Powers of Persuasion and Propaganda in Peace and War

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Propaganda can be defined as‭ “‬the deliberate attempt to influence opinions of the target group through transfer of ideas and values‭, ‬to convince them of a specific goal‭”, ‬and it is designed consciously‭, ‬for the benefit of those in charge of it and their superiors‭, ‬whether directly or indirectly‭. ‬Propaganda‭, ‬according to this definition‭, ‬is different from the media‭, ‬which seeks to convey facts objectively‭, ‬and from education‭, ‬which aspires to open the minds of students‭. ‬The goal of the media is the opposite‭:‬‭ ‬to convince the individual or the masses of one point of view‭, ‬and block the way for any other options‭.‬

In the short term‭, ‬propaganda may set its target audience on a wave of enthusiasm‭, ‬but in the longer term it becomes less effective‭, ‬because that audience has the time and opportunity to question its assumptions‭. ‬As some experts have noted‭, ‬if propaganda is too rational it may run the risk of becoming boring‭, ‬and if it is too emotional or intense it may seem ridiculous‭. ‬For propaganda to succeed‭, ‬as in other forms of human interaction‭, ‬it must balance reason and emotion‭.‬

In propaganda‭, ‬all that is successful is permitted‭, ‬and it is either apparent and public or hidden and disguised‭, ‬white or black‭, ‬truthful or false‭, ‬serious or sarcastic‭, ‬rational or emotional‭. ‬Propaganda officials evaluate the circumstances and the category to which the propaganda is directed‭, ‬and use all methods they deem most appropriate and effective‭. ‬Propaganda always uses the‭ ‬latest methods of communication‭. ‬In the First World War‭, ‬the press was used‭, ‬and in the Second World War‭, ‬newscasts were used in radio and cinema‭, ‬and in the wars that came after 1945‭, ‬television was used‭. ‬In addition‭, ‬the twentieth century also witnessed‭ ‬the emergence of modern means of mass media‭, ‬where the main means of mass media appeared‭: ‬the press‭, ‬radio‭, ‬cinema‭, ‬television‭ ‬and the Internet‭. ‬Thus‭, ‬the communications revolution made an astronomical leap‭, ‬and it was the blending of war with mass media‭ ‬that gave modern propaganda to war its importance and impact‭. ‬

The relationship between propaganda and war has existed for a long time‭. ‬Propaganda has always been a tool of attack and defense‭ ‬in war‭, ‬sometimes equal‭, ‬in terms of influence‭, ‬with tools of killing and destruction‭, ‬and may even exceed the most powerful means of destruction‭, ‬because it may penetrate even the minds that control everything‭. ‬During wars‭, ‬hot conflicts impose their own‭ ‬laws and laws on all parties involved in the conflict‭, ‬but at the same time‭, ‬at the media level‭, ‬they raise sensitive professional problems‭, ‬very important and complex‭. ‬With the start of the war‭, ‬campaigns of intimidation‭, ‬misinformation‭, ‬distortion of facts‭, ‬and systematic manipulation of all sources of information are launched‭, ‬and thus‭, ‬propaganda becomes an integral part of the war‭. ‬It can be said that what is meant by war propaganda is‭ ‬“the set of activities carried out by the armed forces in this regard at the level of propaganda directed at the hostile forces‭, ‬leaders and soldiers‭, ‬and at the level of the friendly forces themselves‭, ‬with regard to raising morale and immunizing these forces against propaganda directed at them by the enemy‭”.‬

Propaganda and the art of persuasion

Persuasion is the ability to affect attitudes‭, ‬beliefs‭, ‬intentions‭, ‬and motives‭, ‬and aims to change the attitude or behavior of‭ ‬a person‭ (‬or group‭) ‬toward a specific event‭, ‬idea‭, ‬thing‭, ‬or other person or persons‭, ‬and this is done by using written or spoken words to convey information‭, ‬feelings‭, ‬or a combination of both‭. ‬Persuasion is one of the methods accompanying others used in‭ ‬the field of psychological warfare that seeks to influence the emotions‭, ‬feelings and the emotional aspects of the target‭. ‬Persuasion can be defined as a term as‭ ‬“the deliberate and organized effort that uses various means to influence the opinions and ideas of others so as to make them accept and agree with the viewpoint on a particular subject‭, ‬through psychological and social knowledge of that target audience‭.‬”‭ ‬Persuasion aims to influence the mind and thought in order to push the individual or the public to accept a particular point of‭ ‬view‭, ‬while propaganda aims to directly influence the emotions and feelings of that audience‭.‬

