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Fri Jun 26, 2015, 09:33 AM


Handy guide for propagandists

Actually, it is just classic propaganda techniques and logical fallacies cribbed from other places, but when someone proposes a course of action by using the two together and does so consistently, it virtually guarantees that they do not have a rational argument to support whatever it is they want to do. Coincidentally enough this also has about a high correlation to the way certain people at DU talk about their pet issue. Everyone falls prey to one or more of these on occasion (includes self in this), but some make doing these things a deliberate way of life rather than a regrettable failing that they seek to overcome. Here is a link to a compilation of several thousand examples of these techniques in action (updated on a daily basis for your convenience and continued edification).

1) Name-calling: The name-calling technique links a person, or idea, to a negative symbol. The propagandist who uses this technique hopes that the audience will reject the person or the idea on the basis of the negative symbol, instead of looking at the available evidence.

2) Demonization: Like name calling, but on a broader scale. Instead of saying “my opponent’s position is bad because my opponent is a bad person”, you say “the opposing position is bad because all the people who support it are bad people”. This allows you to insult opponents as individuals without actually naming them. You just say “those (insert stereotype) are all alike” in response to an opposing comment, with the clear but plausibly deniable implication that the person you responded to is one of “those people”. It is also used to generate faulty “collective guilt” arguments. Demonization, talking points and binary choice are especially popular as a signature line in comments, that way you can continually insult people without directing it at any individual in a way that could get your comment alerted on.

3) Glittering generalities: The glittering generality is "name-calling" in reverse. While name-calling seeks to make us form a judgment to reject and condemn without examining the evidence, the glittering generality seeks to make us approve and accept without examining the evidence. You are saying nice things about yourself or your position with the implication that the other guy lacks those qualities. Just think of all the cute kittens that will thrive because you supported our position and think of how good that will make you feel. Both name-calling and demonization are a form of “loaded words” and are often an “appeal to emotion” because the speaker knows that an appeal to objectivity would fail.

4) Evading the issue: Or dodging the question. When presented with evidence of falsehood, inconsistency or flawed argument, change the subject or refuse to answer at all. This is exceptionally popular at DU and often moves directly into name-calling or demonization.

5) Kill the messenger: If an opposing message is strong enough that simply avoiding it is not a useful strategy and no counter-argument is available, use whatever tools are available to censor the message and remove it from the public's view, usually in combination with some form of demonization to justify it. It is the first resort of those who are argumentative and abusive, but simultaneously easily offended. Anyone who has ever been on a DU jury where the alerter's reasoning was itself an actionable comment knows what we're talking about here.

6) Projection: Denying a negative quality in yourself and assigning it to your opponent. For instance, if someone you want to censor calls you intolerant, you accuse them of being intolerant. It is generally an inability to accept imperfections in yourself or your view, so rather than admitting a flaw which might weaken your propaganda, you attack your opponent on the same grounds they criticized you for, trying to deny them any moral high ground while simultaneously engaging in name-calling. A variation of this is the "all the other kids are doing it" technique, where your actions are self-excused by the expediency of having to show you are better than your opponents by doing the exact same thing they do.

7) Talking point: A simplistic statement that is made by someone who does not care enough to spend the time on an actual argument or who never had one to begin with. Usually involves one or more of the other items on this list and if challenged is usually responded to with evasion, name-calling or demonization. "Lurid headlines" or provocative titles are a variation on this.

8) Echo chamber: Quoting sources that agree with you to give legitimacy to your point of view without actually providing an argument to support it. Ever clicked on a link in an article to find that it just went to some other site saying the same thing, and that site was just reposting someone else’s information? Ever seen a DU post that was just cut & paste from another site with a "me too" message appended to the bottom? If DU links to Kos, and Kos to HuffPo and HuffPo to Crooks and Liars and Crooks and Liars links to Mother Jones, did you learn anything from following those links other than the usefulness of driving eyeballs to sponsored ads on those sites? This is most especially the case when a person uses their own external blog as a link in their story to drive traffic to their personal site ("I'm posting my story and using my story as a reference for my story!".

9) Euphemisms: The propagandist attempts to mislead the audience in order to make an unpleasant reality more palatable. This is accomplished by using words that are bland and euphemistic or which change perception without changing reality. For instance the “Patriot Act”. Who wouldn’t support something patriotic? Much like the non-existent difference between “pro-life” and “anti-abortion”. One of these two is for something, which sounds better than being against something even if there is no actual difference. Or being a “safety advocate” sounds much better than being a “ban advocate”, even if the eventual goal of the person remains unchanged. It is inherently deceptive and designed to cover up an agenda or view that would be less popular if it were known.

10) Transfer: This is a device by which the propagandist carries over the authority, sanction, and prestige of something we respect and revere to something he would have us accept. "Mom, God and apple pie." A related example would be the “celebrity endorsement”. It is the opposite of an ad hominem attack. Instead of saying “his argument is bad because he’s a bad person”, you are saying “my argument is good because someone who you like also thinks it is good or because it is associated with something you think is good.” A key feature of this is the consistent holding that when the opponent does it, their representative is always a bad person rather than a good one.

