Rhetoric and Propaganda
Guest lecture by Oliver Davies
© 2013 x
From the moment people had a religion, from the moment there were politics, or from the moment people just had an idea they want to spread there was propaganda. First it did not have a name. In 1622 the term propaganda appeared for the first time. This was when Pope Gregory XV established the Sacred Congregation for Propagating the Faith. From that moment, convincing a large amount of people about a given set of ideas was named as ‘propaganda’. Though, at that time it was mostly about beliefs and doctrines. With the start of the First World War propaganda got it’s form as we know it nowadays. (Knight, 2011)
During the war, propaganda was used to justify the things that the government did wrong and to hide the horrors and failures on the battlefield. They used propaganda to distract people from the truth and create other beliefs about how bad those enemies were.
Propaganda continues to be used in the modern world. From advertisers till governments, they tell you what they want you to believe and leave out all the other things Maybe some people can see what is left out, or what is not true. Still most people will fall for the trick.
In propaganda there is not one golden rule or technique. I think this is the reason why many people fail to distinguish propaganda from reality. Although there is not a golden rule there are many propaganda techniques. From all those techniques I chose the most appealing, interesting and most used ones to discus
Name calling is propaganda technique which mostly is used as an attack. The propagandist links an idea or person with a negative symbol. By doing this they hopes that the target group will dislike the idea or person because of the relation they make with the negative symbol. A great example is FOX news. They ‘accidentally’ mentioned Obama as Osama and mentioned Osama Binladen as Obama Binladen. (Fox.com, 2012).
Another great example is the ‘When you ride alone, you ride with Hitler’ poster. In order to fuel all the war machines, the Americans needed a lot of gasoline. The poster doesn’t make sense at all but the American people didn’t want to be related with Hitler and therefore started to drive together.
Glittering generalities is a technique in which you say emotionally appealing or important sounding phrases. When looking a bit deeper into those phrases they actually make no sense, they are vague but they are definitely positive. This technique is used to make a listener agree with what the speaker is saying. An example I like a lot is one from Obama’s presidential campaign in which he says: ‘Change We Can Believe in’. It does not mean anything but Change and Believe are two words people wanted to hear and had a positive message.
Doublespeak is a technic to make bad thing look less bad. Instead of using words like explosion in the nuclear industry they tend to use ‘energetic disassembly’, or ‘inadvertently disclosed incorrect information’ when something the government bought was way to expansive. By doing this they make a bad or unpleasant idea, or concept sound much better.
Plain folk is about everyday normal human who try to convince that their idea’s are those of everybody, it tries to reflect the common sense of the people. This device is not only used by advertisers but also a lot by politicians. Some great examples are the recent presidents of America. Bush loved to fish and hated broccoli like many plain Americans, Ronald Reagan did a lot of wood chopping, and Bill Clinton loved trashy spy novels. (Denny, 2012)
Fear is a propaganda technique I absolutely hate, due to this technique many people lived in fear. With this technique the propagandist tells the audience to do a particular course of action because if they don’t a...
References: Davies, O. (2013). Propaganda. GE7 guest lecture. Lecture conducted from NHTV University of Applied Sciences, Breda.
Denney, C. (2012). Plain Folks Propaganda. Retrieved from
Fox.com. (2012). ‘Obama bin Laden’ gaffe. Retrieved from
Knight, K. (2009). Pope Gregory XV. Retrieved from
The Washington Post. (2001) President Bush Addresses the nation. Retrieved from
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