Persuasion is either direct or indirect‭. ‬Direct persuasion addresses the individual or the public automatically without equivocation or politeness‭, ‬which usually provokes the recipient’s defenses‭, ‬and makes him show intransigence and increasing psychological resistance‭, ‬which often results in non-acceptance of the point of view presented‭. ‬As for indirect persuasion‭, ‬it is hidden‭, ‬but it is intelligent‭. ‬It pushes the recipient to infer matters by himself‭, ‬and then proceeds to make decisions regarding the subject at hand‭, ‬which makes him feel satisfied and psychologically comfortable‭. ‬Persuasion is considered successful if decisions are issued by the target party so that they are parallel to the issues raised‭, ‬meaning that those decisions go with the viewpoints to be adopted‭. ‬Likewise‭, ‬persuasion is either voluntary or coercive‭, ‬as in brainwashing‭.‬

Propaganda‭, ‬as one of the methods of psychological warfare‭, ‬has succeeded at the hands of specialists in developing its own set‭ ‬of assets or rules aimed at persuasion on the basis of saying that propaganda is‭, ‬in the end‭, ‬the art of persuasion‭. ‬To gain the‭ ‬confidence of the receiving audience to be persuaded‭, ‬then simplicity and repetition to reach the minds and feelings of people‭ ‬quickly‭, ‬and access to their memory that will only remember what it has easily and abundantly absorbed‭, ‬then use symbols and acquired multiple examples‭. ‬However‭, ‬this formulation of the principles or rules of propaganda loses much of its objectivity in practical application‭, ‬as the subtle differences between the appearance of honesty and truth itself‭, ‬or between simplicity and cunningness‭, ‬or between symbols that provoke the instincts of aggression‭, ‬and those that call for noble meanings or high values‭.‬

Propaganda is also characterized as the art of persuading others to follow a certain direction or behavior under the influence of propaganda ideas‭. ‬The use of the word persuasion here excludes any attempts to influence through force or coercion‭, ‬and consequently‭, ‬any person resorts to any means of force‭, ‬such as threats‭, ‬intimidation‭, ‬or social pressure‭, ‬or the like‭, ‬in order to push people to do something that contradicts the truth they want‭, ‬this method cannot be included in any way in the list of‭.‬

The beginning of using propaganda

The word‭ ‬“propaganda”‭ ‬has its origins in the religious reform movement in Europe‭, ‬where the Catholic Church found itself in a struggle to maintain its grip and dominance over non-Catholic countries‭, ‬and to expand its sphere of influence in them‭. ‬Pope Gregory XIII‭ (‬circa 1572-1585‭) ‬formed a committee of Cardinals‭, ‬and assigned them the task of spreading the Catholic doctrine and regulating ecclesiastical affairs in non-Catholic countries‭. ‬In 1622‭, ‬Pope Gregory XV made this commission permanent in the form of a Holy Synod for the‭ ‬propagation of Christianity and the administration of missions abroad‭, ‬and it was financed from the proceeds of the‭ “‬ring tax‭” ‬which was levied on each cardinal appointed‭. ‬Thus‭, ‬the first official assembly of preachers was a body charged with improving the process of spreading a group of religious beliefs‭, ‬and the word‭ ‬“propaganda”‭ ‬became used to refer to any organization that establishes the propagation of a certain doctrine‭, ‬then it was applied to the doctrine itself that is being disseminated‭, ‬and finally to the methods used in preaching and dissemination‭. ‬

