Propaganda & Persuasion Techniques
A Guide to Identifying Manipulative Information
by Virginia Stewart, M.Ed.
The deliberate attempt to influence mass attitudes on controversial
subjects by the use of symbols rather than force.
A systematic effort to persuade a body of people to support or adopt
a particular product, opinion, attitude, or course of action.
slogans - catchwords and phrases associated with particular groups.
" The only good __________, is a dead __________."
euphemisms- inoffensive, evasive term for harsh reality.
"economic setback" (unemployment and starvation)
Appeals to the emotions
"Unless you join our church, you will go to hell."
"Do drugs, lose your job."
name calling/attacking the origin. The attempt to discredit an idea
by attacking the person.
"you're just one of those bleeding hearts"
loaded words - highly charged, emotional words, either sexist or racist
"__________ was screeching and wailing about the economy today."
logical fallacies - error in reasoning
false analogies. Comparing two things that are only superficially
related and/or trying to establish a cause and effect relationship between
two things that are not related.
"Buy this toothpaste and women will like you."
"A nation that can put a man on the moon can eliminate poverty."
overgeneralization/sweeping generalizations. A conclusion based on
too little evidence, or biased evidence.
"Pre-historic peoples loved one another and believed that women
stereotyping. Overgeneralization about groups of people.
"All computer users are geeks."
"All lesbians act like men."
unstated assumptions. An assumption is something that we believe without
any proof. An argument based on an unstated assumption demonstrates
a lack of reasoning ability.
"The Bible is the literal word of god. Since they are retired,
they won't be able to participate in the walk-a-thon. (older people
are physically impaired)"
false association. By agreeing or disagreeing with an argument, you
will become associated with other people doing the same.
"All democrats voted pro-choice, since you are pro-choice, you
should be a democrat."
faulty cause and effect, also known as superstition.
"It rained today because I washed my car this morning."
either-or thinking - inability to recognize categories outside of
your reality tunnel.
"You are either a Christian or a Satanist."
non-sequiturs. Does not follow, the "huh, where did that come
"Many wild animals prosper in zoos, therefore, people should buy
circular reasoning. Restating an argument as a conclusion.
"She is popular because everyone likes her."
Other Frequently Used Types
doublespeak - using slippery, dishonest words to distract someone
from real issues and problems. Read 1984 by George Orwell.
"I'm Alicia BigStar, and I use snazzy toothpaste."
gobbledygook - Words that don't say what they really mean.
"summit meeting, here are your top 5 priorities"
half-truths - mixture of fact and assumption.
"Lidia likes boys "(true), "therefore, she is a slut.
"Pro-choice supporters believe in abortion" (half-truth),"therefore
they are murderers" (false)."
"98% of banks are owned by those people. Did you know that most
banks were found in default last year because of embezzlement?"
jargon - specialized terms within a particular field that can be used
to obscure or confuse meaning if you don't know them.
"We can put a spin on the sound byte and download it to the web
quotations out of context. Most statements beginning with,
"The Bible says..."
red-herring - blaming or creating a problem that did not exist in
order to conceal the real problem.
"The Red Scare, The Cold War, Ritual Abuse, The War on Drugs."
weasel words/claims - slippery word with no substance.
"We have solid information, and will access the probabilities of
reaching an agreement in the future."