is distinguished from other forms of communication by its deliberate and conscious use of false or misleading information to sway public opinion. The invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century gradually made it possible to reach large numbers of people.
But it was not until the nineteenth century that state governments began to employ propaganda for political purposes to any wide degree deliberately aimed at influencing the masses. The invention of radio and television in the twentieth century made it possible to reach even more people. The development of modern media, global warfare, and the rise of extremist political parties provided growing importance to the use of propaganda.
But propaganda can be as blatant as a swastika or as subtle as a joke. Its persuasive techniques are regularly applied by politicians, advertisers, journalists, radio personalities, and others who are interested in influencing human behavior. Propagandistic messages can be used to accomplish positive social ends, as in campaigns to reduce drunk driving, but they are also used to win elections and to sell malt liquor.
As Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson point out, "every day we are bombarded with one persuasive communication after another. These appeals persuade not through the give-and-take of argument and debate, but through the manipulation of symbols and of our most basic human emotions. For better or worse, ours is an age of propaganda." (Pratkanis and Aronson, 1991)
With the growth of communication tools like the Internet, the flow of persuasive messages has been dramatically accelerated. For the first time ever, citizens around the world are participating in uncensored conversations about their collective future. This is a wonderful development, but there is a cost.
Political propaganda in principle is active and revolutionary. It is aimed at the broad masses. It speaks the language of the people because it wants to be understood by the people. Its task is the highest creative art of putting sometimes complicated events and facts in a way simple enough to be understood by the man on the street. Its foundation is that there is nothing the people cannot understand, but rather things must be put in a way that they can understand. It is a question of making it clear to him by using the proper approach, evidence and language.
Propaganda is a means to an end. Its purpose is to lead the people to an understanding that will allow them to willingly and without internal resistance devote themselves to the tasks and goals of a superior leadership. If propaganda is to succeed, it must know what it wants. It must keep a clear and firm goal in mind, and seek the appropriate means and methods to reach that goal. Propaganda as such is neither good nor evil. Its moral value is determined by the goals it seeks.
Propaganda must be creative. It is by no means a matter for the bureaucracy or official administration, but rather it is a matter of productive fantasy. The genuine propagandist must be a true artist. He must be a master of the popular soul, using it as an instrument to express the majesty of a genuine political will. Propaganda can be pro or con. In neither case does it have to be negative. The only thing that is important is whether or not its words are true and genuine expressions of the people. During its period of opposition, the National Socialist movement proved that criticism can be constructive, indeed that in a time which the government is in the hands of destructive powers it may be the only constructive element.
>>> "Goebbels on Propaganda" dalam Propaganda - General (theory, practice and history)