Propaganda and psychological warfare

War is in essence an organized exchange of violence‭, ‬but propaganda in its essence is a process of persuasion‭, ‬and while the first attacks the body‭, ‬the second attacks the mind‭, ‬and the first is sensual‭, ‬while the second is psychological‭. ‬In wartime‭, ‬propaganda and psychological operations attack a part of the body that other weapons cannot reach‭, ‬as they try to raise the morale of‭ ‬one side and undermine the will to fight on the other side‭. ‬Wartime propaganda plots its plans to persuade people to go to war‭.‬‭ ‬Psychological warfare‭, ‬on the other hand‭, ‬is propaganda designed to persuade the opposing party not to go to war‭. ‬And these weapons of the mind‭, ‬like conventional weapons‭, ‬are becoming increasingly complex with advances in technology and psychology‭.‬

Propaganda is based on the use of modern media to disseminate and promote ideas‭, ‬beliefs and news for the purpose of influencing‭ ‬the psyche of individuals and creating certain trends for them‭. ‬Propaganda‭, ‬as a method of psychological warfare‭, ‬takes various‭ ‬forms‭, ‬according to the goals and the type of individuals and groups directed to them‭. ‬It aims to be convinced of victory‭, ‬to convince the enemy of its defeat‭, ‬to question its national and spiritual principles and beliefs‭, ‬and to sow seeds of doubt in the‭ ‬hearts of its members about the legitimacy of their cause and belief in it‭.‬

The use of propaganda in times of war

During the Civil Wars in England‭, ‬propaganda through printed leaflets and newsletters‭, ‬circulated regularly‭, ‬was an aid to war operations‭, ‬and Cromwell’s army was almost as concerned with spreading religious and political beliefs as it was with victory on‭ ‬the battlefield‭. ‬The use of propaganda has increased continuously‭, ‬especially in times of ideological conflicts‭, ‬such as the American War of Independence and the French Revolution‭. ‬For example‭, ‬during the French Revolution the Girondins‭ (‬these factions were affiliated with the ruling Republican Party in France‭, ‬so called because the party leaders came from the Gironde‭) ‬distributed‭ ‬leaflets among the ranks of the enemies‭, ‬calling on them to abstain from military service‭, ‬in exchange for rewards‭.‬

‭ ‬In the hundred years after the Napoleonic Wars‭, ‬and until the outbreak of the First World War‭, ‬there were no revolutionary wars‭ ‬in Europe‭, ‬so only in a few cases was there a need for strong and intense propaganda at the national level‭. ‬From 1914‭ ‬to 1918‭, ‬both sides of the First World War used propaganda extensively as a weapon of war‭, ‬turning its meaning into something nasty‭. ‬This‭ ‬war proved that public opinion‭, ‬as an essential and decisive factor in government policy‭, ‬could no longer be ignored‭, ‬and officials realized that morale was an important factor in war‭.‬

‭ ‬Propaganda began to emerge in Britain as a major tool for controlling public opinion‭, ‬and this process continued to escalate until it culminated in the establishment of the Ministry of Information in 1917‭, ‬and an independent administration for hostile propaganda was established‭. ‬Through tight censorship and carefully organized propaganda campaigns‭, ‬the press‭, ‬films‭, ‬publications and posters could be harnessed and coordinated‭, ‬in an unprecedented way‭, ‬to disseminate‭ “‬officially‭” ‬approved topics‭. ‬Thanks in part to the government’s skill in the use of propaganda and censorship‭, ‬the national consensus in wartime Britain remained afloat‭, ‬but after the war ended‭, ‬mistrust began to emerge among ordinary citizens‭, ‬who realized it was being blacked out‭, ‬deliberately‭, ‬on the situation on the battlefronts‭, ‬behind patriotic slogans‭, ‬and through‭ “‬propaganda of the enemy’s brutality‭”, ‬which was transmitting fabricated and repeated images of the atrocities committed by the enemy‭. ‬Citizens also felt deceived that their sacrifices did not lead to the‭ “‬land worthy of heroes‭,” ‬which they were promised‭. ‬Propaganda became associated with lies‭, ‬the Ministry of Information was abolished‭, ‬and the government itself viewed propaganda as politically dangerous and morally unacceptable in peacetime‭.‬