11) False causality: This is when the speaker claims that because two items happen at the same time, the one causes the other. "If X goes down in frequency after Y happens, it is because of Y". You can readily discern if this is propaganda if the propagandist denies legitimacy of the same technique when the opponent uses it. It is also used frequently with cherry-picking, where the speaker chooses a specific item, frequency, interval or location so that there appears to be a causal link, when looking at the situation as a whole shows that there is none. For instance, claiming a causal link between a policy and a change over a 6 year period, when looking at a 12 year period shows the change was happening anyway or a 3 year period would show the change happening in a direction unfavorable to the argument. See also "cherry-picking".

12) Bandwagon: By using this technique, speakers attempt to convince their audience that they, and their ideas, are "of the people.” That is, the speaker is just ordinary good folks and all the other ordinary good folks believe what they do and you’re ordinary good folks, aren’t you? Whatever the position is, it has “broad public support”, especially when you can say “even my opponent’s supporters agree with me”. Carefully worded and strictly delimited polls are often uses as “evidence” to support such claims (see "cherry-picking". The opposite is to claim your opponent are extremists or unreasonable, usually some combination of name-calling and demonization to make them look like a minority that no right-thinking person would want to be part of. "One person in their group once kicked a puppy. You don't support kicking puppies, do you?" See also "binary choice".

13) Cherry-picking: It refers to the selective presentation of only facts that are favorable to the desired conclusion, and the deliberate omission of facts that are unfavorable to the desired conclusion. The legal term for cherry-picking is fraud. For instance, if there is a data set that has some items that support your conclusion, you define a specific group so that you can infer support for your position and you simply fail to mention all the other items that do not. Another use of the technique is to highlight rare items that support your cause and ignore common ones that do not, in the hopes that gullible people will assign the rare item a higher importance simply because they hear about it more. For instance, many people think the violent crime rate is rising when it is in fact falling, because you do not hear about all the people not committing violent crimes on the news each day. People whose opinions are shaped by headlines or bias are easily manipulated by this technique (see "preaching to bias".

14) Preaching to bias: Telling someone what they want to hear to get support for your position, even if it is false. For instance, talking about an "epidemic of (what you don’t like)" as a means to get support for measures against it, even when you know that (what you don’t like) is actually rare and has furthermore been steadily declining for years. You shamelessly play to people’s fears and biases. Using "loaded words" and "cherry-picking" is especially popular with this technique.

15) Special appeal: When a propagandist warns members of their audience that disaster will result if they do not follow a particular course of action, they are using the special appeal. By playing on the audience's deep-seated fears, practitioners of this technique hope to redirect attention away from the merits of a particular proposal and toward steps that can be taken to reduce the fear. Homophobes are whipped into a frenzy at the thought a homosexual teacher might be “making kids gay”. Racists are worried about ‘Merica being overrun with “illegals". We need you to take off your shoes at the airport and go through a nude body scanner because of “terrorists”. Something special must be done about this particular problem, even if that solution goes against your normal values, because this case is “special”. Be afraid, be very afraid and make your decision in our favor while you are still afraid.. Goes very well with demonization, cherry picking and preaching to bias.

16) Binary choice: "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.." Remember Bush telling us that? The propagandist says there are only two sides to the issue, theirs and something unspeakably awful. Blood in the streets, destruction of our way of life, dogs and cats living together. And you don’t want that, do you? So join us or be the enemy of all that is good and right and true! See also "bandwagon".

17) Swiftboating: The idea is to concoct a story with just enough truth in it to use as a smear campaign. You don’t have to be able to support it, you just get it into the hands of the people who dislike your opponent’s position and let their hate and fear do the rest (see "preaching to bias". Once it is established, you use published examples of it as an argument to support your position (see "echo chamber".

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Reply Handy guide for propagandists (Original post)
Shamash Jun 2015 OP
Nuclear Unicorn Jun 2015 #1
ileus Jun 2015 #2
Electric Monk Jun 2015 #3
Shamash Jun 2015 #4

Response to Shamash (Original post)

Fri Jun 26, 2015, 09:47 AM

1. I would include --

18) Guilt by Association: Someone bad is associated with the thing you like so that makes you bad as well.

19) Fallacy of the Undistributed Middle: Also known as a categorical error. A horse is an animal ergo all animals are horses. A murderer used a gun ergo all gun owners are murderers.

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Response to Shamash (Original post)

Fri Jun 26, 2015, 11:44 AM

2. Excellent post...poor regressives, never a leg to stand on, emotion just doesn't pass for truth here

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Response to Shamash (Original post)

Sat Jun 27, 2015, 07:58 PM

3. Looks like you checked off about a third of those all in one post


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Response to Electric Monk (Reply #3)

Sun Jun 28, 2015, 06:47 AM

4. Good


If I already admitted to my own failings regarding the items I wrote about, telling me that I did so is not much of a "gotcha" criticism.

As a leader of GCRA you are an example to others. Can we provide some enumerated criticism of your posts so that you can strive to do better in the future? I'm sure the RKBA side would gladly chip in. We could probably do an entire separate post on the subject just so you have a handy reference in one place. And you can get around to reading it when you're finally done making that list of all the current users who should be booted from DU:


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