Propaganda was‭, ‬in the words of British officials‭, ‬in the 1920s‭: ‬“a good word that has gone astray‭,‬”‭ ‬and the hatred of propaganda was so deep that when the British government during World War II tried to educate citizens about Nazi concentration camps‭, ‬that information was viewed with suspicion by many‭. ‬As‭ “‬propaganda‭” ‬they did not believe it‭.‬

British propaganda in the First World War provided a fertile source for the Germans to conduct counter-propaganda against the peace treaties at Versailles‭.‬

In his book‭, ‬Mein Kamph‭, ‬Hitler said in 1915‭, ‬the enemy began its propaganda among our soldiers‭, ‬as it began in 1916‭, ‬this propaganda became more and more intense‭, ‬and at the beginning of 1918‭, ‬it swelled and turned into stormy clouds‭, ‬and we can now see the effects of this‭; ‬the temptation is gradual‭, ‬and our soldiers have learned to think the way the enemy wanted them to‭.‬”

‭ ‬Hitler claimed that the German army had not been defeated on the battlefields‭, ‬but had succumbed to the destruction of its morale that was fueled by skillful British propaganda‭, ‬thus providing historical legitimacy to the myth of the‭ “‬stab in the back‭”. ‬Regardless of the real role played by British‭, ‬or Bolshevik‭, ‬propaganda in the collapse of Germany‭, ‬many believed that Britain’s‭ ‬experiment in propaganda in the period 1914-18‭ ‬was very successful‭, ‬and provided an example for other governments to follow‭. ‬Hitler himself praised the British when he wrote‭: “‬Germany did not realize that propaganda was a weapon in the first place‭, ‬while the British wielded it with great skill and ingenuity‭.” ‬It was not surprising that one of Hitler’s first decisions after taking power in 1933‭ ‬was the establishment of a Ministry of Propaganda and the appointment of Goebbels as its minister‭. ‬The Nazi leader‭ ‬believed that the function of propaganda is to draw the attention of the masses to certain facts‭, ‬processes and necessities‭, ‬and‭ ‬thus put its importance‭, ‬for the first time‭, ‬before their eyes‭, ‬and accordingly‭, ‬propaganda must be simple‭, ‬focus on the fewest‭ ‬points possible‭, ‬and be repeated frequently‭, ‬emphasizing the emotional aspects‭, ‬such as love and hate‭. ‬Hitler concluded that the continuity of propaganda and its presentation in the same manner always could lead to results‭ “‬almost beyond our comprehension‭”.‬

Unlike the Nazis‭, ‬the Bolsheviks made a distinction between agitation and propaganda‭. ‬In the Soviet Russia‭, ‬agitation was concerned with influencing the masses‭, ‬through ideas and slogans‭, ‬while propaganda was used to spread the ideology of Marxism-Leninism‭, ‬and this distinction goes back to the opinion of the Russian expert who wrote the following in 1892‭: ‬“The propagandist presents many ideas to one person‭, ‬or a few people‭, ‬and the provocateur presents one idea or a few ideas‭, ‬but presents them to all the masses‭.‬”‭ ‬By contrast‭, ‬the Nazis viewed propaganda not merely as a tool for reaching party loyalists‭, ‬but as a means of persuading‭, ‬indoctrinating and inculcating all Germans‭.‬

Propaganda from Goebbels’‭ ‬perspective

Joseph Goebbels‭ (‬the most famous example of the notorious German propaganda man in the era of Hitler‭) ‬says‭: ‬“Propaganda is a word unjustly accused and severely slandered‭, ‬and often misunderstood‭, ‬and used by the layman‭, ‬who is not a specialist‭, ‬to denote something low‭, ‬even loathsome‭, ‬and this word always leaves a bitter aftertaste‭. “. ‬Goebbels said this when speaking immediately after his appointment as Minister of National Guidance and Propaganda in the first government formed by Hitler‭ ‬in March 1933‭, ‬the role he had to play most to ensure and continue this‭ “‬bitter taste‭”.‬

However‭, ‬Goebbels added‭, “‬I cannot convince a person of the necessity of something‭, ‬unless I know the psychology of that person‭,‬‭ ‬and unless I understand how to play the strings of himself in order to be understood‭.” ‬Paradoxically‭, ‬Goebbels took upon himself the task of ridding propaganda of misconceptions‭, ‬as described as‭ “‬lies‭”, “‬deceptions‭” ‬or‭ “‬brainwashing‭”, ‬because the reason why publicity is associated with negatives in people’s minds is largely due to Nazi propaganda‭.‬

The activities and work of German propaganda during the era of Goebbels were more developed and advanced than they were in the period 1914-1918‭. ‬Among the methods used by Goebbels was the establishment of fake‭ “‬fifth column‭” ‬radio stations‭, ‬suggesting that‭ ‬they were broadcasting from within Britain‭, ‬and the use of British pro-Nazis to broadcast propaganda from Berlin‭. ‬Britain responded to this by setting up the‭ “‬Black Propaganda‭” ‬radio‭, ‬some of whose employees were Jewish refugees and anti-Nazi German exiles‭.‬

قوى الإقناع والدعاية في السلم والحرب

Lessons from World War II

In World War II‭, ‬just as the Nazis had a Ministry of Propaganda‭, ‬the Soviets had a Propaganda Committee of the Communist Party‭, ‬and the British had a Ministry of Information‭, ‬as in the USA there was an Office of War Information‭. ‬After 1945‭, ‬the lessons learned from the use of propaganda in World War II were laid out as part of a larger‭ “‬communication revolution‭.” ‬Professors of political sciences and sociologists developed theories about the nature of humans and modern society‭, ‬in light of the rise of a society dominated by consumerism‭, ‬and totalitarian and oppressive regimes‭. ‬Individuals were viewed as the same and easy to lead and‭ ‬influence‭, ‬while the pessimistic view of the large society emphasized the feeling of alienation in the workplace‭, ‬the decline of‭ ‬religion and family ties‭, ‬and the general decline in moral values‭. ‬Although it is prone to ideological fanaticism‭, ‬and vulnerable to manipulation‭, ‬through co-optation and influence‭. ‬Accordingly‭, ‬the perception of propaganda has changed‭, ‬and it is seen as‭ ‬a‭ “‬magic recipe‭”, ‬or a‭ “‬syringe under the skin‭”, ‬penetrating into the thoughts of the masses‭, ‬and controlling their opinions and‭ ‬behavior‭.‬

Some sociologists have opposed this bleak view‭, ‬and said that propaganda within the framework of a large society divided into small groups is nothing but a mechanism to tickle public opinion‭, ‬and a means of social control‭. ‬This view was developed by a French sociologist‭, ‬who said that the technical community has influenced and controlled people to such an extent that they now feel‭ ‬‭”‬the need for propaganda‭”. ‬According to this view‭, ‬propaganda is most effective when it reinforces existing ideas and beliefs‭. ‬Thus‭, ‬a more complex model has replaced the idea of‭ ‬​​‭”‬the hypodermic injection‭”, ‬and this model acknowledges the influence of the media‭, ‬but at the same time recognizes that individuals are looking for people of their class or gender who form opinions‭, ‬in order to confirm ideas and their trends‭.‬

‭ ‬Most writers and researchers today agree that propaganda proves rather than changes‭, ‬and is most effective when it is consistent with the existing opinions and beliefs of the people it targets‭. ‬This shift in attention highlights a number of common misconceptions about propaganda‭. ‬Many believe that propaganda does not mean more than being the art of persuasion‭, ‬and aims only to change ideas and trends‭, ‬but propaganda is more than that‭, ‬concerned with the consolidation of existing trends and beliefs‭, ‬with the aim of improving them‭, ‬or focusing on them‭.‬

‭ ‬Another misconception is that propaganda contains nothing but lies‭. ‬In fact‭, ‬propaganda deals with different types of truth‭, ‬ranging from outright lies and truth taken out of context‭, ‬through to half-truths‭. ‬During wars and conflicts‭, ‬such as the war to liberate Kuwait‭, ‬British officials brought back to the minds of the British people what happened in Dunkirk‭, ‬or the Blitz air attack‭, ‬or the spirit of the‭ ‬“Falklands war”‭, ‬and assured them that inflation could be reduced‭ ‬“with the stroke of a pen”‭, ‬and promised not to increase it‭. ‬Taxes‭ ‬“so long as this government is in power”‭ ‬and‭ ‬“the pound in your pocket”‭ ‬has not and will not be devalued‭, ‬and since 1997‭ ‬officials have been urging people to see themselves as living in‭ ‬“peaceful Britain”‭. ‬Propaganda is far from a malignant tumor‭, ‬but rather an essential part of the political process‭.‬

Propaganda and contemporary wars

Never in the history of the world has war propaganda received the attention of people as it did during contemporary wars‭, ‬due to‭ ‬the development of technical capabilities‭, ‬where civilians have become in front of media in war‭, ‬and each party uses the latest‭ ‬tools and means that have enabled the recipient to become a participant in the events‭, ‬not just a passive observer‭, ‬who is able‭ ‬to enter the decision-making halls‭. ‬And people found themselves‭, ‬through various media‭, ‬at the center of the battles‭, ‬through television‭, ‬satellite‭, ‬radio networks‭, ‬and the Internet‭. ‬Although the Napoleonic Wars and the American War of Independence were a‭ ‬harbinger of the arrival of this phenomenon‭, ‬due to the size and level of popular participation‭. ‬Wars in the twentieth century‭ ‬differed significantly from previous conflicts‭, ‬not only in the extent of their breadth‭, ‬but also in the degree to which civilians were affected by them and their direct contribution to the events of their line‭. ‬First‭, ‬war has become a matter of concern to‭ ‬every citizen‭, ‬and a struggle for national survival requires the mobilization of all state resources‭, ‬military‭, ‬economic‭, ‬industrial‭, ‬human and psychological‭, ‬with the aim of achieving victory or avoiding defeat‭.‬

The modern arts of war came with battles to be closer to the lives of ordinary citizens than ever before‭, ‬especially with the possibility of civilians being bombed‭, ‬and forced conscription‭, ‬warnings of air raids‭, ‬and rationing and limiting the permitted quantities of food became vital influencing factors‭. ‬Ordinary men and women‭, ‬who would not have previously been greatly affected by the wars waged by professional soldiers in distant lands‭, ‬found themselves directly affected by the events at the front‭. ‬Consequently‭, ‬their morale‭, ‬and their will to fight and to resist at the overall collective level‭, ‬became an important military and war asset‭, ‬to the extent that it was no longer possible to consider war as the sport of kings and nobility‭, ‬but rather‭, ‬in the words of Clemenceau‭ (‬twice Prime Minister of France‭) ‬during and after World War I‭) ‬“a matter too dangerous to be left to the generals‭.‬”

In the war over Kosovo‭, ‬both sides realized the importance of manipulating news for their own benefit‭. ‬Moreover‭, ‬the latest and‭ ‬most advanced thing that appeared in the field of communications‭, ‬the Internet‭, ‬was used to spread propaganda‭. ‬When the North Atlantic Treaty Organization‭ “‬NATO‭” ‬decided to declare war on the Serbs‭, ‬it was keen to justify the reasons for that war by emphasizing the‭ “‬humanitarian goals‭” ‬of its aerial bombing campaign‭, ‬and the accuracy of the weapons it uses‭. ‬The NATO spokesperson often repeated the phrase‭: “‬Our cause is just‭.” ‬The Serbian leader‭, ‬Milosevic‭, ‬also used the media for propaganda purposes‭, ‬allowing BBC and CNN reporters to continue reporting from Belgrade‭, ‬hoping to divide public opinion in the West by broadcasting stories about innocent civilians killed in NATO air strikes‭. ‬Since the most effective propaganda is that which can be verified and confirmed‭. ‬NATO was put on the defensive to respond to attack or to criticism of the propaganda war when it had to acknowledge the‭ ‬validity of some Serbian claims of casualties from aerial bombardment‭. ‬The conflict in Kosovo was only the latest war that consolidated the central importance of propaganda in the war‭, ‬which is sure to increase in light of the globalization of the media‭.‬

» By‭: ‬Major General Dr‭./ ‬Ali Muhammad Ali Ragab

(‬Military researcher and strategist‭)‬

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